Professionally, I’ve been a financial analyst and a visual basic programmer. I also have a paralegal certificate, although I’ve never worked in that field. It’s anybody’s guess what I’ll be when I grow up.
Imagining stories and writing have always been an important part of my life. It’s one I’ve finally could get serious about while I cared for my mother who had Alzheimer’s disease.
Hi Meredith. Welcome to the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network. It’s great to have you aboard our interview space shuttle today, so we can do a mind probe. 😉 We love your pic by the way.
So, tell us, what’s the story behind your book title?
I often struggle with book titles. Almost harder than writing the book in the first place. And a lot less fun.
For one book (Daughter of the Disgraced King) I didn’t even come up with the title. Mine was Magic and Power, which may end up being a series title, if I decide to go back and revisit that world. I have at least one other story idea, maybe two, but involving other characters. It was a beta reader who came up with DotDK.
But the title of The Shaman’s Curse one was obvious. The shaman is the main protagonist in that book. Better yet, there are several ways to interpret the title depending on what part of the story you look at: the shaman’s vendetta feels like a curse to the main character, his obsession ruins the shaman’s health (cursing him, in a way) and, most obviously, the shaman does actually try to curse the hero.
What’s the basic plot of your Dual Magics series?
The tag line is “The two kinds of magic have always been separate. Until now.”
Two different kinds of magic, used by two different peoples come together in one man with surprising synergy. And then come into conflict in the wider world. Which is why the final book of the series is titled War of Magic.
What music do you listen to when writing?
I can’t listen to music while I write—not a first draft, anyway. I’d sing along with the vocals and probably even hum along with an instrumental piece—even though I can’t carry a tune in a basket. (I’m not tone deaf. I can play music (piano or folk harp), but when I try to sing, I can’t hear whether I’m on or off key, so I’m usually off.) The dogs don’t care about keys, though.
So, I occasionally play music while I’m revising or editing, but not when I’m writing. I usually just have the television on in the other room for some background noise. Otherwise, it gets creepy quiet sometimes.
What are you working on now?
I just finished the first draft of the fourth (and last) book in the Dual Magics series, titled War of Magic. While that one rests a bit so I can revise it with fresh(er) eyes, I’ll be working on the first book of my next series, based (loosely) on the Hercules story–turned upside down.
An upside Hercules series? I’m intrigued.
What do you do when you have writers’ block?
Usually, I try working on something else.
How did you go about developing your striking cover artwork?
I do my own book covers. For a stand alone book or the first book in a new series, I may begin by looking at the covers of other books in the same genre on Amazon’s Top 100 list. Pretty sure those are going to be among the best covers. Then I search through Dreamstime or a similar site for appropriate images.
When I’ve generated some ideas, I do mock ups and share the best ones with beta readers or with some other people whose opinion I trust. I just did a quick count. I did 19 mock ups for The Shaman’s Curse before I came up with something I really liked. That’s unusual. It’s more commonly only two or three. Sometimes only one.
The Shaman’s Curse was particularly difficult because I had some pretty clear ideas based on the story—but I just couldn’t see how to make any of them work for a series.
And some of them telegraphed the wrong genre, if you didn’t already know how they related to the story. Yeah, some of my characters belong to a plains-dwelling herding tribe. But an image of stampeding horses just looks like it belongs on a western or maybe a cowboy romance, not a sword (or spear) and sorcery or epic fantasy.
I found a great image of a particularly evil-looking shaman. Perfect for that story. And utterly impossible to extend into covers for the other books in the series. I had to force myself to think more out of the box.
When I found the image of blue and red lightning, it started to click. Lightning actually does play a role in that story. And the blue and red symbolizes the two kinds of magic nicely. Then I just needed a foreground image. (I used a spear.) And I had it.
The other books in the series all have a dramatic blue and red background—lightning, smoke, fire—and a foreground image appropriate to that part of the overall series.
Looks impressive. Well done.
What’s your favourite line from a book?
If we’re going for just one line:
“The one thing you can’t trade for your heart’s desire is your heart.” (Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold)
What are your writing plans for this year?
I hope to finish—through revisions and publication—both War of Magic and Become (the first book in the Ascension series). If I can pull it off, I’d like to have the pre-order link for Become, along with an excerpt at the back of War of Magic. That’ll be pretty fast writing for me. I’ll also put out a limited time boxed set of the first three books of the Dual Magics series when War of Magic goes up for pre-order, but that’s just formatting, not writing. Then I’ve got the rewrite of Mage Storm to fit in there somewhere.
Sounds like a busy year, for sure!
What’s your favourite pet?
I’ve had both cats and dogs. And sometimes cats and dogs at the same time. Right now, I have two cardigan welsh corgis. I have done dog agility with both of them. While I love both dogs and cats, there’s just more stuff you can do with dogs. And they’re better at making me get outside and, you know, walk and stuff.
They look like great companions for you while writing.
Are there any writing styles or genres you dislike?
I find very few writers can pull off first-person POV’s that I enjoy. Especially first-person present tense. Or first-person narratives with more than one first-person POV, where I have to check the chapter heading to figure out which character is using the pronoun “I”.
Favourite food: Chocolate
Silliest saying: Probably something silly I call the dogs by. That varies depending on how good—or not—they’ve been.
Best holiday spot: Calaveras Big Trees
Favourite song at the moment: Gee, I haven’t been listening to much music while I was working on that first draft (see above). My favorites are always songs that tell stories. (Guess I’m just a story addict.)
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: Ouch. That’s a tough one. I think I have to give the edge to Lord of the Rings, though.
Best superpower: I’m a writer. I get to make up whatever I want. Well, as long as I can make it make sense, in the context of the story, anyway. What other superpower do you need?
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: I have always wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand.
Please do. You can stay with me in Oz.
Thanks for dropping by today, Meredith. Best wishes for all your writing adventures.
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/meredithmansfield
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