Some Thoughts with ... Charlotte Bond

28 May 2024

The Author/s

Charlotte Bond

Charlotte Bond

Charlotte is an author, freelance editor, and podcaster. Under her own name she has written within the genres of horror and dark fantasy, but she’s also worked as a ghostwriter. She edits books for individuals and publishers, and has also contributed numerous non-fiction articles to various websites. She is a co-host of the award-winning podcast, “Breaking the Glass Slipper”. Her micro collection The Watcher in the Woods won the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection in 2021. She is represented by Alex Cochran.

The Interview

1.- Could you introduce yourself to Jamreads’ readers?
Hello Jamreads' readers! So pleased to meet you. My name is Charlotte Bond and I’m an author of dark fantasy and horror. I’ve also been a ghostwriter where I’ve written everything from erotica to cosy mysteries and a children’s fantasy series. I’m also a freelance editor, working with publishers and individual clients as well as a reviewer. Finally (but quite time-consumingly), I’m a co-host of a podcast called Breaking the Glass Slipper. We focus on diversity and feminism in speculative fiction.

2.- How did you start writing?
Well, it’s hard to remember precisely because I was still in primary school, but there are two incidents I remember that really as my early forays into creative writing.
Firstly, I saw that a film called Count Yorga was on in the early hours of the morning (I was an avid consumer of the Radio Times as a kid, for those British Jamreads readers who know what I’m talking about). Being very young, obviously I wasn’t allowed to record it (ah, I’m old enough that it would have been recorded on VHS!) and so I decided that I would take the title and write my own story about a vampire called Count Yorga. Dracula’s Daughter by Mary Hoffman was one of my favourite books at the time, so I was eager to write about my own invented vampire (with a stolen title).
Secondly, there was a writing competition run by my school when I was in Year 5. I just threw something on a page but then got really upset when I didn’t win. I was quite shocked at how sad I felt, and regretted the fact that I hadn’t tried harder. So, when they ran it again in Year 6, I worked put in a huge amount of effort – and I won! Everything else has kind of just progressed from those two moments.

3.- You have had a rather prolific career in the horror genre. Could you tell us more about your backlist?
Thank you for your kind words, but I’m not sure I’d describe myself as prolific. I’m lucky enough to count Adrian Tchaikovsky and John Connolly among my friends, and those guys are prolific (and also excellent – you should totally check out their books). And Seanan Macguire – crikey that’s an intimidating backlist! We interviewed Jane Yolen for our podcast and do you know she writes a poem a day that she sends out in her newsletter? Astonishing.
But I’m lucky enough to have had bits and pieces published here and there. I had a couple of novellas published and plenty of short stories. Since The Fireborne Blade is fantasy, readers might like to know about my short story micro collection The Watcher in the Woods which has a mixture of dark fantasy and horror; one of my soppiest fantasy stories is ‘A True Wish’ which is included in The Fox Spirit Book of Love; on the darker side is ‘Sweet Revenge’ which appears in After the Happily Ever After and charts what happens to Hansel and Gretel next; and ‘Don’t Follow,’ a story based on the Pied Piper legend, appears in the Lost Gods anthology.
On the horror side, I’m a huge fan of fairy tales and folklore. My novella The Poisoned Crow is available on Amazon and it’s a dark mash-up of several fairy tales such as The Robber Bridegroom and Jenny Greenteeth. For lovers of folk horror, A Feast to Catch Souls is based on a genuine legend about the devil holding a feast in the church of Kirkby Malham in North Yorkshire every year. I grew up reading local history and ghost story books side by side, so folk horror just feels like a happy home for me. More from this series soon, I hope!

4.- Do you find difficult to switch gears between writing different genres?
Not really, and I think that’s because I’ve always been a very widely-read person. I can’t read too much fantasy before I need some gritty horror, and I can’t read too much horror and fantasy without putting it down for a while for some crime or possibly a Jane Austen.
It’s actually easier, I’ve found, to write fantasy alongside horror than it is to try and run two horror stories side by side. Of course, it can help if one horror story is set in the present day and one in the past, but I still find myself replicating things if I’m not careful. So I like to work alternately on fantasy and horror (or run them side by side) to keep my imagination engaged.

5.- The Fireborne Blade is your new fantasy series, could you tell us more about it?
I would love to! It’s set in a country called The Fourteen Realms, fourteen kingdoms each with their own ruler. I did a course on Homer once where I learned that there were disparate kingdoms in Ancient Greece each ruled by their own king, and I really liked that idea, so I incorporated it into my book.
Each realm has famous knights that guard the kingdom, compete in tournaments, and hunt dragons. Maddileh is a female knight who has faced disgrace in front of her fellows and has been stripped of her tourney armour. To get it back, she needs to do something brave and dramatic to prove herself, so she decides to go after the legendary Fireborne Blade, which is said to be held in the lair of the White Lady (the oldest living dragon). To get there, she has to travel through tunnels plagued with dragon-dead, ghosts, and soot drakes, all the while trying to deal with her arrogant new squire, Petros. When they finally reach the lair, Maddileh finds an awful lot more than she bargained for.

6.- How would you say it was the process since you got the idea for The Fireborne Blade to its publication?
Well, this book actually started out as a short story! It didn’t pack a punch quite the way I wanted, so I put it to one side for a year or so. Then I had the idea to turn it into a novella with a woman as the main protagonist – I could think of a lot more conflict and greater challenges for a woman trying to be a knight. As I was writing, I added in the backstory elements with The Demise and Demesne of Dragons excerpts and I almost had more fun writing those than writing Maddileh’s story!
Once it was finished and out on submission, I was lucky enough that it caught the eye of Lee Harris of Tordotcom – and I was even luckier that the rest of his team liked it as well, and they’ve been behind me one hundred percent every step of the way. They have honestly given it such a fantastic introduction to the world.

7.- Could you tell us more about your experience as a podcaster?
It was never something I thought about doing until Megan Leigh approached me at a convention and asked if I’d be interested in joining her and another writer to do a podcast on speculative fiction. The idea was that each of us would be knowledgable about a certain area: Megan handles sci-fi, Lucy is mostly fantasy, and I'm horror. Of course, we all cross genres a lot because Megan is also a big horror fan, and we all three of us love a good fantasy. But it works really nicely for directing the episodes. We’ve had some amazing guests on! I mentioned above that Jane Yolen has been on, but we’ve also had Seanan Macguire, RJ Barker, Rhianna Pratchett, Sarah Pinborough, Naomi Novik, Anna Smith Spark, Adrian Tchaikovsky – more great authors than I’ve space to name here! And through my work as a podcaster, I’ve been exposed to a wider variety of books, authors, and characters than I would have been if I’d just spent my life trundling around bookshops with only a vague idea of who I should read. I really can’t express enough how much my own writing has grown as a result of being a podcaster.

8.- If you would have to pitch The Fireborne Blade series, how would you do it?
I liked the jokey pitch my editor thought up for it: “Come for the slaying of the dragons, stay of the slaying of the patriarchy!” But to be more detailed, I’d probably say something like: Dragons and knights, morals and magic, death and glory – this is a book that will drag you deep into the tunnels of a new and strange world, and keep you enthralled all the way through.

9.- Which part of the whole authoring process would you say it’s your major struggle?
Oh, definitely the editing bit after the first draft. I write the first draft in a flurry of enthusiasm and inspiration. But then I look at what I’ve written and go, “Oh wow, it’s nothing like what was in my head.” And while, rationally, I know that it’ll look much better once I’ve edited it, it’s still really tough to dive into that first edit and move things around, cut things out, and have to work with something that doesn’t quite shine as much as it did when it was still inside your head.

10.- What can we expect from Charlotte Bond in the future?
More books, LOL! Seriously though, I’ve found it best not to plan out what might and might not get accepted next. Publishing is as much about luck as it is about talent – you might write the best book about, for example, flesh-eating slugs, but it might be that your style of writing doesn’t appeal to the editor who’s reading your submission (whereas it might have appealed to the editor sitting on her right, if only it had gone into her inbox instead) or the publisher may already have a flesh-eating slugs story in the pipeline, so even though yours is really good, they’re not going to take it on.
So while I do have a few bits and pieces that I’m working on, who knows what’ll be sent out into the world next. But in the meantime, I hope you and your readers enjoy The Fireborne Blade (and The Bloodless Princes, out later this year), and thanks so much for having me over for a chat!