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Author Interview + Giveaway: M.R. Merrick

I am so unbelievably happy to have M.R. Merrick on the blog today. I absolutely love his The Protector Series and I’ve wanted to interview him for the longest time. Well, that day has finally come.

I put him in the hot seat and he was awesome enough to answer almost every single question I threw at him. And he has agreed to stop by next week to share a scene-slash-interview where Rayna puts Chase through a grilling of her own.

I also am having a small giveaway of a couple sets of his books to two winners. So, after you learn just a little bit more about this awesome author, be sure to check it out below.

About the Books

Chase Williams is a demon hunter in the Circle, or at least he was supposed to be. On his fifteenth birthday, Chase stepped up to the altar to claim his elemental power, but it never came. Elemental magic is passed down to a hunter through the bloodline, but on Chase’s birthday, the bloodline stopped.

Exiled without the Circle’s protection, Chase has spent two years trying to survive a world riddled with half-demons and magic. When he has a run in with a frightened and seemingly innocent demon, he learns the Circle’s agenda has changed: the Circle plans to unlock a portal and unleash pure-blood demons into the world. Vowing to stop them, and knowing he can’t do it alone, Chase forms a reluctant alliance with Rayna — a sexy witch with an attitude and a secret.

In their attempt to stop them, Chase and Rayna find themselves in the middle of the Circle’s plan, leaving one of them to decide what their friendship is worth, and the other’s life depending on it.

Find it: AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, GOODREADS

 ***Warning: The description for SHIFT is SPOILER-Y***

Devastated by a terrible loss, Chase is trying to balance the life he’s been left with, a family he’s still getting to know, and power he never thought he’d have. He doesn’t understand why the Goddess has named him the Protector and granted him two gifts: the Mark, a tattoo that now covers his back, and the ring. But between getting interrogated by the Circle and psychic attacks from Riley, the Mark is the least of his concern. There’s a demon inside Rayna that’s fighting to be released, and it’s not her inner witch. It’s something else—a monster threatening to tear her apart.

As Chase struggles to control his magic, his enemies are closing in. Everyone has staked a claim on his ring, and destroying it may be his only chance to stop Riley. But Chase must decide if stopping him is worth risking the lives of everyone he cares about, or if protecting the ring will be enough to save his world.

Find it: AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, GOODREADS

 About the Author

M.R. Merrick is a Canadian writer, and author of Exiled & Shift, the first two installments in The Protector Series. Having never travelled, he adventures to far off lands through his imagination and in between cups of coffee. As a music lover and proud breakfast enthusiast, he’s usually found at the computer, between a pair of headphones and in front of a large bowl of cereal.

Find him: TWITTER, FACEBOOK, BLOG, GOODREADS

Now that you had a chance to get to know a little bit about The Protector Series and read his very brief bio, here’s the interview, where I ask him just a few… maybe more than a few… questions about himself, his writing and cereal.


Q. For those readers of the blog who might not know you, your stories or characters quite as well as I do, how would you describe yourself in ten words or less and your The Protector Series in ten words or less?

Me: goofy, creative, witty, weird, and fun

The Protector Series: action-packed, magical, unique, fast paced, Fantasy mash-up

Fiktshun: I think you summed both yourself and your series up perfectly! 😉

Q. What made you decide to become an author? Have you always loved to write and create stories and travel to “far off lands through [your] imagination” or has your passion for writing come to you recently?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but creative writing is entirely new to me. Five years ago, I could count on both hands how many books I’d read cover to cover. My wife brought home a few books for me one day and asked that I at least ‘try’ to sit down and get into them. She was a big reader, and she was sure if I gave it a shot, I would enjoy it. After a few of those books, I fell in love with words in a whole different way.

Writing is something that came a few years after that, about three years ago. It happened completely by accident; I was in the routine of putting my daughter to bed at night with a story, usually one I’d make up on the fly. She seemed to really enjoy them – she’s five, not exactly difficult to impress – but it really stretched the boundaries of my imagination and got my creative juices flowing.

I’ve always had this strange fascination with “what if we could create and control the elements at our will?” That’s something I’ve always day dreamed about. After a particularly rough week in the life of Matt, I decided I wanted an escape. Usually I would turn to movies or a good book for this, but for some reason it wasn’t working. They had parts of what I wanted, but not quite what I was looking for, so I decided to disappear into my own world where those abilities were possible. I’d write out someone else’s problems, and create an escape, that had everything I wanted, just for me.

Fiktshun: Wow, that’s so awesome. I totally have to thank your wife for getting you into reading in the first place! But to be able to take to writing so quickly without having been an avid reader all your life just shows how expansive your imagination is and how naturally talented a writer you really are!

Q. What was the first story you’ve ever written? Did you ever let anyone read it or is it buried deep inside a trunk?

I sat down and wrote thirty thousand words about six months before starting Exiled, then realized I didn’t have a story, or plot, or any clue what I was doing. I had no desire to publish – the thought had never crossed my mind – so I threw it away. Six months later, Exiled became the second story I’d ever started and the first to be complete outside of a school project many years ago. Most people in the publishing industry tell you that your first manuscript will probably never see the light of day, because you’ve yet to develop and hone the craft, but I didn’t believe that was true. I thought I could be the exception.

In hindsight, after writing Shift, and currently working on Book 3, I see the massive growth I’ve made as a writer since I wrote Exiled, so I see what they meant now, but I still love Exiled and I wouldn’t go back and change anything. I had this story inside me that I wanted to share with the world, and I spent a long time putting the pieces together so that I could. I’m proud of it, even if it goes against the “rules.”

Fiktshun: Another WOW! To have your second real attempt be something that you release into the wild is incredible. And to have it as polished as it is, and received with such a great reception, is awesome. Seriously, seriously awesome.

Q. You have a job, a family and you write. How do you find the time and energy to be creative when you’re juggling so many different things? What are your biggest challenges in trying to do it all?

If you want something bad enough, you make it happen. No excuses, you just find a way.

I cut out pretty much all television, and a lot of reading from my life. I stopped going out as often, almost completely quit playing video games, and I don’t watch nearly as many movies as I used to. I miss those things, of course, but I had to make time to write. In my case, it was weighing what was more important to me; writing four to ten thousand words a night, following a newly discovered passion and potentially making a dream come true, or lounging on the couch and watching TV.

I’m hoping in the future I’ll be at home, writing full-time, so that will unlock a lot more potential time for creating new worlds, and hopefully I’ll be able to get back a little time for the things I’ve given up.

The biggest struggle however, is balance. It’s hard to get lost in a story for weeks on end, and not ignore the rest of the world. On the other hand, you can’t be out with the real world, and ignoring the one you’re creating in the basement either. It’s a catch-twenty-two, especially once promoting becomes a part of it. Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, Goodreads, writing, family, friends, work, sleep….it’s a fine line to find the right balance. I’ve been struggling with it for a while now, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.

Fiktshun: Agreed. There are no real excuses outside of work and family. TV, movies, video games can all take a back seat if you want to create something amazing. I hope you get the chance to write full-time, too. It is a very different experience when getting lost in a world is what you do for a living.

And please share. I’m sure every blogger and writer wants to know your secret about finding the right balance!

Q. You mention that you love to listen to music constantly. Do you write with a soundtrack? What are your favorite songs to listen to while you write your most action-packed scenes? Your most heart-wrenching? What songs do you like to listen to when writing a typical scene with Chase, the main character in your series? And for Rayna, the heroine in your series?

My process has changed with each book I’ve written. Exiled and Shift I wrote entirely to music. When editing, I cut the music and focused on the story. Now, when I sit down to write Book 3, I don’t even turn music on. I read over what I wrote last, and become so lost in the story I don’t even think about it. This book has captivated me in a way I haven’t experienced before. However, I will say that while driving or listening to music in general, the story comes to life in my head and new ideas start popping up everywhere, so it is still playing its part, just in a different way.

Paramore was my favorite when writing Exiled and Shift. It’s something about their tone and voice that captures this story for me. They have such a variety of songs that their music worked for the action, the heart-wrenching, and everything in between scenes.

For some of the fighting and emotional scenes, specifically with Chase, Eminem and Linkin Park played a big part. For Rayna, it’s AC/DC, Paramore, and sometimes Adele. I hear Thunderstruck and I instantly picture Rayna. I hear a few songs from Adele, and I see the last scene in Exiled. Eminem echo’s through my head in multiple scenes with Chase. Music has played a huge part in my characters emotions and the story’s development.

Fiktshun: It’s so interesting that the process has changed so dramatically for this third book. But it’s a great thing! And I’m so super curious to see just how different this next book will be without having a musical backdrop drive your emotional state while writing.

Oh, and great music choices. I like that you have an old school band like AC/DC in the mix, too. I can totally see that with regard to Rayna. She’s so seriously kick-a**.

Q. Your series is written from the point of view of a male main character, Chase Williams. What would you say to those who are somewhat hesitant about reading a book from a boy’s POV to win them over?

You’re getting the best of both worlds!

You still get the kick-butt heroine that so many of us love to read about. Rayna is a prominent character in the series and she grows as the books go on, becoming more involved. So you’re actually getting a story told from a different perspective, which can be refreshing and unique, but still receiving what you love in a book told from a female’s POV. And anyone who has read these books knows Rayna doesn’t mess around.

Fiktshun: Ha! No she doesn’t. No she doesn’t at all. 🙂

Q. The Protector Series could be categorized as an epic/urban fantasy. What made you choose this type of story to write? Is this a sub-genre that you think you’ll continue to write or is there another area you are interested in?

I became especially nervous about this when I was considering querying this to agents. How do I categorize this? They say to pick what shelf it would be on in a book store – that’s your genre. But my book fits the bill with both. In the end, I’m told if any part of your story takes place in another world, it is Epic Fantasy, but I don’t know if I agree. A huge part of this book is very much Urban Fantasy, and a lot of the time that’s a completely different audience.

I love both Epic and Urban Fantasy, so naturally I craved a book that had a taste for both. I know this really bothers some readers, but many of them like the way it works. Because I originally wrote Exiled without any plans to publish, I never put much thought into making it one or the other. I started to write this series for me, to create a story and a world that I wanted, but had yet to experience. So since I liked both, I incorporated both.

I’m not entirely certain everything I ever write will contain both aspects of those Fantasy genres, but you can definitely count on me mixing it up again. I’ve loved creating and exploring all these worlds in my own way, so I look forward to doing it again with new characters, a new story, new worlds, and new monsters. Creating them all is one of my favorites parts of writing.

Fiktshun: I personally love the mix between the urban fantasy and epic fantasy. I love that you took it to a new world. It was a definite surprise, but a great one. And there are so many books that cross that line, especially when it comes to writing stories involving the fae. I love getting a taste of both worlds and not being limited to just the one. So why should you get stuck with just the one in yours?

Q. Many authors who write urban fantasy/epic adventure stories really put their characters through some pretty difficult situations. You’re no exception. Both Chase and Rayna have not had an easy time of it. Had you always intended for them to be put to the test so often and with such negative outcomes? Do you plan on having them continue down such a tough road in the next book in the series?

I knew when I started Exiled I wanted to put my main character in a tough spot. Since I wrote it as an escape for me, I wanted to explore someone else’s issues and make them dramatically worse than my own, so Chase started off in a rough spot, as did Rayna.

As the story has progressed however, I never intentionally did anything to be mean. With Shift I wrote an outline, but it veered far off course, and I’m finding the same thing happening with Book 3. Once I sit down and let the world swallow me, I don’t even see the computer screen or the words. I watch it all happen in my mind and write it down. I don’t always pay attention to where things are going, or what a character is doing. I know where I want it all to go, but mostly I just let the story unfold on its own. If there are issues, I can fix them later. I’d say the story and characters truly put themselves through all of this. I’m not creating as much as I am logging the events of the story they’re telling me. That might sound kind of silly, but I don’t know how else to explain it.

Fiktshun: Well, while you never intended to be mean, things definitely got a bit more dire for both characters… for all of the “good” ones, really. But I totally get what you mean. You get absorbed by the world and it just sort of takes over. The characters and the story tell you what to write instead of the other way around. Isn’t that how all great stories are written?

Q. If you had to add yourself into your story, what type of character would you be? And would you be left standing when the series ended or would you have met your end early on?

I think I’d probably be a hunter, or an ancient half-demon. Either way, I’d probably try to give Chase a run for his money…and probably leave with a few less teeth than when I came. Whether or not I survived would probably depend if I could swallow my pride and fall in line behind Chase and Rayna – mostly Rayna; she’s scary when she’s mad.

Fiktshun: It’s good to know you wouldn’t pit yourself against your characters. And yes, you probably would want to fall in line behind Rayna. That would be the smart choice.

Q. You mentioned that you like to watch movies over and over and over again. (A habit I just so happen to have, so I completely relate.) Currently, what is your favorite movie to watch repeatedly? What is your most watched film?

Since I started writing, I haven’t got to explore this wonderful habit like I used to. In the last few years, I’ve been really obsessed with Troy, Cinderella Man, and….Defintiely, Maybe. Don’t ask, I can’t explain what my mind wants to see, it just tells me and I try not to argue.

My most watched film of all-time is probably Labyrinth. I remember as a kid, going to rent it every single weekend. And when I say I watch movies over and over again, I wasn’t kidding. I would rent it Friday, watch it, and as soon as it ended, I’d rewind the tape and watch it again. Aside from sleeping, this would happen all weekend long. I can pretty much say “My name is Hoggle!” in a perfect Hoggle voice.

Fiktshun: You definitely have an eclectic mix of films that you enjoy. I own three of the four you’ve mentioned but aside from Labyrinth, I don’t think I’ve watched the others more than twice. Like you, I’m a bit obsessed with that film, though I cannot do any of the voices.

And I did the exact same thing with movies. I used watch them over and over and try to memorize all the lines in the films. Now I just do that with books I love.

Q. You have also mentioned that you know all the words to the music in Labyrinth. (I think that soundtrack is awesome!) What is it about the music in that movie that you love? And do you like the movie as much as the music?

The movie and music coincide together perfectly. You can’t have one without the other. If you take away the goblins, the baby in red and white stripped pajamas, and David Bowie with overdone make-up, crazy poofy hair, and tight grey spandex pants, the song “Dance, Magic, Dance” (my favorite), is just silly. You can’t hear that song without envisioning them in the castle.

That being said, watching the movie without the music, like watching the little dudes take their body parts apart to the “Chilly Down” song (also my favorite), wouldn’t be nearly as epic in my mind. I don’t think either would have the same impact without feeding off the other.

The movie is awesome and the music makes me want to dance; together they’re both just…fun.

Fiktshun: Agreed. You really can’t. It’s such a perfect fit. There are only a handful of soundtracks that are that in sync with the movie. And “Magic Dance” is one of my favorites, but “As the World Falls Down” just happens to be my very most favorite. It’s just so pretty and magical.

Q. With your The Protector Series, you decided to self-publish instead of reach out to a traditional publishing house. What has been the best part about being in control of the process? What is one of the perks of having a publisher’s backing that you miss?

Content and cover control.

I love sending my design idea to the cover artist and seeing her bring it to life. I get full control of that, and I get final call. I decide what face my product has and I get to implement something unique and original, rather than running the risk of something potentially recycled.

Content control is amazing. I don’t have to worry about someone telling me that they want me to rewrite this or that to “fit the genre,” or change the ending. I get to write the story I want to tell, and people are both reading, and enjoying it. It sucks when I have to cut a part I love for the sake of the story’s best interest, but it’s part of the process and I’m glad that when it goes, it’s because I decided to take it out.

Outside of that, it’s the challenge. I love a challenge, and I want to put out a product that is equal to or exceeding traditional publishers. Great editing, top notch cover art, awesome blubs and novel lines are all part of that. I don’t want anyone to be able to distinguish my books from a traditional book. I want that quality in my product, and I’m working my butt off to try and achieve it.

What I miss? Support.

I know publishers don’t spend a ton of marketing dollars on unknown authors, but if I do everything I’m doing now with the support of a large publisher and an experienced agent it could be pretty great. The publisher would be a huge help for things like reach and audience, but in general, I think I’d take more away from working with an agent.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of support in the indie community, but you’re really tackling most of this alone. To have the experience a publisher and agent bring to the table, combined with my own experience after self-publishing and doing EVERYTHING by myself…well, I think there could be a lot of fantastic outcomes from a situation like that.

And outside of those points, it’s the stress. I’m missing the fact I don’t have a team to work with. Someone working with me to do cover art (assuming I get some genuine input), discussing marketing and schedules, having someone else set up my reviews and send out ARC’s. I do a lot of this now, I pay for all of it, and sometimes it’s just too much. It’d be nice to work with someone else, and have some of the other things taken off my plate.

Fiktshun: You make great points about the pros and cons of each. Having the control is a great part about self-publishing. But having the help that going the traditional route provides is huge.

Though you do have an editor who helps give your finished product that polish that a traditionally published book has, so while the content choice is ultimately yours, I’m guessing you cede to the editor on certain points to make your book the best it possibly can be.

Q. As a Canadian author, do you find that you reach the same audience as American authors? Has it been harder for you, at least at the outset, to break into the American market? Or, because your books sell exclusively online, the geography has had little impact?

Can I say both?

I think my reach is generally the same as an American author’s, but it was harder to get going.

I’m currently exclusive with Amazon, but previously I was published everywhere, and that was a lot of work. I can’t publish through Barnes and Noble because I’m Canadian, but I can publish through Smashwords who then sub-distributes to B&N, which means everything is delayed from two days to six weeks as far as price changes, promotions, and release dates. Sales reports aren’t as timely and accurate, so you can’t gauge what works for your promotions as easily, and if they get something wrong, it takes longer to fix, because I have to go through another middle man.

I had to get a US Tax ID number, otherwise all the outlets I sell my books through keep 30% for the IRS, and I have to pay taxes for my income up here. That was a nightmare experience on its own. I’ve found some easier methods now, but I already have my number so they’re not of use to me. That was the longest of all the set-up processes. It took about seven months of forms and letters back and forth.

So in the end, I have the potential to reach all the same readers because it’s mostly online, but setting everything up and getting started was a lot more work being Canadian, I think.

Fiktshun: Of course you can say both! And it does sound like a heck of a lot of work to get started. But I’m guessing it’s well worth it in the end, to be able to reach a wider audience with your books.

And thank you for sharing the process, as I’m sure there are other Canadian authors who might be helped by learning that the process isn’t necessarily quick or simple before they decide to extend their reach beyond the border.

Q. As this is your first series, and it is still being written, you haven’t yet had to say goodbye to your characters. How difficult will it be, do you imagine, to say goodbye? What do you think your characters would say to you if they found out you were setting them free to do as they please?

A few months ago, I’d say it would be devastating. I love these characters, I’m enthralled with their story, and the world sucks me in every time I sit down at the computer.

Right now, however, I have a new story and a few characters asking…no, demanding my attention. I have this idea that is begging to come out, and I am extremely excited for it, but I don’t think I’m talented enough to work on two projects simultaneously. I need to keep my focus on one project at a time so I can truly invest all of myself into it, so I keep writing down ideas and putting them on the back burner. Book 3 has my full attention right now, and the story is flowing, I don’t want to interrupt that.

I’m looking forward to being done so I can start something new, but at the same time, I’m completely in love with Book 3 and this series, so the thought that this has to come to an end soon (after Book 4), is both an exciting, and heart-breaking time.

Fiktshun: Of course I am sooooo super curious about this new idea. Waiting until Book 4 is released to find out just what it might be is a bit of a torture for me, too. Though I’d be surprised if your characters didn’t demand just a little bit of your time before you embark on Book 4. Characters can be pushy like that….

Thank you so much for answering all of those questions. I asked quite a few and I’m totally stoked that you answered all but one. But, before you go – because I can’t let you go just yet – I have a few “This or That” and “This, That or The Other” questions.

Q. Books: Audio, eBook or print?

Ebook

Q. Cereal: Fruity Pebbles or Captain Crunch? (And no, you can’t say both!)

Egads! Okay, Fruity Pebbles. They’ve been my favorite since I was little, and they tear my gums apart less while eating.

Q. Good guys/bad guys: Demon hunters or demons?

Demons

Q. Book endings: Happily ever after or happily never after?

Happily ever after. Very rarely am I content with a happily never after. It’s happened, but not often. Maybe there can be room for both?

Q. Book endings: On the edge of a cliff, over a cliff or keeping a safe distance?

On the edge of a cliff. As long as it’s not the last book in the series. If it is, I want answers!

Q. Book battles: Fast and furious or slow and strategic?

I think there is a place for both, but I prefer Fast and Furious.

Q. Book battles: Swords, fists or magic?

Magic

Q. Heroes: Confident, reluctant or flawed?

Confidently flawed?

Q. Meals: Breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Brunch!

Q. Baseball or basketball? (And no, you can’t say both!)

Are we talking watching or playing, because there’s a different answer for both…just saying.

Fiktshun: Oh you took the easy way out on that last one…. Actually, a few of them. *Ahem*

And I very much wonder just how there can be a happily ever after and a happily never after ending all in one book? I’d like to read that book.

If you don’t like cliffhanger series enders, then I’d stay far, far away from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, though you will seriously be missing out.

Well, once again, thank you much for stopping by the blog, for sharing all your wisdom about writing, self-publishing and about creating your stories. I can’t wait to read Book 3 and find out what your next project is about.

But I’ve kept you long enough, and I have a giveaway to get to. So, until next week….

What’s up for grabs:

The first two books in The Protector SeriesShift and Exiled – by M.R. Merrick to TWO Winners ordered from Amazon or The Book Depository

The deets:

1. One entry per household.

2. There will be TWO winners.

3. You must be 13 or older.

4. Giveaway is International.

5. Contest ends on Sunday, July 22nd at 9:01 p.m. Pacific.

6. Winners will be chosen by Random.org through Rafflecopter and announced on July 23rd in this post.

7. Winners will have 48 hours after notification to respond with their details.

There is no requirement to like or follow. But if you’d like to spread the word that would be awesome!

If you are viewing this post via email you may have to click the link to enter the giveaway on the blog if the Rafflectoper form do not work through email.

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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