Virginia McClain: Author Interview

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Hello hello hello!

This is the start of my author interview series, I hope I can maintain a steady flow of them at least until the end of the year. I had a little too much fun coming up with the questions for my first three authors, and it’s only made me more excited for the ones to come. I’ve gone through blog bios, goodreads bios, I dug up old interviews and I looked at pictures posted to social media accounts. I came up with a mix of standardized questions that will pop up in multiple interviews, and some questions that will be tailored to the author. I hope you guys enjoy it!

Full disclosure though, I’ve got no idea what I’m doing. I’m brand new to interviews.

We are kicking off my author interview series with Virginia McClain! Some of you may have seen her book, Blade’s Edge received a 9/10 and a spot in the SPFBO5 finals from Qwillery   


There’s a sequel out to Blade’s Edge. I read some of the reviews and a couple mention that they read Traitor’s Hope without reading Blade’s Edge. Did you intentionally write it in a way where people can pick up with book 2? 


Yes. It picks up right where Blade’s Edge leaves off, but it’s meant to be read as a standalone in case people haven’t read Blade’s Edge first. A number of reviewers remarked that they had no trouble reading it without Blade’s Edge as a primer, so I am reasonably confident it can be read that way. Still, it is a direct continuation of the stories of the MCs from Blade’s Edge, so people probably get the most out of it as a sequel.


Would you enter another competition? 

Sure. I may even enter SPFBO again. Technically, I could enter my first Victoria Marmot book into the 2020 competition, or I could even potentially enter Traitor’s Hope since it can be read as a standalone, but knowing what I do now about the competition I think I’ll wait until 2021 when I have a new Chronicles of Gensokai book out that is kind of book 3, but is also definitely a start to a new sub-series following new MCs. I think that book is probably a good candidate for SPFBO for a number of reasons.


Do you have a ‘process’ or a writing regimen you try and adhere to?


These days, thanks to 4TheWords, I write every day, even if it’s just a journal entry, to make sure I keep up my writing streak for the game. Other than that, I don’t have much of a regimen that I adhere to. Before Covid, I would try to average a thousand words a day during the time that my daughter was in pre-school, generally at a cafe or my local library. On good days I could knock out 3,000 words in that time, on less good days I would only manage a couple hundred, but would work on marketing or something instead. Now… I just try to take care of myself and my family and write when I can. Some nights all I can do is watch netflix for a few hours. For a while, I was struggling to even read (which is weird because reading has always been my go-to form of escapism) but in the past few days (now that QuaranCon2020 is over) I’ve finally gotten back into reading, which has been delightful.


Has quarantine helped or hindered your writing? 

Excellent question. Both! It’s been kind of a roller coaster. I have had some really good writing days, and some terrible ones too. I already worked from home before this all started, but my daughter used to go to pre-school for a few hours a day, and that let me get a lot more work done. Now, my husband is home too, and he’s great about taking care of our daughter, but if we’re all home the whole house is just… noisy? Distracting? Overwhelming? It’s hard to get any writing done until everyone else goes to bed, and by then I’m often too tired to word properly. Both of my parents are very high risk for Covid-19 so there’s been an ongoing stress behind this whole thing that I can’t really shake. Meanwhile, writing is often how I process things, and also provides a distraction, so some days it seems paramount, and other days my brain just can’t think of anything to say. Recently, I’ve been completely distracted organizing a virtual fantasy convention, and that ate up all my time for the last few weeks. Now, I’m finally writing a bit at night again, but I’m cutting myself some slack if I don’t get anything done.


Do you have any plans for an audiobook?  


YES! I had planned to get into a studio and record the audiobooks for all seven of my novels this year. Now… well, getting studio time doesn’t seem like a worthwhile risk. I have been reading my Victoria Marmot series starter one chapter at a time on YouTube just to provide some free entertainment for folks in these dark days (found here: In the meantime, I still hope to be able to record the audiobooks later this year one way or another. Even if I have to set up a home studio in order to do it.


You’ve got a dog, what’s their name? 

Virginia McClainArtemis. She’s fourteen, and one of my best friends in the world. I named her for both the goddess of the moon and the hunt, and also for one of my favorite assassins in literature, Artemis Entreri.


We share a love of mountains, do you have a favorite mountain town/cabin in the woods spot?

Oh, that’s tough to narrow down. A handful of amazing places in the Colorado Rockies (where I went to high school). Also, there was a cabin we rented (a group of about 10 of us) twice in Nagano (Japan) and from there went skiing/snowboarding during the day and played music at the bar attached to the hostel at night, and that was amazing all around. But my favorite mountain retreats are all backpacking spots, rather than cabins. Though I love a good cabin too for the cozy factor. Nothing beats reading cozied up by a fire after a long day/week of outdoor adventuring.


You were a teacher for ten years, what did you teach?

Mostly high school Spanish, with one year of middle school Spanish snuck in there (made me quit teaching for a bit) and also English conversation/business English for adults in Japan.


Your bio says that when you were in school you had a focus in linguistics. Have you ever, or would you ever have any desire to delve into conlang?

As a tool for storytelling? I love conlang and I wish I had the patience for them in my own world-building, but outside of a few terms specific to my magic systems I mostly just borrow actual Japanese. I think other people do them really well, and I enjoy figuring out the roots of other author’s languages when I read books that have them.

I have a far-future sci-fi book that I’ve done a ton of world-building for and one of the things I’ve been working on is the language. But that’s more predicting what a future earth language that developed organically would look like than it is devising my own language. Still, a very fun exercise linguistically. Taking my history of Spanish language courses and applying them to the future evolution of an English/Spanish hybrid.

As for conlang in the real world? I think Esperanto is kind of a cool idea, and I love hangul and how it was developed, and ASL has a fascinating history that starts with a conlang more or less, but I also enjoy watching language evolve on its own too much to want to completely eradicate individual languages in hopes of a universal one. We’ll get there in the end anyway, as our society becomes more and more global. I think it would be useful to have a language we all speak, alongside the languages we all grow up speaking at home, but I don’t know if the answer to that is Esperanto or something else. The united states education system is oddly monolingual despite the move towards increasing foreign language classes in the past 30 years. Most countries teach multiple languages more effectively than we do, and produce delightfully multilingual populaces. It would be nice to see the US embrace multiple languages in a similar way. But… oh dear, I could write quite a lot on this topic so I’d better cut myself off. I think I’ve already wandered a bit from the original question.


What countries have you lived in and what brought you there?

Let’s see, the US because I was born there. Germany was thanks to my parents’ work. Spain was for my Spanish degree. Japan was to enable my Canadian partner and I to live and work in the same country legally. Canada is because having a kid in the US seemed incredibly expensive (and damn was I glad we made that call when I wound up having an emergency c-section to deliver my daughter) and to be near the husband’s family. 


You’ve lived in Japan – how was that? 


It was awesome, honestly. I don’t think I would have come back to North America if I hadn’t been missing my dog so much. She couldn’t join me there because it was virtually impossible to find housing that would allow both gaijin (foreigners) and pets. One or the other was difficult enough, both… I was laughed at by all my local friends when I asked. However, those two years were some of the best I’ve had. I taught adult conversation classes in the evenings and had the days free to explore, learn to play bass, train for a triathlon, and get to know the people around me. My husband (then bf) and I took every chance we could to travel within Japan. Two big highlights for us were a road trip to the southern part of the country (we lived in the northern mainland) and also a two week hitchhiking trip around the Hokkaido. We lived in a region that produced some of the best rice in the country, and so we inadvertently became rice snobs (which we only discovered when we traveled outside our region and found the sushi lacking not because of the fish, but because of the rice) and also drank sooooo much delicious sake. It’s hard to talk about the whole experience with less than a whole book of words, but my Chronicles of Gensokai series are partly a love letter to Japan, among many other things. I feel like anything I say in a short response will fall woefully short, but the two years I lived in Japan were filled with adventures, newly minted lifelong friends, and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Not to mention learning as much Japanese as I could cram into my brain, adapting to the culture as best I could, and learning more about how to wear kimono than is probably useful in the life of someone not residing in Japan.


Listening to your interview on Under a Pile of Books, when you were living in Japan you would often go hiking and get to the top of a mountain to discover a little shrine. They were typically animals – do you feel like you connected with any particular animal shrine/locale more than the rest?


I mean, I’m a dragon fan from way back, so the shrines that had dragons always appealed. There was also a really cool three-legged crow at one of the temples near where I lived that I always found intriguing. Also, foxes. There are lots of Inari (fox) shrines in Japan, and I have always found foxes fascinating (even though wolves are closest to my heart). 


My husband loves rock climbing, is that what’s meant by “Virginia thinks dangling from the tops of hundred-foot cliffs is a good time” in your bio? 

Excellent guess! I do mention that my description of my hobbies is needlessly vague. Yeah, I used to be a total climbing bum. All of my vacations (when I was a teacher) were planned around rock climbing. I climbed in the gym at least 3 times a week to keep up my strength, flexibility, and technique, but I lived for the outdoor climbing on weekends & holidays. It was such a big part of my life for so many years that I still identify as a climber even though it’s been over a year since I climbed on real rock, and I barely even get to the climbing gym anymore. I’ve been doing aerial silks lately instead, which absolutely tires my body out in similar ways, but is a very different experience overall.


I adore hiking, backpacking, and camping. I just don’t like heights so no rock climbing for me. What is your favorite National Park? Is there an outdoor destination point you want to go to but haven’t yet?

Yay! I love those things too. Honestly, my favorite National Park is probably Grand Canyon National park, because it holds so many great memories for me. At the last school where I worked, part of my job was leading students on a 10 day backpacking trip through the backcountry trails in the Grand Canyon. It was physically very challenging for our students (and us) and I absolutely loved every minute of it. After doing that for three years in a row, I tallied up over a month of time in the canyon, thus far outstripping my time in any other National Park. The only single outdoor adventure area I’ve spent more time in is probably Red Rock National Conservation area, which has long been one of my favorite climbing spots. I’ve probably racked up closer to two or three months of time there over the years. Those are definitely my two favorites. That said, I have never been disappointed by a national park, and I will go out of my way to swing through them whenever I am driving cross country. 

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An outdoor destination that I want to get to but haven’t yet? Most of the Canadian ones, tbh. I live in Canada now, but I have barely scratched the surface of Canada’s national and provincial parks. I am really looking forward to taking my daughter backpacking as she gets older, and have big plans for adventuring through the Canadian wilderness once we’re all allowed to travel more widely again. (Also, too many international destinations to name, but those are all waiting on me earning enough money through book sales to create a travel fund.)


What is your favorite word?

Defenestrate. So specific. So useful.


What is your least favorite word?

I don’t really have one. I am not put off by word sounds the way some folks are. Moist doesn’t bother me at all, for example. These days there are certain proper nouns that give me anxiety, most of them names of world leaders.


If you could describe your life in 7 words, what would they be?

(This took way longer to answer than all the other questions combined.) Adventures in wilderness and imagination, with friends.


If you’re in the Potter-verse and you were given Amortentia, what would it smell like?

Petrichor in the desert, freshly baked pumpkin bread, sun-warmed rock, and the salty tang on the top of Artemis’ head.


Thanks so much for being here! I really appreciate you taking the time! 


Thank you so much for this fabulous interview, Esme! I loved all the questions and I really appreciate the spotlight you’re putting on authors right now.