Epic Fantasy with Gail Z. Martin

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications
Photo courtesy of Gail Z. Martin

Gail Z. Martin has published three epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of the Necromancer, The Fallen Kings Cycle, and The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. She also writes the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, which is set in Charleston, South Carolina, and, with her husband, Larry N. Martin, the Jake Desmet Adventures steampunk series. In addition, she writes four series of ebook short stories, The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, the Deadly Curiosities Adventures, the Blaine McFadden Adventures, and the Storm & Fury Adventures as well as short stories for various anthologies.

Daily Dragon (DD): You just wrapped up the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga with Shadow and Flame.  Please tell us what that series is about.

Gail Z. Martin (GZM): Two kingdoms destroy each other in a devastating war that accidentally also knocks out the magic they rely on. And the only guy who might be able to fix it is an unrepentant murderer exiled to an arctic prison colony.

The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga is post-apocalyptic medieval fantasy, which is a mouthful, but it really means a medieval setting where the infrastructure and leadership has been destroyed and must be rebuilt from the ground up. Obviously, when there’s that kind of power vacuum, there will be competing interests to fill the void and differing ideas of how to do it.

Lord Blaine (Mick) McFadden was exiled for killing the man who dishonored his sister. When their homeland falls, he and his convict friends choose to return to help rebuild, and Blaine finds himself at the center of the action as the last remaining Lord of the Blood, the only one who can return magic to human control. Powerful interests have reasons for keeping that from happening. Therein lies a tale!

DD: You’ve also been writing short stories in that world, prequels about Blaine McFadden’s time in exile. Why did you start those, and do you plan to keep going?

GZM: At the beginning of Ice Forged, the first book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, Blaine kills a man and is sent into exile. Six years pass, and then the action picks up again. Readers wanted to know more about those six years that get briefly mentioned but not seen, so I decided to write those ‘missing scenes.’

I’ve written three novellas (Arctic Prison, Ice Bound and Cold Fury—available individually or collected as King’s Convicts) about Blaine’s convict years, and I’ll have three more novellas soon about his time as a prisoner-colonist coming soon.

That may wrap up Blaine’s story. It’s all I have planned for now, but that doesn’t mean a new idea might not send me back to the drawing board at some point in the future.

DD: In 2013, you launched a new series of short stories, the Deadly Curiosities Adventures. What’s the premise for this series?

GZM: In the book series, mortals and immortals work together to kick supernatural ass, destroy cursed and haunted objects and save Charleston SC and the world from evil—using a 350 year old antique store as a front. Cassidy Kincaide, the main character, can read the history of an object by touching it and can tap into its magic or strong emotional resonance. Teag Logan, her best friend, can weave spells into cloth and is one hell of a hacker. Sorren, her business partner, is a nearly 600 year-old vampire who founded the store back in the 1600s and has stores like it all over the world as part of the Alliance.

The newest book in the series is Vendetta.

DD: What inspired you to do these as short stories instead of novels, and why did you cross into the longer form in 2014?

GZM: Jon Oliver at Solaris Books asked me back in 2011 to do a short story for the Magic: Esoteric and Arcane anthology that worked with magic in the modern world. I wrote “Buttons” and set it in present-day Charleston in the world that I had already used for several other anthology stories that were set in the past. Solaris asked me to do a book series based on “Buttons” and it turned into the Deadly Curiosities novels.

The short stories and novellas take place in the same world with the same (and additional) characters delving into new threats and tainted objects. They extend the book series and weave before and between the novels.

The Deadly Curiosities Adventures are smaller in scope than the novels, so I can tell stories that don’t have as many sub-plots or complications, sort of like a single episode of a TV show, where a novel is more like a three-hour movie. So the short story “Buttons” begat the novels, which begat more short stories/novellas!

DD: The Shadowed Path consists of short stories featuring Jonmarc Vahanian from your Chronicles of the Necromancer series. Who is he, and what led you to write more about him?

GZM: Readers meet Jonmarc Vahanian in The Summoner when he is a twenty-nine year-old battle-weary, bitter mercenary and smuggler. He ends up being pivotal to Tris Drayke’s quest to overthrow the usurper and take the crown of Margolan, and continues to be a major character throughout the Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings Cycle series.

Although Jonmarc gets a lot of page count, that series was never completely his story. Readers wanted to know more about how he became the character we met, and so I’ve written sequential, linked short stories that are essentially serialized novels about Jonmarc’s back story. I published the stories indie, and Solaris asked to do the collection with an exclusive 11th story, which became The Shadowed Path. There are 8 more stories out that aren’t in the collection, and 3 more novellas to come to tie up the equivalent of 3 prequel novels.


DD: Last year, you launched a Steampunk series, the Jake Desmet Adventures with your co-author, Larry N. Martin. What’s the premise for that series?

GZM: Iron & Blood, the first book in the series, is set in an alternative history Pittsburgh in 1898. Airships, clockwork monsters, mad scientists, inventors—lots of things blow up.

In Iron & Blood, an import company unknowingly transports a relic sought by an ambitious Guilded Age robber baron and his dark witch, setting off a trail of murder, industrial sabotage and dark magic that threatens New Pittsburgh and the world. Jake Desmet and his best friend Rick Brand, sons of the owners of the firm, set out to stop the carnage, along with Jake’s irrepressible cousin, Nicki LeClerq. Did I mention lots of things blow up?

DD: How is your writing process different when you work on a collaborative story?

GZM: Larry is an integral part of all our books, but he’s often come in on earlier series after the concepts were established. With our collaborative series (we’ve also done 3 stories so far in a space series for the Origins Game Fair anthologies), Larry and I worked from the get-go to develop the series premise, characters and plot. So it’s really a matter of timing and degree, though now that he’s working with the books and me full time, it’s the new normal.

DD: You recently assembled the Modern Magic: Twelve Tales of Urban Fantasy box set. What led you to take on this project?

GZM: John Hartness and I realized that we have a lot of awesome writer friends who also write dark urban fantasy, and we thought that an ebook boxed set just in time for summer and fall vacation reading would be fun. Modern Magic is 12 full-length dark urban fantasy novels by 13 authors for $1.99, only on Kindle, only until 9/30!

A brand new collection of 10 Deadly Curiosities Adventures, Trifles and Folly, is part of the Modern Magic ebook boxed set. And there will be more short stories and novellas yet to come! Many of the Modern Magic authors are on Dragon Con’s Urban Fantasy track this year. You’ll recognize the names–in addition to John and me, there’s Karen E. Taylor, Christopher Golden, Julie Kenner, Jennifer St. Giles, Rick Gualtieri, Stuart Jaffe, Eric Asher, James Maxey, Thomas Sniegoski, Jeanne Adams and Nicole Givens Kurtz.

DD: What was the most fun for you about writing in the Deadly Curiosities world?

I love Charleston, SC! So part of the fun is getting to explore the real city and its history and then come up with supernatural threats to save it from. Writing a modern-day series is a nice change from epic and steampunk because you can use pop culture references and current language. It’s also great to visit Charleston and do my book research/recon and visit the actual places. Love the ghost tours and cemeteries!

DD: You also have a short story series set in the Jake Desmet universe, the Storm & Fury Adventures. Aside from length, how are these stories different from the novels in the series?

GZM: The protagonists are different in this series than in the books. Mitch Storm and Jacob Drangosavich are agents for the Department of Supernatural Investigation, and while they show up in Iron & Blood, they are the main characters in the short stories/novels as they take on all kinds of clockwork evil geniuses and dark magic to keep New Pittsburgh safe. The series title is a play on the main characters’ names—Sturm und Drang, Storm and Fury. Plus Mitch likes to blow things up a lot.

DD: What do you find are the different challenges of writing short and novel-length fiction?

GZM: Short stories/novellas have to pack a punch with less lead-up. They’ve got to be fast and tight. Often, there isn’t room for multiple points of view. Novellas can have a sub-plot or two, but short stories usually can’t. That makes it crucial to start at exactly the right place, because you’ve got to get to the meat quickly. It’s fun and it keeps me on my toes.

DD: What draws you to participate in anthologies?

Anthologies are fun, and I like to say ‘yes’ when my friends ask me to be in their new book. It’s kind of a social thing—I get to know the authors in the anthology through promoting it, which has made me a lot of new friends in the business. Mostly, anthologies are sandboxes where I can take risks and stretch a little without much risk. I’ve had two series come out of stories written for anthologies—Deadly Curiosities and the new space series we’re working on. I’ve learned a lot about Kickstarter from the anthologies I’ve been part of. I don’t do one-off stories that don’t tie into my books very often, but I have done a few and those are fun stretches. Anthologies are also good for reaching new readers because someone might pick a book up because of a favorite author and decide they like some of the other writers included in the book.

DD: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers who may read this?

GZM: Never give up. It’s a hard business, and lots of people don’t stick with it. Hang in there, work hard, be willing to roll up your sleeves, learn to take constructive feedback, and don’t ever give up.

DD: What’s next for you?

I’m on 12 panels at Dragon Con plus signings, and readers can find me and 16 other bestselling authors with great deals on books in Booth1223 & 1225 at Tairen’s Lair/Author’s Lair. After this, I’ll be at ContraFlow in NOLA and the Atomacon in Charleston before I hang it up for the rest of the year. More cons in 2017!

Beyond that, I’ll have a brand new epic fantasy series out from Solaris Books in 2017, I’m in at least six new anthologies, there will be new novellas/short stories in all four series, and I’ll have a new social media book out and a book on marketing for authors. I’ve also got several proposals circulating for new fiction series as well, so stay tuned!

DD: For more information about Gail Z. Martin and her writing, visit her website, www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

Author of the article

Nancy Northcott is the Comics Track Director for ConTinual. She's also a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. Her published works include the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy and the Arachnid Files romantic suspense series. Collaborating with Jeanne Adams, she also writes the Outcast Station science fiction mystery series.

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