Monday, March 27, 2017

Meg Mac Donald on "Upon This Rock" in MASQUES OF DARKOVER

In the spirit of a masqued revel, here is a gala presentation of tales set in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s beloved world of the Bloody Sun. Some of these stories are humorous, others dark, some gritty, and others whimsical or romantic, but all reflect the richness and breadth of adventures to be found on Darkover.

Masques of Darkover will be released May 2, 2017 and is now available for pre-order at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble and Kobo. The print edition will be on sale on the release date.

After a number of years away from writing, Meg set pen to page again in 2011. Delightful chaos ensued. She shares her home in Michigan with her husband, children, a Norwegian Elkhound and a clowder of cats (yes, it actually is bigger on the inside). She would like to own horses again, sell a novel (how about a series? Any takers?) and has, sadly, never been to the Moon. Meg's sold stories to two previous Darkover anthologies (when she was very young but no less silly, she says).

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us about your introduction to Darkover.
Meg Mac Donald:  I landed on Darkover as a nerdy teenager who had very little in common with other people aside from being (mostly) human.  I was introduced to the series by a new friend who, in turn, had swiped some books from her older brother.  The John Norman Gor series didn't excite us, but the Darkover books were intriguing.  I'm thinking The Bloody Sun, Planet Wreckers and Sword of Aldones (which was probably the book that grabbed us both).  My friend (still a friend these decades later) was totally geeked about them and the idea that the Darkovans did not use long range weapons.  SF with swords and "magic" that wasn't magic.  Psychic powers.  Laran.  Cool.  I don't think my friend's brother ever got his books back and suspect some of them are still in my possession.  Sorry about that.  :-[

DJR: What about the world drew you in? 
MMD: Two things come immediately to mind.  First, likeable, memorable characters that fascinated me (even if they were a bit tortured).  Lew Alton being at the top of the list.  And Regis Hastur.  Loved Regis.  I remember having such sympathy for him.  I also liked how the world-building unfolded across so many books (sprawling, anyone?), the backgrounds of characters and events, the connections between stories--albeit some of those require more than a bit of mental juggling as the stories were not written in order and clearly Marion's concept of who some of these folks really were and what the world/culture/events were all about changed over time.  I always forgave the contradictions.  Maybe I instinctively recognized that Darkover grew and changed just as the author's world did.  Looking back, it seems very organic.  I certainly relate to that as a writer.  Some of those early books are tough reads now, but what a complicated tapestry the author wove over time.  How rich and intricate.  Family sagas and culture clashes are fertile grounds for story-telling and I was the right age at the right time.

DJR: What do you see as the future of Darkover? How has its readership changed over the decades? What book would you recommend for someone new to Darkover? 

MMD: I sincerely hope that books are kept in print and made available for new generations of readers.  I also hope the anthologies continue.  I believe that would have pleased the author a great deal because sharing Darkover obviously gave her a lot of joy.  Might new novels about new (and old) characters continue to be published?  Why not?  So much to still explore... and perhaps to reexamine. 

I really don't know that there is what you would call a "typical" Darkoever fan. 
It seems to me that fans of the series come from tremendously diverse backgrounds and always have.  Science fiction and fantasy fans in general are a diverse lot.  I suppose that speaks to the universal themes the authors choose to explore--and certainly such themes are found in Darkover books, along with many memorable characters.  Precisely what speaks to me may not speak to another reader or vice versa.  Nonetheless, the body of work speaks to so many.  What would I recommend?  hmmm.  Many readers new to Darkover would probably enjoy dipping their toes into the short story anthologies to be honest.  That would be a great place to start and then go in search of the novels that inspired the short fiction--those events, time periods, characters that excite the reader.  Granted, not all the short stories can be neatly slotted into Darkover's history.  Mine certainly can't (by design). haha!   So many novels to chose from... I tend to default to the ones I remember enjoying the most which would include The Sword of Aldones AND Sharra's Exile (for different reasons) and Heritage of Hastur.  I think the latter two are probably among her best.

DJR: What inspired your story in Masques of Darkover?

MMD: If I remember correctly, I was unhappy with the negative portrayal of Christians and Christian clergy in a lot of fiction I was reading.  I wanted to take a different approach, look to the future (in this case, of the Catholic Church) but be faithful to doctrine and tradition.  As stories often do, this one reinvented itself as I wrote it, and the direction I originally intended to take isn't the one I ended up taking (a story for another day, I guess).  I have a thing for character-oriented stories and when Father Christopher Dolenz crashed on Darkover and met a group of cristoforos and some very special young students, I had a delicious "clash of cultures" on my hands.  I ran with it.  Then the Monster showed up.  Wait, what?  Love when that happens.  The version appearing in Masques was retooled from a story initially held for an earlier anthology.  Having the opportunity to trim and rewrite it and present it for consideration all these years later was a pleasure.

DJR: Was writing this story different from a typical writing project? How did you balance writing in someone else’s world and being true to your own creative imagination?  

MMD: First and foremost, a good story is a good story so that's always priority number one.  My approach to any writing project is to write as strong a story as I can.  Whether it is wholly original or in a shared-world, I want it to be as much a stand alone as possible so a newcomer to the world (or characters) would be able to enjoy it for what it is.  Darkover lends itself well to this in my opinion.  That elaborate tapestry I mentioned earlier.  It has enough iconic elements to weave into a story to give it a sense of place (and/or time) while still allowing the author the freedom to bring something new to the world and have it all resonate as "true."  The Darkover stories I've written have always featured original characters who one might imagine could exist somewhere on the planet.  How successful I've been is open to debate (heh), but I find Darkover to be very accessible.  I've never felt constrained by the setting.  

DJR: Is there another Darkover story you would particularly like to write? 

MMD: I've got this thing about a werewolf (or something) that won't go away and a story about healing and a harp and hope on the edge of the desert.   I have a lot of projects spinning, but I'll admit that coming back to wander beneath the bloody sun has rekindled a desire to write more.  I think so.  I hope so.

DJR: What have you written recently? What is your favorite of your published works and why?  What lies ahead for you?

MMD: The twists and turns of life took me away from writing fiction for a number of years.  Being a foster parent and adopting special needs children means being flexible with work and expectations--and sometimes finding humor in strange circumstances.   Many of my real life experiences now make their way into my writing--or inform me better about topics I approached when I was much younger (and more naive).  It is curious that my previous Darkover stories ("My Father's Son" and "Mists") were stories about traumatized children, something I understand far better now.  Though I was very young when I wrote them, I remain proud of them and have considered revisiting the characters.  I see the seeds of the writer I have become sown in those pages and will be forever grateful for the encouragement I received as a kid.

Now that my own children are older, I have been writing more, lending support to other writers, sending out new short fiction, and am polishing up the first of several fantasy novels that have waited a long time for me to drag out and gleefully rip to shreds, er, transform.  It is a curious thing to return to a work that one was pleased with in younger days and be rather relieved that it wasn't published.  haha  I have to admit I am much happier with the rewrite.  Much.  Happier.  Having the years march by does make one impatient to get one's work "out there," though.  I am undecided if I will seek representation (and wait another million years) or hop aboard the Indie train.  Choo!  Choo!  All Aboard!  I'll find a way (and, God willing, an audience), by hook or by crook.  I can't point to much that is recent and readily available, but Doctor Who fans can find my short story, "Many a Weary Foot," in The Temporal Logbook, a charity anthology published by Pencil Tip Publishing.  If I ever get around to actually setting up my Wordpress page, I'll put some short fiction there.  I have a Facebook page, too, but... yeah, I'm rubbish with self promotion.  haha  I'm not sure where I'll go, but you're welcome to Follow me on Twitter @kyrrimar.

DJR: Anything else you’d like our readers to know about you, Darkover, or life in general?

MMD: There is hope in every tear.  Never give up on your dreams. Always look up.  #noblebright.  Deep peace, dear hearts.  God's not finished with you yet. 

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