Mnemosyne Interview, October 2011

Mn: So, for starters…it’s different.

DM: Different good? Or different bad?

Mn: Different good.

DM: Thank God. I’m getting a lot of reviews and interviews that start with ‘it’s different,’ and to be honest, it’s kind of a fight-or-flight moment for me every time. I’m bracing for impact.

Mn: We review a lot of YA and crossover books, and this one just stood apart. I let a friend of mine here at Mnemosyne try it. Before she got started, she asked what it read like, and I said ‘really, nothing.’

DM: You’re supposed to say Neil Gaiman at that point. Or China Miéville. I’d bribe you heavily for that. Anyway, I’m comfortable with different. Not that it was a goal of writing the book, but I was kind of hoping no one was going to read something else and say, ‘it’s like Reswyt, only more so.’  I’d be all right becoming the China Miéville of YA. But being different has generated a lot of questions.

Mn: What are the most common questions you’ve fielded so far?

DM: Um…well, it would get into the answering of those questions to respond, so I’ll give you the answers to the three most common questions instead. Yes; yes, early in the second book; and no.

Mn: And if I guess the questions?

DM: You win something, I’m sure. Oh, wait; there’s one I can provide. “How do you pronounce it?” REZ-wit. I think so, anyway. The Egyptians were bad about writing their vowels down.

Mn: You’re apparently unafraid to violate the sacred rule of never opening with a prologue. You’ve got two, in fact.

DM: Yeah, I never really understood that. It was on the first tablet down from Sinai, if you know what I mean; never, ever, ever open with a prologue. It gets pounded into the heads of new authors all the time. All I could think when I was reading that piece of advice was, why not? So yeah. You get two. I’ll be two cautionary tales at once. If I didn’t think they were important, I would have cut them. Believe me, there were sixty-plus pages that got cut from the final. But the expository pieces in the beginning weren’t.

Mn: I suppose there’s a danger that the reader won’t be interested enough to get past them.

DM: Oh, then put the book down, or go read something else. It’s a broad category. Part of the pleasure of creating the world, and the characters, was to provide them with a real backstory.  If a writing device supports that effort, it’s going to get used. Plus, that rule is so artificial; if I’d stuck that material into Part II as a flashback, I would have adhered to the letter of the law, but I like getting the introductory material established and letting the rest of the story be Sabine’s.

Mn:  I think they’re well-placed in the beginning. And there are ideas that come up in them that foreshadow other things; for instance, you’re intimating, in the Prelude, that users of the pendant can find individuals they’re personally attuned to. Otherwise, I’m not sure the mother ever finds her child – right?

DM: Right. That’s true, and you’re actually the first person to bring that up. That concept is very important in the second book.

Mn: Which is underway?

DM: Which is underway, yes. It’s a slower go of things, oddly enough, than the first, which wrote itself in large part. There’s more to think about in this one. And I’m fairly committed to wrapping this up in a trilogy, so I have to be careful to get the right amount of progress in the story done. Hoping to have it done and out in late 2012.

Mn: In the next piece of exposition, the actual Prologue, we get the Queen’s origin story, which I really liked.  I didn’t even know I was reading it at the time. It’s fun to consider a character dead-ended and then see them come up later in the book.

DM: I did want that exact experience. She’s the Crimson Permanent Assurance of archvillainy; you’ve got this character written off (rightly, you’re thinking, because he dies), and then…  Anyway, I’m digressing. There’s a great saying that the villain is the hero of his own story. That’s the way the Queen precursor character begins; he’s the scion of a French military family, reduced to strong-arming loan payments from Egyptian cotton farmers. He sees himself as serving a necessary function. He’s right, from his own point of view. In the end, though, his fate is a cruel one, I suppose.

Mn: Where does a character like that come from?

DM: It was important to me that the antagonist have a backstory. I didn’t want to check a cackling opponent out of Central Casting and toss them onto the page, and I most definitely wanted her very existence to be an unnatural act. In many fantasy works, this concept of a ruling class is part of the organic nature of the setting; the balance would be disrupted if that figure was absent. In this case, it’s the opposite; the balance has been disrupted by her presence. There’s not supposed to be a Queen in the dreaming realm.

Mn: …which doesn’t have a name in the book.

DM: That got to be interesting in its own right. At some point, while I was writing Reswyt, that idea came up; just a writer’s reflex, really. “This place needs a name.” And then I thought – for who? Who’s going to use it? It’s a plane of existence with no memory, no permanence, no unified point of self-reference. Most of its inhabitants don’t know how they got there, or how they’re getting back, which are really the two prerequisites for naming a place. Eventually I adopted what Sabine herself calls it: There.

Mn: You seem pretty comfortable letting the reader slowly see the picture of the characters emerge. Like Moravin, who just seems like this odd little Gollum-like creature until his origin comes into focus.

DM: Once I got to playing with subconscious and conscious thought, that character popped right out. He was great fun to write.

Mn: He’s more able to perform magic when he’s ‘shallower’ in the coma, if I’m reading it correctly.

DM: Spoilerrific moment, but yes. He’s cycling between these deeper states of sleep, in which he’s unable to do much in the way of magic, and these moments – I like they way you described them, ‘shallow’ moments – where he’s just under the surface, and his conscious mind is active. Like Sabine, who is also a conscious mind, he’s more powerful in that state. That also becomes very important in the second book.

Mn: Anything you can offer in the way of a preview of the next book?

DM: It’s a little darker, so far. Less exploratory; obviously, less expository. The main characters are all now aware of one another, and the agendas in place are clearer, so it’s got more action to it. It’s more pressurized.

Mn: Great. Thanks so much. The book is Reswyt, available in the Amazon Kindle store.

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One thought on “Mnemosyne Interview, October 2011

  1. Usually I do not read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice post.

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