author interview: Ginger Myrick
Actually, my dog is a Labradoodle (half Labrador Retriever and half Poodle) basically a glorified mutt, but I love him! When I decided that I wanted to include him in the book, I tried to figure out which combination of the native breeds would most closely approximate the mix. I think the Portuguese Water Dog, or Cão de Água, was pretty common on the ships of that era, and there is a breed of dog, Cão de Fila de São Miguel, that actually originated in the Azores specifically for the purpose of herding cattle. And the interaction between Palhaço and Inez has its basis in real life.
I’m assuming you’re a great cook, with the fabulous cooking scenes described in the story. I learned how to slice an apple correctly What is your favorite food, or meal to prepare?
Thanks for the generous assumption of my culinary prowess! I daresay I hold my own. Of course, cooking for three men/boys for most of my life, presentation usually takes second place to expediency and sheer volume. But I LOVE to bake. I have bread down to an artform (completely from scratch and hand kneaded) my favorite recipe being the Portuguese Sweet Bread mentioned in El Rey, and I’ve recently learned to make a foolproof pie crust wherein you substitute vodka for half of the water. And the apple trick (works for mushrooms and onions and anything else that might roll away) was just common sense after much frustration!
There are many heart-rending scenes in El Rey–which was the most difficult for you to write?
Do I need to say spoiler alert here? I’ll try to give you a coherent answer without giving too much away. The confrontation scene between Inez and Estêv?o under the olive tree was the worst. I got to that point one day before our morning walk. I had to put it aside, and when I turned the computer off, my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I had butterflies in my stomach for the whole hour away from the house, and I cried the whole time I was writing and every time I read it thereafter!
Did you plan to write a saga when you started El Rey, or did it develop as you were writing?
I had no idea what I was doing when I started! As I mentioned in my guest post, the whole thing hit me like a bolt of lightning. The heart of the story was complete, but as I pinpointed the setting and began to do the research, there were so many fascinating events that occurred during the era that it was difficult not to go off on a particularly compelling tangent. According to some readers, I should have kept to the core idea even more stringently! Then there were times when I thought, “What the heck did I get myself into? Who do I think I’m fooling, and how am I ever going to finish this?” The story dictated itself, and it is what it is.
Of the characters with their own novella, which was the easiest to write and which is your favorite?
Paulina’s Story was the easiest. It is the shortest and purely fictional. There were no factual occurrences requiring citation of facts or artful interweaving of documented history. As for my favorite, this was a choice I was faced with when I submitted for a literary contest. I think Iñigo’s Story is the one that is the most touching. Not that I can relate to it in any way, because only a small percentage of people have actually had to flee for their lives, but because of the sheer courage and faith and the strength of the bond that held the family together. It is inspiring. I only hope I conveyed it adequately enough. And Iñigo is a very endearing character on his own. I placed first in the contest, by the way!
If El Rey were made into a mini-series or movie, what actors and actresses would you like to portray your characters?
Ha! Ha! Ha! Now I’m going to get myself into trouble. Of course, the title character is based on my wonderful, supportive husband who is the love of my life, and nobody could ever do him justice, but I think Adrien Brody would evoke just the right balance of confidence and vulnerability. And he has the perfect nose for the part! For Inez, that’s tough because she would have to play a wide age range. I think Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter) could do it or maybe Natalie Portman. I’ll make my final decision when Hollywood comes knocking on my door! I hadn’t given too much thought to the other characters.
Have you been able to travel to any of the settings in the book, and if so, how are they different in present day?
I have not been to any of the settings except on the internet, but as you may have noticed, I have a very fertile imagination! When I had to describe the pertinent places in the book, I looked up as many photos as I could, made a concerted effort to read the oldest accounts available, and tried to imagine what they must have looked like five hundred years ago. Of course, I took artistic license with a lot of it, but people in the know tell me that I came pretty close. I would like to experience it firsthand and have an open invitation to the Azores from a new friend, renown artist John Kirthian Court, but that is a totally different (but perhaps equally as interesting) story!
El Rey is extremely well written and perfectly edited–not an easy feat for a self-published writer. Tell us about your background in History and English, because you seem very well-versed in both.
All I can say is thank you. Coming from a self-professed grammar fanatic, I am very flattered! I read a lot and do tons of crossword puzzles! I fell just short of completeing my AA degree, because I became a mom and never went back to school. Priorities! But I have always been strong in liberal arts, and I am fascinated by etymology. I’m sure there are many more errors than what I would like, but the key is to be consistent. I find that if you abide by the same rules as far as your punctuation is concerned, it comes off as more of a style choice. Readers are much more forgiving when they know what to expect and more willing to overlook the occasional typo. And the beauty of an eBook is that you can upload a new version at any time. When I had a chance to finally take a look at the very first edition, I was mortified! That was one of the only times I was grateful to have sold so few books!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly historical and those publishing eBooks?
All I can say is that if you want to write, do it! With the caveat that if you are writing to support yourself or to get rich, you have a very long road ahead of you and most likely some disappointment. The fact that it is so easy to submit to an agency or to self-publish these days is both a blessing and a curse. Because so many people have the same idea, agencies are bombarded with hundreds of submissions every day. A lot of them will only accept a one-page query letter, and if you thought writing a book was difficult, try distilling it into a 500-word synopsis intended to pique the interest of a person whom you do not know. Then when you take a look at the sheer volume of self-published books out there, the prospect is no better. How is a reader supposed to find your little gem in the millions of works listed on the same site? And that’s just Amazon.
But if you are up to the challenge, do it. Make sure your research is as accurate as possible, your manuscript the best it can be, develop a very thick skin and realize that you cannot please everyone. Every story has a market, you just have to find it!
Can you tell us about your next writing project?
You should know by now, Arleigh, that writers LOVE to talk about their work! I have several ideas in varying stages of completion that are, more or less, fully formed. I think the one that will appeal most to your readers is the one that I was researching when the inspiration struck for El Rey. It is tentatively titled The Charmer’s Daughter, and it’s about a Welsh woman growing up during the reign of King Henry V of England. She is descended from a long line of healers and has been told her entire life that she is the one who will fulfill the family’s prophesies and secure the future of the nation in the process. It touches upon the English army’s invasion of France, their triumph at Agincourt, and the subsequent affair between Owen Tudor and Katherine of Valois, which begat the Tudor dynasty. If that is not enough, it also contains an element of magic! It has sat untouched since October 2011. I think I could finish it in a couple of months if I could only find the time to write. Although I am a complete control freak, at this point I would love it if someone (preferably a big publishing house!) would come and take El Rey off my hands.
Well, there it is! More than you ever wanted to know about Ginger Myrick! I would like to conclude by, again, thanking Arleigh and you readers for your interest and support. If my writing ever achieves any measure of success, it will be due to the opportunity you gave me at the very start. I can never express my gratitude enough, and I am humbled by your encouragement. It means the world.
You can find El Rey unabridged, or abridged with accompanying novelettes: