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#SPFBO Author Interview with M.L. Spencer

This week’s #SPFBO Author Interview is with M.L. Spencer.

M.L. Spencer grew up on the works of Steven R. Donaldson, Stephen King and Frank Herbert. She wrote her first novel-length manuscript at thirteen. Her debut novel Darkmage won the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy. She was also awarded 1st Place Prose in in the San Bernardino County Writing Celebration. Ms. Spencer lives in Southern California. By day she works as a biology teacher; by night she sweats over a beaten-up keyboard.

What drew you to self-publishing?

I wanted more control. Originally, my book Darkstorm had been accepted by a small press. But their timeline and mine was not aligned, and I also wanted more of the royalties for myself so that I could reinvest them into advertising. This way, I can also tweak things at will if I think they are not working. A good example would be my cover. My original cover was not working. As a self-published author, I had the ability to swap it out. Had I been traditionally published, that probably would not have been an option.

Why did you enter #spfbo?

I saw the exposure last year's contestants received, and I wanted some of that. I kind of came out of nowhere with three novels all at once, so I'm a relative unknown. I'm hoping to change that! The truth is, I've put years of my life into my series The Rhenwars Saga, and I want more people to be aware of it.

What advice do you have for anyone new to self-publishing?

Make a choice early: either go traditional or go Indie. Don't try to do both, or either halfway. Once you're committed, go all-in.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing energizes me. It's like being on a natural high; sometimes I have a very difficult time stopping and walking away. I'd rather be writing than doing practically any other activity in the whole world. It is truly an obsession.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have only one unpublished book. It is the first novel in a historical fiction trilogy that chronicles the fall of the Knights Templar from the Battle of Acre through Friday the Thirteenth. I'm letting it ferment for awhile before attacking it again. It was really quite a project to tackle with a tremendous amount of research involved. I even learned to read French in order to access some documents that weren't available in English at the time (this was before Google Translate!)

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I am drawn to male protagonists, so that is what I write. I find that dealing with the anger a male protagonist must portray as an appropriate emotional response is difficult for me. It is something I'm always forcing myself to go back to and amplify.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene I have ever written was a scene in which one character is being put to death while another character is receiving an immense amount of... gratification from watching the experience. I wrote it through the eyes of the person watching, with her emotions. After I wrote that scene I had to bathe--I felt so soiled!

What is your favorite childhood book?

Funny, because it is not in a genre a write about: Where the Red Fern Grows. But the truth is, if you read my work, I think you would find a lot of the same mood and motifs echoing in my dark fantasy.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

I write a book in about two months, but it varies. If the research is intensive, then longer. My first novel, Darkmage, had a rough draft of 230K. I wrote it in forty days while working full time with two small children. That was obsessive though! So I've learned to dial it back.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I do. Usually when I encounter a plot tangle that I have a hard time figuring a way out of. I pick at it from every side, listen to music, read poetry, do research. I work it through eventually. Usually, the solution presents itself in my sleep. I suppose my subconscious is working on the problem without me! I'll wake up in the morning with an "ah-hah!" moment.

Thanks, M.L.! To learn more about M.L. Spencer, check out these links:

Happy Writing!

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