Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, from Twilight Times Books, is available July 2013. She is one of the few Latinas exploring her heritage and her world through the epic fantasy genre today. She holds a master’s degree in business administration and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University. She was born in Michigan and grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a bilingual fascination for writing, a love for history, and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She enjoys long walks, traveling, and connecting with the amazing readers who share in her mind’s adventures. She lives in Florida with her indulging husband and three very opinionated cats.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Curse Giver. When did you start writing and what got you into fantasy?
I think I’ve been writing novels in my head since as far back as I can remember. But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago, after my kids were old enough to fend for themselves and I could carve out a little time that I decided to give writing a serious go. I was torn between writing historical fiction and fantasy, so I tinkered with both. This might sound a little crazy, but in my mind, these two genres have a lot in common. I started reading fantasy in college, when I was smitten by a boy who loved reading fantasy. I fell in love with the genre and married the boy. Or wait; was it the other way around?
Did you have a mentor who encouraged you?
I’ve been fortunate to have lots of people in my life who have encouraged and supported me in my writing, including family and friends, who prodded me to pursue writing and publishing until I finally did.
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?
Time was the first huge hurdle that I had to tackle when I started writing. I had a full-time job, a growing family and very little time to write. So I started writing late at night, after everyone was in bed. Needless to say, getting up for work in the morning was difficult, but hey, it was worth it. After I had my first novel ready, I faced the same difficulties that the majority of writers experience with submissions and rejections. I think I speak for most writers out there when I say that those days were dark and crushing, but also character building.
What was your inspiration for The Curse Giver?
I was doing research for Stonewiser: The Lament of the Stone, the third book of the Stonewiser trilogy, when I came across a picture of an ancient curse, written on a stone tablet. It was a protective curse, a warning, and it struck me as a very effective way of stopping someone from doing something, an attempt at law enforcement, justice and mind control, all in one. I started to research curses and became fascinated by how pervasive curses are to the human story. I came across many different types of curses from all kinds of belief systems and from all over the world. Even though they were all different, they were also very similar.
Then one night I dreamed — yes, I know, it’s cliché, but it’s the truth — I dreamed about this bitter lord, the last lord of Laonia, who was caught in the grip of a mysterious curse that had doomed his line. Based on this powerful image, I came up with my premise and my heroine. In order to save his people from destruction, the Lord of Laonia has to hunt a birthmark and kill the woman who bears it in a very foul, very wicked way — you’ll have to read the book to find out what that’s all about.
My heroine, Lusielle, bears the mark that the Lord of Laonia hunts. She’s a powerful healer, on the run, accused of a crime she didn’t commit. She’s about to be burned for her crimes, when the Lord of Laonia saves her from the pyre. But he is not her savior. On the contrary, he’s deadly to her. So this is how the story begins, with Lusielle wondering if she should heal the bitter lord who is pledged to kill her and the Lord of Laonia set to kill the only woman who could heal not just his body but also his heart, while at the same time, together, they have to confront the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.
No index cards or special software. Plotting takes place in my mind. I work on it all the time when I’m writing a first draft—not only when I’m writing, but at the store, on the treadmill, while I’m driving, when I’m watching TV, even in my dreams. In my opinion, the best plot twists ever are those that surprise everyone, including the author. What do you tell your muse when she refuses to collaborate?I’m one of those odd people who has to tell her muse to please quiet down while I catch up with her ideas.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to write. Can you relate to this?
In my case, I wouldn’t call it anxiety. To me, is more like a disquieting, irresistible pull. I want to be writing all the time. Not writing feels like a hardship. Perhaps that’s the anxiety that others are talking about?
Do you have a writing schedule? Do you set yourself weekly goals for your writing?
I write every day that I can possibly write and for as long as I can manage it. I have general goals about finishing first drafts, editing completed novels and meeting deadlines, of course, but I don’t have weekly goals in terms of words or pages.
How do you celebrate the completion of a novel?
With an edit! Seriously, the first thing I want to do when I finish a draft is read it again. The champagne is usually reserved for the finished product, although it has been known to make occasional appearances when a novel is accepted for publication and when the cover hits my screen.
What do you love most about the writer’s life?
Oh, gosh, there are so many things I love about my writer’s life. After so many years working nine to five, I love the freedom of setting my own schedule, the fact that I can work in my pajamas, and the absolute satisfaction that comes from spending hours at the keyboard. I love the process of writing, the intellectual challenge and the luxury of creating without boundaries. I love my writer friends, the feel of a new book in my hands, the excitement of a new idea blooming into a story and the birth of a powerful character. I love typing “The End” at the bottom of the manuscript, even though I know it’s never truly the end. But above all, I love my readers — meeting them, talking to them, reading their emails and their comments — because they are the ones riding shotgun in all my adventures.
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
Give a new writer a try today. Try something different that you hadn’t considered reading before. Try fantasy, for example, and open your senses to the idea of new and different worlds. Reading is the fastest, most convenient way of traveling, and our minds really need to travel.