Author Spotlight: Megan Haskell
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Megan Haskell!
Legend has it Megan was born with a book in her hands. Thirty-something years later, she’s a stay-at-home-mom who prefers a good story over doing the dishes – only now, she’s building her own fantasy worlds!
Megan is the award-winning author of The Sanyare Chronicles, a fast-paced dark fantasy adventure set in the nine faerie realms. She’s also the Program Director of O.C. Writers: A Network of Published and Aspiring Authors in Orange County, CA.
To find out more about Megan and her books, visit meganhaskell.com.
Thanks for joining us today, Megan. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Well . . . and I’m being totally honest here . . . I picked up AC Cobble’s Benjamin Ashwood series after seeing his interview on here, and loved it! I read the whole series straight through!
Ooh – awesome! Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I used to think I would be a rogue. That’s usually what I play in most RPGs, with my preferred weapons two blades. However, I recently started taking classes in Krav Maga—the Israeli modern martial art—and it turns out I’m more of a wade into battle head-on kinda gal. I would definitely be a fighter, with a sword and shield.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
I type everything except my brainstorming notes. My fingers are actually faster than my brain sometimes. It’s only when I need to slow my hands down and really think that I revert to handwriting.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
Ah, silence. It’s a rare commodity in my house, what with a 6- and 3-year-old running around.
But really, I prefer to work with instrumental music or white noise. If I don’t have to be paying attention to the kids, I’ll stick my noise-blocking headphones in my ears and put on Brain.FM to help me focus.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I’m a plantser. Yep, I made up a term. Maybe. I think.
In any case, I started out as a full pantser. I just sat down and started writing and expected to produce a fully-formed story. That failed.
So then I tried to outline. I worked through every detail of the story I wanted to write, forcing it all to fit into the three act structure. Unfortunately, by the time I was done with that, I had no desire to write the novel. I mean, I already knew what was going to happen! So that failed, too.
Now I’m somewhere in between. I have to have an idea of the story, a solid understanding of the characters, and a few “tentpole moments” in mind to get started, but I don’t go into intricate detail. I leave a lot open to interpretation and exploration as I write. But I also use what my business partner, Greta Boris, calls a “Plot Menu”, which is a spreadsheet that has boxes for each of the major story beats. I fill in the spreadsheet as I go, which helps keep me on track and avoid going entirely off the rails.
I’ve found it’s a good compromise to increase my writing speed and produce a solid story without getting bored.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Now you’re trying to stump me. I mean, “non-book” influences? What’s that? 🙂
Before I had kids, I loved playing RPG video games, like Dragon Age and Oblivion. I don’t have the time for that much anymore, but I think those games helped me visualize settings and fight scenes for my books.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
The Expanse! OMG I love that show. I’m so happy Bezos picked it up when SyFy canceled it. The story is incredibly well crafted, the characters are amazing, the CG is awesome, the setting and physics are realistic (or so my husband tells me…I never actually took physics, gasp!), and the mystery pulls me along from episode to episode. I dreaded the end of the season.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
The colon. Periods and commas seem sufficient to me!
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your latest novel!
Sanyare: The Winter Warrior is Book 4 in The Sanyare Chronicles. In this one, our heroine, Rie, is dragged into the mountainous Winter Realm by her mentor, Lord Garamaen Sanyaro, when his ancient nemesis breaks the chains of his imprisonment and destroys an innocent village. Together, they must find a way to stop the slaughter, or die trying.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
This is a really tough question, actually! As a severe Type A personality, I’m not sure how well I could share creative control. I co-wrote a non-fiction for authors with my business partner, Greta Boris, last year, but we each wrote our own chapters on specific subjects, so it wasn’t like we had to share characters or agree on settings.
That said, there are a few authors who have been inspirational to me and who I think would mesh well as far as writing style. AC Cobble comes to mind immediately, since I just finished his Benjamin Ashwood series, but Lindsay Buroker would also top my list.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t compare yourself to others. I suppose this is just wisdom for life, but I feel like authors in particular have a really hard time seeing another author’s success without either tearing that person down or getting depressed over their own work.
Every journey is different, and overnight success is usually years in the making. With that in mind, if you focus on your own goals and priorities, and remain persistent in your efforts, you will eventually find the success you’re looking for.
(At least, I certainly hope so. 🙂 )
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
This is another hard one!
I think I would want to explore a civilization that we don’t know much about, like the Incas or ancient Babylonians, but I’d also be terrified of getting sick and dying, like, immediately upon arrival. I mean, I’m not a hypochondriac (much) but I’d be the one to get bitten by a mosquito and catch a strange parasite that liquifies my insides, or scratch my leg and end up with some sort of flesh-eating disease.
I’ll stick with modern medicine and take a world tour.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I set minimum goals. For example, when I’m actively writing a first draft and counting words, I set myself a minimum goal of 500 words per working day (I write Sunday through Friday). If I’m still not feeling it after that, or I’m just too tired to function, I shut it all down and do something else. But honestly, most of the time, I get in the swing and keep on going.
Other minimum goals for different periods of the writing process might include editing one chapter, sending three review requests, or writing one blog post.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Soil-Man, by my friend Oz Monroe, is one of the most unique fantasy concepts I’ve ever read, and really well written to boot. It’s an Angel/Demon story, but so much more. It’s entertaining and philosophical, action-packed and deep, dark but not without its moments of hope. I highly recommend it.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
A kick-ass heroine with enchanted knives and carnivorous pixies with attitude. Need I say more? 🙂
Nope! The Sanyare series sounds amazing. 🙂 Thank again for joining us today, Megan, and good luck with your latest release!
Megan Haskell is the author of the SANYARE series. Book 4, The Winter Warrior, is out now.