We’re sitting down to chat with Sci-Fi/Fantasy author Mark Tierno today, creator of the world of Maldene.
Find Mark and his world here: www.maldene.com
What inspired you to write your first book?
I guess I’ve known since I was a kid that I’d be writing something, just a matter of what it would end up being. Starting when I was around 12, I started deciding on what sorts of writing styles I liked from other authors, noted the way they wrote, until much later I’d developed my own style. The story itself gradually assembled itself in my head, contributed in major part from my Dungeons and Dragons hobby.
Tell us about your world of Maldene! It even has its own language, right?
Yes! Language, alphabet, the works. I have extensive notes on the entire world, from weather patterns and the local zodiac, to designs for a complete set of Maldene tarot cards and how to read them. In fact, with each novel there gets added appendices with more Maldene info from my files.
Maldene is a complete world; I have the entire globe mapped out, know its history back to the very beginning (as in, “in the Beginning…”). It is a world, far larger than Earth, with a blue star and three moons (and oddly enough, never more than 1 moon at a time appears over any given section of sky, but that’s another plot point). Magic is as common there as electricity is here on Earth. I should note that there is no connection with Earth, no lost colony, none of that. Maldene evolved on its own and is completely independent.
You have such places as The Harbor of the World, the continents and more. You have the usual Humans, Elves, and Dwarves but also many others. Humans are broken up into races just like on Earth. There are mysteries, like Tedelnosho that is not just a gigantic whirlpool at sea that has been going on for thousands of years, but is said to be a portal to and from other worlds. Then of course there is Miro (pronounced My-Ro), the ultimate villain. His is an intellect that can plan for thousands of years in advance, with the patience to see it through.
You like to mix fantasy and SF together. How did you choose to write in both?
They have always been my favorites to read, growing up and now. I love the fantastic vistas, the infinite possibilities, the out-of-the-ordinary surroundings. Maldene starts out looking pure fantasy, but later books start to mix in the SF elements as well (and rather skillfully, I’m told). I’ve always been interested in science and solving the scientific problems of the future, just as I have always been interested in the possibilities of magic, wizards, fanciful creatures, and of course in both you get alien landscapes. So writing in Fantasy and SF is, to me, nearly second nature.
You have a background in physics and electronics. Has that affected what and how you write?
Yes. Everything, even magic and fantasy, has its own logic when I write, everything is consistent. I use Cause and Effect for every background element and plot point, and never resort to “oh well, it happened because… er, it’s magic” or “it’s temporal physics, who can understand it? It just happened.” For instance, I have magic broken up into a number of different fields. And if someone is casting out a bolt of lightning at someone, the laws of physics still apply, like if there happens to be a lightning rod nearby or the expected results if you cast it into a body of water. Or if I need a type of magic to have a specific end-result, then I must decide how it arrives at that end result, what rules the magic must be following. There is no reason why the fantastic and magical need not have their own logic and cause and effect.
What do you wish you knew before you published your first book?
The name of a better publisher.
Seriously though, when you get that first accepted letter, look into who exactly wants you. Will they really help promote you, or even get your book on a shelf? Will they foot the bill like a normal publisher should, or try to string you along for some extra costs? Will you get full publisher participation or are you being tricked into what amounts to more expensive self-publishing. Know what you’re getting into, and be careful about who you get involved with, even if it is your very first publisher acceptance.
I also took a risk. I’d edited the book extensively, along with feedback from others and a professional critique, but when the publisher asked “do you want our editor to go through this or not?” I didn’t want to risk them deciding to randomly axe entire sections. So I told them no and hoped I didn’t miss too many typos. I probably could have used one more edit by an editor for typos only, but the trust just wasn’t entirely there. It also would have added an extra year onto the time before publishing and as it was my Mom was just able to see my book out and me reading parts of it in a library before she passed away. For her to have had that, I don’t care about a couple of typos.
You write incredibly fast at over 12,000 words a day! How do you keep that momentum going?
Music. 7:30 in the morning I put on a stack of music, something nice and exciting, then get into the groove and go into my writing-coma for 8 hours or so. A full day of writing takes me until about 5PM, sometimes later. As long as the music keeps going so do my fingers on the keyboard. And 12,000+ is about my minimum for a full day. I’ve gone past 13,000 or so quite often, and the most I’ve done in one day is around 15,700 words.
I guess it also helps that I get really enthusiastic about my stories; it’s all I can do to hold back and not jump the gun, keep the steady pace the story demands. In a typical month I can average well over 125,000 words, which is good considering that my novels tend to be much longer than that (the first Maldene novel is around 330,000 words).
I am guessing you don’t get writer’s block then? If so, how do you break through?
Before I start a book, I outline it. Then the night before a new chapter, I make notes on what that chapter is to be about, make a sketch outline. So I always know when I start where I’m going, then the music I have playing keeps my imagination going full tilt. The closest thing to writer’s block is when I’ve just typed in something and decided there has to be a better word for that one, then out comes the thesaurus; that’s all of 5 minutes. Between chapters, I bike, walk around the local Arboretum, and let my mind wander as I think through the next section.
You said you had a lot of rejection before getting published. How did you deal it?
I kept writing. I submitted to around 150 literary agents, but I knew I had a good story. So, I just kept on typing out my story; just seeing it unfold was enough to keep my spirits up. That, and I’m stubborn.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My stories always revolve around the plot. If I have a message I can put in there, then I do but it has to work with the plot above all else. Fortunately I have a lot of plot to squeeze things into, and there are some points that just sort of make themselves. In the first Maldene book for instance, the main characters get through the worst of things because of how they work together despite any differences. There is commentary sprinkled here and there, yes, but never forced; it has to evolve out of the story I set forth.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The most difficult part came in writing Maldene 10 (yes, you heard me), when my initial outline amounted to the title of the book. I got past that and it turned out to be one of the best in the series. There is a certain amount of problem solving in any stage of writing, but fortunately the one thing that a Masters in Physics trains you for is problem solving.
One challenge was in my (as yet unpublished) series Cyberdawn, because that one takes place on Earth and so I was limited in keeping environments, technology, and such to known Earth-local. I felt sort of hamstrung in that regard.
What one marketing tip would you share with a new author?
Find someone that knows something about marketing. That and be social and keep a few business cards handy. Most writers are introverts by nature so this is kind of hard for us (and I’m even more introverted than normal), but you’ve got to get past that and be bold, take a chance. I’m still learning that last part.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Think about my next book. Or sometimes theorize about some random bit of science or the world at large; you never know when some of this idle thinking might spawn something to put into a future novel… and many times it has.
Where can we find you and the world of Maldene on the web?
Everything of Maldene and me, including my fan page on Facebook, can be found at the main site.
You’ll find the first chapter posted free to read, a more detailed version of the world map that appears in the book, a font file for the Maldene alphabet, and some brief character descriptions.
Go see Maldene.