Your previous five novels, including the Chronicles of the Necromancer trilogy and the Fallen Kings cycle, were all set in the same world and featured many of the same characters. ICE FORGED marks the beginning of a new series. How much of a departure are we in for? How did the new series come about?
This is a whole new enchilada! Brand new world, completely new characters, totally new magic system and gods.
I love my Fallen Kings Cycle and Chronicles of the Necromancer series characters (and do plan to come back to tell more stories about them at some point), but let’s be honest—after everything I’ve put them through, in what for the characters is a little over 2 years, the survivors really deserve to put their feet up and have a few beers for a while.
So I’d been playing with the idea of what if magic broke (as it nearly did in the Chronicles books), and what if we had a post-apocalyptic medieval world, and what if a world sent its convicts to the northern rim (instead of, in our world, Australia)….and I was off and running.
One element ICE FORGED shares with your previous series is vampires. What about them fascinates you? How do they enhance the way you build your worlds?
I watched DARK SHADOWS when I was in pre-school (what WAS my mom thinking?), and the first story I “wrote” at age 5 (I had to have my grandmother write it down because I couldn’t spell yet), and it was about a vampire. I’ve been hooked ever since. In my world of the Winter Kingdoms, you saw vampires as a paranormal minority, treated as ethnic minorities have been in our world—accepted in some places, persecuted or tolerated in others. In the new Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, the vampires (talishte) are more rare, although not the only immortals. I enjoy looking at the world through the eyes of a character who has lived several lifetimes and wonder—what would keep you wanting to stick around? Would it be power? Wealth? Family? Nostalgia? The answer, I believe, is highly personal to the specific talishte. I think they represent both the ultimate outsider, and a melancholy creative force. For those few who do choose to remain among mortals for hundreds of years, there has to be a good story. I want to tell that story.
In your novels, magic appears as a kind of vast natural force. In ICE FORGED particularly, magic is taken for granted and incompletely understood by the people wielding it. Does anything from our reality guide how you present magic in your fiction?
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of magic as a force of nature. Those with a talent for magic have an inborn ability to sense and use the power. In the world of the Ascendant Kingdoms, magic is much more prevalent than in the Winter Kingdoms books—until the magic disappears, and the civilization which utilized it crumbles. In that sense, magic becomes a natural resource, like water or fertile ground, and when any civilization takes its resources for granted, problems ensue. History is full of vanished civilizations that thrived and then disappeared because a river changed course, land was over-farmed, or other natural catastrophes made the resources unusable. Modern-day post-apocalyptic fiction doesn’t intrigue me (a long story, but it has to do with my upbringing, which expected the end of the world at any moment in various means), but I was interested in how it might play out under these circumstances in a medieval setting. So here we are!
Despite some pretty harsh conditions, your characters manage to sit down to some delicious-sounding meals on occasion. Where do you get your menu ideas?
I’m constantly amazed at the ingenuity of our ancestors when it comes to putting a good meal on the table despite rudimentary tools. When you realize all the cakes, breads, roasts and other goodies cooked over an open fire or in an oven with no temperature control, you just have to stand in awe. Fortunately, many of the recipes have survived, or at least been approximated thanks to historians and the Society for Creative Anachronism, and have been posted online. So when I’m at a loss for a menu, I go Web surfing and always find mouthwatering historically-correct options!
In the rare moments when you’re not writing, what do you do for fun?
I like hanging out with my husband, three teenage children, my dog and some friends. So that includes movies (yes, usually SF/F), reading , going to Renaissance Festivals when I’m not signing books, and hanging out at Disney World (so shoot me, I’m a Mickey fan—I think Walt Disney was the ultimate creative genius). I don’t read as much epic stuff as I used to, not wanting to be influenced, but I do read a lot of urban fantasy, paranormal mystery and plain-old mystery (I usually post the books I’ve read in any given month on my Twitter account @GailZMartin and on Shelfari). With all the travel I do, I read a LOT—around 100 books a year! Fortunately, I really do enjoy going to cons as a fan as well as an author, so when I’m not on panels, I like hanging out and getting my geek on. I love to go to Myrtle Beach and veg with a book in hand, and I also love to spend time with extended family in PA. Lots to do!