Thursday, June 17, 2010

Interview -- Danielle Ackley-McPhail

I met Danielle on line and as a Mundania author. Then I shared her table at Lunacon where we sold books. Actually she's a great salesman and had other cool things for sale. Especially liked the horns. Have read a book or two of hers and enjoyed them though urban fantasy isn't my preferred genre to read. She kept my interest to the end.

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

I write primarily science fiction or fantasy, though I have dabbled in just about everything.

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you? If more than one you can just focus on one or more than one.

I have always enjoyed speculative fiction more than drama or true-to-life scenarios because I can take what everyone is familiar with and play what-if. There is little challenge for me in writing strictly about the human condition, fiction based on everyday things. Though I read such things, I never could get very excited about writing them. I like to play. I like to find the spin I can put on events or settings that will make them unique and magical. My mind looks at things slantways and comes back with the last thing I would have expected but when it’s woven all together…it’s really, really cool!

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try or one you wouldn't?

I don’t have any interest in erotica because I find it boring to write, and most of the times to read as well. Mystery/Detective, not very likely either because I like to get into the characters’ heads too much, I find it very hard to be less than revealing with what is going on and what everyone is thinking.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I read pretty much everything, but mostly it depends on how much I don’t want to think…if I was to be mindless I read romance—now, I’ll tell the cyber-audience out there not to take offence. I’m not saying romance is mindless, but it is predictable. You know going in that girl will meet love interest, there will be some conflict, some fraternizing, and in the end they end up together. Romances are about being happy in the end. The journey is unknown, but the end point is not. I don’t have to keep details straight with a plot like that; I can just enjoy knowing I won’t be disappointed in the end (in theory). Romance takes me a few hours to read. With fantasy or science fiction, especially alternate reality/universe/made up setting/society, I have to focus to keep everything straight. Take much longer for me to read one of those.

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing.

I’ve been writing and putting together books seriously since I was twelve. Took me nineteen years before I finished a novel, twenty-one before it was published.

6. Which of your characters is your favorite and why?

I tend to get very attached to my background characters, mostly because they are comic relief, but also because in their simplicity, they are amazingly real and full of depth. I don’t mean that I spend a lot of page space describing them or anything, just that they come to the party boldly, if you know what I mean, crisp and clear and engaging. In my novel Yesterday’s Dreams it is a toss up between the cat, Pixie, and the pixie, Beag Scath. Both are almost solely there for comic relief, but they engage every reader. In The Halfling’s Court it is actually one of my villains, Smear, the road gremlin. And in my short story, Emberling, it is actually a creature called an embril. Now these have a special place in my hear both because I am so pleased with who and what they are, but also because for such simple features of their respective stories, they have all made a solid impact on my readers.

7. Are there villains in your stories and how are they created?

Not all villains are a “living” being. Sometimes it is circumstance, sometimes a group, or a thing…animal, god, mythical object. Few stories can exist without a villain of some type, it is the nature of fiction that to have a story there needs to be some conflict. For my work, it depends on the story. I’ve had villains of all types. Some of my villains have been a smokescreen for the true malevolence in the book, others are tools of a greater evil, some are just greedy, twisted grabbing types. Sometimes it is ourselves—or in case of the stories, some aspect of the main character. I borrow a lot from mythology and human nature itself. Some of my villains are completely and willingly irredeemable and others are forced into their role and are destined for redemption. I could write a whole paper on my various bad guys and what has made them that way…there are just too many to go into!

8. What are you working on now? Wow…how much time do we have?

LOL…I am working on three novels: The Redcaps’ Queen, Kantasi, and the third, unnamed book in the Eternal Cycle series. In addition to that I am working on the following anthologies: In An Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk, By Other Means (Defending the Future book 3), No Man’s Land (Defending the Future book 4) and Firebirds (Legends of a New Age book 2). Did I mention my motto is Better Busy Than Bored! All of those are for Dark Quest Books ( except for Kantasi and Eternal Cycle 3.

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

Well, my newest books out are Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory, Dragon’s Lure (Legends of A New Age book 1) and New Blood, but since they are all anthologies, let me tell you about The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faeries Tale instead. It is my biker faerie novel based on the stories that originally appeared in the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies. The stories were so popular with the reviewers and readers we had heard from that we had to expand into a novel. As for where the original concept came from for the Halfling’s Court, I was driving down to Virginia for a convention, Ravencon ( and about halfway there we witnessed an absolutely stunning sight, a full-blown biker stampede. It was so impressive that it really made a lasting impact on me seeing all of those hundreds of bikers reveling in the road and their cycles. But what was most impressive was seeing the police and rescue vehicle escorts and seeing the way the state police had closed the highway exits so cars could not enter the highway in the midst of all those bikers giving them a free run to their destination. It was like a royal procession and one of the coolest things I have ever seen. At about the same time, or soon after we began working on the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies and I just KNEW I had to have biker faeries in there and to do it justice, I just had to write it myself ;) To date there are now three stories in the universe, one novel, and another on the way (the above-mentioned The Redcaps’ Queen).

10. How does the book open? Show the opening scene. -- 400 to five hundred words.

Prelude to The Halfling’s Court

ANAIPHAL BATTLED FOR THEIR CHILD. IF SHE LOST HIM, SHE might live; if the child survived, she would die. Cameron felt the shame of not knowing which to pray for.

Such was the way with curses.

He would never understand how a father, mortal or fae, could be so sick as to wish ill on his own child. Anai’s father, upon discovering she’d fled, had cursed her to death should she ever attempt to bear young that would challenge him. A curse so powerful and vile it overcame the spell ring meant to protect her again magic. Cam could barely conceive of such coldness. But then, the guy had been twisted enough to force Anai to marry him, hadn’t he? And all in the name of power.

Cameron still didn’t know the whole story behind that, but he shouldn’t wonder: the fae was mad. If not for her brother, Jonraphal, Anaiphal would have never escaped before her wedding night. Cameron would have never even met her.

And she wouldn’t be about to die.

Cam’s throat tightened and his gut went sour. She was certain she was doomed, but what of their son? There had been other halfling births, and things went fairly normal, but they had no clue what impact the curse would have on the child.

Cameron sat behind her and cradled her gravid body with his own, desperate to ease her pain. He tried to quiet his fear, but gave the effort up as useless. The room was already thick with the scent. Cam shut down the forward-thinking aspect of his mind and focused all his attention on right now, this second, on Anai. His hands, both frantic and gentle, kneaded her arms. His lips feathered her brow with kisses.

“Help her.” His voice was low and intent.

Jon’s mate, Delilah, moved about the room grabbing the things they needed for the trip to the hospital. Jon, Anai’s halfbrother, had gone to get Cam’s truck.

“Call them…’Lilah,” Anai gasped. “Call them all, there is no time, and I shall need help in the bearing of this.” Even as she spoke, a misty magic gilded her from the crown of her head to her clenched toes. Her abdomen rippled, wrenching a groan from her delicate throat. She seemed barely aware as Delilah hurried away to summon the fae members of their enclave. All of Anaiphal’s focus was on their child.

“Augh!” Pain lanced through his wife until her body shook with it. Impossibly, a wild wind seemed to whip about her and, as it swept across her, her grip on his hand tightened.

“Shhh….shhh…It’s gonna be okay, baby. It’s gonna be okay.” Cam did his best to believe it, but the words felt empty, forced.

“NO! No! Cam…promise me….You must promise me he’ll never know!” Her frantic plea was scattered and faint. “He must never know!”

Then her fae kin filled the room and laid their hands upon her. Their eyes glazed and their stances went rigid as they shared their strength to help her bear the burden of the pain. Mouths parted on a collective moan and the room was taut with a sense of waiting.


Wendy S Marcus said...

Hi Danielle! (And Janet!)
I read romance specifically because I know the ending will be happy. I enjoy following the journey, seeing how the author takes me along that somewhat familiar path. I don't agree that romance is mindless entertainment, however, because a well written romance completely involves my mind, transports me into the lives of the characters, brings me to a world different from my own....even if it's right here on earth.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail said...

Sorry, Wendy. I posted a response to your comment, but it doesn't seem to have gone through :(

I am sorry I have given you the wrong impression. I completely agree with you that romance can transport you.

I was not belittling the romance genre or readers, my comment was about my mindset when reading romance. It is effortless for me to read so I go through them quicker and do not have to concentrate hard to keep track of the story. That is why I refer to them as junkfood reading. This is not a negative and is not meant to imply it does not take skill and talent to write romance; it just means that I go through them like potato chips ;) Fantasy and science fiction require more concentration of me to keep track of important details. Romance, being mostly closer to real life I can immerse myself without effort.

Thanks for posting and again, sorry if I have given offense.