AUTHOR: Nina Munteanu
BOOK TITLE: The Last Summoner
PUBLISHER: Starfire World Syndicate
BUY LINK: http://www.amazon.com/dp/193865899X
GIVEAWAY: Be sure to leave contact information to be entered into drawing for a free copy of The Last Summoner
1. Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?
I was born in a small town in the Eastern Townships of Quebec to immigrant parents. My German mother was an artist and naturalist; my father was a passionate philosopher who kept us up at night with strange fables from Romania. The youngest of three children, I started writing and drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Even before I could read, I wanted to become a “paperback writer” like in the old Beatles' song. I’ve always been fascinated by how the planet and the universe worked; from the structure of the atom to the fractal beauty of a snowflake. I became an environmentalist in elementary school. I lobbied companies about their environmental practices; I put up posters about recycling in my school (this was way before recycling had become a regular service in cities) and wrote my first story, about a world ruined by pollution and greed. It would later become the seed for my Darwin’s Paradox duology. All my books explore humanity’s relationship with our planet (and universe), how our actions—altruistic or self-serving—affect everything else.
2. Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.
The Last Summoner is a time travel historical fantasy about a young baroness who discovers that she can alter history:
On June 14th, 1410 in Grunwald, Prussia, one of medieval history’s most decisive battles is about to destroy the powerful Teutonic Order, slaughtering virtually all its monk knights. How would history have changed if this arrogant order had not underestimated its enemy and had instead won to sweep northeastern Europe in its ambitious crusade for Christendom?
The passionate self-centered romantic, Vivianne Schoen (the Baroness von Grunwald) aspires to be a knight like her father. While she knows very little of the Knight’s Code, young Vivianne shares with her mentor, the gentle Père Daniel, her ambition to make the world a better place. But she is dismayed and frustrated with the future set out for her: her stern father intends to give her away in marriage on her fourteenth birthday to a stranger twice her age from a foreign land, where she imagines herself languishing as Lady of the castle under her husband’s oppressive rule.
She taunts young Wolfgang, her father’s squire, into giving her lessons in knightly duties and finds that she easily bests him (to his great annoyance) in close combat. The day of her handing off ironically falls on the eve of the Battle of Grunwald. On that day in the Great Hall, on the fourteenth hour of the fourteenth day of the year 1410, young Vivianne collides with her true destiny. A selfish mistake amidst the sudden chaos of ergot poisoning, superstition, and fear, propels Vivianne into a hero’s journey in which she finally discovers the truth about what it means to be a knight.
Chased as a witch, Vivianne flees treacherous medieval Poland and travels space-time to an oppressed future Paris that she "authored" to find her path to altruism and ultimately "home". Forsaking personal happiness, Vivianne travels back to her Medieval origins to remake history and learns that every choice has its price…
3. How long have you been writing?
A bazillion years! LOL! Ok, seriously, since I was 10 years old. My sister and I used to borrow my mom’s old tape recorder, and we’d do these cheesy radio-plays that I’d scripted. I wrote adventure and spy stories and finished my first full-length novel at age seventeen. It later became Darwin’s Paradox and Angel of Chaos. I started publishing short stories and articles (about my cat) in magazines in the early 1980s. The first book I published wasn’t the first book I wrote. Collision with Paradise, a racy SF romantic space adventure was published in 2005 by Liquid Silver Books (it’s being reissued by eXtasy Books under Kate Wylde). I’d written it in two months. I guess, you could say it wrote itself. I was probably possessed. It’s a fun and campy read.
4. What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles changed what I thought of books and what I felt about the power of stories. I read it when I was a teenager. It made me cry. And perhaps that was when I decided to become a writer. I wanted to move people as Bradbury had moved me. Right then I vowed to write profoundly stirring tales like he did. Stories that mattered. Stories that lingered with you long after you finished them. Stories that made you think and dream and changed you imperceptibly.
5. Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
Before I wrote one to three books a year, I was a staunch follower of the organic process of writing. I positioned myself in the thought-camp who believed that the raw flow of first draft narrative should not be hampered by left-brain logic and analysis at the expense of right-brain creativity, rhythm, and imagination. Of course, outlining is very much a left-brain activity. The thing is…it’s not efficient to write that way; to just let the narrative flow evolve naturally, to let the characters dictate the narrative in fits and starts; to sit back, at times bemused, by where those unruly characters took you. What emerged for me, as I learned more about storyboarding and story arcs, was that a hybrid process of both organic flow integrated with plot outline worked best. When that happened, those years of process melted into months, even weeks.
6. Describe your writing space.
My writing space has evolved over time and changes constantly. At one time (when I was raising my family on the west-coast of British Columbia) I had a large roll-top oak desk in the living room where I wrote. Even though it was located in the center of activity, the family knew not to disturb that space; it was sacred. Nowadays, my writing space is where ever I happen to be; lately it’s my favorite café in the Beaches (Toronto, where I currently live). The entire staff knew me and kept me blissfully sustained in great coffee (and the odd Kiwi lime pie) while I write.
7. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I go for daily walks along the boardwalk along the beach of Lake Ontario. Each time I’m there, it is different: the light, the people with their dogs, the clouds and the weather. I like to watch it all, experience it, the rain, the snow, the wind, the cheerful faces and respectful nods. I am an avid reader of books and articles: classics, some genre fiction (like SF and fantasy), philosophy, wellness, metaphysics, futurism and technology. I prefer them all in paper but do read a fair bit on the computer. I used to cycle everywhere until I lost my bicycle. I enjoy the odd game of squash and tennis. And I also enjoy the theatre and going to the cinema. And lastly, I love a good party: visiting with friends and talking nonsense that mysteriously morphs into philosophy. LOL!
8. What books or authors have influenced your writing?
Ray Bradbury, of course: Martian Chronicles; but also Fahrenheit 451. Some of the classics, particularly Thomas Hardy. I’ve read most of his works. Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure and The Return of the Native stand out. His writing inspired me to see our fractal world through metaphor. His works examined injustice, the class system, and humanity’s link with nature. Hardy was a poet and an artist who painted with words. Those who founded the subversive literature of SF influenced me greatly too: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Arthur C. Clarke, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell, to mention a few.
9. What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?
The model for publishing is changing on a steep curve. I’ve been publishing my stories, articles, books and essays for over twenty years. I saw it coming. I was even on the crest of the wave (for ebooks, particularly). But even I didn’t realize how fast and how extensive the change would be once it hit the steep curve. The iPhone, iPad and other smart devices served as the catalysts for embracing a new model for storytelling and story consumption. People everywhere—in the bus, on a plane, in the train, sitting on a bench in the park—are using their smart devices to do … well, everything: communicate to their friends via Facebook; write an email to a business colleague, call their husband and text over a short grocery list for supper; watch a video a friend sent them, read a bit of Nina Munteanu’s latest book that they recently uploaded on Kindle while they’re waiting to catch the bus home. We will always have print books; but a large percentage of documents and literature will be read digitally on digital devices.
10. What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?
You can find a list of all my publications on my site, www.NinaMunteanu.com. My work includes several ebooks (two SF romances and recently a series of writing guides on Kindle); five novels in print, kindle and audiobook form) are available on Amazon and the large chain bookstores. They include environmental thrillers Darwin’s Paradox and Angel of Chaos (Dragon Moon Press); SF space thriller The Splintered Universe Trilogy (Starfire World Syndicate); and historical fantasy The Last Summoner (Starfire). I have also published several writing guidebooks, one for fiction writers (The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now!) and one for journal and diary writers (The Journal Writer: Finding Your Voice) with Starfire. You can find most of my available works on my Amazon profile, http://www.amazon.com/Nina-Munteanu/e/B002MO6ZOW.
11. What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Don’t get discouraged: not by a formal rejection from a magazine or editor; not by a friend or family member who thinks she or he is doing you a favor by telling you that your stuff ‘stinks’ and doesn’t have any worth (they are just “projecting” their own insecurities); and, lastly, not by your own fears of failure or even success (yes, success!). This is the hardest part of writing. We write from the heart in solitude, waiting to share our precious gift with the world, and when we are finally done and ready, fear and insecurity slam the door in our face. Don’t let it happen. Prevail. You’ve come too far not to make that final step.
12. Where can people learn more about you and your work?
They can go to any one of my websites. The main one is http://www.ninamunteanu.com. If you google Nina Munteanu, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy for at least five minutes. Penny, many thanks for inviting me to your wonderful site to chat a while with you.
The Last Summoner (excerpt)
Prologue (Prussia, 1395)
Ulrich stumbled into the oily swamp and seized in a breath as bracing cold water churned up to his waist. He thrashed out, breaths gasping, and leaned a hand against one of the trees of the drowned forest. He wasn’t going to surprise a boar this way, he thought scathingly and surveyed the thick forest mist. No matter. His heart wasn’t in the hunt today.
“Let Ekdahl get the first kill,” he muttered to himself. “I’m drunk.” As if on demand, he belched loudly. “I don’t care… She’s gone, my love is gone.” Today was the anniversary of her gruesome death six years ago. “The love of my life, the reason for living…” he blathered on to himself and leaned his forehead on the tree then closed his eyes.
“Schoen!” he heard his friend shout. “You bastard! Where’ve you gone!” Ekdahl was closer than he thought. Desperate to be alone, Ulrich scrambled behind the large tree and leaned against it to make himself invisible. The sun hadn’t yet risen and it was drizzling. His dark hose and cotehardie blended in with the dim light of the forest, especially this early in the morning. Ekdahl came into view, muttering to himself, and trudged right past him.
“That pathetic drunk,” Ekdahl went on, making Ulrich wonder if Ekdahl really knew he was there and was speaking for his benefit. “Drowning on the sadness of love, that Ulrich...Each year he does this…He should have become a monk, like me. Smitten by love only to lose it to the holy fire…She was a fine gal that Rosamund but you’ll find another, Schoen…you always did…Damn it, Schoen! It’s been six years, for God’s sake! And you’re driving your whole household mad with all this dark brooding and nasty glowering. Your shouting’s got little Gretel crying in her bed for fear you’ll punish her daily. You have to get over it, Schoen…Or you’ll drown…in your own SHIT!” he ended so loudly, Ulrich winced. He heard a quick shuffle and a splash then a curse as Ekdahl obviously slid into the mire. “Verdampt! I hate this swamp!” Ekdahl muttered. “Why he insists on hunting in here, where you could…DROWN!” he turned it into a shout as if making a point to the forest. “Or break your neck on these roots and things…Bah!” he ended in disgust and Ulrich heard the harsh rustle and clink of Ekdahl’s trappings as he marched back toward the clearing with determined steps. Ekdahl turned his head and said over his shoulder, “Go to Hell!”
His friend eventually disappeared and Ulrich stumbled out from behind the water-logged tree. “He’s right,” Ulrich admitted darkly as he straightened his balderich. “I’m a rightful mess. But I can’t help it. Rosamund…my Rosamund…you were so beautiful…and soft…and kind…” Then he glowered. “Kindness killed you…”
He stumbled aimlessly through the drowned forest of Grunwald. It was all his…this forest and the grounds beyond to the castle. He was its lord, the Baron von Grunwald…He’d have given it all away to have her back, he thought with a hiccup and a long sigh. After a long moment Ulrich decided to return; his good friend, his only friend, would be impatient for his safe return. He owed Ekdahl that much. They’d been inseperable comrades at arms on campaigns off the coast of northern Prussia, Samogitia and Lithuania. They’d watched each other’s back, saved the other from a treacherous death, on many occasions.
Ulrich wiped his runny nose and realized that he was a bit lost. Just as he was making his bearings to return he heard a light splash then a gasp and more splashes. Then more sounds of distress. It was a woman!
Ulrich instantly sobered and scrambled over the uneven turf toward the desperate sounds. He came upon a large dark pond and at its center, thrashing in the water, was a young woman. Without thinking he dove into the deep water and swam toward her. Within moments he’d retrieved her. She did not struggle and he brought her easily to shore.
As she lay on her back, coughing and seizing in gasping breathes with wild unfocused eyes, Ulrich stared, mezmorized. Even wet and bedraggled, she was the most beautiful woman he’d set his eyes on. He barely took in the rest of her, but his mind registered it because its strangeness demanded his attention. She was dressed in strange clothes, men’s Hussars: dark loose breeches and a short tight-fitting coat. She wore a large backpack made of curious smooth and resilient material. She stared straight at him yet through him, as if she didn’t see him at all, and murmured in some other language: “où je suis…quand je suis…Oh, cher Dieu, m'épargner…aide me trouve mon sauveur!”
He boldly touched her arm to get her attention and she winced then cried out in pain. She was hurt! Then he noticed a small hole in her sleeve, wet and shiny with oozing blood. Some projectile had passed through and embedded in her flesh. The wound bled profusely and her face blazed with a fever. Who would hurt this woman with the face of an angel?
In sudden determination, Ulrich gently but firmly pulled her up over his shoulder and hushed her sounds of terrified pain with soft murmurs. “It’s all right, meine shatz…I’ll take care of you…don’t be afraid…”
When he got to the forest-edge, his loyal friend was there, waiting for him, along with a few other members of his hunting party.
“Holbracht!” Ulrich shouted. “Fetch a horse! She’s hurt. I must get her to the castle at once!”
The hunting party hastened back to the castle and Ulrich, carrying the injured woman in his arms, shouted for the castle physician and barged into his small office. Grien came rushing out of his bedchamber, still in his nightshirt. Ulrich laid the half-conscious woman onto the doctor’s examination table and Grien proceeded to remove her outer clothing.
“What happened to her? Who is she?” he said brusquely.
“I don’t know,” Ulrich returned, still breathless from the incident.
“Not a Polish peasant? Or an escaped Lithuanian slave?”
“No, no,” Ulrich insisted nervously. “She looks like a lady.” He didn’t tell Grien that she spoke some foreign language. He wanted the good doctor to do his best. Ulrich pointed. “She has a puncture on the left arm. It’s bleeding.” He pointed to the obvious.
“I see it. Help me get these wet clothes off her.” Grien instructed him. Then Grien turned to the footmen, crowding the doorway, the same ones who had accompanied Ulrich and Holbracht on the hunt, “Be off—except you, Reinmar. Fetch my tools from the shelf there. That’s it. Now go get some hot water, boy! Now! And my leeches—”
The woman suddenly grew delirious and Grien and Ulrich had to hold her down. Grien struck her hard in the face. The shock made Ulrich wince but it stilled the woman. She’d cried out and her eyes flew open wide. But she ceased to struggle. Ulrich watched her cheek go from livid white to deep crimson where Grien had struck her.
“Did you really have to do that?” he turned on the doctor.
“She was flying into hysterics,” Grien said off-handedly. “I’ve seen it before. Women aren’t stable. Not like men. Their bodies are ruled by imperfection. This makes them generally unruly and uncontrolled. They must be controlled, particularly when in shock from an injury. Now hold her down while I undress her,” he commanded the baron. Although the woman had ceased to struggle and had closed her eyes as if to shut out the harsh world, Ulrich kept his hands on her and told himself he was doing something useful.