About the Author:
Jamie lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She teaches writing and literature at Auburn University.
Her first novel The Goddess’s Choice was released in April 2012 from Reliquary Press. She is hard at work on the sequel, tentatively titled The Soul Stone. Her short fiction has been published in Bards & Sages, The World of Myth, and Short-story.me.
MF: Tell us a little about Jamie the person and Jamie the writer.
JM: From early childhood, I’ve been immersed in books. My mother, an avid reader herself, read to us, and my older sister filled my head with fairy tales. When I was about six, I started writing stories about the Man from Mars for my older sister. I devoured every book I could get my hands on, and I wrote my first fantasy novel while in high school—not that it was publishable. Taking into consideration my love for literature and the challenges of supporting myself as a writer, I pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which I received in 1998. I started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University and discovered the excitement of teaching. But in doing so, I put my true passion on the backburner and neglected my muse. Instead, for a few years, I wrote literary criticism. Then one day, in the midst of writing a critical piece, I realized I had no interest in doing so. What I wanted to do was write novels. My muse thus revived, I began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice. I have an entire series planned.
I live in Auburn, Alabama, with my husband, son, and four cats. I still teach writing and literature at Auburn University.
MF: Your novel The Goddess’s Choice is a sword and sorcery novel. Tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it.
JM: The Goddess’s Choice is an epic fantasy novel set in the kingdom of Korthlundia. The crown princess Samantha fears she’s mad; no one but she sees colors glowing around people. The peasant Robrek Angusstamm believes he’s a demon; animals speak to him, and his healing powers far outstrip those of his village’s priests. Despite their fears about themselves, their combined powers make them the goddess’s choice to rule the kingdom of Korthlundia.
Samantha’s ability enables her to discern a person’s character through their multi-colored aura, and Robrek’s makes him the strongest healer the kingdom has seen in centuries. But their gifts also endanger their lives. Royals scheme to usurp the throne by marrying or killing Samantha, and priests plot to burn Robrek at the stake. Robrek escapes the priests only to be captured by Samantha’s arch-enemy, Duke Argblutal; Argblutal intends to force the princess to marry him by exploiting Robrek’s powers. To save their own lives and stop Argblutal from plunging the realm into civil war, Robrek and Samantha must consolidate their powers and unite the people behind them.
The Goddess’s Choice is loosely based on a Norwegian fairy tale, “The Princess and the Glass Hill.” Though my favorite fairy tale as a child, it disturbed me that the female character has no name and no role other than being handed off as a prize. My novel remakes the crown princess of Korthlundia into a strong heroine who is every bit as likely to be the rescuer as the one rescued.
The Goddess’s Choice originates deep within my childhood. My sister Jalane–she is ten years older than me–would tell me stories, fairy tales mostly: “Midas and His Golden Touch,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel.” But my favorite was always “The Princess and the Glass Hill” or “The Glass Mountain” as my sister titled it. I had her tell that story over and over again. I was captivated by the bold hero on his magical horses of bronze, silver, and gold.
When I had a child of my own, I wanted to pass that fairy tale on. My son, Jesse, loved it every bit as much as I had. One day after telling it to him, it came to me that the story could be so much more than five pages and sparse details. However, I didn’t want to write a children’s story but the type of epic fantasy I enjoy as an adult. I upped the dramatic tension, villainy, and sexuality of the piece to create something far different than the original fairy tale. The Goddess’s Choice is intended for an adult audience.
MF: What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
JM: I mostly used the internet and google. I don’t remember most of the sites, but since one of my main characters is a healer, I researched herbal remedies and medieval medicine. I don’t have a lot of experience with horses, so I had to research horses and horse diseases. I also researched various facts about medieval life, including court dances and foods. To add additional favor, I researched Celtic gods and goddesses as well as holidays. Sulis is the Celtic goddess of healing, and all the holidays in my novel are based on the Celtic calendar, although I’ve taken plenty of liberties with them and made them truly Korthlundian. For herbal healing, I also used The Green Witch Herbal.
MF: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
JM: As a teenager, the novels of Piers Anthony, Roger Zelazny, and Stephen R. Donaldson introduced me to the realms of fantasy; that has affected the direction of my reading and writing since. As an adult, I discovered Mercedes Lackey and Jim Butcher. Lackey’s Valdemar books are probably the biggest influence on The Goddess’s Choice. I’ve long said I wanted to be Lackey when I grew up.
MF: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
JM: The biggest thing would probably be the strength and variety of my characters. It is my characters that most reviewers have most often mentioned as the book’s greatest strength. I have heroes you’ll love and a villain you’ll love to hate.
MF: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
JM: The toughest criticism was that The Goddess’s Choice was far too long to be publishable. It was originally 320,000 words. I had to cut it nearly in half—not an easy feat. The best compliment is that my characters are realistic.
MF: What do you read? What do you re-read?
JM: I read most fantasy with the occasional crime drama. I re-read works that make me love the characters.
MF: What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
JM: K.I.S.S.—keep it simple, stupid. I tend to be wordy and repetitious, as seen by the 320,000 word draft. I needed to learn to cut the crap. I think it’s a lesson a lot of writers need.
MF: Are you currently working on another novel or writing project?
JM: The sequel, tentatively titled The Soul Stone, is nearly finished. Then there is the third volume of the trilogy and another book set in the same world but outside the trilogy that focuses on the character of Darhour, the captain of Samantha’s personal guard. I also have an urban fantasy novel in the works, titled The Bull Riding Witch.
MF: Do you have any advice for other writers?
JM: First, read a lot. You can’t hope to be a good writer if you aren’t first an avid reader. Second, join a writers’ group to get feedback. Family and friends are too biased and won’t always be honest with you. If you can’t find a group in your area, there are plenty online. Make sure you’ve written the best book possible before you rush to publish it. Then be prepared to promote, promote, promote.