In winters like this—where the wind was a silent enemy that blistered everything it touched—his tribe would hunker in the belly of the White Mountain. Families drawn close and circling small fires never expecting to lose each other.
At least that’s how he felt before the exile.
This dangerous train of thought faded as his silent enemy shook his makeshift home made from branches and thickets. His body, numbed from the cold, protected a waning fire.
I’m here with Crystin Goodwin to talk about her fantasy series The Blessings in Myrillia. Make sure to check out her books UnBlessed, Fire Blessed, and Ice Blessedafter you’re done reading the interview.
Lets get started!
Crystin, can you give us a quick synopsis of your Blessings in Myrillia series?
In a world where magic dictates everything, one young girl struggles with her status as one of the distasteful unBlessed. Kisara is considered the lowest in Melior society, but at least she’s still superior to the savages that roam the wilds of Myrillia … or so she thought. Soon, Kisara discovers that not all is as it seems in her world, and the true source of the conflict between her race and the beastly Transeatur has been forgotten over the ages. She must uncover the truth and expose the dark secrets of the past before her people find themselves at the mercy of a monster.
Your series features a large cast of vibrant, complex, characters. Can you discuss this? What were some difficulties or lessons that you learned?
Well, originally I started out with three main characters – Kisara, Lucien, and Sebastian – who represented specific roles in society: the elite, the outcast, and the prejudiced. However, as I developed the world and plot surrounding my little trio, a lot of my supporting cast took a life of their own. Lucien’s friend Marius started off as a simple sidekick, but thanks to a few changes I made to the end of UnBlessed, his role ended up being much more important … and complicated. The Transeatur shaman, Dominic, is another character who grew to be more influential than originally planned with his calm wise outlook. And don’t even get me started on the villain! Their story is fleshed out a lot more in Ice Blessed, and I honestly think it’s some of the best writing I’ve done to date.
While I might have a large cast of characters, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve managed to create such a diverse pool of personalities. It makes it a lot more fun to write! I especially enjoy exploring how each character interacts with the others – especially when there are strong feelings involved.
As for difficulties or lessons, yes, I found a few. I started telling Kisara’s story when she was quite young: thirteen in fact. While I still feel this is important (it allows the reader to better understand her character arc) I also realize that almost no one wants to read about a thirteen-year-old, especially when they appear to be pretty typical, normal thirteen year-olds. Another lesson learned is to be very careful with your character names. I have a side character named Silvester as well as my main character Sebastian. I sometimes find myself switching the names by accident when talking about the characters. (Thank goodness I never make that error when writing!) However, it’s a good idea to try and keep names different.
I just have to ask this: which of your characters is your favorite?
Hands down, Marius Caleo. I know, I know: I shouldn’t have favorites, but seriously, Marius is my absolute favorite. Arrogant, sarcastic, handsome, wealthy … yet he still manages to do the right thing – good things – by accident. I like to call him my loveable jerk. Plus, who wouldn’t love a guy who can control fire?
I’ve read gushing reviews from readers who adore the elemental magic system in your series. Some say that your magic system is more captivating than the complex systems usually found within the fantasy genre. Can you comment on this? How do you feel about magic systems in general?
I love magic. My preferred reading genre is fantasy (of all types), and I appreciate the magic found in all sorts of media: cartoons, movies, video games … even the magic of Disney theme parks!
When creating the magic systems for Myrillia, I wanted to incorporate some of my favorite elements to create something new. The elemental magic system my race the Melior use, is loosely based off the elementalist class and the shaman class from several video games I’ve played. In Myrillia, a Melior individual is gifted with an affinity with a specific element: fire for example. Fire Blessed are capable of conjuring flames out of nothing, can extinguish flames around them with a thought, have a higher tolerance for heat, and so on. There are multiple elements, many of which I haven’t fully explored in the existing books, but include Fire, Air, Earth, Water, Magic, along with many others.
On the flip side, my other race – the Transeatur – are shapeshifters. They possess a guardian Animal Spirit and can change into that form at will. They’re not quite werewolves, as there isn’t any tie to lunar cycles and they don’t lose their ‘humanity’ while in animal form … but they are physically stronger and faster and possess keener senses than Melior. So again, I took the aspects of the magic I liked and adapted it for my own world.
The world of Myrillia is so rich and surreal. Can you discuss the inspiration behind it?
Ooh, good question! Honestly, it’s a lot like my magic systems: I took all the things that make up my idea of a perfect world and made it the setting. I love unspoiled nature, so there’s a lot of woodlands and pastures … lots of greenery and peaceful settings with minimal technology. After all, if you can do almost anything and everything with magic, why would you need gadgets to do the same? When it comes to the cities and settlements in Myrillia, I’ve always been fascinated with ancient Rome and medieval England, so I worked aspects of those cultures into Melior society. The Transeatur way of life is loosely based on Native American lifestyles and beliefs.
So basically, it’s a hodgepodge.
Is there a hidden message or theme present in your series?
Oh yes, many. Some aren’t hidden at all; at least, I feel they’re pretty obvious. Like the prejudice between the Melior and Transeatur: I use several characters to explore both the cause and effect of prejudice. In Fire Blessed, I have a character who embodies the self-esteem issues many teens face. And all throughout the series – in fact, the theme that drives the entire plot – is the message/saying: things are not always as they seem. I have dozens (honestly, I’ve lost count) of scenes that have vastly different meaning when reread through the eyes of another character.
I love working in hints and foreshadowing reality versus what a character wants or is taught to see. I’m the type of reader that loves to reread books, and my favorite stories are the ones that feel like a different book the second time around. Sort of like the Sixth Sense – the movie with Bruce Willis. The first time you watch the movie, it’s just a thriller. But when you watch it a second time, knowing the crazy plot twist at the end, you notice hundreds of little clues that were there all along! I wanted to try and do this with my books: because in my opinion, there’s nothing more flattering than having someone read your story twice.
If you could give three tips to aspiring authors, what would they be?
Three tips, hmm?
Don’t be afraid to experiment, even if it’s in the middle of your manuscript. Two of my most popular scenes came from my messing around when I didn’t know what to write. Stuff that I thought was really stupid and cheesy, but fun to write. At the time, I was aiming for daily word counts and I couldn’t figure out where I wanted my story to go, so I decided to just play around. I discovered that when you, the author, have fun writing something, it transfers to the reader. (I used this knowledge to my advantage with my second novel: I loved the central characters of that book so much and had a blast inventing things to put them through … and my enthusiasm shows in the writing.)
Get a reader to look over your work before you send it to an editor or critique group. It can be a friend or random stranger (depending on your comfort level) but make sure they like to read your genre! You don’t want to ask someone who reads crime fiction to judge your romance novel … or vice versa. To add to this tip: make sure you invest in a quality editor. Trust me, next to a good cover, this is the most important thing for creating the best book possible.
Finally, take the time to network. Connect with readers, with blog visitors, and with other professionals. The creative community, especially the indie community, is full of generous and wonderful people. You might be surprised at who you might discover: I found both my editor and my cover designer through my blog comments. Not only that, but I’ve developed wonderful friendships with both of them, and with countless other visitors. There are lots of people out there willing to help you succeed: you just have to reach out to them.
“It was the Choice. Always the Choice—and it had to be given.
‘Who will the forfeit be?’ She asked slowly.
I shook my head. They always wanted to know although they knew they wouldn’t be told. She had known the conditions when she accepted the return of her life for a period of time.”
In K.W. McCabe’s Choices, a dark lord gives souls the opportunity to come back to life. However, he will come and collect payment. After a period of time, his messenger, Thomas, will appear and give them one doozy of a choice:
Return to the world of the dead OR have someone else take their place.
The narrative doesn’t say outright, but it seems as if Thomas has been doing this for a long time. Though he appears to just be “following orders” he also has his own feelings and opinions about his “job.” For instance, he harbors a bit of disdain for the souls around him—especially for the soul he has to collect.
S.E. Stone from Paper, Pen, and No Plan “bookshelf tagged” me earlier this week. I thought it would be fun to do (not to mention that I am way behind with my posts) so here’s the rules:
“Answer the following questions about books on your bookshelf and then tag five other bloggers. You can answer the questions any way you want, whether it’s on your blog, in a video, or a combination of the two. Then remember to let whoever tagged you know when your post is up so they can read it.”
– S.E. Stone
1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?
I haven’t came across such a book yet. So no 🙁
2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre?
4. Is there a book series you read but wish that you hadn’t?
There isn’t a single book that I’ve read that I didn’t like. However, I do wish that I would have finished Emily Rodda’s Deltora Questseries before watching the anime.
5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?
Omigosh a fire!!! I would grab my laptop—hands down. It has everything on it…including my digital library. 🙂
6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?
The City of Towers by Keith Baker. My parents gave this book to me on my 13th birthday. It was a book of “firsts”: 1st book I ever owned, 1st fantasy book I ever enjoyed, and the 1st longest book I ever read.
7. Find a book that has inspired you the most.
Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. This is a book I would recommend to anyone trying to start any sort of creative project. Pressfield taught me to ignore resistance and just get things done.
8. Do you have any autographed books?
No…I don’t 🙁
I’ll have to make a point to get one just for the heck of it!
9. Find the book that you have owned the longest.
Bram Stokers Dracula and a Webster Thesaurus that my dad gave me.
I know—that’s two books!
Thing is, I’ve had them both for such a long time that I can’t remember which came first.
10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?
Captain Underpants by Dave Pilkey. This series was the rave during gradeschool! However, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about until I read one myself.
“Have you nothing to say?” Mother stood, hand fisted. She fixed him with her steel gaze. “You, Raven.” She pointed with a fine white finger, so much like his own. “Oh, I told your father he made a mistake, but he wouldn’t listen. He took you from your maker to soon.”
Raven tangled his hand in his black hair. This information was new. “I have a maker? Who is it?”
I am happy to say that The Unfinished Boy was a pleasant surprise! The novel contains two short stories that could be read in one sitting (at least…that’s what I did). There’s the title story and another called The Truth.
The Unfinished Boy
Raven is a young clockwork boy who was stolen from his maker, Chryse, for the sake of the childless Queen. However, Raven cannot feel emotion because his maker didn’t finish him.
So when his “dad” dies he’s unable to feel any sadness. Actually, he spends more time worrying why his “mother” cries crystals then about the sudden loss of his “parent.” He understands the concept of death–but that’s it. In his eyes, life just means to breathe. This strains his “mother’s”patience and she sends him off to the Crystal Mines, a horrible horrible prison, because she can’t have a son that doesn’t feel.
Great parenting skills, right?
I’m not going to spoil the story for you. But I bet you’re wondering:
Does he eventually develop emotions?
What does this Chryse person have to do with the story?
Will he ever be finished?
Am I going to stop numbering obvious questions?
Well that’s for you to find out.
All in all, I really enjoyed the steampunk feel that this short story had. Not only that, but I loved the overall question that the narrative asked: What is life without emotions?
The Truth is the untold story of Rumpelstiltskin. Be it that this short story was…short…I don’t want to give away important tidbits. BUT! I will say that Rumpelstiltskin isn’t the ugly-villainous-green-goblin that we were all told. He’s actually a protector.
“The majestic grove that had drawn them was no more. Not even one of the greatoaks remained standing. They were strewn about the plateau as if felled by a mighty hand. Some were almost whole but has been torn from the soil and apparently flung about. Others had been twisted then sheared off, leaving fingers of wood sticking out from stumps like splinters of bone protruding from grisly wounds.”
Admittedly, I first snagged this book because it was free (and still is) for the kindle. And I don’t regret doing it! In fact, I also have the second book (also free) waiting for me to dig into. But enough of that…lets get to the review.
Catrin has no idea about the ancient powers that she controls. In fact, once she accidentally uses them on a schoolmate it frightens her and the people of her town (who ridicule her). While Catrin is dealing with that headache there’s battleships sailing from the mainland with the intent of capturing her. I wont spoil anything for you, but the rest of the book involves Catrin hiding in the forest and eventually using her powers to protect her friends.
I found this story to be an entertaining read! It was interesting to see Catrin turn from a vulnerable young woman to…well the Herald. Once she finally realized that there was no going back to her old life she immediately got with the program.
Also there’s an intricate backstory for Godsland. In fact, Catrin’s teacher spent pages explaining the history of Godsland to his class. I’m not a fan of excessive info dumping (which happens a lot in the story) but I was able to forgive it since it allowed me to further understand the story.
If you’re someone who enjoys soft fantasy stories, then you’ll definitely like this book.
In elementary, I never liked fantasy because I thought it was…unrealistic. That all changed on my fourteenth birthday where I received this book as a gift. Suddenly, I became obsessed with the idea of magic, elves, dragons or whatever else fantasy writers and authors could think up. Baker opened up my mind to other genres and writing styles.
I remember the day I found this book. I was browsing the shelves in my middle school library looking for something to sink my teeth into. My fingertips brushing across the spines of assorted books until finally stopping at Nightingale. I flipped open to the first page and was transported into imaginary world. Its theme: feudral japan. I actually attempted to write this story out word for word and claim it as my own…then someone explained to me what plagiarism is. After that big let-down I decided to get serious about writing and made it a goal to pen my own manuscript(s).
By high school, the only vampire book that I read was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Demon in My View was my first paranormal romance book that I ever read. I enjoyed every word of it though it was the author that fascinated me. Why? Well Rhodes published her first book when she was 13! To me, that’s awesome.
So, we all know how it feels to be assigned a book to read. You start skipping to the last page, letting your mind wander while you’re reading, and so forth. That wasn’t the case for me with The Outsiders. Something about Darry, Sodapop, and Ponyboy really drew me in. Maybe it was the silly names, the friendships and convincing sibling rivalry? I think it was more the author that captured my attention. In the back flap I remember it saying that Hinton needed encouragement to write this book. The fact that she did write and publish it, was also an encouragement to me too.
This was the second assigned book that struck a chord with me. I actually read a couple of days ahead of schedule because I was so enthralled with the conflict. I wanted to know what happened to the preacher’s son in the end and if anything could be done to keep him (the preacher’s son) from facing the death penalty. I hadn’t read a book that had so much emotional value before. I interpreted Paton’s novel as a lesson of endurance in the face of strife (for example, in writing terms, rejection slips or writer’s block).
There you have it. Five books that have influenced and encouraged me to write over the years.
If you could choose five books that have had an influence on you, what would they be?