This Interview has been provided by Orbit, and is printed with their permission.
Maggie Furey’s debut fantasy series, The Artefacts of Power, rapidly established her as one of the most exciting new fantasy writers to emerge in recent years. Heralded as ‘a true classic’ by Locus magazine, ‘truly compelling’ by SFX and ‘infinitely enchanting’ by David Gemmell the series has now sold over 250,000 copies.
We caught up with her at her home in County Wicklow, Ireland. As Maggie has embarked on a brand new series with THE HEART OF MYRIAL, this seemed the perfect place to start.
Was it difficult to leave the Artefacts of Power and begin a new series set in an entirely new world?
Yes, it was a wrench, but I didn’t want to be limited to just one world and one set of characters. It was a real eye-opener, too! Aurian’s world had become so complete and complex and familiar over the years that I had quite forgotten the amount of sheer work and detail that goes into world-building and the creation of leading characters. It’s fun to begin with a new, blank canvas, but it’s also an enormous leap of faith. So many readers knew and loved Aurian and her companions – would they take to these new kids on the block? Would the new characters attract new readers?
Technically, the Shadowleague books were a big leap. There was a wide sweep of time in The Artefacts of Power, whereas in THE HEART OF MYRIAL, all the action took place in just three days. Also, I wanted to try a departure from the traditional fantasy Good vs. Evil formula, so I planned the Shadowleague series to be without an actual villain, which made things a great deal more complicated. The real threat in this series is environmental rather than human, and the characters themselves – though some are more dark and ruthless than others – are not black or white but vary through all shades in between.
Where did you get your inspiration for the new world and the characters and creatures within it?
I’ve had the idea for the actual world for many years – long before The Artefacts of Power, in fact – so there was a long incubation period involved. There were so many possibilities inherent in this idea of a world that was a sanctuary for endangered species from other worlds that it took a long time to settle on a particular plot. Several of the characters came into my mind when I was writing The Artefacts, but there was no place for them in that series, so they had to bide their time. Toulac, in particular, has been waiting in the wings for a long time. For some reason I started thinking “What happens to warriors who survive long enough to become old?” Toulac was the result. Kazairl the Firedrake, my other favourite character, came from the little bronze sculpture of a dragon who sits in my office, though he was so vivid and fully formed when he leapt into my mind that he probably does exist somewhere, in some other reality beyond mere human ken! I would like to think so, at any rate.
When you start a new series, do you already have the story mapped out from beginning to end?
I wish! It must make life a lot easier to be able to do it that way, but my characters drive the story, which makes things a lot less predictable. I start out with the world, the key characters and the concept of the story. I know the beginning, and what I want to achieve in the end. In a sense the actual writing is as much of a quest as the story itself. The journey from start to finish takes many strange twists and turns – not to mention the occasional detour! Of course, there must be certain rules and structure, or the result would be anarchy and nonsense.
I need to know, in great detail, the workings of the world in which the story is set: its history, topography, climate and the way society works. Most of this background material never gets into the story itself, but it’s essential if the world is going to be a realistic place, and come to life for the reader. This is also true for the characters. I must know a great deal more about their background, motives and psychology than appears on the printed page, because they must always act in ways that are true to their own natures. It’s essential, as the story progresses, to get to know them very well, because it’s no use trying to force them to act in uncharacteristic ways to fit some external requirement of the plot. It’s always possible to get round any conflict between the needs of the character and those of the story, and though it may take more time and trouble, the result is worthwhile in the end.
How many books will there be in The Shadowleague series?
In this particular batch there will probably be three, but the world of the Shadowleague is so vast and complex that there is endless scope for further novels. Firstly I plan to return to Aurian’s world, and pick up on that set of characters, but for the future I have other Shadowleague plans. Watch this space…
What do you do in your spare time while you’re not writing?
I read a lot, of course. I love to travel and see new places. I like to walk, especially along the beach, and I love spending time in the garden. I like going to the theatre and the movies – this year’s favourite film so far is definitely Galaxy Quest. I’m interested in psychology and I love watching cricket and show jumping, and have plans to learn to ride, though probably not until the next book is finished. I love just spending time with my husband and our dear old lovely cat, and our friends. And yes – I admit it, my secret vice is the dreaded computer game (mainly Diablo II now, of course), which I find very relaxing after a day’s writing.
How much do you use the Internet? Do you find it useful for research or a distraction from writing?
I do use it quite a lot for research. It’s so wonderful to have an instant resource I can turn to when I want to know how to build a campfire in the pouring rain, or what a tinderbox actually looks like, or the horse-training methods of Xenophon. In the early days of the Shadowleague series, I was book-marking learned treatises on medieval sewerage systems – until I soon discovered that it all boiled down to throwing their effluent over the town walls, (which wasn’t what I wanted at all, and resulted in much muttering and growling of “not in MY town, they don’t!). Of course most of this background material never gets into the books themselves, but I need to know it, nonetheless. I rarely research in a formal or structured sense, but I find myself wanting to know more about things that come up in my work.
Do you have any favourite websites?
Yes – my favourite site is www.bibliofind.com, as my poor old credit card will attest! Any booklover needs to know about this site, which links the catalogues of second-hand book dealers all over the world. Just type a title, or an author, into their search engine and sit back. Somewhere out there, your book is waiting. Also, you have the excitement of receiving mysterious parcels from such far-flung places as Wanganui, New Zealand (to name my favourite,) and if they happen to wrap the book in a copy of their local newspaper, it’s a fascinating bonus. Bibliofind is very addictive, but the results are like having Christmas all the year round.
I should also take this opportunity to mention that my own site, www.maggiefurey.com, will be up and running soon. It’s actually in place now, but as we’re still under construction there’s nothing much there yet. [We'll let you know when it's up and running - Orbit] I have lots of plans though, and everything will be taking shape within the next few weeks.
How much do you use e-mail?
I use it a lot – it’s so convenient. Now that we have it, I can’t imagine what we ever did without it. How quickly we learn to take things for granted.
Have you received any good jokes via e-mail recently?
I got this from my editor in America…
Children’s Books that will never see print:
1. You Are Different and That’s Bad
2. The Boy Who Died From Eating All His Vegetables
3. Fun Four-Letter Words to Know and Share
4. Hammers, Screwdrivers, and Scissors: An I-Can-Do-It Book
5. The Kid’s Guide to Hitchhiking
6. Kathy Was So Bad Her Mom Stopped Loving Her
7. Curious George and the High Voltage Fence
8. All Cats Go To Hell
9. The Little Sissy Who Snitched
10. Some Kittens Can Fly
11. That’s It, I’m Putting You Up For Adoption
12. The Magic World Inside the Abandoned Refrigerator
13. Garfield Gets Feline Leukemia
14. The Pop-Up Book of Human Anatomy
15. Strangers Have the Best Candy
16. Whining, Kicking, and Crying to Get Your Way
17. You Were an Accident
18. Things Rich Kids Have, But You Never Will
19. Pop! Goes the Hamster, and Other Great Microwave Games
20. Your Nightmares Are Real
21. Eggs, Toilet Paper, and Your School
22. Why Can’t Mr. Fork and Ms. Electrical Outlet Be Friends?
23. Places Where Mommy and Daddy Hide Neat Things
All of Maggie’s fantasy novels are available from Orbit: If you haven’t yet discovered her wonderful worlds then THE HEART OF MYRIAL provides the perfect introduction to a fantastic storyteller. THE HEART OF MYRIAL is Maggie Furey’s fifth book published by Orbit. Her other four books comprising The Artefacts of Power series are: AURIAN, HARP OF WINDS, THE SWORD OF FLAME and DHIAMMARA.
Copyright© 2002 Orbit. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. The interview has been provided by Orbit and is printed with their permission.