After completing a few side projects, today I welcome another Black Rose Writing author, Jamie Marchant. Although Jamie has several books in print, today we’ll talk mostly of her latest release, The Soul Stone.
IDI – Let’s start from the beginning. Give us a rundown of your ‘writing process’ from start to finished product.
JM – When people ask me how I came up with the ideas for a stories, I often can’t answer. The ideas just come. The Goddess’s Choice began with a fairy tale that my sister told me as a child, but I don’t know how I came up with the idea for The Soul Stone. It seems to me that the main characters, Robrek and Samantha, did that. I never make an outline or write a story arc, but the idea for a book and the characters will often live in my head for a long time before I ever put anything on paper. Robrek and Samantha were continuing the story of their lives that was to become The Soul Stone when I was still working on The Goddess’s Choice. That said, I rarely know exactly where the story is going to end up until I get there. A lot of how a story develops depends on the characters. Well-conceived characters tend to take on a life of their own. Because of the way I write, the first draft tends to be very rough and takes a lot of revision. I revise a lot, going through dozen of drafts. When I have a strong enough draft, I’ll show it to others and get their opinion. I think it’s impossible for a writer to be objective about her own work. It’s like asking a mother to be objective about her own child. Criticism can be tough, but I think it’s essential to the development of a writer. I know my novels wouldn’t be what they are without the dedicated feedback from my writers’ group. After getting feedback, I’ll revise some more and some more and some more. Unfortunately, this takes quite awhile, and I don’t exactly churn out the books.
IDI – Which was your favorite character to write in The Soul Stone, and why?
JM – As far as my favorite character, that would probably be Robrek, the peasant sorcerer, although the Princess Samantha is a close second. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog, and Robrek faces constant uphill battles. At the end of The Goddess’s Choice, he finally escapes his abusive father, masters his power, and becomes handfasted to the woman he loves, but his problems are far from over. In The Soul Stone most of the nobles, including Samantha’s closest advisor, do not want a peasant on the throne, no matter how powerful his magic. The Royal Guard doesn’t respect him, and the church is against him because of his mixed blood. He has to fight to earn the respect he deserves, as the only one who can save Korthlundia in its present crisis.
Samantha is the woman I’d like to be: strong, confident, and powerful. She ends up with her share of problems, but she starts at the top while Robrek has to claw his way up.
IDI – What is The Soul Stone about?
JM – The Crown Princess Samantha and Sir Robrek struggle to solidify their rule in the aftermath of the king’s murder and Duke Argblutal’s attempt to usurp the throne. They are thwarted at every turn by those who seek power for themselves and desire to prevent their marriage. Just when they think their problems are solved, a deadly curse begins to spread throughout Korthlundia and Samantha becomes pregnant.
The Soul Stone, Samantha must fight off priests, enemies, and her closest advisors while Robrek discovers the reason the goddess chose him as king, to defeat the Soul Stone, a stone capable of sucking the soul out of its victims, which threatens to obliterate all life in the joined kingdoms. Their archenemy, the Bard Alvabane, awakens the Soul Stone and plans to use its power to reclaim Korthlundia for her people (a people driven out over a thousand years ago by the hero Armunn). Armunn had to sacrifice his life and soul to contain the Soul Stone. Will Robrek have to do the same? Will the young couple have only a few short months to love each other?
IDI – When did you have your Eureka moment? When did know that you were born to be a writer?
JM – 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. It was torture, and I was unhappy, but not yet prepared to admit it. My “Eureka moment” came one day while I was working on a piece of literary criticism on Willa Cather. At that moment, 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.
IDI – What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt maybe to tickle our taste buds?
JM – I’m working on two projects at the moment. One is the next 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. The other book mixes urban and high fantasy and is titled The Bull Riding Witch. It is nearly finished, and an excerpt is below:
I woke with my head pounding and my tongue coated with the fur balls of ten thousand cats. I nearly gagged at the stench that filled the air, a scent that combined the reek of inside of a knight’s armor after jousting with the odor of rotting flesh.
Confused, I examined my surroundings. Hung on the wall facing me was a portrait of a huge bull with its head down and its heels kicked high into the air. Incredibly, a man, hanging onto a rope with only one hand, sat on the bull’s back. Why would anyone ride a bull? Bulls were dangerous and impossible to control.
Piled high on the bedside table were plates covered with the remains of several meals, bowls with a few dregs of sour milk, and empty bottles. The sheet I laid on was stained with various substances I didn’t want to identify. Where was I? This was certainly no place worthy of me, the crown princess. Maybe I had somehow ended in the servants’ quarters, although I couldn’t imagine how.
I tried to sit up, and my head felt as if it were going to split in two. I groaned, and the sound was deep and masculine. What the . . .? I looked down at my arms. They were muscular and covered with hair. I grabbed my naked chest. My breasts were entirely flat, and my chest was covered with thick, coarse hair. When I rubbed my hand across my face, I felt thick stubble. I looked down at the short clothes, which were the only thing I was wearing; there was a bulge that just shouldn’t have been there. I lifted the waistband and peeked. Dear gods, how had I gotten one of those? I poked it with my finger, and it twitched. I snapped the waistband closed and jumped away, but I couldn’t get away from the body I was wearing.
IDI – Great teaser. Have you ever wanted to give up? What stopped you?
JM – In a sense, I did give up in my twenties when I turned my back on writing fiction and pursued my PhD, but since I’ve returned to writing, nothing could take me away from it again. A writer is who am I. Writing makes me happy. I think primarily a writer needs to write for her own enjoyment, not for money or the praise of others. Of course, praise always feels good, and money would be nice. I have to admit I have fantasies of the dollars rolling in like they do for J.K. Rowling, but I write first and foremost for myself. External validation is hard to come by, and rejection is a sure thing. But since it makes me happy simply to write, I can deal with the rest.
IDI – What is the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing? Ideas, getting started, writer’s block, re-writing?
JM – Fight scenes. I’ve never particularly enjoyed reading fight scenes and often skim through them, and 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 them, I don’t think I’ll ever be an action master. Character development is more my forte.
IDI – I believe we each have our sore spot when it comes to writing. For me, it’s love scenes. I love to write romance, but when it comes to the actual love scenes, everything I write feels like it’s already been done to death.
Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?
JM – I’d have to say my older sister. Jalane, who is ten years older than I am, is the one who got me interested in stories and fantasy. She told me fairy tales as a child that captures my imagination. My first novel, The Goddess’s Choice, is based on my favorite of her tales. She also encouraged my writing all throughout my childhood and adolescence. She read my first attempts, which had to have been painful, and was never anything but encouraging. She was thrilled when my first novel was accepted, and she continues to be my biggest fan.
IDI – Often times, I don’t think ‘that person’ realizes how important they are to the writer.
In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?
JM – That a publisher will promote your work. This is only marginally true of the Big 5, and not at all true of smaller publishers. When I published my first novel, I thought I was finished. I just sat back and expected it to sell. It took me a few months to realize that it wasn’t going to unless I did something about it. This is something I definitely wish someone would have told me.
IDI – How important are your reading habits to your writing habits?
JM – I think doing a lot of reading is critical to anyone who wants to be a writer, me included. I read quickly, and I read a lot, most of it fantasy. Immersing myself in the type of writing that I want to do puts me in the right frame of mind for writing. It helps add to understanding of what a story should do and gives insight into how to do it. When you examine what you enjoy about another person’s work, you can better figure out how to produce the same effect yourself.
IDI – Favorite author, and why?
JM – 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.
IDI – I know when someone asks me who my favorite author is, I have trouble choosing just one also. It almost makes me feel as though I am being unfair to others who I enjoy just as much.
One last question, Jamie. Aside from the fairy tale that you’ve adapted for The Goddess’s Choice, where else do you draw your influences from?
JM – I draw heavily from mythology. In these novels, particularly Celtic mythology. The goddess Sulis is the Celtic goddess of healing. All the holidays in the Kronicles of Korthlundia are adapted from Celtic culture as are the characters’ names. Little things came from my life or people I know. King Solar’s thoughts about age came from my grandmother, and Robrek’s lack of an ear for music is my own. I can’t hold a tune, and I’m about the only person I know that doesn’t particularly care for music of any variety. The juggler in the wedding scene is based on one I saw at Venice Beach, California, except he had a chainsaw instead of a mace.
IDI – Thank you so much for chatting with me today. Please take a moment to let the readers know where they can learn more about you and your work. Best wishes for continued success.
Did you like the interview? Take a minute to say hello to Jamie. Are you a published author looking for exposure? Visit my WEBSITE to request an interview.
JM – Thanks for having me Kathy. Here are links where my work can be found and readers can connect:
k.e. garvey (formerly and regrettably known as Kathy Reinhart) is the award-winning author of Lily White Lies and The Red Strokes