Hey all, and welcome to the latest edition of Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach Reviews. Today DSP Publications author Xenia Melzer is here to give us a look at her new Fantasy release Ummana, book three of the Gods of War series, and she’s brought us a giveaway! But before we get to all that, let’s have a look at Xenia’s hot-off-the-press release.
In war, loss is the price of victory, and the cost of love is sometimes pain.
After Renaldo and Casto finally celebrate their marriage, the time has come for revenge against the followers of the Good Mother who tried to kill Casto—though this time, the Gods of War won’t use bloodshed to take Medelina.
As a member of the Confederation of the Plains, Medelina answers to Ummana, the head of the alliance… and Casto is heir to the throne of Ummana. Accompanied by their most capable mercenaries, Canubis and Renaldo travel to Ummana to make Casto king.
They’ll face the Council of Elders, Lord Aran, Casto’s father, and Princess Anesha, Casto’s sister—none of whom are happy about the king’s return. For Casto, the city is a reminder of a terrible childhood, and Renaldo can only helplessly watch his beloved fight a seemingly hopeless battle.
Carole: World-building and socio-political intrigue are hallmarks of the Fantasy genre, and there’s a lot of both in just that blurb alone. So tell us about your genre and what you love about it.
Xenia: I write Fantasy. Fantasy in itself is divided in about a hundred subgenres (or more, I’ve lost count). When it comes to reading, I don’t discriminate between the different flavors of Fantasy. I’m equally willing to accept unicorns, shifters, dragons, male pregnancies, wizards, demons, witches, elves, and what else there is. If pressed to name a favorite, though, I would go for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series, simply because they have ALL magical creatures possible (well, no pregnant males, but that’s about the only thing…) and his writing is, in my opinion, superb.
My Gods of War series can be placed as High Fantasy. Writers are sometimes asked to compare their books to ones that already exist and that always makes me cringe a bit, because it feels presumptuous. If pressed, I’d say the story itself could be compared to A Game of Thrones (several plots, running parallel and intertwining, though not as extensively as with GoT). My characters suffer, they are not always nice, some of them are downright nasty, and the society they live in runs on rules not all readers are happy with, because they are kind of cruel. Sometimes, I’m not happy with those rules either, but the story has progressed too far to change them now and most of the time it works.
What I love about writing Fantasy is that, as the author, you have almost complete freedom writing what you want, at least in the beginning, when you first craft the story. Later, you have to obey the rules you set up, but they are YOUR rules, which is kind of nice.
Carole: Tell us about Ummana.
Xenia: The first two books, Casto and Love and the Stubborn, had their focus heavily on the relationship between Renaldo and Casto, who are the heart of the story. I felt the need to establish their difficult dynamics in order to tell the rest of the story and the stories of the other characters properly. Since they are all in some way tied to Casto and Renaldo, it was important for me to show the reader in the first two books how unreliable these two are, which, of course, gives me many opportunities for believable plot twists. Ummana focuses on a different side of Casto’s character, one the reader has only seen in glimpses yet, and on Daran and Sic. These two undergo profound changes in Ummana and I can’t wait to see what readers think of that. In Ummana, I also shove the plot more aggressively forward, something I couldn’t do in the previous two books because, as I mentioned, I wanted to establish Casto and Renaldo first. So there’s a lot more action in Ummana!
Carole: This series also deals with various ethnicities as well as sexual diversity. Tell us how you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book.
Xenia: “Diversity” is a difficult term to define, especially in light of all the things that are happening around us. First of all, I have to explain where I come from. I would label myself a left-wing liberal, who firmly believes in the credo “Live and Let Live”. Everything that happens between consenting adults and does not endanger or harm the innocent and helpless and has no negative impact (bodily or financial harm) on outsiders, is none of my or the world’s concern. How people choose to live their lives, whom they love, what kind of sex they have, the choices they make – as long as they own up to them and behave like loving, rational, responsible adults, they should do as they please.
I’m kind of utopian in that respect. In my books, I tried to reflect those beliefs. All my main characters are bisexual, they do not choose their partners because of gender, but with the heart. Therefore, the problems that can come up in the real world with a homosexual choice of partner simply don’t exist in my fantasy world. I found it kind of liberating to write a story without that particular angst. (It’s sad reality, though, and my heart goes out to everybody who suffers from loving the ‘wrong’ person in the eyes of society, but in my books, there is no wrong partner.)
My characters also have different ethnic backgrounds, which are loosely based on the real world, but again, I tried not to make a point of it. In the Gods of War series, diversity comes in many different flavors, but it’s always unobtrusive and self-evident. My characters have more pressing problems than worrying about gender and color. (Strictly speaking, our world has more pressing problems as well, many of us just haven’t gotten the memo yet.)
Carole: Ummana is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for genre novels that don’t necessarily focus on or even contain romance. Tell us about the relationship in Ummana and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Xenia: The Gods of War series contains many different relationships and the main thread of the plot is the relationship between Casto and Renaldo. Theirs is not a ‘normal’ romance, because, so far, they haven’t found their HEA. Typical romance books usually focus on one couple and how they overcome everything and are happy forever (I love that kind of story, by the way), but Casto and Renaldo are too difficult to find an easy or permanent solution. Their relationship is a constant struggle, a never-ending battle of wills between two very strong characters who, despite all the things that happen to them, still love each other enough to try again and again. I love stories about couples who are each other’s pillar of support, but somehow, Casto and Renaldo never fit that bill. As I mentioned above, if I had to relate the series to another book, it would be George Martin’s A Game of Thrones. The tone of my story is on the dark side and a HEA still not in sight.
In many ways, Gods of War isn’t even a typical fantasy book, and I will be forever grateful that DSPP took a chance with it and gave it a home. They have a wide range of fantasy flavors and it feels good to fit in and be treated so nicely.
Carole: Okay, let’s switch gears now and move into some lighter fare. What do you do for fun?
Xenia: For fun, I go running (not as often as I should), dancing with my husband (once a week) and riding (I have a horse named Aquamarin).
Carole: Do you have a pet who supervises your writing?
Xenia: I have a cat, Abby, who sometimes ‘helps’ me with my writing by walking across the keyboard. It’s always interesting what kind of words come out. She also provides nutrition in the form of dead mice and birds. And sometimes entertainment by bringing living mice into the house and letting them lose. I don’t want to brag, but I’m REALLY good at cornering and catching them with a towel. Go me!
Carole: Hey, it’s not bragging if it’s true. 😉 So how has your writing changed since you published your first book?
Xenia: Since I’m not a native speaker, my writing has changed quite a lot. When I got the MS for Casto back for the first time, I wondered why DSPP had even accepted it. Everything was red. I learned a lot since then and I’m trying to get better with every MS I send in. I can proudly claim that now, after five MS, I sometimes get back pages where the editor didn’t find a single mistake! I’ve also learned to watch my logic and the general structure of my texts as well as to rely on my editors and beta-readers. Yes, authors do get text-blind and things that are completely obvious in my head can be a mystery on page. Thank God for all the people who help me straighten out my manuscripts without losing patience!
Carole: And because readers always like to know: What projects are you working on now and what is coming next from you?
Xenia: Currently I’m working on my first paranormal romance. The fourth book of the Gods of War series, Braving the Storm, will be out in November and I have written my first non-fantasy novel, A Dom and His Writer, which will be out either in October or November. I have an idea for another contemporary book and I’m also working on the next book in the Gods of War series. As you can see, I’m not getting bored anytime soon and I’m so glad you let me announce these things here, because that guarantees I keep on working hard. Nothing works as well as some self-inflicted pressure…
Carole: Too true, Xenia, and we’re so pleased you did! We’re so glad to have had you here, and the very best of luck to you with your new release! Thanks for being with us today.
And thanks to you as well, Awesome Readers, for spending some time with us. We still have that giveaway to get to, but let’s take care of a few items of business first.
Xenia Melzer was born and raised in a small village in the South of Bavaria. As one of nature’s true chocoholics, she’s always in search of the perfect chocolate experience. So far, she’s had about a dozen truly remarkable ones. Despite having been in close proximity to the mountains all her life, she has never understood why so many people think snow sports are fun. There are neither chocolate nor horses involved and it’s cold by definition, so where’s the sense? She does not like beer either and has never been to the Oktoberfest – no quality chocolate there.
Even though her mind is preoccupied with various stories most of the time, Xenia has managed to get through school and university with surprisingly good grades. Right after school she met her one true love who showed her that reality is capable of producing some truly amazing love stories itself.
While she was having her two children, she started writing down the most persistent stories in her head as a way of relieving mommy-related stress symptoms. As it turned out, the stress-relief has now become a source of the same, albeit a positive one.
When she’s not writing, she teaches English at school, enjoys riding and running, spending time with her kids, and dancing with her husband. If you want to contact her, please visit either her website, www.xeniamelzer.com or write her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
And now, as promised, Xenia is giving away on e-copy of Casto, the first book in the Gods of War series. To enter, click on the widget and follow the instructions. We’ll do a random drawing and notify the winner next week.
Okay, that’s everything for now. Thanks for joining us, everyone! If you’d like to keep tabs on Genre Talk and never miss a post, hop on over and like our Facebook page, join our Facebook group, and check out our web page.
Until then, that’s all for us. On behalf of me and Co-pilot Extraordinaire Elizabeth Noble, thanks for spending some time with us, and have a great week!