FAQ

I’ll add to these as I get asked. You ask me a question here.


About M.J.

What’s your favourite book/tv show/movie?

Asking me to pick a favourite book is like asking me to pick a favourite shade of blue (aka too hard). You can find a list of some of my favourite authors in another FAQ. A sampling of favourite books:

  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
  • A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
  • No Place Like Home by Barbara Samuel
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Gate To Women’s Country by Sheri S.Tepper
  • Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Feed by Mira Grant
  • Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
  • Outlander/Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott

Some favourite TV shows:

  • Buffy
  • Firefly
  • Justified
  • The West Wing
  • QI
  • The Vicar of Dibley
  • Miranda
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Doctor Who/Torchwood
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Glee
  • Sherlock
  • Once Upon A Time
  • Smash
  • Elementary
  • Nashville
  • Suits
  • The Blacklist
  • Outlander

Some favourite movies:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean (all of them)
  • Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr one)
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Notting Hill
  • Catch and Release
  • The Abyss
  • The original Star Wars films
  • Serenity
  • The Cutting Edge
  • Iron Man
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • The Lion King
  • Casino Royale
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • The King’s Speech
  • Walk The Line
  • The Avengers
  • Rush
  • Thor 2
  • Stage Beauty
  • Mamma Mia
  • Bull Durham

I’m pretty much a story junkie. Give me awesome characters and dialogue and perhaps a hint of romance and you’ll have me.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Well, at this point I still have a day job, so I do that. Hobby wise, I like yarny things (knitting, spinning, crochet) and sewing. In 2014 I’ve been playing with sketching and watercolours which I love a lot. I also like to cook. Baking in particular. My Dad’s dad was a baker so I blame him for my love of flour and yeast and butter and sugar. If you’re interested in such things, you can keep up with my crafty adventures here (warning I only blog there sporadically due to time…I also post stuff on Instagram and my FB pages). I like photography and would like to do more of that. I go to the ballet. Currently I don’t do enough exercise but when I do, I like to walk, do pilates, do Nia, swim and torture myself on the elliptical. I read a lot (but not as much as I used to). I play cat butler to my two cats (the crazy torti and the equally crazy fluffy grey and white girl). I hang out with friends, try not to spend too much time on the internet, make bad attempts at gardening and watch a lot of TV and movies (story junkie!).

Books

Are the Half-Light books steampunk?

No. The world of Shadow Kin and Blood Kin has a Victorian-ish level of tech because iron and silver are controlled and rationed and that has impacted technology. But there aren’t goggles and gadgets and some of those other cool things that steampunk has. The closest term for it is gaslight fantasy. Dark romantic gaslight fantasy.

How many books are there in the Half-Light City series?

Four. Shadow Kin, Blood Kin, Iron Kin and Fire Kin. That wrapped up the current story arc so I’m playing in other worlds for a bit. (Though it would be fun to come and play some more with the Half-Light City in the future).

Does Blood Kin follow on from Shadow Kin? What about Iron Kin?

Yes, it does. It starts not long after Shadow Kin ends. But the main characters of Blood Kin are different to Shadow Kin. Similarly Iron Kin takes up a little while after Blood Kin ends and there’s two new main characters. Fire Kin follows this pattern.

Do you write anything else apart from fantasy?

Yes indeed! I write contemporary romance as Melanie Scott…go here to find out more about that.

Why are your ebooks different prices?

I work with a publisher (Roc) for The Half-Light City series and the Four Arts and they set the price for the ebooks.

I self-publish The Wild Side series and because I don’t have all the expenses of a big publishing house, I can set the price lower.

How many books are there in The Four Arts series

At this stage there will be three. I’m currently working on The Forbidden Heir, Book 2.

How many books are there in The Wild Side series

There will be three. The Wolf Within and The Dark Side are out now. Book three is called Bring on the Night and I’m hoping to publish that sometime in 2016.

Writing

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mostly a pantser. I generally have an idea of a few key bits of the book (and usually the ending) but apart from that I don’t really outline or plot unless I get stuck. I have written books where I’ve written the synopsis had to be written first but a) the writing of said synopsis is kind of torturous and b) the story changes anyway.

I do collage before I write a book and I use soundtracks as well to help me see and ‘feel’ the world and the characters.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve written stories since I was quite young. The first one I remember was around age 8, something about a family of unicorns and their adventures! I first started writing seriously to try and get published around 2001. I sold in 2010. You can do the math on that one.  When I first started writing seriously, I was writing contemporary romance but inevitably, my fantasy/urban fantasy love stole in and I started writing urban fantasy.  My first UF finalled in the Golden Heart, won a few other competitions, and got me my agent. So I figured I was onto something. Shadow Kin is the fourth fantasy/urban fantasy novel I wrote and the third my agent tried to sell (but hey, never say never on those other books : ) ).

How did you get published?

The way a lot of folks do.  I wrote a lot, submitted a lot, went to workshops and conferences, entered contests, found some awesome critique partners and kept at it. Most of important of all of that is the writing a lot. It takes a while for most writers to find their niche and learn to write a novel (novels are long…and hard to write!). I met my agent, Miriam Kriss, at a Romance Writers of Australia conference.  She actually requested my work through a cold read session she did there. I also submitted to other agents for both that book (and had done so earlier for my romances) but ultimately went with Miriam. She then took on the fun part of selling my books (for which I am very, very grateful).

Why are you self-publishing The Wild Side series?

There’s no doubt that the publishing world is going through an upheaval at the moment. E-books have taken off off and there’s all sorts of opinions all over the place about the best career path to take. So this is just my two cents and I’m a newbie and who knows what my opinion will be in a few years time?

Had I ever thought of self publishing before I sold to Roc? Yes. Did I want to take that as my first option? No. Should you self publish? Well, to that I say…it depends. Depends on all sorts of things. What do you want from being published? How patient are you? How prolific are you? Do you write something that the “traditional” publishers (by that I mean both print first and digital first) don’t publish? How much time/money do you have to spend on the publishing side of things if you don’t have a publisher? All sorts of things.

Personally, I had always wanted to see my books in bookstores and I wanted the help and guidance an editor and a traditional publisher can give me.So I hung in there and went for a New York traditional house. That was what was right for me. Other people want different things. I think self-publishing is a lot of work (even Amanda Hocking would tell you that) if you want to be a success.  I think it makes great sense for established authors with backlist that’s out of print. It probably makes sense for established authors who want more control or to do something different. That’s why I’m self-publishing The Wild Side. It’s Urban Fantasy, rather than dark fantasy which is a harder sell to publishers right now. Plus I wanted to experiment now that I have a few traditionally published books behind me. I think self-publishing  is probably still a very hard path for a debut author unless you do have a lot of time on your hands to market the books and the money up front to invest in a good editor/copy editor/art work. But that’s my opinion and everyone is different as to how much they want to take on.

I think that going forward most authors (me included) will wind up publishing in a variety of ways, some books with traditional publishers, some with digital presses and they’ll put out some things themselves. This is very cool for authors.  It’s very cool for readers.

How do you write?

I find my process changes a bit with each book but basically I write most days and try and meet a weekly page or word goal. I’ll write in order as long as I know what’s happening next. When I get stuck, I skip ahead to the next bit of the book I can “see” and write that then figure out how to go back and stitch things together.

I write a fairly short first draft, full of dialogue and talking heads, then have to go back and layer in more details.  It’s like the first time round, I can mostly hear the characters talking but the pictures that go with them are fuzzy. In revisions, I get a clearer picture, so can put in more details and fix what I got wrong the first time round.

As for actually doing the writing, I mostly work at home at my desk. I find it hard to concentrate in cafes etc but will do it if I have to. I do a lot of first drafting with Write or Die (basically doing writing sprints) so I can get the story down without stopping myself to much.  I use Scrivener and Word to help pull it all together after that. My home computer is a Mac. I also have a Macbook Air that I love beyond reason. I put together a soundtrack for each book and listen to that as I write, either all of the songs or one song on repeat, depending on what I need at the time.  There are songs in my soundtracks that I get pretty tired of by the end of a book. I don’t really do a lot of pre-writing, plotting or worldbuilding before I write. I’m pretty much of the “if you build it as you go, they will come” school of writing. Which does sometimes mean having to stop and figure stuff out as I go and sometimes having to circle back to fix things because I’ve stuffed something up world wise. The only thing I really do before I write, besides choosing the soundtrack music, is a digital collage which helps me get the mood of the characters and the feel of the book.

Do you have critique partners?

Yep, here are some of them

Other

What’s with the weird spelling on the site?

I’m an Aussie, so I use Aussie english spelling and grammar on the site and the blog because that’s what my brain defaults to. I draft my books in US english and am often heard whining to my editor that I have to be tri-lingual in one language (there are many many differences between Aussie/US/UK English…it’s a confusing language!)

Coffee or tea?

My caffeine delivery system of choice is Coke Zero. Terrible habit but there it is. I periodically give it up but somehow we always end up getting back together.  Sadly, even though I think coffee smells okay, drinking it makes me feel sick. I will drink tea but am not really big on hot drinks. Particularly in summer in Australia. People say a nice cup of tea cools you down but I beg to differ. In winter I do like herbal teas. And am fond of chai (though not necessarily chai latte).

Do you have pets?

Yes, currently two cats, The Big Torti (who is 7) and The Tiny (well, less tiny) Torti who is currently (at the start of March 2017) almost five months old. Both are girls. I generally have two cats. I grew up with dogs and love them too but feel guilty not being home enough for a dog…maybe one day. Previous cats who you may see referenced if you follow me on social media or poke around the blog archives were: Sophie (aka The Fuzzy Girl), Grey and White domestic fluffy beast.

Tabasco (aka The Orange Cat) Mad sweet red burmese boy.

Jessie (aka The Grey Cat) Grey smoke tabby domestic fluffy girl.

 

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