ML Spencer lives in Southern California with her three children and two cats. She has been obsessed with fantasy ever since the days of childhood bedtime stories. She grew up reading and writing fantasy fiction, playing MMORPG games, and living, as mom put it, “in her own worlds.” ML now spends each day working to bring those worlds into reality. She loves to read and write grimdark fantasy because it probes the deep, dark questions of human nature and moral ethics.
1.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
I write grimdark fantasy because I feel it is a good medium for exploring the human condition. High fantasy often reflects a romanticized version of reality, which might provide a good story and a good escape, but rarely provides a tale that is truly reflective of reality. I find grimdark fantasy a better vehicle for examining societal issues and human nature.
2.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
I like the Turan Khar. They are a hive-mind society — kind of like the Borg from Star Trek the Next Generation. At face value, such a society would seem to spit in the face of human individualism, resulting in complete destruction of the individual. The Khar Empire, however, is questionably better than any other society that has ever existed. The members of its society remain individuals, although they are telepathically linked. Even though they can still think for themselves, all self-centric thoughts (jealousy, bad will, self-aggrandizement, malice, etc.) are lost in the vast ocean of the collective communal good. Everything is done for the benefit of society as a whole, and everyone within it experiences the wondrous bliss of a loving and supportive community that is ever-present and all-consuming — to the extent that disconnection from the collective results in an unbearable sense of isolation and psychological distress.
3.If I were stuck in a room with your main character, what would we be doing?
Which one? Chains of Blood has two main characters: Gil Archer and Rylan Marshall. If you are stuck in a room with Gil, you might be subject to one of his somewhat acerbic practical jokes. If you were stuck in a room with Rylan, you might find yourself in a somewhat reflective conversation about mundane pleasantries. All in all, they are two pretty regular guys, the kind you could run into at any local Starbucks.
4.Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
Sometimes I get stuck on a plot point. Usually, it’s a problem that I need to solve, or I can’t move the story forward. I can spend days pounding my head against it. Some people call this writer’s block, but it’s really not. I don’t have a problem with writing. I have a problem with problem-solving. What usually clears this up is a good six-hour drive.
5.You’re going to go back and visit yourself when you first started writing, at whatever age it was, and you can give yourself one piece of advice. What would it be?
I would be visiting a little five or six-year-old girl scribbling a story onto papers folded and stapled into a book. I would tell her not to be ashamed of what she’s doing, and never feel that what she’s creating is worthless. I would tell her never give up, no matter the opposition, no matter what other people say.
6.Let’s talk about tools. Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?
I have become the Queen of Ergonomics. When I started writing, I had no idea what a physically taxing job it would turn out to be. Within the past two years have suffered severe tendinitis that has affected my ability to even click a mouse button and hasn’t gone away. I also have a problem sitting for more than a half hour — I can’t do it anymore. I’ve had to make a lot of life adjustments to overcome this. I started dictating instead of typing, using Dragon Dictation. I’ve purchased an ergonomic keyboard and now use a trackball mouse with my left hand instead of my right. I purchased a standing desk in a comfy pad to stand on. These things have helped a lot and I wish I would’ve purchased them sooner, before I ruined my body.
7.Describe your workplace.
My workplace is my daughter’s bedroom. She’s gone to college, and her bed is still there. Her dresser has been moved to the closet, the things she left behind in her closet have been relegated to the storage facility. I have taken over the rest of the room with two desks and a huge banner I use at book fairs. When she comes home, she is forced to sleep in this area and I have to move out. Poor child.
8.If you could live anywhere other than where you are, where would it be?
I literally would love to live anywhere but here. I’m from San Bernardino, where I’ve lived all my life. Where my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents lived all their lives. I have dreamed all my life of escape, but I kind of got anchored here, so here I stay. If I can move anywhere, it would probably be to another country like New Zealand or Japan. Maybe the UAE. If I have to stay in America, I would head to the Midwest. Maybe Wisconsin. I think I’d like to be Jesse Teller’s next-door neighbor. Did I mention I’m a Cheesehead?
9.If you could choose any other writer, living or dead, to be your mentor, whom would you choose and why?
Stephen King. What that man can do with tension and character is uncanny, and you can transplant that kind of stuff to any genre. So maybe instead of Wisconsin, I should move to Maine.
10.Now that you have published your first book, do you have any dreams you have not reached? Goals for new books, series beyond this publication, or anything else that can tantalize the fantasy public?
I want to start writing faster. I want to be able to release three or four books a year. I know I can do this if I find ways to increase my productivity. That’s what I’m going to be focusing on this year. I also would like to start writing a new world. I’ve been world building this one for going on 25 years now. Time to move on.
11.If we reach beyond the written word into visual media, and you could choose how your story is consumed, would you want a television show, a movie series, or anime to tell the story of the book and the world it takes place in?
HBO series, just like Game of Thrones. My story is too long for just a movie or three.
12.The audio book sector is exploding right now. Have you been listening? If so, can you recommend an audio book to us?
I really like listening to audiobooks, as I can consume them faster than reading. I don’t have a lot of time to read anymore, but I can listen while driving. The most recent audiobook I have listened to was Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It’s not a fantasy, but a historical fiction novel. But anyone interested in fantasy would probably adore it. Highly recommend.
13.Can we expect an audio book from you, and if you had the ability to choose anyone to narrate it, is there someone in particular you would hire?
I’ve just been approached by an audiobook publisher who is interested in producing an audio of Chains of Blood. I have no idea who they will hire if I decide to go with them. The narrator I used for The Rhenwars Saga, Si Wright, has been awesome. I would definitely hire him again.
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