Author Spotlight: Vanessa MacLellan

PictureIntroducing author Vanessa McLellan and her new book, Three Great Lies, out today!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a tattooed, vegetarian, outdoorsy woman with one head in the clouds and the other firmly settled in my hiking boots.  I’m an environmental engineer by day, author, runner, reader, gamer, naturalist by night (and weekends).

2. When did you start writing, and why?
When I was a wee lass I’d make up stories to tell my mother while she was gardening.  I think it started there.  My favorite subject was Baggy Piggy, who had a curly Q tail that never ended (I knew this, because I drew him incessantly with pink crayons).  I remember, before I could even write, ‘writing’ (aka doodling) on paper and then reading them to my great grandmother.  Storytelling is in my blood.  I guess that’s enough of a reason why.

Though the fact that I enjoy it doesn’t hurt.  I have little people in my head (doesn’t every author) that want me to explore their worlds, flesh out their personalities and goals and give them something to do.  I can’t take all the credit, it’s partially their fault.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write speculative fiction.  Mainly fantasy, though I mix horror and magical realism in there.  I write fantasy because fantasy is what first got me excited about reading.  I remember my older sister, Audrey, handing me the first of the Pierce Anthony Xanth novels, and I was astounded at these magical places, characters with magical talents, all of the magical beasts.  Magic.  Magic.  Magic.  I wanted that.  To live there.  Be special.  Be something more than just human.

And I read as much fantasy after that as I could.  Tolkien, Eddings, Pratchet, Weiss and Hickman, Duncan.  You know the era and the authors.  That’s what fueled me as a young reader.  I hope to fuel other readers too.

And the joy comes from creation and imagination.  Of speculating: What if? and expanding from that.  I am the master of my own universe, what is not to like?

4. What is your latest book? Any forthcoming books?
My debut novel, Three Great Lies, releases August 6th.  It’s fantasy, with historical and literary trappings.  It carries a bit of a Finding My Place in Life theme.

Jeannette Walker, a modern scientist, ends up in ancient, mythological Egypt.  Though she constantly casts doubt on the existence of such a world, she has to learn to live in it.  While trying to save her mummy friend’s soul from a wicked tomb robbing ring, she realizes a few important things about life.  What those are, well, you’ll have to read the book!

I have one complete manuscript for a dark fantasy I’m currently shopping out, and am working on a modern super hero series.  There’s always something I’m working on.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of Three Great Lies.
Ancient, mythological Egypt.  It never rains.  People’s lives aren’t equal.  Prayers constantly dance upon lips.  Beer is a meal.  Sand is a major filler in the bread.  Children of gods walk the street with the heads of animals and prophecy on their lips.

To Jeannette it’s, of course, a total shock.  There are people about in public naked and jackals speak.  A mummy—a desiccated, lumbering thing—chases her through the crowded streets, accusing her of stealing his ba!  It’s not necessarily a friendly place, but people are people, and even Jeannette is able to find friends in ways she never expected.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Jeannette Walker is my protagonist.  She’s mid-twenties, a scientists with a jilted past.  She still holds the hurt from a past betrayal and has learned to trust nobody and nothing.  I love her voice and her mind-chatter.  And she’s got a good heart that struggles to show through her armor.

Abayomi is the dead man walking, a reanimated mummy who seeks his lost ba container so he can continue on to the afterlife.  He’s a perfect citizen who knows his place in the world and doesn’t seek to unbalance tradition.  Until his friends are endangered, then his loyalty shines like a beacon.  True best friend material!

Sanura is the young daughter of Bast, cast out from her litter.  She’s lost and alone and Jeannette saves her–saves her—and she’ll never forget such gifts.  Sanura, like most young people, is soul-searching, trying to found out exactly why she’s been cast away and what her purpose and place is in life.  Her journey is one everyone can connect with. She’s the spirit of the story.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about Three Great Lies.
A major aspect of the book (the stray dog theme) sprang to life at an agility dog show.  The midsummer day was baking hot and I had parked myself under a tree for the next show.  A Jack Russell Terrier was looking at me, with that intelligent tongue-lolling smile terriers have.  Honestly, the dog was smiling.

And that was the original start of the novel:  “The dog was smiling at her.”  It’s since changed, but that line and scene are still in there, the theme planted throughout the novel.  The story just unfolded from that one dog’s smile and here we are now.

8. Any challenges with getting Three Great Lies to where it is today?
Three Great Lies has been on a long journey.

In 2008, I wrote my fifth NaNoWriMo novel.  That was Three Great Lies.  It was titled simply “Egypt” back then.  It was a 50,000 word rough draft.  Then I added extra plot threads and themes, and it topped out at 140,000 words.  That’s quite an addition!  Then there were years and years of critiquing and editing.

Finally in 2013, I begin seeking representation for Three Great Lies, and it was picked up by Hadley Rille Books (which was the most perfect place for this book to land).

Now for the rough stuff.  As I was due my edits, my publisher had a stroke.  (Though he insists he was abducted by aliens to an alternate universe.)   It was terrible, we weren’t sure if he would make it.  The entire press huddled together in worry and anticipation.  I was wavering between feeling devastated for my publisher’s situation and worrying about the state of my book (and feeling so so guilty for that.)  But he did pull through and has worked tirelessly on my novel, by my side every step of the way.

Now, we’re here, and my novel is published!  I think other authors might have pulled their book to seek other representation, but I knew Hadley Rille and my publisher were perfect for my book.

9. What’s your writing process?
First and foremost, Three Great Lies was a ‘pantser’ book.  I didn’t have an outline.  I wrote forward from the smiling dog on guts and intentions.  I had this idea of where I wanted to go, with no map on how to get there.  Now, I am an outliner.  I think the process, for me, would have gone so much faster if I’d had a more solid idea of the substance of the story.  As it was, lots and lots and lots of editing and rewriting were necessary to make this book shine.

When I’m in the thick of writing and editing, I try to work on the novel every single day.  It keeps my writing sharp and my mind on the storyline.  It keeps me from losing plot threads and missing finer details.  For me, every day is the way (ooh, that even rhymes.)

And another thing I’ve learned:  Do not work heavily on writing in the summer.  I like to play outside too much and I feel guilty if I don’t write.  Now, I just hold up my hands and let it all go.  Summer, for me, is play time.  No guilt for taking some time off writing.  Because, we’re our worst guilt-trippers.

10. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Google+

You can find Three Great Lies at Amazon

Thanks for reading!  I hope you come by and check out my site and my novel.  It was a joy to write and I hope it brings joy to you as well.

PictureThree Great Lies:

While vacationing in Egypt. . .
Jeannette Walker, a cynical scientist jaded by swarms of tour groups and knick-knack shacks, is lured by a teenage tour guide to visit a newly discovered tomb. No other tourists there! Inside the chamber, she tumbles down a shaft and 3000 years back in time.

Now, in a world where deities walk the streets and prophecy stinks up the air, Jeannette is desperate for normal and the simple pleasures of sanitation and refrigeration. However, a slave master hawking a cat-headed girl derails her homebound mission, and Jeannette—penniless in this ancient world—steals the girl, bringing down the tireless fury of the slaver.

Saddled with a newly awakened mummy and the cat-headed girl, Jeannette, through her unparalleled experience gained from watching spy movies, contrives a plan to free them from the slaver’s ire, but will she have to dive into the belly of the beast to succeed?

Publisher’s Weekly Review:

MacLellan’s fun debut drops Jeanette, an American tourist in Egypt, into ancient Thebes. After she wakes Abayomi, a mummy who’s lost his key to the afterlife, her journey of discovery is filled with danger and thrills. A great sense of character evolution drives the plot, as Jeanette learns that her safe, mundane, passive modern life can’t compare to the active role she takes in freeing Sanura, a child of Bast, from slavery, or working to stop tomb robbing. Her friendships with Abayomi, Sanura, and others form organically, leading to an unlikely but well-handled romantic subplot. Supernatural elements help develop the world around Jeanette, but don’t overpower it. The descriptions feel like what a modern person in Jeanette’s situation would notice, rather than generic scene-setting. A strong conclusion sets this light fantasy a notch above its peers. (Oct.)

Read on for an excerpt from Three Great Lies:

Three Great Lies Excerpt:

The torchlight caught an image of the Eye of Ra, omniscient and red, and a shiver crossed her skin.  With a glance back at the stairs—a little voice in her head urging her to ‘just get the hell out’—she faced the tunnel again.  She’d leave once she assured the kid wasn’t lost down here, injured and scared.

She grabbed her pack and slung it over her shoulder, careful of her injuries, and crept past the sarcophagus, certain the opening loomed wider than before.  Not looking in for fear of catching a peek at something dead and rotten, she stepped into the darkened hallway, calling out.  “Hello?”  Her voice hung flat in the narrow hall, the acoustics wanting.  It surprised her to find a network of passages and rooms.  Each dry, empty antechamber sucked the fluid from her mouth and mocked her with hostile silence.  As she wandered from one small chamber to the next, she expected to find piles of offerings, maybe gold or jewels, or even pottery, but the rooms housed only one blocky sarcophagus. Otherwise empty, they had been left incomplete—or emptied under ill-intentioned methods.

“Kid.”  Her calls had turned into a mantra, lacking the passion of initial panic and had morphed simply into a word that slipped from her lips each time she entered a new room. “Kid?”  Her guide played an amazing impersonation of somebody who was just not there.

When she hit the end of the passages, having explored each alcove with no sign of life, she began retracing her steps to that first room she’d tumbled into.  The kid must have been on the upper level after all, and had not fallen down the threshold into crazy land like she had.  Just her luck.

Exhausted, dragging her feet across the stones, she almost tripped on the flat surface.  She just wanted to return to her hotel and sleep.  The dreaded knowledge of the long trip back in the bike’s sidecar—assuming she could even return that way—and the fact that she was running out of water, sapped away her optimism.  Trips were designed to be fun, a bit of adventure, a bit of pampering.  She was ready for the spa treatment now.  The tour planners had touted it as part of the package deal.  She’d never had a spa treatment: no foot rubs, no facials.  The knowledge that a hot bath and massage waited for her spurred her forward, though all she really wanted to do was close her eyes and open them again to her hotel room, the soft bed and bowl of fruit, the funky scent of the detergent that tickled her nose to the edge of a sneeze.

Damn it.  This wasn’t what she wanted.

Frustrated, she stomped across the floor, her hard-soled hiking boots clomping as her mind soldiered through her options to make it back to El-Balyana, let alone Luxor.  With her thoughts leap-frogging from walking miles, to hijacking a camel, to the cost in dog lives of a taxi trip to her hotel, she didn’t see the figure standing near the opened sarcophagus as she rounded the corner.

When she did, she froze.

Within the eon caught between one blink and the next, she absorbed details of the monster from a bad B movie: short, about her height, wrapped in linen gauze.  Arms bound to its sides, it twisted and writhed, struggling to free itself from the linen embrace.

Then it moaned, a noise tapped straight from its slim chest, desperate and hungry, and Jeannette couldn’t contain her own scream.


 Three Great Lies is available at Amazon.
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About kyrahalland

Kyra Halland has always loved fantasy. She has also always loved a good love story. Years ago, as a new stay-at-home mom, she decided to combine those two loves - like chocolate and peanut butter! - by writing the kinds of romantic fantasy novels she wanted to read. Complicated, honorable heroes; strong, smart, feminine heroines; magic, romance, and adventure; deep emotion mixed with a dash of offbeat humor - all of these make up Kyra Halland's worlds. She loves sharing those worlds with readers and hopes they will enjoy her stories and characters as much as she does. Kyra Halland lives in southern Arizona. She has a very patient husband, two less-patient cats, two young adult sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and an adorable granddaughter. Besides writing, she enjoys scrapbooking and anime, and she wants to be a crazy cat lady when she grows up. View all posts by kyrahalland

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