Today, Fantasy author Micaela Fischer has popped in for a visit to talk about how she builds a fictional world, creates fascinating characters, and balances her creative work and day-to-day life. Read on after the interview for my review of her novel The Demon’s Curse, book one in The Shadows of the Amazon series.
Author Micaela Fischer
How did you come up with the idea for The Shadows of the Amazon series?
My husband and I played Dungeons&Dragons for years, still do, but now we play Pathfinder instead. Cora and Percival from The Shadows of the Amazon series were from one of the campaigns we played in for a couple of years. Cora was my Amazon mage, and Percival was actually a character played by a friend of ours. My husband played the character Kalik from the series.
You have another fantasy series as well–The Shadows of Sorban. Do you find it difficult juggling two completely separate fictional universes?
The Shadows of Sorban and The Shadows of the Amazon are actually in the same world, just different areas of the continent I am currently writing about. The two will actually come together with the other two series I am writing, The Shadows of Time and The Shadows of the Assassin. They all meet and work together in a final series, Shadows of the Children.
How do you organize working on each series?
I outline each one separately. I also maintain a separate timeline for each story to ensure that when I do have them meet, they are meeting together at the right time and I can refer to backstory correctly in Shadows of the Children.
Both The Demon’s Curse and Hidden from Destiny feature strong-willed heroines and heroes with deep senses of honor and loyalty. How do you build your characters? Do you create deep backstories for them or let them come into focus as you write?
I spent a lot of time creating my characters when I played them in the role-playing campaigns. While I played them, I was working on their backstories, creating a family, goals, a reason for the traveling and adventuring. I feel strongly that a heroine or hero must have a reason for what they do and, being the hopeless romantic that I am (according to my husband), a strong reason does involve a romantic interest.
Your characters face serious obstacles—internal and external—so there’s lots of action in your books. But there’s also a strong romantic thread in your work. How do you strike a balance between romance and action, so that the story appeals to readers’ emotions while still maintaining necessary suspense?
Like I said, there has to be a reason the heroine or hero is trying to save the world, besides “It’s my destiny”. Or, “the world needs me”. Who is the heroine or hero coming home to? That’s what I ask myself. Yes, both my heroines have their hero with them, but at the end of the day, we all want someone to talk about our day with. Overall, there is the main reason they are adventuring, so that part of the story still needs to be there.
What sorts of books do you read?
I read a variety of genres, and love most of them equally. I enjoy Fantasy, first and foremost. Unfortunately, finding the classic fantasy, sword and sorcery, books today has become difficult. I am very particular which urban fantasy I read. Too many of them are borderline romantic, and that’s not why I read Fantasy. I do enjoy romance and erotica, as well as paranormal romance, paranormal mystery, horror, and mystery, and occasionally young adult, however I am EXTREMELY particular about which young adults I read.
How has/does your personal reading history impacted your own writing?
With some of the borderline romantic books, they have shown me just how far not to go with the romance. And I have one particular author I read just to remind me how important emotion and movement is during dialogue.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you sit down and work out detailed outlines for each series, and each novel within that series? Or is it more of a seat-of-your-pants process for you? If you outline, how much room do you leave for spontaneous discoveries and surprises?
I normally write in scenes. So I start with a few scenes for the novel I want to do. As I process the scenes and what I want to accomplish within the novel and the way I want it to end, I will sit down and work out a detailed outline. I put each chapter on a color coded 3×5 card, each color denoting a specific point of view. I always leave room for surprises, which usually come during the editing between drafts. Or while I’m walking the mall.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Finding the time and motivation after a hard day. Going into a draft and adding the information I missed the first time and not skipping over the important stuff because I’ve read it so many times.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of writing? What activities do you turn to when the storyteller needs a rest?
I read, of course. I also like to cross-stitch, knit, crochet, or quilt, while watching B rate horror shows, or stories about ancient history and civilizations.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Currently I am working on the first of the Shadows of Time novels. It is currently stuck in the phase of adding information I need to expand on. The hero is very intense and I need to make sure he is still someone readers can like, while making sure he doesn’t lose his intensity.
If you hadn’t become a writer, what career do you think you would have chosen?
I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger, then I wanted to be an archaeologist, but I wanted to write since I was really young. If I couldn’t be a writer, I think I would really have liked following through with archaeology or ancient history of some kind.
Read on for my review of The Demon’s Curse:
An Amazon princess falls for a soldier-turned-mercenary who shares his body with a rapacious demon.
The Demon’s Curse
Unlike most of her race, Cora is a mage rather than a warrior. Her mother isn’t pleased that she’s chosen magic over swordplay, but the Amazon queen did agree to allow her travel and learn all she could about the outside world. When the book opens, Cora and her body guard have been have been in “man’s world” for three years. They work with a small group of mercenaries (humans and elves) who make a living via guarding caravans, rescuing kidnap victims, and other protective services. Cora’s presence isn’t an accident. She’s had visions of a man with a black hand. Percival, the group’s agreed-upon leader, has a black hand. It marks the presence of Stromas, the demon placed in his body when he was a child by his power-hungry father. Early on in the novel it becomes clear that Cora and Percival have a shared destiny, and the bulk of the story concerns them battling the various forces eager to tear the couple apart.
THE DEMON’S CURSE is full of action and suspense, though the first half moves more slowly than the second. The chapters that take place on the Amazons’ islands just shine. Part of me wanted to race through to see what happened next and another part feared what each new chapter would bring. Percvial’s treatment at the hands of one of the more primitive Amazon tribes is unspeakable.
I will say that Cora gets hurt a lot for an Amazon. And her injuries lead to plenty of self-loathing for Percival. His self-doubts and sense of failure can get a little trying. There were times I wanted to shake him and say, “Crap happens. Get over yourself and move on!” Also his monthly confrontations with Stromas aren’t quite as scary as they could be. But Stromas is plenty scary near the end. Readers get a real sense of what he’d be like if he ever gained complete freedom. I like that Micaela Fischer, who has a gift for creating unique characters, gives Stromas plenty of psychological complexity.
Generally, I’m not crazy about open endings, but this book’s conclusion manages to satisfy and at the same time leave the reader excited to learn what happens next. THE DEMON’S CURSE is an action-packed fantasy full of fun characters and shocking plot twists. I’m looking forward to book two.