Today is interview day! Amanda graciously took time out of her busy schedule to answer my burning questions about her book, His Own Good Sword. Thank you so much for for taking the time to speak with us, Amanda!
1. This is quite a complex story about right and wrong. Do you think the protagonist, Tyren, made the right decisions in his choices to uphold order and fairness at his outpost?
I don’t think Tyren always made the right decisions. I’m not even sure I’d say he always acted with the right motivations. He starts out with very rigid presupposed ideas of right and wrong, but he’s never before had to put those ideas to the test the way he has to over the course of the story. The realization that he can’t fit everything neatly into his rigid framework is an important part of his maturation, but he makes a lot of mistakes on the way to that realization, and some of those mistakes are downright disastrous. And he has some serious personality flaws to overcome: pride and anger often spur his decisions as much as his sense of morality. In his defense, though, he’s painfully conscious of his mistakes, and he’s not satisfied until he’s corrected them.
2. What made you decide to write a high fantasy adventure as your first book?
I grew up on a steady diet of high fantasy: Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan. These were the authors who first motivated me to pick up a pen and write. Even though my reading tastes had changed a bit by the time I wrote His Own Good Sword, fantasy still felt like the most familiar territory for writing. The world of His Own Good Sword isn’t really a typical high fantasy world–there isn’t any magic, for one thing–but high fantasy played a huge role in my development as a writer, and I think His Own Good Sword reflects this.
3. The conflict between the Cesini and the Empire is an interesting struggle. Do you have sympathy with one of the factions? Or with any of the bloodlines? Any particular reason why?
As I wrote the story, I came to realize, just as Tyren does, that neither side, neither ideology, is completely right or wrong. I think that’s what Tyren is getting at when he internalizes at one point about the purpose of empire. No character is “evil” simply because of which side he associates himself with–I think that’s clear by the end of the novel. I sympathize with characters, not necessarily with factions, and there are heroes and villains in both camps. The best stories are the ones in which the antagonist is as human as the protagonist, and his actions as rational–it makes the conflict deeper.
That being said–there is a “right” side in the struggle, a side I’m rooting for to win. But, as Tyren realizes, you have to strip away all sense of ideology and “faction,” of rebels versus Empire, in order to find it.
4. Were there any particular struggles with writing this book–funny research, or passages that just wouldn’t come out right?
Research for this story was more involved than I thought it would be–it’s fantasy, after all, and you don’t have to do research for fantasy, right? But since I wanted the story to have a real-world historical flavor, I found myself with all sorts of unanticipated questions: how did ancient postal systems work? When was concrete invented? I don’t actually know anything about limestone, so after describing a limestone building in one passage it was nicely affirming to find out, thanks to a geology course I was taking at the time, that limestone could actually develop in a region like Cesin and might therefore serve as a building material.
The scenes that gave me the most difficulty were the action scenes, particularly the battles. I love writing description, and dialogue can be fun, but I dread writing action scenes. These were the last parts of the book to be written. I’d actually begun querying the manuscript before I could bring myself to write the climactic battle scene.
5. Given the way the book ends, I assume there’s going to be a sequel. Are you working on it now? Any other books you’re working on that might interest people?
There is a sequel. It’s called The Sword Unsheathed and I’ll be self-publishing it this December. I’m also currently working on a stand-alone novel called Aquae. Like His Own Good Sword, it’s historical-flavored fantasy–a (very loose) retelling of the Grimms’ fairy tale “The Water of Life,” set in 1st-century Roman-occupied Wales. It’s about a half-Roman, half-British boy who discovers he has druid powers and has to prove himself innocent of his soldier father’s murder.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Amanda McCrina is currently pursuing a degree in history and political science at the University of West Georgia. She has a particular interest in twentieth-century warfare and ancient Roman history, but she also enjoys film, graphic design, coffee, and ice hockey.
His Own Good Sword is available at: