The Titans of Ardana by @JessSFrankel, interview by #thetoiboxofwords

Greetings readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors and welcome to The ToiBox of Words. I’m your host Toi Thomas, author of Eternal Curse, and today I have a treat to share. A while back, I had the pleasure to interview a wonderful author named, J.S. Frankel. A good time was truly had by all, and here’s how it went down.

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Toi Thomas: Hi there J.S.! It’s so awesome to have you here at the ToiBox Blog. I’m excited to learn more about you and your work.

J.S. Frankel: Hi there Toi. I’m excited to be here.

Toi Thomas: So tell me, who is J.S. Frankel?

J.S. Frankel: J.S. Frankel is my pen name, and I write primarily YA Fantasy with a lot of action. Some of my better known novels are the Catnip series, Star Maps, The Titans of Ardana, and Twisted, a gender-switch fantasy. I was born in Toronto, Canada, a long time ago, moved to Japan at age of twenty-six, and have been here ever since. I got into writing late, at the age of forty-eight, got published a year later, and have been at it ever since. I love to write YA, as it has a freshness and immediacy all its own. Every book is a new adventure!

Toi Thomas: I thought starting to write in my 30’s was late, but in reality, there’s no time-limit on discovering a part of yourself. I can’t wait to learn more about your journey. Before we dive into your special message today, let’s get to know you, the person inside the author.

What makes you geek out?

J.S. Frankel: Oh, god, it has to be superhero flicks! I remember watching Superman, the original film, back when I was a teen, and forty years later I’m still watching the best (and worst) that Hollywood has to offer. Recently, I saw Wonder Woman and said to myself, “THAT’S how you do an action movie!”

Toi Thomas: I know right. I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath through the whole film, just waiting for the s*** to hit the fan, but it never did. Wonder Woman was a really good movie. While not all superhero flicks are winners, I’m so happy that they’ve become mainstream. They are great stories at their core.

What was your favorite book or story, pre-teen years?

J.S. Frankel: Probably The Voyage of the Luna 1. It was a British story written in the late 1940’s, and it fired my imagination about space travel and adventure. The science was all wrong, but I was six. How could I know? I loved it, all the same.

Toi Thomas: I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds like something I’d enjoy. While good science fiction should, for the most part, feel feasible, I sometimes get a kick out of stories that stretch the limits and make no real sense. At that point, it feels like reading accidental fantasy.

In terms of interviews, whose brain are you just itching to scratch?

J.S. Frankel: If I could, I’d love to interview Robert McCammon or Nora Jemisin, as they are two of my favorite writers. Yes, pick their brains–not eat them!–and find out their process of writing. Both are very wordy writers, but with no waste, no excess or info dumping. Different styles, but very readable. Anything they write is prime!

Toi Thomas: While I’m only vaguely familiar with Robert McCammon, I believe best known for historical fiction, I’ve heard a lot of Jemisin (I believe she goes by N.K.) with the release of her book The Fifth Season. It’s been on my TBR for a while, but so have a lot of books. I’ll definitely get to it though.

Now that we know a little more about you, the person, let’s learn about you, the author, and dive into your special message.

So whacha got for me today?

J.S. Frankel: The Titans of Ardana is a YA Adventure/Fantasy novel. It’s about a young teen–Martin Calder–who is enamored of a television show as well as its co-star, Dana, no last name given. Martin sets out to get her autograph, but in doing so, finds out that she and her twin brother, Van, aren’t exactly from around here. Then the fun begins!

Toi Thomas: I really like the sound of this. I get the feeling there is a lot of humor and mystery in this story. An actress playing one role on TV and then playing another role in real life because she’s not what she seems; already has me curious. Does mystery play a part in this story directly or indirectly?

J.S. Frankel: Actually, the reveal is there right away, right at the end of the first chapter. It’s what happens after that provides all the fun!

Toi Thomas: So, who’s starring in this 2-dimensional script read of The Titans of Ardana?

J.S. Frankel: Two main stars. Martin Calder is the main protagonist of the novel. He’s a geek over sci-fi and fantasy, loves a television show, The Metas, and is in love with the star, Dana, no last name given. Dana is the star of the show. Tall, raven-haired, gorgeous (purple eyes are killer!) she is every bit the superheroine that Martin imagines her to be. Ironically, she IS a superhero, an alien, and she and her twin brother Van are on the run from an interstellar warlord who wants to eliminate them.

Toi Thomas: I love stories with twins in them; no idea why. I think it has something to do with the idea that two people can be connected in an almost psychic way from birth.

What’s so special about this story that’s going to reel in the readers?

J.S. Frankel: It takes the concept of what being a superhero is and turns it on its head. The alien co-stars of the novel, Dana and her twin brother, Van, exist on sugar, and that makes for some funny gross-out moments, as they eat TONS of sugar-laden goodies every day in order to survive. The action is also very good, and there’s quite a bit of humor in the novel. I like to have a little bit of everything in the books I write, and The Titans of Ardana has a little bit of everything to recommend.

Toi Thomas: I enjoy humor, but there are different kinds that appeal to different people. What kind of humor does this story have: slap-stick physical humor, sarcasm and ironic humor, dark and twisted humor, etc…

J.S. Frankel: I’d liken the humor to physical humor, mainly, but no pratfalls or pies in the face. It’s what Dana does—you’ll have to read the chapter in which she and Martin go to a chocolate factory—to get the humor. It’s sort of physical, gross-me-out stuff, and lies in the reactions of the people around them. It also happens to be the funniest scene in the novel, and then it quickly transitions into an action scene, something I am known for and love doing.

Toi Thomas: Past, present, future, is there a rhyme or reason to your writing?

J.S. Frankel: I don’t have a detailed game plan, per se. Ideas pop into my head, the old “What if” scenarios. I do a very basic outline of what will happen in each chapter, who is in it, dialogue, and then start writing. Of course, everything is subject to change and I’m always tweaking something. No music…I listen to that while taking breaks. I need silence. I write late at night when my family is asleep. I can concentrate better that way.

Toi Thomas: I cherish those moments when I can write in complete silence, they just don’t come around very often. I do, however, from time to time use music to inspire me when I need it.

Now this is where the questions get a little kooky; are you ready?

J.S. Frankel: “Whatever!”

Wikipedia

Toi Thomas: If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

J.S. Frankel: There are so many, but I’m going to go with an old one, Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. It’s basically a 20-minute burlesque sketch expanded into a movie, but the performances are terrific, Marilyn is adorable, and the final line is killer. Great movie, stands up against anything done today.

Toi Thomas: That is a good movie. While it’s not my favorite Monroe role, I still like her in it and can never get enough of the laughs. As far as burlesque goes, I have a fondness for Gypsy. What can I say, Marilyn is classic, but Natalie is eternal.

Not that you can see into the future, but in your opinion, what does the future hold?

J.S. Frankel: More writing! I would love to be recognized more for what I do, but realistically, there are so many writers out there that recognition is difficult, as is fame or financial reward. While it would be great to make a living from my novels, really, I love to write first and foremost. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

Toi Thomas: If you love to write and stay true to that, who knows, recognition may come when you least expect it.

Any last words to offer our readers after visiting here at the ToiBox of Words?

J.S. Frankel: I would like to say thank you for giving me the chance to express myself. Interviews are hard to come by, and I’m grateful for any and all opportunities.

Toi Thomas: Thank you so much J.S. for spending time with me today.

J.S. Frankel: This has been a fun ride, and the questions were terrific, so thank you once again!

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Okay readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. For more from J.S. Frankel, check out these great links:

Amazon.com: J.S. Frankel

Facebook: J.S. Frankel AUTHOR

Twitter: @JessSFrankel

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

Legacy by Stephanie Barr, interview by #thetoiboxofwords

Greetings readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors and welcome to The ToiBox of Words. I’m your host Toi Thomas, author of Eternal Curse, and today I’m sharing a special interview with author, Stephanie Barr, about her fiction book entitled, Legacy. Enjoy!

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Where did the idea for Legacy come from?

Well, that’s a long story. I’d written short stories (already in another anthology) and then five novels and had self-published four of them after my divorce. I was having a hard time getting into the mood or writing after my divorce and signed up with a short story contest. Although I didn’t win, I jumped back into short stories as I hadn’t done in years. After a couple years, I had more than thirty of them and nowhere to put them. So, I thought I’d make another anthology. I have another two stories coming out in multi-author anthologies this fall.

Wow, thirty short stories is impressive. With thirty stories in one book, how long is the book?

It is nearly 133k words, so it’s a long read. I was actually expecting a few of my beta readers to complain, but, so far, no one has.

How did the title of this book come about?

“Legacy” is a story in my anthology and involves a pair of teenage boys who survive the atomic bombing in Nagasaki, with one of the boys (Omoto) deeply in love with the other but unwilling to bring that up because he didn’t want to ruin their relationship. When the one loved dies in violence, Omoto has to decide what kind of legacy he’ll leave. I love the title and it seemed fitting for stories that reflect my thoughts, frustrations, societal issues. There are also stories with characters from my novels, my own legacy so the title seemed perfect for the collection.

I’ve seen that quite often, having a whole collection of stories listed under the title of one, but the fact this is a representation of your own legacy, makes this all the more special.

What genre is this book and why did you choose to make it so?

Most of my fiction is fantasy and/or science fiction and my short stories are the same. The short stories that expand on novels are in keeping with the original genres, almost all of my upcoming novel related stories are hard science fiction and the stories that are related to nothing could be anything. I have two that are historical/contemporary, some fantasy, and some science fiction.

Do you worry that including so many different genres will alienate fans of a particular genre?

You know, I really don’t. I’m a character writer and I think the genre is really immaterial if the characters “speak” to the reader. And I hear that a great deal from readers. “I don’t normally like fantasy but this was really good,” or even, “I didn’t get all the technical details, but I just loved Kado.” That is something cool with my science fiction. Because I’m a rocket scientist, the science is pretty sound, especially anything in space.

What would you say is the overall message or the theme of this book?

People are what matters. What you are is not as important as who you are. We all can do something to make the world better. Love is always better than hate.

That’s quite a message, and one you can never seem to have too much of. I like it.

Tell me about the experience of writing this book; how long did it take?

The first contest I wrote for started in January 2015.  The last story I added to the mix was in June 2017. There are four stories (Tarot Queen stories) which are the only ones that were written before the respective novel. The rest of the stories, the other twenty-eight, were written in the last two years along with maybe half a dozen I’ve sold or am marketing elsewhere.

So, about two years to write an impressive single author anthology. Not too shabby.

Briefly, describe some of the stories within this book.

I told you about “Legacy.” I’ve got three stories with an autistic scientist in a space station (my son is non-verbal autistic). I have a blind arcane archer with a shapeshifting cat. I have kids escaping from ruthless invaders (prequels to the Bete Novels), meet and fall in love fantasy stories (prequels to Curse of the Jenri), a young couple getting married and the bride’s eccentric grandmother (sequels to Saving Tessa), and several stories centered on a talented Tarot Queen who uses and is used by her cards. And a farcical story of a dragon, a unicorn, and a miller’s daughter.

That last one sounds like the set-up to a cheesy joke, but then you did say it was farcical. I gotta say, I’m really digg’n the diversity of this collection. Nice job.

What are some of the major themes in this book?

Some things are bigger than yourself.
Who you are is more important than what you are.
Love can come from anywhere.
Love is better and stronger than hatred.
Nobody’s infallible.
Better to try and fail than be silent.
Karma, like natural laws, has no pity.
The quick answer isn’t always the best answer.
Brains over brawn.
There’s more than you think to some people.
Sometimes there is no good answer.
Anything can be taken too far.
Women are powerful.
Appearances can be deceiving.
People are people, no matter the “species.”

Those are some pretty intense and noble themes. I get the feeling that all your writing, at some level, has a greater message to it. Were these themes on your mind when writing these stories or did they develop within the writing process?

Some of the themes come from the novels that spawned the stories. Many of the standalone stories were prompted by particular markets or contests I was going for, but they include my own personal philosophies. “Legacy” was partly inspired by George Takai and his work. Several other stories like “Nemesis” and “Nightmare Blanket” were spawned by frustration with the recent election. I’m pretty adamant about feminism. It’s the long way of saying, some stories are built on the theme and some have the theme built into the story.

What are some of the settings in this book?

I have a space station – and that was fun because I worked with folks on orbit so it’s a bit of an area of expertise (though I don’t know as much as those who lived it). I’ve got high fantasy realms (often with highly patriarchal societies), the Earth in 2058, in a galaxy far far away (had fun with space battles using real orbital mechanics), modern day San Francisco and California between WWII and today.

Whatever the anthology is about, I always enjoy the sense of travel. It’s one of the best parts of reading an anthology, but you don’t get that as much when all the stories happen in the same world. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when being engrossed in stories from the same world is just what I want, but most of the time, I prefer setting diversity.

Who are some of your favorite characters in this book?

Who don’t I love? Characters are my favorite. Okay, I love Saldomar, Tander, Riko, Cristo, Denra, and Klevaron (Curse of the Jenri), Dylan, Nathan, Tessa, and Dotty (Saving Tessa), Dante da Silva, Scruffy, and Gus (Tarot Queen), Xander, Alya, K’Ti, and Laren (the Bete Novels), Bryder and Nayna, Kado—love me some Kado, the Devil, the dragon, Billy, Ryuuji and Omoto.

I love some of the names your characters have. I like that some are average sounding while others are more exotic.

Are there elements of your personality or life experiences in this book?

Oh, yeah. Most of my characters have a bit of me, but some have more than their fair share like Nayna and Dylan who are both very very smart and socially awkward. But the snark that makes my charming characters is mine, too (don’t ask me how both can be true; I can’t explain it) so that’s Dante da Silva, the Devil, Tander, Bryder. Kado, as I mentioned, is patterned on my son though he’s not really non-verbal, more ultra-terse and more ruthless than my son. I’m also a manga otaku who loves yaoi so Legacy is my sort of tribute.

I find that most writers can’t seem to keep themselves out of their stories, I know I can’t, but I like how you swing that a bit to pay tribute to people and influences that you care about the most.

What is one thing from this book you wish was real or could happen to you?

True love. Though inventing something that made me rich and famous would be cool, too.

One thing I’ve learned from reading so much is that true love isn’t always romantic love, (says the girl who married her best friend and can’t get enough of the Princess Bride). I too think I’d like to have something that could make me rich (don’t need the fame).

What is something you wish wasn’t real and hope doesn’t happen to you?

I wish people who were different or smart weren’t judged, bullied or mistreated, though that happened to me (to a lesser extent than in my stories). This is also applicable to minorities, religious minorities, women and LGBTQ folks.

I feel ya. There never seems to be a shortage of reasons for people to pick on others; I do wish the world would go ahead and change already.

Let’s say your book is being turned into a feature length film; quick- cast the main two characters and pick a theme song or score.

That’s really more pertinent to one of my novels, though you could tease a film out of the “Tarot Queen, Melan” stories or “Legacy.” I think Curse of the Jenri would make a great film. Grace Jones was an image I had for Melan. I could really see Scarlett Johansen as Layla and someone like the Rock (though probably younger) playing Tander. But that’s the general attitude he’d need. I always thought the opening credits would be great to a remix of “Witchy Woman” as Layla sneaks into the castle.

Wikipedia

I love that opening credits description. Sounds like something I’d totally watch. I understand this question being more suitable to a novel, but what if you could cast a film based on this collection. Imagine something like the Heavy Metal movie (not suitable for children) where one entity connects all the unrelated stories together. Do you think that would be too much?

That’s a very intriguing thought. I don’t have a single thread holding them together, but don’t challenge me. I could come up with something and several stories could be grouped into a single episode.

Do you have any special plans for this book in the near or far future?

Well, I’m hoping to release it in paperback and ebook at the end of July or, at the latest, early August. My other anthologies (stories and poetry) are only available in ebook format (and they’re available for free) but I think this is something special. My friend (Chuck, I mentioned him) says this book is like an anthology of anthologies. I think it’s something special.

So, is this book available for pre-order?

Yes. You can find it at Amazon.com

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Okay readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. To try other works by Stephanie Barr, please visit the links provided.

Amazon.com  |  Smashwords.com

Learn more about Stephanie Barr at the links below.

Facebook | Writing Blog

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

#IWSG April 2017: #B2BCyCon2017, Monsters in Our Wake, & a #giveaway

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Created and hosted by the Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writers Support Group posts the 1st Wednesday of every month. Click the image to learn more or sign up.

So, I have a lot to share this month. Gonna keep some stuff real short so I can spotlight an amazing interview. Please stick around to see it all. It would really mean a lot.

1) My Countdown to Con Season is coming to a close and the cons are on. Check out these two videos to see what I have to look forward to this weekend OR bookmark them to watch later.

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2) Monthly Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge?

No, no I haven’t. I’ve wanted to, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

3) So, I’ve been trying out new authors this year and it’s been paying off pretty well. Please enjoy this interview with J. H. Moncrieff, an author I’m sure to become a lifelong fan of. Be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the interview.

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Where did the idea for Monsters in Our Wake come from?

This book was initially inspired by my anger at the irresponsibility of the oil industry and offshore drilling, but it got a lot more complex as it came together.

I can already tell that this is going to be a passionate interview. I’m so up for it.

How did the title of this book come about?

I normally struggle with titles, but this one just popped into my head while I was writing. I loved it, and it suits the book, so I went with it. Thankfully the publisher liked it as well.

What genre is this book and why did you choose to make it so?

I thought it was a straight-up horror tale, but some readers are also seeing elements of sci-fi and fantasy, which surprised me. As I was writing it for a horror press, choosing the genre was easy.

Many find that the line between horror and sci-fi is a very thin one; the Alien films are a prime example. Are you happy or worried about the effects sci-fi elements will have on your readers?

At this point, I’m not sure what to think. It may broaden my audience and attract some sci-fi fans, which would be great, as long as it doesn’t turn off those who think sci-fi is always about aliens, distance galaxies, and technology. Just like horror, sci-fi suffers from a lot of misconceptions.

What would you say is the overall message or the theme of this book?

If I had to pin it down, I’d say the overall theme of this book is the importance of respecting all living creatures and their environment, but it’s also about the importance of communication.

Misunderstandings and miscommunication are to blame for most of the conflict in Monsters in Our Wake.

I hear that. Empathy and better communication all around would make the world a much better place.

Tell me about the main storyline within this book.

The story centers around a family of ancient sea creatures whose lair is invaded by a crew of offshore-oil drillers. The creatures retaliate, damaging the drill ship and stranding the crew in the middle of the South Pacific. And then things really get crazy!

Whoa, I’m in! I mean, I was already, but that’s a great pitch. See my review here for more of my thoughts. Would you like to tell our viewers what kind of sea monster we’re dealing with (giant octopus, dino-relative, etc…) or should they just read the book?

It’s not really spelled out in the book, except for some elements of physical description, but the creatures are related to the famous Loch Ness monster, so I picture them as giant plesiosaurs—something we know once existed but thought was extinct.

Who is the protagonist of this story?

Nøkken and Flora are the protagonists. Nøkken is extremely intelligent, with an incredible amount of wisdom and insight, due to his advanced age. But he’s not as “above it all” as he would like to think.

Flora is a single mother who’s taken a job with an oil company to pay for karate lessons for her son. She quickly realizes she’s out of her depth when most of the all-male crew resents her presence and expertise. Her anxiety disorder only complicates matters.

Who is the antagonist of this story?

There are no clear good-or-bad guys in Monsters. Every character is flawed, with both positive and negative traits. Most of the crew view Nøkken and his family as the monsters, yet the humans are the ones who invaded the creatures’ home and who will destroy it without a second thought.

There is a certain crew member who has a great potential for violence, but the tendency to react with violence to those we don’t understand or identify with is the real antagonist in this story.

I love when a story doesn’t have a clear good or bad guy, it usually adds more depth when characters are portrayed with flaws. It humanizes them even when they are not human.

What is the major conflict in this story?

The crew on the drill ship just wants to do their job and return home; the creatures are driven to protect their own home, the ocean.

That’s the major conflict, but there’s quite a bit of internal conflict between the crew members and also within Nøkken’s family. Picture Lord of the Flies on the open ocean with sea monsters.

I like that description. It really does give you an idea of what to expect without giving too much away. Do you think readers will find themselves sympathizing with both sides of this conflict?

Yes, most definitely. Even characters you may start out hating often have redeemed themselves by the end.

Where and when is this story taking place?

Monsters in Our Wake is contemporary and set in the remote South Pacific.

Tell me about the experience of writing this book; how long did it take.

While I had a lot of leeway when writing about Nøkken and his family, the oil industry was a different story. I had to do a lot of research, and I had a great source who works in the industry. In the end, I had to make the ship in Monsters a prototype, because nothing that exists right now fit my plot the way I needed it to.

It took about a year before I was happy enough with Monsters to submit it to the publisher.

I don’t think the average reader realizes how much research can go into one story. I think it’s a mark of a good writer.

Who is your favorite character in this book?

Nøkken is by far my favourite character and the most fun to write. Since he has a unique perspective, I suspect readers will love him as well. So far, reviewers have mentioned that being able to see the story from the creature’s point of view is one of the things they liked most about the book.

Are there elements of your personality or life experiences in this book?

This book was originally inspired by my anger at Big Oil and its destruction of the environment. I’m extremely passionate about the natural world and the ocean, so that informed a lot of the creatures’ rage about what is happening to them.

But a lot of people depend on oil companies for their livelihood, and that is addressed in the story as well. Once I began writing, I realized it was a lot more complicated than, “Oil bad; environmental protection good.” We definitely need to strike a much better balance than we’re currently doing, though.

I agree, all too often I feel that we as people place limitations on ourselves that come back to haunt us. We never should have become so dependent on fossil fuels that our world is suffering from it. We should have been researching and implementing alternative fuel sources from the start, not just because it’s good for the environment, but because it would be one less thing for people to fight and kill over… I’m off my soap box now.

What is one thing from this book you wish was real or could happen to you?

I would love to see a sea creature one day. Visiting Loch Ness and seeing Nessie has been my dream since I was a child.

That would be really cool! I have a thing for dragons and have always thought of Nessie as a type of water dragon.

What is something you wish wasn’t real and hope doesn’t happen to you?

Ha! Pretty much everything in this book. I wish people respected our oceans more. I wish there was a less destructive way to harness natural resources—or that someone would come up with a better alternative.

I also felt for Flora and her struggles to fit into a man’s world and overcome her anxiety attacks. While I’ve never experienced that exact scenario, I think almost everyone has felt like a “fish out of water” at some point, and it’s not an enjoyable experience.

Anxiety attacks are often overlooked because not that many people have them. While I wouldn’t wish them on anyone, I sometimes wonder if people did experience just one, if they would continue to be so dismissive about them… Darn it. No more soap box from me. I promise.

Let’s say your book is being turned into a feature-length film; quick-cast the main two characters and pick a theme song or score.

Julianna Margulies would make a great Flora. And I’d love Morgan Freeman to do the voice of Nøkken.

As for theme song, something orchestral and powerful? I’m sure James Horner would do it justice.

That sounds like a movie I’d be glad to see.

Do you have any special plans for this book in the near or far future?

I’ve already had a few people, including a director, tell me it would make an amazing film. So while I can’t plan for that and the budget would have to be huge to pull it off, I can always dream.

If anyone knows J.J. Abrams, please feel free to send him a copy.

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To obtain your copy of Monsters in Our Wake, please visit this link: AMAZON

Sign up for the J.H. Moncrieff newsletter for a chance to WIN 1 of 2 ebooks of Monsters in Our Wake.

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Are you doing or have you done the A to Z?
Think you might check out B2BCyCon?
Isn’t J.H. great? And how about Monsters in Our Wake?

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After hanging out with Alex, be sure to stop by and visit this month’s co-hosts:
Christopher D. Votey,
Madeline Mora-Summonte,
Fundy Blue, and
Chrys Fey!!

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Click here to visit other IWSG blogs and sites to receive and share more inspiration and support. (This month, I’m #69).

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

The Wedding of Eithne by @MDellertDotCom – Interview by #thetoiboxofwords

Greetings readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors and welcome to The ToiBox of Words. I’m your host Toi Thomas, author of Eternal Curse, and today I’m sharing a special interview with author, Michael E.  Dellert, about his fiction book entitled, The Wedding of Eithne. Enjoy! 

Where did the idea for The Wedding of Eithne come from?

“The Wedding of Eithne” (and my books before it) have their origin in the first complete book that I ever wrote. In rewriting that book, I created a “Cuts” file as a place to dump a lot of back-story and exposition that was superfluous to that story. The “Cuts” file eventually came to some 191 pages of good story ideas in their own right. So in a sense The Wedding of Eithne is the last of a series of “prequels” to a book I’m still polishing for publication.

How did the title of this book come about?

For this book, I wanted a simple functional title that linked well with the last book in the series, since this was a continuation of that story from a new perspective.

I also wanted something that spoke to the particular story question: Will the Lady Eithne actually get married after everything that’s happened in the series to date, and what obstacles will come between her and the final decision to accept or reject the arranged marriage of the title?

What genre is this book and why did you choose to make it so?

“The Wedding of Eithne” is primarily a heroic fantasy novel, like the other works in my Matter of Manred series. The title heroine, Lady Eithne, is of relatively humble origin (being from the lowest rung of the aristocracy, and a bastard branch of her family besides), and has been reluctant for three books now to become an arranged bride, but she’s thrust into making this choice by events beyond her control. I wanted a smaller, intimate, character-driven story that explored questions of fate, free-will, pre-destination, family, and obligation, without the world-shaking overtones of epic fantasy.

What would you say is the overall message or the theme of this book?

I was raised Catholic, and have read a lot of “Chosen One” fantasy fiction over the years, and as a father of daughters, and a feminist-friendly person in general, the question of choice and free-will in relation to romance and religion is important me. So questions about fate, free-will, and the nature of evil feature prominently in the heroine’s development. It’s something of an “Abraham & Isaac” story, told from a female viewpoint, with marriage as the sacrificial altar. So these are the predominant themes in “The Wedding of Eithne.”

Tell me about the experience of writing this book; how long did it take.

Parts of “The Wedding of Eithne” go back fifteen years, and the original draft from which the core of this story emerged was written two years ago in about 90 days. And then this particular book was drafted last year in another 90-ish days, and went through about six months of rewrites before I was happy with the final draft. The process involved many years of researching medieval Irish culture, particularly marriage practices, myths, and legends. I even went to Ireland for a few weeks to immerse myself in the culture.

Tell me about the main storyline within this book.

The Lady Eithne has lived her whole life under a magical prohibition: she may not marry until the portents are favorable, but she’ll always have the right to choose her husband. Now, the portents are favorable, AND they coincide with an ancient prophecy. Eithne is left with little more than a day to decide whether to accept marriage arranged for her. But rival religious and political factions have their own ideas about her wedding plans. How can she avoid becoming a pawn for one side or another, yet still exercise her free right of choice?

Who is the protagonist of this story?

The Lady Eithne is the daughter of a minor aristocratic family, raised in a remote mountain village. Because of her magical prohibition, she aspired to a life beyond the typical fate of being married off as a teenager to the first man who could afford her bride-price. When the years went on, she began to think she’d end up an unmarried “spinster,” and learned about “men’s ways” in order to make an independent life for herself. Now that an arranged marriage has been contracted for her, she has to decide what love really means to her.

Who is the antagonist of this story?

This was actually an interesting problem in writing this novel. The visible antagonist is His Reverence Inloth, a priest who believes that his local religious institutions are corrupt and in need of reform, particularly its marriage practices. He is a native of the milieu, but studied abroad and returned with “foreign ideas” and a mission to make his countrymen “see the light” of the larger religious order. But there are also political opponents and “hidden” antagonists. Inloth’s reformation isn’t all that it seems to be, and not all of his villainous allies are honest and earnest.

What is the major conflict in this story?

As a divorced Catholic, I am myself something of an oxymoron, faced with the question of whether my marriage is actually still valid (no according to the State, but yes according to my Church). So the fundamental question in “The Wedding of Eithne” is whether Eithne really has the free-will to choose her own marriage partner, and what the consequences of that choice might be. She is also faced with the problem of whether her choice (if it is truly free) would be legitimate and valid, given the political and religious conflicts currently dividing her land.

Where and when is this story taking place?

“The Wedding of Eithne” is set in the dark, medieval-style milieu of my Matter of Manred fantasy series. The setting and political culture were influenced by 12th-Century AD Ireland in the decades preceding the Anglo-Norman Conquest, and the religious culture was inspired by hybridizing Irish myths and legends and mystic Pythagorean philosophy with real-life Catholic Church conflicts of the period. Robert E. Howard, Evangeline Walton, CJ Cherryh, and Glen Cook were the primary influences on the writing style, but I could probably spend 100 words just naming authors that have influenced me, there are so many.

Who is your favorite character in this book?

Although I love Lady Eithne and her betrothed, two minor characters who first appeared in my second book recur here: Adarc and Corentin. The first is essentially a fourteen-year-old seminary student, acting as a guide and interpreter for the second, a foreign merchant’s apprentice “studying the market” for his trading company. I love them because they have such divergent world-views, the spiritual versus the commercial. In a way, they represent the warring halves of my own soul, the writer (an act of faith) and the publisher (with all my American capitalist commercialism).

Are there elements of your personality or life experiences in this book?

I’ve already mentioned a few of the elements of my own life and personality that have wormed their way into “The Wedding of Eithne,” like my Irish Catholic upbringing, my divorce, and my daughters. I think any writer worth his salt tells very personal–and sometimes uncomfortable–stories. I’ve certainly taken my own fears of failure and success, and my reluctance to disappoint, and weaved these into the characters. I’ve also drawn on my own family history in developing these characters, though it wouldn’t be appropriate to name names, considering how much the characters have diverged from their inspirations.

What is one thing from this book you wish was real or could happen to you?

I suppose the whole book is an act of wish-fulfillment in one way or another. I wish I could find the sort of love that the characters in “The Wedding of Eithne” are looking for, a partner that isn’t just obligated to be a part of my life, as a consequence of chance and circumstance, but who really wants to be there. Someone I can believe in and encourage, and who believes in and supports the person I am and want to become as well.

What is something you wish wasn’t real and hope doesn’t happen to you?

I most certainly never want to be attacked by giant bats, spiders, or snakes!

Let’s say your book is being turned into a feature-length film; quick- cast the main two characters and pick a theme song or score.

Two songs come to mind: “When Will We Be Married” by the Waterboys and “Short-Change Hero by The Heavy. As for casting the film, I’ll have to say Keira Knightley from her roles in “King Arthur” and “Domino,” and F. Murray Abraham as the villain Inloth.

Do you have any special plans for this book in the near or far future?

This book closes out what I call “The Eowain Cycle” of my Matter of Manred Saga, setting up the background for the story in my next major book. But one thing I’d like to do with “The Wedding of Eithne” is create an omnibus edition that combines it with the previous three books in the series. I’d also like to create hardcover editions of my books. Several readers have already asked about it. Like many writers, I’m a total narcissist, so I wouldn’t mind having such a thing on my own shelves, something that will really last the ages.

Okay readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. To Pre-order your copy of The Wedding of Eithne (March 28th release), please visit the links provided.

AMAZON | Author Direct links: EBOOK | signed PAPERBACK

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords

#IWSG March 2017: “Ever reworked an old story?” & outrageous expectations

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Created and hosted by the Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writers Support Group posts the 1st Wednesday of every month. Click the image to learn more or sign up.

Monthly Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

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Yes and no. I recently re-wrote a short story that was derived from a blog writing prompt and turned it into a novella (see “We Are Jardin”). I’ve also developed recent stories from ideas I wrote down years ago. I think it’s worked out pretty well. I don’t, however, think I’ve given new life to anything I’d written more than five years ago. Maybe I should give some of my old stuff a once over to see if there’s something special there.

As for my insecurities, outrageous expectations. I do it to myself, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change it. It’s part of who I am. I want things for myself that just may never be possible. So, I’ve decided to attempt the unlikely even if I look stupid, which won’t be too far off from the fact that I already feel a little stupid. In spite of that, I’m proud of myself for trying to do things. Too many people never really try to do anything for fear of failure or looking stupid.

So, maybe I’ll continue talking to my camera as I try to grow a You Tube presence that just isn’t meant to be. Maybe, I’ll keep writing books that no one is the slightest bit interested in reading. Maybe I’ll keep posting to a blog that, while I’m ecstatic about the followers I have, it hasn’t grown in over two years. And when it’s all said and done, I’ll at least be proud of myself for doing something.

In happier news, I found out that J.H. Moncrieff has a new book, Monsters In Our Wake, that looks really cool, and hopefully a little scary. I’m hoping to read and review the book soon and have already contacted J.H. for an interview. I’m really excited about this. I really do miss interviewing authors on a regular basis. Gotta look into doing that more.

And to end things on an annoyingly selfish note, here’s my latest You Tube video.

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Reworked any old stories?
Have any perceived outrageous expectations?
Want to be interviewed?

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After hanging out with Alex, be sure to stop by and visit this month’s co-hosts:
Tamara Narayan,
Patsy Collins,
M.J. Fifield, and
Nicohle Christopherson!!

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Click here to visit other IWSG blogs and sites to receive and share more inspiration and support. (This month, I’m #69).

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords