Interview with M.J. Fifield

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? 

It’s finished?
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: 

Buy Effigy on Amazon

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? 


31 thoughts on “Interview with M.J. Fifield

  1. Great interview! And really, it being finished is a really good thing. I'm looking forward to picking up the ebook when it hits the digital shelves. It's at the top of my TBR pile. 🙂

  2. A complete book/manuscript is one of the best feelings in the world. I feel inspired to write something new myself, M.J. you might have done the same thing to me as the unicorn queen did for you. This story sounds amazing and I think story is king but character might be king and the story the top advisor. Congrats M.J. and all the best. This interview was fun, engaging and informative. Thanks Misha.

  3. Great interview ladies! Really enjoyed reading MJ's take on her favorite parts. I usually don't have any kind of favorite scene or character until the book is basically finished.

  4. The dining room storyboard was on my blog last month, I think. Maybe the month before. But I should take a new picture of it because it's evolved a lot since then.

  5. Awesome interview! I like the book cover, very pretty. I also like that you were inspired by books you read when you were younger. Yay for falling in love with stories at a young age!

  6. I attended a workshop by Terry Brooks, author of the Shannara series. He said to constantly have a notebook in the car with you to jot down story ideas. Then he said that when it came time to write the story, ignore everything in the notebook. If it wasn't important enough for you to remember, it shouldn't be in the story.
    Obviously, this doesn't apply to serious planning that gets written down. But I've come to believe he's right about the more casual stuff, no matter how important it seemed at the time.

  7. HI, Misha, Hi, M.J.

    A very cool interview… I like 'REAL” writers and M.J. you philosophy and attitude is REAL.. You admit it too FOREVER to get you book where it needs to be. Bravo…

    Me,too. Still have tons of work to complete on my first novel which I wrote FIVE years ago. It has transformed after at least a hundred revisions and probably needs a few more. Lol. At least my second novel is finally ready for submission. That only took three plus years. Maybe the next will only take two plus. LOL.

    Congrats M. J. ALL THE BEST!!!!

    Misha, glad to hear things are running smoother for you…

  8. I do always have a notebook with me. I used to have a little tape recorder to keep in the car, so I could get down ideas while driving.

    But I do tend to remember the important stuff anyway. Funny how that works.

  9. I went and stalked her all the way to twitter because I really want this book!! I love meeting other fantasy authors that write about girls and swords and all kinds of fun stuff!

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