In this post I talk to Christina McMullen, author of Past Life Strife, the first book in the Rise of the Discordant Series.
Christina McMullen is a science fiction and fantasy author who is still waiting for her letter from Hogwarts. She currently resides in Texas with her wonderfully supportive husband and three dogs. When she isn’t writing, Christina enjoys travel, vegan cooking, modern and classical art, and of course, reading.
What made you decide to publish a novel?
I’ve always wanted to be an author, but it wasn’t until the advent of e-books that I began to think seriously about publishing. Once my first book was published in 2012, I became unstoppable. Thanks to e-books and self-publishing, I am not limited to shoehorning myself into a single genre.
Where do you get you inspiration to write?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. I am also a voracious reader. I am inspired by other authors who have come before me and wrote the books that I’ve enjoyed.
If you could pick just one phrase from your writings to preserve for future generations, what would it be?
I’m not a very serious or profound person, so I will impart the wisdom of Bogie’s great uncle Howie, a character who is only quoted and never seen in this book:
“There ain’t nothin’ free booze can’t fix.”
Past Life Strife is the first book in my latest series, Rise of the Discordant. The second book, Splitsville will be out soon. This is the only book/series of mine that I can claim is straight fantasy, though with the humor and real world elements, I’m not sure I can truthfully claim this either.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
This series came from combining two short story ideas I had back in the early nineties. I’d planned to do something with each, but I kept putting it off. When I decided that it was time to write another series, these two stories came to mind and suddenly I had an idea for a series of stories with multiple character voices that revolve around this one odd town. It has since grown to what will eventually be a seven book series.
Different authors have differing approaches to writing. Some prepare very detailed plot outlines before they begin on their first draft, while others have a much looser outline and like to see where the story leads them. What was your approach with Past Life Strife?
With this series, there are multiple points of view and I have limited the books to a specific number of chapters. This makes it much easier to outline, as I can write up a brief synopsis of each chapter, as well as who will be speaking.
Was there any part of the story that surprised you as it appeared on the screen in front of you? If so, can you tell us about it (without giving away any spoilers!)?
My witches, Louise, Betty, and Donna were a complete surprise. They were just supposed to add a little comic relief to one scene, but now Donna has become an integral part of the plot. I had no idea as I was writing that she would end up as the descendant of another character who we meet briefly at the beginning of the book.
What part of Past Life Strife did you find most difficult to write and why?
Without giving spoilers, this is tough. There is one character who learns something about another that could change their relationship for better or worse. Writing the scene in which he finds this out was difficult because it had to have an emotional impact within the context of a humorous story.
First books in series can go one of two ways. Can you tell whether Past Life Strife ends on a cliff-hanger or whether the story resolves itself sufficiently to be standalone?
There is an overreaching theme throughout the entire series, but each book is self-contained. At the very end, after the conflict for the story is wrapped up, there is a small scene that will hint at the plot of the next tale. With this, I have added a campy teaser and the title of the next book in the series. But no, there are no cliff-hangers. I don’t like them.
Some readers of fantasy like end-to-end action, while others prefer a greater emphasis on the personal journey of the main character(s). Where would Past Life Strife sit between these two types of story?
The entire series is light and humorous, but even so, there is character growth. There is an ensemble cast of characters and I fully expect each reader to have their personal favourites. Because of this, I intend to give each a chance to develop and have their own personal journey.
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little about how the story will develop in the next books in the series?
Each story will focus on a different character, a different threat, and a different goal. In Past Life Strife, the Guardian character quits. The second book in the series, Splitsville, will introduce the rather unusual replacement and deal with a new threat. Each story will introduce new characters as well as new adversaries.
Are there any underlying messages hidden within the story (e.g. life lessons, commentary on society, religion, etc) that you’d like to share?
Within the series, religion is defined as any idea that man has enough conviction to believe in fully. There is a single Creator and life is an infinite cycle of life and death. In the first scene, the Creator appears as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. In another scene it is Thor from the Marvel universe, and throughout, the Creator will take on the image given to it by whoever it is speaking to. While I am not trying to bash any one particular belief over the readers’ heads, the underlying message is clearly that there is nothing wrong with a world where different people have different or non-existent religious beliefs.
Authors can grow quite attached to some of their characters, and sometimes that attachment can be with minor characters who maybe don’t have a big part to play in the novel. Is there a character from Past Life Strife who you’d like to explore in more depth – if not in a subsequent book in the series, maybe in a spin-off or maybe short story?
Yes, two in fact, and they will each be getting a larger role in subsequent books. The first is Bogie, a lesser demon who speaks like a 1940s Hollywood mafia stereotype and has been banished from the realm of Chaos for being too balanced. The second is Donna, the witch I spoke of in an earlier answer.
If the spotlight has intrigued you as much as it has me, you can get yourself either a paperback or ebook copy. The ebook is available through Kindle worldwide while you can pick up a paperback version from most on-line retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
If you want to follow Christina you can do so via:
Thank you for your time Christina, and good luck.