Today’s author interview is with Cully Mack, author of epic fantasy and has a new book out now!
- Hi Cully tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?
Hi, I’m Cully. I write epic fantasy. Think epic battles with immortals and beasts of all kinds, throw in some elemental magic, huge plot twists, portals and unique worlds, and an ever-growing cast of characters trying to save their world. If you like character-driven epic fantasy, you’ll love my books. I warn you now; I don’t go easy on them…
I’ve always loved reading fantasy, and I have a keen interest in myth texts from the Ancient Near East. Mesopotamia was the birthplace of civilisation (think pre Egyptian, Greek and Roman etc). Yes, those titans, gods and mythical beings were known to older civilizations
I decided to merge fantasy and myth and created a series, which is filled with ancient myth, the kind that is buried in soul waiting to be reawakened.
- What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
The possibilities! They are endless. I love the ability to imagine and see the world through a different lens. I prefer alternate worlds, new experiences, so I lean towards epic/high fantasy, but more importantly, I’m drawn to iconic character-driven fiction.
As much as I love thrilling plots, amazing magic systems, and well-developed worlds, they mean nothing without real human emotion. Fantasy has the ability to present humanity in extreme circumstances, to test the bonds of love, sacrifice, and endurance, etc. It sees us at our worst or against terrible odds and shows us we can rise above and conquer. It gives us hope. That’s the beauty of the fantasy genre.
- Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? (include release date etc here)
My latest project is due for release on October 30th 2020. It is the fourth book in the Voice that Thunders series and is called A Vow That Clashes. This book has been the most challenging to write due to the complexity of its structure. It has three plot arcs focussing on a destined one, a fire wielder and an apprentice Acquisitioner.
Each of them has made a vow. Their challenge is to either keep or break it, but they soon realise the hardest battles often come from within.
A Vow That Clashes
When a vow demands sacrifice, who will pay the price?
Far behind Gabe is his innocence, destroyed when a Watcher slaughtered his clan. Now considered a chosen one, Gabe strives to understand his magic and his calling. He desires nothing more than to find his sister but is besieged by hybrid abominations intent on extinguishing mortal life, his most of all.
His allies: a cunning thief, an Immortal, and a Fire Wielder stand fast with those seeking sanctuary underground. It’s a trap. The god of deep mines and solver of secrets is coming… A perilous maze of tunnels, their sole hope of escape.
As vows and destiny collide, Gabe faces a devastating choice: abandon the people and his allies or forsake his beloved sister.
The fate of the world rests on his decision, for the Watchers know a greater adversary approaches, a possessor of flesh. The clash between darkness and light has never been more dreadful.
You can find out more here: viewbook.at/AVowThatClashes
- What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?
Conflicted ones. I love adding layers. I write characters who are passionate, living each day as though it may be their last. They’re either running straight for or away from something.
I enjoy writing cocky, confident males, which is why I have a few of them. Ammo is skilled at pretty much everything and a complete risk taker. He often makes me laugh with his cocky attitude and flirty banter. Tur is complex, comes across as aloof at first, but he is one hell of a man as his story develops. Nothing and no one will move him from what he believes in and my god, I really test him.
I enjoy writing strong female leads. And what I mean by this is women who have something more than just kick-ass feistiness. For me, it’s more about attitude. In fantasy, I often find female characters’ femininity has been stripped away. I like to write this back in, so even though my characters are capable of tearing you to shreds with their magic or lethal fighting skills, they’re just as capable of destroying you with their determination, wit and grace.
How much of myself do I put into my characters? That’s tricky. Sometimes, I write the total opposite of myself, other times not. Do I know what it’s like to be naïve, think I understand love when I have no idea, or be betrayed? Yes, I do, but did I respond the same way my characters do? They each respond in different ways, so I guess not.
I tend to write from the experience of others. For many years, I’ve worked with a wide range of people, and learned what makes people tick. So there is a psychological aspect underpinning my work.
Although, saying this, in A Vow That Clashes, the arc with the twins is written from personal experience. I tend to break writing rules, and this arc is a definite no, no, rule breaker (can’t say more – spoilers!). I felt it was something I could write because I’ve kind of lived it.
- For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?
Don’t quit! It’s really hard sometimes. Writing can be isolating, and sometimes you wonder if anyone even reads/enjoys your work. Reviews help a lot. A well-timed review has saved my sanity more than once when I’ve been second guessing myself.
Hold on to your dreams! Believe in yourself and stay true to your vision. So much will come your way and try to shake you, hold on. Quitters never make it.
If I was to start over, I’d start with a shorter book, a stand-a-lone or a prequel, and get myself known a little before plunging right into everything.
- What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
I can’t say I use writing tricks. I write every day. I’ve never had issues with motivation. As far as writer’s block goes, I write through it.
I often find a block is caused by not understanding my character’s goal or personality to the full extent. I’ve written pure drivel trying to suss out what makes them tick. If I’m trying to make them behave a certain way to move the plot forward, they sometimes refuse, and when they do, nothing works. I’ve learned to go with it and write what the character wants. In the end, it comes, something clicks. Without fail, I’ve gone with character and dismissed my original plan.
- Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?
Total Panster! I’m a discovery writer. I tend to know certain plot points, for example, I knew Mirah needed to reach Hermonial because I wanted to write a character who was close to my antagonist.
My start point was her on the ship. As I wrote her journey, I added conflict along the way. I love how characters grow and overcome the challenges they face. Being a discovery writer, my characters often surprise me and lead me into territory I wasn’t expecting to go.
I love plot twists!
Most of my twists come from writing myself into a hole and then figuring out how to fix it. There are quite a few big twists in my books, which my mind would never have imagined if I’d sat down and tried to think it up. Some people might think this tactic is insane, but for me, it keeps my writing fresh.
I remember my English Professor saying; I love how your writing is so unpredictable. How do you do it? I answered, it’s because I have no clue what’s going to happen until I write the words on the page.
- What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?
I’m actually about to start writing a new series. I’ve had my head in Mirah and Gabe’s world for four years now, and I want to explore some new characters and new worlds. So my plan is to draft the first book in a new series before returning to book five in the Voice that Thunders series.
I will be staying in the epic/high fantasy genre. It’s where my heart is. However, I’m keen to write about more familiar races such as Fae, dragon shifters, maybe even vamps with a twist.
I have found that writing about a mythology which most people haven’t heard of is difficult to market. If I mentioned Greek myth, people would conjure thoughts of Olympus, Zeus, Titans, etc. Mention Mesopotamian myth and I get blank stares. It’s a shame because Mesopotamian myth is an under used resource. So my plan is to write something which is easier to market.
- With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?
Ultimately, I prefer good triumphing over evil, but this doesn’t mean the journey can’t be dark. There are tropes I enjoy reading, e.g. dark, conflicted or misunderstood characters revealing underlying qualities which are good. I tend to root for the underdog.
As for writing, it depends on the individual character and the context. I’m always testing my characters and putting them in conflicting situations. Tur could cope with anything I threw at him (and I do). Will he triumph over evil? Who knows, but he’ll give it his best shot. Other characters would break, experiencing only a little of what he goes through. So with this in mind, it shapes how I write my arcs.
Does an antagonist even consider himself evil? Maybe, but not always. Regardless, they commit dark acts to achieve their goals. Opposing worldviews makes for great conflict.
My characters have experienced terrible evil, but they’ve also experienced the opposite, love, friendship, loyalty, etc.
I always try to keep things balanced and realistic. Does evil win? Yes! Does Good Triumph? Yes! Who wins in then end? Not sure yet, I’m a Panster. As my latest book blurb says, ‘The clash between darkness and light has never been more dreadful.’
- What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?
I’ve never read Harry Potter or Star Wars (don’t shoot me), so it would unfair to compare the books. As far as movies go, I prefer Lord of the Rings.
I really enjoyed the magical and portal aspects of Harry Potter, but Harry and the gang are a tad too young, and middle grade is not something that keeps my interest. I just can’t get on board with Star Wars, not sure why. I think Darth is a great antagonist, and him being Luke’s father was a great twist. I also liked Han and the droids, but the rest of the characters felt bland to me (sorry Star Wars fans).
I love Lord of the rings. The scale of Middle Earth is awesome. The internal struggles and battles are epic. The characters and races are diverse to the extreme. The mythos behind LotR is vivid and somehow feels alive.
If I had to choose which world to live in, I’d pick Middle Earth without a doubt.
A Vow That Clashes (Voice that Thunders #4) is releasing this Friday! 30th October. viewbook.at/AVowThatClashes
Link to first book: http://viewbook.at/AVoiceThatThunders
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