Here is the next fantasy author interview continuing the series that I’m calling Thoughts From the Authors. These posts are some fun interviews with Fantasy and Science Fiction authors. I’ll do my best to introduce you to some writers you might enjoy, and together we can peer into the thoughts of an author.
Today I have an interview with the wonderful Melissa McPhail. Melissa is the author of the Patern of Shadow and Light series which begins with CEPHRAEL’S HAND. I’ve don’e a review of this first book, which you can find here. If you enjoy, massive, sweeping epics, this may just be the series for you.
And now, onto the interview.
1. Hi Melissa, and thanks for being with us. Tell us a little more about you and your Pattern of Shadow and Light series. What inspired you to write such a sweeping epic?
I’m not sure it’s correct to say anything inspired me to ‘write a sweeping epic.’ These kinds of stories have a tendency to get out of hand and make sweeping epics of themselves.
With that said, this series for me is truly just a vehicle for spending time with characters I adore and hope others will adore as well. It’s grown out of my own admiration for people of integrity and grit, people who inspire me to step beyond my own limitations, who require me to inspect my prejudices, and who encourage self-betterment.
But that all sounds so tiresome, just another sermon from a pulpit that looks the same as any other—until you put these concepts into a fantasy forum. Then they come alive. Heroes stand up to be noticed. Hitherto unknown champions find a field upon which to display their greatness. Simple people make decisions that have sweeping consequences.
Fantasy is a limitless canvas. You can paint anything on it, take it anywhere, explore the vast reaches of imagination and ideas. It’s those explorations, with characters I’ve come to love and admire, that have driven this series to its current precipice.
2. How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was a child. I never seriously considered doing anything else. At one point I dallied with the idea of archaeology, but it lost its romantic appeal as soon as someone mentioned mosquitoes.
3. What is your work schedule like when you're writing, and what kind of writer are you, more organic, letting the story carry you wherever it leads, or are you an architect with everything plotted out before any words hit the page?
Since I wear many hats in my life, I’ve carved out my writing time when I’m most creative and save the other hours for the activities that only require about forty percent of my attention (since the other sixty percent remains on my story pretty much all the time).
I’m definitely an organic writer, or a pantser, as they say. But with twelve viewpoint characters now on mostly separate (but interweaving) storylines, I definitely have to spend time planning out where the story is going.
I like to write towards milestones, which are major story points or scenes that I’ve envisioned and captured in my pages of copious notes. I write sequentially, by character, and tie everything together with a few days of hair-pulling sequencing at the end. This involves standing over my dining room table with all of the chapters printed out, trying to put them physically into some kind of cohesive order. For Kingdom Blades, I’m going to have to rent two banquet tables, just to have room to manually organize all of the chapters.
I’ve never heard of anyone doing this. It’s probably the least efficient and most insanity-producing method possible, but it works for me.
4. What book(s) are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading six books, mostly nonfiction. I’m halfway through a fascinating biography on Peter the Great and re-reading the unabridged Les Miserables for the third time.
5. Favorite Book? Favorite Short Story (or Novella/Novelette)? Favorite Hero/Protagonist? Favorite Villain? (And yes, I know this is cheating asking four questions in one.)
Fav book: Les Miserables and Atlas Shrugged, for different reasons. I can’t chose one over the other.
Favorite short story would have to be Romeo and Juliet, even though it’s technically a play.
Favorite heroes and villains in literature: my own of course! But I also really love Karen Marie Moning’s Jericho Barrons and Anne Rice’s Ramses II.
6. So, I know the first three books of A Pattern of Shadow and Light are available now. What can you tell us about Kingdom Blades, the upcoming fourth book in the series?
Um…it’s beating me senseless? I’m down five runs in the ninth inning? It’s got me in one of those wretched wrestling headlocks that you don’t get up from…?
I agreed to write an even longer book in a shorter amount of time. This is one of those incomprehensible decisions you later look back upon and wonder at. You know, the kind of decisions like, why did I ever think that wallpaper matched that sofa? or how could I possibly imagine capoeira would be a suitable hobby for me?
I may have mentioned that I write sequentially by character. This means I write in one character’s viewpoint through all of his adventures and then move on and write the next character. So essentially, I’m writing twelve stories and expecting them all to fit together at the end.
This is kind of like baking twelve cakes, slicing them into different size pieces, and then trying to fit them in to one amazingly delicious confection that looks and tastes like it was made in a single mold.
Almost all of the characters are doing things that impact other characters, but in many cases, I haven’t written those other characters’ story threads yet. This means notes, exhausting notes, notes that look like Algebra 3 graphs with vectors and plot charting and lines pointing every which way. This is why I don’t sleep very much at night.
7. How many books do you plan to complete the Pattern of Shadow and Light series, and do you have plans for what writing project comes after?
There will be five books in A Pattern of Shadow and Light. Then I’m onto planning the prequels, which both excites and terrifies me. That pretty much sums up my experience with writing in general.
Thanks so much for your time, Melissa. Your series is a fun one, and I’m looking forward to getting to experience more of it.
If you missed it, here is the link to the CEPHRAEL’S HAND Books Off The Shelf post here.
And, as ever, if you’d like to hear more about fantastic fantasy and science fiction books as well as the authors who write them, sign up on the right. I’m also giving away the first two chapters of MIST FALCON, my debut novel. I’d really love to email them to you, so do me a favor and sign up.
Read with joy.
Ryan J. Doughan