Coffee Time Romance welcomes author Maria Zannini this month. Maria’s first novel was released in May and she shares her thoughts on that milestone, her preference for e-books, and other fun insights. Hi Maria! Thank you for sitting down with Coffee Time Romance this month. How do you take your java?
Oh, no! You've outed me already! I hate to admit this, but I'm afraid I never acquired a taste for café. (Maria ducks while Coffee Time readers lob grenades at her for blasphemy.)
I do partake of coffee cake though. Does that count?
It sure does! Your first book, TOUCH OF FIRE, was released in May. Congratulations! How does it feel to be an official 'published novel writer'?
The validation is the whipped cream with a cherry on top. I probably basked in my pubbed author status for all of ten minutes before I decided it was time to get back to work.
I realized a long time ago that getting published was a benchmark, but not the end result. There are always more books to write, and more legends to build. I want this career to last a good long while.
Despite the fact that authors work alone much of the time, a novel isn't a solo performance. To bring a manuscript to publication requires dedicated critique partners, tough editors, brilliant artists, and savvy marketing and sales people. And it takes readers and genre fans to take a chance on a new author and give her a try.
So to answer your question, it's a wonderful feeling, but I don’t take it for granted. I didn’t get here alone.
Please tell us about the book and how the concept came to you.
I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories. I was reading an article about how the Mayan calendar ends abruptly on 12-21-12 and I thought that would make a brilliant jumping off point for a novel.
To give my society enough time to forget the old Earth, I set my timeline 1200 years in the future. Earth is now a fusion of language and culture. The major religions have melted into one, and technology has been abandoned in lieu of Elemental magic. A new kind of human emerged after the last apocalypse, mages who can manipulate one of the four great Elements: earth, water, air and fire.
TOUCH OF FIRE is about a young fire mage who's been ordered to find a dangerous alchemist's bible. This book is an instruction manual that threatens to reintroduce technology to a world that knows only magic. Leda is a loyal subject of her Order and does as she's told, but when the trail leads her to Greyhawke Tams, an ex-soldier turned scavenger, she learns the hard way that the plainfolk are not the savages she was led to believe.
Despite their ingrained prejudices, they have to work together to fight a power-mad warlord who'll stop at nothing to obtain the book --and Leda. Grey has been marked for death, but Leda has a worst fate in store. The tyrant wants her alive. She has a secondary gift even more precious than her ability to wield fire. She can read auras, and if the warlord finds her, she'll be his broodmare for life. He plans to create an entire legion of psychics.
Which character was the hardest to write and which the easiest?
The antagonist, Senosai was the hardest for me to develop. He was so despicably cruel and driven to his goals. I can understand blind ambition, but I really had to dig deep to create a character who was willing to do ANYTHING, no matter how vile, to attain his objective.
The easiest character was Grey, the hero. I based a lot of his character traits off my husband, a thoroughly lovable guy with a wicked sense of humor. As a matter of fact, I even posed a couple of scenes to my husband and asked him what he would do in those situations. I think it made Grey even more believable and down to earth.
Even though your own book is coming to print next year, I read you are a strong advocate of ebooks. Why is this, and which type is most satisfying for you to read
I am, indeed, an advocate of ebooks for perfectly practical reasons. The first is space. I have none. When you're a rabid reader living in a house with no more space to spare you have to find a way to feed your addiction. With ebooks, I can own many more books without them taking any extra physical space.
The other reason is environmental. I freely admit that I am a dinosaur and will always love the feel of a book in my hands, but I have to think about the bigger picture. How many trees are sacrificed for print books that aren't even sold, but returned to the publisher? We have an obligation as good stewards of this planet to expand our green thinking to all facets of our lives.
I don't read less because of ebooks. I read more. It's easier, more portable, environmentally friendly--and I can walk across my bedroom without tripping over a box of books.
The current generation of young adults is also fueling the ebook phenomenon. They are so comfortable with digital formats. Music, videos, news, communication and information is all digital now. Publishing is one of the last bastions to join this wagon train. Print books will always be with us, but now it shares the market with ebooks and audio books.
You are an artist of considerable talent as well as a graphic designer and non-fiction writer. Do you have any other untapped talents like cake decorating or skywriting perhaps?
Blushes. Gee, thanks!
Untapped talents? LOL! I am a Jill of all trades and mistress of none. I love to work with my hands, and I can usually be found puttering in the garden or painting portraits. Dog portraits are my specialty.
I am also a scrounger extraordinaire, which I think is an unappreciated talent. I am a huge garage sale junkie and I love to buy antique furniture and restore them to their original glory. My whole house is filled with antiques I've collected over the years.
But if I can lay claim to any real 'talent', I'd say I have animal ESP because I have a knack for knowing how they'll react before it happens. In the interest of total disclosure, it's not real ESP. My real gift is being a good observer. Luckily, that's a useful talent for a writer, too.
Describe your creative atmosphere.
Oh, gosh. It has to be tomb silent for me to write. I can't hear the voices in my head if it's noisy. And despite the fact that I like to get my hands dirty, I prefer my workstation relatively neat.
Sometimes if I have trouble getting in the writing groove, I'll tidy up my space and before I know it, the creative juices burst out in a flood. I'm sure there's a psychological reason behind it. All I know is that it works every time.
Your blog is a real information hot spot. Tell us about it and what you like to write about there.
Thank you! The blog is always a work in progress, but from the beginning it was designed as a tool for other writers. The writing community has taught me so much. This is my way of giving back. You can find it here
On Mondays, I usually post writing markets or contests. It can be fiction or nonfiction, but I only post those that pay professional rates. I'm on a one-woman crusade to support markets that treat the author fairly. I scan the web constantly, so I usually find some good ones to share.
I recently started a new series called Killer Campaigns that runs every Friday. I take one topic dealing with promotion and marketing and break it down into bite sized pieces of information.
Wednesday is my day to talk about writing craft, news or updates. Occasionally, I invite authors to guest blog on Tuesdays or Thursdays. I'm always looking for well written posts on the publishing business. And it's a great way to build promo for an author. If anyone out there is interested in guest blogging on my site, shoot me an email. I'd love to hear from you.
Who are your favorite authors and why?
Yikes! How can I name names and risk leaving someone out? There are just so many. My favorite authors blur the lines of genre and weave me into their adventures. I want to feel like it's my journey, too. Those are the novels that stay with me long after they're over.
When you're not writing novels, you edit newsletters. How has that helped your writing career?
I edit two newsletters, one for OWW, Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror and the other for the Writers Guild of Texas. I love this job because it allows me to talk to some great authors, agents and editors.
It's a privilege to help out. And I certainly reap the benefits by meeting the most amazing people.
I usually tell writers who want to learn more about publishing that the best way to learn is to get involved. Volunteer at conferences, offer to write an article for your local chapter or writing group, or help organize events. We learn by participating and there is no job too small or insignificant that isn't appreciated.
Karma is a wonderful thing and it repays you in the most unexpected ways.
Thank you so much for your time and for allowing us to get to know you just a little bit better.
It was my pleasure! Thank you for having me over. The coffee cake was deeelish!