I had a chance to sit down with the awesome M.L. Spencer and talk a bit about her past, her writing, and everything that makes her an absolutely unique (and quirky) author.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Hi, my name is M.L. Spencer. I grew up in an orange grove in San Bernardino, CA. That orange grove was my first fantasy world. I mapped it, built cities, towns, rivers, waged wars, fortified castles, installed conflicting political systems and differing religious ideologies. It was my first foray into fantasy world building!
And then a bulldozer took it all away to build a freeway.
So I built another world, this time on paper. Decades later, I’m still building worlds; it’s what I do. The only difference is now, it’s usually me who destroys them.
What were you like at school?
I was that person who could speak Elvish, recite every line from Star Wars, and of course no one wanted to sit next to in class. You know the kid I’m talking about.
Were you good at English?
Yup. But I failed typing class because my teacher thought I’d plagiarized a novel blub we were supposed to write and then type. He didn’t believe I wrote it on my own!
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Which writers inspire you?
My favorite authors are Robert Jordan, Frank Herbert, and Stephen King.
So, what have you written?
Right now I’m writing a series called The Rhenwars Saga. The first two books are available on Amazon, Darkstorm and Darkmage. Darkmage won the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for fantasy.
Where can we buy or see them?
What are you working on at the minute?
Right now I’m working on Book Four of The Rhenwars Saga
What genre are your books?
Dark Epic Fantasy
What draws you to this genre?
I like high stakes, turbulent plots, dark heroes, and complex villains. I also like gritty realism as much as possible.
Why do you write?
I write to bring my characters to life. They exist as real people in my head. They must be freed!
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I had a great idea! And a great idea is a terrible thing to waste!
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I work full time and write full time. It’s basically a second job. I think I may even spend more time at my “writing job”!
Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
I am absolutely obsessive about writing. I’d write every second of every day if I could. As it is I have to come up for air and clean a dish or cook a meal occasionally. It’s hard, though!
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
When I am on a roll, my mantra is, “A chapter a day keeps writer’s block away!” For me, that’s about 5,000 words a day.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I outline extensively before I ever set pen to paper. I will usually have one plot tangle or two that’s not worked out ahead of time, leaving it up to my muse to bridge those gaps as I go. Sometime this results in writer’s block, but that’s rare. Usually the solution to a problem will strike like lightning at the most unexpected moment—or in my sleep!
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
The last novel I finished, Book Three of The Rhenwars Saga, was the hardest. It was difficult because I was putting together a lot of characters who had never been together before in the same scenes. There was also a ton of character growth and changes in plot direction—all in a land with no sunlight, which I had to world-build from the ground up. That took every scrap of my biology knowledge! Nothing came easy with that book. Nothing! It was a struggle every step of the way. But it was worth it —I’m very happy to say that I think it’s my best writing so far!
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Dialogue. I can write dialogue in my sleep. Except for Quin; his dialogue takes me forever to come up with. He’s usually very formal, sardonic, self-deprecating, and insightful—all at the same time!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It depends on how busy I am with life. Usually six months. Although the original 230K word-manuscript of Darkmage was written in a whirlwind 40 days!
Do you ever get writer’s Block?
Yes. I can plot myself into a corner with the best of them! Then I usually have to mope around banging my head on the wall until the lightning strike provides clarity.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Read other novels. Listen to music. Research. Seek inspiration in poetry and works of art.
If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
The Rhenwars Saga is a tale about the conflict between two opposing philosophies of magic and the moral imperatives that drive them. It’s basically about two conflicting moral ideologies.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I hate writing stand-alone novels; I get too attached to my characters and my ideas are usually ginormous. Short stories? Forget it! For me, it’s go big or go home!
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
A little of both. I have an excellent content editor who keeps me humble. I am usually my own copy editor, although I did employ one for Darkstorm.
Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
I try to. I usually fail at this. I can’t stay away from a fresh manuscript!
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
My covers were done by Claudia McKinney and Teresa Yeh at phatpuppyart.com. My 16-year-old daughter and I selected the models for the covers from looking over pics at a modeling agency—what a great time that was! In all fairness, we picked both models because of the personalities they projected, which was far more important to us than their looks.
How are you publishing this book and why?
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
The main advantage to publishing Indie is that I retain my rights. I don’t have to worry about my publisher going out of business and having my rights tied up in litigation for years, a nightmare scenario I’ve heard too much about lately.
What is your favourite book and why?
Right now my favorite book is Patrick Rothfuss’s A Wise Man’s Fear. His lyrical prose his breathtaking.
What is your favourite quote?
Nietzsche: “If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.”
What is your favourite film and why?
Avatar. Because it’s so unbelievably cool! An entire world that is its own goddess formed out of an interconnected network that functions like fungal mycelium! Incredible! And I just love the whole “stranger in a strange land” motif. It’s always been a favorite of mine.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t. Give. Up. Ever.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Usually poetry or literature. Darkmage is inspired by Nietzsche and Machiavelli’s The Prince. Darkstorm was inspired by the poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I play MMORPG games, teach biology and raise three children.
What does your family think of your writing?
They think it’s pretty cool unless I don’t come out of the room for five days straight. They usually start missing me when the dishes stack up.
Have you ever gotten into a bar fight? Came really close. Almost got my boyfriend clobbered by a one-armed biker!
Do you drink? Smoke? Gave all that up. Now my main vice is coffe.
What is your biggest fear? That I will lose my memory when I age.
What do you want your tombstone to say? She wrote.
What secret talents do you have?
I am pretty good at music composition. One piece I had a big hand in creating had over 25 million likes on YouTube, last time I checked.
Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
When I was a kid, I used to have a recurring dream of a ghost train that whooshed out of my bedroom closet, chugged down the stairs, and then sped off into the night across the orange groves. Too much Stephen King for me!