This weeks Guest Spot belongs to award winning Fantasy author, Melissa McPhail, If you enjoy Melissa's interview check out her work here:
1. Do you have a favourite character from another author’s book?I'm a glutton for the anti-heros. Two that come immediately to mind are C.S.Friedman's Gerald Tarrant, the darkly compelling vampiric sorcerer of her Coldfire Trilogy, and Karen Marie Moning's Jericho Barrons, who is one of those indelible characters that lodge in your consciousness and tantalize you relentlessly thereafter. From a writer's perspective, I enjoy studying these characters to see what characteristics and traits drew me to them. There's a certain mysterious allure to characters who are both powerful and powerfully inaccessible.2. Do you pre-plan your stories or are you a take-it-as-it-comes writer?I think I fall somewhere in the medium of these extremes. Writing epic fantasy, I've had to develop story arcs and plot threads that loop through five books, so some planning is definitely in order.Yet I find if I've spent too much time trying to plan out a character's thread, it loses some of the creative magic in the telling. I'm forever skirting that ethereal boundary between enough planning to keep the story cohesive and moving in the right direction and too much, which has the effect of stalling my progress completely. I've discussed this topic on my blog, actually. It's so interesting to hear about the many different processes writers use to find their creative nirvana.
3. What do you enjoy and what do you hate about writing?I've often pondered the difference between passion and addiction. I'm still not sure where that line is drawn as these words apply to artists. This passion I have for writing is so pervasive of my spirit and influential upon my mood that it often feels like an addiction. Perhaps it's callous to compare these ideas (and to any with actual substance-abuse struggles, I apologize for my impudence) and yet...if I were to try to stop writing? It's inconceivable.
Anatole France once said, "To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything." The desire to write, to create, for me is the sublimation of all that is brilliant and all that is dark in life. To have a medium through which to draw forth these extremes, upon which to channel the emotion of life's heartbreaks and rejoices - this is both a gift and a responsibility, though never a burden.
Life is chaos. As artists we are able to take these confusions and tragedies and weave them into something that makes sense of them, even if only in our collective imagination. The Fantasy genre is a perfect medium for exploring some of humanity's most long-sought virtues - nobility, honor, trust, faith - as well as its secret hopes, its fears and its most compelling and dangerous vices. It's adventure, romance, treachery and rebellion, bravery, cowardice and confusion. Life is mirrored in fantasy - but in a way that feels distant, safe. It allows us to look deeply into human motivations without seeing too closely the reflection of our own lives.
These are some of the things I enjoy about writing. The only thing I don't love about it? When I'm not writing.
4. What’s your advice as to how to handle a bad review?This question reminds me of a quote from Shusha Guppy, who said, "It is very important not to become hard. The artist must always have one skin too few in comparison with other people, so you feel the slightest wind."
I believe this is fundamentally true about anyone engaged in a creative enterprise. It's one of the tragic ironies that those with necessarily the thinnest skins are subjected to the most piercing criticism. It takes a definite maturity to receive another's ideas and views of your creative work with serenity and tolerance, without flinching or feeling an innate need to strike back. As artists, we've all developed those self-protection mechanisms - we've had to - and they necessarily extend to our creative works, which we adore and praise as our own children no matter how homely and ill-forged they are. Yet if a stranger approached you on the street and remarked, "That is the ugliest baby I've ever seen!" Would you stand there and argue with him about it? Or would you merely keep walking and continue on with your day, perhaps harboring ill tidings but hopefully realizing the absurdity of the interchange.
Unsolicited criticism is somewhat absurd. How can anyone expect to critique something you poured your heart and soul into, something you lived and breathed and cried over for weeks or years? And how silly of you to care, knowing the inherent difficulty anyone faces in even trying to write a critique. Most importantly, the ones who slop around their malcontent in one-star reviews more often than not didn't try at all - neither to understand your work nor to critique it with equanimity. Those low-star critiques are the obnoxious man on the street. Take them in stride.
5. What other projects do you have on the boil? Is the third book in the series on the way?You really need your wits about you to write epic fantasy with any success. When I finished Cephrael's Hand, I had introduced six primary viewpoint characters. In The Dagger of Adendigaeth, that number grew to eight. In book three, I'm already looking at twelve and the story is barely begun. Add to this that I write rather long books - quite long compared to most indie novels out there. (I have my rationale for this, but that's a story for another blog.)
At this point, with so many character threads and so much happening in the story spanning the globe, I really can't think about the process as writing a book - the task ahead becomes too daunting. I have to think of it as just telling a story. So, while I'm technically working on book three in my series, I'm really just trying to tell this story in a fascinating and entertaining way.
Thank you so much for interviewing me, David. I appreciate and immensely admire your generosity in supporting indie authors.