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Monday, September 2, 2013

Author Interview: M. C. Muhlenkamp with Giveaway

Today we welcome author and Jill-of-all-trades M. C. Muhlenkamp, author of Markram Battles. She's offering one lucky reader a copy of the first book in the series, Markram Battles: Genesis of an Uprising in either MOBI or PDF format. See the end of this post to enter!

JK: Tell us a little about where you grew up and what you do or have done besides writing. 

MCM: I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, and lived there until I moved to the States to attend college at the age of eighteen. I graduated in 2008 with a degree in Latin American Studies. I’ve done a variety of jobs in the past including, Sandwich Master, Library Media Center Consultant, Visitor Center Go-To girl, Meeting and Event Planning Assistant, and more recently Data Management Specialist. I also pride myself in making awesome pies.

JK: What is your series about? 

MCM: Markram Battles is a serialized collection of YA sci-fi stories. It is set in a post-apocalyptic future where an evolved species of humans with supernatural powers has taken control of our planet. In this world, Earth is a conscripting sector where recruiters, also known as unit leaders, come to enlist human survivors to participate in the Battles, a blood-sport tournament for the entertainment of the masses.

The Markram stories follow Seven, one of the unit leaders trained in the Imperial Army to fight in the Battles. Seven’s goal to win the Battles, and subsequently his own freedom, has been his only objective for as long as he can remember. But after recruiting Thirteen, one of his human prisoners, everything changes. Her mere presence puts at risk everything he has worked so hard to achieve, and threatens to destroy everything he believes about himself. Together they must fight for survival, freedom, and eventually each other, even if their triumph can only mean their ultimate downfall.

The collection is geared toward readers of YA fantasy and science fiction, but I think readers of other genres would enjoy it as well. The diverse intertwining themes in each story aim to explore and test the boundaries of human culture, as seen through the eyes of this new world.

JK: How does real life affect your fiction? 

MCM: My mind works like a big bucket, where everyday things, even if I think them insignificant, get collected. Everything I see, hear, or experience has an effect and goes right into that mental bucket, only to be used later on, consciously or subconsciously. I believe stories in general, no matter how fictitious in nature, carry fragments of real life, whether the writer means it or not. For me it can be something as simple as a song I listen to that sparks an idea, or a social trend I notice that shapes part of a plot, even the general mood of my day can influence the feeling of my stories.

JK: What is your favorite book?

MCM: To be completely honest, I don’t have a favorite book. There are just too many out there to choose from. If my life depended on answering this question I would probably die.

JK: I know, right? I'm not sure why I ask that question. What other things influence your work?

MCM: I love to use music as creative influence. I tend to collect songs that I think would be fantastic for a certain scene, character, or story. Music just has a way of entering my brain and sparking my creativity like nothing else will. I also like keeping a folder of pictures that remind me of whatever it is I am working on. I am a very visual person, and one picture or set of pictures can create a snowball effect of ideas.

JK: Do you have a favorite word? How do you use language to differentiate your characters? 

MCM: That is an interesting question, one I had never thought of before. After thinking about it for some time I realized I actually do have a word that I love. Adamant. I am not sure why I like it so much. Maybe I just like the sound of it. I did some research on the history of the word and found that it derives from Latin and Greek words meaning “unbreakable, untamable, invincible.” It was also used to describe hard metals, and even diamonds at one point. After learning this I think I like the word even more. There is something subtle about the word adamant, even though its definitions and origin suggests a stronger meaning.

Using language to differentiate my characters and settings was very challenging with Markram Battles, mainly because I was dealing with evolved humans from a militaristic empire with a completely different belief system. I tried to maintain expressions and description language, as well as a lack thereof, very specific to whatever point of view I was writing, trusting that my beta readers and editor would call me out if I slipped.

JK: In general, what is your inspiration? What was the specific inspiration for your most recent project?

MCM: There wasn’t one specific thing that inspired Markram Battles, more of a combination of several ideas. I’ve always been fascinated by the scale and scope of warfare in ancient civilizations, such as Romans and Greeks, and how that lifestyle affected their society and culture. I tried to picture how those same beliefs would translate using a world much more advanced technologically than theirs, taking special interest in the history of gladiatorial games in ancient Rome. To that you add my childhood obsession with X-Men, and more recently Heroes (the TV show), and you can see how the ideas began to take shape.

JK: How much time a day do you devote to fiction writing? What is your work area like? Do you have any methods that might seem unusual or inspiring to other writers? 

MCM: I have to laugh at this question. My husband would have you believe that I spend every waking moment devoting my time to fiction writing, and though I do spend quite a substantial part of my time in front of the computer, it doesn’t always mean I am writing every second of it. I’m an early bird. Early mornings mean uninterrupted writing time before daily responsibilities catch up with me. On a good morning I can get as much as two hours uninterrupted writing time. On a bad morning I might not get any time at all. My office is a mess. I have toys all over the place, projects dispersed throughout the room, books piled up everywhere, scattered notes I write to myself, and a TV playing some kid show or another at any given time. Like I said, a mess. But that is just the nature of my office, and I’ve accepted it. I love listening to music when I write, not always though, and nothing with lyrics, which would be too distracting. I am a big fan of several film score composers, and I love using their orchestrally oriented scores to shape the flow of a scene or story line.

JK: When and why did you get started writing?

MCM: I don’t think I can remember a time when I didn’t write. I’ve always done it, though it has taken many shapes throughout the years. I have to admit however that I never really thought of sharing my writing and stories with others until more recently. I had somewhat of an epiphany some years back when I realized I just really loved writing and creating new worlds inside my head. Before that, I knew I liked it and it was fun, but I didn’t take it seriously, especially knowing that English was my second language. But after I came to terms with myself (and my love for writing), things changed. I began researching my way through the writing world and even took a writing course at the beginning of the year to help me get started.

JK: What characteristics from your first efforts survive today?

MCM: Most of my early book drafts were pure garbage. But I don’t think any effort, no matter how mediocre we think it is, is really wasted, because every time you write you learn something new. Looking back now, I realize how differently I approach writing in comparison to when I first began. I’ve learned too much for those early characteristics to survive unscathed.

JK: What kind of feedback do you get? Do you have a definable fan base? Are your family and friends supportive?

MCM: There are definitely quite a few people I rely on for feedback. Some are friends, some are fellow writers, and some are total strangers. Every one of them is fantastic and I love the variety of feedback they give me. I am not sure about a definable fan base yet, since I just got started. Only time will answer that question. My family and friends are the drive behind what I do. Their support and enthusiasm mean everything to me.

JK: Thank you so much for dropping by!

If you would like to know more about Markram Battles, you can find bonus materials, history of the Markram Empire, and characters’ profiles at M. C.'s website. She can be found on Twitter @mcmuhlenkamp and Goodreads, and she loves to Pin about her writing projects and other stuff at: 

Find Makram Battles on Amazon here.

Thanks to everyone who participated in last Monday's giveaway with M C Muhlenkamp! I'm sorry to report that there has been a technical glitch with the entries, and no winner has been chosen yet. If you entered, or if you're interested in winning even if you didn't enter before, please see this kind note from the author:

Book Giveaway Error
Dear readers and followers, I am not exactly sure what happened to our giveaway entries, but for whatever reason they aren’t showing up in the comment section anymore. I would still love to give away one of the copies of Markram Battles: Genesis of an Uprising to one of you, but I am going to need your help to do it. Please visit this post and re-enter. I am so sorry for this mix up! Hopefully we’ll get this figured out in no time. I will be taking reentries until Friday, September 13th.  For those of you who didn’t get to enter last week, don’t miss out this time around ;-)