M.J. Irving answers some questions and gives insights into her life.
1. What inspired you to start writing?
I hate to start on a negative note but in March 2020 I came down with Covid. I was extremely sick for weeks and with so much on the news about people of ethnic minorities being at higher risk and also people with underlying health conditions there were times that I thought that was it for me! It is scary when at times you cannot breathe properly and you feel so unwell you can’t get out of bed. I obviously have felt so grateful that I came out the other side of my illness but it really made me stop and think about how life is so short and that you need to do the things that you are passionate about. The present is truly a gift so don’t wait for the future!
2. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, almost always. Well apart from when I was really young and wanted to be a marine biologist or vet because I love animals. I was always worried because you hear about how writers and artists can never make it and I didn’t want to be in that situation so I made the idea of writing in to something that I pictured myself doing when I was old and grey. But, after my illness earlier in the year I thought, what is stopping me? Plus, with lots of holiday days and no holiday to go on because of Covid I thought why not spend those days writing? I have also been lucky enough to know a few authors who inspired me over the years and their successes made me realize that I can do it too! If you put your mind to it then even your wildest dreams can come true.
3. Pantser or Planner?
I’m both. At first, I didn’t think I was since I organize everything in my life. I am bad at remembering things so I have always been good at keeping myself organized so that I don’t forget what I’m doing. With Nova’s Quest I spent two weeks planning out everything, the settings, the characters, the cliff hangers etc. But, once I started writing it was like the characters took on a life of their own and they surprised me. The story became a living thing, an entity with its own volition and I became its servant – the humble writer. It was a strange feeling since I had control over the story but it had its own special power all at the same time!
4. Can you share something from your book that isn’t a blurb?
If you are perhaps wondering where the concept of my book came from, it all started with a comet and a moonbow. These are two significant parts of my book. My inspiration came from both seeing the Hale-Bopp comet above the mountains when I was young and living in the Rocky Mountains in Canada. I remember seeing how beautiful it was as it lit up the snow-capped mountains and the Kootenay Lake below it and I knew it was something significant in my life for whatever reason. It’s funny because as I began to conceptualize the book you might recall that comet Neowise was visible from earth earlier this year and was all over the news. If you don’t believe in those sorts of signs then I guess it is mere coincidence but for me I truly believe it has significance. The moonbow is important to me as I had never heard of one before but my uncle took me up the field behind his cottage in Scotland last year at night and the sky was so blue and full of stars. He told me how he had seen a moonbow in that very spot before and I just loved the idea and it really stuck with me. I decided that they both deserved a place in Nova’s Quest and the story just flowed from there.
5. What do you hope your readers take away from your book?
From an entertainment perspective, I honestly really hope that readers just have fun with the story, that they feel hooked and don’t want to put it down and that they want to hear more about Nova’s Quest because there is so much more to come! From the perspective of the message that I am trying to deliver, there really are a number throughout the book but one is really the importance of standing up for what is right and making change collectively in the face of adversity and corruption. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I will stop there.
6. What made you pick the setting for your book?
I actually wanted to play with high fantasy and low fantasy settings so you essentially get two worlds. One setting is a lot more like the world we live in today and another is like a colourful painting bringing all of the wonderful things of fantasy all together. In the series, I intend to build on these worlds and reveal a whole lot more. I also wanted to bring a fantasy world to Canada and to a place that I hold dear to my heart, the world of Dacaan is depicted with every drop of beauty that I found in the place where I spent my high school years – in the Kootenays in the province of British Columbia. I really believe that it is one of the most beautiful places in the world! I obviously recreated the region in to a fantasy world but I used a lot of place names and reference the beautiful mountains, lakes, trees, streams and so on.
7. Are you reading anything right now?
I am in the middle of reading my way through a few series including Scythe, Caraval and Six of Crows. I love anything fantasy and dystopian but I do read all genres and am keen to one day write in other genres too.
8. What’s your favorite quote?
“I’ve been writing your story as you’ve grown, Nova. We are just getting to your quest, and I believe it should be a fantastic one.”
This quote is obviously from Nova’s Quest – not that I don’t like other authors quotes but it is honestly my favourite quote. When I wrote it I just felt this affinity with the story, the characters and the concepts that I was drawing out and it made me feel really excited about the world – well world’s – that I have created. As mentioned, I do love other quotes and I think some of the quotes by George R.R. Martin for instance are just brilliant.
9. What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I really love travelling. I’ve travelled to over 50 countries and really love feeling immersed in other cultures and experiencing different things – I really believe travelling is the easiest way to building yourself as a person – it opens your mind! Obviously, this year I haven’t been able to travel quite so much and have just had one staycation in Cornwall with my boyfriend. I do however love hikes in the wilderness and exploring nature. That is probably my happy place.
10. What’s for dinner?
I love, love, love to cook! And to eat haha. I like to cook almost anything and wish I was better at baking but find that harder because you have to have patience and follow recipes. Plus I’ve never been good with numbers and measurements and a teaspoon can all of a sudden get mixed with a tablespoon and you’ve ruined your treat! My favourite food is most definitely seafood and more specifically lobster but its best saving that for special occasions because it tastes even better then! My favourite sweet treat is chocolate fondant.
11. Share something about yourself your readers don’t already know.
I’m really clumsy and awkward. Thankfully, people who know me laugh and see it as endearing but it can be hugely embarrassing! I also firmly believe that laughter is the best medicine. The world is a pretty grey place without laughter. I try not to take things too seriously and am almost always joking about something.
12. Describe yourself in three words
Funny, outspoken, caring.
13. If you could go anywhere for the weekend, where would you go?
Happenstance, I mean I do go there most weekends in my writing haha! But in terms of real places it would probably be Iceland. I am honestly in awe of the beauty of that country. It is the last place that I visited and I could have stayed for forever.
14. Tea or coffee?
Tea. Or decaf coffee – don’t judge me please haha!
15. Hot or cold?
Hot but in a cold location. So, essentially I like being snuggled by the fire in a chalet with snow outside. Although living somewhere with snow is not something I miss. I like the first few days of snow but months and months can be exhausting!
16. Morning person or night owl?
I am more of a night owl although as I get older I find that I wake up earlier and earlier. My best thinking seems to be, frustratingly, in the middle of the night! Whole worlds can come alive in my head as soon as the lights go out.
17. City or country?
I am much more of a country person but it’s funny because I currently live in one of the biggest cities in the world. I think that the city is an amazing place especially when you are in your twenties and thirties because you can explore so many different things including great food, culture, art, nightlife etc. I wouldn’t take back my years as a young adult in both Vancouver and then London for anything. But I am a small town girl at heart – country music, wide open spaces – that’s much more who I am. Give me a field of wild flowers over concrete any day!
18. Are you working on anything new?
I already have some amazing concepts drawn out for Nova’s Quest for the Spellbound Elixir which is book two in the series. I can’t wait to get fully started on it as I want to make sure we make it’s release date of June 2021! I have so many different directions that I would like to take my stories. I have multiple books that I wold like to create that are based in the magical worlds of Dacaan and Happenstance – I can’t wait to share everything with you all!
19. Are you on other social media platforms? If so, where can your readers find you?
I absolutely love my questers following me on Instagram at @mjirving_official and I am starting to get up to speed on twitter with my account @mjirving_author You can check the hashtag #novasquest for more posts on what readers think about my book and please also sign up to my newsletter on my website for more on future releases and to enter for a chance to win a free signed copy!
20. Most important, where can readers find your book?
My book is available on Amazon and is in the process of being listed through all major ebook and book retailers.