A Whole New World of Fantasy: An Interview with Writing Duo Alesia & Michael Matson Interviews
by nick wale
A con turned cop. An urchin turned lady. A web of lies. An epic love.The world’s first 21st century book! with embedded links to maps, articles, and behind the scenes, inside information on the great City of Fernwall, the former Kingdom of Cascadia, and the larger world in which Raven & Iris live.This is “Raven’s Tears“This interview is with a brand new writing duo who have taken fantasy and turned it into their own art and expression. This isn’t just a work of fiction. This is a whole new world. Check out their first interview below….
Before we get into this interview, can you quickly give us the title and genre of your book and a short tagline:
Raven’s Tears: Book One of The Raven & The Iris
A con, turned cop. An urchin, turned lady. Two webs of lies. One epic love.
Genre: (Adult) fantasy fiction.
Who is your intended audience, and why should they read your book Raven’s Tears?
Intended Audience #1 are role playing gamers (table-top and digital), and they may well (and have, thus far, in test reads) groove on the setting, the action, and the intricacy of the plot. If they’ve ever played Dungeons & Dragons,Champions, Shadowrun, FATE Core, Pathfinder, Traveller – or even World of Warcraft, Everquest, Assassin’s Creed, or any of the MMOs that include a bit of interaction in the play – they’ll probably find a lot to like about this book.
They’re also writers who don’t want to do all the intensive research and work it takes to build their own setting but who want to write fantasy fiction themselves. They’re sometimes labeled as “fanfic” writers, or “fanficcers” because they started out riding on the coat-tails of movies and television shows. In addition to appreciating the story, we hope they’ll also devour the world and setting with the intention of writing their own stories there. We’re having to consult with attorneys for all the jiggery-pokery that satisfies copyright law (for our protection and for theirs), and the accountants, and that takes into account the ass-hats who always turn up in an attempt to ruin the ride for everyone.
Intended Audience #2 are college-educated fantasy readers, who, we hope, will appreciate the dialog, the characterizations, and how the complicated lives of the two protagonists mirror their own, only perhaps more glamorously.
Intended Audience #3 are frustrated home workers, male and female, who are trapped in a life of mind-numbing domestic drudgery and who deeply, desperately want an escape from that, however vicarious and temporary, that doesn’t involve turning on the damned television. Or stabbing anyone. (Michael: Leave it to the characters! They’ll do it for you.)
How did you come up with the title of “Raven’s Tears?”
“Raven’s Tears” is the translation of the name of the book’s MacGuffin, the Mâgun-Zak. Seemed both apropos and evocative.
We originally wrote Raven’s Tears in 1999 to cater to the erotica/porn market. That’s the plain, blunt truth. We wanted to write in our setting, to appeal to adult fantasy gamers and erotica readers as a combined, but very “niche” market. We couldn’t find a publisher or agent who would touch it, so we put it on the shelf for fifteen years or so and completely forgot, in the interim, that we’d slapped it together in an act of pure and utter prostitution.
Fast forward to 2014, and a need to shift careers dictated looking around to see what we had around here that was potentially a source of income. Raven’s Tears bubbled back to the surface, and after fifteen years of wear and tear on the bio-memory circuits, we didn’t manage to remember the original premise for its creation. We decided to publish it anyway.
Then, a lot of fuckery happened, resulting in us realizing that we needed to rewrite Raven’s Tears extensively in order to make it represent the (hopefully much better) writers we are now. In that way, we hoped it would stand up to the second book, which was 95% complete by that (this) time.
Can you tell us a little about the cover design? Who designed the cover?
Gwyn Kennedy-Snider of GKS Creative designed the cover. She was recommended to us by a former business associate.
We went with this image primarily because it had a bird on it, and we were in a hurry to get a good cover on the book before publication. We liked the colors, the font, and Gwyn did a fabulous job in a rush. She made that cover distinctive and beautiful without a lot of time to do it.
From this point on, most replies will reflect that the book is co-written by two persons of diametrically opposed everything:
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Alesia: In the first book, it’s Angelique, hands down. She’s why I’m telling the story. She got dealt a shit hand in life, and has made some epically bad decisions. She’s a woman who is not what she seems, who doesn’t know who she is, who does not understand her own power, and who has to discover all that in order to save everything she loves, before her sanity completely unravels. What is not to love there?
Michael: Commissioner Hal Roland. We don’t learn much about him in Raven’s Tears. We learn a lot more in Deadman’s Trigger (book two). The guy is made of solid stone with a heart of gold, and is doing an impossible job under enormous pressure, with a tremendous amount of grace.
Alesia: Oh, I like that one, too. Well said.
How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
It’s easy to say “Louis Arnot,” but in some ways, Louis is one of the best parts of the whole story. He’s the kind of crazy-bad you know you ought to shoot right away, but there’s something about him that just mesmerizes you into not pulling the trigger.
Alesia’s least favorite character in Raven’s Tears are actually characters – the Guardian Paladin nobility living in Fernwall during the story. They are a very deprecated and decadent version of their church/culture, post-war, and have forgotten almost everything about their religion and its teachings, that made it into a force that once tamed two continents. In other words, most of them are narcissistic hypocrites, and for that, Raven is correct to despise them.
Michael’s least favorite character in Raven’s Tears is Vincent/Raven. He’s angry, petulant, rebellious, and like all young males, thinks he is immortal and has all the answers. As we open Raven’s Tears, Vincent’s relationship with Angelique is all about rebellion. He’s managed to corrupt a rising star in the Guardian Paladin Church, which is rather disgusting, if you think about it. Fortunately, he’s a good kid at heart, but only wise old Lady Emilia can see it. He has to be knocked around for a book and a half to begin to see it in himself. (Vincent doesn’t really like himself at the beginning. How many of you caught that?) Only then does he truly start to shine.
Alesia: No spoilers, but oh boy, does he. Michael makes me fall in love with Raven all over again in book two.
If you could change ONE thing about “Raven’s Tears,” what would it be? Why?
Well, that’s not fair. We did change ALL the things, already. That’s what the re-write was all about.
Now, if you want to know what we did change:
- We eliminated about 75% of the sex. (q.v. the Adult fantasy fiction thing again.)
- We put Angelique’s life in Fernwall in a more meaningful context.
- We put Vincent/Raven more firmly into his own character development arc, which involves a dead mother and an abusive father and elder brother.
- We removed anything that smacked of anyone else’s material, and renamed a long list of places and things in languages that make more sense for Menelon. The latter entailed inventing several whole new languages.
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
*deadpans* You mean this hasn’t been full of that, so far?
Okay. Try this:
- Alesia hates, loathes, and despises writing with diacritical marks, and it seems like every damned name she had to invent for the story contains them.
- After writing the conclusion to the first book, the authors were sad and depressed for weeks. No spoilers.
- Oh, the authors were married, and wrote it together. Yeah.
- The authors are still married. To each other. No one has been stabbed so far, but hey, we haven’t written the third book yet.
Alesia: Jacquelyn Carey’s works in general, but her Kushiel’s Legacy series is very, very similar. She’s used an alternate Earth for her setting, and placed some pretty fantastical things in it. She’s come up with a unique and fascinating female protagonist, who also is on a journey to discover her own power (among other things). Those are the similarities that appeal most. Her prose may be a bit more “purple-y” than ours is.
Michael: There’s also some similarity to Tolkien’s work, though I hate to say it after the Lord of the Rings, and now the Hobbit movies. Elves and dwarves, you know (there are no hobbits on Menelon): are we tired of them yet? Still, Tolkien understood the importance of a detailed, believable fantasy setting, and the importance of language to that setting (being a linguist and all). We’ve also put in a tremendous amount of work on the setting and the languages, and now are making it available via the wiki. There aren’t many authors out there that we know of who have put in that kind of work on the settings for their stories, or that have combined ebook technology with wiki technology to provide a new kind of experience for readers and fans.
Alesia: Please don’t worry, though. He’s not talking about the endless tedium of Tolkien’s written stuff. I promise you, he’s not.
Michael: No, no! I’m talking about the stuff that wasn’t seen until the Silmarillion came out; the behind the scenes stuff that make fantasy stories soar. Oh, and by the way: Our elves and dwarves are very different than anything else I’ve seen in fiction or RPG. Very different.
Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
Alesia: I’m not convinced that “embroidery” is either unique or interesting, but I’m an unrepentant fiber fiend. Is “coffee” a hobby? Or “chocolate?” Also a fan of period drama, and a life-long role playing gamer, if that wasn’t obvious.
Michael: We’re baseball fans. Does that count? Seriously. I fix things and make things. Hardly unique.
Alesia: The SF Giants always count – and it’s not been an easy year to be Giants fans. We have two puppy kids and an office cat. They ought to be hobbies, as much as it costs to maintain pets, these days.
How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
Metaphor Publications on G+
Michael’s twitter https://twitter/meta_pub
Alesia’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/zenstitcher
What can we expect from you two in the future?
There is a possible second trilogy for Raven & Iris, depending on how the first is received.
There is a probable separate trilogy planned, set at the end of Menelon’s Great War, on the continent of Sylantia, in the Holy Land of the Guardian Paladin Church, and what’s left of the kingdom of Vin-Nôrë. We get to see who Guardian Paladins are supposed to be, which bears little other than surface resemblance to what they ended up being, in Fernwall, in Angelique’s time.
There’s a second Fire Mission novella titled Par-Dhol in the works already.
There is a possible series for a completely different (space/sci-fi) setting. It’s a remote possibility at this time, given the amount of work it takes to build a freaking GALAXY. Some of the work is already done, but, you know….
What can readers who enjoy Raven’s Tears” do to help make it successful?
- Buy Raven’s Tears. (Captain Obvious, there.)
- Enjoy the wiki.
- Tell their friends.
- Blog about it, talk about it in their social networks.
- Participate in the fun events we’ll be doing to promote Raven’s Tears and the series.
- Write their own stories in the settings provided (it’s possible we’ll put them up for everyone to read!), with their own characters. Maybe start, or join, a role playing game based in Fernwall and its surrounds – again, see the wiki!
- Tell us how you’re having fun with it. We are already having tons of fun with this, but if there’s a way we haven’t found yet, we definitely want to know about it.
Alesia: lol I’m sorry, I can’t take myself that seriously. So maybe I’ll just advise that: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Believe me, no one else does.
Michael: It’s the effect of gray hair.
Alesia: That’s not gray, you buffoon. Those are strands of glitter growing out of my head (hat tip to Ashi Labouissefor that one).
Michael: Okay. You win. :> Anyway, what was it Churchill said? “Never give up.” But that’s true of achieving anything, isn’t it? It’s certainly true of this new literary landscape we’re all creating.
Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Okay, no, wait. Alesia (who is laughing maniacally at having a legitimate opportunity to write about herself in third person and not have it look like a clinical issue) has something to add about the process of collaborative writing, for those who were wondering: It is either a right-royal, whirling bitch of a thing, or it is utterly and madly glorious, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the middle that’s worth talking about.
And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us…
Angelique’s hands were still trembling when the carriage slowed to negotiate the acute angle onto Queen’s Street. She pulled up the deep cowl of her summer cloak, knowing there would be few awake to notice their arrival. Raven climbed out, flipped the driver several shillings, then quickly led her inside.
“No wine,” he murmured apologetically, closing the door behind her. “I’m sorry, beloved. I wasn’t sure…”
Beloved. Another first. It was like a dam breaking.
“Ah, well.” He’d lit the small candle by the door, then turned to face her, momentarily captivated at how her elegance and loveliness made his dingy flat seem like a lord’s palace. “I guess we’ll have to make do with each other.”
“We always have,” she whispered. Unable to bear being apart from him, Angelique threw off her cloak and moved into his arms again, pulling his face down to hers for a kiss to make him forget about wine, or the lack of it, or anything else other than her.
He picked her up, startling her again with his strength, and carried her into his bedroom. There, he laid her out on the bed, then sprawled atop her, hardly able to bear it for the milliseconds his lips had parted from hers. Sudden tears stung in her eyes one more, spilling out from beneath the closed lids. Her lips pressed into his so hard it hurt, and yet he still wasn’t close enough.
“Easy, my burning bright,” he murmured into her panting mouth. “Let’s rid ourselves of these vestments of aristocratic society so we can immerse ourselves in each other.”
She nodded, shaking so hard she could barely stand whenever his hands left her. Angelique forced herself to her feet, turning her arms over backward to reach the hooks at her back, because not even Raven could know that this dress was constructed to open from the front, too.
More lies. She hated the cursed dress with sudden, irrational fury. Lady’s Love, let it burn to cinders, and take the damned lies away with the flames!
“Oh, burning bright!” Raven, laughing gently, moved to unfasten the back of her dress. “First love has not robbed me of my manners. At least not all of them, I hope.”
His words made her cry even harder. First love. He’s killing me. “Just get it off me, Raven. Please.” And don’t ask me to explain, because I can’t…
He chuckled, but complied. It was mere seconds before her lovely gown rustled to the floor, leaving her in little but her underthings. For perhaps the first time in his life, Raven wished the women of his caste were allowed to dress more simply. He just wanted to touch her, to hold her close, and have nothing between them; to crawl inside this new, precious thing they shared, and stay there, immersed in the sound of their hearts and bodies mingling in the total silence.
Angelique seemed to echo his thought, and amplify it—she stepped free of her discarded gown, then kicked it into the corner of his bedroom fiercely, and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “There are just times… when I loathe that, Raven. All of it.”
He blinked, wondering if he’d understood her reference. “I’m not sure I got all that,” he murmured, pulling her back to him to unlace her corset.
“That,” she gestured imperiously, pointing to the shapeless pile of fabric and lace in the corner, “and all that goes with it.” Angelique shook her head then, knowing she sounded irrational, and knowing that she couldn’t really explain. As ever, it was easier to opt for the lie, and the bitter taste of it made her want to cry even harder. “It represents nothing so much as living death sometimes. I don’t want to be dead, Raven. Not when you make me feel so very alive.”
Then he thought he understood her. The rules, the strictures, the formalities, the enforced pecking order, the codes of proper dress, the interminable treadmill of “morally correct conduct” expected of the ruling class, and lovingly codified in Byron’s Manual of Proper Form; to which the ruling class were expected to pay lip service, at least, or face censure. They were the very rules, traditions, and customs his father and early tutors had tried to pound into his head—or his backside—for as long as he could remember. He’d been running from it, and from them, ever since.
How ironic. She’s running away from all that by coming to me, and I’ve run right back into Lord Byron’s stuffy societal regime by falling in love with her. “Then perhaps,” he said huskily, fingers upon the last laces of her corset, “in each other we have found respite from the same interminable disease. The chains of Paladin society are something I’ve been trying to escape for as long as I can remember.”
Angelique pushed herself free of her corset so quickly it might have torn, were it of any finer material, then hurled it with all her strength toward the crumpled dress, breathing hard and free for the first time in hours… since just after she ducked into a garden shack outside Liberaune Hall, hurrying back into the gown she’d just violently rejected. She stared at the heap of fabric on the floor, half-afraid it would stand on its own to confront her with every lie, every deception, every half-truth she’d ever uttered in this man’s presence.
“If love is your new truth, how dare you let him love a lie?” it seemed to demand, the thought coated in Louis’s slimy, condescending tones. “You’re nothing but lies, Angela Rose Corwin.”
The fierce, new-born devotion she felt for Raven rushed through her like a cleansing fire, and she burned in shame. When she turned to face him, it was with a haunted look she knew he’d misinterpret—yet another lie of omission to add to her sins. “If you ever find a way to outrun it completely, beloved, come back for me. Help me win free, too? Please?”
“On that, you can count,” he replied fiercely…
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