Wow, Melanie! Look at you getting yourself out there! Congrats! There were a lot of interviews to go through! You and your book are getting some great reviews and some good spotlight action! But one thing that popped out was actually in your bio. You mentioned two great teachers that helped make you the writer you are today. I did too! I’d like to hear more about them.
Thanks, PYN Team! I’m excited to be here today. There have been a number of great teachers who’ve encouraged me over the years, but these first two I met very early in my life—public school—and although I know I would have found my way to writing and storytelling eventually, they set me on the path early. They made creative writing welcoming and encouraged me to write stories, even if I was supposed to be doing non-creative writing during journal writing period. Or at least, at the time I thought I was supposed to be doing non-creative writing. Now that I think about it, I wonder if the exercise was just to get kids writing. Boy, did I hate journal writing. Compared to the people in my imagination, I had a boring life. These people did awesome things like go on adventures to find magical swords and battled dragons and made friends with fairies. So one day I started writing that in my journal. I don’t know what this teacher really thought about it, but she left some encouraging remarks in the journal, asking questions about where the story might go. The next journal writing period I wrote a little bit more and the next period, even more. The teacher left more comments, asked more questions. Soon I couldn’t wait for journal writing period. I would plan what my characters were going to do and what cliffhanger I was going to leave them on to see what kind of questions I could get my teacher to ask. She did that for a few years (followed my class through a number of grades) and when I moved to the next awesome teacher, he took up where she’d left off. I can honestly attribute learning to be a novelist to these two teachers. Whether they knew it or not they were teaching me about plot complications and cliff hangers and for that I will forever be grateful.
I also notice that you have some lovely bits for writers. What was the most helpful piece of advice that you put up there? I mean, you picked these for a reason. So which was it and why?
I picked the topics because they were things someone had been kind enough to share with me and I wanted to pass them along to other writers. The one I like the most is the two-fold Show vs. Tell entries, probably because in a lot of ways it’s about choice and not just about “the rules”. We hear as beginning writers “show don’t tell”, and while I agree, 95% of the time you should show—it’s more exciting, grabs the reader, and immerses her in the story—there are times when you probably shouldn’t show. I wrote those two musings as a way to make others think about when and where (and to question and examine rules, not just follow them.) Of course, then I wrote about dialogue tags because punctuating dialogue is one of those rules you really can’t break.
How did you choose to write your story “before gun powder, but after the printing press had been invented”? I know, for me, researching that era, I was blown away. What inspired you to take the plunge in this era?
I come to YA and romance from traditional fantasy (Lord of the Rings type books) so the “before gun powder” comes naturally to me and I really love the swashbuckling of the Three Musketeer type stories. I also liked the idea of having more than just monks interested in the written word and education, which lead me to create a world set in a faux-Renaissance type period. There are also interesting details you can put in about clothing and scientific advancement from that time period. Which is a long way to say, I thought the era was cool!
Everyone who’s – or nearly so – read your book waxes poetic about your setting. *grin* Now, in one of your interviews you mentioned how you developed Brawenal City. Can you share with the readers here a bit, show us why it’s so breathtaking?
The inspiration for Brawenal City came from images of the cities on the southern coast of Italy. The towns curl down the sloping hillside to the sea and I wanted to try and capture that sense of winding from the mountain top to the port. As well, I also wanted a city with a sense of age and yet growth, so I added the city rings. Walls were often built around cities or fortifications, but as a city’s population grows and the space within the wall is taken up people are forced to build their houses outside of the wall’s protection. Brawenal has gone through numerous periods of growth and there are many walls and, as a result, physical separation between different “classes” within the city. The noble and royal classes have their houses on the top of the hill, in the older parts of town, farthest from the noise and smell of the docks and warehouses, as well as the tanning and knacker yards. I honestly didn’t anticipate how complicated Brawenal City would become, but in fantasy fiction the world is often treated like a character, and I suppose since my characters had a life of their own, it made sense the city would have one as well.
Okay. In all of your interviews, you talk a lot about Ward and Celia (great plot idea, btw) but you don’t say what inspired these two characters. Can you share that with us?
The characters were really inspired by one character. Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Ichabod Crane in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. I loved how quirky and sincere he was and in Burton’s version, Ichabod gets the girl (something I always feel is missing from the original story). Around the same time I was watching the movie I was also playing around with the question about good vs. evil and why we traditionally cast certain types of characters as villains (namely necromancers). Alright, I suppose I know why necromancers are often villains. It’s because their magic is dark. Controlling the dead is scary. So I began wondering in what situation would a necromancer be a hero.
Out of that came Ward. Edward de’Ath the Fourth. Just some guy who’s had to fall back on the family business of necromancy because his chosen profession is out of his reach. He’s a little awkward and nerdy like Ichabod, but also just as sincere.
Once I had Ward I knew the best heroine for him would be someone who challenged him and helped him to grow in confidence. But also someone who needed to learn something from Ward’s gentle nature. Who better than a kick-ass assassin who doesn’t trust anyone?
*wild clapping* This is my favorite question and I can’t wait to read your answer. *mild shrieking* You’re a fellow research geek!!!!! *chuckle* I have to know! When you were researching the medieval surgery techniques, what was the coolest thing you discovered, the thing that just blew your socks off?
The thing that completely blew my socks off was the types of complicated and delicate surgeries 10th century physician Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi could do. The man supposedly could reattached severed ears, do breast reduction surgery, eye surgeries, remove nasal polyps, among other things. His use of catgut for internal stitches is still being used today.
So you’re writing Book 2. Is there anything you can tell us without giving away the plot? A teaser?
This is a tough one; I don’t want to give too much away. So I’ll just say Ward and Celia get into even more trouble with more undead creatures and evil necromancers and their relationship gets even more complicated.
Where can readers purchase your book, Ward against Death?
May we read an excerpt from the book?
Her eyes narrowed and her hand snaked under the pillow. “It’s not wise to enter a lady’s bedchamber without her consent.”
Ward plastered on his calmest, gentlest expression. The newly wakened dead often assumed they had just roused from sleep. “You’ve been unwell.”
Her icy blue eyes examined him, her gaze jumping from his face, to his wig, to his jacket, and back to his face. “Unwell? Is that what my father told you?”
“In a manner of speaking.” She wasn’t acting the way she was supposed to.
Noblewomen, particularly those around his age, were usually demure or aloof—not suspicious.
“Well, I’m fine, and I’m sorry my father troubled you.” She threw back the covers, sat up, and stepped onto the thick rug. “Now go, be a good doctor, and tell my family I’m healthy and sleeping.” She punctuated her last word by pulling her nightdress over her head, revealing a slim waist, athletic muscles, and pale skin marked with the purple bruises of livor mortis along her back. And no other clothes.
“But—” He flushed and spun around to face the wall. “What are you doing?” No. Wait. What was he doing? He’d seen a dead naked woman before. Just never like this.
She chuckled. “I’m going for a walk.”
“A what? No—You can’t.” She really wasn’t acting the way she was supposed to.
“I beg to differ.”
The situation was spiraling out of hand. Damn it, he had to take control. He was the necromancer, she the newly awakened. She was supposed to listen to him.
He turned to confront her. Thankfully, she was fully dressed—in men’s clothes, but at least she was dressed. “Listen, I—”
She slipped her hand under her pillow and removed a sheathed dagger.
Great Goddess! She kept a dagger under her pillow? Ward inched toward the door to block her escape without appearing obvious, although he had no idea what he’d do if she fought him. Why did he always get stuck with the difficult corpses?
Where can your readers connect with you on the web?