Earlier, I had the privilege to bring you a Book Spotlight on E.L.F Volume 1: White Leaves. Now, as part of the same blog tour, I’m excited to bring you the virtual chat I had with Mr. Ness.
Born in the Midwest, I share my birthday with Leonardo Da Vinci, and seem to share a bit of that creative monster's spirit: I paint, draw, write, sculpt, and more. I'm extremely prolific when I don't have life and day-jobs tying me down.
I published my debut novel, E.L.F. vol. 1, White Leaves, July 1st, 2013, and I hope to release the sequel, Blighted Leaves, sometime early/mid 2014. White Leaves is currently available at all major online retailers in both print-paperback and eBook forms.
I do my own cover-art, book-trailers, formatting, and marketing. It's tough, but a thoroughly engaging ride. I've also done logo, cover art, and animations for local Seattle area musicians, other musicians elsewhere, luthiers, videographers, authors, and retailers.
The Interview:Elizabeth Norton: What book introduced you to speculative fiction?
M.P. Ness: That's a great question right off the bat! I suppose there's many ways I can answer this...since there is not one singular book that brought me to speculative fiction. In fact, it wasn't a book at all. Rather, it was life. It was something inside me that brought me to such books to begin with as a reader, and then later as a writer. I think, the biggest thing that brought me to speculative fiction as a whole was the world we live in today, especially when it comes to dystopian, apocalyptic and epic sorts of tales.
Reality, fascinating as it is in its deeper workings, tends to bore me. I write as entertainment to myself, and as escape. I choose the word escape rather specifically, because while I'm a positive person and optimistic about the world as a general whole; I'm also a realist. I see things wrong with it, things about it that could be better, and if I could, I would fix them. Often times, this fact comes out in the stories I tell.
As for the choice in the word entertainment, I'm a huge fan of action and adventure, because life these days, in this age, doesn't have much in that avenue for the average person. We have to actually go out of our way to find adventure. Weekend-warrior types go scale mountains, hike, participate in sports and things like skydiving, just to get their dose adrenaline and thereby acquire some sense of adventure in life.
For me, I fabricate adventure in my own head, and write it down.
Though, to be fair and at least answer your question, what turned me on to speculative fiction? It was the first fiction book I read for my own entertainment, the first one I chose for myself after having read most of the nature-oriented books in my elementary school library. I'd run out of non-fiction, educational books to read, or had read some of them too many times repeatedly, and had grown bored. I was only a 4th grader, and was coming off a recent school wide spelling-bee victory. The book-mobile came to our school, set up shop in our library, and the cover-art of Terry Brooks' The Talismans of Shannara had caught my eye.
Elizabeth Norton: Do you have an all-time favorite book? What about it makes it your favorite?
M.P. Ness: My all time favorite is the third book in the fantasy genre. After reading the aforementioned Shannara book (#4 in Brooks' second Shannara series), and having enjoyed it so thoroughly, I decided right away to start over from the beginning. I devoured The Sword of Shannara quickly, some 720 pages of it, then got to book two, Elfstones of Shannara, which Warner Brothers had optioned to make into a film (the option rights have since expired).
The Elfstones of Shannara, is the all time fave. Why? Because, well, one, I enjoy Elves a great deal. But mostly, because of the action and adventure contained in the story as a whole. There were some pretty great scenes in that book, which still hold up today. I'm convinced, if it was a film, and it was done rightly; it might not only rival our beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy and the subsequent Hobbit movies, but perhaps even surpass them.
Elizabeth Norton: Which author and/or book (if any) inspired you to start writing?
M.P. Ness: Going to sound like a broken record repeating his name so many times, but Brooks.
Since he was the first fantasy author I read, and I consumed all of his books so readily and so early on, its hard to say anything short of Terry Brooks inspired me to write more than anyone or anything.
That, and the fact that it has been said many times that my late father should have been a writer. I feel compelled to offer up what I can muster to the world in his stead, first born son and all.
Elizabeth Norton: Having read your book, I’m pretty sure your late father is pleased with your efforts. From where did the inspiration for White Leaves arise? Was there a specific event or encounter that sparked it?
M.P. Ness: There was in fact a specific event. It was a moment during my tenure at the Art Institute of Seattle. I was on a class-break, and outside the school was a newspaper stand. As a fantasy author, it was impossible for me to miss a bold headline that said "ELF burns down housing complex"
Intrigued by all the ideas such words combined together to create in my head, I bought and read the paper and discovered the E.L.F. (Earth Liberation Front). From there, the question arose naturally; what if it WAS real elves who had been committing these crimes? From there a million questions started arising, and I started answering them. Why, how, who, etc.
Elizabeth Norton: Do you have a favorite character (to write) from White Leaves? If so, what sets them apart from the others?
M.P. Ness: Absolutely. Ben Connelly is my favorite to write. His part in White Leaves is very specifically plotted, because we'll see much more of him in the future, and because I really wanted to write a strong character who is quite literally powerless to do anything about what's happening in the story. This is for a very specific reason as well. Look at the story and all that happens throughout, and I think you can guess what purpose Ben Connelly serves.
If not yet understanding after reading it, ask someone else what they think of Ben's importance, and why he's written in there the way he is.
Mostly though, I enjoy writing the Federal Agent character because in my mind he's Jason Statham, and because of that he's so easily written. I can picture his facial expressions, and mannerisms. Few other characters in the story are written after existing caricatures.
Secondly, Deh Leccend, the Black Leaf character is strong in my mind because he's the dark type of character I most enjoy writing. That and the sheer immutable power he represents.
Elizabeth Norton: I look forward to seeing if I guessed Ben’s role correctly! Are you currently working on any other projects?
M.P. Ness: I 'm currently working on more projects than I should at one time.
I'm actively writing the E.L.F. sequel Blighted Leaves, as well as heading up a budding new author network, Badass Authors, complete with social networking sites, a blog and so on.
We're focusing on working together to approach target marketing in a different way; by connecting with potential readers based on our own personal interests, rather than our genre types.
On top of that, I'm always working on visual art in some capacity or another. I do my own book covers and design and such, as well as work on commissions for private parties, authors, bands and I'm a painter, so I always have my own projects going in that area.
Elizabeth Norton: That’s a busy life! Obviously, you must need great tunes to keep you going through it all. What’s your favorite metal band and/or song?
M.P. Ness: Oh my. There are so many. But this choice is hands down simple...at least as far as the band is concerned. Tool. Period. So melodic, so intricate, so intelligently written, and so amazingly well executed all the way around. That band live sounds exactly as they do on the record. They're just so thoroughly well put together, so in time, they're just masterful.
Front man Maynard James Keenan's voice, as well, is just so good. The man can sing. I find that much better than the guttural sounds often associated with heavier metal.
If I had to pic one song from their 6 released albums over the years, I'd have to pick what amounts to two songs, really, as they're separate tracks on the Lateralus album: “Parabola.”
Of course, I cannot express enough how greatly “10,000 Days” affects me, off the 10,000 Days album.
Elizabeth Norton: A friend recently hooked me on the amazingness that is symphonic power metal, actually, and I’ve become a big fan of Alestorm and Rhapsody of Fire, so I’m anxious to check out your choices! I’m not sure of when or in what capacity, but would you be willing to write a guest post for The Bearded Scribe at some point?
M.P. Ness: I'm a little busy lately, but of course. I love to write. So guest-posting is never out of the question.
Elizabeth Norton: And lastly, because we have asked it of all our interviewees, is there anything else you’d like to share with The Bearded Scribe’s readers that I didn’t ask you (and you wish I had)?
M.P. Ness: For the sake of answering the question directly I would have to say, yes, but only because you haven't asked directly about the Badass Authors network. But to be fair, you didn't know about it, and I did get to talk about it anyway.
So keep your eyes peeled and ears open for the rising of this network. We've some great talent pooled together for the radical new breed rising out of the chaos of the new publishing world, several of whom have already regularly graced the higher rankings in the amazon world in their respective catagories.
We're just getting up and running, but we operate on social medias under the hashtag #BadassAuthors
Check us out. You'll be glad you did...especially if you're kinda badass and appreciate badass entertainment. ;)
I’ll definitely watch for Badass Authors, and for Blighted Leaves when it comes out. Thanks so much for being with us today!
Until next time, Beardies…
Keep Calm and Scribe On!