Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tour Stop and Interview with Author Marni L. B. Troop

Today I'd like to introduce Author Marni L. B. Troop who's currently on tour with her novel Tir Na n'Og. Today she's going to tell us a little about her book and herself as an author.


Casey is a Faerie, but not in the way you might think. She’s not a little creature with wings or magic dust.  If not for her tall, pointed ears, this regal princess could be mistaken for a human.  She is gifted among her people in that she can see into anyone’s thoughts.  She can remember every detail of every event that has occurred among the Faeries since her birth.

In "Journal One," Casey watches as the Faerie kings slaughter Ith,  a stranger from across the sea and man of peace who believes the Faeries to be the gods of his people, the Iberians.  Little do the kings know that when you kill an innocent, humans seek vengeance.  Ith’s people come in great numbers to slaughter their “gods” and take Ireland as their new home. Caught in the middle, Casey tries to find a way to bring peace to the two peoples so they can live on the Island together. After things do not go as she plans, the humans prove victorious. At the moment the Faeries surrender the Island, she and her people are transformed into the magical creatures that inspire legend, and Ireland is changed forever.

You would think this to be enough drama for a young Faerie princess, but in the midst of it all she meets her one true love, an Iberian named Amergin. At the moment when all seems perfect between them, they are separated in the worst way possible – dangled right in front of each other but forever just out of reach.

Casey knows that the fate of her people and her love are inextricably linked. For the moment, all she can do is observe… and record everything she can. She has become the Chronicler: the one true historian of her entire race.

About the Author


Marni grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C., where she worked at and attended many sci-fi/fantasy conventions and bought several Tarot decks before going off to college. After college, she moved to Los Angeles to work as a story analyst, editor, ghostwriter and just about any film or television job she could find.

After earning a Master of Professional Writing in Cinema/TV-Drama from the University of Southern California, Marni started teaching others how to write. Marni currently lives in Glendale, Arizona, with her spouse, two brilliant children and six crazy pets (11 if you count the fish).

Buy Link:


First of all, the big question: When did you know you were a writer?

I knew when I was in elementary school when I wrote a serial called, “The Hidden Door” for the monthly newsletter. I don’t remember being asked to do it. All I remember is that I wrote the first episode for class and then someone said they wanted me to keep writing episodes and that they would appear in the newsletter. It only lasted a few months, but that was it.

Tell us all a little bit about your book in general.

“Tir Na n’Og: Journal One” (aka: “The Heart of Ireland: Journal One”) is the first in a series of six (or possibly seven) about the rise and fall of the race of people in Ireland known by us as Faeries. In “Journal One,” the Iberians invade Ireland in retaliation of the senseless death of one of their own, and Tir Na n’Og, The Land of the Ever Young, is created.

What inspired the idea for Tir Na n’Og?

In college, I went on a trip with one of my literature professors to Ireland (he was Irish). Having already had an interest in the Celts and Irish folklore, I realized that even among the Irish, not many people recognized the influence that folklore has had on the culture (there is still a lot of Paganism in Irish Catholicism, for example). Although the pantheon of gods and goddesses within Irish folklore are reflections of pantheons from other ancient cultures across Europe, their stories are all disappearing. It bothered me then and it still bothers me, which is why I decided to retell their story. My hope is that the Heart of Ireland series will regenerate interest in these stories.

How much research into Celtic history and folklore did you have to do for your novel?

My response to the preceding question mainly answers this one. I read a lot. I bought pretty much every book on Irish or Celtic folk tales, folklore or mythology I could find. I have dozens of great websites bookmarked. To write any form of Historical Fiction, you have to be immersed in the known world. You also need to really be interested in the stuff or the research will feel more like work than opening a present. To be fair, I don’t actually count reading about the Celts and the Irish as research even though it is. What really was “research” to me was digging way in to the Iberians (the Celts). I’d only read about the Celts in Great Britain, not in Spain or any other place east. I only knew about their migration in a geographic sense. However, if you ignore the fact that I started “researching” in the early 1990s and wrote “Journal One” in 2010, I don’t think I spent more than a few years gathering information. Now, however, as I complete each of the other books, I don’t have to research the Faeries. I have all of that information already. I only have to research the time period and the historical event and people associated with it. For example, I spent about two months reading everything I could about St. Patrick for “Journal Two.” Interesting guy, I must say!

Now a little bit about you as an author: do you follow a writing schedule or do you just write whenever you get the chance?

I write whenever I get the chance. I’ve got two kids in elementary school who have homework almost every day. My spouse is a high school theatre teacher who doesn’t come home until after six most days. I’m a lead instructor for an online college. Basically, since writing does not pay all of the bills for us yet, I still have things to do. I try to balance my time, though. I write at least once a week, but I don’t say that it MUST be on this day or this time. I write as much as I can, but I don’t say that it MUST be this many words or pages. Often, it’s difficult to get into a “writing mood,” as much as I love to do it, but once I give myself the opportunity to sit and write, I remember how much I love it. Now, having said that, should anybody out there want to give me a grant to work on the series… :-D

Do you plan out a story before you write it or do you just write and see what comes?

I don’t complete a detailed outline. I find that for this series, at least, Casey (the narrator) is using me as a conduit to my computer. I often look at what I’ve written and don’t remember having written it. Yet, I do complete a twelve-step outline (see “The Writer’s Journey” by Chris Vogler. He’s a really nice guy and knows what he’s talking about). It’s a very basic guideline for what should happen in the arc of the story, but filling in the gaps, getting from point A to point B, that’s up to Casey.

What do you do when you’re not writing? Have any other hobbies?

You mean, besides maintaining our household and making sure the kids brush their teeth every day? Ah. I crochet. I cook. In fact, we used to have a cookie company. Great cookies: no marketing skills. I try to read, but don’t do it much because I’m usually exhausted by the end of the day. I love to watch movies… in my house. Movie theatres bother me lately. I spent about fifteen years in the film and TV industry, so it’s in my blood. I also love to grow plants. I don’t say “gardening” anymore because living in the Phoenix area, you can’t really have a “garden” unless you’re also willing to put water where it has no business being. Instead, the kids and I grow plants inside the house in pots, and we grow outside plants that are low water and drought-tolerant (except for my potted orange tree. I’m taking that with me whenever we move and I refuse to let that thing die, dammit!). The one other thing is that I write. That’s probably my favorite hobby.
All writers have their quirks, what are yours? Favorite music when writing, muses, special snacks?

My quirks have nothing to do with my writing. I’m just weird. I do prefer to write at Starbucks. Does that count?

All writers end up having a favorite character. Who was your favorite character to write about in Tir Na nO’g?

Ada, Casey’s horse.

Who or what inspires you and who are your favorite authors?

What inspires me now are my spouse, my children and my best friend, who is my “spiritual” sister. I write stories for my children to read. My spouse and best friend are also writers and we inspire each other. My favorite writers are: Natasha J. B. Troop, Becca C. Smith, W.B. Yeats, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman and Michael Pollan (non –fiction). That’s not everybody, but these are the most influential on my writing and writing style.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing in a good book?

The most important thing in any good book is that there is something unpredictable about it. It could be a character’s decision, an unforeseen event, something either big or small. Whatever it is, it is a game-changer to some degree or another and the reader cannot be able to expect it.

So, what comes next for you? Tell us about some of your works in progress.

“Journal Two” comes out later this year. After that, I will begin working on the first book in a series called, “Helen’s Cave.” This supernatural sci-fi series is about a young woman who discovers that our perception of the natural world isn’t the truth and she is the only one who can see it. There is a strong Native American element to this series.

What is the best advice you would give to an aspiring writer?

Write. Keep writing. Write some more. Get lots of criticism and understand that as much as your writing may be your “babies,” they’re not your babies and that you will only improve as a writer when you are able to take negative criticism and make it useful. In time, you will know inherently which negative criticism is worth listening to and also which positive criticism is worth listening to. Write because you enjoy it, not because you expect to win the Pulitzer or get on the NY Times Best Seller List. That shouldn’t be the goal. The goal is to tell stories and share it with people who enjoy your stories.

Marni will be giving away a copy of Brian Froud's and John Matthew's How to See Faeries. Marni said, "Brian Froud's artwork is one of my inspirations, so it's very appropriate. Plus, it's a cool book!"

Follow her tour and comment for a chance to win!

Excerpt from "Tir Na n'Og"

 “What did you do?!” yelled Eremon at my aunts, furious at some nonexistent betrayal. “Where is she?” That started an argument between the Iberians and the People for which I had no interest.

I called out for Mother. I screamed and ran through the armies, pushing and dodging. I stopped and strained to feel her. My mother was gone. Her presence was wiped clear from the Island!

I was pushing, shoving people out of my way, not caring which army they stood for until someone grabbed me by my upper arms and pulled me into a hug. I did not care who it was, although from the arms I could tell that it was a male. He was standing behind me, so I could not see his face. I wailed for the death of my mother and sank to the ground. The man sat down with me and let me cry.

Some time later, Finola came for me, helping me to my feet and walking with me from the hill. I looked back over my shoulder and saw that it was Amergin who had held me. His face clearly showed the sorrow that was in his heart. I knew that I loved him then, for his open and giving spirit.

Something had been born, not far below our feet and more vast than any of us could grasp. It felt to me like a new mind aware for the first time. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Books of Note: September Reads

Well, I certainly read some amazing books this month! and then some that were very, utterly, and horribly disappointing. But this isn't a rant post, this is a book review post, so I'll share some of the better books I read!

Warring kingdoms, bloody feuds, and a boy’s battle for survival. Step back into the Dark Ages with this riveting epic adventure.

In the wilds of Dark Age Britain, a bard abandons his son, Essa, in a village trapped between two feuding kingdoms. As the once-nomadic boy grows rooted in the life of the Wolf Folk, forging allegiances and young love, King Penda of Mercia threatens to attack, thrusting Essa into the violent and cunning world of the tribal rulers. Joined by unlikely friends, unsure of whom to trust — or even of who he is — Essa sets off on a dangerous journey, using his newfound intuitive gifts to guide them as a deadly battle brews. Will his desperate efforts to save his loved ones bring him closer to understanding why his father has never returned? Fast-paced and full of intrigue, this debut novel transports readers to a time of blood and steel, when peace was fleeting and won only at a cost.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I enjoyed this book a lot! I liked the setting, of course, I can't pass up much having to do with ancient Britain, I loved the characters, and the overall story was well crafted and believable. I did a faith buy on this book (because I couldn't get it from the library) under recommendation from a friend and I'm glad I did because I ended up liking it even more than I thought I would. The first couple chapters are a little slower but it's necessary to get to know Essa and the other characters and after that the book picks up into a really great, suspenseful story.

Characters:Essa, of course, is a great protagonist. You feel for his position and his abandonment by his father, Cai. Now Cai is a rather interesting character because you can dislike him for how he treats Essa, but you can also understand his reasons behind it and since he isn't completely terrible you can maybe forgive him a little bit. It also probably stands to reason that I loved Wulf and the brotherly relationship that forms between him and Essa because I just love that kind of thing, and Wulf also had a great sense of humor. I also liked the girl characters too. Lark, I knew I would like right off, and Anwen, I was afraid at first that she would be annoying, but she surprised me and turned out to be a really awesome character as well.

Writing Style: The style was good, it fit the time period well, and the author clearly did her research as she stated in the author's note. I also liked how it was third person from Essa's point of view. It was the kind of book that you couldn't really be in anyone else's head. It could have been first person, but I think it was fine the way it was.

Problems/What bothered me: The only thing that really bothered me was the fact that Essa could put himself into animals, or I'm not really sure how to describe it. Thankfully I was warned of the fact beforehand though, so it didn't surprise me as much as it would have otherwise, seeing as there is no indication of any fantasy like story line in the book's description. It was weird at first, but once I got used to it it didn't really bother me. It kind of fits into the whole ancient British thing too, with a Faery kind of undertone, so I was okay with it. The only reason I complain about it is because I couldn't really see why it was necessary. Yes, it was helpful at moments to Essa, but a woodsman or whatever could have managed the same sort of things, I imagine.

Conclusion: 5 stars. I found as I read the last half of this book that I really enjoyed it immensely. I think it was just a mixture of the characters and story, but I loved it. The ending surprised me a bit, but after a few minutes I decided I kind of liked it, even though it was abrupt. I'm excited to get to the sequel to see if it is just as good.

Recommended Audience: I'd safely say that fans of Rosemary Sutcliff would enjoy this book because it had the same sort of feel as hers do. Still not quite up there with Rosemary's but close. As for age, probably fourteen and up, not really for content purposes because there wasn't anything I caught to complain about otherwise it would not have gotten five stars, but because I think the story line would be better appreciated by an older audience.

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
It’s all a fake.
At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?
But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—
Are about him.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This is not the kind of book I normally read, but it came highly recommended to me by a friend I trust so I thought I would give it a go, and, as I know I have said before, I seriously can't pass up books with brotherly relationships. They're so hard to find that I have to eat up the ones I can. I did really end up enjoying it though. There were parts that were a bit odd, and I am not really a fan of magic and especially not witches (in fact I think this is one of the only books I've read with actual witches in it that wasn't a fairy tale or some sort of re-telling) but I liked the originality of it. It was definitely something like I had never read before and after a while I kind of got used to the weirdness, though I'll admit that I kept expecting everything to be a farce since that was kind of how it was set up to be. I really liked the idea of the singing magic though. As a huge lover of music and a musician myself, I really appreciated that.

Characters: This was the highlight of the book for me. Though the storyline might not have totally been to my liking, the characters definitely were. Ryder and Falpian were amazing, and there were some really good supporting characters as well. I loved Ryder's sisters and I also liked his relationship with them and how he protected them. Falpain and his dog Bo were great too, and don't even get me started on the whole 'twins in spirit' thing between him and Ryder. Perfect!!!! That was just so well done and simply lovely. My hat is off to Lena Coakley for writing such an amazing brotherly relationship.

Writing Style: The writing really was good, the author says in her author's note that this was a work of several years and I think the tinkering paid off. It flowed well, and it was clear and understandable, which is good for a fantasy world. While I'm talking about that, I should mention how I loved the setting in this book, and the people. It was, again, really unique, and vivid. The author's descriptions were wonderful and I could picture everything perfectly, and even though she didn't do all that much to describe the characters, I could see them clearly in my head. That is just good writing. I also liked how she switched back and forth between Ryder and Falpian, that's always important when dealing with two different sides and sympathies.

Problems/ What Bothered Me: I truthfully didn't have any problems here, despite the fact that I could have done with a little less of the witchyness. I'll forgive it because I ended up enjoying the book a lot.

Conclusion: 4 Stars, I really liked it. I also LOVED the ending, and this book kept me guessing through the whole thing too which is great. I actually was worried for a moment it wasn't going to end the way I hoped it would, but it did ;) It was a very satisfying read. I also trust there's a sequel? I'm definitely looking forward to it!

Recommended Audience: There wasn't anything in this book content wise, and I'd say anyone probably thirteen and up would find it enjoyable. Fantasy fans and lovers of different books with new ideas would like it. And of course those like me who love brothers-in-arms stories. It's also a guy and girl read, though it may not look like it from the cover. Guys, seriously, you would like this book, just get a cover to put over the picture on the front if it bothers you!

Dane is 100% Viking. He's courageous. Tough. But he has a big problem.

He needs to choose a nickname. Dane the Dangerous? Dane the Despicable? He just can't decide. Even his best friends, Drott the Dim and Fulnir the Stinking, aren't any help. But when Dane witnesses his proud father shamed by the tyrant Thidrek the Terrifying, Dane's indignation earns him a moniker that sticks--Dane the Defiant.

So defiant is Dane that when Thidrek kidnaps Dane's beloved Astrid in hopes of trading her for Thor's Hammer, the ancient, magical weapon of mass destruction, Dane goes after him like a bat out of Valhalla. Navigating treacherous seas, a nasty smiting by the gods, and a rather lonely frost giant, Dane and his rowdy band of Norsemen will stop at nothing to end Thidrek's terrifying reign and take their place among the greatest Viking heroes of all time.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was one of those books that I just grabbed at the library with a kind of indifference like 'it looks like it could be good, I'll give it a go'. I wasn't really sure of it, but when I started reading it I really instantly fell in love with the story, characters and writing style. It was just really funny, but with a good mix of drama and adventure thrown in as well. The characters were great, and it was overall a very pleasant surprise! It's definitely not a historical fiction, but I really like how the authors mixed in a bit of modern day stuff which would make it a more fun read for the recommended audience (12-16, I'd say) and also the mixed in Norse legends and Viking Lore. I've always been a fan of Norse Mythology, so I really liked how that was worked into this book.

Characters: Dane is a great hero. He's flawed but he also knows how to do the right things, and I thought he was a well-crafted young protagonist. His friends are awesome too like Drott the Dim and Fulnir the Stinking, and don't forget Jarl with the gorgeous hair and an obsession with hair-care products :P I also really liked Astrid as the heroine. She was awesome because, though she was the damsel in distress, she was also more than capable of taking care of herself. And she also didn't have the Attitude at all. Sure she could throw axes better than all the men, but she never flaunted that fact.

And then there's the villain, Thidrick who liked to knit on his spare time, and also held matinée executions every saturday where children under ten could get in free. Seriously, is that not enough?

Writing Style: It was good, fast paced, and laced with humor outside of the dialogue. My favorite kind of style for this sort of book.

Problems/What bothered Me: Overall, I didn't really have any problems with this book. Since it was not presented as historical fiction, I won't say anything about the inaccuracies that were only there for the sake of humor. The only thing I had a problem with was that it seemed whenever someone got hurt they were well again, WAY too quickly. Like almost instantly, and that is a huge pet peeve of mine, but the book was enjoyable enough I'll let it slide this once.

Conclusion: 4 Stars, I really liked this book. It was a quick fun read and I look forward to reading the sequels. The authors seemed like really fun guys too, I enjoyed reading the interview in the back of the book.

Recommended Audience: I'd say this is more of a guy read, but girls who like guy reads will enjoy it too, because Astrid is a great heroine who girls would like to read about. (She's also the only girl character which makes this so much better) As I said before probably ages 12-16 would enjoy it the most. If you're looking for Viking historical fiction this is not it (Go read Judson Roberts' Strongbow Saga') but if you're looking for a fun quick read, this is a great book to pass the hours with. And I think fans of Ranger's Apprentice or John Flanagan's other books would like these a lot.

Also, I made another button! This one if for "On a Foreign Field". If you've read the book, copy it to your blog and link it either back to mine ( or to the purchase link:

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Sword Song

Just thought I'd post a poem that I just wrote because I have not written poetry in a long time, nor have I posted one on this blog yet. I've been reading lots of Viking novels lately and was inspired to write a sword song. One of my favorite poems ever is "The Sword-Chant of Thorstein Raudi" by William Motherwell. I was unfortunately unable to find it on the internet, though I didn't look overly hard either so if you really want to read it you might be able to find it somewhere. But anyway, that was the poem that really inspired me to write this one. I loved how it was written like a love song from a man to his sword. For some reason that was just really sweet to me ;-) Anyway, here's the poem and a weird picture of a Celt a drew to go along with it. I don't really know what's wrong with him, but it was just a quick sketch anyway. ;-P Hope you enjoy!

Sword Song

Oh, glorious and bright,
Thrumming through the air;
Our souls are one, there’s none can cut
This bond that we do share.

You’re forged, sweet Brand, like a thousand stars,
Sharp and blinding as the sickle moon.
Gore slips from your sleek flanks
As we together send men to their doom.

Oh, how it felt when I first held you
My sweet Carver, it was like Valhalla's Hall
To know you were mine, my heart did sing;
Together we could make the foe fall.

Ah, Sweetsinger, in my palm I love you best
As we dance together in battle sound;
The crimson flow you cause to fall
That drenches the new spring ground.

I kiss you in victory, we both rejoice,
There’s none to part us twain;
The steelsman who forged you stole a bit of my soul
For our blood is one and the same.

And when I do go to meet my kin of old,
My comrades, lovely Brand, shall not part us still,
For you shall lie only upon my breast
To the place we shall fight and drink our fill.

So sing I this Sword Chant the eve of fight
As you shall sing me yours next morn in frey;
We shall dance, we shall scream, and let blood together
To be honored together on the victory day.


Also, I'm excited to show you my first blog button! (Now, in all truth, I don't really know what the deal is with the buttons, but I kind of like them, and I wanted to practice my graphics skills anyway, so I'll be making more of them!) This one is a brothers in arms button, kind of tying in with my up-coming novel "By Blood and By Bond" as you can see they're Celts, because I have just wanted to draw wode on everyone right now. And they could be two characters named Caolan and Faelan who are my brother pairing in my novel (and who you will hear more about later!) But my brothers in arms button is for my wee cause to bring real brotherly love back (see here and here for an explanation; I hate to beat a dead horse--not that I would beat a horse or anything else except bad guys anyway). But if you like the button, feel free to adopt it (is that the right terminology?) and link it back to my blog!

I'll be posting more stuff soon hopefully! I have a fun guest post coming that is looong overdue and another blog stop hosting as well as (hopefully soon) an announcement for another short story release! 

Also (here I go beating a dead horse) remember to take a look at my tour for "On a Foreign Field" if you have the time! It will be ending soon, and October 4th is the last day you can enter for my $25 Amazon gift card giveaway and also the last day you can purchase "On a Foreign Field" for $2.99 on e-book.

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, September 24, 2012

Trends: Redheaded Heroes, Anyone?

So I wrote in my post "The Female/Male Swap" that I would be wirting about trends in books and movies or things relating to them. Today I'm writing about something I was thinking about the other day when I was trying to find a blasted picture for a book cover I'm working on and that is: Why are there no redheaded heroes?

You know, the handsome knight rides up to save the lady, he leaps off his horse, rips his helmet off and flips back his BLOND hair.

Or then you have the dark brooding heroes with angst who have the piercing eyes and the BLACK hair.

But you never see redheads. Who are they? The sidekicks, the funny guy, the best friend, but never the hero. Sure, there's always redheaded heroines. Why are redheaded women always considered beautiful but redheaded guys can never be handsome enough to be cast as heroes?

Occasionally you might get a redheaded hero in a book but I can't name a movie where you see one. There is no reason redheads should be less hero material than anyone else. In fact, though I have nothing against blonds in general, I just don't think they can be quite as epic as dark haired characters or, redheads! (Sorry Arthur Pendragon)

Anyway, so the reason I thought about this is that my next novel "By Blood and By Bond" features a redheaded hero, a young Celt named Caolan. Yes, he is a Celt so that might be what you would call 'stereotypical' but it's not actually, it's the truth. Actually I have two redheaded characters because I have a gingery Frank as well (No, his name isn't frank, it's Theodard, he's a Frank as in the old Germanic people). Caolan is in no way a funny character, he's pretty angsty, and redheads CAN be angsty. I'll prove it to you when you read my book ;)

So that gets us to another point I want to make... I'm in need of a little help. Because apperently redheads are not quite so popular, I've had a REALLY hard time finding a picture of someone who looks like my character who is not an actor *coughJamieBellcough* (Not that he has red hair, but I couldn't shake him as Esca) I'm trying something different with my book covers and not doing my own art (as you can see with "To Save a Life"). I've not yet decided that's a good idea or not yet, obviously. I've searched literally everywhere I could think of, but if anyone might be able to find a picture of a redheaded young man who looks Celtic and is dressed in Celtic to Medieval period clothing, please let me know! But MAKE SURE it's either purchasable or public domain, because if you get me in trouble, I'm bringing you down with me! If you find or know of anything that might work, please email me at

So, anyway, support redheaded heroes! (And I really hope you can help me find a picture ;-)

Slainte, Hazel

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Interview with Author Amanda McCrina

I'm very glad today to introduce debut author, Amanda McCrina who agreed to do an interview with me and is going to talk a little about her new novel "His Own Good Sword". I just read it recently and it's a great book! You can read my review on Goodreads here.

First off, when did you start writing?

I tried my hand at NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2007, and won, and that was when I really started taking writing seriously. I’d been writing off and on for a long time before that--for just about as long as I can remember, actually--and I’d always thought that theoretically it’d be nice to be an author, but that was when I first started devoting serious time and effort to it.

What inspired you to write “His Own Good Sword”?

My love for Roman history and culture played a big part. I spent a semester abroad in Rome in 2009, and that experience definitely helped shape the story and flavor the world behind the story. I also owe a huge debt to Rosemary Sutcliff, both stylistically and thematically. They say to write what you want to read; to be honest, a major reason for writing “His Own Good Sword” is that I’d run out of Rosemary Sutcliff books to read.

How did you go about creating the world in your book? What were your inspirations for the different people?

The world of “His Own Good Sword,” Cymeria, existed independently before this particular storyline did, though not always in its current form. Originally it was more of a typical medieval fantasy world. But then I fell in love with Italy, and by the time I wrote the rough draft of “His Own Good Sword” for NaNoWriMo 2010, I had reimagined Cymeria as a pseudo-Roman world (an “alternate antiquity,” as a friend of mine likes to put it), with my Vareni modeled on the Romans, and the Cesini based on the ancient Britons. It’s not an exact analogue; I’ve rather indiscriminately mish-mashed several different periods of Roman history, with some tweaks of my own. But I did want it to feel grounded in reality, so it still required a lot of research (did the Romans use horseshoes? How did their postal system work? And so forth).

The specific characters had their own evolutions. None of them are deliberately modeled on real-life figures of any sort. I wanted them to feel totally organic within the world of the story. In creating characters, my basic starting point was to imagine how and why people might react differently to the same cultural stimuli. My hero, Tyren, is concerned for truth, justice, and all those important things (and I love him for it), but he’s still very much a product of his upper-class, privileged environment; he can be arrogant, insensitive, even bigoted. Meanwhile, my antagonist, Luchian, has nearly the same background and upbringing as Tyren, but he manifests it a bit differently, shall we say.

What was the most difficult part about writing “His own Good Sword”?

I had, and still have, difficulties with action scenes. The battle scenes in “His Own Good Sword” were the last things to be written; I actually started querying the manuscript before I could bring myself to finish them. (For future reference, I wouldn’t recommend doing that.)

What was the most fun?

Plotting--by which I mean to say stretching, twisting, and beating the plot into submission--was challenging and frustrating, but so much fun at the same time. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a thorny plot problem (and I had lots of them) finally work out.

Who was your favorite character to write about and why? (You can choose more than one if you have to!)

It’s hard to pick favorites! I love both Tyren and his father Torien, and both of them came fairly easily to me (perhaps because they’re both very similar, though neither of them would admit it). But I’d have to say my favorite character to write was Aino. He stays in the background for most of the book, so the reader really doesn’t get to know him all that well, but I think he’s probably the most complex of all my characters. He gets to play a bigger part in book two, and I’m excited about that.

As a writer, do you have any quirks when you write?

I like having complete silence when I write, so I’m usually in my room with the door closed. I also have the odd compulsion to write my drafts in Notepad, then write the final draft in OpenOffice with the Notepad draft open for reference. I think it’s because it’s impossible to get distracted with Notepad.

What are your favorite books and authors? Who inspires you?

I have too many favorite books to list, I’m afraid. But my all-time-favorite book is Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” (and Hemingway is my favorite author). Rosemary Sutcliff’s “The Lantern Bearers” is a close second, though. As far as nonfiction goes, my favorite book is George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia,” his autobiographical account of the Spanish Civil War.

As for who inspires me... at the risk of exposing myself as a hopeless history nerd, I’ll say that three of my heroes are Patrick Hamilton (16th-century Scottish martyr), Claus von Stauffenberg, and Major Richard Winters of Easy Company.

What do you do when you’re not writing? Have any other hobbies?

I’m a huge cinephile. I also like to dabble in graphic/web design. At present, most of my non-writing time is taken up by school; I’m currently in my senior year at the University of West Georgia, studying history and political science.

What’s your favorite movie?

Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” has been my favorite for a while. It’s just a beautiful film. Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down” is runner-up; in my opinion, it’s the best war movie ever made.

In your opinion, what is most important to you in a book?

Theme is important to me. I’m usually willing to overlook shortcomings in other areas if I like a book’s overall theme. And there are certain themes in particular that appeal to me. I’m a sucker for father-son relationships, villains with redemptive arcs, and honorable characters facing impossible moral dilemmas. (In other words, I like “Star Wars.”)

If your book was made into a movie, do you have any choices for actors who would play your characters?

I usually have pretty clear mental images of my characters, and unfortunately I can’t always think of actors who fit. There are a few exceptions, though. I imagine Muryn looking something like Jeremy Irons. And I almost immediately envisioned Hailee Steinfeld for the role of Tyren’s sister Challe. A dark-haired Alex Pettyfer would fit my vision of Tyren closely enough, I suppose.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently finishing up the sequel to “His Own Good Sword.” It’s called “The Sword Unsheathed” and it’s due out from Winter Goose in August 2013. I’ve also been toying with an idea for a fairy-tale retelling that may end up being my NaNo project this year.

And lastly, what is the best advice you would give to a new writer?

I always hesitate to give writing advice, since I’m still a relative newbie, and because there’s no one “right” way to write. It’s a very indefinite process. But I will say that nothing helps my writing more than reading. If I ever hit a block in my writing, reading is what gets the creative juices flowing again. And while I do think you should write what you want to read, don’t read only the things you like to write. No matter your chosen genre, your writing will be so much more well-rounded if your broaden your reading horizons.

If you want a copy of your own, you can find "His Own Good Sword" through the links below: