Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with M.J. Evans, author of The Stone of Courage: Book 2 of the Centaur Chronicles
FQ: Was it always your plan to create four books for this series or did that develop after the writing of the first book?
EVANS: From the moment I first conceived of this storyline, it was four books…one for each of the stones that would give Carling the traits of a wonderful queen. The traits of Mercy, Courage, Integrity and Wisdom are characteristics that I wish all leaders possessed.
FQ: If you had to pick a favorite character, which would it be from this book and why?
EVANS: My heart continues to be first and foremost with Carling. She is the type of character that I can relate to. She is humble and filled with doubts and insecurity yet is committed to her assignment and willing to push herself beyond her perceived limits. She’ll take that step into the darkness and bring her own light with her. That said, I also have fun creating the bad guys! Shim, the Tommy Knocker, (note my spelling is different than the miner’s tommyknockers because I was creating an entirely new creature) is a nasty little fellow but he makes me chuckle when I write about him.
FQ: What was the inspiration for the Ice Horses?
EVANS: The idea to add the Ice Horses came from a photograph that a friend sent to me of a snow sculpture contest. The sculpture in the picture was of beautiful horses carved out of snow. They were so spectacular; my imagination went crazy and I had to add them to the book as inhabitants of the Northern Reaches.
FQ: Are movies ever an influence when designing the look of the different races such as the centaurs, ogres etc.?
EVANS: The images of the creatures such as the Centaurs, Ogres and Cyclops that influence me the most are early paintings of mythological characters rather than movie characters. I take all the literary license I want, however, and make them look like I imagine them in the story. For example, the Ogres are far different than any ogre you would have read about…kind of a stone “transformer” if we are looking for a movie connection. Carling is a Duende. The Duende are creatures that I created. They are half human, half fairy. So, she and her friends just came out of my imagination.
FQ: What is your favorite part of writing a book - developing the plot, writing particular types of action scenes or ...?
EVANS: I love, love, love creating the plot. I’m a story-teller at heart and I love to let my imagination go wherever it wants when developing the storyline. Next are the action scenes, especially scenes filled with tension where the reader gets a little bit nervous wondering what the outcome will be.
FQ: What has been the easiest part of working on this series?
EVANS: The easiest part of this series is keeping it organized. With each book telling the story of Carling acquiring a new stone, it is easy to keep the plot organized. I did something a little atypical, however. Instead of writing the story so that Carling finds each stone at the end of a book, she finds it in the middle. Then I get to show how the stone changed and influenced her while she developed each quality.
FQ: How do you keep each book unique from the one before it but cohesive at the same time?
EVANS: The cohesiveness is achieved by repeating the pattern: 1) Carling is sent on a Quest to find the next stone, 2) Carling finds the stone, 3) Let the stone influence Carling as she faces those who oppose her.
Each story is unique in that each quest takes Carling to a different part of the land of Crystonia where she meets different challenges and opponents.
FQ: What would you say is the most difficult part of writing?
EVANS: The most difficult part of writing a series like this is keeping the protagonist consistent while helping her learn and grow. Even as she gains mercy (the first book) and courage (the second book,) she must remain Carling, a young, naïve, and insecure girl who never desired to be the queen.
The most difficult part about writing in general is how lonely it is! I am a very social person. I love to be around people. However, writing is a solitary job. I sit by myself, surrounded by my imaginary friends and type, type, type! Then I hope someone will like my work. However, there are no guarantees!
FQ: Since I'm so eager for book 3, would you tell us how far along you are in the writing of it? Can you give our readers a little tease on the storyline?
EVANS: I am so glad that you are eager for book 3. I think it is the best so far. I have completed the first draft of the manuscript and am now doing revisions…so I’m getting there. Carling is sent on a new quest to find the third stone: The Stone of Integrity. It has been hidden on a mysterious island populated by Fairies who hide their faces behind masks. They don’t want anyone to know what they are thinking or feeling. They must learn to develop integrity even more than Carling does.