Interview with Author Marya Miller

Last month, I reviewed Tales of Mist and Magic by Marya Miller. At the time that review was posted, the flash fiction collection wasn’t yet available, but guess what? Now it is!

Click here to buy the book on Amazon, or if you haven’t seen my review yet and want to get my take first, click here to read my review.

Today, I have something even better than a review for you, though. I got the chance to ask Marya a few questions about Tales of Mist and Magic and her upcoming novel set in the same delightful fantasy world, Under the Splintered Mountains. If you’re not excited about her work yet, you will be by the time you finish reading this interview!

RF: Granny Maberly feels so real with all of her quirks and weird traits. Is she based on a real person, or combination of real people?

Marya: She’s got elements from both my own grandmothers; she looks like my Polish Babka and has her wisdom and strong sense of morality and duty; and she has my Nottinghamshire grandmother’s accent, plus her practicality, pith and bluntness.

RF: I loved the story, “Like Father, Like Son!” I’m curious if we’re going to see any more of those characters, or the tower that’s in the story, in the full-length novel?

Marya: Yes and no. Neither is in the first Dragonish full-length novel, Under the Splintered Mountains (which is mostly about Granny, Ushguk and Anno the Tarn), but the Tower is a key element that runs through the entire Morwen Trilogy that follows. Idalos plays a major role in Book One of the Morwen Trilogy, A Sliver in Time; and Feynrir too.

RF: I can see parallels between Elves/Tarn and Orcs/Moraggim but Ushguk stands out as a unique creation. What was your inspiration for his character?

Marya: The inspiration for Ushguk was my father, who never fit in anywhere. Ushguk’s accent is his. My father was Russian-Polish, of Mongolian descent; and in post-war Britain, he might as well have been a Martian. He grew up on a very isolated farm on a mountain (Baba Goria) and learned to play guitar from Russian gypsies who would visit the village every year–I loved hearing his stories about his childhood and I loved listening to him play.

My dad survived hard labor in a Siberian POW camp and a trek across the desert before serving with the RAF as a radio operator. Feasts and food were a huge part of his childhood, and starvation was the key event of Siberia for him. He spent all his time there trying to get more food for his fellow prisoners (and staged possibly the first successful sit-down strike in Russia) and for the rest of his life, feeding people was his big thing–he was incredibly nurturing. Though I am NOT sure he would appreciate being cast as a big, hairy monster! And my dad could run rings around Ushguk, who is very much his own person with his own history. But still, there it is: My dad was the original inspiration.

RF: The stories in Tales of Mist and Magic seem to span a considerable period of time. Can you tell us where the novel will fit in? Before these stories? After them? At the same time?

Marya: “Like Father, Like Son”, “The Metallurgion” and “A World Without Magic” take place well before “Under the Splintered Mountains”. “Cannibal” and “The Prophecy” occur at the same time of the novel. “The Rabbit who Lived in a Tree” and “The Meaning of Flowers” take place at the beginning of the Morwen trilogy. “The Bits that Count” takes place literally about a week before Ushguk and Granny run into Anno the Tarn in the novel. He’s still wearing his pink sparkly dress (courtesy of Volkurr the Despoiler) when they meet him.

RF: This one’s just for my curiosity. Where does the name “Dragonish” come from?

Marya: From two words: dragon + inis (pronounced “inish”). “Inis” is Scots Gaelic for “island” and Dragonish is an island. I was born and grew up in Scotland, and still speak a smattering of Gaelic so it works its way into everything (including the Tarn language).

RF: How can we make sure we don’t miss Under the Splintered Mountains when it comes out?

Marya: Follow me on my Facebook Page, because I’ll announce it there. Or sign up to my mailing list at http://maryamiller.ca. (If you like the Dragonish stories, the advantage with this is that signing up will land you a completely original Dragonish short story not found anywhere else, “A Tail in the Mist”.)

Thanks so much to Marya Miller for answering my questions! Be sure to check out Tales of Mist and Magic to get pumped up for Under the Splintered Mountains.

Click here to sign up for her mailing list!

Review: Tales of Mist and Magic by Marya Miller

The Bottom Line

A fun, (mostly) lightly-hearted collection of fantasy flash fiction. The stories are connected by virtue of being set in the world of Dragonish and sharing a few key characters.

B+

The Review

If flash fiction isn’t your thing, don’t let that stop you from picking up Tales of Mist and Magic. Because it’s not usually my thing, either. If light and funny isn’t your thing, you also shouldn’t let that stop you. I had actually come across Marya Miller’s website a while back (I don’t remember how) and wondered away without reading anything because I got the impression I wouldn’t be interested (again, I don’t remember how). So I’m very glad that Josh brought this book to me because it is well worth the read.

There’s not a whole lot of bad things to say about this one. Honestly, the biggest complaint I have is that it’s a collection of flash fiction stories and not a full novel. My second biggest complaint is that it’s a bit too light hearted for my tastes. I like fiction that’s heavy and on the dark side just a bit (pun intended). So let this be your warning that you won’t find much dark material in Tales of Mist and Magic.

You will, however, find quite a bit of wit. While they might not be as engrossing as a full-length novel, these bite-sized stories are packed full of humor and ironic twists. For some light, humorous reading, you can’t do much better than Tales of Mist and Magic. The writing is superb and I enjoyed almost all of the stories. My least favorite is actually the very first one, so don’t let it deter you when you pick it up. Most of the stories are entertaining but not necessarily enduring. A week after finishing the book, I can’t say I remember most of them. I do remember the key, recurring characters, though, and I harbor a strong desire to spend more time in the world of Dragonish. That is the great brilliance of Tales of Mist and Magic because there is a full-length novel coming that will feature those memorable characters and take us deeper into their stories.

So here is another warning: if you read Tales of Mist and Magic, you will end up buying Marya’s novel when it comes out.

I said I didn’t remember most of the stories, and that’s true. But there were some that stuck with me. Two to be precise: “Like Father, Like Son,” and “The Meaning of Flowers.” These two flash pieces stray ever so slightly from the light hearted humor that characterizes most of the collection to hint at a more complex world behind the jokes. “Like Father, Like Son,” is actually quite dark but in a subtle way. Since I enjoy subtlety as much as dark fiction, this one is easily my favorite in the bunch. “The Meaning of Flowers” hints at tragedy without exploring it in depth and gives us insight into one of the main character’s background. It retains the bubbly humor of the collection in most regards but still manages to inject a profound truth that resonated with me. So it makes my favorite list as well.

I don’t want to give the impression that the other stories aren’t good, because they are. The whole collection is an entertaining read, if not an engrossing one. This book is the perfect thing for those of you who “don’t have time” to read. Reading a single story won’t take more than two minutes and, by the time you’re done, you’ll be so hooked into the world that you’ll find the time to read Marya’s novel when it’s released.

Click here to read the first story from the collection. The full collection has not yet been released but I will tell you right here when it is. You can also sign up for Marya’s email list to stay up to date.

To Read or Not to Read

Read. Absolutely read. Tales of Mist and Magic is fun, quick, and easy to read but you’ll still come away with some nuggets to chew on. Best of all, you’ll find unique characters to love and look forward to seeing more of.