Madeline C. C. Harper - Let the Great Hunt Begin
Born in New York, Madeline attended Fordham University, where she earned a B.A in Communications and Media Studies. It was during her time in college that she discovered her love of creative writing. However, it wasn’t until after graduating and embarking on a trip across Europe, where she walked the streets of Verona under Juliet’s balcony and drank coffee in Les Deux Magots, that she became inspired to write her first novel, The Return of Light. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about this book.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Return of Light is about.
After a party in the woods goes from boring to bloody, seventeen-year-old Brie is dragged to Prim-Terra, a magical world ruled by a race known as primlocs.
Nine powerful families from ancient bloodlines rule the land of Vahalia, each of who wields a deadly ability. The Blood of Silverstone has the power to grow the most beautiful of roses with one hand, all the while choking you with a vine in the other. The Blood of Windermere can soar amongst the ravens, while the Blood of Borgen can swim with the meremaidens. The Blood of Diagon may turn wood into ash with a flick of their wrist, but the Blood of Blackheart can turn diamonds into ash with a curl of their palm.
With the High Lord hunting her to complete an ancient prophecy stemming back to the Age of the Gods, the girl must seek the help of the very people who dragged her to this world as she learns to play a dangerous game of life, death, and love.
As the hunt begins, Brie must decide which role she shall play - hunter or prey?
Tell us more about Brie Fyre. What makes her tick?
Seventeen, crazy red hair, and inside her own head far more than she’d like to be, Brie Fyre is someone I hope resonates with teenage girls, the ones who are quiet, yet have so much to say. Family and friends are the main force behind her decisions and to lose them is her greatest fear, though disappointing them is a very close second. This will lead her to do some questionable actions. She has a tendency to double guess herself, and at times sell herself short, but when she believes in something there’s no stopping her.
What inspired you to write about a world ruled by nine dangerous families?
History was a huge inspiration when creating the royal families. I’ve always been interested in European history during the Renaissance era, specifically England, France, Spain, and the city-states of Italy. And anyone who knows a thing or two about the royal families of that time knows just how cut-throat these families can be, not only to each other, but to their own family members. As far as the nine royal families ruling within a single realm and being ruled by the High Lord, the idea was greatly inspired by Christendom during the Renaissance, a time when catholic kings answered to the Pope despite ruling their own kingdoms.
This was your debut novel - what was the experience like so far?
It’s been a learning process. There are so many things that go into publishing a book I had no idea about. First-time authors tend to have the naïve, rose-coved-glasses idea that the hardest part of publishing a book is the part when you, you know, write the book.
The hardest part is what comes after your book is published. That’s when the real work begins in the form of marketing it.
This book has a huge cast of characters, but you manage to make each of them feel real and believable. How did you pull this off?
This is a question that stumped me, to be honest. One of the main things my readers tell me they love (and my critics complain about) is the number of characters in The Return of Light. But as someone who’s a fan of fantasy, a genre known for its number of characters and subplots, I never thought I had a huge cast of characters. To me, they were just the characters who lived in the world I created.
As far as writing believable characters, that’s when the hard-work came in. I can’t tell you how many times I rewrote entire chapters due to writing a single choice made by a character that was unbelievable for them to have made.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I absolutely love to bake (I make a great cronut, if I do say so myself).
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively as a writer since publishing The Return of Light?
I’ve grown better at letting my characters do what they want (they have a mind of their own, I’m convinced). As an author, you tend to want your story to go in a certain direction and almost force your characters to make choices and commit acts they otherwise would never do. The moment a character is taken out of character and replaced as a tool to further a plot is when that character becomes hollow.
What's an aspect of being a writer that you didn't know about going in?
I wasn’t prepared for the emotional attachments I would form with some of my characters. I know their pasts and I know their hopes for the future, I know their fears and I know how they felt when they fell in love for the first time. It’s impossible not to become attached to them and to mourn for what is to come.
I must confess to having cried when I wrote a particularly hard death.
Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?
The two characters I found hardest to write were Brie Fyre and King Marcus Diagon.
Brie was hard to write because, since she was the protagonist, I always wanted her to be perfect, to commit acts I believe a ‘hero’ would perform. But the thing is characters aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, have self-doubt and don’t always have that witty answer as a perfect comeback. Sometimes they have no clue what they’re doing and that’s just fine because that’s REAL.
As for Marcus Diagon, who proves to be one of the main villains in the story, I found it hard not to write him in a two-dimensional way. When writing a villain, it’s so easy to fall into the habit of writing them as being evil for no other reason than to be evil. But all villains are evil for a reason, whether it was a bad childhood, evil forces, or a broken heart. My job as an author is to tell you their story with as much care as when I tell you the hero’s story.
Did you plan from the start to make it into a series? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
Originally, I had planned The Return of Light to be a four-book series. As of now, however, it’s predicted to be a six-book series. With all the secondary storylines going on, it’s just not possible for me to fit in everything within four books. To do that, I would need to add less detail or leave loose ends open to the storylines of other characters, which I believe is unfair to both the reader and character.
As far as how the other books in the series tie into this one, the Return of Light (Book #1) is the book that will start it all. Many decisions made by the characters in the first book are catalysts to the events in the later books.
Do you suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to combat it?
Of course! I’ve always believed the best way to fight writer’s block is to just write. (I know, writing is probably the last thing you want to do at that moment, but trust me.) Write and write and keep writing, even if it’s the worst thing you’ve ever written in your life. The next day, when you look back at your work, you’ll either find aspects of it that make you think ‘hey, this isn’t so bad’ or you’ll be so against what you wrote you’ll never write that storyline again.
It was during a particularly bad case of writer’s block that I came to write one of my favorite scenes in The Return of Light.
Do you have any interesting writing habits, what's your average writing day like?
I must confess to having the vanilla ice cream version of writing habits. When writing, you can find me in my neighborhood Starbucks with four or five half-drunk coffee on my table. Though I don’t use wi-fi when writing, I always feel bad taking up a table, so I try to buy a coffee every hour or so.
I’m just waiting for the day one of the baristas kick me out…
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m in the process of writing The Forge of Kingdoms, the sequel of The Return of Light. In this book, we’ll be exploring new lands and introducing new characters, discover the rise of a long-gone enemy and struggle with the aftermath of the shocking event that took place at the end of The Return of Light.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My website is https://www.mccharper.com/. There, you can email me and read posts about the world of Prim-Terra (the main setting of The Return of Light). You can also find me posting updates and sneak peeks on Instagram (@madeline_cc_harper).