Today I’m super thrilled to welcome author Kathy MacMillan to the blog to answer few questions about her debut fantasy novel, Sword and Verse. I loved this book so much and I highly recommend it to everyone, especially to fantasy readers who love unique and intriguing new world with a touch of mythology. Kathy was nice enough to answer a few questions about her book as well share some of her writing experience. I hope you guys enjoy the interview and add Sword and Verse to your lists if you haven’t read this wonderful book yet. Definitely a must read this 2016.
Also, be sure to check the bottom of the post for all the details on a fantastic giveaway!
Welcome to Blackplume Kathy!
Can you tell us a bit about your journey with Sword and Verse? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being accepted for publication?
The timeline was pretty epic, just like the book. 🙂 I wrote the first draft about eleven or twelve years ago, started shopping it around to agents in 2005, and finally obtained representation in 2009. My agent and I spent four years working on revisions (I am a tortoise when it comes to revision) and got the deal in 2013. Then of course came more revisions with my editor and the book was published in 2016.
I love the inclusion of mythology in Sword and Verse. How did you develop your own mythology in the story? Did you draw inspiration from other mythologies?
I drew a lot of inspiration from Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythology, as well as from the fictional mythologies of several fantasy worlds. I knew that I wanted the gods and goddesses in the story to reflect human foibles and relationships, not just be ethereal higher beings.
Sword and Verse has this intricate writing system. Did you actually create those scripts and symbols while writing Sword and Verse? If yes, can you show to us some examples?
I did! In the story, there are three kinds of writing, two of which are pictographic (similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics or Chinese calligraphy) and one of which is syllabic (sort of like our alphabet, but the symbols represent syllables instead of individual sounds). Some symbols are the same across all three writing systems – you’ll have to read the book to find out why – but they are used in different ways in each. I am an American Sign Language interpreter in my day job, so linguistics is a topic close to my heart, and I had a great time coming up with writing systems that would fit the social dynamics present in Qilara.
Here are some examples of the three scripts:
This is a sentence that Laiyonea teaches Raisa in the higher order writing:
Here are some examples of lower order symbols:
And here is Raisa’s heart-verse, written in the Arnath syllabary:
Racial discrimination is a common theme in fictions (or at least from what I’ve been reading lately), and your novel, Sword and Verse has this theme too. What do you think a novel can accomplish in adding theme like this? Is there a particular thing you hope readers will learn from reading Sword and Verse?
I am so glad you asked about this! Too often we perceive discrimination as something that happens in isolated incidents, and ignore the big picture of institutionalized oppression. In Sword and Verse, it was very important to me to portray realistically the ways that government and religion normalize and justify treatment of oppressed groups. For example, it would not have been believable for Raisa, in her position, to immediately become a badass rebel, nor would it have been realistic for Mati to immediately overturn centuries of oppression. If either of them had done so, it would have fed into the notion that all it takes is one superior hero to create change, and that is a damaging one, as it perpetuates the idea that people are oppressed because they are somehow inferior. Though the story features a cataclysmic event that opens a door to change, it is the actions of various characters leading up to and following from that event that move Qilara toward justice. I hope that these themes will encourage readers to think about how language and access to knowledge are used in the real world to the advantage of some groups and the disadvantage of others.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Sword and Verse?
That there were flamethrowers in the ancient world! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamethrower)
If Raisa and Mati could say one thing to you about the direction of their story, what would they say?
They would probably request more kissing and less heartbreak. 🙂 But, ultimately, this is a story not about two people falling in love, but about two people desperately trying to stay in love despite all the ways the world tries to pull them apart – and despite the ways their own experiences tell them not to trust each other. And their story isn’t over either; with their world and their positions in it so drastically changed, their relationship still has plenty of challenges ahead.
I’ve read from one of your interviews that you are writing the sequel for Sword and Verse and that it is from Soraya’s point of view. Can you tell us more about it? Are there any preparations you made now that you are writing from a different character perspective?
The second book starts about a month (a Shining and a Veiling) after the first book ends, and it deals with the consequences of choices made by characters in the first book. To anyone who thought the end of Sword and Verse might have been unrealistically hopeful, all I have to say is: just wait for the second book, when it all hits the fan.
Soraya’s point of view is very different from Raisa’s. Despite the horrible things that Raisa has been through, she is generally a pretty idealistic person. Soraya is the opposite. She is a canny, practical young woman confronting her own privilege and trying to establish her independence in a world turned upside down, and she finds herself in the position of being beholden to people who were once her enemies.
Thank you so much Kathy for stopping by today and for taking the time to answer all my questions. I’m looking forward reading the next installment of this epic and thrilling series. I am really excited to find out Soraya, Raisa, and Mati’s next adventure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathy MacMillan is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, consultant, librarian, signing storyteller, and avowed Hufflepuff. Kathy is the founder of The Sweet Sixteens (www.thesweet16s.com) debut group of 2016 middle grade and young adult authors, and serves as the Published and Listed Member Coordinator for the Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia Region of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is also the author of eight resource books for educators, librarians, and parents, including Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together (Huron Street Press, 2013). She lives near Baltimore, MD with her husband, son, and a cat named Pancake.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Sword and Verse
Author: Kathy MacMillan
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Format: Hardcover, eBook, Audio
Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.
That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.
Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.
And Raisa is the one holding the key.
PRAISES FOR SWORD AND VERSE:
“I was completely enthralled by the fascinating and unique world that Kathy MacMillan has created. The depth and skill she demonstrates with her ability to build an original mythology based on words and the power of language are highly unusual for a first-time novelist and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” – National Book Award finalist Franny Billingsley
“A tense, romantic fantasy epic about prejudice, political struggle, and the power of words, SWORD AND VERSE kept me guessing at every turn. Kathy MacMillan is a writer to watch.” — R.J. Anderson, Andre Norton Award-nominated author of ULTRAVIOLET
What’s up for Grabs?
- 1 signed hardcover of Sword and Verse (US)
- Sword and Verse postcard, signed bookplate, and a personalized bookmark with your name in the language of the gods (International)
- Open to US and International
- There will be one (1) winner for US and one (1) winner for international
- Winners will be chosen by rafflecopter
- Winners will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
- Ends Friday, March 18th, 2016
- Prize(s) will be sent by the author