Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Xenia Melzer – Xenia Melzer is a mother of two who enjoys riding and running when she’s not writing stories. She doesn’t like beer but is easily tempted by a Virgin Mojito. Or chocolate. Truffles are especially cherished, even though she doesn’t discriminate. As a true chocoholic, she welcomes any kind of cocoa-based delight.
Thanks so much, Xenia, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
Xenia Melzer: I usually write in what my husband calls my ‘nest’. I’m on the couch (I like having my feet up), two pillows in my back, one under my knees, a blanket over my legs and another, smaller pillow on my lap where the laptop sits. My cursor has another pillow to sit on, and I always have my cell, my phone and something to drink. Once I’m comfortable, I can start writing – and I usually don’t get up any time soon…
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
XM: I knew I wanted to write as soon as I was able to read. And I knew I was good at it when my teachers started reading out my stories to the class in fifth grade.
JSC: Describe yourself using an animal.
XM: I would be an Aye-Aye. They look really funny and nobody knows anything about them except that they are on the verge of extinction. According to my loving sister, I look just like one of them…
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
XM: I come from Fantasy, but I’m venturing into Contemporary at the moment. I just want to tell stories and very often, they end up with a tiny hint of magic or dragons or unicorns or….well, Fantasy.
JSC: If I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads? Why? And can we have pictures to drool over?
XM: As Casto, I would like to have Sergei Polunin, the ballet dancer. I didn’t know him when I created Casto, but he fits the bill perfectly.
For Renaldo, I would like to have Aleksander Skarsgard. I mean, hello, Tarzan?!!! Plus, he’s an incredible actor.
For Canubis, I’d like to have Jason Momoa. He’s the perfect God of War and I’m still crying because he died in Season One of Game of Thrones. What an utter waste!!!
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
XM: My first published work was, funnily enough, an essay about healthy living that I wrote together with a dear friend and former university professor of mine. It was all about healthy choices for living and how we should be aware of where our food comes from. I’m still very proud of it.
My first published book was ‘Casto’, the first in the ‘Gods of War’ series, so as you can see, I’m a very newbie writer. I was so excited when I got the mail from Dreamspinner.
JSC: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
XM: Hmmm, that’s a tie between Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. And I don’t think I would be able to ask anything. I’d be too awed. But if I managed to open my mouth, I would ask Terry how long it took him to become such a wizard with words and if he did some extra training or if it just happened with every new book.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
XM: I go running or riding and come up with a scene or a general idea. Then I have that in my head for some time, adjusting and tweaking. After that, I write down the scene and start building the rest of the story around it. A nightmare, I know. I swear, I am organized, just not organized organized.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
XM: Abby, my cat is sitting, well, not on the keyboard, because she has better things to do, like killing all the birds and mice in my garden and presenting me the eviscerated trophies. And I have a horse, Aquamarin, who has been with me for fourteen years now. Getting out with her always gives me inspiration and many a scene was born while I was riding her.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
XM: Currently I’m working on the fifth and sixth part of ‘Gods of War’ as well as a new contemporary, ‘A Dom and His Artist’. The fourth part of ‘Gods of War’, ‘Braving the Storm’ will be out at the end of the year. Oh, and my first contemporary book, ‘A Dom and His Writer’, will be out in October/November, also with Dreamspinner.
And now for Xenia’s new book: Ummana:
In war, loss is the price of victory, and the cost of love is sometimes pain.
After Renaldo and Casto finally celebrate their marriage, the time has come for revenge against the followers of the Good Mother who tried to kill Casto—though this time, the Gods of War won’t use bloodshed to take Medelina.
As a member of the Confederation of the Plains, Medelina answers to Ummana, the head of the alliance… and Casto is heir to the throne of Ummana. Accompanied by their most capable mercenaries, Canubis and Renaldo travel to Ummana to make Casto king.
They’ll face the Council of Elders, Lord Aran, Casto’s father, and Princess Anesha, Casto’s sister—none of whom are happy about the king’s return. For Casto, the city is a reminder of a terrible childhood, and Renaldo can only helplessly watch his beloved fight a seemingly hopeless battle.
Through trickery and political scheming, vengeance against the Good Mother is finally within their grasp—but their success might be bittersweet. Not everyone will return to the Valley with Casto and Renaldo.
Gods of War Book Three
“I’m still furious.” Canubis crashed his fist down on the wooden table around which the Emeris were gathered. “It just can’t be that a bunch of heathens march into the Valley like it’s an open market and come this close”—he held up his thumb and forefinger, indicating a hair’s breadth—“to destroying us all. This was planned thoroughly and executed almost perfectly. We were lucky this time, but I won’t rely on luck alone to keep us safe. It’s high time to remind the followers of the Good Mother that their false goddess has no place on Ana-Darasa. They dared to reach for my brother’s heart with their filthy hands!”
As if on cue, all gazes turned to Casto, who sat at the table next to his mate. He was slowly getting used to being treated like an especially valuable possession, which, according to the prophecies, he somehow was. Now that Ana-Isara had officially recognized him as Renaldo’s heart, the divine brothers were only waiting for the arrival of the last Emeris before they would conquer this world for good.
Casto’s place in the hierarchy had changed considerably, and he was still busy assessing and analyzing the resulting consequences.
His relationship with Canubis and Renaldo was indisputable. He owed them obedience, period. Even though he resented it, his scope regarding those two was narrow, and he was in no hurry to test its limits. Hulda, Noemi, and Cornelia were out of the equation. They were very intelligent, immensely powerful ladies he would always treat with the greatest of respect, since he was neither a barbarian nor stupid. Aegid and Kalad were almost like friends, even though he still felt unsettled by Aegid’s intense personality. Wolfstan and Bantu were level, reserved characters, but you did not become a member of this elite circle without a will of steel and special talents.
In Ummana, Casto had learned that it always paid not to neglect the silent ones. If you did, you could very well die. Noran, on the other hand, was his enemy. He was torturing Casto’s best friend, did it on purpose to hurt Casto as well, and he would be damned if he did not make the master smith pay for his sins one day.
“Therefore, Renaldo and I have decided to attack and destroy Medelina.”
Canubis’s voice pried Casto from his musings.
“It’s one of the cells where the Good Mother is strongest, and according to the traitors we tortured, Assani and Damon were schooled there. I want that city down in the dust.”
The amber eyes lit up dangerously; there was no doubt about Canubis’s determination and anger. It was a terrifying display of his dominance. Kalad was the first who dared to voice some doubt.
“I do understand your fury, Canubis, and please believe me when I tell you that I share it wholeheartedly, but Medelina is incredibly fortified. The city is one of the few that still have something akin to a standing army, so they’re not defenseless. Even with forces like ours, it’s questionable whether the city will fall.”
“I agree with my brother.” Aegid’s voice was level, as always, but it carried weight because of that. “Attacking Medelina is madness. It will cost us many fighters, and we can’t be sure about the outcome.”
As usual in such situations, Renaldo’s face was frozen into an impenetrable mask. His brother, on the other hand, showed his agitation openly.
“We can’t let them get away with this. We have to set an example.”
Now Bantu spoke as well. “I do understand, Canubis, but the question is….”
Casto studied the map pinned to the wall behind the Wolf of War. There was a truly simple solution to this problem, even though he had hoped to have left this part of his life behind for good. Just thinking about it made his head ache, but he was a member of the Pack, mate to a god. He owed it to all of them to neglect his own well-being for the greater good, especially when the alternative meant losing so many skilled warriors. It’s also your chance to get your revenge! the voice in the back of his head whispered persistently. It was too good an opportunity to pass on.
He cleared his throat.
“I agree with Aegid and Kalad. Attacking Medelina would be a calculated waste of lives. Besides, it doesn’t make sense to go against a city you can easily control with other means.”
Canubis glared at him. He had anticipated that his plans would not meet with immediate approval, but he did not like how his brother’s mate not only opposed him, but also spoke in riddles.
“Explain yourself, Casto. I don’t have time for one of your games.”
For a moment anger bloomed in the noble features of the prince, but after a sidelong glance at Renaldo, who looked at his mate with a clear warning written all over his face, Casto held back. Nevertheless, he could not keep himself from speaking with exaggerated patience, as if his audience were a slightly slow child.
“All I’m saying is that Medelina is a member of the Confederation of the Plains. The mistress of this alliance is Ummana. The Twin Cities are superior to all other members.”
Canubis, like the other Emeris, did not see where Casto was going. Even Renaldo seemed confused. Casto sighed.
“The key is Ummana. And it so happens that I know from reliable sources that the rightful king of Ummana was married to a barbarian god from the North only a week ago. According to the laws in the Valley, Ummana is yours and your brother’s.”
Silence. They all stared at Casto as if seeing him for the first time. The young man rolled his eyes.
“What do you think ‘Your Highness’ means? It’s not an empty phrase. I’m the firstborn. This summer I turn twenty-two, which means I’m of age and can claim the throne for myself. It could be that the Council won’t accept my marriage because Renaldo is male and thus the continuation of
the line is in danger, but they can’t deny my claim to the throne. You’re going to rule through me.”
Kalad started laughing.
“That’s brilliant! Crazy, but brilliant.”
As if these words had lifted a ban, they all started talking at once, all enthusiastic about the idea. Only Canubis watched Casto with a questioning look in his eyes. Renaldo silenced the Emeris with a gesture. Canubis took over again.
Xenia Melzer is a mother of two who enjoys riding and running when she’s not writing stories. She doesn’t like beer but is easily tempted by a Virgin Mojito. Or chocolate. Truffles are especially cherished, even though she doesn’t discriminate. As a true chocoholic, she welcomes any kind of cocoa-based delight.