Welcome to another Author Highlight, a series where we feature authors like ourselves. You’ll find author interviews, tips, stories, poetry, and more. We aim to entertain, promote, and inspire. Other interviews can be found here.
Joining us in our post today is Madelaine Taylor, a writer currently based in Northumberland. There she enjoys tea, cake and a cozy blanket or wandering the countryside wondering at the castles, beaches and woodlands. Her literary favorites are the wonderful Sir Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Tolkien and Eddings. And the delightful Gail Simone and Becky Cloonan. Madelaine’s latest release is The Shadow War, second in her Mortara fantasy series. Here’s a teaser of what to expect:
After thwarting the plots of the Circle priests and seeing her own family freed, Lana Ni Hayal begins a new life in the palace of the Mortaran Queen. Meanwhile, in the far north a rebellion is gaining ground, ancient oaths and allegiances are broken and the sadistic goddess of the sgàil returns.
Can Lana and her friends; the warrior, Brighid. The noble huntress, Tinnion and the reformed thief, Caitlin, stop the darkness that threatens to destroy Mortara? Or will the Queen of the shadows take the throne and enslave the human race? And who, or what, is the Obsidian man?
Enter the world of Mortara once more as this epic fantasy continues. And journey with the companions as their abilities grow and their lives forever change.
Author Interview with Madelaine
Thank you for appearing on our blog! Take us back to where it began- how or what got you interested in writing?
A: It was the stories… They kept bugging me! I’d lie there awake all night with tales of a mysterious stone and the young person that came along and unlocked its secrets. Sure the story had different ideas at different times and the characters changed and evolved as the months went by. Sometimes the stone finder was a young man, sometimes a young woman. Sometimes a youngster training in the world’s rangers, sometimes a peasant. But they were always there. Always present, night after night for a good three years before I sat down and tried to commit them to paper.
On a practical level, it was NaNoWriMo that finally pushed me to write. A friend of mine (not a writer) knew that I was toying with the idea and mentioned this wonderful competition in which you had to write 50k in a month. I thought it was an insane idea but I gave it a go and I still have the jpeg of my first Nano certificate sitting on my computer (even though the computer has changed twice since those days).
What inspired you to write the Mortaran Novels?
A: As above really. The stories were just there, in my head, waiting to be told. Language was a big part of it and most of the non-English words I use in my books are either straight-up taken from other languages (mostly Scots Gaelic) or derived from them in a messed up sort of way. Mortara, for example, is the Gaelic word “Mor” meaning big, and Tara is derived from “Terra” meaning, of course, earth or land.
I was trying to learn French and Gaelic and was teaching English as a second language at the time the stories first started to swirl around my noggin; So you can imagine language was quite a big part of my life at that point.
Which character is your favorite and why?
A: This changes with time and mood. Currently my favourite is Tinnion. A huntress from a modest background that becomes the gesith (that one’s Anglo-Saxon) of a hold on the edge of the Heartwood. She’s quite a dry character and doesn’t give a lot away, in terms of her emotions or motivations. In the latest book, however, she meets someone new and that opens her up a bit. So it’s been really interesting for me to watch her develop.
Tell us about your main character and why readers will love (him/her/them)
A: Lana Ni Hayal… A young girl when we first meet her in The Elemental Stone. Playful, wistful, and a little moody (though she always feels bad for it). She has a deep connection to nature and a kindness and purity of spirit that really shines as she undertakes her long, dangerous, journey.
Without giving too much away; when she finds herself in a bit of trouble and has to flee her stead, she ends up running straight into the Heartwood. A dangerous place full of dangerous Fae, it is there she finds a mysterious standing stone…
What I love about her, and I hope others will too, is that we watch her grow from a daydreaming child to a young woman with a growing sense of justice and morality. She remains playful and even naive at times. And yet she has a strength that surprises some and isn’t afraid to stand up to those she considers bullies.
We see her learn about herself and those things the stone unlocks within her, even as she learns about the world outside of the milking shed and pastures she grew up in. Lana isn’t a fully formed “hero”, she’s far from it, and I think that makes her relatable and even loveable.
What are some of the themes you hope readers identify in the Mortaran Novels?
A: This one is quite difficult for me. It’s like writing an English Lit paper but on my own work!
Most people have picked up on the nature elements and the, I suppose, spirituality (though that’s a weird kind of word) of a world with fae. Some have compared the ideas to Taoism and some to Paganism but most of the people I’ve spoken to relate to it in some way.
There are other themes, which I believe are quite common in Fantasy and Sci-FI writing, which deal with humanity and equality. Race, gender, sexuality, religion. They’re all present and tackled in some way throughout the series. Though I didn’t, in any way, set out to do so or to make any kind of morality points. They just come up in the narrative.
There is one theme that one of my readers “picked up on” and it made me, and others, chuckle. It was essentially down to a misreading of the opening to The Elemental Stone and isn’t an actual theme of the book. But one reader was certain that there were intimate moments between a woodcutter and a tree and that the book would therefore be a strange read. Thankfully she kept reading and realised her mistake, but it lead to a fun moment at a local book club and a new character being introduced in (the unfinished) book three.
What has it been like self-publishing your work?
A: I’m terrible at sales and publicity, so it has been challenging in that respect. However, I wanted complete control over what went into my books and I wanted the story to be told the way I envisioned it and self-publishing means that I can do that. I love that I can do my own maps, my own cover art, and my own chapter doodles. I love that nobody is bugging me to finish book three. And I really love that I’m not worried about or stressing over finding a publisher or agent. If it’s meant to go huge, they’ll find me!
My readership is tiny. But, for the most part, they all know where to find me, on social media or on my website, and that has led to some really enjoyable and interesting exchanges on the story and how each person has connected to it. I don’t know if I would have that, were I going through a publishing house. For me, that is what is important, that connection that people feel to a story that has been stuck in my head for years.
Thanks again for joining us! One last question for our readers. Your novels and short stories notably feature faeries. How did your interest in the fae begin?
A: The Scottish Borders, where I was raised, is a magical and mysterious place. Castles, misty hills, woodlands, beaches, lakes, and tiny islands. They’re all found in this area. And when you have an area like that, an area that was the edge of the roman empire, the landing place of the Vikings, and the seat of Christianity. An area that has seen cultures clash and merge for centuries. In an area like that, there are always tales of fae and elves and mischievous little creatures that exist just out of sight.
The fae in my story are inspired by classical tales and mythologies. Dryad, Sylph, and Nymph all appear and all come from stories I read or heard as a child. From classic Greek, Roman, and Nordic mythologies to local tales as well as fantasy worlds like JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Eddings’ Belgariad. The fae in the Mortaran novels are Tolkienesque elven creatures with an affinity to one of the classical elements and one, or two, gods.
They allow me to explore abilities that in some ‘fantasy’ books would be considered magic, without making them magical. They’re grounded in the world and they’re not limited to one special person.
I love the fae. Though they’re fantasy and myth they ground me in a way that nothing else does. We live in a world of technology, cars, roads supermarkets, and environmental disaster. Everywhere you look now you will be confronted by a human creation. The fae ‘exist’ in a world untouched by any of that. They live in the trees, the streams, the sea, the mountains, and the fields. And, for me, that thought is calming and hopeful and filled with mystery and adventure…
Thanks for joining us for another author interview!
Connect with Madelaine at her website and social media links below. And don’t forget to get your copy of the Mortaran Novels!
Thanks, Madelaine, for taking over the blog today! Readers: Would you want to live in a world populated with faeries and other fantastic creatures? Let us know in the comments, and by your compass stay true.