Q&A with Megan O’Russell – Part Three

1. What is the title of your newest book or short story? What’s it about? Where can readers find it?

The Siren’s Realm. It’s book two in The Tethering Series. The Siren’s Realm in a Young Adult Urban Fantasy about magic, danger, and the consequences of love.

Jacob loves Emilia Gray, but things aren’t always that simple in the world of Magickind…

The war has begun.

The Dragons are gaining power, and the Gray Clan stands alone. Desperate to find a way to stop the Pendragon, Emilia is forced to seek answers from someone who hasn’t been seen in seventeen years . . . Her mother. Embarking on a magical journey filled with witches, wizards, centaurs and a dangerous and powerful Siren, Jacob and Emilia must take a leap of faith to a land neither could have ever imagined . . . and hope they can then find their way home.

2. What’s your favorite part of writing a new book or story? What do you like the least?

The Siren’s Realm is my first sequel. My favorite part was getting to see my characters again. It was like visiting old friends. Delving deeper into their stories was amazing. I especially loved pushing the relationship between Jacob and Emilia even further.

My least favorite part was trying to find ways to reintroduce information from book one that is necessary for book two. I’m not a fan of info dumps, so trying to find creative ways to slip in the rules of the magical world was a challenge. In the end, it was fun. But it took a lot of tea to get there.

3. How do you research your stories?

For The Siren’s Realm I spent a lot of time researching different locations. What mountain something happens on. How to access it. How long a particular road is. I really wanted to make sure that, even though The Siren’s Realm is a fantasy novel, the bits that are based in the real world are believable. I put quite a bit of time into researching old legends and myths. I like to know what the purest form of a centaur is before I decide how I want to build mine. I also spent a lot of time on the spell language with the help of my lovely husband and chief linguist Christopher Russell.

4. Where can readers find you on social media? (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Library T hing, Redd It, etc.)

Add The Tethering to your Goodreads list at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21480311-the-tethering?from_search=true
Add The Siren’s Realm to your Goodreads list at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23445448-the-siren-s-realm
Follow Megan O’Russell on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ORussellauthor
Twitter @MeganORussell
Or TSU https://www.tsu.co/MeganORussell
Visit the Silence in the Library website: http://www.silenceinthelibrarypublishing.com/
Megan’s blog and website can be found at MeganORussell.com

5. What do you read for fun?

Just about anything. Right now I’m reading a beach themed book to try and remind myself that summer will come again. I’m also on a big geography and cartography binge. One of my new projects involves cartography, and it’s become a bit of an obsession. If it’s about making maps, I want to read it.

Click here to listen to a reading of The Siren’s Realm on our sister site.

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Q&A with Megan O’Russell – Part Two

Megan Orlowski Headshot Reduced Size

1. What’s your favorite part of writing a new book or story? What do you like the least?

My favorite part of writing a new book is learning the rules of the world. Figuring out what the rules of society or, in the case of The Tethering, the rules of magic are is fascinating to me. I love finding a problem and creating a whole new way to solve it while getting to know my characters better.

My least favorite part is teaching my fingers to type a new protagonist’s name. I’m not the best typist, and teaching my fingers to type Margret quickly was terrible.

For The Tethering I did a lot of research on old fables of magic. I also climbed a mountain to make sure it would work for the story and did a lot of research on Latin roots of words with my husband, who is chief spell linguist for The Tethering.

2. Who are your favorite fictional characters—your own, and from other books, TV shows and movies?

My favorite fictional character of my own would have to be Jacob Evans of The Tethering Series. He is the heart of the story. However, Claire is another favorite just for her snarky sense of humor. She is from The Tethering and featured in my short story At the Corner of the Garden Wall in Athena’s Daughters 2.

As for favorites in others works, I love Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia. I adore Septimus and Niko in the Septimus Heap series. And I really love Balthazar Blake in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Hiccup and Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon.

3. What do you read for fun?

I usually read fantasy and mystery, but I really love a good sci-fi or romance as well. It’s really just whatever catches my interest at the moment. Right now, I’m reading a novel from the Star Trek Universe.

4. Was there a book you read in your childhood or teen years that changed your world? Tell us which book and how it made a difference for you.

I would have to say The Chronicles of Narnia. I read them every few years and gain something new from them every time. Seeing how much a book can affect someone made me want to write, and I find new wonder in the series every time I go back to it. Further up and further in. Let the world grow with each step forward.

Click here to listen to a reading of The Tethering on our sister site.

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Q&A with Megan O’Russell

Megan Orlowski Headshot Reduced SizeWhat is the title of your newest book or short story? What’s it about? Where can readers find it?

My newest short story is At the Corner of the Garden Wall, which is a part of the Athena’s Daughters 2 anthology, currently up for preorder on Kickstarter.


How did you choose to become a writer?

I really didn’t. I’m an actor by trade, so I spend all my time living in imaginary worlds. During a not so artistically-fulfilling production, I began to write a story. It was about a boy who was all alone, waiting for a girl to come back. Finding out who that boy was and helping him became The Tethering. The same sort of thing has happened with all my projects. I write because I want to tell a story.

What inspired your new book or story?

When I found out about the open submissions for Athena’s Daughters 2, I knew I wanted to write something from the world of The Tethering. Figuring out who to write about was a challenge. I was afraid of creating spoilers in the series, and that left me with very few choices. My favorite character in the series is Claire, a twelve-year-old witch who is sarcastic, funny, and loves all things pink. I was afraid that she wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the characters in Athena’s Daughters 2, but a good friend encouraged me to write about her anyway. I did, and At the Corner of the Garden Wall was born. All about Claire, and a pink cat.

Where can readers find you on social media? (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Library Thing, Redd It, etc.)

On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ORussellauthor

On Twitter https://twitter.com/MeganORussell

My website and blog MeganORussell.com

On TSU https://www.tsu.co/MeganORussell

And on goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8061709.Megan_O_Russell

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Sit down and write. Don’t worry about commas or where in the room the couch is. Just tell your story. Get it all out. Then either you’ll feel finished (getting a whole story out is a huge accomplishment), or you’ll want your characters to go out into the world. If you want your story read, then you begin revisions and edits. But that’s a problem for another day. First, just write.

Click here to listen to a reading from Megan on our sister site.

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Q&A with Tish E. Pahl

crow_smWhat is the title of your short story?  What’s it about?  Where can readers find it?

My new short story, Crow Bait and Switch, is part of the Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2 anthology to be published by Silence in the Library Publishing.  Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2 is a collection of short works of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction written by women, edited by women, illustrated by women, and about women and girls.  The diverse stories, written by very diverse authors, celebrate women and girls of all ages and races, abilities and physical attributes.

Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2 is being funded via Kickstarter.  We are at the end of the campaign and we really hope that you will support this fantastic anthology that gives under-represented characters a voice in exciting stories.  Our Kickstarter page is here.

What inspired Crow Bait and Switch?

My last published fiction was in Star Wars Gamer over ten years ago with my awesome co-author, Chris Cassidy. Though I have written lots (and lots and lots) of derivative work for 20 years, my last original story was for a writers’ workshop with the late Aaron Allston. Aaron was very much on everyone’s mind at Origins 2014 and, while there, I summoned his positive spirit (and my courage) and participated in a writing seminar with Mike Stackpole and Tim Zahn, who had both been so supportive when I was writing and working with them in Star Wars.  Also at Origins, Janine Spendlove, one of the editors of Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2, told me that Silence in the Library Publishing had an open call for short stories for the anthology and encouraged me to submit something.

With this collective encouragement, I began Crow Bait and Switch by dusting off the story I had written for Aaron’s workshop. The USDA Beagle inspector with a nose for maggots and rotten Sicilian cheese became a bossy, genetically engineered Border Collie. In addition to loving dogs and enjoying giving a literal voice to them in my writing, I am also very fond of the family corvidae, to which crows, magpies, and other canny birds belong. I have seen these advanced tool users steal car keys and flashing lights. As such, it was not surprising that, in the tradition of her astonishingly clever forbears, Morgana, the Jurassic Park-quoting, talking crow, flew into Crow Bait and Switch and stole it from everyone else.

Who are your favorite fictional characters—your own, and from other books, TV shows and movies?

Although I have many favorites, across many genres, examples of some of my favorite fictional characters are on display in Crow Bait and Switch.  I love talking sentient animals, like the dragons in Temeraire and Dragonriders of Pern, the Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny, the talking dogs in 101 Dalmatians, and the birds and beasts in the Chronicles of Narnia.  Science fiction also gives us genetically modified, fully sentient animals in stories like the Planet of the Apes, the Island of Dr. Moreau, and Startide Rising.  In Crow Bait and Switch, the animal tricksters of folklore, like Coyote, Reynard, Anansi, and Brer Rabbit,  are as much Morgana’s forbears as the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

With these many favorites and inspirations, what I especially wanted to do in Crow Bait and Switch was to write characters like Morgana, not as a human with feathers, but as a real bird who also happens to be fully sentient.  In the story, the main protagonist, Dr. Jesse Harris, will realize that though Morgana speaks like a human, nothing about her is the least bit human. Morgana is a bird, truly alien, and far closer to dinosaurs than to any humans.  Morgana will prompt a crisis of conscience that will force Jesse to decide whether she stands with the Pan-Laurasian Fleet or with those who don’t have opposable thumbs.

Thank you again and I hope you’ll support the Athena’s Daughters, Volume 2 Kickstarter!

Listen to a special reading of Crow Bait and Switch on our sister site by clicking here.

* * *
Tish E. Pahl is a principal in a law firm.  At her day job, she advises on the federal regulation of drugs, dietary supplements, cosmetics, foods, and medical devices and regularly teaches a crash course in drug law.  With Chris Cassidy, Tish wrote for Star Wars, with stories published in the Tales from the New Republic and Star Wars Gamer magazine.  Tish is also a prolific producer of derivative genre, fantasy, and science fiction content.  She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband, son, and two demanding dogs.

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My Wild, Wild Weird Wild West Secret Connection

I write epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk. So what am I doing in the Weird Wild West Kickstarter anthology?

neon cowboy


Well, technically, the Wild West happened during the ‘steampunk’ years—our Civil War era and Westward expansion happened while England was having its Victorian period.

And the two Department of Supernatural Investigation agents you may have met in my stories in Clockwork Universe: Steampunk Vs. Aliens and Dreams of Steel 5, who also play a big role in Iron and Blood (our new steampunk novel coming in July) would have been out West during part of the Cowboy Era.

But here’s the real connection—my parents were Sioux. No, really—I know I don’t look it, but it’s true. And here’s the story about how a city kid from Reading, PA fulfilled a life-long dream to witness a vanishing history, meet survivors from the Battle of Little Big Horn and get adopted into the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

My parents on their adoption day

My parents on their adoption day

My dad, Dr. Luther R. Zehner, was born in 1923, and he fell in love with Native American lore when he was growing up in a row house in the textile mill town of Reading.  Wild West stories like the Lone Ranger and books by authors like Will James and Frank Linderman sparked his imagination.  He was inspired by tales of adventurers and explorers who left the cities of the East and learned the ways and language of Native Americans, and that inspiration changed the course of his life.

Dad graduated from Juniata College and earned his medical degree from Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia.  He finished his residency in Surgery at Harrisburg Hospital, Dr. Zehner married his college sweetheart, Frances—my mom–in August of 1949.  Together, they headed for Standing Rock Reservation near Fort Yates, ND, where Dad had received a staff appointment as a physician in the reservation hospital, and Mom had been hired to teach in the reservation school. (This was 13 years before I was born, so I missed it!)

Mom and Dad fully embraced the culture of the Lakota (Sioux) with whom they worked.  Dad learned to speak the Sioux language, and forged deep friendships with tribal elders Alex Sage, Patrick Rattling Hail and Judge Francis B. Zahn.  It was at Standing Rock where they also met and became close personal friends with photographer Frank Bennett Fiske and he and his wife, Angela.Collector

Dad sought out the oldest members of the tribe, and recorded their oral histories, encouraging them to recount legends and stories and to talk about life before the reservation. He recorded their songs and drumming on audio tape and with a film camera, and interviewed the survivors of the Battle of Little Big Horn, who were by then in their 90s. One of the most thrilling moments of his life was going out to the Custer battlefield with an elderly Native American battle survivor who gave him a first-hand account of what it was like on that day long ago.

Members of the tribe noted the passion and respect Dad and Mom had for their culture.  Dad was also deeply aware that the legacy of the elders seemed to be slipping away in the busy post-war period.  He began to purchase artifacts, documenting the history of the pieces in his journals and with his camera.  He was particularly interested in pieces from the late 1900s and the early part of the Twentieth Century, and in items made according to the old ways by contemporary craftspeople.

In July of 1950, my parents were adopted into the Sioux tribe in a formal ceremony.  Frank Fiske took photos of them dressed in full authentic ceremonial clothing. Custer battle survivor Spotted Bear “gave” Dad his tribal name so that Luther became “Spotted Bear.”  Mom’s new name translated as “Morning Star.”

Mom passed away in 2009 at age 89, and Dad died at age 90 in 2013. He passed away just three weeks after a Native American delegation came to the nursing home where he resided to honor his birthday with drumming and dancing.

You can see the photo of Dad and Mom on their tribal adoption day , along with some fun graphics about the Weird Wild West anthology. And here’s the interview I did with the Weird Wild West publisher about my inspiration: https://especbooks.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/author-spotlight-gail-z-martin-the-weird-wild-west/


By the way—there’s still time to fund the anthology and get 12 extra rewards, including a sneak peek chapter from our new Iron and Blood novel, my Deadly Curiosities Adventures story Collector and The Final Death, as well as a 400 pg. steampunk & zombie book!  There’s still time to jump on the covered wagon and pony up a couple of greenbacks!

Here’s the Weird Wild West Kickstarter link to learn more, see the rewards and become a backer: http://kck.st/1udizgM


Steampunk & Cowboys!

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Deadly Inspiration

by Gail Z. Martin

After eight epic fantasy novels, why write an urban fantasy?

To paraphrase famed bank robber Willie Sutton, “Because that’s where the story is.”

I’m not planning to quit writing epic fantasy. For one thing, I’ve got more novels under contract and even more clamoring for attention in my head. But an idea led to a short story which turned into a novel that became a whole new fictional universe, and now there are more stories that just won’t be satisfied until I tell them.

Maybe that only makes sense if you’re a writer, but having stories in your head that want out is a miserable thing unless you go along with the urge and write them, bringing them to life. Which brings me back to Deadly Curiosities.

It all started when I got my first invitation to write a short story about pirates and magic for an anthology. I came with “Steer a Pale Course”, and introduced an antique shop whose mortal owner and vampire partner worked together to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. The time period for that story was the late 1700s. Other anthology stories were set in that time, or in the 1500s, when my vampire character Sorren was newly turned, the best jewel thief in Antwerp. Then Jon Oliver at Solaris asked me to do a short story for his Magic: Esoteric and Arcane anthology, and wanted something more modern-day. He liked my story “Buttons” so much that he asked for a novel with an eye toward a series.

I’ve grown up visiting antique shops, because my dad loved to prowl the aisles, looking for a good bargain. With time to kill, I went looking for unusual, archaic items and amused myself by making up stories about them. I’ve also always loved visiting museums and living history sites, experiencing how people lived in other time periods. And always, there were the personal items that they surrounded themselves with, things that might not be monetarily valuable but were precious to them. Mingle that with a life-long love of ghost stories, and I started to think about items that might be haunted, or whose owners had invested with magical power.

Then I got invited to speak at a conference in Charleston, SC. It was somewhere I’d always wanted to visit, and I fell in love with how beautiful it was, and also with the blood-stained history just beneath the genteel facade. Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the US, and it hadn’t been overused as a fantasy setting. I made up my mind I was going to figure out how to set some stories there. So a lot of different streams all seemed to come together to create the Deadly Curiosities universe that culminates in the upcoming novel.

A modern-day setting in an existing city meant urban fantasy, but I had been reading for pleasure in that genre for quite some time, taking a “busman’s holiday” from epic stories just to clear my mind. Familiarity with the structure and tropes of urban fantasy–and conversations I’d had with urban fantasy authors over the years–all helped the story fall into place. When you’re a writer, nothing is ever wasted. You might not know exactly when or where you’ll use an experience, but sooner or later, it shows up in your books!

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The Story Behind Reign of Ash

By Gail Z. Martin

Reign of Ash is the second book in my Ascendant Kingdoms series. In the first novel, Ice Forged, a war destroys the ability to harness and use magic, devastating the kingdom of Donderath and its neighboring lands. Blaine McFadden just might be the only man who can put things right, but he was sentenced to life imprisonment in an arctic prison colony before the war began.

It’s probably not a big spoiler to say that Blaine does finally agree to try to restore the magic. But doing so is harder and more dangerous than he imagined. So when Reign of Ash opens, the consequences of Donderath’s cataclysmic war are still unfolding. Not only is magic still wild and lethal, but without a king or the nobility, the kingdom has devolved into chaos. Warlords vie for land, resources and dominance. Old hatreds and secrets create new dangers. Not only are the mortals fighting among themselves, but the immortal talishte are riven by internal jealousies and vendettas. And everything Blaine does to try to straighten things out seems to make it worse.

The ideas for Reign of Ash and Ice Forged were floating around in my head for a while before I got the go-ahead to write the series. For me, it always starts with “what if?”

What if….magic was a natural force that could be harnessed, but the bond between people and magic was artificial, a magical construct itself?

And what if… something broke that bond. Could it be restored? If so, would it be the same? If it came back, how would it be different? Would people get back power if they had lost it, or get new powers they didn’t have before? Would people gain or lose power? Would the rules be the same?

And what if…there were powerful forces who liked a world without controlled magic, who thrived on the chaos and had plans of their own, taking advantage of the new imbalance of power? We all think that after a devastating event, everyone wants to get back to normal, but what if some powerful people saw new advantages in the rubble?

When Blaine returns to find a way to restore magic, he’s not only up against the deadly forces of untamed magic. He also discovers that he’s gained powerful enemies who have a vested interest in making sure he fails–and dies. The longer it goes without controlled magic, the more out of kilter things become, and the more danger Blaine faces. Will the alliances he’s built hold? And will his special connection to the magic, something in his very blood, be enough to tame it again? And most importantly, will doing so require his death?

Those were the questions I grappled with as I created Ice Forged and Reign of Ash. I’ve turned in the manuscript for book 3, War of Shadows, which comes out in 2015. I’ll start the fourth book this summer. Which means that some of the questions will be answered in Reign of Ash, but many of the answers will be questioned again and again, because Blaine has a long way to go before he’s safe…if that day ever comes.

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Q&A with Tom Doyle

1) What is the title of your newest book or short story?  What’s it about?  Where can readers find it?

My debut novel from Tor, American Craftsmen, is a contemporary fantasy of military intrigue with a cryptohistorical backstory that imagines that Poe and Hawthorne wrote thinly veiled nonfiction. It’s available everywhere books are sold in hardcover and e-versions (e.g., http://www.amazon.com/American-Craftsmen-Tom-Doyle/dp/0765337517). The mass-market paperback will be out at the end of June 2015, and the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, will be out in August 2015.

2. What inspired your new book or story?

To my own surprise, one of my initial inspirations for this book was L. Frank Baum. When he began telling children’s stories, he had the notion of discarding the existing European folk tales and building a fantasy that was modern and distinctly American. That’s how we got The Wizard of Oz.

I wasn’t going to write a children’s story, but the thought of confining myself to a U.S. mythos for an adult fantasy was oddly exciting. With plenty of books retelling European myths and folklore, it seemed like our own stories had been neglected. I looked at American folklore, but I ended up spending more time with the great early American writers of the fantastic.

3. How do you research your stories?

For American Craftsmen, I had to read or re-read a lot of the American classics of the fantastic or uncanny. I also had to check on various historical incidents where I have my craftspeople at work. For my research on special ops, besides general histories and first-person accounts, I consulted a childhood friend who had served in special forces during the First Gulf War.

4. Where can readers find you on social media? (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Library Thing, Redd It, etc.)

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tom.doyle

On Twitter: @tmdoyle2

On Goodread: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6576853.Tom_Doyle
On Google+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TomDoyle
My website: www.tomdoylewriter.com

Click here to listen to a reading of American Craftsmen on our sister site.

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The Story Behind the Story: Deadly Curiosities

by Gail Z. Martin

My dad was into antiques, old stuff, and collectibles that reminded him of the Old West, his childhood in the 1920s and anything else that caught his eye. He was also a hoarder. When he went into a nursing home for Alzheimer’s and we had to clean out his house, it was packed to the gills. Some of the stuff was trash, some went to Goodwill.

And then there was the weird stuff. Halberd axes. Old-fashioned bear traps six feet long with huge teeth. Hundreds of Baby Ben alarm clocks. Dozens of antique sewing machines, manual typewriters, huge coffee grinders, and a really strange black box that didn’t seem to have a way to open it. We all agreed felt evil so we got rid of it without trying too hard. He had sold the cannon off years ago, so at least we didn’t have to deal with that.

There were books–thousands of them. And old mother-of-pearl pair of opera glasses. Native American artifacts. Mirrors and glassware, old textiles and two player pianos. And more. When he passed away at age 90, it was my job to get rid of everything.

I had grown up getting dragged around as a kid to antique shops, used book stores (the musty kind that look like something out of Diagon Alley), swap meets, flea markets and steam engine shows. (He used to have several hundred steam engines, but thankfully those were sold off by the time I had to deal with things.) Point being, I spent a lot of formidable years around old stuff, odd things and items that might once have been useful or precious but where now reduced to cast-offs.

So maybe it was fate that I was going to write about a centuries-old antiques and curio shop with a hidden mission to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. Even as a kid, I knew that all those old things had stories. They had belonged to someone, mattered to someone, and were now being passed along–and they took their stories with them, silent, mysterious histories. Sometimes there were clues to their past life–a monogram, a name plate, an engraved set of initials, an inscription in a book. Most of the time, it was just the object, cast adrift, and I used to make up stories about them to amuse myself.

I like ghosts and accounts of ghostly phenomena. I like vampires–ever since I was a pre-schooler watching the old Dark Shadows TV show. And I liked Charleston, SC when I visited and toured it. Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the US, with a complex history that is both genteel and scandalous, and it’s one of the most haunted cities in the country. It was ripe for urban fantasy, and wasn’t overly familiar to readers. And it’s only a few hours away from where I live, so research trips wouldn’t be too difficult. So it just made sense for me to put all those elements together, shake it around and see what happened.

What emerged was the Deadly Curiosities novel, plus the short stories and novella that I’ve done in that universe that span a 500 year period of time. I’ve woven in a number of the objects we encountered in my dad’s collection, and given them a supernatural twist. It’s been fun to play with all the different strands and weave them into something new. The idea that the most mundane object might harbor secret magical power or a deadly curse is intriguing, especially if something unexpected might trigger that power, or raise its long-dormant mojo. Once you read Deadly Curiosities, you might be eying those heirlooms from grandma a little bit differently!



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Things you didn’t know about Gail Z. Martin

An Interview with Gail Z. Martin

Q: Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

A: Fantasy and science fiction hold up a mirror for us to try on different futures and pasts. Sci Fi often serves as a cautionary tale of where we might end up if we aren’t careful. Fantasy lets us play in the past or present that isn’t but should have been. And sometimes, when we experience something in fantasy, we start wondering why we can’t alter reality. That’s why sci fi and fantasy have always had a bit of a subversive edge, questioning the status quo and wondering what else might be possible. Sometimes it’s easier to approach a controversial topic from a fresh perspective outside of the real world. Star Trek did this all the time. I think that’s also something that happens with today’s dystopian fiction. Once you start people asking why something has to be the way it is, you’re opening the door to change.

Q: What fictional world would you like to visit for the holidays? Is there a fictional holiday that you would like to take part in?

A: For the holidays? Hogwarts! I’d love to be part of that awesome Yule feast and the Yule Ball.

In my Chronicles of the Necromancer books, I talk about a mid-winter holiday called Winterstide on the Solstice, which I think would be a nice, quiet alternative to the Christmas chaos to try some year.

Q: Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

A: I don’t think you have to mention every time someone stops to use the bathroom, but throwing things like that in occasionally makes the world feel more real. (In one of my books, a character overhears an important bit of news taking a pee back behind the tavern.) It goes right along with throwing up, food poisoning, and lice.

Cussing depends very much on the individual character. Some will used “minced oaths” (the equivalent of ‘darn’ instead of ‘damn’), some will be vulgar, and everyone else will be in between. Cussing is actually an interesting way to explore what a society finds sacred and profane, what they consider vulgar and acceptable, and what behavior is tolerated of different social classes and in different social occasions. Try coming up with a suitably vulgar/blasphemous outburst for a religion that doesn’t exist! It’s harder than it looks to make it believable and not funny. Likewise, if you have a person from a rough background, they’re going to cuss. You don’t always have to repeat what they say, but not having someone like that swear is inauthentic.

My characters complain a lot about lengthy travel, especially when it rains and the taverns have bedbugs. Talking about the hardship of travel in a fantasy setting reminds readers that this was before you could hop on a plane and be across the country in a few hours.

For me, these kinds of details make a world feel more lived-in and real. It’s the difference between a movie set and actually being there. And it can make you very thankful for central heating and indoor plumbing!

Q: Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

A: I love doing conventions as a pro, because it’s even more fun than it was when I wasn’t a pro. I get to talk to readers and be on panels and hash out cool topics like “Writing real magic” or “Are werewolves the new vampires?” with some of my favorite authors. Conventions are like family reunions, only with better relatives.

Blogging is fun, although sometimes I feel like I’ve said everything and it’s hard to come up with a new topic. I really enjoy conversations on Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads. Book signings are fun when the store has good traffic and there are lots of people. When you’re in a strip mall bookstore on a very rainy day, all you can do is make the best of it by getting to know the bookstore staff—which can be a lot of fun.

Probably the least favorite part is that you really don’t ever get to take a break from reminding people that you and your books are out there. It’s so easy for readers to go on to the next big thing and not remember that they were looking forward to the new book in your series—especially when they have to wait a year. So there really isn’t any time off from being out in the public.

Q: With the modern popularity of ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

A: On the plus side, readers may stumble upon books they wouldn’t have found wandering through a bookstore. On the minus side, it can be harder to discover books in a specific genre because they’re not helpfully shelved together, and the covers are smaller online and therefore not always as tempting.

I think readers find ways to cope, and overall they will find what they’re interested in, either by browsing, using the Amazon suggestions (which can be funny sometimes if you’re searched for some odd things), and tapping into word of mouth sites like Goodreads.

Ebook categories can also be humorously off-base. My epic fantasy The Blood King once accidentally got categorized on Amazon under “erotica”. I guess that’s the next category down from “epic” on the menu and someone picked the wrong one! I suspect there were a few very confused readers until we got it straightened out!

Q: From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay?

A: I might be tempted to do something from the upcoming steampunk book….

Q: As a young reader, unspoiled by the realities of this world, what stories and authors drove you to delusions of grandeur, expecting to be swept up into a magical tale or a laser battle?

A: As a kid, I loved Nancy Drew, Meg, Trixie Belden and the Hardy Boys, along with Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. I read a lot of ghost stories, including Macbeth and Hamlet. Of course there was Dracula, Frankenstein and anything about King Arthur, ranging from the Mary Stewart books to the more scholarly texts. Anything with ghosts, castles, and monsters was big on my list!

Q: If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

A: Mary Shelley, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Agatha Christie, Jules Verne, and probably William Shakespeare.

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Filed under Books, Gail Z. Martin