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Getting Started: The First Steps to Writing a Book

Mary Mackey received a B. Mackey's work has been translated into twelve foreign languages including Japanese, Hebrew, Greek, Russian, and Finnish. For the last twenty years she has been traveling to Brazil with her husband, Angus Wright, who writes about land reform and environmental issues. At present she is working on a series of poems inspired by the works of Brazilian poets and novelists.

How do you think writing for a series is different from writing a standalone book? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to writing a series versus a standalone book? Were there any issues with writing or publishing you faced specific to writing a series? When I was writing The Village of Bones , I found myself in the peculiar position of writing a standalone book after I had already written three novels that under any other circumstances would have been sequels.

This is doing things the hard way, but it also had certain advantages. For one thing, I knew right from the start where I was going, which is not always the case when I begin a novel. That said, probably the easiest way to write a series is to do it in chronological order.

The benefits of a series are considerable. You get to create a long, complex, interesting story that develops over a years, giving you a chance to show major changes in your characters and the world they live in. You get to develop characters in a deep, consistent way that makes them come alive. A well-done series creates a world that feels real and compelling. Readers care about your characters as if they are real people. Personally, I love historical fiction series. I check in every few months to see if Diana Gabaldon has finished her next novel.

Can you tell us about your research process? How much did you have to research for this book specifically? How did you translate that research into narrative writing?

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Did you have to look back at the other books of the series at all to make sure aspects lined up and connected? I had to do less historical research on the Goddess people when I was writing The Village of Bones because I already knew their world right down to the clothes they wore and the kinds of cups they drank out of.

This meant that I had to do extensive research online, in libraries, and on location. For example, I had to travel to France, find a deep lake that had existed since ancient times, and take photos of it so I could describe it accurately. I needed to find out how much a lion heart weighs compared to a human heart, what herbs repel sharks, and if there were oysters in the Black Sea in B. How much of the book would you say is based in factual history?

How much was your own narrative and invention? Could you tell us a bit about the real history that is included in the book? While writing, did you consciously want to keep some factual accuracy throughout? I drew on their findings whenever possible, because I wanted my readers to feel confident that they were getting as accurate a picture of the daily life of the Goddess people as they could have without actually stepping into a time machine.

Whether I am writing about Europe years ago or Imperial Russia under the Tsars, my goal is always as much factual accuracy as possible.

Mary Mackey

Still, there are places where we have no facts, and those are the places that allow me to fill in the blanks with imagination, narrative, and invention. How did people think years ago? What did they feel? Did they experience love, hate, passion, despair, and joy the same way we do?

Writing a Series of Novels: An Interview with Mary Mackey - How to Write a Book

They left behind religious objects, but how did they actually use them in their rituals? I was my job as a novelist to bring them alive using my imagination and my knowledge of human psychology. I had to put those pots back together and fill them with offerings and incense, raise up the bones of our long-lost ancestors and make them dance. Who do you envision as the audience for The Village of Bones , as well as for your other books? Did you envision readers to already have a knowledge or interest in this period of time?

Did you write these books with a specific demographic in mind? If so, how did you use certain language, tone, themes, etc. There is sex in the novels which some parents might consider unsuitable for their children. As for audience, most, but not all, of my readers are women, so in general I envision women of all ages as my audience.


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This is not surprising. Women buy the most historical fiction, as opposed to men who tend to buy mysteries, action-adventure, and science fiction. More importantly, the novels in the Earthsong Series celebrate women at a time when Europe was a place where the Earth itself was worshiped as a living female body—a Goddess—who brought forth all life.

The Horses at the Gate

Women were powerful, adventurous, and independent. They fished, hunted, sat in council, performed religious rituals, but they did not, as far as we can tell, oppress men. I think this sense of harmony between the sexes is why men also like the Earthsong novels. This is a time when men and women were equals, doing the same things, performing the same tasks. With the exception of a few bad apples which you always need to have to keep a plot interesting , the men in the Earthsong Series are kind, considerate, intelligent, thoughtful, brave, and compassionate.

They are also great in bed. Like the women, the men of the Goddess people are often talented artists. In order to engage a wide audience of both women and men, I used plain, contemporary American English with no slang words. I felt it would be artificial and off-putting to try to invent a language people spoke to one another years ago.

Your writing style and voice is so engaging in The Village of Bones. I read the first sentence and before I knew it, I was halfway through! Did you use the same voice throughout the series of books? Did you experiment with different styles or voices before writing or did the voice come naturally as you wrote? The style came naturally as I wrote. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. As nomad invaders ride south to attack the peaceful, goddess-worshipping people of Shara, the preistess Marrah is initiated into the cult of the Dark Mother.

Armed with powerful magic, she and her nomad lover, Stavan, must fight for the survival of their children and their people.

Paperback Editions

Volume two of The Earthsong Trilogy. Paperback , pages. Published February 29th by iUniverse first published January 1st To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Horses at the Gate , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Horses at the Gate. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Oct 21, Donna Jo Atwood rated it it was ok Shelves: It's the second book of the series, but I'm not going to bother with the rest. Prehistoric stories always intrigued me I have always had a deep interest in our past,if I had the chance I think I would loved to have been an archeologist but wasn't to be so I can live vicariously thru these books it seems the author did her homework, I am really enjoying them and was so happy to see a forth one.

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Thank you Mary Mackey. Another excellent story of the past ages. Of man This was a really good story and moved pretty quickly for this kind of book. I had to be careful when I sat to read it because I would get so absorbed in another world that family would talk to me and I would miss what they were saying, which did not go over well.

Outstanding Read Marta is an outstanding character. She goes from child to full womanhood in breathtaking leaps. Her story is not only a tear jerker but also a page turner. Forget sleeping while reading it. When I was ten, I received this book as a gift. It was the first book I read that was over pages and I still remember how much this story changed my perspective on what books could be and opened my mind to the broader world of fantasy.

The story was memorable, to say the least - it was not intended for such a young audience - and I still remember how amazing it was to read about a strong heroine doing whatever it took to save her people. I had no idea it was part of a trilogy, so I will be s When I was ten, I received this book as a gift. I had no idea it was part of a trilogy, so I will be seeking those other books out very soon! Do yourself a favor, this engaging, enchanting story of a time before human memory will be a classic; and it's written by one of the greatest authors of our time.

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