Swords, Sorcery and Sundry into the
I found Mina MacLeod through her latest story, Swords, Sorcery and Sundry. This was a wonderful story that I felt crossed not only generational lines but genres as well and I wanted to know more about this author and her plans for these characters and storyline.
Contest: Mina MacLeod graciously accepted my invite for an interview and brought along an eBook copy of Swords Sorcery and Sundry as a giveaway. To enter to win, leave a comment and an email address where you can be reached. Let us know if you have a favorite fantasy character(s) or duo! Must be 18 years of age to enter. Contest ends 7/7.
Now on with our interview:
STRW• Why fantasy? What about this genre appeals to you?
MM: Fantasy has always been my home base—my genre of choice. I like fantasy counterpart cultures, swords, and playing with the mechanics of magic. I’ve always preferred twists on the old ideas: male-identifying wizards, and female-identifying knights. For the longest time, fantasy doorstoppers were the only novels I would read. Eventually I did branch out, but fantasy remains the genre closest to my heart and I’m always happy to return to it.
STRW• Same goes for writing in the M/M genre?
MM: Every time someone asks me this question, I always toy with the idea of trying to sound intellectual or profound—maybe there’s a deep, hidden meaning to why M/M intrigues me so much! But the fact is that there is no reason beyond the fact that I love it. I love men; I love homosocial and homosexual relationships with all matter of complexities. Whenever I start up a new RPG, I always create/play as a man, and romance other men if the option is at all available. This doesn’t mean I don’t love all types of women; I adore well-rounded ladies—but male/male is my jam.
STRW• All three main people are wonderful characters. They have diverse set of talents and an equality among them that works beautifully. How did you come up with the idea of a tightly knit group that had a M/M couple and a strong female presence as well?
MM: Two Guys & A Girl has always been a group dynamic I’ve loved. I tend to prefer the friendship aspects of the trope as opposed to the potential romantic tension. Often, one of the guys and the girl hook up—which is fine, but just as I enjoy female knights and male wizards, I like going the other way with this group. In my work, the men tend to end up romantically involved, and the girl plays the strong supporting role.
As you may have guessed, I’m a gamer—mostly console, but occasional tabletop. I like having a balanced party wherein everyone has a job and no one comes off as a hanger-on or filler. On the battlefield, the trio each have a role to play (Ashe being the fighter, Sylvain the mage, and Niklas the thief) but I wanted them to complement each other out of battle, too.
As much as I adore M/M, I love stories about BFFs even more. Friendship is very important to me; I’ve had the same best friends for over twenty years, and we wouldn’t trade each other for the world. They’re the kind of friends who just barge into your house and raid your fridge without asking, the kind who can call or pop over at any time, day or night—and you can do the same to them. You can tell them anything, and they won’t turn their back on you. Those kinds of bonds are forged over years of sticking together. You have to help your friends when they screw up just as when they’re screwed over. That’s the kind of relationship I wanted Sylvain, Ashe, and Niklas to have.
STRW• Your world building is terrific from the inns and innkeepers to the “red light” districts that vary from Duchy to Duchy. Where did you get your inspiration for them? Do you travel and do you work that into your stories?
MM: Why, thank you! Funnily enough, my goal with the world-building was simplicity. Don’t get me wrong; I love a fantasy world detailed from the ground up as much as the next SFF fan, but because it’s the sort of thing done so often, I purposefully went in the opposite direction. The world of SSS is revealed to the reader in bits and pieces, some of it mundane and some of it extraordinary—like that necropolis just across the way.
I try to travel whenever time/funds permit; I spent two weeks in Japan a few years back, and the love hotels and host clubs of the country fascinate me. I’m a fan of organized structure and big cities having defined districts, like Tokyo and New York. My childhood was divided between a small town and a large, diverse city, so I love exploring juxtapositions between the two. The places our heroes visit in the sequel are a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Abelia.
STRW• I was thrilled to see that this is a series. What do you have planned for our heroes and when can we expect the next book to be released?
MM: The first adventure of the next book is actually the original finale of SSS. It’s going to kick off a large portion of the plot in the second book. Sylvain continues to grow and discover that he doesn’t fit in Muscari Aucheri as well as he used to; Niklas and Sylvain have to get used to the idea that they are lovers who happen to work together—and sometimes that work is very dangerous. While the first book was mostly episodic, the second focuses on a larger overarching plot. It might involve the necropolis from the first book … someone really should have done something about that thing by now.
I still haven’t finalized the outline, so I won’t give anything else away. However, I can say that I planned for a duology, so this will be the last book. The title will be Border Fires.
Border Fires is moving along very slowly at the moment. We are expecting our first child in the fall and are busy preparing for that. Between all that work and the day job, there isn’t much spare time these days. I hope to really dive into it on my much-anticipated year off.
STRW• I think SSS works equally well as a YA story or a M/M Romance. Was that planned?
MM: It was meticulously planned. I love both YA and M/M, and desperately wish there was more adventurous YA with queer relationships on the market. I’m acquainted with a lot of people who grew up knowing they didn’t fall into the heteronormative crowd; I grew up knowing I wasn’t heteronormative. I want more novels to which queer teens can better relate. The characters in SSS are all adults—mostly for the freedom of movement and backstory this gives them—but I wanted the story to be accessible for younger readers, as well.
STRW• What do you like best about writing?
MM: Character/location sketches are the most fun jobs out of the entire process. And names. I spend a lot of time thinking about names. Sometimes I end up with an overall theme; in SSS’s world, all city names take their cues from flowers. Sometimes I go for camp, absurdity, or jokes that are (sadly) usually only funny to me. Ah, well. Can’t win ‘em all.
STRW• What is the least favorite thing about writing for you?
MM: The soul-crushing realization that you’ve written yourself into a corner, and you have to backtrack considerably to fix it. I also hate it when inspiration strikes and you’re powerless to act upon it, like in the middle of your workday. By the time you get to your desk/pen/paper, the drive has faded and you feel as though you’ve wasted an opportunity.
STRW• Any favorite books that started you on the path as an author?
MM: My very first piece of creative writing was a piece of Legend of Zelda fanfiction when I was six years old. It was pretty much exactly as you’re probably imagining it. So I can’t say any one book in particular ignited my passion for creative writing. I’ve always loved making up stories and immersing myself in other people’s stories. Some of my favorite books include Bridge of Birds, The Gentleman Bastard, Snow Crash, The Dresden Files, the Hurog duology, and probably a thousand others I’m forgetting. Five minutes from now, I am going to think of 50 other titles I should have included here.
Thank you so much for having me! It was a pleasure to answer your questions. And if anyone decides to give SSS a chance, thank you so much! I’m humbled and grateful.
STRW• Thank you, Mina, for stopping by. Readers, I have the book details and blurb below. My review can be found here. If you love fantasy, no matter your age, you will want to pick this story up! I highly recommend it to all no matter your age! High adventure awaits inside!
Mina MacLeod is a bilingual, bisexual Canadian living with her husband in Montreal. A geek at heart, she drives fast and plays with knives, balancing a career with a love for queer media. She has a thing for men who have a thing for men.
You can follow Mina MacLeod at:
ebook, 330 pages, m/m for YA or Adults, friendship only m/f
Published May 21st 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original titleSwords, Sorcery, and Sundry
Wizard Sylvain just wants to sit down and have a drink, after days of walking when a shortage of funds forced him to sell his horse. Soldier Ashe would like to enjoy her evening, and not have it ruined by trouble. Assassin Niklas wishes they had both minded their own business and not made his bad night worse. The bar they accidentally burn down is only the beginning, and they quickly learn that if they are to survive their penchant for trouble, teamwork will get them farther than standing alone.