C.M.J. Wallace is the author of the Rift series and is also a medical editor. She graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science degree and, being a lover of language and not laboratories, promptly transitioned from lab wretch to editor. In 2001, she took a medical editing course taught by the Journal of the American Medical Association’s director of manuscript editing, who then recruited her. She is now a freelance medical editor.
In 1992, she created the rudiments of the Rift series, which she began writing in 2008.
She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and is currently working on another novel in the series.
Her web page can be found here
Stephanie: Hello C.M.J.! Congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, “Sing the Midnight Stars”. Please tell me about your story.
C.M.J.: Thanks, Stephanie!
First, allow me to return the sentiment and give you an accolade. The B.R.A.G. Medallion award is a wonderful service for self-published authors and their readers. There’s a groundswell of demand for some type of indie-book gatekeeper, and indieBRAG is at the forefront of this movement.
And now for my book…
In 1992, I came up with the rudiments of the series, many of the characters, all of the unique magic elements, and the history of Carvel and Torvia, which are the primary country and city in my books, respectively. When I started writing Sing the Midnight Stars in 2008 (yep, I’m a slow starter!), I hadn’t yet created some of my main characters, including my protagonist, Andrin Sethuel. He developed as a result of my asking the question, who is the killer and why? The answer demanded that someone be searching for the murderer, which led to my needing a detective of sorts; Andrin was the result.
I thought it would be interesting to make him flawed. I think it’s more believable to readers and allows them to readily empathize with characters, love them, despise them, etc. Andrin is a drug addict, but not by choice. When he was a child, he was kidnapped by slavers who brutally murdered his parents in front of him. The slavers’ modus operandi is to snatch village children, kill the adults, and immediately dose the kids with mordizánte, a drug that’s instantly and irrevocably addictive. But Andrin is different. His body doesn’t react the way every other addict’s does.
As an adult, he battles with hostility, prejudice, and suspicion on every front, and even though the addiction wasn’t his doing, it leaves him entrenched in self-loathing. Despite everything, he becomes head of the Torvian kingdom’s criminal investigative forces. The story opens with a murder related to others he’s been investigating and follows his hunt for the killer, who scythes magic from his victims to reap power. In theory that’s impossible. But the murderer is growing more powerful with each successive killing, leading him to believe that he’s right about the killer’s motives.
For added fun, someone’s trying to kill him as well, and one of his subordinates is keeping a secret that might be the key to solving the murders.
While all this is going on, Carvel’s ancient enemy is bringing war to the very gates of Torvia, and her king is sinking into madness and is on the verge of betraying his country.
A major plot line involves the rise of unfettered magic (enchantment that isn’t bound by any prosaic means) simultaneously in disparate settings. I carry this theme of magic being freed of its catalysts of stone and sigil throughout the first and second books, but I can’t elaborate because it would entail spoilers!
Stephanie: I love the title of your book. Tell me how it blends in with your story.
C.M.J.: Astromancy is among the types of sorcery that are becoming unfettered, and the way it happens was my inspiration for the book’s title. One of the main characters is an astromancer who has just been granted the gift of unfettered magic. The book cover shows her joining with and learning from the enchantment in the form of a star bolt from the constellation she worships.
Stephanie: I noticed your book falls under the Fantasy genre. Does this story take place in the present time or future and please tell me about why you chose to write in the genre.
C.M.J.: The story takes place in the present.
I love fantasy because it was the first genre to transport me to other worlds through the sorcerous portal of words on paper. I’ve been a reader since I was four years old and was exposed to the likes of Roald Dahl and A. A. Milne.
Fantasy is my preferred genre because it gives me the freedom to make implausible things happen, and I can envision them just as I did when I was a child entering the realms of the improbable. I really like suspense and intrigue, but genres such as thrillers and horror are constraining to me as a writer and often not as interesting as fantasy. With the latter, I can take any elements I choose, such as intrigue, and blend them with my story (which I do!) any way I like.
With fantasy, I’m also free to use beautiful imagery, which you can’t often find in other genres and which seems to be rare in books published now.
Stephanie: Tell me a little about Andrin and his strengths and weaknesses.
C.M.J.: As I said earlier, Andrin is a drug addict, and he views himself as part of the dregs of society. Because of his addiction, he feels constrained to uphold truth. He sticks to his principles, but to the point of rigidity and blindness in regard to the shortcomings of doing so. He’s a loyal friend, but his unrelenting demand that nothing violate his ethics costs him greatly. He’s an excellent detective, loathes liars, and protects underdogs.
Stephanie: Was there any research involved for your book?
C.M.J.: I’m a medical editor, which means I edit articles written by physicians and other health care professionals for medical journals, so I already had a good understanding of disease, wounds, and violent death before I started writing. But I didn’t have the same expertise with medieval terminology and customs, so yes, I had to do research on weaponry, clothing, typical architecture, and the like, although the setting is early enlightenment rather than traditional medieval (Torvia is a huge city).
Stephanie: Is this your first published book and are you currently working on another?
C.M.J.: Sing the Midnight Stars is my first published work. I’ve published two others since, the sequels Flight of Shadows and This Darkling Magic, and am about to publish the fourth, This Strange Magic, which completes all the arcs of the first four books in the Rift series.
Stephanie: Do you work with an outline or do you just write?
C.M.J.: Because my books have many layers of intrigue and several primary plot lines, before I start writing I outline the plot and each chapter. Both outlines are fluid; by the time I’m done tweaking them and writing notes, it looks as if I sacrificed some hapless chicken over them.
Stephanie: Is there a particular writer who has influenced your own writing?
C.M.J.: Stephen R. Donaldson is my favorite writer. I used his Mordant’s Need series to create my writing style, dissecting the books and then emulating what made me love them. Pat Conroy is another author who uses rich prose. And although Thomas Harris’s writing isn’t exactly beautiful, it has the ability to draw the reader right into the story, and his characters are well rounded.
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
C.M.J.: I found out about indieBRAG on a Goodreads thread, probably in the Goodreads Authors/Readers group. It includes a lively bunch who discuss many, many issues pertinent to indie authors.
C.M.J.: Sing the Midnight Stars, book 1 of the Rift series
Flight of Shadows, book 2 of the Rift series
This Darkling Magic, book 3 of the Rift series
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview C.M.J. Wallace, who is the author of, Sing the Midnight Stars, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Sing the Midnight Stars merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.