Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Interview: Author Mike Reeves-McMillan (Realmgolds Series)

About the Book

Synopsis: The Human Purity movement is growing in power and influence in Denning, attacking dwarf businesses and caravans and inciting popular rebellion, with the passive or active support of many of the ruling Golds.

Opposing them almost alone is the Realmgold, a young man named Determined. His problem is that, even though the Realmgold is meant to be in charge, nobody is paying much attention to him. 

Victory, who rules neighbouring Koskant, would love to support Determined, but an ancient magical treaty between their realms means she can’t send in her troops, her skyboats or her pressure guns. What she can do, though, is share a new magical communications technology - and her elite corps of Gryphon Clerks.

Purchase on Amazon.

Author Mike Reeves-McMillan stops by TeamNerd Reviews to discuss his novel Realmgolds, what he learned about himself through writing the book, how he ended up becoming a hypnotherapist, where are good places to visit in New Zealand and what three questions he would want to ask J.R.R. Tolkien if he could.

About the Author: Mike Reeves-McMillan has worked as a book editor, technical writer, corporate trainer, IT consultant and hypnotherapist.

He has a black belt, which he uses to hold up his trousers. He's not sure why so many people mention having these, but they are certainly convenient, trouserwise.

He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

Where to Find the Author


TeamNerd Reviews: Realmgolds is a book in the both the Fantasy and Steampunk genres. What attracted you to those particular genres and what do you think sets them apart from others?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: I've loved fantasy ever since my grandmother gave me The Hobbit when I was a kid. I enjoy the sense of possibilities that you get in worlds where any wonderful thing might exist or happen. Adding in the touch of steampunk (and in this book, it's only a touch) for me opens up those possibilities even further, and at the same time brings the story closer to our own technologically-assisted lives.

The other thing about steampunk is that it references Victorian society, and to me, one of the most interesting things about Victorian society is the social and technological change that was going on, and how that impacted people. Traditional fantasy is very stuck in a feudal social order, and it's often about protecting or restoring that order. I think that story's been told enough, though to be fair there's more of it in Realmgolds than I originally intended to put there.

TeamNerd Reviews: Human society in Realmgolds is separated into three classes: the Golds, the Silvers and the Coppers. I also like that the two rulers are named Determined and Victory and a lawyer is named Trustworthy. I like the symbolism to the names! What inspired the concept behind the names?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: Fantasy names are a problem. It always annoys me to read a fantasy novel in a secondary world which doesn't share any of our history, and particularly any of our religious history, and see names straight out of the Bible. On the other hand, made-up names can be hard to remember. (A few authors I've read recently do a kind of hybrid thing, where they use familiar names as a base but change them up, like “Merelda” or “Peteros”, and that works better for me.)

My solution was to imagine a society where people were named after abstract positive concepts or personal qualities, which is something cultures do sometimes, including our own. Most of us know someone called Grace, for example. The challenge that presents is that the name can be a bit of a giveaway about the author's concept for the character, so I've made sure that some of the names are “fulfilled” and others definitely aren't. The villain, for example, is called Admirable, and the main characters refuse to refer to him by that name.

TeamNerd Reviews: Realmgolds features a good deal of conflict I would imagine considering the plot deals with war. You aren’t an author who actually enjoys writing conflict which is surprising. What have you learned about yourself as writer from getting through writing the many difficult obstacles your character Determined has to overcome?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: I'm very soft-hearted towards my characters and I don't like to hurt them, even for their own good and the good of the story. One of my beta readers, Ben Rovik, is especially good at setting up conflict in his stories, and he took me to task and pointed out opportunities I was missing by not pushing the conflict. I didn't take all his advice, but there's definitely a lot more struggle and loss in the book that there would have been without Ben, and it's a better book for it. Characters who get everything they want without working for it aren't very interesting.

TeamNerd Reviews: What, exactly, is a Gryphon? What does it do?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: A gryphon or griffin is a mythical beast with the body of a lion and the head, wings and front feet of an eagle. They exist as real animals in my setting (the elves made them), though that's not mentioned in Realmgolds. They're the personal symbol of Victory, one of the main characters, and she's named both her elite Gryphon Clerks and a make of flying boat after them.  

TeamNerd Reviews: Based on the way you describe the Elves in Realmgolds, I’m pretty much in LOVE! The Elves are bioengineers! How did Elves manage to make werewolves and kelpies? Where in the world did you come up with this?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: One of my several worldbuilding strategies is to take something that's conventional to the fantasy genre and push it in a logical direction. Tolkien elves are close to nature, at least the Sylvan Elves we see in Lord of the Rings, so I pushed that in a steampunkish direction and got bioengineers. The elves are offstage in Realmgolds – they faded into the forests when their empire fell centuries before – but their former human slaves retain a lot of their culture, including some of their biotechnology. And there are still elf-made animals around, and descendants of some of the elves' less ethical human experimentation, like the beastheaded people. The werewolves and kelpies haven't come onstage yet, but they have dual minds and alternate bodies, thanks to an elven Dr. Mengele.

TeamNerd Reviews: Funny question: you say you prefer werewolves over vampires (as do we), why?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: Werewolves are alive and wild and live in more-or-less cooperative groups. Vampires are dead and overly controlled and loners or cult leaders. Also, werewolves don't have to live off the suffering of others.

TeamNerd Reviews: Dignity is described as the “mad scientist son of radical revolutionists” and he was imprisoned in “late teens and early twenties.” He sounds like a character we’d LOVE *hehe* Tell us more about this Dignity ;) And how does his name play to his character?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: I think you were looking at an early draft on my blog – his name is now Dignified (I've made the naming more consistent, so men have adjective names and women have noun names). He totally fails to live up to his name. He's a sloppy dresser and what Gilbert and Sullivan called a “very imperfect ablutioner”, because he only thinks about mad science. He's offstage in Realmgolds, where he's mentioned only as “Victory's clever man”, but very much onstage in the book I'm writing now, Hope and the Clever Man.
The second book isn't a sequel, exactly, because it is set in the same time period with mostly different characters, and shows what was going on underneath all the political maneuverings of Realmgolds.

TeamNerd Reviews: You have worked (don’t know if you still do) as a hypnotherapist. What does a hypnotherapist do and how did you end up becoming one?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: I don't work as a hypnotherapist any more, but it was fun while it lasted. A hypnotherapist basically gets you very relaxed (using imagery, usually) and helps you to get in touch with your own subconscious knowledge and resources and use them to solve problems that you haven't been able to solve consciously and logically. It's been great to have that background when creating the idea of the mindmagic that's used in my books.
As to how I became a hypnotherapist, I've always been interested in how people's minds work (and I'm a writer, who would have thought), so I did a night class in self-hypnosis a few years back. Despite being taught very badly, it helped me with some issues I was having, so when I found that there was a hypnotherapy school operating near where I lived I signed up and got my training.

TeamNerd Reviews: You live in New Zealand! If we were to visit (which we hope to do one day), what would you recommended doing? Where would you recommend going?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: My two favourite places are the Bay of Islands, in the far north, and Nelson, in the northern part of the South Island. Both of them are stunningly beautiful and have great weather most of the year. There's a lot to do outdoors, particularly on the water – I'm a keen kayaker myself – but there are also a lot of museums and art and craft galleries if you prefer, pretty much anywhere in the country. I'll admit I haven't been to Hobbiton. My American nieces (who are in their 20s) liked it, but I've heard other people say it's overpriced.

TeamNerd Reviews: If you were having dinner with Tolkien (you know if he wasn’t dead or existed in the year 2013 or you traveled back to hang out with him—whichever way you prefer), what three questions would you want to ask him? Would you have any compliments to address about his work? What would you eat?

Mike Reeves-McMillan: Oo, tough one. I'd want to know what he was thinking with Tom Bombadil. I'd ask him why his elves were all noble and tragic and his dwarves hearty and loyal, which is very much off-model from his Norse source material. I'd be tempted to ask him to dish the dirt on C.S. Lewis, but assuming I managed to resist, I'd also ask how he felt about the degree to which his faith came through in his work, or didn't come through in some places.

My compliments would mostly be about the worldbuilding. And I think we'd probably have a roast dinner, which wouldn't be my first choice (I prefer spicy food), but would make him more comfortable.

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