Interview with J.M. Frey, author of The Untold Tale

1. Tell us something about your latest book. Is it your debut? What genre does it belong to? Rotoscoped Cover_JMFrey

My debut novel was the Lambda Award Nominated TRIPTYCH, which was released in 2011. However, THE UNTOLD TALE is my first epic fantasy novel, so it is a bit like a debut. It’s very exciting because there’s a whole different demographic, set of websites, and different marketing techniques used for fantasy books, and I’m really enjoying the creativity of it.

THE UNTOLD TALE is an NA Epic Fantasy. Publisher’s Marketplace called it “Inkheart for Adults”, and I’ve nicknamed it my feminist meta-fantasy novel. This is the official copy:

THE UNTOLD TALE follows Pip, who is pulled against her will into the epic fantasy novel series she’s loved since she was a teenager. However, the world is darker, and far more dangerous than she could have ever predicted, especially when it turns out the hero is a much bigger misogynistic ass than she knew.  Pip knows how to circumnavigate the Hero’s Journey and the pitfalls and loopholes of this particular world – but what will happen to her beloved characters outside of the comfort of the fantasy they were written for?

What I love about this book, though, is that it’s not told from Pip’s perspective. The narrator is the younger brother of the world’s big enchanted-sword wielding power-fantasy hero. And he himself is a representative of the everyman geek. Classic fantasy books have a history of having no respectable place for women in their narratives, and stereotyping men who are clever and use their brains instead of brawn as snivelling, whiney villains. As an adolescent, this made it really hard for me to find anything to relate to in fantasy books. I was brainy and female. Those sorts of characters just did not exist. So when I decided I wanted to write a Swords and Sorcery epic, I wanted to write a compelling, engaging tale where the power-fantasy hero is not the one who saves the day, but the sidelined, ridiculed characters.

2. Is your book part of a series or can it be read as a stand-alone?

This is my first series! THE UNTOLD TALE is Book One of THE ACCIDENTAL TURN series. The series is comprised of three novels and two e-book only novellas. They are: THE UNTOLD TALE (Dec 2015), THE FORGOTTEN TALE (June 2016), THE SILENCED TALE (Dec 2016) and THE GUARRALOUS GHOST OF GWILLFIFESHIRE (winter 2016) and THE WONDROUS WOES OF THE WRITER (summer 2016). The novellas take place around the same time as the series, but are from different perspectives and cover areas of the tale that the books don’t.

There’s also a website and social media for the faux-author of the fake fantasy series I created for the books, The Tales of Kintyre Turn, and it’s been a lot of fun commissioning fan artists to draw fan art of the series, posting as Elgar Reed, the author, and encouraging people to write fanfiction about the non-existent fantasy books.

3. When does your book release?

Just in time for people to buy it for a stocking stuffer! I’ll be released December 8th, 2015.

4. Which character of your book was the hardest to write?

The fantasy hero, Kintyre Turn. He had to be filled with the sort of brawny, jock-like arrogance that geeks like me have come to resent, but at the same time, be more than just a stereotype. He had to have pathos, and he had to be someone whom the reader eventually comes to know in more depth and feels for. That’s one of the reasons I made him such an art-lover. I wanted him to be able to really appreciate beauty in a deep way, beyond hot chicks in chainmail bikinis.

The whole book was difficult, really, because I had to tread that line between creating characters and situations and settings that the reader immediately identifies with and feels at home in. I needed that “Ah, yes, this is fantasy!” feeling. But at the same time, I had to subvert that, tell the story from different perspectives, figure out how to tell a typical Hero’s Journey story that completely deviates and flips the Hero’s Journey while still sending our characters on the Hero’s Journey!

5. If you’re not writing, what do you love to do?

I was an actor before I was ever a writer. I actually went to school for theatre, and did a lot of children’s and community theatre plays when I was younger. After an accident made it too hard for me to dance any more, I switched my focus to voice acting and it is so much fun. It is seriously way cool. Mostly I do it in non-paying radio dramas, or in webseries, but I hope one day to be the English voice of a popular anime character. That would be tres amazing. I have a really nice mic, and a pop guard, and a little home studio that I erect with blankets and poles, like a blanket-fort around my computer.

6. Did anyone inspire you to start writing or did you always knew you just had to write?

I discovered fanfiction in 1991, and immediately started writing fanfiction of my own (for Sailor Moon, DragonballZ, and Dracula: the series). Before that, I had written little plays, like most child actors do.

Once I began writing fanfic, I wrote nearly every day for pretty much a full decade. In 2001, one of my TAs at university suggested I try my hand at original fiction. Between 2002-2007 I wrote this, jeeze, just epic dark fantasy book about vampires and ancient gods and redheaded trickster figures, and knew as soon as it was finished that it was just unpublishable. Not because it was bad, but because it was so big, and sprawling, and … epic.

After that, I just wrote another book, and another one, and another one. The first one after the epic was TRIPTYCH, which I signed independently with Dragon Moon Press in 2009, and after that I decided to just keep writing books. I mean, people clearly wanted more, and I had so many ideas, so I just kept at it. I don’t think there was a day when I wasn’t writing something, even while I was doing my MA thesis. I’ve done NaNoWriMo every year since 2003.

Some of those books are in my morgue, some I am serializing on Wattpad, but most are now with my agent, who is shopping them, or signing them with publishers. I will never have enough time to write all the stories in my head, I think.

7. Any advice/tips for newbies?

This may sound flippant, but my biggest piece of advice is to just finish the book. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Writing makes manuscripts, editing makes novels. So get the darn thing on the page, don’t agonize about each word or sentence, or how poetic it is. You can always go back later and fix it, make it better, make it cleaner. But you can’t craft a book until you have a manuscript, and you don’t have a manuscript unless you put your butt in that seat and write it. (You can do it!! *waves pom poms*)

8. Are you already writing a new book? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

THE ACCIDENTAL TURN SERIES is my first series, and I’m trying to get all the books written before the manuscript for the first one is locked just in case we need to go in and fiddle with it based on something I’ve written in the later books. I wrote THE UNTOLD TALE in 2013, and signed the series in March 2015. Since then I’ve been finishing up the book I was writing when the deal came through (a YA novel that my agent is currently reading), and jumped straight into book two of the series. I literally just finished writing it last week, and once it’s out to my beta readers/critique partners, I am going to plow straight into book three and the last remaining novella. Wish me luck!

I am really enjoying book two, though, because it’s all about what happens after the Happily Ever After, and the story is over, and the Hero has returned. A lot of series spread the Hero’s Journey out through all the books, but I wanted to finish it at the end of the first book, so the rest of the series could be about what happens next. What kind of a life do you live with the experiences you gained as a hero? (I mean, I always wanted to know what Aragorn and Arwen did in their day-to-day life as King and Queen of Gondor; didn’t you? Maybe that’s why I like fanfiction so much. It really does explore what happens in the parts of the narrative we never get to experience.)

9. A word that you use way too often? (Mine are “quite” and “probably”)

In this series? “Obligingly”. Forsyth, my narrator, is such a posh ponce. He’s sort of a mix of Mycroft Holmes (I want him to be played by Mark Gaitiss so bad), and Mr. Darcy, and Q from JAMES BOND, and Lucifer Box (whoops, there’s my second Gaitiss inspiration), and Lt. Data. I know, it’s a weird combination.

10. Last but not least: What’s your favourite type of candy, if you don’t mind me asking?

I might be the only person on the planet with this answer, but I LOVE candy corn! I also love the cola gummies (which is weird because I don’t drink pop) and caramels.

Author Bio  JMFrey_Sears

J.M. Frey is a voice actor, and SF/F author, fanthropologist and professional geek. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. She also has an addiction to scarves, Doctor Who, and tea, which may or may not all be related. Her life’s ambitions are to have stepped foot on every continent (only 3 left!), and to perform a duet with John Barrowman.
Her debut novel TRIPTYCH was nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards,  won the San Francisco Book Festival award for SF/F, was nominated for a 2011 CBC Bookie, was named one of The Advocate’s Best Overlooked Books of 2011, and garnered both a starred review and a place among the Best Books of 2011 from Publishers Weekly.
THE UNTOLD TALE, book one of The Accidental Turn Series, debuts December 2015. Dubbed “Inkheart for Adults”, the story follows Pip, a fan girl extraordinaire as she teams up with the overlooked younger brother of a fantasy-epic hero to defeat the one villain the author of her favourite fantasy book series never seemed to be able to get rid of.

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