The Lily Cafe is thrilled to welcome author Will Soulsby-McCreath! Their adult fantasy novel Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse is set to be released tomorrow, October 26, 2021 (check out the purchase link at the end of this post), but you can enjoy their flash fiction and short stories on their blog Nopoodles while you wait.
Title: Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse (Guardian Cadet #1)
Author: Will Soulsby-McCreath
Publisher: Nopoodles Everything Books
Publication date: October 26, 2021
Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse is part one of the Guardian Cadet Series, an exciting fantasy with action adventure, heapings of magic, and a delightful slow burn, heart-warming romance.
Merry wants to be a Guardian, there’s just a few things standing in her way: her gender, her secret heritage, her penchant for questioning authority.
Her repeated petitions turned arguments with the Guardian Commander have got Merry exactly nowhere and, as her second year of study at the Five Towers University nears its end, Merry is starting to worry she won’t have a job after Graduation. Or at least not one beyond her current gig as a bartender.
When a Guardian Colonel comes to Merry for help, the logical thing to do is agree, after all Colonel is only one step down from Commander. But when that help includes searching the places that will put Merry’s security most at risk she has to turn down the opportunity of a lifetime.
Until the Colonel sweetens the deal.
Thank you so much, Will, for chatting with me about your upcoming novel!
The stories you post on your blog (Nopoodles) take ideas and tropes and turn them on their heads. What inspired you to write stories like that and can readers expect more of that in your novel?
I write the stories I want to read, most of them start with a moment of inspiration, a “what if…?” Like “what if dragons were an endangered species?” [This is seriously one of my favorites and you can read it here, too!] Or “what if someone was reincarnated with their soulmate but fell in love with someone else?” (It absolutely was not inspired by Sailor Moon…) “What if a decorated war general had to marry the enemy’s leader for a peace treaty?”
I hope people will find that in Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse, but, honestly, until you asked this question, I didn’t realise how much I did this.
What made you want to write Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse and how did you develop the idea for it?
I first had the idea for Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse when I was a teenager, I scribbled it down in a notebook between classes. Then in 2018, I stumbled across the notebook (because my mum gave me a load of stuff she found from moving house) and I really liked the opening scene so I started it over again for NaNoWriMo that year. It has almost no relation to that original 2010 version other than that opening scene.
Fun fact: I had to change Rakael Valencia’s name, because I originally gave her the same name as my wife (who I hadn’t met back when I first ever wrote it).
How would you describe Merry, and what’s your favorite trait that you’ve given her?
My favourite description of Merry is the one given by her best friend in the novel “You’re a really nice — if slightly damaged — person.” I just really think that encapsulates the character I was trying to make. She’s also really impulsive and has a self-destructive streak a mile wide. Merry is the kind of person who can hold her tongue but often just wants to see what would happen if she didn’t.
I would have to completely agree with Merry’s friend. She’s such a delight to read. But there are also some amazing and fun minor characters. Which one was your favorite to write?
Kalik, if he counts as a minor character. Oh, or maybe Kitty, or PT.
I think PT was the most surprising. I designed him to be a useful enigma and then he ended up with a backstory and detailed characterisation. One day I intend to explore his backstory in a short story all his own.
I’d love to read more about PT! He’s such an intriguing one. Moving on… Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse touches on so many things, from mental health to gender, sexuality, and race to prejudices. What was it like to handle so many different topics and make sure one didn’t overwhelm all the others?
I think because I very intentionally zoomed in on Merry’s personal experience it was easier to balance, because it’s all conceptualised in what Merry can handle at any given time. There’s a lot of research that never makes it into the book too: researching people’s lived experiences compared to academic research, and using my own experiences and anecdotes from friends. Everything I wanted to touch on, I really wanted to do it with fairness and intent, so even when it was something I have personal experience with, I still tried to look into other peoples experience with the same things.
It’s really so amazingly and thoughtfully done! What do you hope readers will take away from Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse?
There’s lots of things readers could take away from Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse, there’s moments that my beta readers said resonated or stayed with them for a long time after they finished the book (the midwinter moon scene for one). But my main aim with Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse was that people would get so sucked into the world that they’d be able to forget their own real-world struggles for a little while. I always used fiction to escape reality and that’s what I wanted to provide: an escape.
What authors inspire you and what is your favorite book?
So many authors inspire me, I think every author is a Frankenstein Monster of pieces of other authors, but some of the ones I admire and actively try to emulate include: the humour of Joy Demorra, the character development of Valerie Valdes, the mastery of craft of Arkady Martine, the amazing world building of Ursula Le Guin.
As with most voracious readers, it’s always so hard to pick a favourite novel because there are always new ones that take the place for a while. But my long-term favourite (and go to answer for this question) is Poison Study by Maria V Snyder. I must have read it hundreds of times by now and I still love it (as do all the friends and family I force to read it, haha).
Why do you write?
I just can’t seem to stop. I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen (and creating them even before that). Every time I try to take a break I get a new idea and, next thing I know, I’ve picked up a pen and some paper (or my phone) and started writing.
Life of a writer! It just never ends. Last question: Is there an interview question you’ve been dying to answer? What is it and what is your answer?
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Listen to people’s advice about writing, especially if the advice giver is also a writer. But don’t listen too hard. Advice givers are usually coming from a generous place, they want to help, but their experiences don’t necessarily match yours, so their advice might not prove useful and it’s all too easy to get bogged down in trying to implement other people’s advice.
Don’t let doubters (external or internal) stop you from writing. Those doubts are best quashed by building skill, and the best way to build skill is through practise. Practise, write, and enjoy looking back at your old writing that might make you cringe by framing it as a “Look how far I have come. Look how much better I am now!”
About Will Soulsby-McCreath
Writer, Cosplayer, Unwarranted Advice Giver.
It’s pronounced “Souls-Bee-Muh-Kreth”
As a cosplayer, Table-Top Gaming nerd, and videogamer; fantastical worlds have been a staple of Will’s life forever. They like to corrupt their friends into joining these pass-times, or at least reading their stories.
Obsessed with every way to tell a story and every possible use for one, Will had few choices other than becoming a writer. A little too nosy for their own good they like to invest their time fixing other people’s problems, and when that doesn’t work they hand out stories to make you feel better.
Connect with Will Soulsby-McCreath
Purchase Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse
Thank you so much, Will! It was a huge pleasure, and Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse is an incredibly wonderful read!
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