Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: literary criticism

Author Interview ~ Jamie Marchant


Let’s add to the over-50 Author Interviews on this blog by introducing Jamie Marchant:

Author Jamie Marchant Jamie, let’s start with the question, when did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think I have always considered myself a writer even when I wasn’t presently writing.  As a young child, I never remember wanting to be anything else. I started writing stories about the Man from Mars for my older sister when I was about six. I then wrote a fairy tale for her, starring her and her husband. Throughout my adolescence, I continued writing and finished my first novel in high school (not that it was publishable). Still, I had it pounded into me how hard (next to impossible) it is to make a living as a writer, so I decided to get my PhD and teach college English. In doing so, I lost my way and neglected my muse. What I’d begun as a means to support myself while writing became an aim in and of itself. I focused on writing literary criticism in order to further my career as a professor. One day while I was working on a piece of literary criticism on Willa Cather, I realized not only did I have no interest in writing the piece, but also that I hadn’t written fiction in years. I abandoned the piece on Cather and started what was to become my first novel, The Goddess’s Choice. That was about fourteen years ago. I may not be rich, but I’m a much happier person since I returned to my first passion. The Soul Stone is the sequel to The Goddess’s Choice, although it is not necessary to have read the first book to understand the second.

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

The Goddess's Choice Samantha, the crown princess and then queen of Korthlundia. She is the type of woman I aspire to be. I originally created her in The Goddess’s Choice to combat the gender bias in the fairy tale upon which that novel is based. “The Princess and the Glass Hill” was my favorite fairy tale as a child. (Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it. No one else has either.) It didn’t occur to me until I was older just how negligible the princess  in the tale is. The hero tames magical horses of bronze, silver, and gold and rides them up the impossible sheer side of the glass hill. It is with him that I always identified as a child. The princess, on the other hand, does practically nothing. She has no name and no role other than being handed off as a prize to the victorious hero. Samantha remedies this defect. She is a strong and powerful heroine who needs no man to complete her. Still, she has her weaknesses and insecurities at being thrust onto the throne at the young age of nineteen. She is my gift to all the girls and women who long for a fairy tale princess who deserves the name of hero.

Tell us a bit about Korthlundia where your main tales are set. Your main characters seem neck-deep in royal intrigues, on their guard every minute. Is the world also at war all the time? Do regular folks suffer from whoever’s opposing the goddess? Basically, what kind of a world are we dealing with here?

Korthlundia had enjoyed over fifty years of unbroken peace because of its geographical isolation and the wise rule of Samantha’s father, King Solar. Both the nobles and common people prospered. The troubles in Korthlundia began when Duke Argblutal murdered the king and attempted to usurp the throne. Samantha was only nineteen years old, but she and Robrek put him in his place, six feet under, at the end of my first book, The Goddess’s Choice. However, the nobles aren’t too keen about a young woman and a common young man taking the throne, and the unrest is starting to affect regular folk as well. This is especially true when, in my second book, the Soul Stone breaks loose from its ancient bonds and begins to kill indiscriminately.

Why did you write your second novel?

When I came to the end of The Goddess’s Choice, my main characters—Samantha and Robrek—let me know that their story wasn’t over. They had so much more to say, so I let them say it in The Soul Stone. Too many stories end with the marriage of the hero and heroine, as does The Goddess’s Choice, but real life doesn’t end with marriage. Marriage is a beginning, not an ending, and our romantic relationships are only one aspect of our lives. Problems, difficulties, and complications often beset us even when our relationship with our significant other is going well. The Soul Stone lets me show this. Robrek and Samantha remain in love, but their lives are anything but soothe sailing. The Soul Stone

Jamie, what experiences from your past do you find yourself drawing on for inspiration in your work?

Reading and storytelling were a big part of my childhood. My mother read to us and took us to the library regularly to make sure we always had books. In addition, my older sister told me fairy tales and other stories. It is this heritage of stories that I draw most heavily upon when I write my own work. Other aspects of my experience come in from time to time. I drew on my grandmother to create Samantha’s father, King Solar. My fascination with the archaic nature of rodeo comes in with my current work in progress. However, it is the stories I was told as a child that provide a richer source of inspiration than my actual experiences.

Which element of book writing is most difficult for you?

Fight scenes. I’ve never particularly enjoyed reading fight scenes and often skim through them. That’s made them hard to write. My writers’ group makes fun of me because in the rough draft of my work, I’ll often have “Insert fight scene here” instead of the actual fight scene. Although I’ve gotten better at fighting, I don’t think I’ll ever be an action master. Character development is more my forte.

Who’s your favorite author?

It’s hard to pick just one, so please forgive me if I mention two: Mercedes Lackey and Jim Butcher. Lackey’s Valdemar books showed me the true potential of creating an entire fantasy universe. Her world-building skill is exquisite, and her characters are so rich and vivid that it makes it seem you could actually know such people. I loved them or loved to hate them. I have attempted to recreate both of these aspects in my own, Kronicles of Korthlundia, of which The Soul Stone is the second book. Jim Butcher is also a master at both world building and character development. In addition, his novels add an element of humor that makes his novels that much more appealing.

What are you working on now and would you like to share anything about it?

I’m working on two projects at the moment. One is the third book in The Kronicles of Korthlundia series of which The Goddess’s Choice and The Soul Stone are a part. I don’t have a title for it yet, but let’s say it continues the adventures of Samantha and Robrek and involves dragons and a barbarian invasion. I’m also working on a novel, again unnamed, about Samantha’s true father, Darhour, and how he became the notorious assassin that he is.

Well, my goodness, Jamie, you’ve told us so much about your writing life and your books! Thanks, so much, for visiting—please let us know where we can find you on the ‘Net.

Here’s my WebSite.

My Facebook page.

And, me on Goodreads.

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How A Story’s Integrity Can Save It From Certain Criticisms


Haley Whitehall, in a twitter conversation, suggested the topic of this post :-)

Writers receive, if they let themselves, many kinds of criticism; during the writing, if they’re brave, and, almost always, during the final revision process.

Let me give you the etymologies of the two key words of this post:

criticism c.1600, “action of criticizing,” from critic + -ism. Meaning “art of estimating literary worth” is from 1670s.
integrity mid-15c., “wholeness, perfect condition,” from O.Fr. integrité, from L. integritatem (nom. integritas) “soundness, wholeness,” from integer “whole” (see integer). Sense of “uncorrupted virtue” is from 1540s.

So, I’m proposing that, somehow, the “wholeness” and “virtue” of a story can save it from certain negative “estimations” of its “literary worth”.

As always, I’m not writing this post as an “expert” on the topic. I’m a writer and a published author but I make no claim to being a literary expert.

What I can do, though, is to ask questions and share my own experience.

What is the “wholeness” of a story (insert the word “book” if it makes more sense for you…)?

What is its “virtue”?

Did you notice that the etymology of “criticism” said, “art of estimating literary worth”?

It appears that valid criticism involves artists evaluating other artists.

Any two artists will have two unique sets of values when they approach the art of criticizing another artist’s work.

Is the artistic critic evaluating the Whole of the work? Are they sensing the Virtue of the work?

My book was getting criticism well before I began writing it–its theme was shared with many people and their opinions were sought…

As I wrote it, I received feedback from authors and interested readers.

My editor went beyond mere technical appraisal and shared her artistic views of the book.

A special office of review gave me highly-qualified and specific advice.

At each stage of this process I was of two minds: the merely human writer seeking perspective and the Artist, bearing the Book and feeling its Life and Truth…

Sure there were dumb mistakes that the merely human side of me made and they were gratefully attended to.

But my Artist-Self was the Mother of the Book and She, thankfully, was strong enough and clear enough about what the Book needed and deserved.

Does your story or book Speak to you?

Can you hear its demands in spite of well-intentioned criticism from others?

Does your “human”-self interfere with your “artist”-self?
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