Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Interview with Laurence MacNaughton and Review of It Happened One Doomsday

Please welcome Laurence MacNaughton to The Qwillery. It Happened One Doomsday is published on July 12 by Pyr. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Laurence a Happy Publication Day!

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Laurence:  As a kid, I had an old black typewriter, and maybe that was the catalyst. To a little kid, it seemed like a serious piece of machinery. Heavy as a bank safe. Silver-rimmed keys. A little bell that dinged at the end of each line. That sound encouraged me to just keep typing and typing.

I sold my first magazine article at age 19, and I've never stopped writing.

TQ:  Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Laurence:  I'm naturally a pantser, which doesn’t always work out. I have a bookshelf full of unfinished manuscripts. I finally got tired of not knowing how to finish a book, so I set out to deeply study how plot structure really works. Not in theory, but in practice.

I talked to dozens of bestselling authors. I studied writing books going back a century, written by the great pulp writers who churned out dozens or hundreds of stories a year.

Then I put together the lessons I learned into a talk that I often give to aspiring writers. It’s called Instant Plot: How to Plan Your Novel the Easy Way. The ebook is coming out this summer, and I'll be giving away some free copies on my website at www.LaurenceMacNaughton.com.

After that, the next novel I wrote sold in a multi-book deal. So it really works.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Laurence:  Honestly, the hardest thing is time management. Right now, I have a folder packed with more than a hundred ideas for novels or short stories. But we only have 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week, and I can only write so fast. So the hardest part is deciding what I'm NOT going to write. At least not today.

TQ:  What has influenced / influences your writing?

Laurence:  I'll read anything in any genre, as long as it has capable female characters, exciting action, and preferably some supernatural elements.

I don't want to name any names, but I've read so many otherwise fantastic books that kind of marginalize the female characters. You’ll see the girlfriend character, the mom character, the daughter character – they’re all defined by how they relate to the male hero. Every time I see a story like that, I want to re-imagine it with more of a female cast.

The thing is, I don't want to go too far in the opposite direction, either. I shy away from the leather-clad, katana-wielding uber-woman with a vampire boyfriend.

The answer is somewhere in the middle. We just need more books with interesting, quirky, witty, sympathetic, complex female leads.

It's not like it's a political thing. That's just the sort of stories I like to read, and by extension that's what I like to write.

TQ:  Describe It Happened One Doomsday in 140 characters or less.

Laurence:  A nerdy crystal shop owner must discover her magic to break the curse on a hunky muscle-car mechanic before it causes a fiery doomsday.

TQ:  Tell us something about It Happened One Doomsday that is not found in the book description.

Laurence:  The book description doesn't really get into Dru's crystal magic. I wanted to create a school of magic that no one had ever seen in urban fantasy before, so I based it on real-life metaphysical beliefs in the properties of crystals.

Some people believe, for example, that quartz crystals can cleanse your soul. Or that amethyst protects you from psychic attack. Or that halite (rock salt) can dissolve patterns of negative energy.

So I thought, what if I take this up to a super-powered level? What if a crystal isn't just something that looks pretty, but something that you could actively use as a defense in battle or a weapon against demons, undead, and other forces of darkness?

The more I looked into it, the more exciting the possibilities became. These days, I've amassed a collection of crystals in my office, so I can look at them as I write about Dru wielding her crystal magic.

TQ:  What inspired you to write It Happened One Doomsday? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

Laurence:  All of the main characters in It Happened One Doomsday started out as supporting characters in other short stories. But people kept telling me, “You know, I keep thinking about Dru,” or “Whatever happened to Rane?” They wanted to see more of these fun characters.

So I brought all of them all together in one place, and eventually the book grew up around them. In a way, the characters in this book form a “greatest hits” cast. At first, I thought it was a crazy idea, because all of these characters are so radically different and off-beat.

But when you put them all together in one story, somehow it works, and the result is really exciting.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for It Happened One Doomsday?

Laurence:  I combed the shelves of plenty of lapidaries (rock shops), which are all over the place in Colorado. I also attended quite a few gem and mineral shows, and visited metaphysical shops to talk to people who really believe in crystal healing. It was an eye-opening experience.

I also drew on my own experience working in an antiquarian bookstore, where we had boxes full of ancient books that were strangely worthless, because no one wanted to buy them. Some of them were centuries old, some of them in Latin, some even handwritten with a quill pen.

Plus, somewhat randomly, I used to be a professional test driver. I tested dozens of prototype and experimental vehicles, sometimes in hairy conditions, so I had some real-life experience to draw on when writing the car chase scenes.

All of that came together nicely in this book to create something new and unique.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Laurence:  The easiest character was Dru. She's kind of awkward, yet super-smart, and she has a heart of gold. Her voice just sort of popped up in my brain from day one, and it felt completely authentic and relatable. I just had to trust my gut instinct and go with it.

Believe it or not, the hardest character for me to write was Greyson, the heroine’s love interest. You would think that he would be the easiest character to write, since (like me) he's a guy and he loves cars.

But I had a tricky time figuring out whether he has a secret dark side, or if he’s a good guy all the way to the core. And that uncertainty came through in the novel, which ultimately made it more complex and interesting.

TQ:  Why did you set the novel in Denver, Colorado?

Laurence:  Several reasons. First, you don't see a lot of urban fantasy set in Denver and the Rocky Mountains. And that's a shame, because the rich history of the area provides so many story opportunities. Deep forests. Gold mines. Treacherous mountain roads. Extreme weather. Ghost towns.

Also in Colorado, you can find a certain quality of Old West resourcefulness, toughness and independence. Those are qualities I tried to bring to life in the character of Greyson.

And at the same time, Denver can have a hip, progressive vibe with opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs and business owners, and that's one side of Dru. The other side of her is all of the rocks and crystals that surround her, and the Rocky Mountains make the perfect place to showcase that.

TQ:  Which question about It Happened One Doomsday do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Laurence:  Why do you write such funny books?

Because there isn't enough laughter in the world.

I mean that. I've written plenty of spooky, goosebump-raising stories, but my favorite thing to write is a story that will make you laugh out loud. Something that will leave you feeling positive and energized. Something fun.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from It Happened One Doomsday.

Laurence:  Here's a quick excerpt from the book:
Rane stepped up behind the snarling Greyson and expertly pinned his arms behind his back. A wild look filled his glowing red eyes, and his teeth started to grow into fangs.

His skin turned dark red and swelled with muscle. Horns grew from his forehead. His lips curled back and let out an anguished growl.

Rane struggled with him. “Dru, whatever you’re thinking? Think faster!”

Dru realized she might be able to soak up the potion using his shirt, if she could get it off him. Despite her fear, she stepped close and put both hands on the collar of Greyson’s T-shirt.

She yanked. The collar stretched out amazingly far, but didn’t rip.

Rane peeked over Greyson’s thrashing shoulder. “The hell are you doing?”

“Jeez, it’s like spandex or something.” Dru tugged on his collar, first one way, then the other. “This made more sense in my head.” With a final yank, she reached the breaking point, and was rewarded with the welcome sound of tearing fabric. His shirt tore off, leaving him bare-chested and glistening.

Rane peeked over Greyson’s shoulder again, one eyebrow quirked up. “Seriously?”

TQ:  What's next?

Laurence:  I'm writing the second book right now, and I'm so excited about where these characters are heading that I honestly feel like I can't write it fast enough.

It builds on so many mysteries from It Happened One Doomsday. It answers the burning question that absolutely everyone will be asking at the end of the first book. But that's just the beginning.

At the same time, the second book opens up Dru’s universe (or the “Druniverse” as I like to call it) in crazy new ways. New magic, new creatures, new challenges, and new secrets that will quite literally rock the world.

It's going to be crazy fun.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Laurence:  Thanks for having me here! One last thing: I'll be giving away some autographed copies of It Happened One Doomsday on my website, so I'm inviting everyone to sign up at www.LaurenceMacNaughton.com. Thank you!

It Happened One Doomsday
Pyr, July 12, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 280 pages

Magic is real. Only a handful of natural-born sorcerers can wield its arcane power against demons, foul creatures, and the forces of darkness. These protectors of the powerless are descendants of an elite order. The best magic-users in the world.

Unfortunately, Dru isn’t one of them.

Sure, she’s got a smidge of magical potential. She can use crystals to see enchantments or brew up an occasional potion. And she can research practically anything in the library of dusty leather-bound tomes she keeps stacked in the back of her little store.

There, sandwiched between a pawn shop and a 24-hour liquor mart, she sells enough crystals, incense, and magic charms to scrape by. But everything changes the day a handsome mechanic pulls up in a possessed black muscle car, his eyes glowing red.

Just being near Greyson raises Dru’s magical powers to dizzying heights. But he’s been cursed to become a demonic creature that could bring about the end of the world.

There’s only one chance to break Greyson’s curse and save the world from a fiery Doomsday – and it’s about to fall into Dru’s magically inexperienced hands…

Qwill's Thoughts

Dru Jasper owns a crystal shop, The Crystal Connection, and uses her tiny bit of magic to help people. The orbit of her life includes Opal (her employee who often goes above and beyond in supporting Dru), Rane (a sorceress who comes to Dru for supplies and help and is Dru's self-styled best friend), and Nate (her dentist boyfriend). Everything changes for Dru when Greyson walks in the door of her shop. He's been cursed and Dru is determined to help him.

Dru initially has no idea what is happening to Greyson. Over the course of the novel everything becomes clear and with the magical boost she gets from Greyson, Dru may have a chance to save the world. Her extensive knowledge of crystals and her arcane library help, but Dru is also intelligent and does her research. She's torn between a life on the fringes of magic and having a more conventional life without magic. During the course of the novel she starts to confront this and figure out what she really wants in the magic world and her personal life. She's complex, intelligent, and conflicted.

Greyson is confused and very worried about what is happening to him. He's a really good guy facing something unspeakable. He's a magic non-believer who learns that he is wrong the hard way.  Rane is tough with a take no prisoners attitude, which is fortunately tempered by Dru. Opal is a loyal friend and employee who does not hesitate to question Dru's plans or actions when necessary.

With the help of Rane and Opal, Dru delves into ending Greyson's curse. It's a crazy roller coaster ride of non-stop action, demons and their demonic cars, and portents tempered by humor. The story moves along at an almost frenetic pace. It's exciting and fun. The characters are well-developed and easy to care about. The world-building is terrific (you'll learn a lot about crystals) with a well thought out, engaging and entertaining plot. The novel is the first of a series and ends with some issues not fully resolved, but that just gives the reader more to look forward to.

It Happened One Doomsday is a delight! It's a fabulous blend of humor, Urban Fantasy and biblical prophecy with a touch of romance. The end of the world shouldn't be this much fun!

About Laurence

Laurence MacNaughton is a fantasy writer and the author of The Spider Thief and Conspiracy of Angels. Visit him online at www.laurencemacnaughton.com.

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