Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Author Spotlight:

Written By: Tracy - Jun• 14•11

Today I turn my author’s spotlight on Debra Killeen. Debra is the author of the Myrridian Cycle, a collection of alternate universe fantasies in which a modern Earth Human travels to the world of Myrridian to take the place of a duke whom he resembles and prevent a murder.

When Chris McCabe agrees to travel to an alternate dimension to impersonate Duke Christian Lattimore, in order to prevent the death of Christian, the last thing he expects is to be greeted by the corpse of the duke. Nor is Chris ready for his widow Helen. Helen is not ready for Chris, either. While Chris prepares for the acting job of his life, she and Prince Robert Claybourne quickly learn that the resemblance of Chris to Christian is only skin-deep. With colleague Elijah Homes, the three of them search for clues both Magical and mundane to solve the death of the duke while unexpected friendships, and more, develop. One larger question remains is the death of Christian foreseen by Bishop Edward Fitzroy when he originally proposed the masquerade to Chris? Or is there another threat to the duke?

You used to work as a pharmacist before transitioning into writing. What made you decide to change career paths? Does your background work it’s way into any of your books?

Actual pharmacy practice didn’t quite work out the way I expected after graduating from pharmacy school.  The last couple of years of my pharmacy work, I had this idea for a book.  And when I left my final drugstore job, I did some temp work before moving into clinical research. During the transition, the characters and storyline began to develop.  And it developed into not one novel, but a series of five.  (As a pharmacist, I counted pills by fives, so it was probably inevitable.)

My initial premise in the first novel, An Unlikely Duke, involved two modern-day characters, both physicians, traveling to an alternate world to prevent the murder of a ranking nobleman.  They both have firm opinions of our health care system, and not exactly high opinions either, which is a reflection of my own.

You set your stories in worlds that are similar to our own, historically. Why choose an alternate world setting rather than an alternate universe earth history setting?

I wanted to make the alternate world recognizable to the reader, but using an alternate gives me more of a chance to play around with history.  I’ve always been interested in history (it was my second choice for study at college), and I love being able to play within a historical period.  Since I knew the books would be in the fantasy genre, working with an alternate world also gives me a chance to play around with the magic.

What sort of research goes into your worldbuilding? what kind of tools do you use (timelines, mind-mapping, etc) in order to keep everything straight?

A lot of research actually!  Some of the early research involved refamiliarizing myself with the early Middle Ages and looking into ritual and high magical practice, for jumping off points.  One of my premises is that in this world, the reigning religious systems control the magical practice, and that gives me potential conflic right there with archbishop and king jockeying for power.  I chose to stick with the medieval Catholic church to start with, since so much of Catholicism’s rituals are close to magical anyway.  Which led to research on Catholicism, given my Protestant upbringing and current pagan identification.

I do have a timeline written down, as well as character bios and descriptions, which gets more necessary as I delve further into this world.  I have notes on climate, local geography, flora, fauna and the like.

You not only have an alternate-universe fantasy series, but your website says that you are planning an urban fantasy spin-off of that world. How does that work?

In the second novel of my series, A Prince in Need, two additional modern-day characters travel to this world, mainly in hopes of bringing the original two back with them.  It doesn’t work out that way, of course, but one of the Myrridian characters returns to the modern-day world with one of the travelers.  This gives me the chance to work on a different series, with a completely different setting, yet stay in the fantasy genre.  And an added bonus will be having a medieval character coping with the modern world.  I expect to have a lot of fun with that.

You started out self-publishing and were later picked up by a traditional publisher. How did that happen?

In a word, serendipity.  All of my early readers were encouraging me to get the first book out there, and I had begun collecting an impressive number of rejections.  So I elected to self-publish and then attended DragonCon for the first time that same year.  Wandering around the dealers room, I stopped at a small press’s table, and asked the publisher about submissions, including books that were previously self-published.  She said to send the first three chapters for review, and ultimately a contract offer was made.  She has published, as of this month, the entire series.

What are you currently working on?

I’m now working on a second series in this same alternate universe, which takes place roughly fifteen years after the events of the first series.  In this case, a crusade is being called.  I’m currently in revisions on the first part of the story, in which the call goes out, events ensue with some characters being more gung-ho to participate than others, and this section ends as the army is about to depart for the Holy Lands.  It developed out of my frustration with the Iraq war after 9-11, so you have an idea how long this one’s been waiting to be started.  I will be starting the rough draft of the second part in the next week or two, I expect, opening with the Muslim perspective.  My goal with this project is to develop other religious/magical systems and explore the idea of religious tolerance.  I still have no idea how successful I’ll be with it!  But the first part worked up pretty steadily, so I’m optimistic.

What is the next book that you’ll be releasing?

The next book, just released, is the final volume of the “Myrridian Cycle,” Kingdom in the Balance. I’m just as pleased as I can be to have this complete series out and available now.  It’s only taken about 11 years, start to finish, since I began writing the originald draft of the first volume.

If you could go back to yourself as a young writer just starting out and give yourself advice, what advice would you give?

Great question!  When I was young, I never expected to be a writer – lol!  However, I would tell myself a few things:  follow your dream, and if it’s a true calling, you’ll realize it; don’t be afraid to take chances; life is too short to spend it doing things that don’t work for you — don’t be afraid to do what you love.  And I’d tell myself to make sure I had people around to give me honest, critical feedback.  I didn’t turn into a writer overnight — it took me a while to hone my craft, and I’m still learning.

Where can we find you on the internet?

www.myrridia.net and on Facebook under Debra Killeen.  I only just got my author page set up this weekend, so it’s still in progress.

Where can readers find your books?

Amazon, Barnes & Noble on-line, Books-A-Million on-line, www.publishersdrive.com.  I also do a few conventions in the southeast US during the year — StellarCon, RavenCon, ConCarolinas, Darkover, and hopefully more to be added in coming years.  I can often be found in the dealers room and on various panels.

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