Hi all! Sorry for my very long absence! The good news is that that lucky break I’ve been hoping for seems to have come. But of course, that means that I’m putting in some long hours. (As in I’ve been putting in 18 hour days since Monday.)
But enough of that. Today, I’m welcoming MJ Fifield to my blog, so that we can talk a bit about writing, her new book and everything in between.
Welcome to my blog, M.J. Why don’t we start off with you telling the readers more about yourself?
Thank you for having me, Misha. I see we’re starting with the tough questions…Let’s see…I live in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley where I work in retail by day and write by night. I’m a semi-avid hiker and biker. I’m starting to become more of a runner, too. (Of course, I was so much NOT a runner before that any amount of running now would make me more of a runner.) I watch too much television and eat too much junk food. I’m also addicted to buying pens, spiral-bound notebooks, and books. So many books. Oh, and swords and daggers. I do have a lot of those, too. I’m also prone to rambling, but that’s probably obvious right now, huh?
Ooh the swords and daggers sound fun, but I’m sure your notebooks interest our readers more. What do you write in them?
I write story notes, notes about character or possible plot problem solutions—that kind of thing. Dialogue. Lots and lots of dialogue. There are a lot of full scenes, too, as just about every scene I create starts off handwritten in a notebook. I also jot down song lyrics that resonate with me and soundbites from shows that amuse me. And, of course, every notebook has a section devoted to sarcastic work-themed haiku.
Ah yes. I know from reading your blog that you’re a plotter. How do you approach planning out your drafts?
I still consider myself to be relatively new at being a plotter. I have yet to plot out a novel from start to finish, and I’m curious to see what will happen when I do. Effigy wasn’t plotted out at all ahead of time—probably what took me so long to get it to a point where I was happy with it. It wasn’t until I was in Part Two of its sequel, Second Nature, that I really started to plan things out. And because I am a visual learner, I do it on my dining room walls (I have a very understanding significant other) with a combination of index cards and post-it notes. I scribble a one sentence synopsis of each scene (index card), or each proposed scene (post-it note), and stick it on the wall. I move them around like puzzle pieces, adding and subtracting as needed, until I find the order that feels correct. Then I start writing.
Sounds sensible. What inspired you to write Effigy?
When I was probably twelve (maybe thirteen) years old, my mother bought me a trio of books she found in our local bookstore. They were the first three books in a series called The Secret of the Unicorn Queen, about an ordinary teenage girl who’s accidentally transported into a parallel universe filled with magic, swords, and women warriors riding unicorns. It was totally my thing. It still is my thing. Anyway, I loved the premise so much that, in high school, I decided to write my own story about an ordinary teenage girl who’s accidentally transported into a parallel universe filled with magic, swords, and rebels riding unicorns. Many, many moons and many, many incarnations later,Effigy was born. Thanks, mom!
Speaking of Effigy. Want to tell us a bit more about it? Where will we be able to buy it?
Effigy is the first book in the Coileáin Chronicles, a fantasy series which ultimately will tell the story of the three Coileáin sisters and the role each will play in an epic struggle between good and evil. I set out to write a more character-driven fantasy because for me and the books I like to read, character is king. So in addition to the more traditional fantasy elements—magic, sword fights, unicorns (yes, there are unicorns in my novel. Some of them even talk.), etc.—there’s also a good amount of human drama. Effigy’s main character is a young woman named Haleine. She starts off leading this very charmed and happy life, but after one of those cruel twists of which fate is so often fond, she ends up on a much darker path that really leaves her raw by the end of things. And did I mention the sarcastic pegasus?
The novel will be available in both paperback and e-book form. It can be found on Amazon beginning July 22nd, and will eventually make its way to Smashwords, iTunes, and possibly a pair of local independent bookstores in the Mount Washington Valley.
Sounds awesome. What’s your favorite part about Effigy?
Seriously, though, I’m not sure this is the right way to answer this question, but it’s true confession time: While I am immensely fond of this entire book—this labor of love over which I’ve been toiling for longer than I care to admit—there are a pair of scenes of which I am particularly proud. (Even though it is probably very uncool to admit such a thing.) They’re emotionally raw (rawer?) scenes that are, I think, an example of me pushing outside of my comfort zone (a very small and cozy, if sarcastic, place) to write them the way they needed to exist for the benefit of the story. Whenever I receive feedback from a beta reader, I usually flip to these scenes first, always hoping to see a note like, “THIS IS THE MOST BRILLIANT THING I’VE EVER READ!” but ultimately just happy when I don’t see something like “MAN, THAT WAS SUPER LAME!” scribbled in the margins.
But, also, I am legitimately thrilled that this book is finally finished. It’s been a long time coming, after all.
Yeah I know exactly what you mean. There are some places that simply come from a deeper place in our hearts.
Last question: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Well, it probably isn’t the most traditional writing advice ever, but there was an English poet named Philip Sidney who lived from 1554 to 1586. I came across him in high school, and one of his sonnets ended with the line “Fool,” my Muse said to me, “look in thy heart and write.”
And that really resonated with me and has stuck with me ever since. It just seems like a good writing philosophy to have.
As is “Never Give Up, Never Surrender!” from the late 90’s movie Galaxy Quest.
I apparently never do anything traditionally.
Hahaha awesome advice. Loved having you over, M.J.
You can find M.J. here:
So ladies and gents, how did you get inspired to write what you’re working on at the moment? And how are you doing? Who else thinks the Effigy cover is beautiful?