I’m delighted to welcome fellow Tule author, M.A. Guglielmo to the blog today. M.A. is a neurosurgeon, mother of two awesome daughters, and a life-long fan of speculative fiction. Her Italian grandmother may or may not have been able to cast the evil eye on difficult neighbors, and Maria loves telling a good story, especially if magical curses and witty villains are involved.
Her interest in Middle Eastern politics and culture inspires her to incorporate mythology and folklore from the region into her writing projects. After having the wits scared out of her by ghost tales told to her over a campfire in the Moroccan Sahara, she’s come up with a plan to travel to all the potential settings for her novels. Since those include the mountain-ringed home of the Jinn and a modernized version of the Greek Underworld, some items on her bucket list might be harder to achieve than others.
Maria was born and raised in Rhode Island, and graduated from Yale University with a degree in biology. She completed her M.D. degree at Brown University, and went on to finish her neurosurgical residency there. After several years enjoying the company of sunny friends and overcast skies in Portland, Oregon, she moved back to Rhode Island, where she’s a neurosurgeon in academic practice. She lives there with her two daughters, assorted pets, and is always dreaming of the stories that can come out of her next travel destination.
GIVEAWAY Winner is Linda Gawthrop! Congratulations, Linda, M.A. will be in touch with your $10 Amazon gift card! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
N: So happy to have you join us today. What inspired you to start writing fantasy?
A: I’ve been reading speculative fiction since I was a child, and always loved to make up versions of similar stories in my head. I didn’t get serious about writing, though, until I began reading fantasy novels to my daughters. I began to make up alternative endings and then decided to finally try to put it all down on paper. That turned out to be harder than I thought!
N: What comes first, the plot or characters?
A: I have snippets of scenes bouncing around in my brain, but they’re all focused on characters and their interactions. The plot comes much later, when I’ve written out the scenes and have to untangle the messy snarl of why everything happened the way it did.
N: What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?
A: My characters always surprise me, usually by going in a direction I didn’t expect or want them to go. In this book, Zahara has to overcome her party girl of the paranormal persona and become the reluctant heroine of the story. I was surprised how bittersweet her difficult decisions were in the novel, and how strong a character she shows herself to be.
N: What is the key theme and/or message in Price to Pay?
A: Love and family, and by that I mean both romantic and platonic love, and both blood relations and found family. Sometimes you have to decide between the two, and sometimes you have to fight to keep both.
N: If you had to describe both Zahara and Harut, in just three words, what would those three words be?
A: Zahara-sexy, hedonistic, and charming; Harut-proud, loyal, and devoted
N: What were the key challenges you faced when writing Price to Pay?
A: The first two books of the series had full romantic arcs for the human characters who served as a foil to Zahara. Daniel and Zaid, as well as Jo and Parisa, have a lot of adventures in Price to Pay, but in this book I had to delve into the relationship between Zahara and Harut. That was challenging, since they are polar opposites in many ways. I wanted to show their feelings for each other as they moved from physical attraction to a deeper connection—while they were fighting off the bad guys, of course!
N: What are you reading now?
A: Rule of Wolves, by Leigh Bardugo, which is part of her grishaverse series. I love stories that imagine the impact magical abilities might have on other time periods in history, and the sexy king who’s the main character is a big draw as well!
N: Favorite book when you were a kid?
A: Lord of the Rings. It’s the standard fantasy geek answer and also true.
N: What was your dream job when you were younger?
A: I wanted to be a marine biologist, and I still love the ocean and reading about the amazing life forms that live in it. Of course I love sharks—who doesn’t?—and one of my characters in the From Smokeless Fire series is a flying cyberpunk Great White based loosely on a cult favorite SF movie. Spoiler alert: Clifford the Red-Eyed Shark does make an appearance in Price to Pay.
N: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell your readers about?
A: I’m starting a new project set in an alternate version of ancient-regime France, with a sexy necromancer hero who has to work with two of his worst enemies to save a princess who is not what she seems to be.
N: And now, my signature question that everyone loves to answer: If you could choose three people, living or dead, to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?
A: Merit Ptah, thought to be the female chief physician of the pharaoh’s court during the Second Dynasty of Egypt, c. 2700 BCE, because she’s the first recorded woman physician in history and I’d love to hear how she trained and treated her patients. Also, I’d want to learn more about ancient Egypt—from an ancient Egyptian. Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, because of her wild life, fantastic writing, and inspiration to the those of us who love everything goth. N.K. Jemisin, the science fiction and fantasy writer. I love both her work and her passion for writing about racism, oppression and hope for a better future world.
Price to Pay
She’s gone from party girl of the paranormal to the world’s best hope against a deadly fallen angel.
Zahara‘s tired of saving the world from imminent doom, and her enemy to almost-lover Harut’s “no hanky-panky before marriage” rule is driving her crazy. To take the fight to his evil brother Marut, Zahara returns to the land of the jinn to cobble together an alliance between the peoples of the Mountains of Qaf to defeat the fallen angel. Everything that can’t go wrong does anyway, and after dealing with a malfunctioning magic carpet and killer unicorns, Zahara has to steal back an enchanted feather from a feared necromancer and face down the father she’s never known.
As more of the jinn join Marut in his plan to destroy humanity, Zahara needs Harut’s help more than ever—to save the world and her heart. But when the final confrontation comes, defeating one brother may mean Zahara loses the other forever.
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