Guest post: Cheryl Mahoney

Today I’m really pleased to welcome Cheryl Mahoney (author of recently released The Lioness and the Spellspinners) onto my blog.  Cheryl very kindly agreed to write a guest post for me based on her own interest in traveling (which tends to be to literary locations) and how that has influenced the characters from her books.

Welcome Cheryl…

I want to thank Lynn for welcoming me onto her blog!  When I was thinking about what guest post topic to explore, it struck me that her blog is focused on travel and books—and travel just happens to be a theme in my life and writing too.

I didn’t plan it, but every book in my Beyond the Tales series (up to four now) involves characters who travel for one reason or another.  The first is the most obvious, The Wanderers, about a wandering adventurer who ends up bringing a talking cat and a witch’s daughter onto the road with him.  One of the first ways my main characters connect is through a mutual love of exploring in search of new adventure, to see what wonderful thing they can find around the next turn of the road.

In The Storyteller and Her Sisters, heroine Lyra dreams of travel after a life so far spent trapped in a castle.  Her love interest, Prince Dastan, dreams of becoming a wandering minstrel.  You’ll have to read the book to find out if they achieve those dreams!  In The People the Fairies Forget, narrator (and fairy) Tarragon has spent 500 years running from one party to another across countries.  He’s perhaps the opposite to Lyra, who wants to travel in search of something; Tarry is traveling to get away.

Karina, the heroine of The Lioness and the Spellspinners, lands somewhere in between those two.  She starts out traveling as an escape (though you’ll have to read some distance into the book to find out what from), but whether she knows it or not, she’s definitely looking to find something in the process.

Travel in stories, and in life too, can be a powerful metaphor.  Where are we going and why is a much bigger question than simply a matter of geography!  For myself, I’m a homebody who also loves to travel—but I’d never want to travel continuously the way some of my characters do.  And when I do travel, I most often visit places that already feel like home—because I’ve already read about them.

I’ve managed quite a few literary pilgrimages over the years, and love visiting places from favorite books or movies.  Highlights and highest-recommended include a visit to the Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals once owned by Christopher Robin Milne, available to be seen at the New York Public Library.  In Paris, it’s worth climbing Notre Dame’s bell towers to visit Quasimodo’s gargoyles, and definitely worth a visit to the Phantom’s Opera (better known as the Opera Garnier) to see Box Five and the famous chandelier.

London is a literary pilgrim’s dream, if you’re me, so I keep going back.  I’ve tried on Sherlock Holmes’ hat in 221B Baker Street, seen plays at Shakespeare’s Globe, done a walking tour of Shakespeare’s and Dickens’ London, and seen where the Bird Woman once fed pigeons at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mary Poppins.  I’ve also seen Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford Upon Avon, and Jane Austen’s house in Bath.

The ultimate literary pilgrimage, if you’re me, is Kensington Gardens in London, setting for one of my very favorite books, The Little White Bird by J. M. Barrie.  He devoted an entire chapter to “A Grand Tour of the Gardens” and nearly everything he described (in 1902!) is still readily to be seen.  Peter Pan and the fairies haunt the Gardens in the most delightful way, and Barrie’s own house can be seen (from the outside, at least) just north of the park.

I don’t think I’ve had a literary pilgrimage that disappointed yet, and I’d highly recommend all the places I’ve just described.  So much of what I read is set in magical other worlds or the distant future, so any chance to visit a real setting is wonderful to explore!

Information about Cheryl’s latest book can be found below with a link to her Goodreads page here – her next book sounds excellent.  Check it out:

Plot Blurb

lioness-cover-smallForrest can’t fathom this prickly, knife-wielding girl who so unceremoniously turns up in his family’s barn one morning.  His life has never been this exciting.  Karina can’t make herself trust the strangely hospitable villagers on this island she’s now stuck on, and when they claim they can knit spells into their garments, that doesn’t help.  She knows magic exists, but that’s just ridiculous.

And no one can understand why the chickens have suddenly started laying gilded eggs, or why the horse is talking in rhyming couplets.

When the inexplicable magic goes from mere bad poetry to actual threats, when dancing becomes dangerous and the wrong thought could cause disaster, the only answers are in the past Karina is fleeing—and the only way to survive is for the knife-wielder to trust the spellspinner.

Purchase Links

Paperback: http://amzn.to/2ej5PFC

Kindle: http://amzn.to/2ehyJ7Y

Thanks again Cheryl 😀

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Interview with Cheryl Mahoney, author of The People The Fairies Forgot

Today I’m pleased to invite Cheryl Mahoney onto my blog.  Cheryl has just released her third book: The People The Fairies Forgot and we’re here today to explore a little bit about the story, discuss what next and chat about a few other points of interest.  I’m currently taking part in an event called the SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog Off) and so I also took the opportunity to chat to Cheryl about the pitfalls or otherwise of self-publishing.  Without further ado.

Hi Cheryl

The Wanderers is Cheryl’s first book

Thanks for stopping by my blog and taking the time to answer my questions:

LB: You’re about to publish your third book – which is an excellent achievement.  I wonder if you could give a few pointers to other hopefuls out there wanting to go down the route of self-publishing.  Any pitfalls to avoid/inspiration, etc?

CM: I think the best and worst thing about self-publishing is that you do everything yourself. That means that besides writing the book, you also set up the text formatting (from the copyright page to the typefont to the about the author page at the end), create the cover, write the back cover blurb, format the ebook, and handle the marketing. There are options to hire people to do most of that, but that’s a choice about whether you want to spend the money—and ultimately, you’re still the one making decisions on all these things.

Personally, I like the control. I don’t have to worry about a publisher creating a cover that totally misrepresents my novel. On the other hand, I have to decide what cover would look good, and make it happen. And authors have to decide for themselves what their comfort level is on trying to tackle some of these things, which can require quite different skills than writing the novel itself (although there are a lot of resources online to get help on how to handle all these). I think it’s important for authors to know that all the other pieces really are work—but can be very satisfying too.

The best thing about self-publishing is that I can get my stories out to people who enjoy reading them—and without needing anyone’s “permission” to do it!

LW: Great characterisation is something I love in a story.  How easy do you find it to create your characters – do you take people from your every day existence and use their mannerisms?  And is it easy to create a character from the opposite sex?  Is this something that you have to give a lot of consideration to or not?

CM: Characters are usually my favorite part of stories too. I tend to come up with story ideas along the lines of, what if this kind of person was in this situation? Usually I have a rough idea of who I want a character to be when I start writing, and then they reveal themselves to me more and more as I write. Especially when I’ve been working with a character for a long time, it doesn’t feel like I’m inventing things about them—more like I’m discovering something new that was always true.

I wish I was more observant of people in real life, their mannerisms and so on, because I’m sure it would be helpful! As it is, things like physical tics or movements to express emotion are things I have to very consciously layer into the story. I’ve never knowingly based any character on someone I really know, even loosely or in part. Except for myself! Elements of myself (more thoughts and emotions than physical things) certainly enter into many of my characters.

I actually think it can be a bit of a pitfall to think too much about writing a character of a certain demographic. If you asked me to write, say, a typical thirty year old man, I’d find that quite challenging and would undoubtedly overthink it, only to wind up with a stereotype! I try to always look at my characters as individuals—not “how would a man react to this?” but rather “how would Anthony or Jack or Tarry react to this?” I’m definitely not a male extroverted millennium-old fairy myself, but I still feel like I know how to write Tarry!

LB: I’d love for you to tell us a bit about your working day.  Do you actually physically go out to write and set up somewhere remote from your home so it feels like you’re out at work?  Do you make copious notes and detailed histories for your people and places?  Do you write certain chapters out of sync just because they pop into your head?

CM: I do like to go out to a local café and write when I have the time, either by myself or with some writing friends. But the truth is, I have a full-time job and (probably too many) other commitments, so I’ve had to become good at writing in spare scraps of time—15 minutes on my lunch hour, 30 minutes in the evening after work. The most important writing habit I have is to write every day. I actually put X’s on a calendar, and I haven’t missed a day since April of 2013. I don’t always write a lot, but I always touch in with my fiction writing somehow. The time adds up that way, and it’s incredibly important to simply have the mindset that writing is always part of my day. That wouldn’t work for everyone, but it’s been a huge help to me.

I’m not a big note-maker or outliner, usually. I do always have a Notes document for each of my novels, to put reminders to myself about things I want to do or aspects I know I’ll need to come back and revise. It’s also a good place to dump sections that I end up cutting, because I’m compulsively unable to delete writing!

I usually write scenes in order, in part because I need to figure out details of the plot and character development as I move forward. I think of it like watching a carpet unroll—I can only see a certain distance ahead, and I have to keep writing forward to unroll and see more. I did actually write some chapters of The Wanderers out of order (a little easier because each chapter is somewhat more self-contained than my other novels tend to be), though within each chapter I was writing in order. I’m also working on a very long historical fiction novel that has been written in bits and pieces all over the place. So, with exceptions, I write scenes in order!

LB: Can you tell us a little bit of what to expect from your third novel – have you incorporated any people or places from the first two and overall what would you say is the main thrust of the story.

CM: This is my third book in the same series, and like the first two it’s written to be read separately. The first two were true companion books, with some overlapping plot points and scenes. This one is more independent, though readers of the first two will recognize a few characters. Tarry, my unusual fairy and narrator of this story, appeared as a supporting character in The Wanderers, and alert readers will spot a few references to his friend a wandering adventurer in this book. An inn appears at the end of The Storyteller and Her Sisters, and that inn and the people who work there have much more significant roles here. And finally, Marjoram, my Good Fairy, was a thorn in the sides of the heroes of the last two books, and is up to even more trouble—er, good deed doing, in this book!

The People the Fairies Forget retells three familiar fairy tales, but takes a new angle by focusing on people who are usually very minor characters. Marj considers them pretty minor too, and Tarry’s efforts to defend them from the fallout of her spells brings the two of them into conflict. I really wanted to explore the idea that everyone has a story, even the people the stories aren’t usually about.

LB: For the people out there reading this interview right now who would you say your books will appeal to the most?

CM: I’m fortunate to have had positive feedback from very diverse readers! I like to think my books have cross-age appeal—nothing inappropriate or too challenging for readers as young as twelve, but it’s not too simplistic for older readers to enjoy. It will help if you like fairy tales—especially if you’ve wondered at some of their stranger aspects…

LB: And, jumping totally ahead of myself ‘where next’?  Do you have a whole series of books that draw inspiration from the fairytale world or do you have different plans?

I have at least one more book planned in this series. I have a draft already written of a (somewhat loose) prequel to my second book, The Storyteller and Her Sisters. If all goes well in the next year, I’ll be releasing The Lioness and the Spellspinners around this time in 2016!

More immediately, I’m jumping into NaNoWriMo this November, with plans for a novel in an entirely new direction. I haven’t started yet so I don’t want to say too much—but I expect it to be a sci fi story involving multiple universes. It may be more serious than my other books, though I expect it to still be YA-appropriate.

Right now I’m excited to try something new after four books in the same series, but I may return to my Beyond the Tales world again too. The fun thing about this series is that every book focuses on new main characters, so the possibilities to keep building out are pretty endless! And I don’t rule out the possibility of going back to some of my main characters again. I like to end books just as the heroes are setting off for new adventures, so it keeps the door open to visit again.

Cheryl, thank you so much for stopping by, I really appreciate your honesty and it was lovely to have you visit.

About this author

Cheryl Mahoney is a fantasy writer, living in California and dreaming of fairylands. She can’t remember when she began her love affair with stories, and never goes anywhere (including the grocery store) without a book and a pen. Besides novels, she also writes a book review blog, Tales of the Marvelous (http://marveloustales.com). She has completed NaNoWriMo three times. 

You can find the descriptions for all three of Cheryl’s novels by clicking on the links below:

The Wanderers, The Storyteller and Her Sisters, The People the Fairies Forgot

 

The Storyteller and Her Sisters by Cheryl Mahoney

The Storyteller is a reimagining of Grim’s 12 Dancing Princesses.  For those not familiar with the original tale, every night the King locks his twelve daughters into their room and every morning when he releases them the princesses are not only exhausted but their dancing slippers have been worn through.  The king decrees that any champion who takes on the challenge and succeeds in uncovering the Princesses’ secret will not only be richly rewarded but will be free to choose the hand of whichever princess he so wishes.  Failure however will result in death – by decapitation.  Rounded up so bluntly like that you can’t help wondering why we read this as a nighttime fairytale to our children!

What I particularly liked about the story was that it adheres in format and style to the original but it manages to give the princesses more character (although given there are twelve they don’t all get equal time – otherwise this would be a very lengthy novel indeed!)  We’re also provided with a little back history into the King and the motives behind the locked door.  Is he protecting his daughters or is he in fact keeping them captive.  I think it also succeeds in making the princesses more likable.  Lets not forget that in the original tale they play a hand in quite a few champions losing their heads!  In this particular story they act quite responsibly towards these men – even though they are unwelcome visitors!  The main character of the story is Lyra.  All the girls not only look very similar but their names all start with the letter ‘A’ and so to assist with identifying each other they usually adopt the end of the name therefore Alyra becomes Lyra.  She’s a book worm who enjoys regaling her sisters with stories about castles and curses never totally putting together the fact that they’re living in their very own story!

I think the author succeeds in delivering a story that gives a bit more insight into these otherwise ‘anonymous’ princesses whilst at the same time giving them an interesting back story.  Plus managing to squeeze in a few more stories along the way.  I thought the change in tack for the last champion was a really good take.

In terms of criticisms I don’t really have anything at all other than I think this could have been shortened a little, simply to strengthen the tension a little.  I also think I could have handled a little bit more creepy darkness or more of a gothic feel but, that being said that would have changed the ‘feel’ of the book.  As it is this has more the feel of a mystery adventure and a race against time to work out a solution.

A lovely retelling of a favourite old tale.  Well written with Princesses that have a little more of a modern outlook.  Talking cats and fairy godmothers.  It will be interesting to go and read the first book by this author – The Wanderers – these books don’t have to be read in order but there is some overlapping of characters and I’d like to find out a little more about Tom.

In the interest of disclosure I have known the author in a blogging capacity for some time and was very happy to read and review The Storyteller.  The above is my own opinion.