author interview: R.M. Archer

Sometimes, a book comes along that creeps up on me in the subtlest of ways, steals my heart, then leaves me feeling like I’ve lost something deep and precious… yet also somehow found home. Calligraphy Guild was just such a book. Page by page, it swept me away on a dynamic journey, before fading quietly to the end. And it was beautiful and unexpected and powerful.

In honor of Calligraphy Guild’s imminent release, I had the honor of interviewing its author, a good friend of mine, R.M. Archer – and now, as part of Calligraphy Guild’s blog tour, I have the great privilege of sharing our conversation with you, my friends.

So snag a mug of spicy tea, grab a blanket, and make yourself comfortable for a glimpse behind the scenes of R.M. and her lovely book…

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?

What was the spark that first inspired Calligraphy Guild?

There were a couple of pieces that came together around the same time. One was a desire to write about a community of writers working together in a physical space, and the other was a dream about magic ink. I ended up putting the two together and developed Calligraphy Guild from there!

In what ways has Calligraphy Guild changed from the time you first conceived it? Or has it at all?

It’s gained a lot more depth and complexity. My first draft was about 45,000 words following a relatively simple mystery plot with a heavy focus on the characters and their relationships. The more I edited, the more was added to the characters and their arcs and the more minor themes started to crop up. Over the span of about eleven or twelve drafts, Calligraphy Guild went from 45k to 95k and it’s reached a point where I’m still finding new details and themes as I reread it. It’s been really cool to work with this book and see the story grow deeper and stronger.

Which character in Calligraphy Guild was the most difficult to write?

Duyên, almost certainly. Ryuu had his tricky spots, too, since writing humor isn’t my strong point. But Duyên was the most consistently difficult because she tends not to know what she’s thinking or feeling, so figuring it out as the author can be difficult, not to mention communicating how she’s feeling while also communicating that she doesn’t necessarily know that yet. So she was definitely the trickiest, despite (or possibly because of) her similarities to me.

Which character in Calligraphy Guild was the most enjoyable to write?

Besides side characters—because a number of them would probably make the list—Tora was the most fun. I’m not sure what it is about her that makes her so easy to write, but her voice and struggles and whatnot came really easily to me and the scenes from her POV are definitely among my favorites.

What was your favorite part about writing Calligraphy Guild?

All of it? LOL. Almost the entire process was a joy to work through. I love the characters, the worldbuilding, the writing, the editing and seeing everything come together… It’s definitely a heart project for me and it’s been a delight to create.

Do you have a sequel in mind? (Here’s hoping you do…:))

Nothing full-length. I have a handful of short story ideas I could work with down the road, but I don’t have any concrete plans as of now.

What project will you work on now that Calligraphy Guild is out in the world? (Or are we allowed to know?)

I won’t say anything with certainty, since I’m still in a stage of figuring out where to go next and adjusting to a new job, but since finishing Calligraphy Guild I’ve mostly been working on a non-fiction project about worldbuilding and a sci-fi novel.

What is one way you grew as a writer or as a person while working on Calligraphy Guild?

I learned a lot about God’s faithfulness. I could see His hand over every part of the process, and the precision of His timing and design, and He really hammered home that He’ll complete what He’s started in His perfect way and timing.

How does your faith play into your writing, both generally and in respect to Calligraphy Guild?

My faith impacts what themes I highlight and what content I include in what manner. Some stories are more obviously influenced than others, but all of my writing is ultimately informed by my faith and worldview. In Calligraphy Guild, the themes were particularly heavily influenced by biblical concepts, particularly the theme of sovereignty and an ultimate plan that we can’t always understand in the moment but we’re better off following in faith.

Can you tell us why you’ve decided to pursue writing?

It’s a passion that God gave me years and years ago. I enjoy it; it’s something I can learn and grow in; it’s something that reflects God and His authorship, that draws me closer to Him and that He works through to draw others toward Him as well. I write because it’s what God has given me to do, and He’s given me joy in it.

I gather from posts I’ve seen from you before (and from Goodreads) that you enjoy reading. What books have most shaped you in your writing journey? Which ones have most shaped you as a person?

Yes! I love reading. A lot of books have shaped my writing journey over the years. The mysteries I read as a kid, the fantasy novels I started on young, the YA books I read as a pre-teen and early teenager, the classics and non-fiction I’ve been reading more of late… Everything I read plays a part in my growth as an author. I guess some representative books would be the Shannara series and the Landover series by Terry Brooks, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. (I don’t endorse all of the books on that list—or their sequels, as the case may be—but they’ve all influenced my writing either through my appreciation or my frustration.)

On a more personal level, Lord of the Rings still makes the list. I think I’d also add Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson, and Unschooled by Kerry MacDonald.

If you had one word of advice to give to a less experienced writer, what would it be?

Write what God gives you to write. Don’t worry about whether it will sell. Don’t worry what other people will think of it. Just write it to the best of your ability and write it “as to the Lord and not to men.” Write to please Him, to reflect His character and His truth, and the rest will fall into line where it’s meant to. That might not mean you get a 5-figure book deal. It might. It might just mean God uses your book to have a powerful impact on a few dozen readers. Regardless of what the end result looks like, God is faithful to bring about the end that is best in the long-term. It’s our job to earnestly “seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” He will add everything we need.

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.

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