Guest Post: M. Edward McNally

Thanks to Jack Wallen for allowing a still-finding-my-way-around Indie writer to post a few thoughts. Here are a few of mine.

My whole life I’ve been reading or seeing interviews with authors, and 99% of the time one of the first questions asked is, of course, “Where do you get your ideas for your stories?” So you would think I’d have had a witty answer ready for when I myself was inevitably asked, particularly as I’ve had my Grammy and Oscar acceptance speeches good-to-go since age 14 or so. But not so much. The question popped up on a Facebook page, and I just stared at it, wondering, as it had never really occurred to me to ask myself.

I think I typed something about hearing voices in my head, seeing a character as though through a glass darkly, little joke, little aw-shucks, something like that. Because of course the only honest answer for me was, “Hell if I know.” Stuff is just rolling around the brain-pan, be it serotonin or pixie dust, and once in while something sort of globs together. As a writer, all I do is take a rolling pan to it, and see what it looks like after it’s flat on a page. Maybe not a good answer, but what it may lack in quality, it makes up for in sincerity. If I knew I would say so, but Hell if I know.

What I do know, and the question nobody asks, is “Where do you get your ideas for your setting?” That one, oddly, I can answer perfectly well.

I was studying the Balkans back in the ’90s when much of the region was on fire, and I got very interested in exploring issues of nationalism, religion, ethnic identity, etc. Writing about things myself is the way in which I explore them. However, I really didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes, so I did the obvious thing: I created a world with its own peoples, gods, and nations. Now, since I was big Tolkien/Eddings/Leiber fan from Back In The Day (and, yes, a total Dungeons and Dragons nerd for quite a while as a kid), my world was distinctly “Fantasy,” with magic, dragons, monsters, and what-not. This made me more interested in exploring some other things, as for example how “magic” could fill the role of technology in establishing communications and logistics allowing for Imperial expansion. After a while I had a stack of notebooks and crudely-drawn historical maps defining the history of some places that had never been. I did it basically as a hobby, as it is too hot to go outside in AZ for much of the year, and it was cheaper than cable.

Which, of course, is when the heretofore mentioned “globbing” started to occur. Maybe the Hand of God alighted on my brow, maybe I had a bad shrimp chimi for dinner, but something started to roil. That something is now a series of books, set in an early gunpowder/Age of Sail fantasy world with a pathological amount of detail underpinning it. Far more detail in fact than will ever be in any of the novels, because setting isn’t a story. There are people living in my world now, and the story is theirs. Specifically, it belongs to Tilda Lanai, the young Island Guilder trying desperately to find the exiled heir of the Trade House she serves. That’s what the glob turned into.

So that’s what I’ve got. Book I of the Norothian Cycle, The Sable City is available on Kindle and from Smashwords for other readers. Volumes II and III are both written, and will be available as soon as they are edited down to their fighting-weight. If anything I’ve said here gives you hope that these books might be a good read, please do check out the free download sample, as owing to my verbosity it is plenty long to you give you a taste.