welcome to the Story Time Blog Tour of Glass House Press! I have three interviews for you this week. Mary Fan, George Ebey and Linda Foster will tell you about their upcoming short stories, books and their lives as an author. Today it’s Mary Fan’s turn!
Hello Mary, thanks for taking your time! Could you please introduce yourself?
Hiya! Thanks for having me! I’m a sci-fi/fantasy author who mostly writes young adult these days. My previous books include the two Firedragon novellas, THE FIREDRAGON and FIREDRAGON RISING, which are about a monster-fighting teen girl living in a totalitarian future where those with magic oppress those without, from Glass House Press. They’re prequels to the Flynn Nightsider series, the first book of which is currently in edits with Glass House.
I’m also the co-editor of the BRAVE NEW GIRLS YA sci-fi anthology, which stars girls in science, tech, and engineering and is aimed at encouraging more girls to enter those fields in the real world (we donate all proceeds from sales to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund). My first book was ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES, which was released by Red Adept Publishing in 2013. It’s a space opera/cyberpunk adventure about a young woman who has to rescue her best friend from robot kidnappers and clear her brother’s name after he’s framed for murder by a nefarious online entity. I seem to have a thing for writing kickass females :-).
I live in Jersey City these days, and when I’m not reading or writing, I’m usually travelling, spending all my money on live music, spending far too much time on Twitter, or watching nerdy movies.
“Let Me Fly Free” is a prequel novella to your upcoming series “Fated Stars”. Will we see Elaia from “Let Me Fly Free” again? Could you tell us a little bit about this series and especially about the first book “Windborn”?
Absolutely! Elaia has a prominent role to play in the Fated Stars series, though she won’t have much of a part in WINDBORN, which is really Kiri’s story (Kiri is Elaia’s girlfriend and the protagonist of the other Fated Stars novella, TELL ME MY NAME. Which I suppose is a bit of a spoiler, but ah well).
The Fated Stars series takes place in a sweeping fantasyland in which humans and enchanted creatures—unicorns, fairies, nymphs, etc.—once fought side-by-side to defeat the Fiend, a powerful immortal being of evil that seeks to destroy all those living. But though the Fiend was trapped in an underworld-like realm, he is prophesized to return. By the time the Fated Stars series begins, the humans and the enchanted have gone their separate ways, and magic has largely been lost to the human world. In the generations that have passed, the prophecy has been forgotten by most.
Windborn begins with Kiri, an air nymph, trapped in the human world by dark magicians. Since nymphs are physically bound to their homelands, she’ll die if she doesn’t return to the enchanted forest within seven days. Her only hope is the magicians’ young apprentice, who joined the order in the hopes of learning magic to help people, but soon learns that he was lied to. As the two make a harrowing escape, they soon learn that there’s far more at stake than Kiri’s life. Forces of darkness are stirring as the time for the Fiend’s return draws closer… and Kiri’s role in the fate of the world is much greater than she imagined.
When do you usually get new book ideas? And how do you go from there? Do you try to ignore them at first (for example if you’re still working on another project)? Or do you dive head first into plotting?
So far, all my book ideas have started off as jokes. The first Fated Stars novella, TELL ME MY NAME, basically got written because I liked a cover. The cover of TMMN was a premade cover by one of Glass House’s designers, and I liked it so much that I begged editor/publisher/master-and-commander-of-all-things-Glass-House Carrie White-Parrish to let me write a story for it (only semi-seriously, because I never imagined she’d say yes!). The girl on the cover looked so ethereal, my mind immediately went to enchanted beings—namely, nymphs. I started thinking about what kind of world she’d live in, what kind of magic and danger might lurk there. I’d had ideas for an epic fantasy world kicking around in my head for a while (by which I mean I’d been spinning mindprojects about fantasylands since I was a teenager but not writing them), and I realized this was the perfect way to finally bring them to life.
The idea for my other series with Glass House Press, Flynn Nightsider (which includes the Firedragon novellas), came about when I flippantly pointed out to my sister one day that every successful YA book seems to be either fantasy or dystopia, so why not make a book that’s both. Then I realized that was actually an awesome idea, especially since it always bugged me that in fantasies that take place in the modern world, those with magic are always hiding themselves from the ordinary humans. Why would they do that when magic would make them more powerful than the Muggles or whatever? In the real world, it’s the nation with the biggest weapons and most powerful armies that rule. In a fantasy world, magic could outdo said weapons and armies, especially if monsters are involved. So why not create a world where the usual order is flipped—where the magical are in charge and the non-magical are treated as second-class citizens? And of course, if such a world existed, there would eventually be a rebellion…
As for ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES (and the rest of the Jane Colt series), the idea for that came about because I was struggling to write a short story about a young woman living a Secret Life of Walter Mitty-type fantasy while bored at an office job. Problem was, she was bored with her life, so I was bored with her life. So I thought, “Too bad I can’t just send some robots after her friends and shoot her into space.” Of course, that’s exactly what I ended up doing.
When I get a new idea, I’ll open a brainstorming document and jot down every little thing that comes to mind, whether or not it seems good. But I don’t start plotting until I decide to make that my Main Project, so I usually won’t know what actually happens (except maybe the bare bones). I don’t like juggling multiple first drafts at once. I can do edits on multiple projects, or edits on one project while drafting another, but I can only be WRITING writing one thing at a time. So it can take a few months or even years between when I first get an idea and when I start outlining, etc.
You enjoy blogging about books yourself. Do you have a favourite author and a favourite book? Which books, releasing the second half of this year, are you looking forward to most?
ARGH I can’t pick favorites! There are too many books I love! Of course I have the staples that I’ve loved forever—Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Gone with the Wind (yes, I know—racist! But Scarlett is awesome, and the historical setting is amazing). Maybe Harry Potter, depending on my mood. But I feel like every day, I’m being introduced to a new and amazing thing, and I can’t decide what’s more awesome than the next. Recent favorites include Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper, Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners trilogy, Drew Karpyshyn’s Chaos Born trilogy, Ashley Herring Blake’s Suffer Love, Rebecca Podos’ The Mystery of Hollow Places, and I’m currently well on my way to adding Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not to that list… see what I mean about being unable to pick? LOL.
Upcoming new releases I’m excited for are Kate Moretti’s The Vanishing Year and A.C. Thomas’ The Hate U Give, though I think that’s not coming out till 2017. Honestly, I’m too busy trying to catch up on all the books I’ve bought but haven’t read yet to keep up with what’s releasing when (especially since the three ongoing series I was following have now wrapped up, and I haven’t found a new series I’m especially into yet… I get series ADD very easily).
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Plotter. Neurotic plotter, to be precise. I usually have at least 15,000 words of notes written before I even create a document and title it “Chapter One” (I’m not kidding… my last outline was over 10,000 words long, and then I had character sheets, location sheets, research notes, plotting documents, etc. in addition to that). Blank pages terrify me, so the more I can build before I start actually writing words, the easier it is for me to get into the flow of it, since this way I know everything that happens, what everything looks like, etc. and just have to be a scribe. Though, of course, characters have minds of their own, and all the plotting in the world can’t stop them from improvising.
Thank you for being here! Good luck for the future!
About the short story
„Fire fears nothing. And Elaia is about to show her world that she doesn’t, either.
Like the rest of her kind, fire nymph Elaia is bound to her homeland, a forest whose borders were closed centuries earlier in a peace agreement between the humans and the enchanted creatures of the Terrestrial Realm.
But her heart is as restless as the flames she casts, and she secretly yearns to defy that order.
When a mysterious threat creeps into the forest, an invisible beast that leaves a trail of death in its wake, Elaia is determined to fight back and protect her people. Before she can, however, she must learn what the beast is … and the answers lie beyond the borders of her land.
Defeating this evil means she’ll have to go outside the rules, but she’ll do anything to find the answers she seeks—even if leaving her homeland means not only breaking the law, but risking her own life.“
Add to Goodreads
About the author
Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil. Mary would like to think that there are many other novels in her bag, and hopes to prove that to the world as well.
Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.
Want a sneak peek?
Light floods my vision, but there’s no warmth in it, and I shut my eyes, wondering where it’s coming from. The darkness returns, and not just the darkness of my vision, but something far deeper, a terrifying abyss that freezes my heart.
The darkness in my mind.
I know I’m lying on a hard surface, and that I woke up here a moment ago, but before that, there’s nothing – nothing. Just a yawning maw of blackness gaping across my thoughts, a monstrous beast that hollowed out my head, leaving emptiness where memories should have been. Coldness wraps my entire being like an icy blanket; even the air in my lungs chills me. Questions assault me, a million flaming arrows aiming for my heart, and one strikes its target with the greatest impact: Where am I?
I sit up and blink, turning my face away from the whiteness that blinded me before. And all I see is ice. Ice and iron. Thick bars stretch up from the ground before me, reaching for the dark ceiling, with frozen water filling the narrow spaces between them. The frosty, pale blue wall glimmers, frightening and mesmerizing at once. It looks so sturdy, it might as well be a mountain, cutting me off from any hope of escape in that direction. Only a small, round window – the source of the light – breaks its otherwise solid form. The cold floor stings my bare feet as I stand and approach it, hoping a glimpse outside might help me figure out where I am. But the window is barely bigger than my hand, and all I see outside is a vast stretch of snow and the pale, empty sky above it. Nothing that tells me anything except this: I don’t belong here.
But where do I belong? I sense a great shadow looming over me, as if an invisible knife hangs over my head, and hug my bare arms. But the gesture brings me no comfort, for these pale, slight limbs look foreign, though they’re parts of me. I realize I haven’t even a memory of my own appearance – whether my legs are long or short, whether my face is heart-shaped or round, whether my eyes are black or blue. Who or even what I am. The very body I inhabit might as well be a stranger, and the unfamiliarity sends a new chill racing down my spine. If I don’t even know what I look like, how can I hope to discover who I am? Where I came from? Or how I ended up in this icy prison?
A shiver runs through me at the thought, giving my whole body a violent shake, and I clench my jaw in an attempt to stop it. There must be a clue around here somewhere, and I might find it if I can just pull myself together long enough to look. Glancing down, I see that I’m wearing a thin, azure dress that barely reaches my knees, with a top that hangs loosely over my torso from a knot at the nape of my neck, leaving my back and shoulders exposed. I inhale, reminding myself that even this detail is something; it tells me that I must have come from someplace much warmer.
I knit my eyebrows, searching for memories – how old I am, who my family is, what skills I’ve learned … a cascade of questions tumbles through my head, each yelling for attention and demanding to be answered. What is this place? And why can’t I remember how I got here?
But though I scour my mind, only an empty void greets me. I don’t even know my own name.
My pulse crescendos with fear, and the shadow of danger grows even darker, closing in around me. I draw a long breath, firmly telling myself to stay calm. I can figure this out if I just focus on one question at a time.
Then something glints at the edge of my vision, and I realize it’s my own hair. I reach behind me and pull forward one long, straight lock. It’s as pale as my hand, tinted with only the faintest hint of gold. Is it almost white because I’m old? I run my fingers across my face, and the smoothness of my skin gives me the answer to that question: I must be young. Narrow nose, high cheeks, slim eyebrows … I trace each contour with my fingertips, and try to envision what I look like. Part of me says that it’s not important – a frivolous detail compared to the larger questions looming over me – but I can’t help fixating on it.
I look down and take in what parts of myself my eyes can reach – slight shoulders, small chest, narrow hips. Twig-like legs. Bony wrists. Long, straight hair that reaches my waist. This is me, and I shouldn’t have to feel strange in my own skin. If I could just find that one thread connecting what I see to what I remember, maybe I could follow it and recover at least one piece of myself.
So I paint a self-portrait, based on what I’ve observed, and concentrate on the image. The face remains a dark shadow, though, and I focus on that. Surely I must have seen my reflection in the past, in a mirror or a window or even a bucket of water. If I could just recall that single moment, I’d have an answer, and maybe that would lead to more.
Because if I can’t even recall this simple detail, what hope do I have of escaping the dreaded shadow?
Closing my eyes, I put all my focus on this one simple task and nothing else, trying to sharpen the self-portrait and fill in the blank face with what I puzzled out by touch. The ache returns, and part of me wants to throw up my hands and yell, “This is hopeless!” But I press on, concentrating so hard that I barely feel the coldness surrounding me anymore. I’m so close …
Suddenly an image flashes through my head: a slender girl with sky blue eyes and long, straight hair. And, most importantly, a face. Perhaps … could it be? Is this skinny, bird-like girl, whose wide eyes seem to radiate naïveté, me?
Please let it be, a desperate voice whispers in my heart. Please say my efforts led to something real …
A great feeling of familiarity strikes me to the core, and a glow begins to enter my mind, as if a crack has appeared in a cloud-covered sky and revealed a ray of light. Yes, it’s me. The knowledge feels as certain as the sun shining outside that tiny window, and sudden relief envelops me as I realize I’m one step closer to being whole again. So I can recover memories after all. Small as this victory is, it tells me there are more triumphs to be had if I work for them.
And I must. I have to know who I am, and where I’ve come from. How I came to be here. How to get out.
But my sense of victory is short-lived, for the invisible knife, the danger I can’t identify but whose presence I feel with every nerve, still hangs over me. If I’m to escape it, I need to uncover more recollections … starting with my name. That could be the next marker in a trail of memories that will lead me home. I know I have one. I feel it in my innermost core – a sense of self whose presence was once as sure as the sun shining outside. But now there’s only hollowness within, as if someone stole a piece of my soul.
Still, there must be something left, and if I defeated the darkness once, I can do it again. I just need to find a thread, like I did with my appearance, that will lead me to what I seek. So I whisper random syllables, hoping the sound or cadence of one will somehow trigger the memory of something more. “Tah … Roh … Kee …”
Sudden white-hot pain fills my head, like a burning blade slicing me, and a million tiny daggers lance through my skull, each stabbing me with such force that I feel as if my whole body might shatter.
I cry out in shock and grab at my hair, as if ripping at it might tear away the pain as well. I claw my scalp, knowing it’s useless, but unable to keep myself from this vain attempt to stop the great fire. Before I can do anything further, my legs buckle beneath me, and I collapse to the ground.
The impact of the hard metal floor shakes the flames away, and I gasp at the abrupt relief. My knees and shoulders ache from the fall, but their throbbing is nothing compared to the agony I just felt.
I breathe hard, and my heart hammers in my chest. What was that?
I look around wildly, wondering if something attacked me, but all I see are the iron bars and the ice between them. Then a thought strikes me: All I see are the bars and the ice, no matter which way I turn. Except for the one small window, there’s no break in the four frozen walls surrounding me.
There’s no way out.
No, that can’t be; I must be missing something. I got in here somehow, didn’t I? Certain I must be wrong, I scramble up to the wall and run my fingers over the hard, freezing mass. Maybe I’m neglecting something with my eyes – maybe there’s a hidden door. I sweep my hands across the cold surface, and the chill bites my skin.
But there’s nothing.
No matter how I feel along the edges of the iron bars or search the ridges in the ice, I can’t find even a single crack. Maybe I can make one, I tell myself in a vain attempt to keep my head steady. Maybe this ice isn’t as thick as it looks, and I can break down this wall. Hoping with all my heart that I’m right, I ball up my fists and pound against it.
The impact sends a bolt of pain shooting up my hand, but the ice doesn’t budge. I hit harder and harder, until I’m sure I’ll shatter my bones and then, realizing these actions are useless, I flatten my palms and push against it, throwing all my weight forward. My fingers go numb, but I ignore them.
Maybe this wall is stronger than the other three. I turn to the next one and pound and push until my hands are so sore and cold, I feel like they might fall off. But nothing I do sends so much as a ripple of vibration through the thick ice. My hands look pathetically small against the great surface they’re fighting, and while part of me yearns to keep trying, I know I’ll break them for real if I do, and still be trapped.
Catching a glimpse of the window, I rush toward it. The wall around the opening is also made of ice – maybe I can widen it. I dig my fingers into its lower edge and tear, desperately using every ounce of strength I have. Though I rip at the ice until my fingers are raw, I can’t scrape off a single shard. My breath quickens, until it becomes ragged gasps, and my heart pounds with increasing panic, filling my ears with its desperate drumming. No matter what I do, though, no matter what I try, I can’t escape.
Exhausted, I collapse against the wall and sink to the ground. My whole body shakes with the cold I can no longer ignore, and I hug my knees to my chest in an effort to warm up. Hot, powerful tears sting my eyes, and dread weighs down with such heaviness that I feel it crushing me. Did someone leave me here to die? Why would they do that? Who could they be?
And who am I?
Just then, a loud clanging noise ripples through the air, and I jump. Realizing that someone else might be outside, and that they might be able to help me, I scramble to my feet and open my mouth to shout.
But then black shadows appear on the other side of the ice, their dark forms vaguely visible through its bluish surface, and my voice dies in my throat. There are at least six or seven figures – tall and shapeless, yet menacing. They draw closer, speaking in low, muffled voices like thunder rumbling in the distance.
Thunder. I remember thunder, roaring in my ears. And lightning, splitting the sky. And rain, both pounding in relentless fury and flurrying in a fine mist. I remember all these elements of the weather – and others, like wind, and fog, and snow … so why can’t I remember my name? How is it that I possess so much knowledge about the world, and yet nothing about myself?
Meanwhile, the shadows continue approaching, until they’re so near that I could touch them if the wall didn’t stand between us. Their looming presence makes me shudder. What are they? What will they do to me?
Then, a deep, commanding voice booms through the barrier: “Wall of ice, open yourself for me.”