Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

02 January 2013

The Next Big Thing blog hop


This is my contribution to The Next Big Thing blog hop, a branching pyramid-of-prose for authors to discuss their latest release or WIP. I was tagged by the amazing Liz Argall, one of my Clarion classmates.

I'll talk about two fantasy novels, both coming out this year.

from early draft of IMFM's back cover
What is the working title of your book? 
(1) Ice Magic, FIre Magic (known hereafter as IMFM)
(2) Shrine of the Heavens (hereafter, Shrine)

Where did the idea come from for the book?
(1) IMFM has its roots in several thoughts, one dating back to my childhood. (a) After I finished watching the "good Kirk, bad Kirk" episode of Star Trek, I was dissatisfied with the conclusion that someone who's all good can't be an effective leader . . .  or effective, period. IMFM was an exploration of an all-good person who is chosen leader and is surrounded by flawed people, some of whom want to kill her. (b) The phrase "servant of the people" rarely is accurate when used to describe American politicians. In IMFM, I created a leader who truly is everyone's servant. (c) I wanted to see whether I could write a romance (instead, I ended up with a fantasy with a romance subplot).
(2) Shrine was inspired by the liner notes of a CD of music from the court of King Alfonso X (Alfonso the Great), which talked about convivencia (Jews, Muslims, and Christians living together in harmony) in medieval Spain. I started researching convivencia and eventually learned that the CD liner notes exaggerated, but by then I was hooked on medieval Spanish history and the question of how people of different religions can live together, which has become even more urgent since 9/11 fractured the Peoples of the Book even more than they were when I wrote Shrine.

What genre does your book fall under? 
(1) IMFM is a fantasy with romantic elements.
(2) Shrine is an epic fantasy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I watch only a few TV shows and rarely have time to see movies, so I'm not familiar with most actors and actresses. Making this question even more challenging is that few of my characters are Caucasian looking, some are short, and some are plump. So even if I saw more TV shows and movies, I probably couldn't cast my books from members of the Screen Actors Guild. Two exceptions: I think Alexander Skarsgård (Eric Northman on True Blood) would make an excellent Urushi in the film version of IMFM, and the young Ricardo Mantalban would be an acceptable Celatu in the same film. Oh, and Glen Helen Nature Preserve, John Bryan State Park, and/or Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve (all near Yellow Springs, Ohio) are perfect for the role of the sentient land of Veridia in IMFM.

early draft of cover of Shrine
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
(1) IMFM: Fila’s strong magic destines her to be Servant of Enchantment, the protector of the land of Veridia and its two peoples, the magic-gifted Guardians and the nonmagical Toilers; but when jealous relatives and an ancient evil join forces against Fila, who will protect the protector?
(2) Shrine: City-bred telescope merchant Joz must lead a caravan of pilgrims across the desert to the distant Shrine of the Heavens and successfully complete a crucial business deal with religious leaders there, or his father will choose one of Joz’s brothers as his heir.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
(1) IMFM will be published by Hadley Rille Books in summer 2013.
(2) Shrine will be self-published after another couple rounds of revisions.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
(1) IMFM took a year or two.
(2) Shrine took three or four years.
Both books went through 10 to 15 heavy revisions because the first drafts needed so much work—typical for most fiction I write.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  
(1) The books closest to IMFM are probably those put out by Harlequin's Luna line in its first year or two. 
(2) The three authors best known for writing fantasy with little or no magical elements are Guy Gavriel Kay, K.J. Parker, and Ellen Kushner. Shrine was probably most inspired by Kushner's Swordspoint, one of my favorite books.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The precise inspirations for each were given in my answers to the second question. Many, many people inspired me to become a writer, starting with my aunt Janet Louise Roberts.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I've gotten tired in recent years of fantasies set in generic fantasy landscapes. From the beginning, Shrine was set in a land based on the geography, crops, natural materials, etc., of southern Spain and Israel. IMFM originally had a generic fantasy landscape—I started it during a Book In A Week challenge, so that was an easy default—and now is set in a place based on primeval southwestern Ohio. I chose the area because I grew up there, but it turned out to be a great place for a fantasy because of its beauty; dense, ancient forests (which partly remain in IMFM); interesting geography, from gentle, rolling hills to hilly areas with outcrops of rocks to the steep hills and ragged cliffs overlooking the Ohio River; and bountiful, diverse wildlife and plant life.


Now, I tag these authors to answer these same questions next Wednesday:
  • Lesley Smith in England, a friend of a friend who wanted to take part in the meme and whom I look forward to getting to know better
  • Karen Simpson in the U.S., author of the novel Act of Grace and fellow quilter and history lover
  • Jenny Blackford in Australia, another lover of history and a fellow Hadley Rille Books author