by Mark Sehestedt
Wizards of the Coast (WotC): So tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
Marcy: In the uninhabited wilds of Montana. Well, okay…maybe not entirely uninhabited. There were deer, and elk, and even the occasional rampaging turkey. And some guy with a thick beard who had a pet grizzly and went by the name of Adams…
WotC: According to your blog, your husband is in the Navy, yet you live in Arizona. What’s up with that? When I hear “Arizona,” the words “Naval base” are not the first ones to come to mind. Does the government know something they’re not telling us? Is Arizona about to become a coastal state?
Marcy: I could tell you, but then my husband would have to kill you.
Seriously, my husband is a Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) officer in the Navy Reserves. Since reservist families aren’t tied to a base, you can find them living virtually anywhere in the U.S. (even in the wilds of Montana).
The CEC, for those not familiar with it, is basically the command arm of the Fighting Seabees of John Wayne fame. Seabees (a name derived from the initials C.B., for “construction battalion”) generally serve on land, not on ships, so being near the coast isn’t really a requirement. It does make for cooler summers, though.
WotC: What kind of training or studies did you do to prepare yourself as an author? Were you an English or creative writing major in college?
Marcy: Actually, I majored in civil engineering with a minor in geology, and my graduate work was in geotechnical engineering. I worked as a professional engineer for several years before deciding to hang up my slide rule and stay home with my kids, which gives me the freedom to focus on what I really love – writing.
As far as preparation for a writing career, I learned to read when I was three, and I grew up in a family of readers, so I always had my nose buried in a book. The transition from reader to writer was inevitable, and I wrote my first 20-page “epic” in grade school, complete with a reluctant warrior, a princess, and a talking cat. It was all downhill from there.
WotC: You’ve written many short stories, but Legacy of Wolves is your first published novel. Besides sheer volume of words, what was the biggest adjustment your creativity had to make in writing a novel rather than short stories?
Marcy: Writing to a deadline. As a freelance fiction writer and poet, the only deadlines I generally have are self-imposed ones – which basically means, whenever I get around to finishing. With Legacy of Wolves, I had to be much more disciplined about writing every day and making a certain word count. Engineer that I am, I had a spreadsheet that kept track of my word count, my daily average, my average per chapter and my running total. It would recalculate for me at the end of every day how many words I had to average from that point on in order to finish on time. It was alternately a source of great comfort and mind-numbing terror.
WotC: You are a Rhysling-nominated poet. What exactly is a Rhysling, anyway?
Marcy: Every year, the Science Fiction Poetry Association recognizes achievement in the field of speculative poetry by presenting the Rhysling Awards (one for long form and one for short form). The award is named after the blind bard protagonist of Robert A. Heinlein’s “The Green Hills of Earth” and is basically the speculative poetry world’s equivalent of the Nebula.
I’ve been nominated twice now, which is a great honor. All the nominated poems are printed in the annual Rhysling Anthology, and I’ve been lucky enough to share page space with the likes of Joe Haldeman and Ursula K. Le Guin.
WotC: What were the biggest influences on you as a writer?
Marcy: All the usual suspects – Tolkien, Howard, Lieber, Bradbury. But some newer voices, too, like Stephen R. Donaldson and Guy Gavriel Kay. And some you wouldn’t necessarily expect, like the Bronte sisters and Thomas Wolfe. And then there are the myriad Newbery Award winners I grew up reading – L’Engle, Alexander, Speare, Paterson. A good book stays with you long after you’ve put it back on the shelf, and there are stories I read over twenty years ago that still affect me today. That’s the sort of legacy (no pun intended) I hope to leave with my own writing.
WotC: When you sit down to begin a new novel, do you start with an idea for a character, with your basic story idea, a combination, or something altogether different?
Marcy: Almost everything I write starts with a “what if?” My first published story, for instance, was written to answer the question, “What if Perseus had been a woman?” The question itself usually provides the basic story idea, and then I ask myself, “Who has the most to lose?” The answer to that question gives me my characters, and then I’m ready to sit down and start plotting.
WotC: Legacy of Wolves is the third volume in the Inquisitives series. Without giving away too much, what can you tell us about the story?
Marcy: On the surface, it’s a murder mystery. People are dying in Aruldusk, and my inquisitive – a dwarf named Greddark d’Kundarak – is hired to figure out who is doing the killing, and why. But the novel’s tagline is “We are all forged in the fires of our past,” and it’s also about the legacies our families leave us, how we can either choose to be defined by the past, or to break free of it…and what happens when we do, because it’s never as easy to walk away from our history as we think it’s going to be, and sometimes that history doesn’t want to be left behind and comes looking for us.
WotC: So where does Legacy of Wolves take place in Eberron?
Marcy: Legacy of Wolves takes place entirely in Thrane, although I do make reference to some events that took place in Karrnath which I hope I get a chance revisit in a future story (my editor and the publishing gods willing). Within Thrane, readers will get to see portions of Flamekeep, Sigilstar, Aruldusk and Shadukar, among other places.
WotC: Eberron is such a vast setting. In crafting a novel set in such a huge, intricate world, how do you go about your research?
Marcy: Well, since my story is set in Thrane, I used both the Eberron Campaign Setting and Five Nations source books extensively. One of my main characters, Andri Aeyliros, is a paladin of the Silver Flame, so Faiths of Eberron was invaluable in understanding how the church works. Another, Irulan Silverclaw, is a shifter ranger, so Races of Eberron was helpful in fleshing out her past. But as good as the source books are, they are still only a springboard – you have to bring your own ideas and interpretations to the material in order to bring your story to life in the mind of the reader.
WotC: The Fantasy genre seems to attract more hopeful authors than almost any other genre. What advice would you give to aspiring fantasy authors?
Marcy: Read widely – not just the sorts of things you want to write, but books on science and politics, biographies, comic books, even romances and thrillers. You can learn something from everything you read (even if it’s just what not to do). And, of course, write every day. I’m convinced that’s what separates the people who ultimately succeed in this business from those who only dream of doing so – the discipline to write every single day, even if it’s only 100 words. It all adds up, but only if you’re actually sitting down and writing – not just talking about it.
WotC: So pretend I’m a voracious reader who has never read a fantasy book. I find out what a talented and successful fantasy author you are, so I ask, “What good fantasy books would you recommend I read?”
Marcy: Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy is one of my all-time favorites, but you really can’t go wrong with any of his books. Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin is excellent, though it’s technically urban fantasy. Anything by George R.R. Martin, Stephen R. Donaldson, Terry Brooks, Neil Gaiman, Melanie Rawn, Judith Tarr and Katherine Kerr. And, of course, Tolkien.
WotC: Besides fantasy, what types of books do you like to read?
Marcy: I’ll read almost anything. My nonfiction library has books on chaos theory, the construction of medieval castles, Metis genealogy, Catholicism and potty training, just to name a few. My fiction library consists mainly of science fiction and fantasy books, but there’s a smattering of horror, romance, YA, thrillers, and even a few westerns. If it’s well-written, by an author I like, or is related to a story idea I’m researching, I’ll read it.
WotC: What’s next for you?
Marcy: I’m currently working on a YA novel loosely based on the life of St. Catherine of Siena. And I’ve floated some ideas for more Eberron novels in front of my editor – I have a few more fixes I’d like to see Greddark try to get himself out of, not to mention Andri and Irulan. So hopefully you’ll be seeing more of them in the future.
© 2007 Wizards of the Coast