Saturday, August 5, 2017

Writer Chat: Mary Taranta, Author of SHIMMER AND BURN

"Born the youngest save one in a family of ten, I grew up notoriously quiet but secretly wild, playacting my favorite stories and writing some of my own in the woods behind my family's farmhouse. Originally from a small (very small) town in Ohio, I moved to the larger (much larger) Orlando suburbs kicking and screaming at the age of fifteen. It turned out all right in the end and I'm still here, now with an adorable husband, two useless cats, and an unhealthy reliance on air conditioning. While I'm not old enough to be President, I am too old to sit on the floor without cracking joints when I stand. As a Midwestern Southerner, I've attained Level 9 Politeness and prefer my iced tea sweet.

Still notoriously quiet, though. Not nearly so wild."

(text and photo taken from Taranta's

Did you always know you wanted to publish a novel?

Once I understood that being an author was a viable career choice for adults (I was in the third grade at the time), yes! Publishing has always been my goal. It's taken longer than I would have thought as a kid, but on the other hand, I would have been mortified if I had ever published that first book I wrote in the sixth grade....

Besides writing or reading, what is your favorite hobby?

I love walking (and running), cooking, and working with my hands, whether it's doing maintenance-related things around the house, or craft projects. Every few months, I also tend to reorganize the closets and garage... for fun. (I like things tidy!)

Are you more of a coffee or a tea person when writing?

I absolutely hate coffee, no matter what flavor it is or how much sugar and creamer is added to disguise the taste. I prefer black teas or homemade masala chai. Hot cocoa if it's stormy outside!

How do you deal with critiques of your writing?

With time, distance, and hard honesty. When I first started writing seriously and my husband would give me feedback with no sugarcoating, my reaction was to defend, dismiss, and argue against everything he said. That's really not constructive and defeats the purpose of asking for input. Now I listen to feedback, let it percolate for a few hours/days, and then re-evaluate. It's never as harsh the second time I look at it, and by then, I see the merit more than any attack. A lot of times the critique is right, even if I don't like admitting it. ;) Other times, if it doesn't feel right to what I was intending to convey, I discard that specific comment.

How did you choose your characters' names?

Faris was Faris from the first inkling of an idea, because I liked the name Ferris but wanted it to be more feminine. (Afterwards, I realized Ferris means "rock," which suits her perfectly, so that was a happy coincidence.) Princess Bryn is ambitious and wants to be queen, so I had her father name her--the last born of his children--after his kingdom as an indulgence; whereas North was named after the North Star, due to his constancy to his goal. Tobek started off as Tobey, but I added a harsher sounding ending to suit the naming convention of other places/people within the novel.

What is an underrated book you would like to recommend to everyone?

Mimus, by Lilli Thall, a high medieval fantasy written by an art historian. I love characters who come in shades of gray, and the title character, Mimus, was absolutely fascinating and unexpected.

About Taranta's upcoming release, which will hit shelves on August 8:  

To save her sister’s life, Faris must smuggle magic into a plague-ridden neighboring kingdom in this exciting and dangerous start to a brand-new fantasy duology.

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.

With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch. (taken from