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Monday, November 2, 2020

Exclusive Cover Reveal and Interview: Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Today we have the exquisite pleasure of hosting of a cover reveal from one of the most talented authors in the grimdark field. She's been one of the most hardworking people that I know of and she now will be venturing into the EPIC side of things. Hence we are beyond exhilarated to present the cover for M. L. Spencer's upcoming epic fantasy DRAGON MAGE. She also spoke about a few things about this new standalone story of hers and so without further ado...

Q] Hi Melinda welcome and thank you for this lovely opportunity to host this cover reveal. How have you been in these troubled times?

MLS: I’ve been well, Mihir. My family has been taking COVID seriously, so we’ve been pretty safe. I’m a science teacher, and I’ve been doing distance learning, which has been challenging but overall has turned out better than I had expected it to.

Q] To start with, could you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, and why you choose to go the self-published route? Anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your past?

MLS: I always wanted to write fantasy. Like, always. I started off writing little books in the 3rd grade and completed my first novella in middle school, winning the county Writing Celebration. Then I just kept going, writing my first novel in college. It was always my dream to become a fantasy author, to the disgust of all my creative writing professors who thought fantasy as a genre was pretty worthless. I wrote Darkmage back in 2004 and shopped it around to agents, but I only got one bite from someone who wanted to break it in half, and I didn’t want to do that. 

Looking back on it, I should have. It was a grimdark book kind of ahead of, or at least at the start of, the whole grimdark subgenre, so it probably would have done well. But I just stuck it in my closet and forgot about it until 2011, when I decided to self-publish it.  Of course, I knew nothing about marketing or self-publishing back then, so it just languished on Amazon for years until I finally re-released it in 2017.

Q] I loved the cover for DRAGON MAGE. It hearkens back to the classic epic fantasy covers. What were your pointers for your artist when you were starting out? What were the main things that you wished to focus on in it?

MLS: I really wanted to write a classic epic fantasy—the kind I used to love back in the 80’s—and I wanted a cover that really broadcast that. I did a lot of cover surfing on Amazon until I had a composite of a few covers that I thought were the direction I wanted to go in. I handed those to my artist Tum Dechakamphu as examples, and he really exceeded my wildest expectations.  I also have to give a shout-out to Shawn T. King for giving the cover that 80’s kind of look with the border and typography.  It really hearkens back to Dragonlance and other 80’s fantasy novels that I adored.

Q] Could you tell us about the inception of DRAGON MAGE & the world within and what was/were your main inspiration(s) for it?

MLS: I wanted to write a book in which the main character falls on the autism spectrum—kind of to show the world the potential strengths of being neuro-atypical. I never knew I was “on the spectrum” until I was an adult. I led a pretty difficult childhood and was very socially isolated, and I just never understood why. It was very painful. When I found out that I have what we used to call Asperger’s, basically high-functioning autism, it was like a great lightbulb turned on—an epiphany—that explained all the great mysteries of me

But seriously. I would never trade it for anything, because along with giving me some rocky terrain to overcome, being neuro-atypical has also been what I consider my greatest strength. It gives me an obsessive focus that allows me to tackle projects single-mindedly, way past the point where I think most people would throw in the towel. When I wrote Dragon Mage, I wanted to create a character who could demonstrate that being on the spectrum doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, and it can even be a great strength. 

Q] Is this story set in the same world of your previous series or is it a new one?

MLS: Nope. It’s an entirely new world, one I have been worldbuilding for literally years. 

Q] Will DRAGON MAGE be heralding the start of a new series for you or is it a standalone story?

MLS: Right now, it’s a standalone. It’s an enormous book and it took everything I had out of me to write it. I really didn’t want to commit myself to a series unless it sees some success. I know that sounds cheesy, but there it is. If I do decide to expand it into a series, it won’t be contrived, as I left my character room to grow. But it doesn’t have to go anywhere. It’s entirely self-contained.

Q] Let’s talk about the world that you are creating for this saga. It seems to be a bit medieval in origin but that would seem too simplistic. Can you talk to us about the world that DRAGON MAGE is set in? What are curiosities (geographical, mystical, etc.) of this world?

MLS: I had this idea for a split world—one in which the world of magic has been separated from the world of men. So, a little background: during a war between the gods, the world of Dragon Mage was cleaved into two reflections of itself: the World Above and the World Below. Most things magical ended up in the World Below, including dragons and most people with magical ability. In the World Above, those with magic have been hunted pretty much to extinction. I wanted the world of men to be hyper-realistic, and the world of magic to be very fantastical, so I started doing my research, reading tons of anthropology books. I really threw my all into the worldbuilding. 

The World Above is actually a collection of cultures that are mostly under the domination of the Abadian Empire, which exercises a pretty stifling colonialist control over the territories it has conquered. The book starts off in a Northern European setting, then moves southward to a more Middle Eastern/Mediterranean setting (actually modeled after Moorish Spain). The cultures of the World Below are constructed, and most of the characters are non-white.

Q] So for someone who hasn't read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write, what would be your pitch for DRAGON MAGE?

MLS: The books I’ve written up to this point have been pretty grimdark, so I am definitely veering away from that into epic, or even high fantasy. Dragon Mage is more of a Coming of Age novel. I really felt the need to get out of grimdark. Honestly, it was kind of getting me down.

A one-line pitch for Dragon MageA misfit boy must save the world of magic from the world of men.

Q] So what can readers expect from this book and what should they be looking forward to, according to you?

MLS: Readers can expect a very compelling main character with a huge heart and a ton of courage. The book is very character-driven and far more about the bonds of friendship than about good versus evil. It’s a pretty big book—265,000 words—but it’s very fast-paced with a lot of twists and turns you probably won’t see coming. And dragons. 

Definitely dragons!

Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

MLS: I just hope people who read this get a better understanding of what it’s like to experience the world as someone who is neuro-atypical and get a better appreciation for those who are. Aram’s experiences are basically my own; I really channeled myself into him. Not that my experiences represent everyone on the spectrum, but hey. They’re what I know. ☺


Official Book Blurb: Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. Too bad he doesn't know it.

Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing and less, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known.

But Aram is more. Much, much more.

Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that, when they are recognized, Aram finds himself granted a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.

Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.

NOTE: Author picture courtesy of the author herself. 


Arina said...

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