Melissa McPhail is the author of the best-selling epic fantasy series A Pattern of Shadow & Light. She’s the wife of an attorney who would rather be gaming, the mother of twin girls who think boys in books are just better, and the adoptive mother to four very large cats who basically rule the roost; and while she can never leave the house in one attempt, she’s pretty darn good at spinning a tale. She’s also a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid tea drinker.
Melissa’s fantasy series has won eight best fantasy awards and (even more importantly to her) a fiercely devoted following. She is known for being an engaged author on social media and welcomes your thoughts on her work, the speculative fiction genre or writing in general.
What’s your favourite part of the lifestyle of an Author?
Does everyone answer “writing all day” to this question? Spending my day with fictional characters who I’m probably unhealthily enamored of, making up stories about them, living in their world for the majority of the day…that’s my dream come true.
What made you start writing?
I had been writing since I was a teen, but there came a time when I realized that I’d read my favorite book five times just to be with those characters, because I really loved them, and the only way I could spend time with them was in that single story.
I decided I would just write my own story, featuring my own characters who I could honor, respect and admire, the kind that would inspire me to be a better person, the kind whose company I could never tire of.
Is there an Author that you consider your inspiration?
Everyone I read inspires me to some degree. We absorb and learn and are impacted by our experiences, even—or perhaps especially—experiences that are as personal to us as the intimacy of reading. I feel like reading stirs and ventilates the mind with the air of new ideas, introducing new viewpoints, knowledge and worlds to us beyond what we might ourselves have dreamed. The most inspiring books to me are the ones that make me think a new thought, and those sorts of stories have definitely inspired my own.
What’s your number one tip for an aspiring Author?
Write, write, write. Keep writing. Maybe read what you’ve written every once in a while. Then go write some more. I don’t think new writers are in any kind of shape to have others read their work until they’ve pumped out at least a hundred thousand words. Two hundred is better. And by that time, you know whether writing is the path for you or not.
What type of book do you like to read and does this differ from the genre that you prefer to write?
As a fantasy author, I read widely in my own genre (epic) as well as urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and some occasional SF; but I was raised on escapist fiction a la Robert Ludlum, and I’m a sucker for spy novels and any story involving handsome ex-military, special forces types with boy-scout morals fighting against more predatory instincts. Or pretty much anything written by Lee Child.
Which one of your characters would you most like to spend time with?
Baelfeir. He’s sort of the anti-everything. I think he’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever written.
Which book do you consider a must-read?
I write epic fantasy, so you really have to start at the beginning with book one, Cephrael’s Hand.
What’s been the hardest edit that you’ve had to make? Why did you want to keep the material in?
As an independent publisher, I have the luxury of deciding how long I want my books to be, so I’ve never had to cut a scene that didn’t need to be cut. But unexpected plot changes will sometimes require me to move entire chapters forward into the next upcoming book (which I obviously haven’t begun writing yet). That can be really hard.
If you could live in a book, which one would it be?
My own, naturally.
If you could pick an author to write your biography, who would it be?
Dave Barry. I don’t think we should take life too seriously, and Mr. Barry can find humor in anything.
Is there any conflict between what you want to write and what you think your readers will like?
I think my readers are incredibly intelligent, open-minded people who are willing to look at life from many angles. I doubt there is much I could throw at them that they couldn’t handle.
What effect can a review have on you, if you read them at all? Both the good and the bad.
I don’t read reviews. Reviews are for readers, not writers. But I do read every letter, email, message and comment that my readers and prospective readers send to me, and I make a point of answering each one. I feel this communication is my readers’ contribution to my work, and that mutual exchange has provided a vital part of my growth as a writer.
Can you sum up your life story in ten words or less?
Dare to live the life you dream.
What’s exciting you about your next project?
Once I finish my current epic fantasy series, I have an urban fantasy series lined up to begin, because as anyone who’s read my work knows, when you finish one game, you’d better have the next game lined up. I’ve been researching my next series for a couple of years now, and I’m very excited to begin writing it.
And finally, you have one quote to be remembered by, what is it?
Revel in possibility
Our thanks to Melissa for talking to us. An absolute pleasure.
If you want to know about Melissa and her Fantasy Epic series A Pattern of Shadow and Light, then you need to check out the links below.