"As you might guess, these fantasy stories are not your typical quest or chosen one deals. I didn’t know that Phillip Pullman already did the arctic witch schtick in the Golden Compass," Marva told me. "When I granddaughter pointed that out when she read an early draft, I was aghast. I certainly didn’t copy Pullman’s idea since I hadn’t heard of it before. Finally, I decided to heck with it. My witch island was completely different from Pullman’s. My story depended on the setting, so I forged ahead."
Marva would like to continue the series, but move the focus to Kat's half-brother, Rune who is half-vampire/half-warlock ("lots of halves there," Marva joked). Rune is a major player in the first three books and several readers have asked Marva to give him his own book.
"I did write a short story prequel to the series about Rune’s early years. It’s a bonus story with the first book if purchased through MuseItUp (or just ask me in the comments and I’ll send a PDF of the short)," Marva said. "Rune’s book will deal with his ambivalent feelings for his vampire father, who didn’t know he even had a son. Talk about your daddy issues!"
I asked Marva what inspired her to start writing.
"Quitting my day job. Actually, I’ve written a lot over the last 40 years, but most was technical documentation. My day job included technical writing, programming, and managing writer groups for high-tech companies. I wrote a few short stories through the years; however, I never pursued publishing anything. I just didn’t feel like I had the time with the job and raising my family. When the boys finally left home, I had more time, but didn’t take advantage of it. When we returned to Oregon, rather than finding another job, I thought I’d go free-lance for a while. During that time, I wrote a book for Que Publishing. Rats! It was all about using a database system. Would I never break free from the endless servitude to a corporate monopoly?
"Eventually, I did break free and decided the time had come to do jump into fiction. I started with lots of short stories and did have quite a few published. One November a few years ago, I heard about Nanowrimo. Why not? I wanted to see if I could write more than a short story. 30 days and 55,000 words later, I had a terrible book, but I did have a book. That broke the ice for me. Since then I’ve written lots of books. No huge 120K word things, but I did break 60K on Ultimate Duty when I enhanced a science fiction novella titled First Duty. Baby steps all the way."
"In other words, I wanted to write the anti-me," she said. "Remy is tall, beautiful, competent, and definitely kick-ass. Remy’s first story became a couple of chapters in the book. I put her into an untenable situation where she had to think her way out of sure death. When I continued Remy into another story, I knew she had more to show readers. From the two stories, I developed the more complex plot of the novel."
I asked her to tell us about Ultimate Duty.
Remy Belieux, a woman born into a life of servitude on a repressive factory planet, is desperate for a different life. When she's accepted into the Space Service Academy, run by the organization that enslaves her planet, she discovers the truth behind generations of rebellion. Now, she must decide what to believe, where her ultimate duty lies, and fight for more than her life against impossible odds.On the other hand, she wrote a murder mystery, Missing, Assumed Dead which is also released by MuseItUp Publishing, in which she developed the plot first and built the character, Kam McBride as the person most capable of handling the plot.
"Funny thing, Kam and Remy are much alike. My female characters are never the ones to depend on a man to save them. They don’t avoid the guys, but the women are more likely to take the lead," Marva said.
I asked Marva what she saw as the differences and similarities between science fiction and fantasy.
"Difference is easy. Science fiction has to have some basis in a possible technological innovation. The technology might be farfetched, but it still has to be possible, maybe even plausible. Fantasy, by its nature, is about the impossible or at least highly implausible. I can see Frankenstein as plausible; Dracula is implausible," she said. "The similarities are far more subtle. Is Star Wars fantasy or science fiction? Easily, it is both. The concepts of starfighters, colonized planets, empires, and so on are all within the realm of plausibility."
Marva told me she has a great setup for writing in the family—"right next to the kitchen for quick snacking," she said. Her oak computer desk faces out a big window where she can watch the squirrels playing. Music distracts her when she writes, however she has gotten used to the sound of the dishwasher, her husband's power equipment, and her cat's vocal worrying about the aforementioned squirrels.
Getting motivated to start a new project is the hardest part of writing for Marva. Unlike other authors who can have multiple irons in the fire at various stages of completion, Marva can't start another project until what she is writing has been polished and she begins to submit it. Then, once a sold book goes into edits, cover and promotion, all work done on anything else comes to a standstill.
"I feel like I should push past that and keep at a started project even if the rest of the stuff is urgent and top priority," she said.
"What do you like to do when you are not writing?" I wondered.
"I may be the most boring person on earth when it comes to extracurricular activities. I don’t have any hobbies. I’ve never seen the value of them. I might just not have found the right thing to hobby or collect. Most people mention family activities, sports (like skiing) or fitness (like jogging). My family is either too far away to visit regularly or they live so close (literally across the street), family get togethers are a daily occurrence," she said. "My husband and I do love it when our granddaughters visit, but we only get to see them once or twice a year. Their summers are filled, nay stuffed, with activities. They go to various camps, play sports, go camping with their mom and stepdad. By the time they’ve worked through all the things they’ve signed up for, the summer is over and they head back to school. Do I sound plaintive? I’m afraid I am. This is a tough time within our family. My father passed away a few months back and my mother is trying to adjust after 67 years of marriage. There aren’t many jolly things going on right now. I hope this will get better as time goes by."
She and her husband do go to Las Vegas once a year, but she told me it used to be more fun with free shows, big discounts, and so on.
"The economy is down, so instead of lowering prices and making great deals for visitors, the casinos go the opposite route with higher prices for shows and dining," she said. "They don’t seem to get that if I have to pay more for the food, that’s less I’ll spend at the blackjack table. Dumb thinking on their part. How DID I get off on this tangent?"
"If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?" I wondered.
"I wouldn’t have wasted my time querying agents. I’d get so close, then didn’t make the cut with agents. It discouraged me, it made me feel worthless, it almost made me give up entirely. When I quit wasting my time that way, I’m very happily working with small publishers. Eternal Press published Ultimate Duty, then I sent a murder mystery to a brand-new publisher, MuseItUp. They hadn’t even released any books yet. In a short period, they have several hundred books out and a highly loyal herd of authors. The entire publication crew is top notch and a joy to work with. Given the short period they’ve been in business, I’d say they’ve worked miracles.
"I like having the gravitas afforded by a 'real' publisher, even if the publisher is in Pierrefonds, Quebec and not New York. They’re doing the right thing, in my opinion, by hitting the ebook wave at the right time. Yes, they have print books as well, but I think the writing is clearly on the wall, and that wall is a ereader screen."
In Marva's imagined future, the discovery of a wormhole technology based on Einstein’s theories (Einstein-Rosen Bridge) makes colonization of other planets possible. The technology, unfortunately, is wholly owned by a combined corporation, SemCorp. Anybody who wants to travel to other planets has to go through SemCorp. This gives them power over just about everybody.
She thought about having alien cultures, but went a slightly different way.
"Since colonization is several hundred years on-going, I thought that some amount of genetic shifting would occur. Thus, Smith (whose name isn’t pronounceable, so he goes by just Smith) has an odd physique required by his home planet’s atmosphere," she explained. "The people of his planet had to be genetically engineered to survive in what would be a poisonous atmosphere to other humans. Another modification is seen with Captain Herrick from Deutchslund, a high-gravity planet which has made its inhabitants stocky and muscular to suit their environment."
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"Do it. Don’t hesitate like I did. I really regret not being more aggressive about making the time to write. I so admire many of the authors I’ve met who work full-time jobs and raise kids, but they write anyway, taking any spare minute they have to pursue their dream. Absolutely go for it. Don’t wait until a more convenient time. Do it now. Right this second. You, there, browsing this interview, go write something just as soon as you’ve finished reading my words of wisdom. Go now, write.
"And having writ, get your butt into a critique group before flinging your deathless prose out to agents and publishers. Nobody can produce a decent product without a lot of help from fellow writers. You can join any of many excellent on-line critique groups or form a writers group in your town for face-to-face time."
About the Author:
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Twitter Handle: @Gurina