1. What inspired you to pen your first piece?
Some sort of preteen angst, I suppose. It's hard to remember that long ago, to be honest. I don't have any one defining memory in which I decided to become a writer. It was pretty gradual, I guess. I do remember writing little snippets of things when I was about 12. I also remember being obsessed with Star Trek at that age, so it's entirely possible that Star Trek inspired me to write.
2. Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
In high school, my best friend Cheryl and I wrote all sorts of things, from silly graphic novels to stories to endless notes. We also read a lot of the same things: Westerns, romances, science fiction, you name it. Other than reading, I suppose one of my earliest influences was Cheryl. Huh. I never really thought of it like that before. Thought-provoking question!
3. What are some of the most awesome/coolest things you've learned in the process of research?
Wow it's hard to narrow it down to just a few. I have a real passion for history, and I'm continuous researching. Research can become never-ending, since one wonderful source lead you to another and another, and so on. Bibliographies of books are dangerous things! Anyhow, back to the question. Here's a stimulatingly gruesome paragraph I came upon while researching the siege of Constantinople by the Arabs (ca. 700 AD):
... Soon, too, the food ran out; in such conditions scavenging was impossible and, if [the historian] Theophanes is to be believed, the desperate Arabs were reduced to eating their horses, donkeys and camels and, finally, cakes of dead men's flesh, mixed with their own excrement and baked in the camp ovens. Famine, as always, brought disease; with the hardness of the ground putting burial out of the question, hundreds of corpses were flung into the [sea of] Marmara.
4. What are you proudest of in your life?
My daughter and grandkids, totally. Aren't they beautiful? I feel very grateful to have spawned successfully and to have survived my daughter's adolescence. It was a close thing, let me tell you.
5. If you could interview anyone from your life living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why?
Probably some distant ancestors, possibly those family members who first came to America. I would love to know more about their lives, and what drove them to sail the ocean blue, leaving everything and everyone behind and starting over again. Since both sides of my parents' families came to America in the 1700s, I would imagine that those first immigrants had short and not particularly nice lives, but who knows? Most people did back then. But maybe I'm wrong. I can see why people get into genealogy. It's fascinating. Maybe something for me to do in future years?
6. Tell us about how you got into being an author.
I guess it's just something that came naturally. In my life, there has always been this sort of dichotomy between obsession with history and obsession with fiction writing. Usually when I was in school getting my various degrees I was obsessed with history, which led to reading, researching, investigating and so on. And then when I wasn't in school I usually became obsessed with writing fantasy. At this point in my life my two interests have sort of merged and now I'm working on a historical fiction series.
I've been lucky enough to find writing work doing educational projects, textbooks, assessment questions, various historical projects, that sort of thing. So I guess really the answer to this question is this just something that I've always done. Those fun times back in high school Cheryl probably really set me on my way. By the way, Cheryl and I are still conjuring up new worlds together, despite the fact that we live hundreds of miles apart. You gotta love the Internet.
7. What's your favourite genre to read and to write?
It's hard to narrow it down to one, because I've gone through different phases in my life. For a while I only read Westerns. Then I only read romances. Then I only read fantasy. Then I only read science fiction. Most recently, I read a lot of fanfic, which tends to be contemporary fiction in my particular fandom. Although there are some space operas and so forth as well. To be honest, I really don't read much fiction anymore. I'm too busy reading history books. Whatever fiction I consume is mainly the stuff that I write and the stuff that other fellow writers create, in an effort to give them quality feedback.
8. What do you do when you get hit with the dreaded writer's block?
Scream. Cry. Complain to anyone and everyone who will listen. Drink wine. Shake my fist at the heavens. Cry and scream some more. And then just sort of tell myself to shut up and set a schedule. I can always write twenty words a day. That's a pretty measly goal. And sometimes I need such a tiny word count, just to get myself going. Of course it usually becomes much more than just twenty words, but I have experienced more than one project where was like pulling teeth to write and that's all I could commit to. This will hopefully change in the near future. But who knows? Writing can be effortless. Writing well is not easy.
9. So what are you working on at the moment?
I'm in the finishing stages of book one of a historical fiction novel series called City of Ages. After the plague wipes out his village, a reluctant knight finds purpose redeeming a young thief and guiding a barren lady on a pilgrimage across the Mediterranean to the center of the world -- Jerusalem.
10. Can you tell us something about your current piece?
Necropolis is a fantasy novel that has been heavily influenced by my interest in and studies of the ancient Mediterranean. The world the characters inhabit is not some sort of rehashed medieval Western European society but rather a world based on ancient Rome and Greece and Mesopotamia. It's an epic fantasy, but it's not the typical epic fantasy. It takes places in one particular city, and the quest has to do with hidden memories and the enemies that are trying to keep these secrets out of public knowledge. The description is:
When prison guard Conyr rescues a young priest from execution, he sets off a dangerous adventure that brings allies in a scheming politician, a mischievous urchin, and a beautiful tavern server. Together, the group must navigate a maze of power-hungry rivals, skilled assassins, and deadly sorcery. For the young priest’s lost memory holds the key to more than his past, but the fate of two cities.
11. What genre would you like to try writing that you haven't yet?
Probably some sort of travel narrative. I love to travel, and reading travelers accounts is fascinating to me. All the better if what I'm reading is humorous. So I guess some sort of humorous travel writing is something I can really get into. A sort of started already because I have a blog where I try to put down some travel recollections and so forth (xuwriter.wordpress.com). It really isn't a lot at this time with everything else I'm doing but I'm slowly amassing some stories.
12. What do you do to unwind and relax?
Fiddle around on the Internet or make my way through some stored up TV shows on my DVR. I'm really kind of a homebody, so just hang out in the backyard with my dogs and my husband makes me happy. Otherwise, hiking the hills around my house is a great way to unwind and enjoy myself.
13. What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
Working from home, definitely. Getting some really meaningful feedback from readers has been pretty phenomenal. I'm in this game to touch people's lives, and whenever I've heard that I do that I'm deeply gratified. I've made a few bucks which is always nice if not necessary since I like to eat.
14. To someone who has never read your work, how would you describe it?
I've been told that I have a very vivid writing style and that readers can clearly imagine the setting and the characters. I'm a student of human nature, like most writers, so my characters are pretty well-fleshed out. No one is 100% good or 100% evil, just like in real life.
I mean to take readers on an adventure of the heart and mind, something which carries them away from their daily troubles and at the same time gives them hope to get through the dark times we all have. I don't really shy away from darkness, and in fact have considered calling Necropolis a dark fantasy, but I suppose it lacks the gruesome/horror aspects necessary for that.
15. Finally, the question I ask everyone I interview - if you were a plant in the next life, what would you be, and why?
Probably some sort of long-lived and majestic tree. How about an ancient bristlecone pine? I love how twisted and gnarly strangely beautiful they are. A case in point:
An Arizona native, Xina Marie Uhl currently lives in sunny Southern California with her husband and a minor menagerie of dogs, cats, birds, and aquatic creatures. She's held a number of wildly different jobs in her life, from accounting clerk to history instructor, but writing has been something she's always done. Her fiction is available through XC Publishing.net, and includes the fantasy adventures Necropolis, The Gauntlet Thrown and The Challenge Accepted, Books One and Two of the Gauntlet Trilogy. Recently, she took a trip off the reservation entirely and released the humorous gift book The Cat's Guide to Human Behavior.
Publisher - XCPublishing.net
Blog - http://xuwriter.wordpress.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/XinaMarieUhl
Twitter - https://twitter.com/xuwriter
Blurb: When prison guard Conyr rescues a young priest from execution, he sets off a dangerous adventure that brings allies in a scheming politician, a mischievous urchin, and a beautiful tavern server. Together, the group must navigate a maze of power-hungry rivals, skilled assassins, and deadly sorcery. For the young priest's lost memory holds the key to more than his past, but the fate of two cities.
Necropolis - (Amazon - specific until early May): http://www.amazon.com/Necropolis-ebook/dp/B004EPYUXK/