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Welcome to another edition of Between the Lines! This week’s featured author is not a new name around Thrice Read Books. In fact, we’ve taken part in three cover reveals and reviewed her first three books in The Gemeta Stone series. Book four, Ragis, is now out, and we’ll be reviewing this one as well. She is an author and actress. We sat down with Donna Migliaccio back in July, to talk books, writing and more.
Jenn: Welcome, Donna! We are so excited to get a chance to sit down and talk with you today. I remember doing the Fiskur cover reveal as our inaugural blog post on the Thrice Read Books website, and I have gotten the opportunity to enjoy all three books in The Gemeta Stone series. Are you excited to see book 4 come to life in print?
Donna: I am indeed. The story has taken some very interesting turns through the years, and I'm especially proud of some major new plot points and characters in Ragis.
Jenn: Oh boy! I've been catching little snippets and teasers over on Twitter, and I've long since given up trying to predict the plot twists.
Donna: Oh, goody. That means I'm doing them right.
Jenn: For those of our readers who aren't familiar with The Gemeta Stone series, could you tell us about the series in general, and then maybe focus in some on Ragis?
Donna: The Gemeta Stone is the story of Kristan Gemeta, a gentle young prince who loses his father, his kingdom and his family's legendary talisman to Daazna, a powerful magic worker seeking revenge for an injustice done him years before. In the first book, Kinglet, Kristan must find regain both his family's Stone, his self-respect and his courage before he can make a stand against Daazna. He's helped by Heather Demitt, the youngest of a band of rebels who have fled Daazna's stronghold. In Book 2, Fiskur, Kristan finally meets up with Daaza, at a terrible cost. In Stoneking, Kristan has regained his kingdom at last, but he's physically, mentally and emotionally broken by what's happened to him. When he's forced into a dangerous midwinter journey, his condition continues to deteriorate. Ragis picks up the story in mid-journey, where a series of setbacks and betrayals have accelerated Kristan's descent toward madness.
My, that sounds grim.
Jenn: Indeed! It falls in the fantasy genre, but it's certainly not Disney.
Donna: I'd say it lives somewhere between Lord of the Rings and A Song of Fire and Ice. It's not quite as "high fantasy" as LOTR, and not as "grimdark" as ASOFAI.
Jenn: Yes. Sam's been dying to read the series, and I keep putting her off a little longer.
Donna: I think it's suitable for readers 16+ since there's a fair amount of violence and sexual content.
Jenn: It's the latter that I think she'd struggle with. She loves horror and fantasy, and she'd love the Kentavron (I think I spelled that correctly), but the sexual content that picks up in book 3 would definitely set her teeth on edge.
Now, it's been a while since I read Kinglet, and I just can't remember. Was Kinglet your debut novel? Or do you have another body of work I haven't discovered yet?
Donna: Kinglet was my first novel. I've had a couple of short stories published in anthologies, but The Gemeta Stone has taken up most of my writing time and energy.
Jenn: As I recall, this series has quite a history to it, going back a ways?
Donna: The germ of the story came out of a writing assignment when I was in high school. I finally finished the book when I was in my early twenties, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was no internet. I went to the library, checked their latest copy of Publisher's Marketplace, picked a fantasy publisher and fired off the manuscript to them. They kept it for nearly nine months before sending it back to me, asking me to add more magic and cut the manuscript back considerably. I edited as best I could, but I really didn't know what I was doing, and they pretty promptly rejected the revision. I put the manuscript away for a couple of decades, but the story stayed in my head, and in 2009 I started rewriting it, with an eye toward eventually getting it into publishable shape. And here we are in 2018.
So it only took me 40 years or so to finish it LOL.
Jenn: And here we are! With this amazing, epic fantasy! And now I don't feel so bad for leaving my own work sit for almost 2 years, hah!
Donna: Real life has a way of interfering, doesn't it?
Jenn: It does!
So, is Ragis the conclusion of Kristan's tale? Or will we be breathlessly awaiting more of his misadventures?
Donna: There's a fifth and final book in the series, which I'm working on now. I also wrote a prequel, which was intended more as research into Kristan and Daazna's youths and that fateful moment when their paths finally crossed. It actually turned into a fairly decent story, which might be worth publishing as well. I haven't looked at it in a long time.
Jenn: Oh, wow! Yes, the history between those two would be great to read. The snippets that readers get in the books are kind of an appetizer to a much richer story.
Now, Daazna has some natural magical talent, but he's not a witch. You've used an entirely different term, and to be honest, I'm not sure how to pronounce it (and the spelling is escaping me as I type this). Could you explain to our readers what he is, and maybe, how to pronounce the term?
Donna: Daazna is "Wiche." It's pronounced with a soft glottal on the "ch," so it's closer to our "wick" than the similar "witch." It's essentially magic, but in the world of The Gemeta Stone, it comes in two forms: Learned, which is magic that can be taught and developed and altered according to the user's whims, and True, or Tabi'a, which is magic in its natural state, which exists for its own purposes and can't be controlled. The Stone itself is Tabi'a - it exists to protect the head of the Gemeta family, but it has other properties which Kristan is only beginning to understand.
Jenn: Thank you for that pronunciation! I've been trying to figure it out since November. And the stone creates some conflicts for poor Kristan, doesn't it?
Donna: It does. He thinks at first that it's just a talisman, but discovers it has a will of its own. A large part of Stoneking and Ragis is about how Kristan deals with what he wants, as opposed to what the Stone wants.
Donna: So much of the conflict in The Gemeta Stone comes out of the psychology of magic - what it can do, both to those who use it and those it's used on.
Jenn: Now, with book four, Ragis on its release countdown, and book five & that little backstory in the wings. The Gemeta Stone series will eventually come to an end, as all things do. Do you have plans to continue writing?
Donna: I'm sure I will. I have a couple of story ideas on the back burner, and I'd like to explore writing more short stories.
Jenn: Now, you're both multi-talented and multi-passionate. How do you find time for writing in the middle of all of that?
Donna: Well, I don't idle well. I always have a half-dozen projects going on at once, and I find if I have nothing to do, then I do nothing. The busier I am, the more I get accomplished.
I do my best writing when I have the least time for it - when every minute counts.
Jenn: No time to sit and question every word that way?
Donna: I tend to edit as I go, which probably comes from my journalism background when I was writing on deadline.
I've never been able to just sit and spew words.
Jenn: Ahh! So, are you more of a planner in your writing style?
Donna: See, here's the weird part. I don't outline. When I sit down to write, I know how I want things to end and I have a general idea of how I want to get to that ending, but I'm open to letting the characters' personalities take the wheel, so to speak. They sometimes drive the plot car in a much more interesting direction.
Jenn: And what interesting directions they have taken The Gemeta Stone!
Donna: Just as an example, the character of Heather has changed dramatically since I first conceived her. She started off simply as a love interest, but she turned out to be so strong and vital a force in the story that she moved from being a secondary player to a co-main character with Kristan.
Jenn: I know by the end of Stone King, she's kind of taken on her own storyline. And I adore Heather, by the way. I think she's part of why Sam's dying to read this series.
As we reach the end of our time together... For our younger readers - What advice would you give a young writer?
Donna: Read. READ READ READ. And if you want to write, give yourself the leeway and the time to fail at it. Too many young writers want instantaneous results: they expect to produce a polished, publishable book after only a few months of writing. It doesn't work that way. You've got to log a lot of BIC hours (that's "Butt in Chair," for the uninitiated) before you'll even get close to writing a satisfactory story.
Jenn: YES! And as a reviewer, I've seen far too many writers slap together the first draft and publish it (cringe).
Donna: I highly recommend a website called AbsoluteWrite.com for writers who are serious about writing as a profession. The forums there, while not for the faint of heart, are invaluable.
Jenn: Is there anything else you'd like readers to know before diving into The Gemeta Stone?
Donna: Don't let the fact that there are five books in the series put you off. I promise, they're pretty fast reading. And if you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me through my website: donnamigliaccio.com, or via my Twitter account @donnamig. I love talking to my readers.
Jenn: I know you're super active on Twitter, and I'll have buttons at the bottom of the page with links to your social media and website.
Thank you so, so much for your time today, Donna. I know you're probably getting super excited for the release of Ragis in August (I know I am!). On behalf of Thrice Read Books, we wish you all the best on your release and your show!
Donna: Thank you for interviewing me. It was a lot of fun!
Jenn: You are very welcome!
Donna's Social Media
Other Books in the Series
Kinglet (book 1)
Fiskur (book 2)
Stoneking (book 3)
Ragis (book 4)