Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the Fantasy genre because of its inherent philosophical explorations. Her work reflects a deep understanding of human motivations, and adventures into the age-old question of good versus evil as modified by context, viewpoint and time. Ms. McPhail lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats.
The first two published books in her series “A Pattern of Shadow & Light” have received awards. Book 1, Cephrael’s Hand, won Best Fiction and Best SF/Fantasy from the Written Arts Awards and was a ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist. Book 2, The Dagger of Adendigaeth, won ForeWord’s Bronze Book of the Year for Fantasy.
What inspires you to write?
I’m a philosopher at heart, and as such, I’m always seeking greater understanding of the world and the races and people who inhabit it. The Fantasy genre is a safe space where I can explore ideals and concepts that could be controversial, inflammatory or morally difficult (such as nobility, honor, integrity, sacrifice, sexuality and religious values), and to explore these ideals without fear of reprisal, judgment or ostracism.
Writing allows me to adopt new viewpoints and explore an idea from many different angles. I like to imagine what another or others must be thinking; I want to understand why they made the choices they made in any given moment. Writing Fantasy allows me to make those ventures into new perspectives and see the many facets of truth that surround each choice.
Most exciting is being able to do this while on a marvelous adventure with a cast of characters that I absolutely love (and really love to hate).
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m now writing the third installment of my series A Pattern of Shadow & Light, and I’ve found that each book has its own writing process. The first book struggled beneath trial and error for more than a decade. Book two came out in a rush of inspiration in a matter of a few months. Book three is gaining similar momentum.
I both outline and let inspiration guide me. I tend to envision scenes. These form mile markers along the path. I refuse to write the scenes as they come to me but instead write patiently (or with grinding impatience) from scene to scene. These envisioned scenes are often my moments of greatest inspiration, and writing towards them (instead of writing them as they come) keeps my anticipation heady and pushes me onward. Writing the scene once I’ve finally reached its moment in the story then becomes my reward. Even so, I often find more inspiration along the way. The path through each novel is often winding (epic fantasy usually is) and I never know what will truly lie around the next bend.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
At this point in my series, my characters have been utterly imbued with life and have intentions and determinism uniquely their own. I’ve merely become the narrator of their tale.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write, write, write! And read – a lot. Find authors you love and study their work to determine what you love about it. Emulate that as you’re writing, writing, writing. There’s no substitute for practice in the craft.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I never thought of seeking a publisher with the indie movement so incredible vibrant. I feel so lucky to have been able to publish each book exactly the way I wanted the story told.
My advice to others is to take a deep look at what success means to you. Success can have many faces, and it’s important to take an honest view of the pros and cons of each route. Some authors seek the validation of an agent or mainstream editor and need this to feel like they’ve achieved success. Some consider success in relation to the number of books sold or in being able to make their living as an author. Others merely want their work to be understood, and a reader’s validation in a review or a letter to the author is the best measure of that success, for them.
Both routes (indie versus traditional) are equally valid and require enormous effort and dedication, but while indie publishing provides utter freedom, it’s also a bit like being on the frontier – you’ve only the great, broad horizon before you, but you also rarely know where the dangers are hiding before falling into them.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think the future looks incredibly bright. The more freedom introduced into an area or subject, the more it ultimately will expand. The success of indie publishing has forced traditional publishers to take a new look at their model also, and this can only mean great things for readers and authors worldwide.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print