Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with M.J. Evans, author of The Stone of Mercy: Book 1 of the Centaur Chronicles
FQ: What was your inspiration for the several different races in this book?
EVANS: I selected races (or species) that would reflect different and competing traits. Some of the traits would logically be held by people hungry for power. For example, the cyclops are not known for their intelligence. Rather, they rely on brute strength. The Centaurs have speed and fighting ability but do so with more finesse and intelligence. The Duende are a made up race taken from the Spanish word that means fairy. They represent the weaker, over-looked and taken for granted species. The fauns, by tradition, have a fun-loving, irresponsible nature. So they were the obvious ones to sell their souls to the Cyclops for protection and then find themselves enslaved.
FQ: Did you do any research on Greek mythology to write about the centaurs, cyclops, etc?
EVANS: I did very little research on the mythology around centaurs, cyclops and fauns because I wanted to create new and unique characteristics in my characters. If I did too much research, that might stifle my creativity. There are many mythological creatures based upon a horse. I think this is because people have always loved and revered horses. I am one of those people. All, but one, of my novels have a horse connection and I love to use the mythological horses as my main characters, however, always with a different twist. My first fantasy series, "The Mist Trilogy," is about the noble and great horses that are chosen to become unicorns when they die. My choice to create a series about Centaurs is a continuation of my love of writing about horses. It is fun for me to include horse behaviors and traits when I write about Tibbals and Tandum and the other Centaurs. Then I get to add human mannerisms as well.
FQ: What demographic were you aiming for with this book, pre-teen or young adult?
EVANS: I initially pictured my readers to be 10 to 14, so Middle-Grade. However, many adults have been enjoying it as well so perhaps it will be well received by young adults as well.
FQ: What is the reason for calling the series "The Centaur Chronicles?"
EVANS: "The Duende Diaries" just didnít have the same ring to it! Just kidding. I teach English riding lessons and I am always telling my students to become a Centaur...to be one with the horse. After several years of using this phrase, I decided it was time to write a story about Centaurs.
FQ: What do you think are the advantages of using a young girl as your protagonist?
EVANS: As a small, delicate creature, she has an uphill battle to win over the larger races. The Silver Breastplate gives her an unexpected advantage and great power. But, remember, she never aspired to be the queen, consistent with both her station in life and her personality. But her personality is changing with each book of the series, keeping her good qualities but developing more confidence and commitment to her calling. I think it is fun to have a young girl in this position as many girls will be asked to accomplish great things in their lives whether it is to raise a strong family or run a country.
FQ: In the graphic scenes for this novel, such as the attack on the Duende village, how do you decide what details to include so the scene is still powerful but not too overly graphic?
EVANS: I like this question because this is one that I struggle with all the time. The second book has some battle scenes in it as well as will the fourth. I try to picture a PG movie as I write. I want to write books that leave a good message but that are exciting. So it is a challenge to balance both. Some fantasies are even too dark for me. I want to keep it light and fanciful even while describing a battle scene. I donít want my readers to have nightmares!
FQ: Did your experience with horses help when writing about the centaurs in this novel?
EVANS:I mentioned this in the 2nd question. Yes, I love writing about horses and their personalities. It is so fun using the technique of Anthropomorphism in my writing. My brain just goes right to putting human characteristics on horses because I love them so much and am so familiar with them. For example, when a horse is irritated, he will swish his tail. I had the centaurs do this in the book. They stomp their hooves, rear and kick, just like a horse would.
FQ: Which part of the book did you enjoy writing the most, the beginning, the end, or a specific scene in the middle?
EVANS: I think my favorite scenes are any scene where the Wizard appears. I like that character. In addition, I had fun writing the scenes with the Commander at Fort Heilodius. The bad guys are fun to create!