I’ll bet you thought today was just an ordinary day, right? Well, fellow author Mary Sutton and I decided to create our own special event, Power Play Day, in honor of our books for young readers. Mary did the below interview with me, centering around her novel Power Play: Hero’s Sword Vol. 1. For Mary’s book, power play has the political meaning of a person making a grab for control. That shadowy figure trying to undermine the Empire of the game world is the thread for her series arc: who is he, how is young protagonist Jaycee going to stop him, and the final confrontation. I’m sure intrigued!
Power play has a totally different meaning in terms of my book. Mary interviewed me on her blog about my young adult hockey novel Face-Off, which tells the story of twin brothers Brad and T.J. McKendrick and their rivalry both on and off the ice. Ice hockey fans will know that a team is said to be on a power play when at least one opposing player is serving a penalty, and the team has a numerical advantage on the ice. I’m super-excited to chat about this book as not only is Face-Off available in paperback and e-book editions, but the audio version is brand new to Amazon, Audible and iTunes this month.
Mary Sutton, also known as M.E. Sutton, authored the book Power Play: Hero's Sword Vol.1.
So there you have it! Put together two books for juvenile readers, two behind-the-scenes interviews, and two authors procrastinating on writing their next books, and you have Power Play Day
. I hope you enjoy reading Mary’s interview below and then hopping over
to mine. A software technical writer during the day, Mary Sutton has been making her living with words for over a decade. She writes the HERO’s SWORD middle-grade fantasy series as M.E. Sutton. She also writes crime fiction under the name Liz Milliron.
You were writing even in middle school. How has your writing style and subject matter evolved over the years?
I hope it’s gotten a lot more mature, that’s for sure. When I wrote in middle-school, it was very simplistic. I wasn’t very popular, so I wrote to escape that awkward social scene. The stories didn’t vary a whole lot. I was the heroine. I was everything that I wanted to be, but wasn’t – cool, tough, wisecracking, and pretty. I didn’t write crime fiction at all. It was mostly fantasy – I guess you’d call it urban fantasy. I found some of it a few years ago, and it was really pretty dreadful. Since then, I’ve learned a lot of craft I just had no clue about as a 13-year old. Things like backstory and passive voice, and “head-hopping.” My writing voice sounds a lot more polished now and I’m able to write both male and female POV (although my writing group members say everything definitely has my “stamp” on it). The one thing that I think has kind of stayed the same is the base subject matter. There’s always a sense of the protagonist “finding” herself or coming into her own in response to upheaval in her life. As a reader, I love watching a character evolve and grow, especially when I want her to be successful. That’s what I hope I bring to every story I write, be it middle-grade fantasy or crime fiction – a character you can root for because you care about her.
How did you get the idea for Power Play: Hero’s Sword Vol. 1? Could you tell us about the book?
I got an introduction to my publisher through Facebook. He had the idea for e-books targeted to young people – maybe ages 7-10. He had some vague idea of a book based on a video game and asked me to make a pitch. So I thought, what does every kid who likes video games thing about? Being part of the game, especially if it’s a role-based game, such as Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft. That got me thinking: what would happen if a girl, a fan of such a game, got a magic controller and found herself in the game as her avatar character? What would she do? And the idea for Hero’s Sword was born.
In the first book, Jaycee orders a brand-new controller. But when it arrives and she plugs it in, she finds herself in the world of Hero’s Sword as her character, Lyla Stormbringer – who is, of course, a heroine. She finds herself on a quest for the lady of the estate. Along the way, she has to work to solve that mystery – but she also learns a little about herself, things that she can use to help her survive eighth grade, especially against her nemesis, the captain of the cheerleading squad.
How did you come up with the character of Jaycee Hiller? What are some of her qualities and will she be the protagonist of future books in the series?
I have a daughter in seventh grade. Jaycee is a little bit of her, and a lot of her friends. Middle-school is such a painful time for kids – especially girls, but boys too. It’s can be a whole new social circle, new friends, new enemies, new activities. Kids are trying to figure out where they fit in this scene, and they’re dealing with all the changes of adolescence too. I think it all makes middle-school the toughest educational years. So Jaycee is really every middle school kid I’ve encountered by watching my daughter and her friends. She’s smart (book smart and socially aware), active, determined, and inquisitive – and a little independent. She’s not popular and she knows it, which means she’s also a little under-confident. She spends a lot of time trying not to be noticed. She will definitely be the protagonist; the series is all about her finding her inner strength and “owning her space” in the world. I’ve gotten some reviews from this age group that say they really relate to this character. As an author, that is so thrilling to hear.
Do you have any other books in the series written or outlined yet? How do you see the series and the characters evolving?
Head over to Mary's blog to read the second Power Play interview, about Face-Off.
I just send the manuscript for book #2 to my publisher, I’m working on the first draft of book #3, and I have a completed treatment for book #4 (I like to have planned at least one book beyond what I’m writing). The challenges are going to get bigger, the stakes are going to get higher – both in the game quests and in real life. I want to take the nature of these video game quests a little darker (without going over the line, of course). Jaycee is going to be pushed out of her comfort zone and she’s going to learn about the person she is. More importantly, she’s going to learn about the person she wants to be. I actually had a dream one night about the final (or one of the final) scene in the series and I hope it will be as empowering for my readers as it is for me.
Are you a fan of video games yourself? If so, what are your favorites?
I am, actually. My favorites are the Nintendo LEGEND OF ZELDA games – you know, the questing/puzzle solving/save the princess dynamic. I guess that isn’t surprising considering the nature of Hero’s Sword. And I like puzzle games, ones that make you think and be creative.
What are the biggest differences between writing for kids and adults? Does one age group come easier for you than the other?
I think the themes are the same, really – growth and self-discovery. The main difference, for me, is the treatment of those themes. Kids relate to different story elements than adults. There’s just some stuff that I write for adults that kids, especially middle-school kids, are not ready for – explicit sex and violence, you know. And there is definitely a different “tone” for kids. When you have a 13-year old narrator, that character has to sound like a teenager and that’s more than just changing my fifty-dollar word vocabulary (I was an English major in college, so I read lots of Shakespeare and Austen). It’s a completely different thought pattern, and that was a real challenge to master. Now that I recognize that, though, I’m completely comfortable switching from kids to adults and I wouldn’t say one is easier than the other. I just have to immerse myself in the characters first.
You’re a brown-belt student of Songahm taekwondo. What do you like about taekwondo.and how did you get interested in it?
My son was the first student in our family. When the school owner learned I was a writer, she approached me about writing articles for the monthly newsletter in exchange for training. I’d been interested in martial arts years go, I just never had the time or the money, so I said yes. What I like about it is that it encompasses so much more than just athleticism and all that movie-style fighting. Songham taekwondo really stresses discipline, focus, and determination – a lot of things that are important to being a successful writer. And I like the fact that the only person I’m competing with is myself. I take class with some 20-year-olds and I will never kick or jump as high as they do, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that I’m working to the best of my ability and putting forth my best effort every time I get on the floor. There’s so much negative pressure to compare yourself to others – like your sales numbers or author rank on Amazon. And it helps me stay active, which is good because writing is a very sedentary activity.
Book Blurb and Buy Links:
All Jaycee Hiller wants to do is survive eighth grade. Mostly that means hanging with her friend, Stu, avoiding the cheerleading squad, secretly crushing on Nate Fletcher, and playing her favorite video game, Hero’s Sword. When she receives a new video game controller, Jaycee finds herself magically transported into the Hero’s Sword video game world. Survival takes on a whole new meaning. No longer battling with a plastic joystick, Jaycee picks up a real sword and bow & arrow and readies herself for battle. Can she save Lady Starla’s rule in Mallory, keep herself in one piece, and maybe even learn something about surviving middle school?
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Web site: http://marysuttonauthor.com