Interview with ML Spencer
I’ve got a lot to say today, lol. Well, there’s also this, which is an interview with the fabulous ML Spencer, author of the bestselling Rhenwars Saga. In addition, she has a new series out, The Chaos Cycle. Book 1, Chains of Blood released a few months ago, and the most recent volume, Chains of Legacy, just dropped on April 30th.
Here we go!
1. What inspired you to become a writer? I ask this of everyone because the path to a writer can be a winding one.
From the time I could pick up a pencil, I was constantly making little books and stapling them together. Over the years, they just got bigger and bigger until one day I finished my first novel. There was a lot of starting and stopping along the way. I had parents who actively discouraged my writing because they saw it as an obsession. In fact, most people in my life thought I had an unhealthy relationship with writing because that’s all I ever wanted to do. Until one day my writing started paying the bills. Then, suddenly, it wasn’t an obsession anymore. My family decided it was “a job.”
2. Ha! That’s about the same with my parents. Now the person who’s the proudest of my writing career is my mom. So what did you do before you became a writer? Or what are you doing in addition to writing?
I am a high school science teacher. I teach regular Biology, AP Biology, and I’m lead of our school’s Biomedical Academy and Science Department Chair.
3. A science nerd, eh. I can relate. You’re known for the world of your fantastic, bestselling Rhenwars Saga. What was the inspiration for the series? And what can you tell us about it that’s not in the blurb?
I started writing Rhenwars after 9/11. There was so much hatred going on in America back then. I started wondering about this new enemy I was being told to hate and fear. Could there be a “their side” of the story? So I started researching American-Middle Eastern relations, Wahabism, and a whole bunch of other things that really opened my eyes to the idea that there really are many sides to every story, even though each side tends to claim moral justification.
So I got this idea of taking a very stereotypical, Western-based fantasy world and turn it on its head. You know that blacked-out area on the map walled off by mountains where the bad guys always come from? Maybe it’s black for a reason, and maybe the bad guys have a legitimate reason for wanting to get the hell out of there. What if those Western armies fighting the invasion are actually committing genocide against a nation of refugees? What if that familiar good vs evil archetype all boils down to just cultural constructs? Those were the kinds of ideas that started it all.
4. That’s a deep and devious way of getting that notion across. I remember reading the Belgariad, and as much as I love the series, even as a teenager, the portrayal of the Murgos and other ‘evil’ races bothered me so much. In your books, you don’t pull any punches with the story. It’s about grit, determination, and realizing that failure can happen even to heroes. Do those same elements enter into play in your new series, The Chaos Cycle? I believe book 1, Chains of Blood, was just released a few months ago, and you just released the sequel, Chains of Legacy. What can you tell us about the new series? Is it set in the same world as Rhenwars? Is Rhenwars required reading to understand The Chaos Cycle?
It does take place in the same world, but it’s got an entirely new cast of characters, a new threat, and goes to places in the world never visited in Rhenwars. So no knowledge of the previous series is needed . . .
. . . The Chaos Cycle is kind of a continuation of Rhenwars. It takes place in the same world, though years in the future. It had to be gritty and ugly, because a large part of the novel was based on the Battle of Aleppo. That really got to me, watching it play out day after day on TV. Chains of Blood had to be very real and very brutal to reflect that. But even at its grittiest and ugliest, it doesn’t come close to the humanitarian tragedy that inspired it.
5. That must have been hard; immersing yourself in a battle playing out live. You are careful to include the horror that underlies some of our favorite fantasy stories. Why is that? What themes are you playing with in your writing?
6. When you finish a difficult session, do you find yourself lingering in the world you created? Robert Jordan always said his wife knew when he was writing a scene from Padain Fain’s POV.
I’m pretty much always in my world, every quiet moment of the day. If I’m not actively doing something else, I’m daydreaming or plotting. I’ve pretty much lived there for the past twenty years. My characters are my friends, my loved ones. They are so real to me. When my mom died, I had just killed off a major character I was very attached to. I really felt like I was mourning two losses, not just one.
7. I know the feeling. Killing the ones I love is so hard. I did it once to a character to whom I’d really grown attached and it made me physically ill. I ended up resuscitating. In the story, he was only ‘mostly dead’.
Final question. How about audiobooks? Will there be any audiobook versions of your new series?
Podium Publishing picked up rights to the audiobooks for the Chaos Cycle, and they’ve hired a great narrator for the job! Chains of Blood should be out on Audible in April.
8. Anything else you want to tell us about you or your books? Like what you might want to get to later on?
I am already worldbuilding my next series, and I can’t wait to get to it. I’ve actually been working on the world for a couple of years now. I don’t want to say too much about it. You’ll just have to wait and see!
I’m excited to hear what you have in store! Thank you, ML!
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