Matt Mikalatos has answered a few q&a’s about writing life and The Heartwood Crown for us and his publisher provided a giveaway!
Which scene in The Heartwood Crown did you most enjoy writing?
M: For a large portion of this book, Jason Wu is being hunted by a Kakri warrior named Bezaed. Any scene that had both of them in it was a lot of fun to write, because Jason has such a big mouth and Bezaed is so serious (and of course trying to murder Jason). And I have to say the terrifying entrance into the world of the necromancers was a lot of fun too.
B: Sounds intense and fascinating!
As you were crafting the characters in The Heartwood Crown, did any of them surprise you?
M: Jason Wu has a special way of breaking the rules and not doing what I planned in my outline. In The Heartwood Crown there’s a moment where he’s sent on a quest, and I had planned a little three- or four-chapter adventure for him. But when the quest was explained to him, he thought about it and said, “Why would I do that when I could send this other character who could get there faster and just come tell me what happened?”
Jason often stubbornly refuses to do the things his author requires. So that was a funny moment where I was surprised and shaking my head. He sidestepped my plans. When he came up with the idea of “changing his story” I knew I was in trouble. He started subverting everything I threw at him, which was delightful and entertaining for me because I never quite knew what he was going to do.
B: Jason, Jason, Jason, tisk tisk!
Where do you often go for writing inspiration? What’s your antidote for writer’s block?
M: When I was in college I told one of my writing professors (a guy named Percival Everett) that I had writer’s block. He assigned me a thirty-page story, due the next day. I sputtered and asked what he meant, and he said, “I don’t know why you’re still standing here when you have thirty pages due in twenty-four hours.”
I ran back to the dorm and wrote all night. It wasn’t pretty. Some might say it wasn’t coherent. When I turned in my mess of pages the next day he looked me in the eye and said, “Do you still have writer’s block?” No! I would never say that to him again. He taught me the valuable lesson that it’s only writer’s block if you stop writing. I just keep writing when I’m stuck, and eventually the terrible things stop coming and something good starts hitting the page again.
As for inspiration, well, there are a lot of places! I have a handful of authors who I always learn from when I read their work, so I keep going back to their books over and over: John Steinbeck (especially East of Eden), Flannery O’Connor, Mary Oliver, Gene Wolfe. And there are a variety of newer science fiction and fantasy authors I love: N. K. Jemisin, Rebecca Roanhorse, Alex Shvartzman, Ken Liu, John Scalzi, Neal Shusterman, David Walton, and many others! And that’s without getting into my favorite crime and mystery novelists . . .
B: That sounds like a lesson learned the hard way… that kind tends to stick! What a wise professor, lol!
What advice would you give to young writers today, especially those interested in writing fiction?
M: You have to be disciplined to keep writing. Like most skills, whatever your initial level of giftedness, the more you write the better you get. Read the best books in the genre you’re writing. Watch the way the author uses words. How is the story constructed? Does the author do something you don’t know how to do? For instance, does she write a scene that taps deep into your emotions and makes you cry? How was that accomplished? What wording made that possible? How was the situation described to bring you to that place? Take time to learn the craft. But most importantly, keep writing!
B: Thank you for sharing! I personally know some young writers who are enjoying the journey!
about the book
After destroying the Crescent Stone, Madeline returns home, bringing Shula and Yenil with her. As her health continues to deteriorate, Madeline feels the Sunlit Lands calling her back. Meanwhile, Jason, Darius, and the rest of the inhabitants of the Sunlit Lands fight for survival and freedom. The magic that fuels the land is failing, threatening to destroy them all. Will Madeline’s return save the land and its people? Matt’s signature humor and epic storytelling are once again on full display in The Heartwood Crown.
Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, one fortunate Faithfully Bookish reader friend will win a print copy of The Heartwood Crown.
US only | ends 8/8 | giveaway policy
Let me know if you’ll be adding The Heartwood Crown by Matt Mikalatos to your tbr or picking up a copy to gift!