Friday, November 30, 2012

Feature Friday: Melanie Card



Don't forget to participate in the Dreaming of Summer Giveaway/Hop (here).

Melanie has always been drawn to storytelling and can't remember a time when she wasn’t creating a story in her head. Her early stories were adventures with fairies and dragons and sword swinging princesses.

Today she continues to spin tales of magic in lands near and far, while her cat sits on the edge of her desk and supervises. When she’s not writing, you can find her pretending to be other people with her local community theatre groups.

Interview:
A.L.: 
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Melanie:
Hi A.L., thanks for inviting me on your blog today. The advice I try to follow is just keep writing. You never know if anyone’s gong to be interested in your stories or not and you also don’t know when that might happen. So when you finish a story (and it’s clean and beautiful and as perfect as you can make it to your current abilities), send it out and start the next one. If that first one doesn’t catch someone’s interest then you’ll have another one ready soon.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Melanie:
I’m not sure I like to pick favorites. There are lots of books I love and a lot of different reasons to love a story. The one book I do tend to go back to is “Magic’s Pawn” by Mercedes Lackey. There’s something about the story that resonates with me (that and it’s a wonderful example of how to torture your characters).

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Ward Against Death?

Melanie:
Ward Against Death came from a couple of ideas. It was close to Halloween and I was watching Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hallow on TV. I really liked Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Ichabod Crane. I liked that he was quirky and endearing and determined to deal with a horrible situation no matter how terrified he was (I’m also a fan of the fact that he gets the girl in the end). At the same time I was toying with the question about what the situation would be for a traditionally bad character (a necromancer) to be the good guy. That night, Ward de’Ath showed up. He’s the boy next door, trying hard to do the right thing, and forced to fall back on the family business of necromancy to pay his rent even though he’d rather not be a necromancer. From there the pieces started to fall into place.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Ward Against Death?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Melanie:
The first 75% of the story fell together like it had always been there just waiting for me to write it down (not all of my stories are that easy to write). I had given myself an ambitious timeline (just to see if I could do it) and didn’t want to stop and spend the time figuring out the final 25%. So I plowed through the ending and sent it off to my critique partner. A couple weeks later I got this email from her saying she loved the book but I took this weird left turn in the ending and if I was smart I’d toss the last hundred pages and rewrite them. That’s not the kind of critique I wanted to hear. But when I went back and looked at the draft she was right. I took this bizarre turn that didn’t make any sense. I tossed the last hundred pages and completely rewrote them. As much as I love saving words and reworking them and sculpting them, sometimes they just shouldn’t be saved.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Ward Against Death is your favorite and why?

Melanie:
Ward is my favorite. Although a part of why I love him is because of his interactions with Celia. Ward is honest and earnest and does what he says no matter how difficult it is or how scared he might be. He’s not a big, strong, hero of a man, not yet, we’re just starting to see his hero potential. He needs to figure himself out and grow into the person he’s supposed to be. That’s what I love about Ward.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Melanie:
I started seriously pursuing publication back in 2004. I sent out my first query letter, received a requested full and then waited a year and a half (I really didn’t know anything about the business back then) only to learn through the internet that “that editor had left the company.” I learned more about the business and sent out many more query letters for that manuscript (currently unpublished) and wrote Ward Against Death. I sent out tons of queries for Ward. No one wanted it. I wrote more books and sent out even more letters—I have a good couple hundred rejection letters—and finally, in 2011, after I’d written a number of novels, Entangled Publishing expressed interest in Ward Against Death (and another series that I’d started).

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Melanie:
The second book in the Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer series, Ward Against Darkness, is in edits with my editor, and I’m finishing the final touches on the third book (in the four book series).

A.L.:
So, you’ve always wanted to be a writer?  Can you tell us a little bit about the very first story you ever concocted?

Melanie:
For the most part I always wanted to be a writer. I lost my way around high school and university and then found the path back  to writing. One of the very first stories I wrote was about Sprinkle the Fairy. There’s a terrible dragon destroying her magical forest and she had to defeat the monster. Except the dragon isn’t really a monster, he’s just scared and lonely and trying to find a way back home. Sprinkle uses her magic to help him and everyone lives happily ever after. It  was a picture book. The magic forest has purple and orange trees.

A.L.:
Ward Against Death would be termed “new adult” because Ward is twenty.  What made you choose that age in particular for him?

Melanie:
When I started I had no intention of writing a “new adult” (I wrote Ward Against Death years before I knew about the new adult genre). In reality, historical fantasy fiction often has young protagonists and there’s no age distinction regarding how they’re shelved. I suspect the young protagonist is part of the coming of age tradition often found in fantasy. For Ward, I knew he had been kicked out of school in his final year and that being a physician would require a certain amount of maturity, so he couldn’t been too young. Or at least, not too young for a modern day audience to accept (in Ward’s time period kids were apprenticed—and married—at really young ages, 10, 12, 14 years old). I’m not sure I’d want a 14 year old prescribing me medicine so I knew I couldn’t go that young. I also have the problem with Celia being an assassin. I didn’t want her to be too young either when she’d killed her first person. For some reason the idea of a 12 year old killing someone really bothered me. So I picked twenty.

A.L.:
So, Ward’s falling for Celia, who is a chick he raised from the dead...Do people give you funny looks when they find out about that or do people kind of take it in swing because of the whole vampire thing?

Melanie:
It’s funny, some people haven’t done the math on it and are surprised when I point out that Celia is actually undead. When I remind them that they also read vampire stories, they get this funny expression like they can’t seem to make what Celia is match with how they think about vampires. Others don’t even bat an eyelash like undead girls happen all the time. I love that I write in a genre where I can bring people back from the dead.

The Giveaway:
Melanie is giving away a copy of Ward Against Death.
Ward Against Death: Twenty-year-old Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple job—bring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeon—the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying—so bringing people back from the dead it is.

But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.

However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive…

Excerpt:
Her eyes narrowed and her hand snaked under the pillow. “It’s not wise to enter a lady’s bedchamber without her consent.”
            Ward plastered on his calmest, gentlest expression. The newly wakened dead often assumed they had just roused from sleep. “You’ve been unwell.”
            Her icy blue eyes examined him, her gaze jumping from his face, to his wig, to his jacket, and back to his face. “Unwell? Is that what my father told you?”
            “In a manner of speaking.” She wasn’t acting the way she was supposed to.
Noblewomen, particularly those around his age, were usually demure or aloof—not suspicious.
            “Well, I’m fine, and I’m sorry my father troubled you.” She threw back the covers, sat up, and stepped onto the thick rug. “Now go, be a good doctor, and tell my family I’m healthy and sleeping.” She punctuated her last word by pulling her nightdress over her head, revealing a slim waist, athletic muscles, and pale skin marked with the purple bruises of livor mortis along her back. And no other clothes.
            “But—” He flushed and spun around to face the wall. “What are you doing?” No. Wait. What was he doing? He’d seen a dead naked woman before. Just never like this.
            She chuckled. “I’m going for a walk.”
            “A what? No—You can’t.” She really wasn’t acting the way she was supposed to.
            “I beg to differ.”
            The situation was spiraling out of hand. Damn it, he had to take control. He was the necromancer, she the newly awakened. She was supposed to listen to him.
            He turned to confront her. Thankfully, she was fully dressed—in men’s clothes, but at least she was dressed. “Listen, I—”
            She slipped her hand under her pillow and removed a sheathed dagger.
            Great Goddess! She kept a dagger under her pillow? Ward inched toward the door to block her escape without appearing obvious, although he had no idea what he’d do if she fought him. Why did he always get stuck with the difficult corpses?


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