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Interviewing the Indies: Mike Reeves McMillan

Beastheads by Mike Reeves-McMillan
Cover Design by Chris Howard

Today, Mike Reeves-McMillan sat down to talk about his short fiction as well as the continuation of the Gryphon Clerks, a steampunkish fantasy series. If he's not busy with his series, then he's working on his solo collection of short stories.

Beastheads, the next in the Gryphon Clerks series, is slated to be published in June.

When the old shaman took Berry away from her home and family, she expected to become a shaman in turn. But after her oath shatters, she finds a new place as a Gryphon Clerk, helping negotiate a treaty with the beasthead people.

A beasthead shaman stands against her, fearing the loss of his people’s way of life and the corruption of their youth. As the Human Purity movement gains power in a nearby realm, though, the beasthead and the clerk must find a way through their differences before war destroys everything they value.

Give us a little information about Berry. What kind of woman is she? What's her biggest flaw?

Berry wants to matter. She was almost, but not quite, the youngest in her family, and consistently overlooked. She wants to do something important, but at the same time she doesn't think she can, especially since she failed to become a shaman.

She's also naive, having grown up with nothing in the remote rural districts of an impoverished province. The world looks a lot simpler to her than it really is.

Since your fantasy novels have all taken place in the same realm so far, what has been your favorite part of the world you've created?

The series title is the Gryphon Clerks, and that's my favourite part. They're heroic civil servants, basically - civil service done right, in that they'll do whatever it takes to do the job right for the people of the realm. Sometimes that puts them in danger.

In your series, which character do you admire the most? Why?

It's difficult to get past Victory, the ruler of the realm. She's a small, ordinary-looking woman who, by a combination of mindmagic and sheer force of personality, manages to make everyone think she's much taller and more impressive than she is. She's unfailingly calm and polite, and works tirelessly for the betterment of her poorest subjects, which fools some of her political opponents into thinking she's a nice person. She's actually more like a combination of Lord Vetinari and Elizabeth I, with a fierce drive to leave a legacy of prosperity in her realm that will get her remembered for centuries.

You've been writing a lot more short fiction lately, in addition to your novel series. Why is that, and how is it different?

In large part it's because of Charles Barouch from HDWP Books, who's been putting together themed anthologies. I was struck by the first theme - Invasion - because I already had an idea for a side-story to Beastheads, which involves an invasion. I wrote the story and submitted it, and it escalated from there. I've since written three more stories for the Theme-Thologies (as Charles calls them), two of which aren't out yet, and I'm busily submitting to other anthologies and magazines. I sold a story to New Realm last year, and have had several near misses (by which I mean encouraging "close, but no cigar" personalised responses) with Strange Horizons, Unidentified Funny Objects and even Sword and Sorceress.

HDWP Books are bringing out a solo anthology of my stories in June, Good Neighbours and Other Stories. It contains my Theme-Thology contributions and the New Realm piece, as well as half a dozen or so new stories written for the collection that aren't available anywhere else. Mostly Gryphon Clerks stories, though not all; there's one set in the town near where I live, and another in a strange, sparsely-furnished afterlife.

I started doing more short story writing in part because I want to improve my storytelling. I'm a good sentence-level writer, and readers love my characters and worldbuilding, but because I discovery-write more than I outline, my plots are not quite at the same level yet. I'm starting to outline more now, and the short story writing is also helping.

One of the things that short-story writing does is generate more ideas. The more ideas I use (and some of them I've had hanging around for years), the more I seem to get. It keeps the creativity flowing.

What is your favorite thing about being an independent author?

The control. My cover artist, Chris Howard, who's excellent, works directly for me, and I give him a brief and he follows it. That means I'm never going to have a cover with a woman in too little clothing, distorted into an impossible pose. My editor, Kathleen Dale, works for me, too. She gives me great advice, but what you see in a book with my name on it is exactly what I wanted to put in there, no more, no less.

I can run sales when I want, price however I want, and choose which distribution channels I use. If I see something wrong, or something not working, I don't have to ask anyone in order to fix it. And I can publish the books as soon as they're ready. There's no long-drawn-out process. Beastheads, for example, is due out in June, but "due out" just means "I think that's when it'll be ready". If it needs another rewrite, or real-life events ambush me and June becomes difficult, I can make it July, and there's no drama. When I'm happy that it's as good as it's going to get, out it goes, and that process takes fifteen minutes instead of fifteen months.

Thank you for stopping by, Mike!

You can see all of Mike Reeves-McMillan's books on his website or you can follow him on goodreads. You can also purchase the other Gryphon Clerks series on amazon: Realmgolds, Hope and the Clever Man, and Hope and the Patient Man. He also has two standalone novels, City of Masks and Gu.

Check out the other Interviewing the Indies posts below!

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