Friday, June 21, 2013

Sit.Write.Bleed. interviews Gail Z. Martin!

I am super-excited about this interview! 

Gail Z. Martin is a New York Times bestselling author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer, The Fallen Kings Cycle, and is embarking on her newest series, The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, which started recently with the release of Ice Forged in January 2013 by Orbit.

Gail was kind enough to speak to Sit.Write.Bleed. about her new novel, her views on a rapidly changing publishing industry, and her advice to new writers.


SWB: When you finally sat down to write Ice Forged, was there any new pressure that you placed upon yourself as a writer and author when it came to what you wanted this series to be? It is clearly very different from Chronicles of the Necromancer in terms of setting and scope, but were there things you wanted to make sure you didn't repeat?

Gail Z. Martin: I really love my world of the Winter Kingdoms in my first six books, but I wanted to tell a very different story in this new series. I also wanted to give readers a whole new experience, so I've made some conscious decisions in world building and in character development to make sure I wasn't just "filing off the serial numbers" and doing the same thing over again.

SWB: Where did the genesis of the main character in Ice Forged, Blaine "Mick" McFadden, begin?"

Gail Z. Martin: I really started with the idea of exile, and what would it have been like if England had sent its prisoners north to somewhere like Iceland or Greenland instead of (sending them off) to Australia. (Obviously Russia had Siberia, but that's different, in part because there was no sea voyage.) Then I started to think about why a character would be exiled, and murder was a good reason. But it had to be a murder the reader would agree with (so many readers have commented that Ian McFadden "had it coming"). Where Tris, in my first series, was accused of a crime he didn't commit, I wanted Blaine to be unrepentant about a crime he did commit.

SWB: The setting of the book, Velant, is really an interesting place in the fact that you have combined elements of post-apocalyptic with classical idea of the norther wastes we often see in fantasy, but this setting really affects the characters, doesn't it?

Gail Z. Martin: Being sent into exile in an arctic prison colony is bad enough, but having the magic fail is like losing the power grid—it takes away an important factor for survival.  I had focused on really big magic in my first books, and in Ice Forged, I wanted to look at what it would mean to lose the little magics that people used in their everyday lives.  Food spoils, herds die, crops fail, magical repairs to buildings and ships fall apart, and things people used magic to do as a short cut now needed to be done the old fashioned way, which few remember. 

Velant is the same distance as a sea journey from Donderath that Australia was from England, in good weather.  The weather is dramatically different, harsh and inhospitable.  It gets the arctic 6-months of day and night.  The prison itself is run by a commander who was a “useful monster” during a war, but too feral to bring home, so they exiled him by putting him in command of a prison no one else wanted to run.  The guards are likewise exiled because they were unsuitable for normal military life and civilized society.  While many of the convicts were exiled for real crimes, many more were sent away for petty infractions, political reasons, or just being poor. 

It’s not the kind of place anyone wants to live in, but it’s amazing what the human spirit will endure!  Prisoners who earn their “ticket of leave” become colonists, and manage to make Edgeland their home.

SWB: There are some really excellent battle scenes throughout Ice Forged, and considering that battle is a big part of epic and high fantasy, what advice would you give authors when it comes to constructing a fight or a battle? Any do's or don'ts?

Gail Z. Martin: Never lose sight of the fact that the fight/battle is part of a bigger story, not an end in itself.  Don’t succumb to writing “battle porn” by just focusing on the weapons and blood without having a meaningful effect on characters and plot.

SWB: So what’s next for Blaine, Geir, and the rest of the cast? More vampires and intrigue? Does the world open back up? Does the world get colder? What hints and news can you give us about the next book?

Gail Z. Martin: Reign of Ash should be out January, 2014 (it's written, and I'm just waiting on copy edits.) It picks up immediately after Ice Forged, and the problems from the first book just keep on getting bigger and nastier. Blaine may be the only one who can put things right, if he can live long enough to try...

SWB: Turning away from Ice Forged and toward the publishing business, you are one of the few people out there that have written books on how authors can help build a marketing platform in the new digital market, namely the excellent Thrifty Author’s Guides, which is very different from what authors usually do in creating guides on how to write. Why did you decide to write these books and how has the feedback been for them?

Gail Z. Martin: Thank you!  I figured that there were a lot of great books out there on how to write, but not a lot of books on how to create a marketing platform.  People kept asking me for help and ideas, and I figured I could help more people faster with a book about the topic.  Authors put so much time and effort and heart into their writing—it’s sad when good material goes unnoticed because the author doesn't know how to spread the word.  I hope I've helped reduce that problem!

SWB: What is one thing that people who haven’t worked in or done their own marketing should know that they currently don’t? It seems like a lot of people are afraid of taking part in that aspect of the business. Is there anything you could say that might help them allay their fears?

Gail Z. Martin: There's no getting around the need for authors to promote their work in today's market. If marketing isn't part of your current skills set, read some books on book marketing, subscribe to some of the excellent newsletters that are free and give great tips, and start watching your favorite authors to see what they're doing. It's all about building relationships with readers, reviewers, other authors, bookstore managers and others who can help you spread the word.

SWB: Looking at the recent Department of Justice decision, the rumors of the Big Five possibly merging into the Big Four, and the solidification of Amazon as really the biggest power in the publishing industry, do you see any bright spots for authors currently in the industry or writers who want to become successful authors?

Gail Z. Martin: I don’t think books or storytelling are going away.  I do think it’s going to require more effort and creative tactics to get any particular story to rise above the crush.  The good news and the bad news is that eBooks have made it easier to put a book out.  That’s good for excellent manuscripts that didn't find a home with a publisher, and bad for stuff that isn't really ready for prime time and gets pushed out anyhow.  There are a lot of small presses doing some innovative stuff with distribution that may get an edge on the Big Four.  We’ll have to wait and see.  I think we’ll eventually see a new model emerge.  The question is whether it’s still possible for authors, agents, editors and the like to make a living from it.

SWB: This is a question that gets asked of every author who sits down with Sit. Write. Bleed.: If you had one piece of advice to give new writers out there, what would it be and why?

Gail Z. Martin: Don't quit. Keep on writing. Keep sending it out. Revise. Send it out again and again and again. Eventually you'll 1) get better, 2) hit on a great story, 3) get it into the hands of someone who falls in love with it and can help you reach the world. Just don't quit.

SWB: Okay, so let’s end it on a fun question! Throughout the fantasy genre, there are a lot of tropes that authors recycle and reuse for their own purposes, and some of them are very much beloved by the readers. Which ones do you HATE?

Gail Z. Martin: Female warriors in brass brassieres. Really, what's up with that? Especially when there's no other armor. Not functional, and do you have any idea how cold that would be?


You can connect with Gail's books and other media at the links below!

Website- AND Sit.Write.Bleed. is listed there!

Next week there will be the beginning of a three-part essay on Writing Sword & Sorcery that will be spread out every other week, and between those posts there will be two interviews with both James Maxey and Stuart Jaffe! So stay tuned for more!

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