Monday, December 20, 2010

Interview & Giveaway: Margaret Ronald

****Giveaway Closed****

I'm excited to introduce to you a wonderful Urban Fantasy author of the Evie Scelan seriesMargaret Ronald.  Mystery, Urban Fantasy with Celtic roots, and fun characters.

M:  Welcome Margaret! Thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview. :)

MR:  Thank you for having me! I'm very glad to have the chance to appear here.

M:  Soul Hunt is the third book in your Urban Fantasy series of Evie Scelan. Can you tell us a little about Evie and her... doggie... ways?

MR:  Arf!

Well, Evie draws her talent from her ancestor Sceolang, who was one of Fionn MacCumhaill's (Finn Mac Cool's) cousins. Due to an unfortunate incident involving a jealous fairy and Sceolang's mother, he and his sister Bran also spent most of his life as Finn's hunting hounds. I started from the premised that at some point Sceolang returned to human form and had a family, but that some of his canine traits carried through the generations.

What this means for Evie is that she's able to track just about anything by scent. Of course, she has to first get the scent to follow it, and because smell is such an intuitive sense, it's often difficult for her to interpret what her nose tells her.

Evie's put this to good use by advertising her services as a finder of lost objects, people, etc. Between that and her work for Mercury Courier, she ekes out a living -- although this means that she has to balance her "normal" work with her excursions into the magical undercurrent of Boston. And the undercurrent has a way of drawing people in . . .

M:  This Urban Fantasy series has a great mix with Celtic Mythology. Did you do a lot of studying of the Celtic Mythology to write these? Or has it always been a love of yours?

MR:  Yes, and yes. I've always loved Celtic mythology, particularly because it's so fractured -- with only a few sources to draw on, most of which contradict each other, the question of which myth is the true myth becomes irrelevant if not laughable. I draw on certain folklore traditions for Wild Hunt as well, and for similar reasons: the sheer amount of stories out there can lead you to search, endlessly, for the one true story, but at heart they're all true, as much as folklore can be. I also admit I'd gotten a little irked with how certain elements of it had been sanitized and turned into twinkly Hibernia-in-the-mists mush. The Morrigan may be a powerful goddess, but that doesn't necessarily make her someone you'd want to know for any reason, nor is she just a bad-ass chick. I wanted to show some of the more dreadful, numinous aspects of it, and I can only hope that that comes through.

But I did quite a lot of research for each book, depending on the subject material. For Spiral Hunt, I immersed myself in Celtic mythology; for Wild Hunt, I went after certain folklore traditions, and for Soul Hunt, I've drawn on a lot of history of Boston and New England. Half the fun of that early stage is the resarch: afternoons in the library, wandering the city seeking out new places for Evie to discover, learning about mysteries that have almost been in my backyard this whole time.

M:  I really enjoy the mysteries that are in the stories. It seems like a few different things are happening at the beginning then they mesh together at some point through the story. In doing this, do you outline your stories to keep track of the major lines or go with the flow to see where it leads you?

MR:  Thank you! I love weaving together different clues, scattering them through the beginning and then pulling them all into one great knot, and I'm glad that you've found those parts successful. But the process is something of a mess. I'll outline the whole novel, noting what pieces of information have to be given when and by whom, how the first parts of the design start to come together, and so on . . . and then, halfway through the first draft, I end up chucking the outline for several chapters. Inevitably, I'll return to the outlined ending -- my endings are usually the one clear thing through the entirety of the writing process -- but that first draft makes a total hash of any outlines. So revision involves, first and foremost, re-weaving the plot so that it makes sense again. Ideally, it gets tighter with every draft, and my writers' group BRAWL has been invaluable in pointing out where my conclusions aren't coming together well.

M:  After reading the second book it seems Evie's abilities are growing or... evolving. Can you give us a little sample or hints as to what is going to happen in Soul Hunt with Evie? I think Evie has a promise she didn't realize she made to uphold here, any hints? Even with her lovely boyfriend, Nate, who seems to have his own family history to adjust to. How will he adjust to his new found... late night runs?

MR:  Evie's taken on a number of responsibilities, some by accident. She's taken up the Harlequin Horn, and so she now has authority over the hounds it commands. But that's not a responsibility that humans are meant to have, and she knows that very well. So her impulse is to return it to its owners . . . who, unfortunately, are not the most reasonable entities. Particularly since she's used that horn once already.

That's on top of the lingering sense that she's given up something important, though she can't put a name to it. The Hounds are telling her that she made a bad bargain, but if she got Nate back, can she really call it a bad bargain?

For Evie, the months drawing in to midwinter are going to be rough.

As for Nate, his late night runs are proving to be a lot of fun for him. But he can't lose sight of the fact that his condition is, at the heart of it, a curse. His father found a way to make his bearshirt legacy work for him, but whether Nate wants to follow that path depends quite a lot on his lingering resentment of his father -- not to mention his own problems with controlling his temper.

M:  I just love Nate's little sister, Katie. *I'm hoping* Will we get to see more of her and how she grows in her ability?

MR:  Oh, yes. She's part of Soul Hunt all the way through. It's important to remember, however, that having a talent like hers is not necessarily the best thing for a little girl growing up, nor does it give her any more common sense. Evie and Sarah have taken her under their wings, so to speak, but Katie's got a mind of her own. So when it comes to, say, using her talents to get back at someone who's been picking on her at school, well, she's going to need a good long talking-to.

M:  I could probably keep going with questions for you on the series, but I will hold off on any others as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who is yet to read the books. ;)

MR:  Ha! It's actually kind of difficult to answer these without spilling everything -- I'm really excited by some of the work I've done in Soul Hunt, but to explain why would ruin the surprise. (I'm terrible about searching out spoilers, myself; I have to exercise a lot of self-control to keep from looking up details on the internet.)

M:  Do you have that one line, paragraph, page or section you wish you could go back and redo?

MR:  Good Lord, yes. Some lines read as complete clunkers to me now, some allusions didn't turn out the way I wanted, and a few passages just make me cringe. I think most authors feel the same about some part of their old work, regardless of how good it is.

But if I were actually given the chance to fix it? I don't know. There's a point where I have to be willing to step back and say "all right, I've done a lot with this, I will now let it be." Poking at it after that's done would feel strange

M:  Any particular section or scene in the series you enjoyed the most writing? What scene was the most difficult to write? Why?

MR:  Evie's passage through the catacombs below the Back Bay in Spiral Hunt went through several versions, but I loved it each time. In Wild Hunt, there were so many that were fun to write -- I'd be laughing as I finished up the Storrow Drive passage, no matter which draft I was on, and I kept having an internal soundtrack with an awful lot of electric guitar for the very end. For Soul Hunt, there's a passage involving flute music in the dark that I wrote long before working out the rest of the plot, as well as the very last chapter. That chapter seemed to have crystallized in my head from the moment I finished the first draft of Wild Hunt, and it felt so right to finally have it on the page.

Strangely, I had real trouble writing the second chapter of Wild Hunt, simply because I'd put Katie in danger. That scene felt almost painful to draft, and I'm not really sure why, since I've endangered the poor girl before and since.

There are other scenes that felt like pulling teeth, and a lot of Soul Hunt came together slowly -- probably because I'd gotten a little too deeply into Evie's point of view, and for much of Soul Hunt she is in a very dark place. It felt good to write her out of that, but that darkness still clung now and then.

M:  I believe I saw on your blog that you have short stories out there too. And a story in an Anthology, Steampunk II Steampunk Reloaded. Would you like to tell us a little on your short stories?

MR:  My short stories are often little experimental pieces, dabbling in one genre or another. I've got a couple involving Evie -- "Christmas Apples," the first short story I ever sold, and "Knight of Coins," which is available online at Baen's Universe. Some of them play with fairy tales and folklore in ways similar to what I've done with Evie: "Sparking Anger," for instance, uses the stories of Baba Yaga as a starting point, and "Goosegirl" retells that fairy tale through a more fractured point of view. I'm also still really proud of "The Welsh Squadron," which was my King Arthur story (everyone's allowed at least one) and my apocalypse-with-livestock story "Goat Eschatologies."

I've also had a few steampunk-ish pieces out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the first of which was picked up for Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded. I think they're closer to "industrial fantasy" than strict steampunk, but both "The Guilt Child" and "A Serpent in the Gears" use the elements of steampunk well. A few more will be coming out in BCS in the months to come -- one involving opera and industrial accidents, and one about the transition from fantasy to industrial fantasy.

M:  I believe you are at a couple places on the Internet here. Where all can we find you? Are you on Twitter too?

MR:  I'm finally putting together a Facebook page, after years of dragging my feet. I'm not on Twitter, though; I suspect it would turn into one hell of a timesink for me. I've been trying to update my blog more often, and occasionally I guest post at The Magic District.

If you would like to follow Margaret Ronald on Facebook, CLICK HERE.
M:  Do you have any authors who have influenced you?

MR:  Quite a few: Tim Powers and Neil Gaiman sparked my interest in contemporary or urban fantasy before it was really named so, and since then I've found even more in the genre. I'm also in awe of Connie Willis' plotting, and wish I could pull off the complex patterns of her work. And there's undoubtedly more influences that I don't even realize have affected me.

M:  Any advice to aspiring authors?

MR:  Write. It's very easy to sit back and aspire, very easy to proclaim "well, I ought to write something about that," or "I've got a great idea for a book," but if you're not actually writing, then all you're doing is twiddling your thumbs. Write it, revise it, send it out, and when it comes back send it out again. Individual practices differ, of course, but the basic advice is the easiest to overlook, and it's simply this: write.

M:  Is there anything no one has asked you would like to be asked?

MR:  I'd always wondered if I could make up character details on the spur of the moment -- say, if someone asked me what Evie's favorite color or Nate's least favorite food was, I'd wonder if I could come up with a convincing answer quickly. Of course, I suspect some of that just derives from a desire to show off how well I know these characters.

M:  What was the last book you just finished? What is next on you shelf to read?

MR:  I finally finished Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold last night. (I'd expected to read a few chapters, then go to bed. I should really know better by now.) As for what's next, I'm hoping to pick up N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Kingdoms, or possibly some good YA fiction. Any recommendations?

M:  Just a fun question, If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

MR:  I'd love to wander around Europe with my husband for a few months. He'd get the cathedrals, I'd get the castles, we'd both get the museums . . . bliss. Maybe someday.

M:  Thank you again for the wonderful interview Margaret. And here's wishing you all the best in words and pages.

MR:  Thank you very much, and the best wishes to you and all your readers!

Do you want to read Margaret Ronalds' short stories?
Here are the titles with the link.  Just click the title to jump over and check it out:

The Third Book Being Released
December 28, 2010
Soul Hunt

The hunter has become the hunted . . .

Without even realizing what she was doing, Genevieve Scelan has made a bad bargain. The Red Sox fanatic and supernatural tracker known as "Hound" for her extraordinary power of scent wishes she could leave magic behind now that she’s eradicated the evil cabal that oppressed Boston’s undercurrent for centuries. But now her talent’s fading, the local adepts’ squabbles are turning ugly, and worse, she’s just discovered that she owes a very large debt to someone . . . or something. And in the undercurrent, debts are taken very seriously.

Evie has until midwinter to pay up . . . or else. So when she gets a job that might save her—even if she’s breaking all her own rules to take it—she can’t pass it up. Now, with danger at her back and uncertain allies beside her, she’ll trace the very bones of Boston itself to protect both the city and the people she loves.


Time for a GIVEAWAY!
Margaret is grateful enough to giveaway the First Two books of the series to one lucky follower!
Spiral Hunt & Wild Hunt
And Maybe! Just Maybe! IF Margaret has her copies of Soul Hunt, she MIGHT throw a copy in the package too.

Here are the rules:
~~> The books are coming from Margaret, and International entries are welcome!

~~> Leave a Meaningful comment here and that gets you entered.

~~> Please leave an email address, so when the winner is pulled I will be able to contact you.  If you don't want to leave your email address in the comments, please email it to me with your screen name you commented under.

~~> The Contest will end:  December 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm EST as celebration for the release of Soul Hunt. Winner to be pulled December 29, 2010 using

~~> Winner will have 48 hours to contact me back with an address to ship to.

Would you like extra entries?
Well, why not.  You do not have to do these but, it will increase your entry numbers if you do.

~~ Margaret asked if there where any recommendations for YA Fiction.  Leave a suggestion for +2.
~~> Be a follower here at My words and pages by Google Friend Connect.
(just click that little Follow button on the left.)
+2 Old Followers (before December 15, 2010)
+1 New Followers

~~> +1 For a meaningful Comment on my review of Spiral Hunt, HERE. And/or Wild Hunt, HERE.
(do remember these reviews where early on in my reviewing days)

+2 Tweet about the contest. Just copy and paste this line with the link for ease - 
GIVEAWAY: First TWO books of Margaret Ronald's Evie Scelan Series @mellhay blog:
(Can tweet several times which is greatly appreciated, BUT only get extra entry one time.)

+2 for Visible Sidebar Link

+4 Blog post

~~ +1 for adding up your points.

~~> Please leave links to be eligible for the extra chances, so I can verify (tweets, sidebar, blog posts, @twitter names, etc.). If I'm not able to verify the links of extra chances, they will be eliminated.


  1. I enjoyed the interview. I would like to ask what your favorite celtic myth was?

  2. Love the interview. Celtic myth? Canines? Oh yea... I wanna read this.
    My recommended YA? Tyger Tyger
    I'm an old feeble but loyal follower ;)
    6, I think. :)

  3. Hi Debbie,

    It's hard to say. The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel is so very beautiful and strange and a glimpse into a worldview that I can only barely grasp, as are some of the other very early mythic cycle works. I suppose if I had to choose, it'd be the Mabinogi, since I've always had a soft spot for those tales. How about you?

    Melissa, thanks! I think I'll have to go look that up now -- it sounds fascinating.

    And thanks again for the comments and interview!

    -- Margaret

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I like that "writers' group BRAWL" line... it creates an image in my head of women-writers flinging books at each other :D I'm sure the actual revision process is a whole lot less violent, but, that image in my head is a whole lot more fun ;)

    Margaret is a new-to-me author, so would love to try... :)

    I haven't got much YA recommendations... the YAs I've read thus far weren't that good... I'm still looking for a good YA myself...

    (+2) I'm an old follower. My GFC name is Cherry.

    (+2) Twitted:

    (+2) sidebar:

    (+4) Re-posted your contest at:

    (+1) Total points = 11

    Cherry Mischievous
    cherrymischif-warrior [at] yahoo [dot] com

  6. Great interview. I've been after this series for a while now, it seems so interesting!

    +2 Ya Fiction ... : I love Simone Elkeles, all her books are incredible, in my opinion. Also loved The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson & Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

    +2 Old follower

    +2 Tweet:

    +2 Sidebar:

    +4 Blog Post:

    +1 Total: 14 entries


  7. Great interview. I picked up Spiral Hunt from the used bookstore recently, and hope to read it soon.

    +2 Some YA recommendations are Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Ash by Malinda Lo, Immortal by Gillian Shields, Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, and Crusade by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie.

    +1 New Follower

    +1 Add up entries: 5

    Sara M
    sara_UFblog [at] yahoo [dot] com

  8. I have joined as a Follower via GFC.

    I am glad to see that Margaret does a lot of research on her books.

    It seems that with many authors these days, they are just giving the research a miss and depending solely on there imaginations and creating their own myths.

    Generally this does not turn out very well as far as I am concerned.

    Thanks for the giveaway and for opening it up to worldwide entries.

    Much appreciated

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  9. Hi Cherry,

    Well, for a long time BRAWL had the unofficial slogan "We're cruel because we care." To my knowledge, there hasn't been much book-flinging, but as a crit group, we don't pull our punches. I'm really glad to be a part of it.

    Spav - I hadn't heard of those. I'll have to try to pick them up shortly. (Although I'm under my usual holiday orders from family not to buy any books for myself -- one too many Christmases where I'd bought myself something a few days before unwrapping it.)

    Sara M - I hope you like it! I've had Ash and Wicked Lovely recommended to me before, and I've just been dragging my feet on them. Onto the list they go!

    Buddyt (Carol) - There's a lot of freedom in creating one's own myths, and it can be a lot of fun as part of worldbuilding. One of the things I like doing when I'm creating a world is deciding not just what happened in the past, but how the stories about it differ and what that says about the storytellers. Mythmaking can be really useful and fun that way.

    The trouble is, as you say, it leaves out a lot of research, and it's too easy to create a unified story and say it's a myth. Mythology and folklore tends to be much more splintered -- many different versions, incomplete stories, motivations that make no sense, etc. For me, the research and the inherent instability of myth is part of the fun of it, so it's hard for me to leave all that behind.

  10. Hooray for international contests! ;)
    Great interview! I've been wanting to read these books since I read your review of Spiral Hunt. It's been a while since I picked up an urban fantasy but this one has some unique twists that intrigue me, and so I hope to get to read it soon.

    As for recommendations for YA Fiction, my two favorites of this year were probably When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I also really enjoyed the House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, which I just finished.

    Total= 4 pts


  11. Very interested in Celtic mythology and would love to see your treatment of it.


  12. My Mum's Irish so the whole Celtic mythology intrigues me - I have to admit I haven't heard about these books before but after that interview I'm desperate to read them! :)

    Hmmm..good YA - try the Choas Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness starting with The Knife of Never Letting Go - some of the best books I've ever read. Starts out in this village where there are no women and all the men can hear each others thoughts...

    I'm a follower as well.

    Mel S

  13. Great interview. I didn't realize this was a series. Awesome. Soul Hunt has caught my eye several times recently...the cover is kinda freaky.
    Looking forward to reading about Evie.
    BookNoise at gmail dot com

  14. +2 I can definitely recommend PC Cast's House of Night series and Michael Grant's "Gone" series, both were awesome.
    +1 For a meaningful Comment on review of Spiral Hunt-done
    +1 And/or Wild Hunt-done.
    Sounds like this series is getting better and better. Any idea how many books planned?

    +2 Old Follower-Lisa Richards



    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com


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