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January 16, 2016

Interview: Kathy MacMillan author of Sword & Verse

Author: Kathy MacMillan
Published On: 1/19/16 (AKA My 21st Birthday!!!!)
Page Count: 384
Cover: 5/5 (Only part I can currently rate)
Synopsis: (Found on Goodreads)
Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

About Kathy:
Kathy MacMillan is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, librarian, and avowed Hufflepuff. Her debut young adult novel, Sword and Verse, explores questions of power and prejudice in an epic fantasy setting, and has been called “fascinating and unique” by National Book Award finalist Franny Billingsley. Find her here: Website

1) From someone who knows ASL as well do you think more schools should offer it as a class?

Absolutely!  More and more U.S. states are accepting American Sign Language for high school and college foreign language credit (link: )  It's a beautiful and practical language, and I definitely think everyone should learn ASL!

2) Since Sword and Verse is your 5th manuscript written do you have any plans on getting the other published?

I fervently hope so!  I am currently working on a companion novel to Sword and Verse which picks up about a month after the first book ends and is written from Soraya's point of view.  But I have lots of other projects lined up after that, some of which involve revising earlier manuscripts.  

3) Did you keep the letters you wrote with your cousin?

I do actually have some of them in a trunk somewhere, but I haven't looked at them in a long time.  I should dig them out!  I often think that it was lucky that we didn't have email back then - we never would have gotten so wildly creative with our alternate realities if it had been easy to text or email each other.

4) Where did you come up with the names Raisa, Qilara and Mati? They are all so interesting for both location and people. 

I wish I had a wonderful story for you, but the truth is, I have been working on this book for so very long that I don't exactly remember.  (The first draft was written before my now-fifth-grader was born!) I can tell you that original idea came up while I was doing research for an article on book-burning, and I came across a reference to libraries made up entirely of letters.  I thought, "What if they were letters to the gods?" The names of the gods and goddesses came first.  There was originally a character named "Qilar" - named because I enjoyed how it sounded like "killer", which should tell you something about his personality! - and the country, Qilara, was named after him.  Raisa and Mati, as far as I can remember, just came from listing different name options until I found names that felt right for their characters and the culture I was creating.

5) What is your brain writing food of choice?

I don't actually have a specific writing food, but I do drink pots and pots of tea while I am writing.  My favorite is Blueberry Black Tea from the Spice and Tea Exchange (  Yum!

6) Are you a plotter or a write as it comes type author?

A little of each, I guess.  I always start out with loads of research and notes and planning, and I usually know at least what the major emotional beats will be before I go into a first draft, but then the characters take over and take me down paths I didn't expect.  A great example of this is a moment between Raisa and Soraya near the end of Sword and Verse - Raisa says something that shocks everyone in that scene, and I was just as shocked as they were when it happened!

For me, the first draft is all about figuring out the characters and their relationships to each other, and plot is something to be sorted out in later drafts.  I do a LOT of side-writing too - when I get stuck, I go back and write scenes from another character's point of view, and it always clarifies the main story for me.  It's a time-intensive way to work, but it's the only way I know how.  And, on the plus side, it gives me lots of extras to share on my website!



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