Friday, July 8, 2011

Interview with Marion Sipe

Hey peeps!
I promised a special post and a special interview for you all. And here I am, finally awoken from the depths of my slumber to bring you *drum roll* Mary Sipe! You might know her from CC, since she's there and all active.

Her book, A Sign in Blood, just came out on the market for grabs. So... let's see where it came from and what makes Mary tick, shall we?

Stef:  Hi Mary and welcome to my corner of the universe. Grab a cup of something and a bite to eat, and let’s get down to it.

Mary: Oh! Danishes, thank you! ;-) 
Stef: As usual (favorite start up questions), tell us a little about yourself.  

Mary: Is it weird that this is always the hardest question for me? I can go on and on about my stories, but I never know what to say when someone asks this question. *G* I love writing, and reading, and drawing. I like to garden, when I have the space, and I'm a bit of a foodie. I have a wonderful fiancé, and spend way too much time in my own head. 

Stef: Kinda get what you mean there - I do most of my writing in my head too.  Tends to piss off the people around me for some reason. Speaking of which,  what got you to start writing?

Mary: I was twelve, and I enjoyed poetry and journaling, but I also moved around a lot and saw many interesting places. Writing for me was a way of processing it all. My journals contained bits of fiction, and poetry and snippets of worldbuilding and... That became writing short stories and attempts at novels. There was no moment of decision, I just did it and knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. 
Stef: What do you love/ hate most about being a writer? 
Mary: I love writing, everything involved with writing, except the proofing.  Worldbuilding is one of my favorite ever things, but I love the first drafts and the second drafts and the editing and the rewriting, and all of that just fills me with happy. The deadlines are a pain, but for me they're a necessary evil. Without a deadline I could work on the same piece forever.  

Stef: I know what you mean. I've had a series in the works for over ten years now. Somebody stop me! *hem, hem, moving on* Tell us something about your brand new shiny book.  

Mary: A Sign in Blood is about blood, fittingly. :-D It's about all the connotations of the word, from family bloodlines to actual flowing blood. It's about Chadri, and her oath to find her father's murderer, and it's about Nathias and her attempt to reconcile with her past and her children. It's about Liral, who's trying to establish her own identity in the shadow of the throne. It's about Bastian and his attempts to be closer to his family through his cause, and how that separates him from the family he's got left. And it's about Carial, and his mission to keep his people safe, and his own doubts about his fitness to do so.  

Stef : Hmm... lots of plot lines, lots of characters - sounds like something I would write. Me likey!  How did you get the idea for it?

Mary: It evolved, really. In the beginning, this was Chadri's story and hers was the central plot, and it still is, but the more I worked on it the more intertwined her story became with everyone else's. Her story actually touches on a lot of lives, and it brings them together in different and complex ways. Her story is central to theirs, because of who she is and where she comes from. So, while it started with Chadri's story, it really became a much bigger thing. 
Stef Who’s your favorite character and which one are you most like?

Mary: Oh, boy. Picking a favorite is hard, but I'd have to say Bastian. He's not your typical hero. He's a translator and a priest, and he'd probably get quickly killed in most hand to hand fighting situations. (Although, he's working on that.) But he's smart, and he's quick, and he's determined, and he actually cares. He puts aside his own safety, his own pain, and he helps other people, and if that's not what a hero should be, then I don't know what is.
As for which I'm most like... I think there's a bit of me in all of them. How could there not be? But I've been reliably told that I'm most like Carial. Which I take to be a high compliment.  

Stef : I'll see, since I just won a free copy of your book *heh, heh, rubs reading hands*.  How about the setting? Where did you get the idea for it?

Mary: I love the setting! There are actually three nations of importance, The Bensas Nation, Malithior and Tredalor. The three of them are deeply connected by their mythology and politics. Malithior and Tredalor have finally settled into peace after a century of on again, off again wars, which the Bensas have so far managed to stay out of, despite the fact that their territory borders both nations. I wanted to do a desert setting, something old and huge, because the desert fascinates me. It's a demanding environment and one where inhabitants have to adapt in order to survive. But, no one place is homogenous, and there were mountains and the Bensas claimed those, and there were storm-swept grasslands and forest to the north and the Nirafel claimed those. It grew from the desert, though, from Malithior. 
Stef: That sounds awesome. I have to write something with world building at some point! What makes your book unique? 
Mary: I think it's the worldbuilding, but I hope that the characters are also pretty unique in their complexity. I wanted to do a desert setting, but I wanted to avoid or twist the typical things you see in one, and the typical things you see in fantasy in general. So, I have the regent who's making a play for the throne, but he's more than that, more complicated and with bigger goals. I hope I managed to pull it off. 
Stef What’s your favorite part/scene of the book?

Mary: Oh, just one? I have to say, that the last chapter is my favorite, but I can't really tell you why because that would spoil the book! So, instead, I'll pick my second favorite, which has to be... Chadri's and Liral's reactions the first time they see a temple to Myador. Without giving away too much, they think of it in very different ways and it means very different things to them, and I really liked writing that scene. 
Stef: That sounds awesome. I like scenes that tell a lot about characters without really spelling it out loud. But you're getting way to comfortable here. I saw you take that second Danish. So,  time for some questions about you – lightning round style ;)

What’s your favorite pastime while not writing? 
Mary: Reading, hands down. I spend a lot of time reading, but I often bounce from one thing to another, so it can take me a long time to finish any one book. Plus, I devour short stories and poetry and just about anything set in a written form. Also, TV addict. Pretty much anything with a story is fair game. 
Cat person or dog person? 
Mary: Both, actually. Although, right now I'm inundated with cats. Seriously, we have reached full kitty capacity. We have six and both my fiancé and I tend to call ourselves the Crazy Cat Couple. We both want a dog, too, but we can't decide because he likes the little yappy type dogs and I prefer the large, drooling kind. Plus, we're a little afraid the cats would devour it. 
*Giggles at answer* If there was anything you could change in your writing experience, what would it be? 
Mary: I'd like to get paid more for it. Dropping the day job would be heavenly, and being able to make enough to support us would be wonderful, if only because the fiancé's been so very supportive and I'd like to be able to do the same for him for a while. 
What’s your favorite food? :p 
Mary: Lasagna. No, wait, that's just because of the cheese, so I'll have to go with cheese. There's nothing better than a really good cheddar, except maybe a really good feta... or Swiss, or Oaxaca, or... Yeah. I like the cheese. 
OMG! You've hit me with the cheese. I love cheese, too. And in my country, we have a lot of types of cheese! Weee for cheese! *hem* Right, back to the lightning round.  Where does your inspiration come from?

Mary: Everywhere. I watch a lot of documentaries: history, science, nature, culture, etc. Those are always spawning ideas, but they come from everywhere. Dreams, random flashes of thought. Sometimes I think that everything I see and hear and think all winds up in my stories, one way or another. 
What makes you love a book? 
Mary: If I can get caught up in the characters, I love the book. If you can make me embarrassed for them, or angry on their behalf, or make me want to grab them and shake some sense into them, or hopefully all of that and more, you've got me. 
What makes you hate a story? 
Mary: When I can't believe the characters, when their motives don't ring true for me, or they're cardboard and I can't relate to them. With good characters, I can forgive a bland setting, or roll-your-eyes plot, or clumsy prose. I will watch/read anything if the characters speak to me. 
Bonus question: If you had the power to transport yourself somewhere in history, where would you go? 
Mary: Ooh! Let's see... I would love to see the grandeur and life of the ancient world. Send me to Babylon or ancient Rome, or Egypt in the time of Khufu! Imagine the pyramids being built! Knowing what the Sphinx's original face actually looked like! That would totally rock. Oh! Or participating in the Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece or... Okay, there are a lot of places I'd want to stop off.  Can I just have a TARDIS? :-D 
And – of course – excerpt of your work. *phew, out of breath!*

The fragment was a chunk of weathered sandstone that fit easily in Chadri's hand. Small, unfamiliar runes curved along one side of it, alive with a power unlike any she knew. It felt oily beneath her fingers. Such a small thing to kill for.

"A week before his murder," she said, raising her eyes to meet Ilana's, "my father gave this to an associate. She said it had something to do with the highborn noble he was investigating, and that it was very important to him. You were his partner, Ilana. What is this?"

Ilana glanced at the stone, but no recognition showed on her face. "I don't know it."

Chadri couldn't tell if she was lying, but Ilana watched her intently and Chadri used that. She slipped the stone back into her pocket and made a show of drawing her knife. Ilana jerked, but there was nowhere to run. She pressed herself back against the short wall. Chadri's heart skipped, afraid the woman might actually throw herself over the edge. Nathias grabbed Ilana's hair and wrenched her head back.

"Stay," Nathias said, sharing a look with Chadri.

Once Nathias had guaranteed Ilana's attention, Chadri sliced her own palm, stifling a hissing breath. Blood welled up and her power suffused it, tingling as it pushed against her skin.

Sheathing her knife, Chadri closed the distance between them. She dipped her fingers first into her own blood, and then into the blood oozing from Ilana's arm. Nathias tightened her hold on Ilana's hair, forcing her to keep still. Chadri used their mixed blood to draw the rune of truth on Ilana's forehead. Speaking the rune, she touched her bloody finger to Ilana's lips.

"You can't make me speak." Ilana tried to spit away the blood, but it didn't matter. The connection had been forged the instant their blood mingled, shaped by the drawn and spoken rune. White rune-light sprang into being around Ilana's mouth. Chadri kept silent, struggling to force her own power back into her recesses. As effortless as she tried to make it look, her skin crawled and her fists clenched of their own volition.   

Great to have you here Mary! I wish you the best of luck and look forward to reading your book!

Mary: Thank you! It was great to be here!  

Alright, peeps, here's how it's going down. You can buy Mary's awesome new book here (Amazon) and here(Smashwords). Also, one lucky commenter will have the chance to win a free copy of the book. Just follow and leave a comment with your email address, and I'll choose a winner in two weeks' time.

Hope you enjoyed learning about Mary. I know I did.
See you again, hopefully soon. ;) 


  1. What a great and funny interview! :-) This book is among my top favorite fantasy stories! You don't need to zip back into time, Mary - just come visit me in Cyprus!

  2. Yay, Mary! I love kitties and strong characters too. Great excerpt. Put me in for the contest!

    mystiparker(at) yahoo (dot) com

  3. Thank you both! I'm really happy to have it out and thank you for having me over, Steph!

    @Chrys - Oh, you know it, sweetie! Drinks on the beach? Ruins to explore? Cyprus here I come! ;-)

    @Mysti - Thank you! And good luck! I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!


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