Since becoming an independently published author last year, I have crossed paths with some pretty great people. I think indie authors are pretty awesome people - they march to the beat of their own drum, play by their own rules, and truly support and promote the art of writing and the world of literature. Marissa is one of those people. She reached out to me and made me see that being "independent" did not mean being "alone."
Her first novel Minstrel debuted the beginning of this month (my copy just arrived today!) and I was lucky enough to interview her. She has also put out a companion short story called "Darrion."
Tell me about Minstrel. Minstrel is the first of about 6 or 7 planned books that tell the story of Tir Athair and its conflict with Tir Saoirse, from the viewpoints of different characters. Minstrel tells the story of the start of the civil war, from the viewpoint of a court minstrel who gets way too involved in royal politics.
Arriving in the royal city of Cynegil just after the good king’s death, Liam and his traveling troupe face arrest for entertaining during a time of mourning. The new king, Riordan, offers them a choice: play for the court as he demands or be punished for the crime. With little recourse, they acquiesce. While the troupe entertains within the hall, Liam witnesses the dissension between the king and his twin brother, Shamus. When Shamus enlists Liam to record the kingdom’s history from his own viewpoint, the king becomes suspicious. And when Liam becomes involved with Molly, the mysterious redheaded washerwoman, and Tristan, the royal soldier with a deadly secret and a skill for causing unfortunate accidents, his life becomes even more complicated. As the kingdom staggers beneath drought, famine, and conflict, Liam and Shamus must flee Cynegil with prices on their heads. Will they survive their journey or will they become just another ballad to be sung?
Tell me about yourself. I grew up in Salmon, Idaho, where the movie theater played the same movie for two weeks. We could either get in trouble or build our talents. So I wrote my first novel when I was 12 years old. I'm not saying that novel is good! Everyone has to practice. Now I live in Reno, Nevada, with a husband, two children, and an entire urban farm. When I'm not working my day job or taking care of the family, I spend way too much time on Facebook or in my imaginary worlds. Why did you choose this genre? I've been a fantasy geek for my entire life, and I've been fascinated with medieval times since I was a child. When I was a teenager, it was a geeky obsession that drove my mother crazy. I actually listened to cassettes of Irish drinking songs while other teens listened to Metallica. I even gathered rocks in my dad's 2-acre horse field to build a castle, but got distracted after earning the money to buy the cement. (I wonder what dad ever did with that cement.) As I matured, my obsession waned but the interest and knowledge I collected is still there.
What inspired this story? About ten years ago, I wrote a story that took place in Tir Athair. The conflict between the two kingdoms was such an integral part in the story that I felt I needed to tell the story of how it all got started. Since I like to tell stories of greatness from the viewpoint of someone who isn't stereotypically great, I needed a main character who could give me that insight. While listening to a song by the band Blackmore's Night, I had the idea to make my main character a minstrel.
What would you say to someone who generally isn’t drawn to fantasy to give Minstrel a try?
It's a very character-driven story, with a lot of moral themes. Also, I like to refer to it as "low fantasy." There aren't dragons, magical orbs, or cataclysmic events. It's about normal people trying to survive.
At what moment did you like your main character least? In the first third of the book, before Liam starts getting in trouble with the crown, he and the other members of his troupe have a "falling-out". I've heard it said that everyone who is offended, and reacts in anger, feels he's justified in his actions. Liam has some of those moments. As we all learn, we're not always right when we react this way.
At what moment did you hurt for your main character the most? At the risk of giving away the plot... Halfway through the book, when Liam leaves the city with the prince, he leaves behind something that's very important to him. When he returns for it, he learns that it's no longer his.
What are some of your favorite books, authors, TV shows, movies and/or influences?
Tamora Pierce was my favorite author growing up, and her books helped instill a sense of self-worth with her girl-empowering fantasy stories. I loved how Dragonlance focused on individual characters while telling an epic story, and I admire how Jim Butcher instills so much humor and character into The Dresden Files. As far as TV and movies, I'm a sucker for the fantasy series that throw in a huge amount of character development instead of relying on swordfights and pretty dresses. The Walking Dead is great for that. It's not about the zombies; it's about the characters.
Fill in the blank—if you like _____________ you will probably like Minstrel.
If you like Tamora Pierce, but don't want to stick to teenage characters.
If you like your George R.R. Martin to be toned down just a little...
If you like historical fiction and medieval times, but aren't fussy about the details or the artistic license.
I got my copy of Minstrel today. I have a lot on my to-do list, so I told myself I would only read the first chapter. Well, three chapters later, I finally had to pry myself away and get back to reality. So now the really important stuff, where can you get your copy? Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It's available in print and in e-book format. Remember on Amazon, you can see the first few chapters for free, but I think you'll end up buying it.
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