From the Author’s Mouth: Melissa McShane

From the Author’s Mouth is a new feature for the blog interviewing authors, especially ones with up and coming releases. Our first victi…erm…guest is Melissa McShane author of the Crown of Tremontane Series, who is releasing a new book into the wild on Thursday, February 25, 2016. Happy Book Birthday Agent of the Crown.

agent of the crown

From the mouth of the author:

  1. Where did the idea for Agent of the Crown come from?

It’s been almost twenty years since I came up with the kernel of the story that became this book, so I really can’t remember. I think I just had the idea for a princess who was also a spy, who was thrust into an espionage role she wasn’t trained for, and the story grew up around that.

  1. What is the strangest, most bizarre bit of research you had to do for Agent of the Crown?

I don’t know how bizarre it was, but at one point I wanted proof that switching mounts on a long, harrowing ride was not only possible, but common enough to justify Telaine doing it. And I came across an Icelandic tradition of riding with a free herd of remounts that still happens today. They offer tours and everything. One of the best things about writing is learning little facts like that.

  1. Are you secretly a super spy and we just don’t know it?

If I were, I’d hardly reveal that, would I? Now, where did those lock picks go?

  1. What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

Research. I get caught up in looking up just one more thing…

  1. When you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

My writing is fueled by Coke and chocolate.

  1. What does it take to write a really good villain?  Do you ever wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

I think the best villains are the ones whose evil is personal. Morgan threatening Telaine is frightening to me because he believes his attentions are rooted in love. I rarely scare myself except when I feel I should be more worried about the things I come up with.

  1. Which of your characters was the hardest to write for?

Aunt Weaver/Zara North. I wrote this book before the other Tremontane novels, and her character developed very differently in Servant of the Crown, requiring me to change some of her behavior and attitudes. Keeping her consistent was the hardest part of writing this book.

  1. We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories. What is your favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

I paraphrased one of my favorite lines from Babylon 5 about the kind of conversation that can only end with a gunshot, but was convinced that the person doing the speaking wouldn’t be familiar enough with guns to use that as a metaphor. I’m still sad about it.

  1. What is your worst writing habit, the thing you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

Stopping to revise—major revision—while I’m in the process of writing a book. Knowing that I’ve changed my mind about something, or that something I wrote is wrong, eats at me until I just have to stop and fix it. I know it slows me down, but I can’t help myself.

  1. If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

Tim Powers. I’m in awe of his ability to blend fact, history, and fiction and make it all seem true.

From the mouth of Telaine (Heroine of Agent of the Crown):

1. Your father is a Ruskalder warrior, right? Did this heritage ever cause you trouble growing up?

I think people always remembered Owen Hunter as the King’s best friend and most loyal supporter rather than as a Ruskalder warrior. Also, he died when I was young, and people generally weren’t horrible enough to taunt me about who he’d been. There were a few of my peers who thought I was a good target for their hatred of the Ruskalder, and I got in some fights when I first came to live at the palace, but that faded over time. Even I forget I’m half Ruskalder sometimes.

2. What’s the best part of living in the palace? Being a Princess can’t be all bad, right?

The food is great, and it’s always there when you want it. And the palace is enormous. There are all sorts of interesting places you can get lost in.

3. It must be fun to be a Deviser. Have you ever encountered something you just couldn’t fix and created something entirely new?

Not entirely something I couldn’t fix, but there was this woman who wanted a sword cane, but didn’t like how they have cases that pop off. I ended up building her an umbrella with a blade concealed in the shaft. She was rather obsessed with hidden blades. But it gave me an idea for putting a magical source in the handle of an umbrella that connected to the ribs and made them heat up for cold days. You never know where inspiration will come from.

4. Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

I’ve never really thought about it. I’d have to find someone I could tell my secret to, and that seems unlikely. Besides, most of the men I meet are more in love with the Princess, my alter ego, than me. I don’t mind. It’s sort of funny.

5. If I wanted to be an Agent of the Crown where would I start?

Most agents are recruited out of school, but if the Crown doesn’t single you out, the best way is to join the army and specialize in some discipline that makes you stand out. If you know who the spymaster is, you can petition him or her directly, but that doesn’t happen very often because the spymaster is very secretive. And no, I won’t tell you who it is. I fell into espionage when I complained about how boring high society was and Uncle Jeffrey gave me an assignment to keep me occupied. I doubt he thought I’d stick with it. I sort of surprised myself, frankly.

Thank you to Melissa and Telaine!

If you’ve never read any of the Tremontane books the series in order is:

Servant of the Crown

Rider of the Crown

Exile of the Crown (novella)

Agent of the Crown

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