This week’s #SPFBO Author Interview is with Marianne Ratcliffe. She trained as a scientist and has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry. Now living and working in Cheshire, she finds the unearthing of new characters and new worlds as fascinating as any scientific discoveries made at the laboratory bench. Her short stories have been published in literary magazines and included in the 2010 Guildford Book Festival anthology. She is currently working Warrior of Golmeira, the fourth and final book in her Tales of Golmeira fantasy series, in which we follow the adventures of Zastra, a spirited young girl whose lack of special powers in a world controlled by telepathic mindweavers means she has only her own wits and courage to rely on.
Why did you enter #spfbo?
I joined Twitter last July and saw the excitement around #SPFBO17, and realised what a great competition it was. When I saw Mark’s call out for this year’s competition, I jumped at the chance to enter. It’s a fantastic showcase for self-published writers. Even if you don’t win (and let’s face it, most of us won’t even make the final shortlist), there’s so much to be gained from getting some independent feedback and being part of the community. I’ve learned so much already from other people’s cover designs and seeing how they pitch their books. I’ve also discovered some new books for my TBR list!
What advice do you have for anyone new to self-publishing?
Don’t be afraid to do things for yourself. For my first book, I used a commercial self-publishing provider. While they did a decent job, it was difficult to make changes, for example on price or keywords, once the book was released. I realised I could do everything myself for a significantly smaller financial outlay while retaining complete flexibility over things such as pricing. However, I think it is important to know your limitations. For me, having a professional copyedit is a must. I also outsourced my book cover design, as I have no artistic skills whatsoever.
A dragon lands in front of your Main Character, what would they do?
Zastra would instinctively reach for her crossbow but would think before she shoots. She would give the dragon a chance to show if they were friend or foe.
What's your pet peeve?
Books that haven’t been properly copy edited. I don’t mind the odd mistake, but three or more typos or grammatical errors in the first chapter, and I’ll stop reading.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Age thirteen, reading To Kill a Mockingbird. “Hey, Boo.” It’s always the moments of acceptance that make me well up.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
You must write something people will enjoy reading, but I wanted to write a different kind of fantasy series. I was keen to create a world where women are seen as equal to men and where same-sex couples were as commonplace and accepted as opposite-sex couples. Being gay myself, I’ve looked for and struggled to find, fantasy books with a gay protagonist. Also, my protagonist lacks special powers. Although there is a kind of magic in my world called mindweaving, Zastra, to her disappointment, doesn't have mindweaving abilities. And so, when an incident occurs that turns her world upside down, she relies on guts and intelligence and even a bit of luck to get herself out of trouble. There's no magical power to come to her rescue. I felt this was interesting to explore, and hopefully a bit of a departure from the “chosen one” trope.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I recently read Sarah Diemer’s The Dark Wife, which I don’t think is very well known, maybe because it’s a bit niche. It’s a feminist retelling of the Hades Persephone myth that lays bare the misogyny at the heart of Greek mythology. Redolent with subtext, the writing has been accused of being overwrought, but I suspect this was probably a stylistic choice and tonally reminiscent of English translations of the Iliad and other Greek myths.
To learn more about Marianne and her upcoming projects, check out these links:
Webpage and blog: www.marianneratcliffe.com
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/marianneratcliffe