Monday, July 20, 2015

Jamie Marchant ~ an interview and her novel ~ The Soul Stone

Jamie Marchant

Jamie Marchant lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband and son. She teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her first novel The Goddess's Choice was released in April 2012 from Reliquary Press. She released Demons in the Big Easy in January 2013. The sequel to The Goddess’s Choice, titled The Soul Stone, was released by Black Rose Writing in June 2015. Her short fiction has been published in Bards & Sages, The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and and has been included in the anthology, Urban Fantasy.  

Q: When you think of a garden, do you picture vegetables or flowers?
A:  Flowers.  I don’t garden. Nothing I’ve tried to grow has lived long because I forget to water it. But I love flowers and everything floral. When my husband and I first got married, he didn’t buy me anything with flowers on it because he thought flowers were girly.  I’m not a very girly girl, so he thought I wouldn’t like it.  I definitely do not like pink. Then, one day he looked in my closet and noticed that absolutely everything I’d bought for myself was covered with flowers. The only thing I had that weren’t floral had been gifts. I’d hadn’t realized myself how obsessed with flowers I am until he pointed this out. Now, flowers are the first thing my husband looks for when he’s buying a gift for me.
Q: What is your least favorite word? Is there a reason?
A:  I don’t know that I have a favorite word, but I absolutely detest the word “pithy.” Whenever I ever hear it,  I cringe. First, it doesn’t sound anything like what it means.  Pithy sounds like it should mean fragile or full of holes. There is nothing about the word “pithy” that suggests anything brief, forceful, and meaningful. It is an offense to the language to have such a word. Second, and probably more significantly, I had a graduate professor I didn’t like very much who was always taking about how “pithy” some piece of writing was. I fanaticized about shoving whatever book we were reading down her throat everything time she said, “pithy,” which was at least twice a class period.

Q: What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have an all time favorite song?
A: I have often thought that I might be the only person in the world that doesn’t care for music. I listened to it some in high school because everyone was doing it. You were just weird if you didn’t like music. Billy Joel was my favorite. But since I no longer suffer from peer pressure and have decided it’s absolutely okay to be weird, I don’t listen to music. I’m nearly tone deaf. When I try to sing, it sounds like the groaning of a wounded cow. Because of my tone deafness, I don’t think I hear music the way other people do. To me, it is just noise.  One of  my main characters in The Soul Stone shares my disability. In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Lorenzo, one of the minor characters, claims, “The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night And his affections dark as Erebus: Let no such man be trusted.” I’ve always hope he’s wrong.

Q: Dine in or dine out?
A:  Definitely out. I don’t cook unless I absolutely have to.

Q: How do you feel about exercise?
A: I hate the thought of exercising, and I always dread going to the gym, but when I’m actually doing it, I don’t mind it so much.  I always feel better afterward.

Q: Texting, love it or hate it?
A:  I don’t understand it. Why don’t you just talk to the other person? My son says it’s rude to just call someone. They might be busy, and a text lets some respond on their own time. If they’re busy, they can just not answer their phone. Personally, I think cell phones are the bane of modern life.

Q: Pets? Do you have any?
A: I have four cats and believe that one can never have enough cats. They are soft and snuggly. The sound of a cat’s purr is about the most comforting sound in the world. In all of my books, at least one of the characters has a pet cat. I went to an open mike reading once where one of the readers read a story about a cat lady and listed the necessary criteria to be one. He mentioned that a cat lady must have at least four cats. Since that night, I’ve been happy to own the title, “Cat Lady.”

Q: When did you start writing and why?
A:  The answer has two parts. On one hand, I’ve always known I was meant to be a writer. As a young child, I never remember wanting to be anything else. I started writing stories about the Man from Mars for my older sister when I was about six. I then wrote a fairy tale for her, starring her and her husband. Throughout my adolescence, I continued writing and finished my first novel in high school (not that it was publishable). Still, I had it pounded into me how hard (next to impossible) it is to make a living as a writer, so I decided to get my PhD and teach college English. In doing so, I lost my way and neglected my muse. What I’d begun as a means to support myself while writing because an aim in and of itself. I focused on writing literary criticism in order to further my career as a professor. One day while I was working on a piece of literary criticism on Willa Cather, I realized not only did I have no interest in writing the piece, but also that I hadn’t written fiction in years. I abandoned the piece on Cather and started what was to become my first novel, The Goddess’s Choice.  That was about fourteen years ago. I may not be rich, but I’m a much happier person since I returned to my first passion. Now the sequel to The Goddess’s Choice is available.

Q: Which element of book writing is most difficult for you?
A: Fight scenes. I’ve never particularly enjoyed reading fight scenes and often skim through them. That’s made them hard to write. My writers’ group makes fun of me because in the rough draft of my work, I’ll often have “Insert fight scene here” instead of the actual fight scene. Although I’ve gotten better at fighting, I don’t think I’ll ever be an action master. Character development is more my forte.

Q: Who's your favorite author?
A: It’s hard to pick just one, so please forgive me if I mention two: Mercedes Lackey and Jim Butcher. Lackey’s Valdemar books showed me the true potential of creating an entire fantasy universe. Her world-building skill is exquisite, and her characters are so rich and vivid that it makes it seem you could actually know such people. I loved them or loved to hate them. I have attempted to recreate both of these aspects in my own, Kronicles of Korthlundia, of which The Soul Stone is the second book. Jim Butcher is also a master at both world building and character development. In addition, his novels add an element of humor that makes his novels that much more appealing.

Q: Which holiday celebrations do you like to incorporate into your stories and why?
A: The Kronicles of Korthlundia series, of which The Soul Stone is a part, celebrates the solstices and the equinoxes in ways drawn (with a little input of my imagination) from traditional Celtic holidays. I have always been attracted to Celtic culture.  Stonehenge and the Druids with their groves and connection to the earth, as well as their tragic annihilation, has always seemed beautiful to me, especially sine we know so little about them so that we can fill in the gaps with creations of our own imagination. Therefore, when I started my first novel, I turned to the Celts for my inspiration. The names are taken from traditional Celtic names, and Sulis is the Celtic goddess of healing, so it was only natural that I put in Celtic holidays as well. Winter Solstice is the most important of the holidays.  The nobles celebrate it by riding through the streets tossing gifts and coins to peasants.  Great bonfires are built, and the people dance around them to encourage the return of the sun. The mingling of a man and a woman on Solstice night was said to be pleasing to Sulis: the energy produced by the mating encouraged the sun’s return.  Ostara is the spring equinox and celebrates new life and rebirth. Litha is the summer solstice. Flowers and greenery are strewn on everything from buildings to awning to lamp posts. They are even cooked into pastries.  The autumn equinox and harvest festival is known as Mabon. It is then that the veil between this world and the next is thinnest, and people offer grain and apples at the graves of their loved ones. 

 Q: Generally speaking, is your work based on real life experience? If it's not would you want it to be?

A: Mostly not. My life is pretty boring and would not make a good story. Remember the Chinese curse: “May your life be interesting.” The Chinese haven’t cursed me. Little things in my novels do come from my life or people I know. King Solar’s thoughts about age came from my grandmother. She was ready to die at ninety, as is he. The juggler in the wedding scene is based on one I saw at Venice Beach, California, except the Venice Beach juggler had a chainsaw. I had to give my juggler a mace since chainsaws don’t exist in Korthlundia. However, most of my work comes from my imagination, which is how I like it. I don’t think I’d want to live a life interesting enough to be a story.

Q: How does the man in your life feel about the genre you write? Has he read any of your work?
A:  Before marrying me, my husband had little interest in fantasy. He’d read Lord of the Rings as a child, but little else. But with the help of our son, I have steadily drawn him into my world. As a English teacher and lover of books, I read a lot to my son. If he wanted attention, the one thing he knew he could almost always get me to do was read and what we read was mostly fantasy.  Our jointed obsession with fantasy started when he was four. I was reading the first Harry Potter book to myself, and he asked me to read it to him. I thought it was far beyond his age—it doesn’t have any pictures and far too many words—and that he would quickly bore, and we’d go back to picture books. I was wrong. I had to skip some of the scarier parts, but he was fascinated from the beginning.  In fact, he wanted Harry Potter read to him over and over again. I read the first four books to him eight times each, and we would devour each new book when it came out. It got so I told my son I would read him anything but Harry Potter.  We both loved our reading sessions, but sadly I figured the time would come when he no longer wanted to be read to. I’m happy that it never really has. Although the frequency of our reading dropped as he grew older, I was still reading to him occasionally when he left home at nineteen, and most of my phone conversation with him the other night was taken up discussing G. R. R. Martin’s novel. My husband often listened when I read to my son, but since he wasn’t there all the time, he would miss chunks of the story. He rarely, like almost never, reads a book. Instead, he listens to them of CD, and he started to get the books we read on CD to listen to as he drove to work. So I made a geek out of him after all. As I said, my husband rarely reads, so he hasn’t “read” any of my books, but he has listened to me read them to him and to our son over and over again.  He’s my #1 fan, or maybe #2. Our son might outrank him.

Q: What are you working on now? Would you like to share anything about it?
A: I’m working on two projects on at the moment. One is the third book in The Kronicles of Korthlundia series of which The Goddess’s Choice and The Soul Stone are a part. I don’t have a title for it yet, but let’s say it continues the adventures of Samantha and Robrek and involves dragons and a barbarian invasion. I’m also working on a novel, again unnamed, about Samantha’s true father, Darhour, and how he became the notorious assassin that he is.

Q: Do you have a new book coming out soon? Tell us about it.
A: I’ve just finished a novel that mixes urban and high fantasy, titled The Bull Riding Witch.  It is about a princess from a parallel realm who is placed in the body of a rodeo bull rider from Alabama. Both Daulphina and Joshua are completely lost in their new environments. It has a lot more humor than The Kronicles of Korthlundia and is overall a lightly book. It’s also shorter. I’m looking to place it with an agent right now, so I’m unsure when it will be available.

Q: How can we find you? Do you have a web page, FaceBook page or any buy links?

The following is an excerpt from The Soul Stone.

Chapter 2
            At bedtime, Alvabane sat at her dressing table brushing her long hair. It had once been a bright, rich red, but it had dulled with age and was now mostly grey with only a few strands of color to remind her of what once had been. It seemed a metaphor for her life—small flashes of color to remind her of her once bright purpose.
            One of those flashes, Erick, set her nightly goblet of fortified wine next to her hand. She needed the strong alcohol to dull the pain of her joints so she could sleep. Erick had served her for ten years. When her former servant had died, he’d been sent by her people, despite the fact that she’d only been a disappointment to them.
            She turned to thank him, but the words died on her lips as she saw the reproach in his eyes. Alvabane turned back to her mirror. Tonight was the night of the new moon. She should have been preparing to perform the rites of the dark gods, not preparing for bed. “They have forgotten us,” Alvabane said. “The Soul Stone does not live.”
            In the mirror, she saw Erick’s eyes narrow. He was not yet twenty and still had the optimism of youth. He still believed the Stone would come to life again when the gods willed it. He believed it would again be the weapon it had once been. Created in the far past by magic which had since been lost, it had been used by her people to protect themselves from the barbarians that now ran free over Korth and Lundia.
            “I will perform the rites next month,” she promised, but so had she promised last month and the month before that. The stairs to the bottom of the East Tower were agony to her knees. Erick made a mewing sound, reminding her what he’d sacrificed to serve her and the dark gods. She herself had cut his tongue from his mouth when he came to her as a ten-year-old child. He had surrendered it stoically. Only the Bards were allowed to sing the rites of the gods. All others who heard them had to be rendered mute so they couldn’t repeat music not meant for their tongues.
            “Do you think you have sacrificed more than I?” She turned to face him. “I submitted to the brutish duke’s bed for years. I gave birth to a child of rape. All so I could remain near the Stone. I performed the rites faithfully every new moon for decades. And for what, I ask you? The power of the Stone remains trapped behind the shield the demon Armunn created from his own soul. That shield can’t be destroyed. I have dedicated my life to trying, but it is impossible. The Soul Stone won’t live again!”
            Erick mewed again and looked toward the tapestry on the wall. It showed the map of the desert of Sehra, to the south of Korthlundia, where her people had lived in exile since Armunn and his hordes had trapped the Stone and then driven them from their homeland. Blinking back tears of despair, she turned from him. “Do you think I have forgotten? Every generation fewer of our children are born. Only by returning to the land of our birthright can we be strong again.”
            She got up and went to the tapestry, touching it lovingly. “Do you not understand? The dark gods have found me unworthy to be their messenger. I once thought I was the child of the prophecy, the one who would drive the descendants of Armunn’s hordes back across the mountains into Korth and reclaim the land they call Lundia as our own. But I was wrong. I’m an unprofitable servant, an unfit vessel.”

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