Author Interview: N.P. Thompson

How did you come up with the title for your book?

There is an enormous flock of crow (tens of thousands of them) that roost near the General Hospital in my hometown of Ottawa, Canada, and I have always loved watching them fly across the sky every morning and evening throughout the fall and winter. You can see long lines of flapping black forms against the sky for hours as they head out from the central roost every morning to search for food, and then fly back to sleep at night. Those lines always looked like a river in the sky to me. And that phrase “river of crows” became the seed of the first book in my series.

What’s your writing software of choice?

Scrivener makes it so easy to moves things around and keep things organized, and the corkboard and color-coding capabilities are crucial for helping me keep my various character timelines straight. I do all my book writing with Scrivener.

Do you play music while you write — and, if so, what’s your favorite?

I don’t have a writing playlist or anything like that as I find it hard to write if I’m listening to songs with lyrics in them. I usually just prefer silence when I’m writing. But, sometimes, I will listen to instrumental stuff. I’m a big fan of Brooklyn Duo for that. I stumbled across the YouTube video of their cover of Toto’s “Africa” one day and I was hooked!

Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?

I actually have very little patience for audiobooks, and I have the same issue with watching videos for things—I read very quickly, so it’s agonizing for me to have to sit through an audiobook or a video. Just give me the text and let me read it myself! That being said, my eyesight isn’t what it used to be and I have a hard time seeing the tiny font they use in most books these days, so I started using an e-reader last year and it’s been amazing. I had avoided e-books before that because I’d only ever tried to read them on a laptop or a really old tablet I had and I really did not like the experience. The Kobo I bought was a revelation, though—there is no glare so it’s much easier on my eyes than the tablet was, there are buttons to mimic the page turning experience, I can borrow library books with it without having to actually go to the library, and I can make the font as big as I want!

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

I have considered it. One of the writing projects I currently have on the backburner is an adult contemporary fantasy series. I actually had started making notes for that series before I even started working on The Arcanium Saga. I’ll get back to it eventually but I have to finish the Arcanium books first (and another, unrelated, middle grade book that is partially outlined). What I haven’t decided yet is whether I should use a pen name for the adult series or if it would just make more sense to add a separate section to my website for adult books.

How do you come up with character names for your stories?

There’s a funny story about that! For the two main characters, the names just popped into my head right along with the characters. But originally, the girl was going to be named “Aislin”. Then I learned that Aislin is an Irish name that is actually pronounced “Ashlynn,” but by that point I was so attached to the name as I had been pronouncing it that I changed the spelling to “Ayslenne”. (Rhymes with haze-lynn.)

This spawned a whole big thing about the Irish language and how things can possible be pronounced the way they are when they are spelled the way they are and I thus became obsessed with all the Irish words. In the series, a lot of the Arcanian words and geographical feature names are my phonetic approximations of Irish translations of English words.

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

All of them! Okay, maybe not all of them. But I do already have a side project on the go in which I am writing a collection of short stories featuring various secondary and side characters in the series. There are several such characters that I’ve loved so much I wish they could have bigger roles, so I thought it would be fun to give them their own little adventures outside of the main set of books.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?

Is this the part where I have to confess that some of the side characters are actually based on certain actors, in the sense that I had certain physical characteristics, mannerisms, and cadences of speech in my head as I was writing? In my head Archimedes is a bearded, really old, slightly stooped David Tennant channeling his manic Doctor Who energy. Corwin is a long-haired Raza Jaffrey. Malachai is Marc Warren channeling his evil Rochefort role from The Musketeers. Paul (the main character’s father) is Sterling K. Brown. And Althea is Jane Carr with her hair in a bun.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Definitely the characters. They pop into my head and won’t leave me alone until I write their stories. But they have to be fairly solidly developed before I get to the story stage. I have to know who they are and what they want and what they need before I feel I can write them in a way that others will care about them, and that includes all the supporting characters. And in the end, I think that’s the really critical part–if readers don’t care about the people in a book, they’re not going to care about the rest of the story.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to bake things and experiment in the kitchen. Thankfully, most of my kitchen experiments do turn out to be edible–with the exception of the Great Cherry Tomato Incident, of which we shall not speak. I also enjoy gardening. Even if it involves cherry tomatoes.Website: