Author of the Voice that Thunders series
I recently had the opportunity to chat with British fantasy author Cully Mack. Cully has written one novella and four novels in the Voice that Thunders series and she has kindly agreed to tell use a little more about A Vow that Clashes which is due out at the end of October 2020.
Welcome Cully. Tell us more about your latest novel.
Cully: My current book is due for release in October 2020. It is the fourth book in the Voice that Thunders series and is called A Vow That Clashes.
It runs on a parallel time frame to A Fire That Whispers (#3) and focuses on Gabe and two of his close friends. Each of them has made vows. Their challenge is to either keep or break them while saving the people from an Immortal Watcher with his army of giants and hybrid creatures seeking to destroy humanity.
A Vow That Clashes
When a vow demands sacrifice, who will pay the price?
Far behind Gabe is his innocence, destroyed when a Watcher slaughtered his clan. Now considered a chosen one, Gabe strives to understand his magic and his calling. He desires nothing more than to find his sister but is besieged by hybrid abominations intent on extinguishing mortal life, his most of all.
His allies: a cunning thief, an Immortal, and a Fire Wielder stand fast with those seeking sanctuary underground. It’s a trap. The god of deep mines and solver of secrets is coming… A perilous maze of tunnels, their sole hope of escape.
As vows and destiny collide, Gabe faces a devastating choice: abandon the people and his allies or forsake his beloved sister.
The fate of the world rests on his decision, for the Watchers know a greater adversary approaches, a possessor of flesh. The clash between darkness and light has never been more dreadful. You can find out more here.
Helen: It sounds action packed and I can’t wait to read it. I read the first book A Voice that Thunders (you can find my review here) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I must make sure I take the others down off my bookshelf and read them ready for this new release.
Tell us a little about how you first started writing.
Cully: I began writing because my mother joined a creative writing class and I asked if I could go with her. I loved it so much; I quit my job and went back to university to study English Literature and Creative Writing. I haven’t looked back, and what I’ve learned most in my life is to follow your dreams.
I always loved the fantasy genre, and I have a keen interest in mythology. I decided to merge the two and created the Voice that Thunders series. Myth absolutely fascinates me (the older the better- think pre-Egyptian, Greek and Roman). Yes, those titans, gods and beastly monsters were known to older civilizations in Mesopotamia and I feature them in my books.
Helen: Yes, there is an ancient Egyptian flavour to the first novel with sacrifices and gifts to the gods. So fantasy is your genre of choice for your novels?
Cully: I write epic fantasy. Think epic battles with Immortals and beasts of all kinds, throw in some elemental magic, huge plot twists, portals and unique worlds, intense romance and an ever-growing amount of characters trying to save their world. If you like character-driven fantasy, you’ll love my books. I warn you now; I don’t go easy on them…
Helen: You have some great characters in your novels, Mirah, Gabe and Nate to name a few. Which characters do you enjoy writing the most?
Cully: Gosh, that’s possibly the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. I love writing cocky, confident males, which is why I have a few of them. Ammo is a skilled at pretty much everything and a complete risk taker. He often makes me laugh with his cocky attitude and flirty banter. Zeev is always out for a laugh, nothing fazes him, and he loves winding up one of the female characters.
I think most of all I love writing Tur. He is complex, comes across as aloof at first, but he is one hell of a man as his story develops. Nothing and no one will move him from what he believes in and my god, I really test him. Confidence oozes out of him in droves.
Heroes or villains? Love them both. Love villains who turns good the most.
Helen: With such a rich world, how much research did you have to do before writing your novels?
Cully: I research tons. I’m very interested in mythological texts from Ancient Mesopotamia where many feature gods and mythical beings. Mesopotamia was the birthplace of civilisation and many peoples lived side by side. Depending on the culture, some saw the gods as a positive thing, others negative. It makes for great conflict when you can reimagine gods, hybrids and giants interacting with humanity.
In the Voice that Thunders series, I’ve tried to capture an essence of their cultures, what it was like thousand of years ago, and set it in a framework loosely based on some of their customs and beliefs. My series is filled with ancient myth, the kind that is buried in soul waiting to be reawakened.
Because my work is influenced by Mesopotamia, I also research quite a bit of geography, landscape, flora, fauna and wildlife etc. to create a vivid world.
I also research people, behaviour and psychology. For example, one of my antagonists is a complete narcissist. I did a lot of research to get a sense of how he thought, how he might speak and behave.
Helen: And I think it paid off. When reading your novels, your world building paints vivid pictures, colourful and rich. It’s almost like it is another character. Being such a stickler for research I imagine the way you write is very planned. Do you have an outline that you stick to?
Cully: For The Voice That Thunders, I used the Hero’s Journey as a guide for my two sibling protagonists. I kind of had it in the back of my mind when writing. So, yes there is a loose structure, e.g. inciting incident, meeting the mentor, call to action, refusal of the call and so on. Although the order of these differs for each character.
But otherwise, I’m a total Panster! I’m a discovery writer. I tend to know certain plot points, for example, I knew Mirah needed to reach Hermonial because I wanted to write a character who was close to my antagonist.
My start point was her on the ship, so I just started to write her journey and added conflict along the way. I love how characters grow and overcome the challenges they face. Being a discovery writer, my characters often surprise me and lead me into territory I wasn’t expecting to go.
Most of my twists come from writing myself into a hole and then figuring out how to fix it. There are quite a few big ones in my books which my mind would never have imagined if I’d sat down and tried to think it up. Some people might think this tactic is insane, but for me, it keeps my writing fresh. I remember my English Professor saying; I love how your writing is so unpredictable, how do you do it? I answered, it’s because I have no clue what’s going to happen until I write the words on the page.
Helen: I try and plan a basic outline, but then the story takes over and goes in directions I never originally intended. When it comes down to the nitty gritty of writing which do you prefer writing or editing?
Cully: I love both aspects. I love being creative and getting ideas down on the page, but I also enjoy perfecting it in redrafts. My editing process has changed over the course of my books. I don’t edit as I go anymore. I used to edit at the end of each chapter. Now, I leave gaps if I need to spend time researching and go back and fill this in on redrafts.
Helen: I must admit I enjoy editing more than I thought. The story really begins to shine when you polish your phrasing. Every time I edit I learn something new. What advice would you give new writers?
Cully: Don’t quit! It’s really hard sometimes. Writing can be isolating, and sometimes you wonder if anyone even reads/enjoys your work. Reviews help a lot. A well-timed review has saved my sanity more than once when I’ve been second guessing myself.
Hold on to your dreams! Believe in yourself and stay true to your vision. So much will come your way and try to shake you, hold on. Quitters never make it.
If I was to start over, I’d start with a shorter book, a stand-a-lone or a prequel and get myself known a little before plunging right into everything.
Helen: Great advice! We’re drawing to close now, and I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. Tell us a little about how you work. Do you listen to music as you write, or do you prefer silence?
Cully: I listen to epic score music. Artists like Two Steps from Hell and Epic Score. I find the music very intense and emotional without distracting lyrics
Helen: and just to finish tell us about what you like to read. What is your favourite book?
Cully: I love Empire of Storms by S J Maas. It’s not the best for writing style or technique, but I love the characters she creates and the plot. The way Maas balances them both and draws you into the world through tense conflict and romance, is why I love this book.
Helen: Thank you so much, Cully, for spending time with us today. We wish you all the best with your new release in October, A Vow that Clashes. You can find out more about Cully and her Voice that Thunders series here:
Link to books on Amazon:
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If you haven’t read any of Cully’s book yet then I recommend you start with the first book in the series A Voice that Thunders. You won’t regret it.