This week, we’re so excited to have Mara Rutherford on our blog to discuss her journey as an author, as well as her new novel A Multitude of Dreams! Her other novels include the Crown of Coral and Pearl duology, Luminous, and The Poison Season. She obtained her Master’s degree in Cultural Studies from the University of London and has lived all over the world with her husband and sons. Thank you so much for joining us, Mara!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your books, including your upcoming novel A Multitude of Dreams?
Hello and thank you so much for having me! I’m the author of four young adult fantasy novels, most recently The Poison Season. My fifth book, A Multitude of Dreams, releases August 29th. It’s a gothic fantasy reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death and tells the story of Seraphina, a Jewish girl forced to pretend to be the mad king’s youngest daughter after the real princess dies of the plague, and Nicodemus, a young nobleman-turned-grave digger, who begins to suspect that his master’s hunt for other survivors is much more sinister than he’d previously believed.
What has your journey as an author looked like so far? How has your writing changed over the years?
My author journey has been a long, slow-moving one, although it has certainly picked up since my debut in 2019! I started writing fiction in 2004 after I lost my journalism job. It took me ten years to land an agent and several more before I sold my first novel, Crown of Coral and Pearl, to Inkyard Press. I actually started out writing women’s fiction, but I decided to give YA a try after it was suggested to me by an editor. It took a long time to gather the courage to write fantasy, but since then, I’ve never looked back. I love writing for teens, and I have so much fun creating and escaping into new worlds.
What kinds of obstacles did you have to overcome when publishing your debut YA fantasy, Crown of Coral and Pearl?
So many! By the time I wrote Crown of Coral and Pearl, I’d already gone on submission to publishers with a different YA fantasy that never sold. The process was extremely discouraging, especially when my first agent parted ways with me. It had taken me so long to sign with him, and I really felt like I was starting over again. Fortunately, I signed with my agent, Uwe Stender, a few months later. It took nine months for Crown of Coral and Pearl to sell, but it finally found a wonderful home at Inkyard Press.
Do you think there is a difference between a “writer” and an “author”?
I was a little superstitious about calling myself an author until I sold a novel. Until then, I considered myself a writer. However, I don’t think it particularly matters what you call yourself, as long as you’re taking it seriously. I told myself very early on that if I treated writing like a hobby, that’s all it would ever be. I had so many late nights and early mornings back in my late twenties and early thirties, especially when my kids were little. But I knew that all those long hours would pay off one day, and they definitely have!
Writing fantasy is hard! Do you have a process for developing your worlds and characters? If so, what does it look like?
Writing fantasy is hard, but it’s also so fun! I love imagining new worlds and giving myself geographical challenges to help shape them. Hence the ocean setting in CoCaP, the dark tapestry in Luminous, and the isolated island in The Poison Season. Environment plays a huge part in creating a culture, everything from the clothing the people wear to the food they eat. Once I decide on the climate and topography, other things fall into place, often including the magic system and even the characters. I’m sure other fantasy authors do it differently, but because we move so much for my husband’s career, I have a lot of inspiration at my fingertips.
Do you have any new writing projects on the horizon you can talk a little bit about?
I recently finished an upper YA fantasy involving dark puppetry magic and a floating kingdom, and I’m currently working on a cozy fantasy novel with quirky magic and a very snarky MC. I hope they’ll be published one day!
Can you provide links to any websites or social channels you’d like readers to follow?