1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
Well, I wrote my first story for a neighbour when I was six years old — self-published with crayon and staples! But seriously, I had a lot of encouragement from my high school English teachers, especially Gary Hyland, a Moose Jaw poet I was fortunate to have as my English teacher twice (Grades 10 and 12). He got me interested in the Sage Hill Writing Experience and the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG). I started writing poetry initially. In university I switched to Theatre Studies, as a dramaturge working on new play development, and then I began writing plays and filmscripts. Then I morphed to journalism, then freelance magazine writing, and eventually short stories and children’s writing. About 15 years ago, I went to the Sage Hill Writing Experience for a 10-day fiction workshop, followed up with the incredible opportunity of doing an MFA degree in Creative Writing at UBC. That started me writing novels. So it’s been a long and winding path.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
This series is the result of my trips to Wales. I went to visit the big English castles like Conwy and Caernarfon and Beaumaris, but they were actually built by Edward I to subjugate the Welsh. So I also went to the smaller castles of the Welsh princes, like Dolwyddelan and Castell-y-Bere. These are very different. There’s no gate, no ticket taker, no little shop selling souvenirs, no tour guide, and really, no people around when we visited. Just signs with pictures that showed people falling off rocks: enter at your own risk. But there were placards at Dolwyddelan with the history of the Welsh princes and all that was lost in the 1282-3 invasion. And I felt that history in some strange way, walking through that ruined castle. It’s my ancestry. I didn’t know much about it then, but I just got hooked. I had just done a story about a man who trained hawks, and one day I tried free-writing about what it would be like to have a connection with a hawk. That — after a lot of rewriting — is still the opening scene of Spirit Sight, the first book in the series. This been my heart-project, and I’ve been working away at it ever since.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
This is really a book about friendship and working together to overcome extreme odds. Friendship is like magic: only limited by our imagination. Magic evolves and grows, just like we do, and it can connect unlikely people in unusual ways. But we can survive anything if we pull together — young and old, Gifted and not — and stretch our natural abilities to help each other.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I’m naturally drawn to speculative fiction and fantasy. We carry so much with us, the people we’ve known and the places we’ve been and the things we’ve seen, sometimes without really being aware of it. Things seen and half-seen and unseen influence us, and our personal past has an effect on our present just as history affects the future. As a kid, I read about a Welsh bard who saw an animal transform from one shape to another and another. I still have that image in my head, the subtle connections between things that might not seem connected. That’s the kind of magic I want to capture in my stories. Go on a walk and there are birds flying overhead or calling from the trees, insects that pass in and out of our field of vision, and even the wind pushing the leaves around. We don’t consciously notice much of it, but it might be enough to make us walk one direction instead of another, or have a dream or a nightmare two weeks later. I once had a colleague who felt that buildings hold the impressions of people who pass through them, and if you listen you can still hear their voices crying in the walls. That could either make you crazy or make you pick up a pen.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
The characters in my books tend to answer questions before I ask them. It’s difficult to slow them down long enough for me to catch up. Right now, I’m working on short stories to provide some of the backstory that I couldn’t put in the novel, like the main characters’ backstories and adventures of the secondary characters between the scenes. I’d love to hear what questions readers would like to ask!
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, but I would have to say my website is the most helpful (https://mariepowell.ca/young-adult/last-of-the-gifted/). That’s where people can find my books, series videos, and information. I try to keep it up to date on my workshops, conference panels, and other activities. It’s the best way to contact me because it links to my email. I’m also starting a mailing list and the link is available on my website.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Read everything, especially the genres you would like to write, and write a lot. Challenge yourself. Almost anyone can write, but we owe it to our readers to write well. Take classes and courses, join feedback groups, and learn as much about writing as you can. Seriously. And be persistent. Writers evolve, so make it a long-term commitment.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon
I’m working on quite a few projects. As well as short stories, Book 3 in the Last of the Gifted series is high on my list. Also, I have some published short stories that are more contemporary speculative fiction, and I’d like to compile them into a book. And I’m working on a more contemporary SF novel that’s totally unrelated. I could use a few extra hours a day!
About the Author
Marie Powell’s castle-hopping across North Wales to explore her family roots resulted in her YA historical fantasy Spirit Sight (Last of the Gifted Book 1). Book 2, Water sight, will be released in fall 2020. Among other degrees, she holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from the University of BC. Marie lives on Treaty 4 land in Regina, Saskatchewan, and her writing workshops are popular across the region.