Maria and I met on a writers' loop a couple of years ago. We then discovered we both live in the greater Dallas area. For the past two years, we've met for lunch or dinner a couple of times a month and also critique each other's work online.
In addition to being a writer, Maria is an enormously talented painter and graphic artist. And, today, her first novel--a futuristic fantasy titled Touch of Fire--is being published by Samhain. Here is the gorgeous cover:
I've asked her to come talk to us today about the new novel.
Maria, tell us about Touch of Fire.
1200 years from now, technology on Earth has been replaced by elemental magic. Society is divided between the plainfolk and the fae, mages who can wield one of the four great elements: air, water, earth, and fire.
An ancient alchemist's bible has surfaced, a book that threatens to bring back the technology of the last age. Leda, a fire mage, has been charged with locating the book. The trail leads her to Greyhawke Tams, an ex-soldier turned scavenger who'd rather rot in jail than help one of the Elementals.
But they need each other more than they know. A powerful warlord is hunting them both. Grey has been marked for death, but the warlord needs Leda as a breeder in his quest to create a fifth Elemental.
What made you write a futuristic fantasy?
I love all sorts of fantasy, but I have a soft spot for futuristics, especially if they're set on Earth. There's a little bit of the social scientist in me. I like speculating how society will evolve and grow. For me, the most enjoyable part of writing Touch of Fire was the world building.
I had a blast extrapolating the perception of everyday objects and beliefs and giving them logical extensions at how they would appear in a world that's been stripped of technology and 21st century mores.
Talk about how Touch of Fire came to be published.
It's all your fault, Maya! LOL! Last year, Samhain Publishing had a First Line Contest. At the time I didn't have a manuscript, but I had a vague concept for a fantasy. I remember you goading me. "Go on," you said. "All you need are five lines."
I entered the contest and was one of the winners. I was shocked—and then horrified because now I needed to turn in a full manuscript. It was a rocky few weeks but when I finished, I absolutely fell in love with the story, the characters, and the world. It was a place I wanted to revisit. Now I'm planning the sequel.
Any hints about the sequel?
Two words. Time travel. Our heroes will be wreaking havoc at an office building near you.
What's been the most surprising aspect about this journey to publication?
I think the thing that sticks out in my mind is that you're never quite ready for the curtain to rise. Suddenly, that simple little story you concocted in the recesses of your brain is part of a much larger domain. The journey takes an author's closeted idea and throws it out on an open field. What grows--or doesn't is up to the seed and the elements.
My deepest wish is that this will be a book that people will love as much as I do. I hope it touches them and strikes a sense of wonder and surprise. At its core, Touch of Fire is a story about marvel and magic, and discovering what you're made of when it counts.
It's about the future, but it's also about the present. It's about us, how we change, yet how we stay the same.
How can people find you and your book?
The link to read an excerpt and buy the e-book is here. You'll also be able to buy the print copy in a few months.
I hope people read the book and are excited enough by the story to drop me a line. I love meeting new people! I know a lot of folks say that writing is a lonely and solitary profession, but that hasn't been true for me. Quite the opposite. It's been a whirlwind of interaction and strong friendships. I hope it never stops.
Please visit me on my blog http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/ or my website: http://www.mariazannini.com/. And if you're the friending type, feel free to friend me over at MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/mariazannini .
I'm looking forward to buying the e-book. Any last words?
Maya, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to have a contest on your blog. Let's call it, "The Day After Contest". One winner will be chosen from anyone who posts a comment here and makes a prediction about the future.
Here are the details:
On December 21, 2012, the Mayan calendar abruptly ends. Tell me what happens the day AFTER, on December 22, 2012. The best and/or funniest prediction (imho) will win a free download for Touch of Fire. Contest ends: 24 hours after the time/date of this post.
Thanks for having me over, Maya! If people are judged by the friends they keep, I am in wonderful company.
Thanks for visiting, Maria. I'm really excited about Touch of Fire. Congratulations, again.