Tuesday, November 27, 2012

INNOVATIVE ONLINE BOOK TOURS: Interview/Giveaway - Cephrael's Hand, by Melissa McPhail

Welcome to this stop
on the 
Cephrael's Hand 
blog tour,
sponsored by
Innovative Online Book
Please join me in welcoming Melissa McPhail, author of the fascinating fantasy, Cephrael's Hand, to A Night's Dream of Books!  Thank you for joining us, Melissa!
I encourage all of my readers to enter the accompanying giveaway!  You will find the Rafflecopter widget below. 
And now, on to the interview!
Maria:  When did you begin writing, and who were your major literary influences?
Melissa:  I started at writing at the age of five, with poetry penned at my grandmother's kitchen table.  In those days, The Chronicles of Narnia imbued my life with a near-constant sense of magic and mystery.  All during my childhood, writing and reading were as much outlets for my creative energies as they were havens when the sharp tongues and flying barbs of teenage villains stung too deeply.  Susan Cooper's wonderful Dark Is Rising series gave me a world to vanish into, and I read the books -- and the rest of her novels -- many times.
I began writing in true in high school, where I focused on fantastical short stories that wove my boarding school experiences into a tapestry of magical escape.  In those years I read broadly, from Bradbury and Asimov to Robert Ludlum, from Dickens to Chaucer and lots of Shakespeare in between.  I thrived on philosophy -- Hesse's Siddhartha, the Bhagavad Gita, Emerson, Hugo, Payne, Ayn Rand and even Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land opened my eyes to new ideals.  As an adult, fantasy is still my playground.  While I always enjoy escaping into it, I use it now as an innocuous medium for exploration of often difficult ideas and deeper truths.

Maria:  What attracted you to the fantasy genre?
Melissa:  Ever since I first journeyed to Narnia at the age of five, fantasy has held my heart.  The genre is so expansive, so embracive of variety...I will never run out of adventures to be had and new worlds to explore.  In my personal writings, I use fantasy as a metaphor for life in this world.  The genre offers an opportunity to untangle concepts that entrap or frustrate us in real life, and provides a medium in which to explore ideals that may be challenging to us when not framed by codes of chivalry.  Fantasy gives us that very important escape which as children comes as easily as a piece of cloth and a place to play, but as adults is harder to come by.
Maria:  If you were inspired by any world mythology in the writing of Cephrael's Hand, which one was it, and how did it impact the story?
Melissa:  It is not so much mythology as philosophy explored in Cephrael's Hand.  Two concepts permeate the series: first, the idea of Balance, which is drawn from karmic principles as much as Do Unto Others.  The second is game philosophy, which speaks on games and their importance in our lives and indeed, in our very survival.
Maria:  You have this quote on the book's Amazon page:  "All things are composed of patterns..."  How does this quote relate to Cephrael's Hand?
Melissa:  Intimately.  Magic in the world of Alorin is based on patterns, on the premise that all things are formed of patterns, and by learning the pattern belonging to a thing (or person, or thought), you can learn to control or compel it.  The Adept race is a people who are born with the ability to work certain types of patterns, while wielders are those without Adept talents who learn to Pattern through intensive study.
But patterns also form in the way we live our lives, in the choices we make, in the activities of men and the scrolling annals of history.  And they form and grow complex as applied to the concept of games.  The concept of patterns permeates the series in multiple ways.
Maria: This novel is the first of a series.  Could you give us readers, if possible, a brief overview of what we can expect from this series, in terms of, for example, types of characters, magical powers used, enemy countries involved, etc.?
Melissa: Cephrael's Hand introduces the world of Alorin, the primary viewpoint characters, and the essential conflict.  Alorin is out of Balance and magic is dying, and even the ones who should understand can't explain why.  Book 1 explores the idea of motivations -- what drives us to make the choices we do? -- and it looks at the many ways others might interpret those choices.  Is it really possible to say a man is good or evil?  Isn't this question often colored by one's own perspective?  At the end of Book 1, we learn why Alorin's magic is dying, if not how to revert the tragic decline of the Adept race. 
Book 2 delves deeply into the motives and activities of two of the four villains we met in Book 1.  We also embark on a journey of education in the Laws and Esoterics of Patterning, gaining a much broader understanding of the lifeforce that fuels the realm of Alorin and how to use it to achieve magical ends.  We learn more about the truthreader Tanis's particular talents and delve deeply into the Prophet Bethamin's dark desires. 
Ultimately, our heroes have to claim their roles in the First Lord's masterful, centuries-spanning game, and come to learn the parts they must play in the race to save the Adept race -- and indeed, the entire realm -- from extinction.
Maria:  Do you think of yourself as strictly a fantasy writer, or are you planning to write in other genres, as well?  If so, which ones?
If I were to branch out, I would probably toward Romance or YA, but I doubt I would ever write a novel with no fantastical elements incorporated into it.  The fun for me lies in weaving magic into the world, and the hope that it may inspire others to see the magic actually around us.
Maria:  Who is (are) your favorite character(s) in the book, and why?
Melissa:  I am always drawn to the quiet, tormented ones.  I think they make the most interesting characters.  Even my heroes have their Achilles heels.  We are none of us perfect people.
The truth is, I like all of my characters, even the "evil" ones.  They all have such intriguing perspectives to share.  While the royal cousin Fynnlar val Lorian's dissolute nature may hit a common note, there's more to Fynn than meets the eye.  Likewise for the pirate Carian van Lea, whose insouciant disregard for rules makes him both familiar and enjoyable.  Tanis's incorruptible innocence, Alyneri's prickly demeanor hiding a sensitive soul, Trell's staunch dedication to his honor, both a virtue and a pitfall -- many of my character traits are taken from my study of Astrology as much as Western philosophy.
But if I am forced to admit a favorite among favorites, my heart ever belongs to the zanthyr Phaedor.
Maria:  What type of research, if any, did you do for the book's culture and setting?  Or are these completely imaginary?
Melissa:  The cultures are imaginary, but I have drawn from my study of history to bring some familiar elements to each of them.  I have heard some writers speak on the importance of making everything new and different from anything in this world, but in fantasy, so many elements are already new and different, that if you don't offer the reader a few points of common knowledge to hold onto (whether that's aspects of culture, religion, or mythology), it's too difficult for the reader to gain a foothold in the world.
Maria:  What writing techniques/resources do you recommend to aspiring fantasy writers?
Melissa:  Write, write, write.  Read The Elements of Style and apply its rules religiously.  Read books on writing by writers you admire.  Then write, write, and write again.  The more you write, the clearer your voice will ring through.  I chipped away at over a million words in my attempt to sculpt Cephrael's Hand, and ever the process continues.
Maria:  What project(s) are you currently working on, or planning to work on?
Melissa:  Hard and heavy into writing Books 3 and 4.
Maria:  Thank you so much for providing such fascinating, in-depth answers to my questions, Melissa.  I've greatly enjoyed this interview, and am so happy for your visit!   As a lifelong lover of the fantasy genre, I can tell you that I really can't wait to journey to the magical world of Alorin, as soon as I can get a copy of the book!
Melissa:  I would like to thank you, too, Maria, for graciously hosting me on your blog, and for taking the time to craft such thought-provoking questions. 
Maria:  You're more than welcome, Melissa.  I hope you can return at some future time, for a guest post! 
 Author Bio
Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa Yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader.  A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the Fantasy genre because of its inherent philosophical explorations.
Ms. McPhail lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters, and two very large cats.  Cephrael's Hand is the multiple award-winning first novel in her series A Pattern of Shadow and Light
Twitter:  @melissagmcphail
Melissa McPhail
Paperback, 654 pages
Outskirts Press
September 22, 2012

From the Goodreads Synopsis
"All things are composed of patterns..." And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:

In Alorin...three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor's brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D'Lacourte's mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he'll have to find him...

In the kingdom of Dannym...the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one
they call First Lord... 


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