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Feature Chat: Author Mallory McCartney

One of my favourite things about the book community, is meeting other amazing book lovers. It's through this community that I met Mallory McCartney, author of the Black Dawn series. I asked Mallory some questions about her experience as an author and how she weaves together the many layers within her books.

Thank you for joining me Mallory. Let's start with some quick facts about yourself: coffee vs. tea (or other), morning vs. evening writing, and what are you currently reading? 

Thanks for having me!! So, 100 % coffee, I take it one cream one sugar unless it’s a Starbucks then I live for caramel macchiatos and pumpkin spice lattes!

If its on my day off from my day job I tend to lean toward morning writing sessions, if not then in the evening is when I work.

I’m currently reading If it Bleeds by Stephen King and I’m loving it!

When did you first start writing? How would you describe your writing style?

I remember realizing I absolutely loved writing in grade eight. When I came home from school I would get a snack and go upstairs to my desk and just work on short stories I had in my head, which eventually those voices and characters would lead to the Black Dawn Series years later. The first draft of Heir of Lies was called Kiero and in that story only featured Brokk and Emory.

I would say descriptive, I love getting lost in prose (to the point my editor kindly reminded me less is more 😉 ) but I really feel comfortable writing in third person with multiple character point of views.

How/when did the idea for the Black Dawn series come to you?

The idea was born when I was in grade eight, and I could not get the characters of Emory and Brokk out of my head. I always find ideas coming to me in the form of characters first, and the story starts snowballing as I answer questions about them. But then years later when I was in my early twenties, I showed my husband the first draft named Kiero and he encouraged me to rewrite the book, which we all know as Heir of Lies now 😊

Your first book Heir of Lies is an epic fantasy full of twists and turns, and a huge cast of characters, told in multiple points of view. Which character do you connect with the most and which was the most challenging to write? 

I love this question! I have always found Adair’s voice comes to me easily and clearly. His character ARC, though sad, is one of my favourites.

Challenging wise, I would have to say Emory, especially in Heir of Lies. Her ARC is a big one, and even though she is our main heroine, I have the most trouble writing her.

How did you manage all the different interwoven storylines of the characters? 

I have a favourite method, I use a storyboard and outline each chapter with who’s POV it is, and what the chapter holds/ moves the story forward. Starting out writing with each book I asked myself what the tone of the story is and how I want to convey it. That helps me feel out who POV’s will be included in the story. My biggest motivation with writing multiple POV was to explore that no one character is truly 100% good or evil, and to dive deeper into that.

Your fantasy world in the Black Dawn series is so layered. From the magic system to the politics, it feels like you've thought of everything. Where is the best place to start for authors also wanting to create their own worlds? 

Thank you for the kind words! I found for me the best place to start was to lightly outline the world, it was asking the questions of how did Kiero get to a state of such despair. But then after I had that answer- I just started writing. I don’t like to plot so much that my characters don’t surprise me, but as I do write I keep notebooks with the information I have decided that works, or tidbits of history that I have knowledge of that necessarily isn’t hugely important for the book.

I imagine that world building is like building a house, you start with your foundation and as you write you add the supports and walls and work your way to the finished product.

Heir of Lies is the first in the Black Dawn series. How was writing book 2, Queen of Ashes, compared to book 1? 

Writing Queen to Ashes was quite the experience for me. I knew I wanted it to be a dark fantasy, which really explores questions we were left with after reading Heir of Lies. The set of characters are adults as well so that was fun to write the more mature scenes in the book. I also really enjoy Nyx’s, Emory’s and Brokk’s character growth. Comparatively to Heir of Lies, Queen to Ashes explores that even our “heroes” in the story are morally grey, and we get to see how they deal with some of the decisions they make.

What is the most important thing you think an author should know if they're interested in self-publishing?

I would recommend doing your research! Self publishing is a great way to protect your creative freedom, but you are taking on running a small business. Not only the physical act of writing your novel, publishing it and marketing it. There are a lot of different ways and avenues, but just make sure it feels like a good fit for you and your work 😊

Finally, what are you currently working on and what's coming up for you? 

Currently I’m working on writing the fourth book in the Black Dawn Series, The Cursed Throne. It may be the end of the series, I’m not 100% on that yet, but we will see where the book takes me!

Kingdom of Broken Iron (Black Dawn 3) is currently in production and is set to release October 2021. I’m really excited to share it, though the story is a bit more stressful than Queen to Ashes (sorry readers!)

Mallory McCartney lives in Sarnia, Ontario with her husband and our three dachshunds Link, Lola and Leonard. When she's not working on her next novel or reading, she can be found day dreaming about fantasy worlds and hiking. Other favourite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops. Connect with Mallory at or on Instagram @authormalmccartney

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