It’s the most exciting of times again! Another interview with another talented writer. This time it’s returning champ Tamara Shoemaker who, as you will see, has been quite busy since the last time she stopped by the blog over the summer. She just released her newest YA fantasy, Mark of Four (to rave reviews, by the way) and has also started offering her editing services to a few lucky writers. And somehow she still managed to find time to chat with us 🙂
TNK: Thank you so much for stopping by ye olde blog once again! You sure have been busy since your last visit. Back when we were discussing your debut YA fantasy, Kindle the Flame, I asked you if you could trace the origins of your story back to a beginning idea, thought, or dream. Can you do the same for Mark of Four?
TS: Wow, that’s a hard one. Once you’ve plotted out not just an entire novel in all its depth and intricate twists and turns of plot and character development, must less plotted out an entire trilogy, it’s sooo difficult to return to the first thought that began the journey. I think I recently told someone that the idea came when I decided I wanted to write a fantasy. Ideas were tumbling through my brain, and the one thing that kept getting caught in my filter was the number four. There are so many things that are connected with the number four: four seasons, four winds, four horsemen of the apocalypse, four elements. As soon as I hit on that idea, the story started unfolding itself for me, and then it was just a matter of being able to write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.
TNK: Even though Kindle the Flame came out first, Mark of Four was the first fantasy story you wrote,
correct? What were some of the challenges (or opportunities) you faced while switching gears from mystery to fantasy?
TS: As a reader, I enjoy any number of genres. I’m an avid fantasy reader who also enjoys mystery, romance, historical, and literary, and can switch between any of those without blinking an eye. I assumed that most of my fan base I’d worked hard to build while I wrote mysteries would be the same. While some of my mystery readers did follow me over to the fantasy world, the majority did not, so the challenge has been to find the pockets of fantasy readers, especially as an indie author with a small outreach, and try to gain their interest in my work.
Another challenge has been actual writing style. After writing four mysteries, I felt like I had found a rhythm. Story set-up, inciting incident in the first chapter, and then it’s a race to the end with a major twist just before the big reveal. It was all about heart-palpitations, the thrill and the adrenaline of the race. Fantasy is a completely different world (pun fully intended). 😉 Yes, there’s an inciting incident that needs to happen to ground your reader and let them know what the whole book is going to be about, but the set-up is completely different. It’s not a race to the end; it’s about building an entire universe around these characters, creating systems of language and social classes and intricate detail work of why things happen the way they do. It’s miles away from mysteries, and it was a challenge to learn the new style of writing. Overall, it’s been rewarding, though. While I enjoyed the fast pace of the mysteries, I think a lot longer and harder about my fantasies. I get more involved in them. I actually wish I were the characters in them. 🙂
TNK: I would call Mark Of Four a bit of a genre-blending story, since it includes traditionally magical elements (no pun intended) in a futuristic, almost dystopian setting. But despite these seemingly disparate parts, the story unfolds naturally and doesn’t leave the reader confused at all. Any advice for any wannabee genre-blender writers out there?
TS: Haha! I don’t know if I have loads of advice. What genre-blending there was was mostly by accident. I had a story that had to come out, and the story in my head didn’t ask permission from the genre rule-book before it completely took over. If you think about it, new genres are created all the time. Good friend and fellow author, Margaret Locke [check out her interview here], wrote a romance (A Man of Character), and some of the main feedback she received when she sent it to agents and publishers was that they wouldn’t know where to place it on the shelf, because it was a mix of romantic comedy with magical elements, a genre no-man’s-land. What did she do? She made her own genre: romantic comedy with magical elements. Voila. Problem solved. ;)I’m not sure on what shelf I’d slide Mark of Four. Maybe Young Adult futuristic urban dystopian apocalyptic fantasy with magical elements? Try to pitch that to an agent. 😉 People are enjoying it, and that’s the important thing. I realize that the big publishers will disagree with me on this one, but I don’t think a story should ever be trapped inside a genre. The genre should undergird the story, not vice versa.
TNK: Talk to us a little bit about Miss Alayne Worth, Mark of Four’s heroine. To me, part of what makes her such the perfect protagonist is how easy to relate to she is, even in a world so unlike our own. What makes her stand out to you as a character we will want to read about and root for?
TS: My favorite books are the ones where I can totally see myself in the main character. Not to say I will ever be a Katniss Everdeen and lead a revolution or a Percy Jackson and win a war against Tartarus. But if you think about Katniss and the journey she traveled from page one of The Hunger Games to the last page of Mockingjay, there’s an entire arc of emotions that she went through: the need for security—not just for herself, but for those she loves—the feelings of injustice, the hatred of oppression, the confusion of emotional entanglements, the adrenaline of panic.
I’ve felt every one of those emotions, some more than others, but those are the things that bind me to the main character—not the storyline, but the emotions themselves. That’s what I tried hard to include for Alayne—her feelings of frustration at the miscommunications she has with her mom, her struggles with teen angst and romance, her insecurity in discovering herself in an unfamiliar situation fraught with potential danger, and how she handles all of it. Those emotions are what will connect with the reader, not the storyline itself.
TNK: And, you know I have to ask, let’s talk about the love interests. Where did you find inspiration for your level-headed and charming Jayme Cross, or confident and brash Kyle Pence?
TS: Haha! Of course you had to ask. 😉 I’m such a romance fan; I love watching and reading about the early stages of romantic attraction, seeing how its development affects characters in different ways. Jayme Cross, I modeled after every guy I was drawn to during my teen years. Easy-going, teasing and light-hearted, maybe not the epitome of handsomeness, but certainly attractive in his own way. I didn’t want Kyle Pence to be too close to the same personality, because heaven forbid the reader confuse the two, so I made him as opposite from Jayme as I could: exuding confidence in his ability to “get-the-girl,” competitive, even a little dark sometimes. I really enjoyed coming up with the character descriptions of these two guys. They have such different beginnings, and I’m super excited to explore both of their backgrounds a little more in the upcoming novels.
TNK: Let’s try something a bit different. Can you describe Mark of Four in a single word? (You can use more words to explain why you chose your word).
TS: Wow, you really like the hard questions, don’t you? Okay, hmm, a single word. Here’s one:
Alayne doesn’t know how her life is going to change on page one of Mark of Four. In short succession, her world is rocked by the discovery of some remarkable abilities, what those abilities do, what causes those abilities, who wants those abilities, and most of all, how in CommonEarth she’s supposed to survive the upheaval that results from greed of those abilities.
TNK: And now for the most important question of all, now that the first books in both the Heart of a Dragon and Guardian of the Vale trilogies have been released, how long can we expect to wait before the sequels hit the market?
TS: Sequels! I love talking about sequels! 🙂 Embrace the Fire, Kindle the Flame’s sequel will hit the market in March or April of 2016. The book is undergoing edits right now, but should be ready for an early spring release. Shadows of Uprising, Mark of Four’s sequel is slated for release in July or August of 2016. I’ve just begun a third round of edits on that one.
I’m so excited about these trilogies. They’re both a result of years of work, and I can’t wait to share them with you! 🙂
Now, the teaser for MOF:
Seventeen-year-old Alayne Worth is an Elemental Water-Wielder. All she wants is to master her talent and live a normal life, but the sudden escape of a feared criminal leaves her family reeling and threatens to keep her from achieving her dreams, especially when the criminal’s reach pushes too close to home.
Secret pasts, strange powers, and tense relationships weave a tangled net around her. As she leaves home to cultivate her skills at an Elemental training center, she clashes with a disturbing reality: both good and evil forces covet Alayne’s unusual gifts, and each side is willing to do almost anything to obtain them.
As Alayne confronts the battle for the power she possesses, she must discover the truth of who she is.
MARK OF FOUR