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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Writer interview - Mandy Ward

Once upon a time when I was in kindergarten I was told I couldn't draw. My dancing was good and my singing was really good, but drawing was something I should just leave off my to do list, I was told. The same was repeated to me later during my school years. Technical drawing - certainly, but creative drawing - forget it!

And so for the longest time I stayed away from drawing. Until, one day, I sort of just scribbled something on a random piece of paper at a family gathering, and someone looked over my shoulder and said, "Hey, I didn't know you could draw!" To which I replied, "I didn't either."

Ever since then I continued to draw on a fairly regular basis - random sketches, fantasy scenes, book illustrations, etc. As with any other exercise, with practice came some considerable improvement. I became pretty good. Enter Mandy Ward a.k.a. fantasy writer Kira Morgana.

Have you ever read something filled with images so evocative that you could literally see them as clearly as you do the surrounding reality? To me, such is Mandy's writing. It doesn't matter whether it is one of her delightful pieces from the children's Land Far Away series or a profoundly creepy scene involving the Dark Overlord and his talking jar from the world of The Tower And The Eye. When I read Mandy's work, my hand instinctively reaches for the nearest writing implement and a piece of paper, because her characters are simply begging to be seen.

Mandy's environments are expansive, exquisitely detailed and possess limitless variety. Having become a primary illustrator for the Land Far Away series, I once joked that I was getting my workout by drawing all the different backdrops involved in just one story.

She is as fearless with her characters and story lines as she is with her settings. They are many, they are wonderfully alive, powerful and flawed at the same time, they overlap, they interact, they diverge, creating an often complex and very involved but unfailingly enjoyable conglomeration.

My favorite part about Mandy's writing is that she avoids one of the major pitfalls observed in the work of some much more experienced writers. She is equally generous in settings, descriptions and details with both her positive characters and those that are far less than lovable. The thoroughly unpleasant solicitor Mr. Holewinsky in the first of the Arking Down books (soon to be published, I hope, yes that is a hint) is portrayed just as carefully and diligently as the much more positive teenage protagonist Jenny and her friends.

While one might get an impression that Mandy Ward is well and truly locked in her fantasy world, that would be a grave misconception. This woman is no ivory tower dweller. She runs a household, takes care of her significant other, raises two small kids, produces a fantastic blog The World of the Tiger Princess and an utterly fabulous monthly webzine Welcome to Wherever. So, it is with no small pleasure that I offer you an interview with this fantastic person and author, because with such heavy work load it took some finagling to find the time.

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What is your favorite virtue?
Creativity – I love what creative people can do no matter what the form is. Be it Art, Fiction, Poetry, Films, Music… I love it all.

Your favorite qualities in a man. Humour – I’m not keen on racist humour, but I don’t mind sexist. I picked that up from working as a DT Teacher, which can be a very male environment.

Sensitivity – I love to see a man with emotional sensitivity, although there is such a thing as a man being too sensitive.

Your favorite qualities in a woman. Listening Skills – contrary to popular belief, not all women have them. I honed mine when I was a Technical Adviser, but sometimes, I like to be listened to as well!

Humour – I like to be able to laugh at the same things.

Your chief characteristic. My Modesty – Some people (looking at no one in particular) call this my “Yes, But…” Attitude. I do appreciate that I have done some good things so far in my publishing career and I am proud that I have done them. I just don’t think that pushing them in everyone’s faces is a good idea. It creates resentment and I don’t want people to resent me!

What do you appreciate the most about your friends? They’ve been there for me when I have been black and when I’ve been happy. I only wish that I could meet them in person!

Your main fault.
I let things get to me far too easily. I have a fairly thick skin when it comes to stuff like rejections but on a personal level it is a lot harder for me to ignore.

Your favorite occupation. Writing…teaching…writing…teaching… Hmm. Tricky one…

Writing is my favourite, but I love teaching, especially workshop things like metal work and woodwork. I love getting my hands dirty and making something out of raw material satisfies something primal in me. It’s probably why I have so many practical hobbies!

I enjoy seeing the kids get into the zone when they are making and their pride when they finish a project.

Your idea of happiness. Enough money to pay all the bills for the rest of my life. That way I wouldn’t have to worry and I could get on and enjoy what I do, so much better! I’d also be able to enjoy my family time and know that my children would be happier with me happy.

Your idea of misery. Not being able to write ever again. Or read… *shudders* the thought of losing those abilities really does scare me.

If not yourself, who would you be? Polgara the Sorceress from David & Leigh Eddings The Belgariad / The Malloreon – She’s how I want to be when I grow up. Strong, elegant and happy in herself, with no excuses for any of her faults!

Your favorite heroes in fiction. Ahem… the last question is one of them! Polgara’s Grandfather, Belgarath is another one. David Eddings (with help from his wife) had such a wonderful dry wit and his characters all seem very real to me.

I also love Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Death and Archchancellor Ridcully from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

They are incredibly well drawn personalities and I love Sir Terry’s take on Magic, as personified by Granny Weatherwax and Archchancellor Ridcully. Nanny Ogg is one person I would love to have as a relative; life would never be dull with her around! Death as an anthropomorphic personification makes the whole idea of physical death easier to handle.

Your favorite heroes in real life.
Sir Terry Pratchett is a Major Hero for me – I’m fairly certain that if I was diagnosed with Alzheimers, I’d just curl up. His energy in campaigning for the cause as well as churning out a book is astounding.

Jo Rowling is also a Heroine of mine. She managed to write a book as a single mum and despite the number of rejections (I do hope those people are kicking themselves now) she won through and became a massive success!

Most of my heroes and heroines in life are everyday kind of people who still manage to be successful Authors. People like Joanne Ellis, John Booth, Charlotte Castle and Jake Barton inspire me to keep going – that maybe one day I’ll be as good as them. I know I can’t reach the heights of JKR or Sir Terry, but dagnabbit, I’m gonna try!

Your favorite food and drink. I love lemon… Lemon Drizzle Cake, proper Lemonade, Lemon Sorbet… I also adore Lime in the same way. So much food is just too sweet!

My favourite meal is Chicken Fajitas (mild though – no Chillies, I get hives with them!) and Lemon Sorbet for afters… or possibly Lemon Meringue.

What is your present state of mind? Stressed! It’s the holidays and having the kids around tends to make me a little edgy.

Other than that, I’m feeling positive. My eBook is getting sold, not a massive rush, but I never expected that anyway – no one has heard of me for a start!

Your personal motto. I collect quotes, but this one is as close as I can get to a motto…

“Growing up is inevitable. Growing old is optional.” - ArtemisX5, Webook

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Mandy's latest book The Tower And The Eye: A Beginning is available on Amazon

It is a profoundly captivating tale - the very stuff of dreams for the hard core fantasy fans.

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