Intro: What is your name, what do you write, and where can readers find you on social media? And just for fun, if you could be any mythical being or creature, who or what would you be?
Hello, I’m M. K. Wiseman and I’ve found my groove penning YA historical fantasy (a short hop over from my steampunk entry into the publishing world.)
Social-wise, I positively live over on Twitter but also have more recently discovered the fun that is Instagram and Pinterest. My handle on all three is @FaublesFables – come say “hi!”
As for a mythical being or creature: dragon all the way! (Closer to the Japanese concept of the beast, however, than the European idea.)
- In the past, you’ve written steampunk and your most recent release is a Christian fantasy. Which do you like more and what drew you to each genre?
The kind of historical fantasy I write and steampunk are, for me, sort of one and the same…? (Is that a cheat answer?) Clearing that up a bit: for my fantasies, I simply adore writing from the corner where the premise is that maybe maybe history, as written, has simply erased the magical side of the story. That’s a pretty ‘steampunk’ way to see things, I think. Overall, what I write is largely similar in flavor due to it coming from ‘reader me’ + my particular world view. I like to read “clean” fiction—a.k.a. anything 9-year-old me would have read without blushing. And a part of me has always burned with the desire to use my writing to do “good” in the world.
More pointedly to your question, the Christian fantasy genre is an interesting demographic of stories. It’s a very wide, if sometimes very specific, genre. For example, in “Bookminder” there is no Christ allegory (a la C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books.) But I have made a concentrated effort to put a Catholic priest as a character in books 1 and 2 of the trilogy, simply because that is a part of my life and I want it “in” my world building—specifically as the story occurs in a real time and place where religion would have impacted the lives of wizards such as Nagarath and Liara.
- YA is such a wide-open category. What type of YA do you enjoy the most and why?
I love good, clean, (old fashioned?) YA fantasy. Give me a story between 80-120K words where I can escape from Here and Now but still get a relevant message to take “home” with me when I close the cover and I am so there. I prefer an omni narrator. (Yep, this reader is out of fashion and I don’t care!) I like puzzles, riddles, and songs so long as they aren’t ‘check the box’ included into the story. Also, I want a magic system that checks out. (Tolkien, you get a ‘Pass’ on this last, because you are a class unto yourself).
Le Guin’s Earthsea books, L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time, any of Brian Jacques’ Redwall stories—all are swoon-worthy reads over and over for me.
- Do you find there are central themes or elements that are unique to your books? (For example, are you drawn to anti-heroes, antagonists, certain settings etc.) Why do those things stand out to you?
Character-wise, I absolutely adore a broken hero. I still wish Hamlet had found a happy end, you know? (Watch this space, wink wink.)
But, per my love of alternate history or, more specifically, ‘hidden histories,’ I really like to write about places you can actually go visit. Which makes research a beast, more often than not. The moon phases in The Bookminder? They’re accurate as I can make them. My Google search history is the typical author landmine of discovery to the unwary.
- What inspired your book?
In 2004 I just so happened to have a very vivid splash of a dream. Just one scene. Short, but poignant and mysterious. I was recovering from a major surgery at that time, so I had a lot of down time to ponder a.) who the girl was in my dream, b.) what she was doing . . . Something clicked in my head as “this is important” and that’s essentially where I began writing The Bookminder from. Just one little scene; one odd thought. The “books/library” through line actually comes from my job in collection preservation at the time. The real history and places all crept in later.
- What is the book about?
Ah, The Question; every author’s nightmare. (Does it show that I am currently working on cover copy for the blurb of Book 2?) Totally kidding, here goes:
The Bookminder is, at its heart, the story of Liara of Dvigrad (town in 17th century Istria) who was conceived via magick when the town is attacked, casualty of a larger conflict. Nearly 17 years later, she’s kicked out of the village (ostensibly for thieving but actually due to her magickal tendencies) and immediately takes up with the local wizard, Nagarath. He, of course, has publicly promised not to apprentice her—having reasons of his own for such an edict. Needless to say, this does not sit well with Liara and, well, the rest you just have to read for yourself, yes?
- What are the characters like?
I’ve had folks say Liara acts every inch a petulant teenager. To which I say “thank you!” Because she absolutely is. And she believes herself entitled to all the grand plans she’s formed in her head.
In contrast, we have Nagarath. Self-hermited away to the quiet Limska Draga valley, he just wants to retire (at the grand old age of 28) in peace and work whatever magicks he feels like doing at whatever pace he wants. He is, in effect, hiding from the world that Liara wants to conquer. And he’s a huge bookworm. And a bit absentminded.
These two . . . I’m still not sure if I intended for them to drive each other bonkers but I have grand fun orchestrating their interactions. In the end, each is quite good for the other, though.
- What is/are one or two pieces of advice that you learned from publishing your earlier books that you wish you had known before you started?
Editing is hard. Don’t fall in love with your words, a specific turn of phrase here and there. But absolutely fight for what you know deep down you must keep. The give and take line? Where that lies is a bit tougher to explain. It’s an instinct you develop, especially if you’re lucky enough to work with the same team each time around.
Publishing is a long game. Years. Thousands upon thousands of words—many of which get tossed in the putting-to-print of the “good stuff” (see editing comment above). You hear it over and over, come in prepared for the long haul and yet it still comes as a surprise how long things can take.
- Traditional or self-publishing? Why?
For me, traditional. I’ve landed with an exceptional publisher who has great instinct and wonderful folks. They get me out of my head when I’m too close to a project, something I’d have a hard time doing on my own. And, on my gosh, considering how much non-writing takes up my time already, I’d not want to have more on my plate. But I know both are great options for authors. The benefits and drawbacks of each are really dependent on one’s work style/process.
- What do you think authors can do to help make editors and publishers interested in their manuscripts?
Keep writing. Don’t rush it. Be patient with your story. Your characters are people, treat them as such. (Okay, that is quite possibly the oddest thing I have said with regards writing. You’re welcome?) Be authentic. Be available. Be open to critique but also have that backbone when your instinct kicks in. Gosh this is getting advice-y, isn’t it? But I cannot leave off without adding: Read. Read widely.
- This is random but fun one, if you could pick any time period to live in, when would you live and why?
This is actually a tough question because I tend to be hyper practical when it comes to such things. (And am a Whovian who has dreamed widely on this very topic.) While living further back in time would be interesting, I don’t know how I’d do without indoor plumbing at the least. I’ve said recently that far far distant future might be interesting. Kinda goes with my tendency to read ahead.
- What is one book you think every YA writer should read at least once?
I’d say Katherine Paterson’s “Bridge to Terabithia” is a must.
If you can read it young, let it sit for years and then go back to it, even better!
Thanks for the great interview M.K! Check out her books and don’t forget to say hi on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest @FaublesFables!
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As always, keep making magic, word weavers!