to The Qwillery.
(Amra Thetys 4) was published on November 15, 2016 by Ragnarok Publications.
Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys Series
Sometimes an idea for a novel (seemingly, at least) jumps out of a writer's brain fully-formed, like Athena springing from Zeus's forehead. Other times, it can start with a single image, as John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman
to have done:
John Fowles often found his storytelling skills inspired by mental images, scenes that evoke a sense of mystery and demand an explanation. In December 1966, he had one of these charged visions. “A woman stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea,” he later recalled. “This image rose in my mind one morning when I was still in bed half asleep.”
The creation of the Amra Thetys series bears more resemblance to Fowles's Sarah Woodruff than any Greek creation myth. I was sitting in my terrible motel room-turned apartment in Austin, Texas. It was 2001 or 2002, and I was trying to teach myself how to write fiction on an old Brother word processor. I don't remember if I was lying down or taking a shower or eating a sandwich over the sink (the apartment was small enough that I could almost have been doing all three at once), but I do remember that first image: A person standing high up in a broken tower, surveying a storm-lashed, deserted, ruined city. This person's back was to me, and at first I thought it was a young man (I knew somehow already that this person was a thief) Then I realized it was a woman who was not effeminate, either in looks or demeanor, and that she was starving.
From there the questions flowed – what was she doing there? If she was starving, why didn't she leave? What was she looking at? In time, all the questions led to answers which led to more questions, and soon enough I had a little fourteen thousand word novella, a couple of characters that I really enjoyed writing about, and the makings of a world that, while it wasn't very deep, was really quite broad. Soon enough after that, the novella had expanded into a novel (now titled The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye
Now it's coming to the end of 2016, and there are four Amra Thetys books out there in the wild; people seem to like them okay, for the most part. The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids
(first in the series, second written) won Mark Lawrence's SPFBO for 2015-2016, and Luck's Good Eye
(then titled THAGOTH) was a Del Rey Digitial First Novel Competition winner in 2002.
Very little of the writing in the Amra Thetys series was ever done with a conscious eye toward the market, or trends. They're short books, for the fantasy genre – south of three hundred pages. They're first person point of view. They're much more sword & sorcery, and even noir/hardboiled detective, then they are epic fantasy, at least on the surface. They've even been accused of having steampunk elements.
None of these elements, needless to say, are calculated to give George R.R. Martin a run for his money. So why then, have they enjoyed the small but real success that they have? The author is probably the worst person to answer such a question, but I think that the appeal of the series is all in the characters.
The fact is, Amra and her companion Holgren aren't perfect people. Sure, they're smart and capable, and on balance you'd have to tip them into the bucket marked 'good guys' (though both would go screaming their protests, and try to claw their way out as soon as they landed). But what I like about them is their humanity – they both have parts, both physical and emotional, that have been broken, and have healed imperfectly, and it shows in their thoughts, their dialogue, their choices and actions. Paragons are widely admired, but seldom liked. Amra and Holgren are far from paragons.
I think that any fiction, be it written or filmed, has a much better chance of meaning something to readers if the characters who inhabit it are believable. That's why I've worked very hard to make sure that every character in the series – even the ones with walk-on parts – are constructed with something sturdier than cardboard. Many of them are pretty despicable, and at least a couple are definitely insane, but I made a point to try and make them interesting and believable
My personal preference is for stories about people, rather than plot-driven tales. If you as a reader have the same taste, I hope you'll give the Amra Thetys series a try, and tell me what you thought.
Michael McClung was born and raised in Texas, but now kicks around Southeast Asia. He's been a soldier, a cook, a book store manager, and a bowling alley pin boy.
His first novel was published by Random House in 2003. He then self-published the first three books of the Amra Thetys
series, the first being The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids
, before signing them and the fourth book (The Thief Who Wasn't There
) with Ragnarok.
In Michael's spare time, he enjoys kickball, brooding, and picking scabs. Website