Well, let's see. My name is Dora Machado and I'm one of the few Latinas writing epic romance fantasy and dark fantasy these days. I was born in Michigan but I grew up in the Dominican Republic, an island that has a special place in my heart. I live in Florida with my wonderful husband and three very opinionated cats, one of which spends most of the writing day (and night) with me. I have two incredible kids who are out braving and exploring the world. I'm the author of the award-winning Stonewiser series and my newest release, The Curse Giver, my first standalone novel.
2) How long have you been writing?
In my mind, I've been writing all my life, but I really didn't settle down to write in the full sense of the word until about seven years ago, when, for the first time, I had the time and opportunity to sit down and write my stories.
3) Do you have a favorite place to write?
I do. I write in a small studio that opens up to my house's terrace on a spring-fed river. It's a small space but I'm all set up for comfort, surrounded by my favorite books and pictures and mementos from the people I love and the places I've visited.
4) Why did you decide to write The Curse Giver?
I was doing research for a different book one night when I came across a picture of these ancient tablets that belonged to the same collection that gave us the famous Gilgamesh epic. "May all these [gods] curse him with a curse that cannot be relieved, terrible and merciless, as long as he lives," the tablets said. "May they let his name, his seed, be carried off from the land.”
I was intrigued. I immediately thought of the man who had been thus cursed, of the pain and hardship such curse would bring upon him and his people, of the character that eventually became Bren, Lord of Laonia in The Curse Giver.
Who would cast these curses and why? What kind of creature could be capable of such powers? What would motivate a person to curse another one? As I explored these questions, a new character began to emerge in my mind, the curse giver herself, someone whose understanding of good and evil was very different from my own.
But once cursed, how could a person defend himself? A third character emerged from this question, Lusielle, a common remedy mixer, a healer of bodies and souls, someone who didn't realize the scope of her own power until it began to transform her life.
With Bren, Lusielle and the curse giver thus crystalized, the story was pretty much ready to go. I set out to write this fast, plot-twisting fantasy romance about an innocent woman condemned to die for a crime she didn't commit, who must ally with the cursed lord pledged to kill her in order to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends. The Curse Giver is an epic fantasy story with brawn, brains, and lots of heart, something that I think your fantasy romance readers might enjoy.
5) Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Hmm. I think it's a tossup between the main characters, Bren and Lusielle. I've always been a sucker for the underdog, the reluctant hero and the tortured soul. Bren Lord of Laonia is all of those. He's got the makings of a hero, but his circumstances make him an outcast and a villain in his own mind. He is weary, bitter and troubled, but he's also dutiful and determined, and he will not betray his people. As the story begins, he rescues Lusielle from the pyre, but only because he's hunting a birthmark she bears. To defeat the curse that has obliterated his family and is killing him, he has to murder the woman who bears the birthmark in the foulest possible way. But as he escapes with his prey in tow, she is not what he expected. He faces yet another dismal choice: Can he murder the only woman capable of healing more than his body, his soul?
Lusielle is also one of my favorite characters, but for a totally different reason. When the story begins, she's been betrayed by her greedy husband and condemned to die for a crime she didn't commit. After years of abuse and slavery, the false accusations destroy her bleak but orderly world. As she flees with the bitter lord who has rescued her, she finds herself in an impossible situation: If she's going to survive, she must help the mysterious lord who is determined to kill her. What I like most about Lusielle is that she has to change; she has to muster the courage to free herself from her tragic past and find the strength within to thrive in a world she doesn't understand.
6) How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
You know, I don't think I have a least favorite character in this story. The curse giver should be the one, given that she's so evil, and yet I can't say that she's less appealing to me. In fact, I think she's a pretty likable character in a very unlikable way. She's evil, no questions about that, and she thrives on causing suffering. But there's consistency and logic to her evilness, a reversal of values that is based on her beliefs and somehow lends her credibility and integrity. Don't get me wrong, she's still a hateful creature and a formidable opponent, and yet, for many reasons, I can't really dislike her.
7) Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I edit my books very carefully before I send them out to be proofed and edited all over again! When I submit a manuscript, I want it to be as close to perfect as it can get, even though I know perfection is unattainable and editors, like readers, have diverse tastes and expectations.
8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to travel and I do so whenever I can. I also love walking and hiking. I'm slow on the uphill, but I enjoy it. I like stories and therefore I love movies, books and any other medium that tells stories. I really like theater and in particular, I love Broadway productions. The more lyrical and epic, the better.
9) Do you read much, and if so, who are your favorite authors?
I love to read and I wish I had time to read even more. As a young woman growing up in the Dominican Republic, I was exposed to many different influences. Books such as A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosas, and the House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende left lasting impressions. In fantasy, I'm always dazzled by J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson, Frank Herbert, Robert Jordan, and George R.R. Martin. I also like Diana Gabaldon, Colleen McCullough, Bernard Cornwell and Anne Rice.
10) What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? Write it out here, then answer it.
To be honest, I've been doing so many interviews for the release of The Curse Giver, that I think all relevant questions have been asked. My husband, on the other hand, would love for you to ask who inspires all of my stories' heroes. He would like for me to answer that he is my inspiration, but I think that it might best if we keep him guessing. Don't you?
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy, Fantasy Romance, Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Number of pages: 510
Word Count: 165,000 aprox.
Cover Artist: Brad Fraunfelter
Lusielle's bleak but orderly life as a remedy mixer is shattered when her husband betrays her and she is sentenced to die for a crime she didn't commit. She's on the pyre, about to be burned, when a stranger breaks through the crowd and rescues her from the flames.
Brennus, Lord of Laonia is the last of his line. He is caught in the grip of a mysterious curse that has murdered his kin, doomed his people and embittered his life. To defeat the curse, he must hunt a birthmark and kill the woman who bears it in the foulest of ways. Lusielle bears such a mark.
Stalked by intrigue and confounded by the forbidden passion flaring between them, predator and prey must come together to defeat not only the vile curse, but also the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.
Dread stared at Lusielle from the depths of the rowdy crowd. Concealed under a heavy hood, only the stranger’s black eyes dared to meet her gaze among the growing throng. The man’s eyes refused to flinch or shift from her face. His stare was free of the hatred she had gotten from the others, but also devoid of mercy. He held on to her gaze like an anchor to her soul, testing her fortitude, knowing full well her fears’ vast range.
She had always been meant for the fire. Even as she had escaped the blaze that killed her parents and burned the inn to the ground, Lusielle had known that the flame’s greedy god would return to claim her life. But she hadn’t expected it to hap¬pen after days of torture, surrounded by the raging mob, found guilty of a crime she didn’t commit, betrayed and condemned.
The town’s cobbler, one of her husband’s best customers, tight¬ened the noose around her neck until it cut off her breath. She had waited on him countless times at the shop, and had always padded his order with a free measure of coriander to help with his wife’s cough.
But none of the town’s inhabitants seemed to remember any of her kindnesses as of late. On the contrary, the crowd was booing and jeering when they weren’t pelting her with rotten fruit. They treated her as if she were a common thief.
The brute who had conducted her torture shoved the cobbler aside, tying her elbows and wrists around the wooden stake. Orell. She remembered his name. His bearded face might have been handsome if not for the permanent leer. Like the magis¬trate, he wore the king’s burgundy colors, but his role had been more vicious. Had he been granted more time, he might have succeeded at extracting the false confession he wanted, but the magistrate was in a hurry, afraid of any possible unrest.
Orell yanked on the ropes, tightening her bonds. The wound on her back broke open all over again. She swallowed a strangled hiss. It was as if the thug wanted her to suffer, as if he had a pri¬vate reason to profit from her pain.
But she had never seen him until three days ago, when he and the magistrate had shown up unannounced, making random accusations.
Lusielle couldn’t understand any of this.
She knew that the king’s justice was notoriously arbitrary. It was one of the main reasons why she loathed living under King Riva’s rule. But she also knew better than to express her opinion. Ruin and tragedy trailed those who dared to criticize the king. That’s why she had never mentioned her misgivings to anyone.
What had she done to deserve this fate? And why did they con¬tinue to be so cruel? After all, she wasn’t fighting them anymore.
True, she had resisted at first. Out of fear and pride, she had tried to defend herself. But in the end, it hadn’t mattered. Her accusers had relied on the testimony of the devious liar who had turned her in—Aponte Rummins—her own husband.
The mock hearing had been too painful to bear, too absurd to believe. Aponte swore before the magistrate that Lusielle was a secret practitioner of the forbidden odd arts. It was ridiculous. How could anyone believe that she, who had always relied on logic, measure and observation to mix her remedies, could possi¬bly serve the Odd God’s dark purposes? And how could anyone believe Aponte’s lies?
But they did, they believed him as he called on his paid wit¬nesses and presented fabricated evidence, swearing that he him¬self had caught her at the shop, worshipping the Odd God. In the end, it had been her husband’s false testimony that provided the ultimate proof of the heinous charge for which Lusielle was about to die.
Burning torch in hand, the magistrate stepped forward. Still in shock, Lusielle swallowed a gulp of bitter horror and steeled for the flames’ excruciating pain. She didn’t want to die like a shrieking coward. But nothing could have prepared her for what happened next.
The magistrate offered the torch to Aponte.
“The king upholds a husband’s authority over his wife in the kingdom,” the magistrate shouted for the crowd to hear. “There can be no protests, no doubt of the wisdom of royal justice if a husband does as he’s entitled to do by his marital rights.”
Aponte could have forgone her execution. Considering the magistrate’s proclamation, he could have chosen a different pun¬ishment for her. Instead, he accepted the torch and, without hesi¬tation, put the flame to the tinder and blew over the kindling to start the fire.
“Go now,” he said, grinning like a hog about to gorge. “Go find your dark lord.”
Lusielle glared at the poor excuse for a man who had ruined her life many times over. She had known from the beginning that he was fatally flawed, just as he had known on the day he claimed her that she couldn’t pledge him any affection.
But Aponte had never wanted her affection. He had wanted her servitude, and in that sense she proved to be the reluctant but dutiful servant he craved.
Over the years he had taught her hatred.
His gratification came from beating and humiliating her. His crass and vulgar tastes turned his bed into a nightmare. She felt so ashamed of the things he made her do. Still, even if she loathed him—and not just him, but the slave she had become under his rule—she had tried to make the best of it.
She had served him diligently, tending to his businesses, reor¬ganizing his stores, rearranging his trading routes and increas¬ing his profits. His table had always been ready. His meals had been hot and flavorsome. His sheets had been crisp and his bed had been coal-warmed every night. Perhaps due to all of this, he had seemed genuinely pleased with their marital arrangement.
Why, then, had he surrendered her so easily to the magistrate’s brute?
Aponte had to have some purpose for this betrayal. He was, above all, a practical man. He would not surrender all the advan¬tages that Lusielle brought to him—money, standing, common sense, business acumen—without the benefit of an even greater windfall.
Lusielle couldn’t understand how, but she was sure that the bastard was going to profit handsomely from her death.
The scent of pine turned acrid and hot. Cones crackled and popped. The fire hissed a sinister murmur, a sure promise of pain. She didn’t watch the little sparks grow into flames at her feet. Instead, her eyes returned to the back of the crowd, seeking the stranger’s stare. She found him even as a puff of white smoke clouded her sight and the fire’s rising heat distorted his scarred face’s fixed expression.
The nearing flames thawed the pervasive cold chilling her bones. Flying sparks pecked at her skin. Her toes curled. Her feet flinched. Pain teased her ankles in alarming, nipping jolts. Dear gods. They were really going to burn her alive!
Lusielle shut her eyes. When she looked again, the stranger was gone from the crowd. She couldn’t blame him. She would have never chosen to watch the flame’s devouring dance.
A commotion ensued somewhere beyond the pyre. People were screaming, but she couldn’t see through the flames and smoke. She flinched when a lick of fire ignited her shift’s hem. A vile stink filled her lungs. Her body shivered in shock. She coughed, then hacked. Fear’s fiery fingers began to torment her legs.
“Come and find me,” she called to the God of fire.
And he did.
Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books July 2013. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.
To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com
Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/ , sign up for her newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html
About Dora Machado's Novels:
Dora Machado is the award winning author of the Stonewiser trilogy and her newest novel, The Curse Giver. She is one of the few Latinas exploring her heritage and her world through the epic fantasy genre today. Her first novel, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, won the 2009 Benjamin Franklin award for best debut novel. Her second novel, Stonewiser: The Call of the Stone, won the 2010 Independent Publishers Book Award's (IPPY) Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy book of the year. Her third novel, Stonewiser: The Lament of the Stone, won the 2012 Independent Publishers Book Award's (IPPY) Silver Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy book of the year. All three novels were finalists in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Category. Her latest novel, The Curse Giver from Twilight Times Books is available July 2013.