Monday, May 25, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with M.K. Theodoratus, author of 'The Ghostcrow'

Hooked by comic books at an early age, M. K. Theodoratus’ fascination with fantasy solidified when she discovered the Oz books by L. Frank Baum with his strong female characters. She has traveled through many fantasy worlds since then. When she's not reading about other writer's worlds, she's creating her own.

Most of her stories are set in the Far Isles where she explores the political effects of genetic drift on a mixed elf human population. Lately, Theodoratus has been setting her stories in an alternate world of Andor where demons stalk humankind.

A sixth grade English assignment started her writing. The teacher assigned a short story. Theodoratus gave her an incomplete, 25-page Nancy Drew pastiche which turned into a full novel by the next summer. She’s been writing happily ever after ever since…for four or five writing careers. Most recently she’s been concentrating of her Andor stories, set in an alternate world where demons and magic plague humans.

Her latest book is the supernatural fantasy novelette, The Ghostcrow: A Tale of Andor.

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About the Book:

Seeing ghosts has plagued Dumdie Swartz since early childhood.

Afraid that ghost guts might stick to her if she stepped through them, thirteen-year-old Dumdie Swartz still cringes when she encounters them.
Her strange attempts to avoid spirits create a lonely life.

Her sisters constantly mock her strange behavior, her parents are clueless, and her social life is zero. Dumdie finds solace working in a shared garden with her elderly neighbor, Mr. Carson. When teens from her high school steal pumpkins from his garden, Mr. Carson is hurt during the theft, and later, dies.
Dumdie’s life takes a dark turn.

She learns there are stranger things than ghosts, when she senses something evil living in Kyle, one of the boys who had raided the pumpkin patch. Kyle bullies Dumdie to scare her into silence. The more Kyle threatens her, the clearer she perceives the evil thing possessing him. Dumdie finds support in an unlikely group of girls who befriend her when she helps them with their costumes for the Pumpkin festival. During the festival, Dumdie’s fears explode when the thing possessing Kyle decides it wants to possess her.

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Thanks for joining us at the book club, M.K.  Can we begin by having you tell us how you got into writing supernatural fantasy?

M.K.: Hi. I’m glad to be here.

I sort of backed into supernatural fantasy. I also write heroic fantasy, but a critique group got me trying other types of fantasy. The result was a YA fantasy about four teens drafted to help the gargoyle guardians of their city when it was invaded by demons – There Be Demons.

I thought of the stuff as dark fantasy since it involved gargoyles and demons invading human lands. An indie publisher contracted for the novel, and I began to build a writer’s platform, using some of the short stories in my computer, to help sell the novel when published. Long story short, the publisher folded before the editing was done. When everything blew up, I was working on the The Ghostcrow. I decided to just go ahead and self-publish it too.

I was calling my Andor stories dark fantasy at the time. Then, someone with more publishing chops than I do told me I wrote supernatural fantasy. My stuff could never be dark fantasy because it wasn’t gross and gruesome enough. Besides it contained too much humor.

Where is your book set and why did you choose that location?

M.K.: Andor is roughly an alternative USA, shrunk by a third. Many of my stories are set in the California Gold Country where I roamed as a teen. It wasn’t until I was revising There Be Demons that I realized that the story was set in the California valley where I grew up. The river in Trebridge is similar to the Sacramento. I was just using a background I was familiar with as my setting.

Example: when I think “pine”, I think “sugar pine”, not “loblolly”.  I know what the wind sounds like when it rustles through the needles.

I’d like to know more about your main character, Dumdie Swartz.  Can you tell us more about her?

M.K.: Dumdie is one of my characters that popped into my head. One day a started thinking about a homeless old lady who was lucky enough to be placed in a privately funded homeless shelter, only she had a problem. She saw ghosts and didn’t much care for them.

After the story was finished, I had a “problem”. Dumdie wouldn’t leave my head. The question about how she had managed to survive all those years seeing ghosts wouldn’t go away.

So, I started to speculate about what her childhood would be like, especially since memories of her sisters’ teasing still bothered her when she was old enough to draw social security.

Can you tell us a little about the other supporting characters?

M.K.: Since the story is short, there really wasn’t much room to develop secondary characters.

There was Dumdie’s family who have no idea on how to cope with her strange behavior when she avoids ghosts. Her father is paternalistic, and her mother ineffectual, though her heart is in the right place. I’ve always thought Dumdie leaned towards the Aspersers end of the continuum, which accounts for her troubles relating to people.

Had to have someone sympathetic in her life and came up with Mr. Carson, her next-door neighbor. They worked in a garden together. As for school, I added a group of girls with magical abilities which also marked them as different.

Magic plays a bigger role in the overall Andor world than indicated the in Dumdie stories. Dumdie has a special power to see ghosts and can’t wield magical energy.

They say all fiction books have pivotal points in the book where the reader just can’t put the book down.  What’s one pivotal point in The Ghostcrow?

M.K.:  Really? I wouldn’t have the slightest idea.

My would-be publisher said I was a natural storyteller. I’ve never had an English class, except for a college composition class where I wrote non-fiction. Stuff about themes, of me telling people what to think about what my story means, is just foreign to me. Give me motivations any day. I want to know why my characters act like they do.

I think stories are to enjoy.

What’s next for you, M.K.?

M.K.: I think I’m sort of at a writing crossroads where my mind’s deciding what it wants to do. I’m working on another novelette, On the Run, set in Andor. The Dumdie stories are loosely set after the Celestial Wars turned back the demon invasion of Andor. On the Run is too, but it is more concerned with the role that magic workers play in the world.

But, I’m thinking I want to get back to my other alternative world, the Far Isles Half-Elven. I’ve got two manuscripts in different stages of revision that I might as well self-publish since I sort of got the hang of it now.

But, I’ve got Greg Highgrim from another Andor story wanting more of his story told. Who knows what I’ll end up doing.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for featuring my novelette. I appreciate it.