Author Spotlight: D. A. Mucci (IGNATIUS AND THE SWORDS OF NOSTAW)
Being an Emergency Room physician for close to forty years, Dr. Mucci found that the pandemic brought forth new horrors in the ER. Writing this fantasy story about Ignatius became an enjoyable escape for him from all that was happening in the real world.
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Welcome to the Hive, Dr. Mucci! Let’s start with the basics: dazzle us with an elevator pitch! Why should readers check out your work?
Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw is the first in an action-packed series perfect for readers who love an impossible mission led by an unlikely hero.
The coming-of-age story follows teenager Ignatius (nicknamed “Iggy”) who finds himself transported to a medieval world filled with magic. In the Kingdom of Skye, Iggy develops special powers and accomplishes quests in an effort to find his way home, fighting the evildoers along the way. While the genre is fantasy and the setting includes magic, mythological creatures, celestial races, and different lands, action-adventure is the undercurrent of the writing style, unveiling clues and surprises as the plot unfolds.
This YA fantasy is perfect for both teens and adults, as it gently reminds us that we are responsible for our destiny – and the most unexpected people can be the best teachers.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
I write to shut my mind off to the craziness during ER shifts and what’s going on in the world. I find a quiet space, often my office with my feet propped up on my desk, and those looking at me would think I’m daydreaming. In those daydreams I’m immersing myself into the actual settings in my book. I ask myself: What would the characters actually do in these situations? What would Iggy do in a specific situation? I want a reader to feel they relate to being along on his journey, and root for him, not just be an onlooker in a fantasy tale. I want his actions and reactions to be realistic while the setting is fantasy.
Speaking of worlds, what inspires your worldbuilding? Do you have a magic system/s? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?
My fantasy world was inspired by the Isle of Skye, using the myths, legends and folklore from that island off the coast of Scotland to help me form The Kingdom of Skye. You’ll find I have added in actual locations as well as creatures from the legends and folklore. The other lands you will see on the story’s map are totally sourced by my imagination, with some name inspirations from history. For example, I used the name Cambria for one land, which was the name used for Wales in medieval times. Dinas Affaraon was a location mentioned in medieval Welsh literature. I mapped out a government, the climate, and culture of each land along with races I decided lived in each. I used this in telling my story, and had the map drawn up to help the reader visualize what I was thinking.
In book one, characters, fantasy creatures and locations were introduced along with some runes magic and dark magic. Magic will feature more prominently in Book 2.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
As our young adult children grew, once they were too old to listen to a story book, we often spent time together before bed-time and during car rides listening to audiobooks. I remember listening to Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, and other fantasy series. This time is what endeared me to YA lit. I began forming my own ideas about my own YA lit series. I do love Neil Gaimen’s Neverwhere, as an adult fantasy story. I can’t imagine getting to work with any of these amazing successful fantasy authors.
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
I’m used to being critiqued and questioned as an ER doctor by patients, nurses, trauma teams, and administration. With forty years of experience in the ER, I’m typically sharing my knowledge gained from all my experience. So editing critiques for my book was a humbling experience. In medicine it’s pretty easy to tell if you are doing things right….the patient survives and gets better. In writing, it’s a personal creating that is being critiqued. While I insist my action adventure style be maintained, I have found the editing has made my book much better than if I worked solo.
My wife Jeanne is my first level of editing. She points out what ideas I can refine and characters that need a stronger description so the reader can relate to them. She also ensures I’m following the map “rules” and guidelines created for each land. She asks our two young adult children to share their ideas if some aspect needs additional insight, as they are both avid fantasy readers. Then my editor Theodora Bryant gets a section of the book and is next in line to keep me honest on literary guidelines. She’s not shy about telling me to ditch a three page description that could be stated in three sentences, so the story can help moving along. It’s important to find editors that you work with well and can preserve the basic style and intent of your story. While editing is humbling and stressful, it has resulted in me producing a much better read.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
Initially I wanted an artist I love (Cheryl Baker) to illustrate a cover for me. She produced a beautiful cover artwork, but as the story came together more fully, I realized I wanted swords on the cover portraying that an action-adventure story was coming. I gave our final cover design team (Damonza.com) guidelines and a feel for what I wanted, and they came back with two potential designs to start the design process. I then used a focus group of family, friends, and their teens to provide feedback on the cover designs. We ended up combining the best features of the two designs…adding Iggy’s amulet to the swords with the lava flow in the background. As a result I ended up with a fantastic cover that portrays what is coming for the reader.
Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? Do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing?
I don’t have a favorite character type, other than to say I enjoy creating unlikely heroes. My favorite character is Madam Trinity, who comes off as batshit crazy but below all that craziness has an elderly wisdom that many don’t appreciate. She’s one of several unlikely heroes in my story. As an author in my late 60s of age, it’s fun to reflect on my younger years and write about Iggy and Raraesa as they are crushing on each other in their early teens. Afflicted patients in the ER have helped me gain insight in the manic paranoid schizophrenic personality of Mallak. He can’t be an unlikely hero. There has to be an evil force to contrast with the heroes in the story, so I developed the character Emperor Mallak suffering with a mental illness beyond his control in medieval times to juxtapose the heroes.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
On an extra day or afternoon I would, and do, head out for an adventure with my wife. We find all kinds of things to do when I’m taking a day or an afternoon off. It could be a living museum like the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, a local soccer or baseball game, a walk on the beach, or a show at a local playhouse. Those are some of my more common adventures. We love supporting local establishments, whether in St. Augustine, Florida or Connecticut. We travel at least once a month away from our primary house, so we build time for new adventures into our schedule also. We were in St. Thomas, Charleston, SC, and the lakes region of Minnesota this summer. I find these experiences help me create new ideas to build into a story or character. We also plan time help local philanthropies, hands on. Getting to meet new teens and adults through service work is not only fulfilling, but gives me ideas for character features.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
I would definitely ride into battle with a tipei. Many fantasy books use dragons for a fantastical creature. I created the tipei, a flying creature that is powerful in battle. They live in groups and help protect the land of Matreach. In my story, dragons are fantasy, but tipeis are real. I would take a tipei any day into battle with me.
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
I love Neil Gaimen’s book Neverwhere. He used a personal interaction with a homeless person, whom most didn’t notice and treated as though invisible, and created a whole world for the homeless to live within.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
I am actively working on the next book in the Ignatius series. Iggy is going to grow even further in his capabilities as he tackles his next challenges and quest.
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate your new release? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in?
We are going to run a contest late Fall to give away a vintage set of bookends, to one of my website subscribers. The contest will be announced by the release date or shortly thereafter. I hope one of your readers will sign up for the opportunity to win this unique prize!
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I hope my readers will take away the idea that there are all kinds of heroes in daily life. I created character of various ages, gender, ethnicity, and background. I purposely didn’t give all the character a detailed physical description so the reader can envision them somewhat as they’d like, maybe as someone they can relate to even more. I want the reader to realize that you don’t need to be a powerful fighter or expert to be a hero. You can simply do what you believe is right in every day life to be a hero to someone.
Thank you so much for joining us today!