For this post, I’m doing something exciting: an interview with Gail Martin. Gail is promoting her series, Chronicles of the Necromancer, and she kindly agreed to let me interview her for the blog. Read on below for more about Gail’s series and find the sneak peek she’s offering for the fourth volumne: Dark Lady’s Chosen.
In the Summoner, you introduced us to a hero, Martris Drake, who as a necromancer, would normally be evil. While Tris uses his spirit magic for good, you have hinted at a dark side to Tris’s powers. Will we see more of this explored in further volumes?
I really wanted to question the assumption that a necromancer is necessarily evil. I don’t think that being dead makes someone a bad person, and just because a spirit is brought back from the dead, why should it change the moral compass the person had throughout life? I realized this when my grandmother died when I was just a girl. At first, the whole ghost thing spooked me, and then I realized that if my grandmother were to come back (to my knowledge, she hasn’t), it would still be my grandmother and she wouldn’t hurt me.
So the ghosts and the power itself are morally neutral. But spirit magic is very powerful and rare, and it carries a real temptation to use it for selfish ends or to say that the ends justify the means. Tris sees what this seduction costs the Obsidian King and the mage Lemuel, whose body was possessed by the Obsidian King’s spirit. As he ventures further into the moral quandaries of being a king and the battlefield issues where right and wrong become murky, it will be harder and harder for Tris to avoid making compromises. So yes, you’ll see more of this struggle, especially in Dark Lady’s Chosen.
You’re blending a lot of genres together: fantasy with light horror and most recently quite a bit of romance. What brought you to writing fantasy? What inspired you to write in this genre?
I really just started by writing the stories I wanted to read. I’ve loved fantasy and the paranormal since I was a kid, as well as vampires, ghosts, magic and haunted houses. So it’s inevitable, I guess, for all those elements to end up in my novels. As for the romance—the books are first and foremost action/adventure, but I’ve always enjoyed deeper characterizations and a hint of romance, so there it is. It’s not the most important element or the focus of the book, but when you’re dealing with a cast of characters that are young men and women in their 20s and early 30s it seems like it would be remiss to leave it out. I want to make the characters very real as well as their setting and adventures. My favorite books are the ones where I feel like I’ve really gotten to know the characters as people.
I have to ask about your inspiration for your character naming conventions. Can I ask where you get your names from? They have a great old Europe or Romany sound but also a consistent texture.
Good question! I will admit to having a stack of baby name books by my computer, and I use the online sources as well. Since the setting is quasi-northwestern European, many of the names are variants of Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, Celtic and Gaelic names, with some Bulgarian, Slovenian, Romanian influences as well. It depends on the character I’m naming.
I’m really excited for the fourth book in the series, Dark Lady’s Chosen. You’ve certainly left us with a couple of cliffhangers and done a great job in splitting focus onto various characters. How long do you expect the series to go, and will we see more of the other characters in main storylines?
Thank you! I’m hoping the series will go on in various forms for a long time. By ‘various forms’ I mean duologies and maybe trilogies that are contemporary to the first 4 books and that also go backwards or forwards in the chronology, as well as some completely unrelated storylines. I think I’ve identified at least 20 story arcs so far I’d like to work on in the Winter Kingdoms, so we’ll see!
Yes, as the books unfold I do plan to show readers more of the Winter Kingdoms and more of characters who may have just had a minor role in other books. There will be new characters as well. It’s a big world—there are lots of interesting people and plenty of stories to tell!
I think your use of a rather singular religion in the series is very interesting. You’ve got different factions fighting over it anyway, which I think reflects human nature. The Goddess has already made a few cameos. Can you tell us a little bit more about how religion affects your story world? Will we see more of Her and the Sisterhood in the following volumes?
Fantasy often either ignores religion, gives it a superficial nod and then moves on, or makes it the uber-bad guy. I wanted to have it be a part of my world and my characters’ lives in realistic ways, because it does shape the history and the culture of the world, even for agnostics and atheists. As you read the books, I think you’ll see that the Aspect of the Lady a particular individual or kingdom is drawn to colors the world view and even self image of that person/kingdom, and the choice of Aspect often tells you more about the individual/kingdom than it does about the nature of the Goddess herself!
In the real world, whether or not someone is observant or not, religion or the lack thereof is an element of culture, just like geography, social structure, economics, plague, invasion, famine, historical rivalries, politics and personality. I love playing with the texture of the 8 different major practices, and as you’ll see in Dark Haven and Dark Lady’s Chosen, there are older, partially forgotten gods and goddesses who aren’t really gone as well as a wide variety of observances for holidays and life events such as weddings, funerals, births and coming-of-age. And of course, the vayash moru and vyrkin have their own observances and perspectives shaped from their unique situations and for the vayash moru, their long lives. So yes, you’ll see more of both the Goddess and the Sisterhood as the books move forward.
Finally, any tips for the unpublished fantasy authors out there? What do you think aspiring authors can do to succeed?
To succeed, you have to keep trying. Write what you enjoy reading. Don’t write to impress other people or because someone tells you a certain type of book sells well. Write what you enjoy. Then find a couple of trusted friends who like to read the same types of books you do and try your stuff out on them. Pick people who are kind but honest: you don’t want people who enjoy shredding other people’s work for their own amusement. Then write. The more you write, the better you get. It’s ok to start with fan fiction. Many famous writers did. Eventually you’ll find a story of your own and then you’ll find the fire inside to tell it. Learn everything you can about the business of writing by reading books about publishing and going to conventions or conferences where you can talk to real writers. Some of the best books on the subject are published by Writers’ Digest Books. I think I’ve read all of them. They are very helpful.
For more about Gail’s dynamic series, visit her site: www.chroniclesofthenecromancer.com. She’s got some great content, including podcasts and a calendar of upcoming appearances. You can also read the first chapter of Dark Lady’s Chosen here.