Máire Brophy – Q&A

Máire Brophy’s debut novel, After the World, was published by Strange Fiction Press on 8 May 2018.

Máire kindly answered a few of my questions

1. Tell us a little about After the World.

After the world is a fantasy novella. It’s the story of an orc general surviving after his world is gone. He’s lost the war and everyone he knows is wiped out. He starts to come to terms with the fact he’s still alive. In the book he looks for other survivors and discovers something he did not expect. It’s about trauma, memory and arguing with trees.

It’s a first person story, so you’re in his head from the start. I was surprised with how much I connected with the character when writing him, and my early feedback from readers shows that they feel the same. I like to remind them that he’d kill them as soon as look at them!

2. What inspired the book?

I’ve been reading fantasy for years as well as lots of other genres, but I can pinpoint this particular idea to playing Dungeons and Dragons and trying to come up with a hook for an evil campaign. So I was thinking of stories of bad characters in hierarchies of bad characters. It turned into something quite different than I expected.

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?

100% pantsing all the way. I find that if I try and plan I get bored and I no longer want to write that story! On saying that I do generally look for an emotional arc. A character isn’t interesting to me unless I can think of something unusual to challenge them. When I have some sort of an arc in mind, or even just an idea for something that will really challenge an interesting character, then I’ll see where it can go. But I generally don’t know where things are going!

4. Having been through the publishing process is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?

I think everyone says how long it takes, but everything I read said months, for me it was a year to find a publisher and more than a year before the book came out. We didn’t have too much work to do on it, but between the publisher having unfree periods and me having certain times I was too busy to look at it, meant that it took longer than expected.

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

I really enjoy movies and love a whole cinema day where I see two or three films by myself. It keeps me off my phone and I get really immersed in the story. Of course I love reading too. I’m currently in two role playing games as well – Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer. I really enjoying the players in both games, and they’ve both turned very silly at times. It’s like a weekly exercise of our collective imaginations and it is never boring.

I am also a stress baker and have been known to avoid work by throwing myself headlong into baking.

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

Well it would be a long book, like War and Peace or the Lord of the Rings. But probably I’d settle for my favourite book Thud! By Terry Pratchett

7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

The thing I haven’t been asked about at all is the relationship between academic writing and fiction writing. I have quite a lot of experience in academic writing from my own PhD to my day to day work with other academics and researchers on applications for competitive funding.

In general the tools of the craft are very similar. Writing, editing, looking for and engaging with constructive feedback, are all factors that help. For me, I think the real help was psychological. I had massive fear when writing my thesis – I had all the raging nervousness that comes with the vulnerability of writing and fear of rejection. I had to learn to get over it, and I had to learn to take the criticism, and find ways to make it work for me. With my current role, I work in a field of long odds and rejection is by far the most likely response to applying for a funding grant.

I’ve been rejected hundreds of times before writing the book. I’ve seen how tenacity is the differentiating factor in success, rather than the quality of the work. You could have two pieces of work of equal quality and the first one gets rejected so the person gives up. But the second person won’t give up until it finds the right home. Eventually they get a win and no one remembers that they “failed” 5 times before that. This is really helped me in writing fiction. I find it much easier to take feedback in ways that are constructive, and it bothers me an awful lot less to be rejected.

Turns out the answer to fear of rejection is to get rejected an awful lot!

About the book

After the war is lost, all that remains is to survive. And when you know what you’ve done, you can’t hope for anything more.

Bereft in a hostile world, an orc general struggles to come to terms with his role in the destruction of his people. Running and hiding from the humans and elves that hunt him down, he searches for other orc survivors.

When two human wizards finally pin him down in an abandoned orcish mountain fortress, he must use his wits and cunning to prevail, redeeming himself and the magic of his people.

About the author

Máire Brophy lives in Dublin, Ireland. By day, she works with researchers to help develop and express their ideas, and by night she mostly sleeps. In between she’s often found playing Dungeons and Dragons, eating cake and watching movies. She is currently considering learning to play golf. Máire cohosts Irish Writers Podcast – a podcast about writing – and tweets @mairebro. You can find out more information on her website mairebrophy.com. And don’t worry no-one else pronounces her name correctly either!

Her debut book After the World is published by Strange Fictions Press.

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