For today’s Author Spotlight, we’re talking to Debra L. Martin! If you missed last week’s spotlight, check it out here!
M.N.: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What genres do you write in?
Debra: One day in 2006, I was in the bookstore and on the phone with my brother Dave. I was lamenting about the lack of good fantasy novels to read. Every suggestion he made, I’d already read. On a whim, he said “why don’t we write one of our own?” That’s was the beginning of our writing career. Together we write epic fantasy and urban fantasy. We’ve published four books in epic fantasy, one in urban fantasy and three novellas in our Dark Future series. We are currently working on the final book in our Witch Stone Prophecy series.
I also write romance under a pen name, Debra Elizabeth. I chose a pen name so as not to confuse our fantasy fans. So far, I have 11 titles and 4 collections published. I’m currently writing the fourth book in my regency series, Age of Innocence.
M.N.: What do you feel are the biggest challenges you face when writing?
Debra: Writing with a co-author is challenging. You have to learn to leave your ego at the door to write the best possible book you can.
M.N.: What does that writing process look like? Do you both write the first draft together, or does one of you write the first round and the other does rewrites and edits?
Debra: We have pretty much perfected what works best for us over the years. It was difficult in the beginning to get into the flow of the story, but in the end we worked it out.
M.N.: Has there ever been a scene or story element you disagreed on?
Debra: There has been many scenes that have been left on the cutting room floor because either one of us didn’t like it or didn’t feel it moved the story forward. Our motto is “if you can’t justify why it needs to stay in the chapter, then it gets cut.” Depending on what the chapter is about depends on who writes the first draft. If there is any fighting in the chapter, Dave will write the first draft. Then I edit making sure to add in all the additional details that pull the reader into the story and keeping them turning the pages.
M.N.: Does one of you tend to handle the marketing and publishing efforts, or is that a shared project as well?
Debra: I handle all the marketing and the publishing of our books. Once my graphic artists (I used two for our Witch Stone Prophecy covers) finishes the cover and our editor sends back all her comments, I use Jutoh to turn the word doc into .mobi and .epub files. Then I upload the files to Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple and Google. Because I’m the one to follow marketing trends, I also submit the books for ads at the different sites.
M.N.: What about your books do you feel is the most special or unique?
Debra: My brother is a retired Marine so the fight scenes in our books are based on real-life experiences. It brings a real excitement to the story.
M.N.: Was there any particular book or author that made you want to write?
Debra: Not really. I love lots of fantasy authors including Stephen R Donaldson, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Tad Williams and Robin Hobb.
M.N.: Do you have a favorite book, or a list of favorites?
Debra: There are so many favorites, but I guess if I had to pick one, I’d pick the “Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
M.N.: Tell me about your current Work In Progress.
Debra: We are working on the final book in our Witch Stone Prophecy, “Witch Stone Assassin.” The story follows elite assassin Jeda Delongo and his life-changing assignment when he is confronted by a witch. Before she dies, she zaps Jeda with a binding spell forcing him to take care of her twin daughters. What Jeda doesn’t realize at the time, is these twins are the famed “children of prophecy.” Book 1 and 2 follow Jeda’s journey as he escapes the Assassin Guild, the Black Witches and a single-minded assassin bent on his destruction. Book 3 is the culmination of adventures for Jeda, his twin daughters, Kara and Kala, and a final battle the likes of which the Kingdom of Tavia has never seen and may not survive.
M.N.: Having to fight while caring for children is always an interesting challenge to watch, and a story about surrogate parenting sounds like a fresh experience.
How did you settle on this plot? Did you decide you wanted to tell a story about an assassin, and the kids came later, or was it the other way around?
Debra: We first wanted to write the story of an elite assassin, but not just about his kills. What would be the worst thing to happen to him? Being taken out of the comfort zone of his skills and into a parental role seemed like opposite ends of the spectrum for Jeda. He couldn’t just leave the twins because the binding spell wouldn’t allow him to do so. He had to learn to take care of the children while trying to avoid a ruthless assassin bent on bringing Jeda back to the Assassin Guild dead or alive. An additional twist is the twins have magical powers of their own and Jeda must try to teach them how to control their gifts as best he can. Along the way, he does get help, but in the early days, he was running for his life while caring for two infants.
M.N.: What does your writing process look like? Do you outline, do you invent the plot as you go, or do things land somewhere in the middle of that spectrum?
Debra: We found out early on that it was best for us to have a detailed outline of the story. To save a lot of repetition when writing chapters, we now write one chapter at a time, send it to the other to edit and then back again for any final edits before the chapter is added to the main file.
M.N.: That sounds like a lot of time to get every chapter done. Do you find that this slows you down at all?
Debra: Even though this does take more time than just writing, writing, writing, this process works best for us. Dave has a demanding day job so sometimes it weeks between our writing sessions. This is one of the reasons why there has been so much time between books.
M.N.: If you could go back and give yourself any piece of advice when you first started writing, what would it be?
Debra: Be sure to write out a detailed outline BEFORE we start writing. When writing our first book, “Rule of Otharia,” we thought of a cool twist half way through the book, but that meant we had to go back to the beginning of the story and rewrite a number of chapters. After that, we have done a detailed outline for each book.
M.N.: Do you ever get to a point in the story and realize that something in your outline just doesn’t work the way you wanted it to?
Debra: Having a detailed outline doesn’t mean we always stick to it. There have been many instances where we think of something cool to add in to the storyline. Of course, that means we probably have some adjustments to be made, but I love our creative process. It works for us and we really enjoy writing together.
M.N.: It sounds like you have a great process that really works for the two of you. Have either of you tried writing on your own?
Debra: Yes, I write romance under the pen name, Debra Elizabeth. I started writing romance stories while I waited for Dave to edit chapters. As I also mentioned this in a previous question, I won’t repeat everything again. Needless to say, I really enjoy writing in different romance genres–contemporary and regency.
M.N.: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve written, or a recommended “starting point” for people looking to get into your work?
Debra: I think that depends of reader interest–our Rule of Otharia series is about our take on the legend of Merlin and his origins from the planet of Otharia before he came to Earth. If the reader is looking for a sweeping story of assassins, witches and battles, then they should delve into the Witch Stone Prophecy series.
M.N.: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Debra: Thanks so much for hosting me today!