Interview with Author S. J. McMillan: Dancing Terribly but Writing Well

After reading (review here) S.J. McMillan’s new urban fantasy City of the Gods: the Descendant, I was very glad to have the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her book.  I’m also incredibly happy to find out it’s definitely a series, because The Descendant ends hanging off a cliff! Let’s see just what Ms. McMillan had to say.

First, tell us a little bit about who S. J. McMillan is when she’s not writing.

First and foremost I’m a wife and mother. I’ve been happily married to my wonderful husband for 13 years. We have three awesome kids. I have a full time job as an administrative assistant to a financial advisor. I stay pretty busy when I’m not writing, just taking care of my family and spending time with them. When I have a bit of me time to enjoy, which is rarely, I waste time on Facebook or Twitter, read, and watch singing and dancing competitions. My favorite is So You Think You Can Dance. Those dancers are wickedly talented!

City of the Gods: The Descendant, is an urban fantasy. What drew you to urban fantasy in particular?

I wanted a story and characters that people could relate to. I want readers focused on the situations the characters find themselves in and not preoccupied with rules, laws, or scenery. This being an urban fantasy all the same rules and laws apply in the story as they do in real life. If a crime is committed in the story, the police are still going to come out and investigate and do their best to catch the bad guy. The fantasy part is more about the certain abilities the characters have.

Where did the inspiration for City of the Gods come from?

As I was researching for a place for the ancient civilization to come from, I stumbled upon the city of Teotihuacan, Mexico. Little is known about how the city was created, which civilization created it, and what caused the downfall of such a large civilization. This intrigued me. I searched the internet like crazy for as much information as I could possibly find. It seemed like the perfect place to base the history of the book in. Teotihuacan means ‘birthplace of the gods’.

The cover of the book is gorgeous! It really blends the historic opening with the modern. What’s your favorite scene from the book, and why?

My favorite scene would have to be in the last chapter. It introduces an important character to the series in an epic way. I can’t say too much more than that without spoiling it for the reader.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

My mom, grandma, and great grandma. I was entertaining them once when I was 11 or 12 years old, with a little song and dance. While they loved my performance they thought I should also broaden my interests to reading as well. Before that time I really didn’t read unless it was for school. My mom took me to the local library and found a love for the popular YA horror novels like the Fear Street series. I’ve been reading ever since. I’ve also broadened my reading genres as well.

Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

I had an English teacher my senior year that I absolutely loved. At the time I was just writing poetry. She asked if she put some of the poetry in a school publication. I was surprised by her request. I didn’t start trying to write a book until a few years after that, but still to this day continue to write poetry whenever inspiration hits me.

Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?

I do a little of both. I start with an outline for every chapter, but usually end up having to revise the outline because I add or change things up as I write. I always have to go back to the outline to make sure I’m staying on track with how I want the story to flow. I also have piles of post-it notes everywhere with ideas that I want to include in the story and don’t have time to add it to the outline. Then I have to pray I don’t lose the notes with my disorganization.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

There are times when a character tries to go off on a tangent, but I try to bring them back to where I want the story to go. Sometimes their interference is a good thing. They give me ideas or extend a scene and make it better than I could have hoped for. There are a few scenes that I loved where the characters took over, but I had to edit them out because they didn’t move the story forward. I like to think of those like scenes from a movie that were cut. Maybe one day I will share those edits with the reader.

What’s your favorite book, or who is your favorite writer, and why?

For me to pick one favorite book or author would be impossible. I have read several books multiple times. Most of my favorite books were ones I read in high school. My favorite author include Michele Bardsley, Christine Feehan, Lynsay Sands, and Katie McAlister. These authors create strong characters, interesting plots, and add a bit of humor to their books. These are the authors I buy books from no matter what.

What projects do you have planned for the future? The series continues?

Yes, the series does continue. I’m currently working on the second book for the City of the Gods Trilogy. After that I will start on the final book. I also have plans to write another urban fantasy book and a ghost story. Who knows where I will go from there…

On your website, you said your guilty pleasures included singing loudly and dancing terribly. So what’s your favorite type of music to dance terribly to? And just how terrible?

Do I actually have to answer the how terribly part? I get embarrassed if my husband or kids walk into the room while I’m shaking my groove thang. They think it is hilarious! I’m just glad we don’t own a video camera, or my dancing would be on display for all to see on youtube.  As for the music, give me anything with a good beat. Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Jessie J, Rihanna, and Katy Perry are a few I’ve been known to boogie to. The singing loudly music tends to be done more with artists like Adele, Evanscence, Paramore, and Flyleaf. The list could go on and on.

Coffee or Tea?

I hate the way coffee tastes, even if I add loads of sugar, so I gotta go with tea on this one. I like sweet tea or green tea.

It’s always good to talk with another tea drinker! Thank you so much for talking about City of the Gods with us. I’ll be looking forward to book 2. And you’re right, the character you introduce at the end is a shocker. Book 2 can’t come soon enough. Write fast!

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