1) What first inspired your current WIP?
My current WIP is a sequel to my first book The Children of the Fianna. In that book my protagonist Elizabeth Tanner learns her mother is prisoner in an alternate dimension. In this book, The Children of Lir, she sets out along with her sexy Celtic warrior boyfriend, Finn O’Connell, to go find her.
As a mother myself, I wanted to write a book about mothers and the sacrifices mothers make for their children. But more than that, I wanted this book to be an exploration of Elizabeth’s mother Niamh and the life she led as a freedom fighter before Elizabeth was born. I remember a point in my early twenties when I began to see my parents as real people, as people who make mistakes, have regrets, who are also in the process of understanding what it means to be fully realized human beings. In many ways I wanted to recapture that experience…with a lot of fighting, and sex, and magic, and cool outfits, of course.
2) Are your characters based in any way or did they spring, Athena style, from your cranium fully formed.
I make no apologies for the fact that Elizabeth is a Mary Sue extension of myself, but I grew up on Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Peter Parker. I think men have an opportunity to explore their psychology through their characters without criticism, but women undergo a great deal of scrutiny for attempting the same sort of storytelling. I’ve learned a lot about myself through Elizabeth’s character and perhaps that’s why I enjoy writing her so much. She’s funny and vulnerable and tough and weak and all the things I despise and love about myself. Finn O’Connell’s name references two heroes of Irish history: Fionn Mac Chumaill (Finn McCool), a great warrior of the Fianna, and Daniel O’Connell, a shrewd statesman who fought for Catholic Emancipation in Ireland. I love seeing Finn struggle with these two aspects of his personality.
3) What genre are you writing in?
Great question. Fantasy? Urban fantasy? Lately I’ve been calling it Contemporary Fantasy, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get these genres right.
4) What’s your favorite part of your current WIP?
There’s so much I love about this book, but my favorite part occurs when Elizabeth travels into a tesseract and into the fourth dimension to seek out her mother. I’m fascinated by quantum physics, and I did a ton of research to explore what it would possibly look like, feel like, etc. One of the things I’ve always loved about Irish mythology is the idea of the “Fifth Province,” or the Land of the Fae, aka Tír na nÓg. Originally, there were four provinces of Ireland: Munster, Leinster, Ulster, and Connacht. But legend often references a Fifth Province that we cannot touch or see, but is always present. When I was in eighth grade I picked up a book on quantum physics and I’ve been hooked ever since. I love the intersection between science and folklore, and I wanted to explore that a little in this novel.
5) Do you cast your characters? Figuring out which actors would play your characters in the movie of your book. Who would play your MC? Your antagonist?
I honestly don’t, but I would be excited to see how a director would interpret my work and who she would cast.
6) Where is your novel set?
My novels end up being pretty epic. This one takes us from Milwaukee to Chicago, Tír na nÓg, Washington DC, some secret government facility, London, and the fourth dimension.
7) Are you a plotter or a pantser? What brought you this decision?
I’m very much a pantser, but I start with a roadmap and draw little pictures as I go. I never end up following them. I do tend to know where my books ultimately end and a lot of my writing is a journey to get to that point. There will be a lot of time travel in my next two books, so I’m not sure if the pantsing thing will last. Time travel is…complicated.
8) How many drafts have you written for this WIP?
I’m currently editing my first draft.
9) Do you set up some sort of reward system to keep you motivated through the long, arduous process of writing a novel length work?
For me, writing is the reward. I find it so relaxing at the end of the day after the kids go to sleep. However, on particularly rough nights, I do treat myself to a glass of wine if I write “x” amount of words or edit “x” amount of pages.
10) Do your characters talk to you?
Finn went through a stage where he talked to me every morning around 5 am like clockwork. I’m very glad we were able to resolve his issues.
Mary Ann’s questions
1) When did you decide to become an actual for real, sweat-pants-wearing, coffee-drinking, dirty-kitchen-inhabiting writer?
It was a year ago, for NaNo. I was working as an adjunct and I didn’t want to write scholarly articles anymore for free. It was just too hard. I thought I would write a silly novel, a bodice ripper, maybe publish it under a pseudonym. I started writing and a whole universe just sort of poured out of me.
2) What genre(s) do you write and why are you drawn to that?
Fantasy. I grew up reading my brother’s books: Xanth, Robert Asprin, Elfquest. As a kid I played in the woods near my house and created all these intricate worlds for myself and my friends. I love the escape and the endless possibilities.
3) In fifty words or less, what is your current project about?
I already talked a little bit about it above, but my book is loosely based on the Irish myth “The Children of Lir.” After Amergin banished the Fae to Tír na nÓg, there was a lot of discord amongst the Faeries as to who would rule. Bodb Dearg eventually won out, but Lir, another lord of Tír na nÓg, was none too keen about it. To make peace, Bodb Dearg offered up one of his daughters to Lir. They married, had children, but unfortunately the wife died. Bodb Dearg then offered up another daughter, Aoife, but she grew jealous of Lir’s children and turned them into swans. The swan children wandered the world in true Celtic fashion (300 years over here, 300 years over there, and so forth) until a monk blessed them and they died peacefully in human form. This story resonates with a lot of tales of Irish diaspora, and my book explores this theme of exile through several characters’ journeys.
4) On an average day, what’s your writing routine?
My days are pretty busy, so most of the time I write after the kids go to bed, generally anywhere from one to three hours depending on the day I had.
5) Are you a plotter or a pantster?
6) Who is your favorite character you’ve ever written and how would you describe them?
One of my favorite characters is Grainne who is based on the real Grainne O’Malley, a female pirate in Ireland in the 16th century. She also may be just a tiny bit based on my Irish language professor from UW-Milwaukee. Grainne is warm, personable, smart, resourceful, passionate, loyal, with a keen analytical mind and a willingness to do whatever it takes for her friends and family. She’s also a pirate, guys. PIRATE.
7) What’s the most egregious writing cliche you’re guilty of committing?
When I first started writing, I really fell into the STRONG FEMALE HEROINE stereotype. It took me several drafts to understand female strength is not measured in how many curse words you can fit on a page, how much whiskey your girl can drink, or how many skulls your protagonist can crush with her bare hands. Writing Elizabeth as vulnerable, as someone capable of intimacy and love was probably some of the bravest work I had to do as a writer. Maybe that’s cliche in itself, but I want to see more three-dimensional female characters in literature and popular media. I’m taking a karate class right now and I love looking in the mirror and catching myself looking like a badass. But I can assure you that pretending to karate chop a preteen will not be the greatest act of courage I will commit that day as a woman.
8) What’s the greatest word in the English language?
I don’t know. kaleidoscope, incandescent, amethyst.
9) What do you do on days when you just. can’t. write.
I tell myself to write 250 words. It’s one page. ONE PAGE. Anyone can write a page. On a particularly bad day, I set my goal at 100 words. I like to write every day no matter what.
10) Which book do you wish you’d written and why?
Oh, there are so many. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, James Joyce’s Dubliners, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, The Magic Toy Shoppe by Angela Carter, anything by Neil Gaiman. I think ultimately, I want to write the books my characters and stories deserve.
I shall now tag:
- Describe your current WIP.
- What is your favorite character in your WIP and why?
- What’s the hardest challenge you had to face with your WIP?
- What aspects of your WIP are you most proud of and why?
- If you write to music, what do you like to listen to as you write? What would be on the soundtrack to your WIP?
- What’s your earliest memory of writing and creating stories?
- What is one thing you think non-writers don’t understand about writing?
- What is your greatest strength in writing? What is your weakness?
- What do you love most about your villain?
- What sorts of themes tend to recur within your writing? Why is that do you think?