I’m here with Crystin Goodwin to talk about her fantasy series The Blessings in Myrillia. Make sure to check out her books UnBlessed, Fire Blessed, and Ice Blessed after you’re done reading the interview.
Lets get started!
Crystin, can you give us a quick synopsis of your Blessings in Myrillia series?
In a world where magic dictates everything, one young girl struggles with her status as one of the distasteful unBlessed. Kisara is considered the lowest in Melior society, but at least she’s still superior to the savages that roam the wilds of Myrillia … or so she thought. Soon, Kisara discovers that not all is as it seems in her world, and the true source of the conflict between her race and the beastly Transeatur has been forgotten over the ages. She must uncover the truth and expose the dark secrets of the past before her people find themselves at the mercy of a monster.
Your series features a large cast of vibrant, complex, characters. Can you discuss this? What were some difficulties or lessons that you learned?
Well, originally I started out with three main characters – Kisara, Lucien, and Sebastian – who represented specific roles in society: the elite, the outcast, and the prejudiced. However, as I developed the world and plot surrounding my little trio, a lot of my supporting cast took a life of their own. Lucien’s friend Marius started off as a simple sidekick, but thanks to a few changes I made to the end of UnBlessed, his role ended up being much more important … and complicated. The Transeatur shaman, Dominic, is another character who grew to be more influential than originally planned with his calm wise outlook. And don’t even get me started on the villain! Their story is fleshed out a lot more in Ice Blessed, and I honestly think it’s some of the best writing I’ve done to date.
While I might have a large cast of characters, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve managed to create such a diverse pool of personalities. It makes it a lot more fun to write! I especially enjoy exploring how each character interacts with the others – especially when there are strong feelings involved.
As for difficulties or lessons, yes, I found a few. I started telling Kisara’s story when she was quite young: thirteen in fact. While I still feel this is important (it allows the reader to better understand her character arc) I also realize that almost no one wants to read about a thirteen-year-old, especially when they appear to be pretty typical, normal thirteen year-olds. Another lesson learned is to be very careful with your character names. I have a side character named Silvester as well as my main character Sebastian. I sometimes find myself switching the names by accident when talking about the characters. (Thank goodness I never make that error when writing!) However, it’s a good idea to try and keep names different.
I just have to ask this: which of your characters is your favorite?
Hands down, Marius Caleo. I know, I know: I shouldn’t have favorites, but seriously, Marius is my absolute favorite. Arrogant, sarcastic, handsome, wealthy … yet he still manages to do the right thing – good things – by accident. I like to call him my loveable jerk. Plus, who wouldn’t love a guy who can control fire?
I’ve read gushing reviews from readers who adore the elemental magic system in your series. Some say that your magic system is more captivating than the complex systems usually found within the fantasy genre. Can you comment on this? How do you feel about magic systems in general?
I love magic. My preferred reading genre is fantasy (of all types), and I appreciate the magic found in all sorts of media: cartoons, movies, video games … even the magic of Disney theme parks!
When creating the magic systems for Myrillia, I wanted to incorporate some of my favorite elements to create something new. The elemental magic system my race the Melior use, is loosely based off the elementalist class and the shaman class from several video games I’ve played. In Myrillia, a Melior individual is gifted with an affinity with a specific element: fire for example. Fire Blessed are capable of conjuring flames out of nothing, can extinguish flames around them with a thought, have a higher tolerance for heat, and so on. There are multiple elements, many of which I haven’t fully explored in the existing books, but include Fire, Air, Earth, Water, Magic, along with many others.
On the flip side, my other race – the Transeatur – are shapeshifters. They possess a guardian Animal Spirit and can change into that form at will. They’re not quite werewolves, as there isn’t any tie to lunar cycles and they don’t lose their ‘humanity’ while in animal form … but they are physically stronger and faster and possess keener senses than Melior. So again, I took the aspects of the magic I liked and adapted it for my own world.
The world of Myrillia is so rich and surreal. Can you discuss the inspiration behind it?
Ooh, good question! Honestly, it’s a lot like my magic systems: I took all the things that make up my idea of a perfect world and made it the setting. I love unspoiled nature, so there’s a lot of woodlands and pastures … lots of greenery and peaceful settings with minimal technology. After all, if you can do almost anything and everything with magic, why would you need gadgets to do the same? When it comes to the cities and settlements in Myrillia, I’ve always been fascinated with ancient Rome and medieval England, so I worked aspects of those cultures into Melior society. The Transeatur way of life is loosely based on Native American lifestyles and beliefs.
So basically, it’s a hodgepodge.
Is there a hidden message or theme present in your series?
Oh yes, many. Some aren’t hidden at all; at least, I feel they’re pretty obvious. Like the prejudice between the Melior and Transeatur: I use several characters to explore both the cause and effect of prejudice. In Fire Blessed, I have a character who embodies the self-esteem issues many teens face. And all throughout the series – in fact, the theme that drives the entire plot – is the message/saying: things are not always as they seem. I have dozens (honestly, I’ve lost count) of scenes that have vastly different meaning when reread through the eyes of another character.
I love working in hints and foreshadowing reality versus what a character wants or is taught to see. I’m the type of reader that loves to reread books, and my favorite stories are the ones that feel like a different book the second time around. Sort of like the Sixth Sense – the movie with Bruce Willis. The first time you watch the movie, it’s just a thriller. But when you watch it a second time, knowing the crazy plot twist at the end, you notice hundreds of little clues that were there all along! I wanted to try and do this with my books: because in my opinion, there’s nothing more flattering than having someone read your story twice.
If you could give three tips to aspiring authors, what would they be?
Three tips, hmm?
Don’t be afraid to experiment, even if it’s in the middle of your manuscript. Two of my most popular scenes came from my messing around when I didn’t know what to write. Stuff that I thought was really stupid and cheesy, but fun to write. At the time, I was aiming for daily word counts and I couldn’t figure out where I wanted my story to go, so I decided to just play around. I discovered that when you, the author, have fun writing something, it transfers to the reader. (I used this knowledge to my advantage with my second novel: I loved the central characters of that book so much and had a blast inventing things to put them through … and my enthusiasm shows in the writing.)
Get a reader to look over your work before you send it to an editor or critique group. It can be a friend or random stranger (depending on your comfort level) but make sure they like to read your genre! You don’t want to ask someone who reads crime fiction to judge your romance novel … or vice versa. To add to this tip: make sure you invest in a quality editor. Trust me, next to a good cover, this is the most important thing for creating the best book possible.
Finally, take the time to network. Connect with readers, with blog visitors, and with other professionals. The creative community, especially the indie community, is full of generous and wonderful people. You might be surprised at who you might discover: I found both my editor and my cover designer through my blog comments. Not only that, but I’ve developed wonderful friendships with both of them, and with countless other visitors. There are lots of people out there willing to help you succeed: you just have to reach out to them.
Where can we find you on the Internet?