Hey guys! So, I'm supposed to be posting another author interview here, but I've decided to put the blog on a temporary hiatus. (No more than a couple of weeks.)
The reason for this is because I'm moving, looking for a new job, exhausted from finishing the first draft of a sci-fi novel, a
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
No Spoilers! (Promise)
Usually books that feature an author and/or historian tend to present a very romanticized, unrealistic version of it. They're all Indiana Jones tromping around in jungles and getting into fist fights, or effortlessly cranking out manuscript after manuscript and never even heard of writer's block. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they're washed-up alcoholics writing about how joy is fleeting and that death comes for us all.
Carrie McClelland is a bit of an ideal writer, in that she can afford to go bouncing around Europe without worrying about the hole in her finances. But otherwise, she's spot-on. She buries herself in books, letters, and articles in order to get every detail of her historical novel right. The first quarter of the book is her being unable to even start the damn manuscript because writer's block is a bitch. Her sleep schedule is a mess--in part because of the whole ancestral memory thing slowly driving her insane, but mostly because of the writing. She subsists almost entirely on coffee and ramen noodles. In short, I've rarely found myself more represented as a writer in any media, even if Carrie has much more of a pantser style than my planner style of writing.
But while I appreciate Carrie, her ancestor/fictional character Sophia is much more interesting, in part because her story is more interesting and the actual focus of the book. But don't worry, you'll never get confused. While Carrie and Sophia's stories echo each other in many ways, Kearsley uses both stylistic and POV differences to make it easy to tell when you're switching from one to the other. If it's first person POV and modern lingo, it's Carrie's story. If it's third person POV with long, antiquated sentences, we're dealing with Sophia.
The idea of ancestral memory is an interesting one, and its affects on Carrie have some unique story points. She goes from denial to acceptance quickly, thanks to the mountain of evidence put before her, but refuses to tell anyone else except on a need-to-know basis because she's very well aware of how insane it all sounds. While originally the memories affect her only as she's working on her book, they quickly consume the rest of her life, resulting in her almost falling off a cliff at one point because her Sophia-memory tells her the foot path leads one way when it actually goes another.
Despite what the back cover would have you believe, the politics and international drama is mostly background noise. And while it does have an impact on the story, the main focus of Carrie and Sophia's stories is very small scale and intimate. It is a romance novel, after all, so the primary focus is going to be Sophia's relationship with Moray and Carrie's with Graham. And while I personally think both relationships move a little too fast, they're both realistic, engaging, and natural. Sophia's is especially marked with hardship, given that she falls for a soldier in the middle of a war, and he, of course, gets sent out to fight.
Also, slight trigger warning: there is an attempted sexual assault about three quarters of the way through. It lasts about a page before she's rescued, but it does exist.
Here's how good this book is: it manages to cram in two--two!--love triangles and still keep me interested. It helps that everyone acts like adults about the whole thing, keeping the tropey ridiculousness to a minimum. And while Sophia's resolution is a little far fetched...it's romance, and by the time I got there I really wanted her to have a happy ending.
So if nothing else, the characterization, accurate-if-ideal portrayal of how an author works, and a surprisingly good plot twist are all good reasons to read The Winter Sea if you want to read a fantasy that doesn't scream fantasy. Or if you want a historical romance with a twist.
Margret Treiber resides in Southwest Florida and is employed as a Systems Analyst. When she is not working with technology and writing speculative fiction, she helps her birds break things for her spouse to fix.
Her short fiction has appeared in a number of publications. Links to her short fiction, novel and upcoming work can be found on her website at http://www.the-margret.com.
Interview with Margaret Treiber
What cool and exciting things have been happening in your life recently?
I was fortunate enough to be included in the anthology Challenge Accepted: A Charity Anthology which benefits the Special Olympics.
Is your recent book part of a series? If so, can you tell us a bit about where the story is heading?
My lasted collection, "Japanese Robots Love to Dance" is a rough prequel to "Sleepy Time for Captain Eris." The stories take place in a fairly dystopian near-future with superpowered individuals and a few AIs. I plan to add more stories and characters in future installments. Most of my characters are flawed antiheroes.
Can you tell us about what you're currently working on?
Currently, I'm working on a novel which I can't identify. What I mean is that this thing built up in my head, until I had no choice to write it. I'm not sure what it is, but it takes place in a space fleet with strange undisciplined people. I'm in editing now. Maybe I'll figure it out soon.
Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?
Nope, well, er, I do have one I once wrote cell phone porn under. Yeah, I figured it needed to exist. It's called "Your Outlet or Mine." It's pretty bad.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise? Why or why not?
Nope. I write complicated broken people. Some I really don't like, but I have pity on them. They all have reason for being asshats.
What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?
I like humor, sympathetic characters, and plots that don't make me want to kill myself at the end. I can appreciate a bad ending, but I don't like feeling worse about life than my baseline if I can avoid it.
What is your biggest pet peeve in storytelling?
Present tense and third person narration.
Really? I'll steer you clear of my Homestead Hunts stories, then...
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
I started as a kid, wrote through college, quit in my twenties and started again in my late forties. I lost a lot of time.
Where did the idea of your story come from?
Some weird place in my head. All of a sudden, something generates in my consciousness and won't stop screaming at me until I write it. I'll get very depressed if I'm unable to get it out, but then I feel really empty after I do.
What did you edit out of your book?
Usually the smut. I write it. It embarrasses me. I take it out.
If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about? Why?
Not clicking on things in email and pissing off your IT department.
Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else required for your creative process?
I'm an "anytime I can fit it in" kind of writer. As long as people don't screw with me, I can write almost anywhere. All I need is a comfortable word processor and keyboard. But there is a high incidence of people screwing with me. I also can't write when I'm sleeping. I can come up with plots in my sleep though.
Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?
It's a mixed bag. Some of them are me.
A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
It's like getting a bad review at work by your boss. Your career can be sunk and as a result, you make less money and your reputation suffers. Only in this scenario, everyone on the internet is that boss who can destroy your career.
What kind of impact do you want your book(s) to have on readers?
I want them to be entertained. I don't expect them to achieve enlightenment or personal growth. I just would like them to enjoy the read.
What, in your opinion, is the worst mistake an author can make?
Give up. Hold onto your dream.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Prepare for rejection, but know we all suffer through it.
If you could have a dinner with one fictional person, who would it be? Why?
Kahn, because I suddenly feel fatigued.
If you could go to any fictional world, where would you go? Why?
The "Venture Brothers" universe. I belong there and would hench for life.
If you could have one (real life) skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be? Why? How would you use it?
Being fearless. I let my fears hold me back too much. If I were fearless, I would take more chances and achieve my goals or fail with grace.
If you could have one magical ability/superpower, what would it be? How would you use it?
There are so many good ones. Definitely NOT telepathy. Yuck. Flight's cool but so limited. Super strength/invulnerability, awesome, but not me. Maybe something like telekinesis. I think I would dig smacking people with random objects.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
I don't have a police record.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
1) Don't be asses to our people. Remember their life is as shitty as yours is.
2) Give people the benefit of the doubt. They may not have meant to obnoxious.
3) Feed your coworkers. They are hungry.
What creature is better: dragons, zombies, or aliens?
Definitely aliens. Dragons hang out with stupid elves and zombies need a freakin clue.
Minor spoilers for every version of Fullmetal Alchemist.
So you want to write a fantasy story. As a fantasy and sci-fi author, I heartily endorse this.
Fantasy is a huge genre, encompassing a ton of tropes, subgenres, and rules. But a near-universal trait of fantasy is the use of magic. I mean, if a story doesn't have magic, can it even really be considered fantasy?
But writing magic is a bit daunting. So much has already been done, how do you stand out? What rules should you put in your magic system to make it interesting but not constricting? How do you make it fit with the rest of your world?
Those are all big questions, and each of them probably deserves its own blog post. But we're going to tackle all of them here, so buckle up.
Hard vs. Soft
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!