Interview with Noor Al-Shanti

Tales of the Circle

Tales from the Circle

There are elements of a lot of High Fantasy stories that turn me off from the Genre. In the past I’ve likened it to the sentence, “Because teachers see students using ‘because’ incorrectly at the beginning of a sentence, they tell students not to use the word ‘because’ to start a sentence.”

One element I often see used badly is the long Prelude- World Building- Exposition beginning. (Sorry fans of Dune) Like many High Fantasy novels, Tales from the Circle, does need this to give the reader a grasp of where they are. Unlike many of those novels, this (or I should say, these as there are five of them) is concise and does what is needed and no more. One gets the sense that the author worked as hard making it readable and to the point as possible as they did fashioning the world. As a reader I say, “Thank You.”

The stories move quickly and I found myself immersed in the action.

One thing I did find, and this might be me, even though got swept up in the action I would quickly forget why the action was taking place. In a few of the stories I found myself scanning forward to the next action scene. Then really not knowing why the action was taking place. Again, I don’t know if it was me, or the writing that started this pattern.

These five stories do move quickly enough to keep the readers attention. As a quick read it was fine.


After your first reaction to my review (First reaction is always wrong) and you had a chance to look it over, what did I miss?

LOL at the “first reaction is always wrong” thing. A review is your own reaction to a story, your response to what you read, so I don’t think it’s possible to have something “missing.” From the author’s perspective it is always interesting to see what reviewers do choose to mention in a review, because it gives me an idea of which aspects they thought they needed to talk about and a hint as to what elements of the story resonated the most or least.

Getting back to your review, I was actually very happy that you mentioned the fact that I try to keep my writing to the point and readable. I’m not a fan of fluff or long descriptions of every detail and my eyes as a reader will glaze over descriptive paragraphs so I was really glad that this came through in my writing and that you appreciated it as a reader.

What would you like anyone who read my review to know?

Same with any other review. That it was your honest opinion.

Without calling out anyone, what would you like anyone who read the other reviews to know?

Again, I think all reviews, whether good or bad, give the reader an idea of what kind of story to expect. If someone says they hated a story because it focused on magic too much another reader might think “that’s what I’m looking for!”

Of all the reviews of your book, what was the greatest take away, what did you learn about your writing from a review?

I don’t know if I can choose one thing as the greatest take-away, but if I had to choose it would be that the things I get most excited about as a writer come through as memorable for the reader as well. When I wrote Wandering Storm (one of the stories in this collection) I had the most fun with the ship battle scenes, with imagining them, but as an author I think I had somehow been hardwired to think that there was something wrong with having too much fun with those scenes, getting too carried away with them and not focusing enough on the “craft” – well, I guess the several reviewers who mentioned that those scenes stood out for them showed me that I should trust my instincts in that respect.

How do you think you have evolved creatively, while writing this book and after?

This book is kind of interesting in that sense, because it’s a collection of a bunch of short stories and novellas that I wrote over many years. All of them take place in the same world, but they were written years apart. For me, there’s an obvious improvement in my writing when I compare the ones written years ago to the most recent one (Nyarai: Traveler of the Circle) and I definitely had to do a bit more editing for those older ones once I decided to publish them.

Every author gets bad reviews that miss the mark so completely, that you have to look at the rating to know if it was a positive or negative review. Have you ever looked at the negative reviews of your favorite author and chuckle, knowing that the review could be applied to your work?

It’s very true that all books get negative reviews, no matter how masterfully crafted they are or how professional or well-known the author is. I actually get a little suspicious if a book only has good reviews! And I often go to the one and two star reviews on purpose, just to see what some of the people who didn’t like the book thought, even if I loved it. The different perspectives and the things that other readers choose to point out are often interesting and at the very least they can be entertaining 🙂

I get inspired by B-Movies, I’ll sit and laugh at “Attack of the the Eye Creatures” (Not a typo, that is the name of it) but learn as well, mostly what not to do. What sources inspire you, that you wouldn’t recommend others try?

Ummm… not sure what to say here. I guess what you’re trying to say is that even things that are terrible can teach us something and I would agree. You can learn from any situation or book or movie if you are open to learning or if you look at it a certain way.

What is the WORST piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Here are 10 or 50 or 100 words to use instead of ________.”

I find this way of looking at writing a little silly. If I’m telling a story and I’m trying to express that someone said something there’s no need to couch it in fluff and use some ridiculous unnatural word that no one ever uses. Said is just fine 99% of the time. But there are all sorts of things like this out there that try to trick authors into thinking that using a thesaurus to make yourself sound “smarter” is the way to go. It’s about the heart of the story, the characters, and the plot. Mechanics are good, and you learn what works and what doesn’t over time, but I’ve never been a fan of overcomplicating things and focusing too much on these kinds of details.

Who is your favorite indie author?

This is a tough one, because the more Indie works I read the more impressed I am. I don’t think I’ve read enough Indie books to choose a favorite author yet, but here are a few indie books that I think everyone should check out.

Daniel E. Olesen has a great book called “The Eagle’s Flight.” I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel.

I also really enjoyed Gloria Piper’s “Grounded: A Dragon’s Tale” but I haven’t read any of her other books yet.

If I had to choose my favorite Indie books right now I think those two books would tie in first place.

For a more well-known example: I think one of the first Indie books I read was Wool by Hugh Howey a few years ago, because the ebook was available from my local library. It was a great book and I did continue and read the rest of the series. Wool has a lot more mainstream success now, but I would still rate both “The Eagle’s Flight” and “Grounded” above it, personally, and I think all fantasy fans should check them out.

I also enjoyed “The Buried Few” by M. J. Lau and I’m currently reading – and enjoying – Hand and Talon by Melonie Purcell.

Describe you ideal fan (the person who would love your book)?

Hopefully it would appeal to all kinds of different people, but it is Epic Fantasy, so I think readers who are into fantasy and world-building will enjoy it the most.  

Where can we find more of your books?

My books can be found on Kobo, Google Play Books, and Amazon.

They are also available through overdrive so you can make a request for your local library to get them through overdrive and then you – and others – can read them for free!

What books do you have coming out?

There’s a novel set in the same fantasy world coming out very soon. All I’m going to say right now is it takes place in one of the Petty Kingdoms – those fragmented mountain kingdoms that the rest of The Circle of the World kind of ignores, because nothing interesting supposedly happens there. Well, some interesting things are about to occur there… and the Sorcerer King has something to do with it!

Favorite Cover of one of your books (Please attach)

I love the covers for both “Nyarai: Traveler of the Circle” and “Wandering Storm” but if I have to choose one I think I’d pick “Wandering Storm.”

wandering storm cover.jpg 

What are your different author pages (Website, Amazon, Smashwords, ect)


My Comments:

First off, I never intended this site to be the Gloria Piper Fan Club site, but Grounded is a great book. I shouldn’t be surprised it gets mentioned by many authors.

Again, I think all reviews, whether good or bad, give the reader an idea of what kind of story to expect.” That is mostly true, except for when the reviewer complains about way too many sex scenes when there aren’t any. I got that for Showgirls and Aliens. Or, another author I know got a review ripping apart a character, they had to double-check and find the character wasn’t even in their book.

It’s about the heart of the story, the characters, and the plot.” That is the thing many writers forget. A visual example of this when inexperienced actors go from “I just want to get the words out.” to “I must emote, not sure which emotion, but damn it I’m going to emote!” It’s easy to get lost in practicing the craft and lose sight of the art.

I’d like to thank Noor for doing this.


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