Interview: R. M. Archer

I am excited to be able to share a short interview with R. M. Archer about her upcoming YA Fantasy novel Calligraphy Guild, which releases on June 17, 2022 (that’s coming up!)

Let’s get a peek at Calligraphy Guild and insight the head and heart of the author…

The dragon ink magic in Calligraphy Guild is so unique! What inspired your ideas for the magic system and the world?

Thank you! That element was actually inspired by a dream I had about ingestible magic ink. When I consciously refined it the “edible” part got scrapped, and I decided somewhere along the way that the ink would be created by dragons. If I recall correctly, drawing from Asian cultures to develop the nation where Calligraphy Guild takes place was inspired by a half-Vietnamese friend of mine. I started with Vietnamese inspiration and, as the culture grew, I pulled in inspiration from China, Japan, and various topics I was thinking about independent from particular cultures. My reading on education played a big role in shaping the community and education system in Virilia. A lot of things went into making the world what it is, and it was a lot of fun to weave them all together into something cohesive.

Community and conflict seem to be strong themes in Calligraphy Guild. How do you hope Calligraphy Guild inspires or encourages readers in these areas?

Yes! Community was definitely one of the biggest intentional themes in Calligraphy Guild. I hope that readers come away inspired to build stronger, more resilient communities. It’s easy to break fellowship when the going gets tough or to let differences and conflicts get in the way of building relationships, but community is intended to be something lasting, something committed, something that carries on and pushes through despite the difficulties. I want readers to be inspired to bring that type of resolve to their own relationships and communities as they hopefully see it carried out through the characters and community within Calligraphy Guild.

With a large cast of characters, which three are your favorites and why?

Oh no! I do appreciate you asking for three rather than just one. That does make this a little easier. But I love so many of the characters! Makio is definitely in the top three; big brother friends are my favorite. Dai is the “crazy old lady,” which is another trope I love, but her wisdom was also really neat to write. And I guess we’ll stay on the Lôi family theme and put Tora in the third open spot, since she was my favorite POV character to write (just ahead of Sairsha); I’m not sure what made Tora so easy and fun to write, but her struggle came together on the page so well and I love the way she makes mistakes and puts her foot in her mouth–a lot–but always owns up to it and makes things right.

As a Christian, how does Scripture influence your storytelling? Did any specific Scripture verses influence Calligraphy Guild?

Good question! Scripture doesn’t often have an overt influence on my storytelling; I don’t often have specific verses that direct my themes as I’m writing. That said, my whole worldview is shaped by my knowledge of Scripture (though I’m obviously still growing and learning and that knowledge will be refined more and more as time goes on) and my storytelling is always influenced to some degree by my worldview. The community themes in Calligraphy Guild are built around how I think the Church ought to behave according to Scripture. The education system came together as I compared what I was reading about education with what Scripture says about education. The grace and forgiveness in Calligraphy Guild is based on biblical grace and forgiveness. Biblical principles can be seen throughout, if you know where to look.

I do sometimes find verses that encompass the main themes of my booksafter the fact, and I think the overarching theme verse for Calligraphy Guild would be Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

How was writing Calligraphy Guild different from your previous release, The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles?

Oh these two were drastically different, lol. For starters, The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles was written as a series of short stories, so… I had the overarching story sort of in mind, but I was mostly focused on each individual piece. I’m also pretty sure I wrote The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles by the seat of my pants, whereas Calligraphy Guild had an outline (mostly).

I guess you could say I wrote them both for fun, but in very different ways. The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles were written almost as an experiment; I hadn’t written in a character voice like Solem’s before, I hadn’t done much by way of fairytale retellings before, but I had this fun prompt about the man who sold Jack the magic beans and the whole thing snowballed from there. I ended up creating a world that’s a little whacky, a little… incongruous, I suppose. I enjoyed it, despite the writer’s block toward the end. Calligraphy Guild was written as more of a passion project. I had this idea, it developed pretty quickly, and I dove into writing it. I’d been planning to wait until NaNoWriMo that year, but I ended up starting in August because I couldn’t wait, lol. I built a much more intentional world, more grounded characters, intentional themes.

Calligraphy Guild is much more put-together. And with each consecutive draft, it just seemed to gain more depth, more development, more stability and internal consistency. Different minor themes cropped up, existing themes grew stronger, character arcs came together better and better… God definitely had a hand in the whole process, and I can’t believe what He’s done–and continues to do–with Calligraphy Guild. Calligraphy Guild was a learning experience, not only writing-wise but also as far as learning to trust God’s faithfulness and coming to see His hand in everything and how perfect His timing is. The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles helped me to grow as an author, and God worked through the process of writing and releasing it to teach me a lot that I’m now able to apply to Calligraphy Guild, but the processes for each book were so different.

What do you hope readers take away from Calligraphy Guild?

I don’t know if I have a specific hope. Every time I read it through again, I see new themes and details that managed to sneak in, and I think different readers will pick up on different things and God will use Calligraphy Guild to bless different people in different ways. Generally speaking, though, I hope that readers come away from Calligraphy Guild hopeful, encouraged, thinking about things… and hoping to read it again. I hope that readers are able to go back to Calligraphy Guild again and again and find those different themes and details the same way I have. Ultimately, I trust that God will use Calligraphy Guild to work whatever response is best for each reader.

Dragon ink gives calligraphers the power to set history in stone—or to change it.

Lai Duyên’s dreams are realized when she’s admitted into the ranks of the calligraphers, authors considered trustworthy enough to defend time from those who would change it. She’s thrilled at the opportunity to record her country’s history, and to work with the other calligraphers in her village.

But when Duyên’s guild is set upon by ancient dragons demanding a time-changer be destroyed, her world is flipped upside down. Her guildmates turn on each other, suspicion coloring their every move. To make matters worse, she’s begun hearing the dragons in her head and finds them impossible to block out: a condition that rendered her grandmother insane.

With the calligraphy guild in turmoil and Duyên’s ever-present fear of madness clouding her vision, will the group be able to discover which of their guildmates has altered time before the dragons pass judgment on them all?

So excited to be able to support indie authors like Ariel! So grateful to be able to hear and share insights about her upcoming release, as well as a peek inside her writing process and heartfelt thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to share your answers with us!

More about R. M. Archer

R.M. Archer has been an avid reader since the time she could first make out words, and has always been a lover of story. That interest developed into a love of writing when she was seven (though those first attempts have long-since been incinerated), and she’s been pursuing a career as an author ever since. Archer believes that art can change the culture and aims to write YA speculative fiction that thoughtfully explores a variety of worldviews through the lens of her own Christian perspective.

In addition to writing fiction, Archer keeps up a non-fiction blog of writing tips and book reviews, and worldbuilding is her favorite topic to blog about.

Follow her on Instagram: @rysaarcher

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