Coffee with Architects of Worlds Afar welcomes M.R. Darling–author of A Blue Horizon.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Originally from a small town on the St. Lawrence River, I passed through a myriad of minimum wage jobs before being forced to resort to social services when work dried up. With a long history of using and repairing my own computers, I opened my own business in the hopes of attaining the bare minimum I required to survive. The dwindling economy eventually killed this as well, and my brother and I packed up to move out west.
Out here, the economy boomed for those in the right industries, I was just not among them. Once again relegated to slave labor, I spent almost a decade dealing with the usual pains that were now accompanied by the additional layer of a wealthier society to be looked down upon by. While not a great job, it was a job, and more than I had back home. Walking to and from work on a daily basis gave me a lot of time to think. In those extended hikes, I thought about many things such as all my failed attempts at writing.
Starting as an over-imaginative, prepubescent kid behind his mothers typewriter, I banged out a four page story on paper that I folded sideways to more resemble a real book. It was based on this cool pendant my cousin had found in the woods. When I asked what it was, he called it an ‘eternity key’ and I became instantly enamored with the name. I can’t recall any of the story, and the single copy has long disappeared, but that was my first independent attempt at a literary work.
After that, I made halfhearted attempts at writing over the years with my most serious endeavor being while on social assistance. Weighing in at only 15,000 words, it was the beginning of a horror story that is still interesting enough to go back to one day, but I had stopped then due to the smothering self-doubt that my social stature brought.
2. When did you start writing?
I didn’t make a serious push until May of 2015. I had come to the end of my rope with my job, and was sitting on a small stockpile of savings coupled with a retirement fund that I could withdraw now instead of later. My treks back and forth to work had also allowed me to expand upon the usual entertainment you create for yourself when bored. Starting with a single thought about a passing metro car, I built the story up from a multitude of ideas until I arrived at the conclusion that this could be a book – That this could be ‘my’ book. After coming to terms with the idea that I could now afford to do so, I stepped back into those shoes of that wonder-struck kid in front of his mother’s typewriter and began in earnest.
3. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
The title did not come to me until the end of the book. My working title was ‘Ashworld – Book 1’ and stayed that way for the majority of its creation. I came to the conclusion that Ashworld was too final sounding, and opted for Ashrealm instead. I also wanted a subtitle for the books, but what that would be had eluded me until I was explaining a scene to my brother. To explain that scene, I had to explain another, and when I uttered the words ‘bright blue horizon’ – his eyes lit up. He suggested that be the title, and despite my initial apprehension, I had to conclude that it fit the book well.
Initially calling it ‘A Bright Blue Horizon’, the ‘Bright’ was removed for brevity. My brother suggested I remove the ‘A’ as well, but the entertainment world is chocked full of works with that title. So, in the ‘A’ stayed.
4. Does your story have a moral?
Going to a catholic school, I was bombarded by morals. They were the cornerstone of my belief system growing up, and I suppose they have never left. The wicked should be punished, the good rewarded, and the meek aided. The world has never worked that way, but we wish it all the same.
If I had to point to one overarching moral within the story, it would have to be: You are responsible for your actions. The book is rife with situations where people pay, or are rewarded, for their actions. Not everyone gets their just deserts, but this is only book one (evil grin).
5. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
Every author should say their protagonist, that’s the person who would be on the page for most of the book. If you’re not in love with that character, why should any one else be? In my case, I actually have four protagonists; Each with a distinct personality and from different walks of life. A range of characters was important to me, and I wanted multiple views of the story for people to explore.
As far as a favorite goes, that would be like choosing your favorite child – It’s simply unthinkable. They’re all my favorites for different reasons, which is obviously vanity at its worst as they are all from my own imagination, and thus me.
6. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
If you can do an outline and stick to it, all the power to you! My mind wanders and changes direction on a whim that seems almost wholly not my own. That can get you lost, muddled in your own machinations and stuck in a corner that you can’t seem to write out of.
Flying by the seat of your pants may sound romantic, or something to be envied, but I assure you it isn’t. Having a definite plan on where to go next will get you to the end of your book, where waiting for the right inspiration to tell you what to do next can leave you treading water.
7. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
Characters! You can have all the technology, lore, love scenes, or thrills and chills you want – if your characters are boring or empty, no one will care. Make them believable, make them human, they should never always have the right or wrong answer. Even Sherlock Holmes was wrong on occasion. Everyone in your book, regardless of moral compass, should be likeable or at least relatable from some point of view. Get into their skin and figure out how they think. If you can answer, without question, what a character would or wouldn’t do in any situation, then you’ve got them.
And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Silly question, books AND movies. Books for the deep and pondering plot lines that Hollywood wouldn’t dare make, and movies for the brainless popcorn spectacles.
2. Summer or winter?
Canadian, so clearly winter. It’s much easier to keep warm than it is to cool down.
3. Ebook or physical book?
They both have their place, but I’m old school enough to want a physical book.
4. Nights out or nights in?
Nights in, clubs got boring years ago.
5. Living in the city or living in the country?
City, you can’t get a decent steak at 3 a.m. in the country without cooking it.
6. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telekinesis, I’d really rather not know what goes on in other people’s heads.
7. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
The future of course, the past has already happened – show me what’s next.
8. Traveling by car or traveling by airplane?
By car, you get a much better view of things from down here.
9. Losing all of your money or losing every picture you’ve ever taken and every picture that has ever been taken of you?
Money can be replaced, and despite the old adage, memories aren’t forever. Pictures help us recall what the mind has forgotten or edited with time.
10. Being Spiderman for a day or being Batman for a day?
Definitely Spiderman, the only power Batman has is wealth.
11. Reading or writing?
Writing, creation is more satisfying than consumption.
12. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Humankind, your dog’s thoughts don’t go anywhere near as deep as you’d like to believe.
13. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
Movies and television, entertainment on the internet is far more diverse.
14. To never speak again or to never eat solid food again?
Smoothies, jello, and pudding for life? Done and done!
15. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?
I’ve done both, walking is much easier.
16. Spending half a day locked in a coffin (there would be a hole for air, of course) or spending two days trapped at the bottom of a well?
The coffin for sure, it would be the best sleep that I’ve had in years.
17. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
Chocolate can disappear, I could never go without my coffee.
18. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
The Walking Dead. Everyone being reduced to their true value, instead of the value they have in a bank, would weed out so much of the worthless chaff that the world has accumulated.
Thank you for joining us, M.R.!
Readers: want to connect with M.R.? You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Also, be sure to check out his blog and his pages on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords.