Saturday, December 19, 2015


An interview with Kathy MacMillan, author of the amazingYA fantasy Sword and Verse, which will be released precisely one month from now! Click here to preorder.


Congrats on your debut novel, Sword and Verse! What was the inspiration behind the book?

The seed of the idea came when I was doing research about ancient libraries and book burning.  I came across a reference to libraries composed entirely of letters.  In the margin of my notes, I scribbled, “What if they were letters to the gods?”  That was the beginning.

Literacy (or lack thereof) is a major theme in your book. Knowledge is restricted by the ruling class, and the penalty for teaching or learning the forbidden language is death. What led you to write about this subject?

I am a librarian and an American Sign Language interpreter – both fields that are centered on access to knowledge and communication.  I have always been horrified by the idea of burning knowledge, and all the ways that various groups of people have suppressed knowledge through the ages.  None of the political maneuverings or uses of religion to justify the oppression of others in Sword and Verse are far-fetched, unfortunately. 

Raisa, the heroine of Sword and Verse, is a slave girl selected to be one of the few in the kingdom allowed to learn the highest form of language. She may not be physically powerful in the usual fight-y way, but she exhibits a quiet kind of strength. What was the inspiration behind her character?

I’m so glad you asked this question! Raisa is based on my mother.  She is one of the strongest people I know.  Like Raisa, she may appear somewhat meek on the surface, but she has strong convictions and when pressed, reveals a will of iron underneath.  There are so many ways to be a “strong” woman – I was really interested in exploring a character who wasn’t brash, wasn’t a fighter, but who found her place of power by being true to herself and the people she loves.

One of the things that stood out to me about your book was the world building—complete with its own written language! How did you go about setting up this fantasy realm?

Through so, so, so many revisions! The things that were there from the beginning, though, were the language, the library, and the story of the gods.  They were absolutely central to the way the cultures developed and the way the characters interacted.  I always knew that learning to write was going to be the key to Raisa’s growth. I also, admittedly, am a huge language geek, so researching different types of script and developing the scripts that play a role in the story was a blast!

When did you first start working on Sword and Verse? What was the spark that led you to go, “I’m gonna write this book”?

The idea had been rattling around in my head since the late 1990s, but I didn’t actually write the first draft until about 2004.  It was actually the fourth or fifth novel that I completed, but it was the one that got me an agent.  I was definitely in a “keep on writing while you wait for the stuff you sent out to get rejected” place at that point, so the spark was that it was the next idea up on my list and I had to keep writing or go crazy!

Few people realize how much goes into the editing process. How much has Sword and Verse changed between the very first draft and the hardcover hitting the bookshelves?

The first draft of the story was very, very different from the final version – there were multiple timelines and two main point of view characters.  Maybe one day I will post it, to show how much happens in the revision process!  When I started working with my agent, I got some drastic revision suggestions that involved rewriting most of the book, but I decided to jump in with both feet.  And I am so glad I did.  I recently reread the first draft, and while it was far from terrible, it’s nowhere near as strong as the final version.  (Plus, one of the most beloved characters in the final version was actually a murderer in the original!  Horrors!)

Pardon the movie terms, but… Was there anything left on the cutting room floor that you’d include as a “deleted scene” in a special edition if you could?

There are so, so many deleted scenes – that happens when you rewrite the whole thing and go through six major revisions!  Also, a big part of my writing process is writing scenes from other characters’ points of view to help me sort out plot and character, so I have lots of extra scenes.  I am planning to post many extras on my website!  I guess the deleted scenes that are my favorite are the slow buildup of Mati and Raisa’s feelings for each other during her first year as a Tutor.

What was the most surprising part of your publishing journey? What was the most challenging? And what was the most rewarding?

Most surprising: How long everything takes, even after you find an agent.  Sword and Verse will be published exactly 7 years and 6 days after I got the first call from my agent offering to work on a revision with me.

Most challenging: Keeping the faith.  It is very easy to succumb to self-doubt, especially when so much of the publication process involves sitting around waiting for something to happen.  And even though we all know that a lot of it is subjective, it’s hard to believe that.

Most rewarding: When someone tells you that they were unable to complete everyday life functions because they couldn’t stop reading your book!

What are your writing habits like? Do you have a particular process? Is there a particular nook you like to write in?

My favorite place to write is at a little desk in the corner of my living room, with my cat curled up in my lap.  I freelance in my day job, though, so a lot of my writing time is in cafes in between interpreting jobs.  When I am drafting, I aim for one thousand words a day at least six days a week.  Slow and steady is the only way I know how to do it.

Sword and Verse is getting a sequel! What can you tell us about it? Does it have a title? When does it come out?

I never intended for there to be a sequel, but last year when I was trying to determine what to submit for the second book on my contract, Soraya Gamo stepped up and got very insistent about having her story told!  So, while Sword and Verse does function as a standalone, the second book will pick up not long after it ends, and will be from Soraya’s point of view.  It’s essentially about the challenges of the new order established at the end of Sword and Verse, and the consequences of choices made in the first book come back to haunt everyone.


This cover makes me *swoon*
In a sweeping fantasy that award-winning author Franny Billingsley calls "fascinating and unique," debut author Kathy MacMillan weaves palace intrigue and epic world-building to craft a tale for fans of Rae Carson and Megan Whalen Turner.

Raisa was just a child when she was sold into slavery in the kingdom of Qilara. Before she was taken away, her father had been adamant that she learn to read and write. But where she now lives, literacy is a capital offense for all but the nobility. The written language is closely protected, and only the King, Prince, Tutor, and Tutor-in-training are allowed to learn its very highest form. So when she is plucked from her menial labor and selected to replace the last Tutor-in-training who was executed, Raisa knows that betraying any hint of her past could mean death.

Keeping her secret guarded is hard enough, but the romance that's been blossoming between her and Prince Mati isn't helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance--an underground rebel army--to help liberate the city's slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries--one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.


Kathy MacMillan is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, consultant, librarian and signing storyteller. She holds National Interpreter Certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Her diverse career includes working as a children’s librarian at public libraries, working a school librarian at the Maryland School for the Deaf, leading the Eldersburg Library Bookcart Drill Team, and performing as Scooby-Doo, Velma, and a host of other characters at a theme park. Kathy presents American Sign Language storytelling programs through her business, Stories By Hand, and also runs the storytime resource website Storytime Stuff. She is a volunteer director and board president of Deaf Camps, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides camps for deaf children. Kathy holds a Master of Library Science from the University of Maryland, a Bachelor of English from the Catholic University of America, and a Certificate of American Sign Language Interpreting from the Community College of Baltimore County. She lives in Owings Mills, MD with her husband, son, and a cat named Pancake.


  1. I like your post and I love the side where you comment you are doing this to provide posterior nevertheless I would believe by total the echos that this is active for you as well.

  2. You made some good points here. I did a search on the topic and found most people agree with your blog. Thanks
    cheap essay writing service