Author Interview: Megan Haskell

Author Megan Haskell is a YA fantasy author in the Southern California area.  We often bump into each other at local writing events.  It is my pleasure to feature her here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Megan HaskellMy name is Megan Haskell. I was born in Texas and raised in the greater Seattle area.

When I was a kid, my mom was forced to ground me from reading in order to get me to do my chores. No joke. Sometime during my elementary years, my dad introduced me to The Hobbit, and from that point forward I was pretty much addicted to fantasy. I love escaping to worlds where magic and monsters are real, especially stories with kick-butt heroines and dangerously attractive heroes.

I came to Southern California for college (Fight On!), where I met my husband. We stuck around, and now I’m a stay-at-home-mom who still prefers a good story over doing the dishes.

When and why did you begin writing?

While I’ve always enjoyed literature, and excelled in English classes in high school and college, I didn’t start creative writing until I was working as a number cruncher in a big accounting firm. With an hour plus commute by train every day, and a demanding left-brain occupation, I needed a mobile creative outlet. A pen and paper are about as mobile as it gets! As the pages began to fill, I quickly moved onto a tiny laptop, and a writer was born.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

For me it was when I began to make a real habit of writing. I wrote on the train almost every day, and finished my first (terrible) novel a couple of years later. At that point, there was no denying that I wanted to make a career writing fiction and being my own boss.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

SANYARE: THE LAST DESCENDANT is a dark fantasy coming-of-age adventure about a woman raised by elves in a realm where humans are treated like slaves. After decades of hard work and intense training, Rie has finally earned a meager post in the High Court messenger service. Still scorned by the high elves who rely on her loyalty, Rie’s closest allies are the fierce carnivorous pixies who travel by her side.
When she’s attacked on a routine delivery by assassins from the enemy Shadow Realm, Rie’s combat training keeps her alive…and frames her as a traitor. Knowing her king will execute her for even the appearance of treason, Rie is forced to forsake her oaths and flee into enemy lands to prove her innocence. With surprising help from a bastard prince and an ambitious blood sidhe, Rie searches for the truth behind the attack. The secrets she uncovers may threaten more than her honor or even her life…for war is looming in the nine faerie realms.

What inspired you to write this book?

My stories all start with the characters. Rie sort of appeared in my brain in the summer of 2012, and I knew I had to write a story about this changeling human woman who has been oppressed by high elf society. She’s so much more than she seems, she just needs a chance to prove it. And prove that humans can be equal to the elves.

From there, I started to think about this world. Who lives there? What’s the history? How do the different cultures interact, and how were they developed in the first place? Those questions and thousands more like them built the nine faerie realms in my head, and ultimately gave me the idea for Rie’s journey.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I would say that I write fast-paced action adventure with a fantasy setting. I also write in very close third person past tense, so the reader only knows what Rie knows. I don’t write long descriptive passages, and I don’t use flowery language, except perhaps in the dialogue, depending the background of the character. In fact, I think my writing is pretty tight and concise.

My stories tend to be rather violent (my mom had trouble reading past the first chapter) but there’s also a light-hearted flair. This is especially apparent in the pixies, who are simultaneously deadly predators and comic relief!

Overall, I write to entertain. I want the reader to be so absorbed in the story that they no longer see the words on the page. I want them to feel like they’re right there, in the action, fighting alongside Rie as she travels the realms and uncovers the truth.
How did you come up with the title of this book?

Sanyare is a job title, like queen or president or CEO. It means truthseeker in elvish, and the truthseeker is the mediator of the nine realms, a position of great power and respect. I loved the word, and I really wanted to use it in the book title, but I also knew that since most people (including me) don’t speak elvish, it wouldn’t mean anything out of context of the book.

So I started coming up with alternative book titles. I made this huge long list, and then I started asking people what they thought. At some point, someone suggested combining Sanyare with one of the other titles. It was an “ah-ha” moment. So now I have SANYARE: THE LAST DESCENDANT, and the sequel will be titled SANYARE: THE HEIR APPARENT!

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Not really. While there are multiple themes in the book, including class hierarchy and equality, following head versus heart, and believing in yourself, I don’t ever want the “message” to overwhelm the story. I write to entertain, and I firmly believe that it’s the reader’s right to interpret the words on the page however they like. If they just want fun action with magic and swords, they get that. If they want to think more about how one species treats another or the cultural differences between realms, they can do that, too.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, not at all. This is Rie’s story. I’m sure there are elements that are pulled from my subconscious, but there is no direct translation of one experience to another.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

There’s a whole list of authors who have influenced my writing. To start with, Tolkien was my introduction to epic fantasy, and THE HOBBIT launched a life-long fascination with the genre. Then I tore through nearly all of Anne McCaffrey’s books in middle school. Her books featured strong female leads and unique sci-fi fantasy landscapes. In high school I found Laurell K Hamilton, who wrote the Anita Blake series. Those books sent me down into the darker realms of fantasy and introduced me to the concept of greater and lesser fae. And in more recent years, I’ve found authors that influence specific aspects of my writing. For example, Faith Hunter writes fantastic fight scenes, and I adore her Jane Yellowrock series. Nalini Singh has some of the best world-building I’ve ever read, and she does it in a way that doesn’t intrude on the readers’ experience of the story. And Nathan Lowell’s Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series surprised me by demonstrating that even some of the mundane details of life — like making coffee — can be fascinating if told in the right way.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Again, I have a lot of writing mentors, though they may not know it. Whenever I read a book, I try to pick out the things that I think the author does well and incorporate those lessons into my own writing. So Faith Hunter, Nalini Singh, Nathan Lowell, Anne McCaffrey…they all count as mentors as far as I’m concerned.

In addition, I’ve joined Monica Leonelle’s VIP Igniters group. It’s a masterclass, where Monica provides monthly courses in writing and marketing, and there’s a discussion group for all of the writers involved. Monica’s books and the group have really improved my writing productivity and provided a lot of resources for both publishing and the craft of writing.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Nicole at Cover Shot Creations designed my cover. I did a lot of research into the covers I liked and why, and then I found about five different designers that I thought could produce the kind of cover I wanted. Of them all, I felt like Nicole was the best fit, both for design aesthetic, and price.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Play the long game. Writing isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time to become even decent at it, so don’t get discouraged, and don’t rush it.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I know it’s been a long wait, but SANYARE: THE HEIR APPARENT is coming! If all goes well, the book should be published in late September or early October. But, if you can’t wait that long, sign up for my newsletter and you’ll get sneak peaks and free excerpts in each month’s edition. Plus, newsletter subscribers will have first chance to be included in the Advanced Reader group and receive a free digital copy of the book before it’s released! Check it out, and read more about my books on my website at www.meganhaskell.com.

Sanyare Book CoverMegan Haskell
Lake Forest, CA

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SANYARE: THE LAST DESCENDANT

Cover Artist: Nicole at CoverShotCreations
Publisher: Trabuco Ridge Press

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