Interview by Brock Eastman
Brock: Mary thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions about this exciting new series.
Mary: Brock, THANK YOU for letting me!!! What an absolute thrill!!!
Brock: I always like to start at the beginning, how did you come up with the concept for Storm Siren and the world of Faelen?
Mary: I was researching Joan of Arc one day (because she’s totally awesome!) and came across the old, hauntingly beautiful poem, “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate.” In one of its stanzas, Patrick is basically calling forth the elements to shield him, and I thought, “How cool would it be to incorporate those into a fantasy world?” That’s where the concept and setting came from. And then, of course, I spent days hashing it over with my sister (who’s brilliant at fantasy and plots) and my husband (who’s like this encyclopedia on all things superhero) until it came together.
As far as the heart of the story – that developed from the teen girls I work with as a youth pastor. I wanted to create a story they’d not only (hopefully) love, but would be empowered by. There’s so much in our culture throwing mixed messages at them about what strength and beauty are. On one hand teen girls are encouraged to just “be themselves” but then they’re quickly heaped with a host of shallow expectations. In that way, Storm Siren is my shout out to them and the fact that each of them – that each of us – is born with unique value and destiny. And when we embrace that? We’re powerful. Beautiful. Unstoppable.
Brock: Mary what a great inspiration to write a story. I always feel like when I write for a reason and for an audience I care specifically for (in your case your youth group girls), the story really takes hold and God provides the inspiration. And when mentioning St. Patrick’s breastplate, I actually wrote the outline for Challenge on the Hill of Fire (Imagination Station #10) and was very intrigued by that part of St. Patrick’s story like you were. God can do some pretty amazing miracles when we fully trust in Him. Okay a creative challenge here, give us five individual words to describe the book?
Mary: For. People. Who. Like. Fun.
Brock: My kind of book then. Tell us about Nym and her unique ability, without giving away any spoilers of course.
Mary: Nym is an Elemental, born with the ability to summon storms and manipulate the weather. Technically, she’s not supposed to even exist since her kind have always been born male and automatically killed at birth (due to their level of power and a disturbing treaty her kingdom made long ago). Sadly, having never been taught to control her power, Nym believes she’s a curse rather than born for goodness.
Brock: And as our readers read the book, I think they’ll find confidence in their own purpose from Nym’s story. Would you please use five words to describe Nym?
Mary: Broken. Hungry-for-redemption. Powerful. Sarcastic-but-loyal. Tenderhearted.
Brock: Nym sounds like a character many of us could relate too very easily; perhaps aside from the powers to control the elements. Expound on the spiritual themes inlaid within the book.
Mary: Okay, so I honestly think all good stories have what I call the “thread of redemption” in them. And it’s something you’ll definitely find in Storm Siren. Other themes close to my heart are: Laying down one’s life for a friend, heart surrender, valuing life at every level, racial and social justice (including caring about the underprivileged and those with special needs), and embracing our God-designed destinies.
Brock: Powerful messages that fit so perfectly into our time. What do you want readers to take away from Storm Siren?
Mary: To quote John Eldredge in his book “Waking the Dead”: “You are not what you think you are. There is a glory to your life that your Enemy fears.”
Brock: Share with us the story of how you were published.
Mary: Short version: It took a village! (Thank you to my critique group, mentors, parents, sister, and husband!)
Long version: Before Storm Siren, I’d been writing a number of years and had recently shopped around an adult paranormal manuscript that racked up eighty-seven agent rejections and four rewrites. When a dear friend paid my way to the Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference, I was able to submit part of that paranormal MS (in brown ink because my printer broke – so classy I know) to the conference ahead of time. While there, Allen Arnold, the then-publisher for Thomas Nelson HarperCollins approached me and invited me to chat. He’d read my submission as well as my blog, and he broached the idea of writing YA. Shortly after, he introduced me to one of TN’s editors whom I began corresponding with. Over the course of six months I pitched two stories. They eventually bought the second, and I screamed like an excited, rabid banshee. :0)
Brock: Like you, my first books were published without an agent and direct to the publisher. It’s an exciting experience but a lot of work. I have grown to appreciate what the agent is able to take off your plate. (You’re awesome Amanda L.) What does it feel like to see your book in print and know that your story is being shared with so many?
Mary: I’m not going to lie…I’ve been squealing a lot. And also a little terrified.
Brock: Yeah, I’ve got several selfies of my books and me, as well as a few pictures my wife snuck while I slept with my books cradled in my arms at night. How many books are planned for this series?
Brock: So your husband should be ready for a bit more squealing, I’d say. Can you give us the tiniest of peeks into the next book?
Mary: Sure! We’re going to see Nym continue her internal journey of discovering who she is and what she was born for. We’re also going to see her face some very real challenges – including those involving her ability, Lord Myles, and Princess Rasha. Oh, and we get to travel to the Bron kingdom! There might be wraiths. Ahem.
Brock: Oh, well now I’m intrigued. I’ll need an ARC asap please. Which book are you working on?
Mary: I recently turned in book 2 and now I’m plotting out book 3. There may or may not be kissing.
Brock: Do you have a favorite drink and/or snack that you drink/eat while writing?
Mary: Okay, so I have this $40 espresso machine from Walmart that seriously makes THE BEST lattes. Before heading to my writing desk, I whip one of those babies up. I also keep a bag of almonds on hand because I tend to forget to eat while writing. Well…unless I’m stuck on a plot point. In which case all bets are off and I’m raiding the fridge like there’s no tomorrow. I’m not exactly proud of that.
Brock: The Latte thing I totally get, I make a mean Caramel Latte to start my sessions. And yes the forgetting to eat can seriously become an issue. You have a rather unique bio, can you explain a bit more about the unicorns you feed?
Mary: *laughs* The unicorns are rather pesky things – always interrupting with nonsense. Someone really should tame them.
Brock: Perhaps you could include a chapter on this in an upcoming book, or a blog post. Another intriguing question raised by your bio, how might one go about taking over a make-believe world?
Mary: I’m going to be honest - it takes time and a good theme song (preferably sung by a boy band). Oh, and a rockin’ 80’s costume.
Brock: So many questions to save for our next interview. What is your favorite thing to do at the beach? Do you ever write while you are there?
Mary: Aww, I love this question! Okay so my favorite thing to do at the beach is watch my kids play. They’re so carefree, jumping in the ocean spray and trying to force-feed poor unsuspecting anemones.
Although as far as writing at the beach, I can’t. Mainly because I’m the most distractable person I know. I’m the girl who’s like, “Ooh look, a snow cone machine!” And “Oh-my-gosh - what if that surfer gets eaten by a SHARK?” That said, the ocean is most definitely my “walk-on-the-pier-with-my-husband-and-hash-out-plot-points” place. Books one and two would not exist if it weren’t for those dates. Or for my husband.
Brock: Mary thanks for sharing the great insight into the book and your life, our readers really appreciate it.
Mary: Thanks so much for the fun, Brock!! Loved doing this with you!
Brock: Check out Storm Siren at your local Christian retailer or wherever books are sold.