Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Interview with Michael Meyerhofer

I've got another interview with a fantasy author for you all today, so I know you're super excited! Michael Meyerhofer is the author of Wytchfire, the first book in the Dragonkin Trilogy, and he's here to tell us all about it! Be sure to enter the Wytchfire blog tour giveaway at the end of the post!

Sales pitch time! Tell us a little bit about Wytchfire and why it should be the next book added to everyone’s to-read list.  

Glad to… but first, thanks for having me!  I’m happy to be here to talk about Wytchfire, a dark/epic fantasy novel set in a world of murder and political intrigue, where magic is more curse than blessing.  The story is mostly told from the perspective of Rowen Locke, a sardonic mercenary who just so happens to have a conscience, though we also get to see through the eyes of an eclectic cast of characters who inhabit all sides of this mounting conflict.  While the novel is fast-paced, hopefully with enough twists and fight scenes to satisfy a pay-per-view fan, I wove in a lot of moral ambiguity and social commentary, too.  Oh, and dark humor.  I’m a huge fan of dark humor, too.  I guess if I had to boil the novel and its sequels down to one sentence, I’d say “Think Game of Thrones meets The X-Men.”

Wytchfire is first in the Dragonkin trilogy, but I know when I plan “trilogies,” they tend to, um, expand. So do you have all three books planned out? Any possible spinoffs and/or sequels? Or will you be visiting an entirely new world next?  

It’s funny you ask that because just the other day, I was looking over my series notes (which, were I to print them off, would kill more trees than lightning), and thinking about how I’d originally planned this to be a five book series.  Ultimately, I decided to condense it to a more fast-paced trilogy, but I also left plenty of room for a second trilogy to follow.  Having already written Book II of the trilogy and started Book III (titled The Knight of the Crane and The War of the Lotus, respectively), I have this first trilogy pretty well laid out.  I have some notes on a second trilogy, plus some ideas for a stand-alone novella or two, but those are still mostly floating around my brain at this point.  Meanwhile, I’ve also started working on a completely separate fantasy series.  That book is “done” though I haven’t quite ironed out where that whole series will be going yet.

Other than your own, who are your favorite fictional dragons? And fictional (or real!) witches? 

Oh, that’s a tough one! The kid in me still has a soft spot for Vermithrax from the 1981 movie, Dragonslayer, along with Heart’s Blood from Jane Yolen’s Pit Dragon Chronicles and Fireflash from the Dragonlance books.  As for witches, I think some of the creepiest were in Rosemary’s Baby and Dune, though I also have an affinity for Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter.  I also currently love/loathe Melisandre from the Song of Ice and Fire books (and the Game of Thrones TV series). As for real witches, I’m afraid I’m sworn to secrecy.  

In addition to being a novelist, you are also a poet! Do you prefer writing poetry or fiction? And which is easier to edit? 

Honestly, since both have been a big part of my life for so long, I don’t think I could choose one over the other.  They’re both my children.  They both bring me joy—and they both have their own special ways of throwing tantrums so bad that I have to pull the car over.  When it comes to editing, it obviously takes a lot of hours to comb through a manuscript of prose, then do it again, then again… then maybe do it four or five more times.  With poetry, though, the editing process is less global but still intense.  You can spend hours tinkering with just one single line.  So when it comes to editing, my cop-out answer is that both probably take the about the same effort, though they require it in different ways.

As writers, we often have preferences about language that I would hesitate to find neurotic. How about you? Any favorite constructions or punctuation marks? 

I’ve always had a soft spot for sentence fragments.  I love using them to convey action and tension, though obviously, they’re also very risky because the reader has to be able to tell that you’re using them on purpose.  If they think it’s just a typo, you lose credibility.  I’m also a near-rabid fan of em dashes, both in prose as well as poetry, so much so that I usually have to go back and force myself to take some of them out.

You’re magically transported to a medieval-esque fantasy setting. What’s one modern invention you hope you’re holding onto and can take with you?  

Well, I wanted to say my Keurig because I have a feeling I’m going to need some extra energy, but I suppose I’ll go with the obvious answer and pick some kind of handgun with an absurdly large capacity magazine, since I might have trouble finding electrical outlets.

What’s one question you wish someone had asked you on your tour that you haven’t gotten to answer yet? Question and answer, please! 

Ha, thanks! I’ve been waiting for someone to ask about the biggest inspirations behind all the different realms and city-states in my fantasy world, along with some of the different races.  Being an unapologetic documentary nerd, I’m always collecting historic tidbits and trying to work them in, or reimagine them somehow.  

In Wytchfire, the Lotus Isles obviously have some similarities to Japan, though especially with the Isle Knights, I tried to portray them less like the samurai as we see them in movies and mythology—wholly honorable, undefeatable—and more like how they actually were.  Ivairia is my take on medieval Europe, especially France.  The Dhargots (who take a more prominent role in the sequel, The Knight of the Crane) started out as a cross between the cultures of Rome and Carthage, though as I further developed their culture, I really emphasized the Roman ambition for bloody overexpansion.  

The Free Cities are patterned somewhat after ancient Greece, with a lot of influence from Archimedes, though the southern city of Atheion is probably more of a synthesis of Venice and ancient Alexandria.

As for the Sylvs of the Wytchforest, though they’re similar on the surface to fantasy Elves, I also wanted to avoid the obvious tropes and freshen up my portrayal.  The Sylvs are haughty isolationists, sure, but they’re also very different from the pristine Elves of Tolkien’s Middle-earth.  In fact, in Wytchfire, many of the Sylvs are paranoid to such a degree that they routinely engage in infanticide in order to protect their bloodlines.  That figures heavily into their conflict with the Shel’ai… those Sylvs born seemingly at random with the ability to work magic.  

I mentioned earlier that magic is seen more as a curse than a gift.  That’s because even centuries later, the whole continent is still trying to recover from the brutal reign of the Dragonkin (a previous generation of sorcerers who literally gained their powers by draining the life-essence of dragons).  The result is that even after the Dragonkins’ defeat, it’s simply taken on faith that magic is a bad thing.  An unquestioned, universal mistrust of magic permeates all social and political dealings, along with a general dislike of foreigners, leading to the core conflicts of the series.  Since the paranoia and bigotry of Rowen’s world really aren’t so different from our own, hopefully this will give the audience a special insight into a place that is not only savage, but also quite beautiful and exotic.

Ha, I just realized that my response turned into a mini treatise.  Thanks for indulging me!  I appreciate your invitation to talk about Wytchfire and I hope your good readers will give it a try.

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