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Sit.Write.Bleed (SWB): So last time we talked we talked I asked you if there was any pressure in creating a new world after the great success you had with The Winter Kingdoms, and to paraphrase, one of your goals was to create something new with the world building when it came to Ice Forged and The Ascendant Kingdoms. Going into the second book, Reign of Ash, what sort of challenges did you face and what surprised you about the setting?
Gail Z Martin (GM): Ice Forged showed readers a very small portion of the world inhabited by my characters. Readers saw a little bit in and around the capital city of Castle Reach, as well as Velant and Edgeland. In Reign of Ash, that world starts to expand as Blaine’s mission to bring back magic turns out to be more complicated—and difficult—than he expected. His efforts take him farther afield, and readers get to go along for the ride. This also expanded the scope of what I needed to invent, so I had to spend some time thinking about the terrain, topography, distances and climate of Donderath—both as it is now after the Cataclysm, and what it used to be.
SWB: As the last Lord of Blood, Blaine McFadden sets out in Reign of Ash to right more wrongs and bring magic back into the world. After creating such a compelling protagonist in the first book, what did you want to do with him this time around in terms of building him further as a character?
GM: Blaine has to learn to deal with failure in a variety of situations in Ice Forged. So in Reign of Ash, we see him try again, and get a sense of how he deals with set-backs. He also has to come to some big decisions about what role he wants to play in the new order, since all of the old leadership has been destroyed. It really challenges how he sees himself, what he’s willing to take on, and how he handles his obligations to the people who rely on him.
SWB: As a writer with a few series under her belt now, has writing this sequel changed how you look at previous sequels you have written?
GM: Well, as we speak I’m waiting for editorial feedback on War of Shadows, which is book #3 (sequel to Reign of Ash), so I’m a little ahead of the game! I think my biggest ‘trick’ to writing sequels is asking “and then what?” If I keep asking that question, I run into the same challenges that my characters face. Another challenge with sequels is keeping all the loose ends straight, and keeping the continuity between what you said in prior books and what you say in the new book. And with each book, we come up with better systems to try not to drop the ball!
SWB: Let's talk about magic: what do you think goes into creating a good system? The Ascendant Kingdoms seems to be a world rife with magic that has strings connecting back to your previous fantasy work, but there is a keen differences in this world clearly (especially in terms of object magic.) When you set out to make Velant "tick" for the reader, so to speak, what was your mindset for creating something new yet easily understood?
GM: Magic has to make sense. That’s a bit of an oxymoron, since magic by definition defies standard physical laws, but the SYSTEM of magic has to make sense to the reader or it all falls apart. There have to be checks and balances to avoid the “Superman syndrome” where the character becomes all-powerful. So there need to be limits—on what magic can and can’t do, on how much of it can be used or who can use it or where it can be used or how often—something that keeps it from just being the easy way out of any problem. It has to cost something to use, to learn, to acquire—otherwise again it’s too easy.
In my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, Tris Drayke struggled to keep magic from falling apart, at great cost to himself. He and Carina nearly died repairing the Flow, the power source of magic. So I asked myself—what if he had failed? What would have happened if magic just died? How would that affect people? And that became a main aspect in the Ascendant Kingdoms series—magic fails and brings down the civilization that depended on it. And then what? How do people cope? Can it be fixed? If it gets fixed, will it be the same? If it changes, who wins and who loses? What’s the cost to fix it? Will the fix hold? It all starts from What If.
SWB: On the spot question! Who do you like more: Jonmarc Vahanian or Blaine McFadden? You can only pick one!
GM: Jonmarc McFadden. (Honestly, it’s like asking which of your children (or dogs) you love the most!)
SWB: Looking at the market, the recent news came out that you are striding into the world of Urban Fantasy with your first novel in the genre, Deadly Curiosities (Solaris). What drew you to that genre, and do you think there are things you can take from Epic Fantasy into Urban and vice versa?
GM: It’s always about the story. Solaris Books invited me to be part of the Magic: Esoteric and Arcane anthology a couple of years ago, and the requirement was that the magic be “real”—meaning that they didn’t want the epic fantasy Merlin/Gandalf kind of lightning from the fingertips kind of thing. So I did a story set in modern times in the Deadly Curiosities world I had already explored for anthologies in historic settings—the idea of an antique shop that gets dangerous magical items off the market. Solaris liked it well enough to ask me to do a novel.
Writing urban fantasy is a big shift. The pacing is different. It’s set in the modern world, so unless you have a reason for the history/setting to be different from what it really is, you’ve got to the those details right—you’re not making everything up. The dialog is different. You’re writing about a real place. So it’s been a lot of fun and quite a challenge.
But it always comes back to the story and the characters. Get that right, and people will read it!
SWB: Speaking of publishing, it has been nine months since we conducted our first interview. Since then, what has surprised you in terms of changes in the industry?
GM: One of the things I’ve had a chance to experience personally since then is the role of Kickstarter to fund literary projects. So far this year, I’ve been involved in three Kickstarter/Indiegogo anthologies and I’m committed to another that’s coming up. That’s heightened my awareness of how authors are using crowdfunding to underwrite independent projects and lessen the financial risk. In addition to the projects where I’ve been a contributing author, I’ve watched and backed several successful projects where individual authors sought funding to continue their series or do new projects. It’ll be interesting to see where crowdfunding goes next.
SWB: As always, we end on a fun question. Last time I asked you about tropes you hate, and I believe your answer was warrior women in warrior brass-brassieres. Sticking with the theme of tropes, what do you wish you could see more of on the shelf at Barnes & Noble or on the page at Amazon?
As always, I would like to thank Gail Z. Martin for opportunity to interview her! You can find more of Gail at the links below, and go pick up her books! They are great readers for anyone who loves Heroic and Epic Fantasy!
Barnes & Noble
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