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Author Spotlight: M.A. McAlpine about The Games

m a mcalpine the games author interview

Today I am excited to share with you an interview with M.A. McAlpine, a promising new author who just published his second novel.

The Games is a thrilling, coming-of-age fantasy, and the second book in the Mya of Thebes Chronicles. The story follows Mya and her companions as they navigate the perilous challenges of a world filled with intrigue, magic, and the weight of destiny.

In this interview, McAlpine sheds light on his creative journey as an author and the inspirations that shaped the vivid landscapes of his fantasy realm. Enjoy!

The Games by M.A. McAlpine

Q: The Games is the second book in the Mya of Thebes Chronicles. Can you provide a brief overview of the story and what readers can expect in this installment?

A: The Games is a thrill ride from start to finish. It continues Mya story at the end of Kamun-Ra, and thickens the mystery that was revealed during the climax on Monthys Island. It starts with the announcements of the Games, sending shockwaves of excitement through Kamun-Ra, and Mya and her friends are no exception, quickly wrapped in the euphoria of being able to compete for the right to accompany the Protectorate on a peacekeeping mission.

Little do they know; a dark evil is rising in Shereen’s hometown of Al-Kemet. Tarek is a man that feels it is his responsibility to call upon the people of Triskia to expel the evil Protectorate and renounce their wicked ways. And he is a man that will go to any lengths to ensure that his message is heard.

As riots start to burn across the city, the Daughters of the Sun will not sit idly by. Lela is tasked with solving the food shortage that has plagued Al-Kemet, and restore balance to the city before it shatters, splintering Triskia from the Protectorate, creating ripples that will only lead to war.

The Games is a story about how perception is at the core of how you view your reality, and how easily it can be manipulated for nefarious purposes. It will take the reader on a journey of subterfuge, plots and scheming that destabilizes an entire population.

Q: The idea of gladiatorial contests and a mission to Verievo sounds intriguing. What inspired you to bring these elements into the story, and how do they contribute to the excitement?

A: What really makes my world special is the magic system. We are used to wands, wizards and steel in fantasy, but in my world, the Protectorate use Shab’Ti. These are special totems that allow the bearer to channel the energy of Pangea into swords and spears, essentially corporeal energy weapons. I loved the imagery of warriors in the sands, switching between weapons, trying to outmaneuver their opponents in flashes of blue.

Adding another wrinkle, in the Mya of Thebes Chronicles objects can also be enchanted to perform defined actions. How will this impact gladiatorial contests? Well, that is a surprise for the reader, and for Mya to discover.

The world that the Mya of Thebes Chronicles is set in takes a lot of its inspirations from the classics. Mainly, ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, and many other places in the Mediterranean. Setting my world in that environment, how could I not include gladiatorial contests?

Q: Your characters, Mya, Tarek, and Lela, each have their own unique journeys. Can you share a bit about how you developed them and if you have a personal favorite among the trio?

A: In the first draft, Tarek only had a couple chapters in Mya’s story. But very quickly, my beta readers thirsted to know more. And who am I to say no? So, upon re-writes I added a lot more to his narrative and he came out amazing. I do not want to say to much, but he has become a compelling character that adds incredible depth to not only Mya’s journey, but the world overall.

I decided to introduce Lela as a way of not only progressing the story, but adding layers to the existing mythology introduced in Kamun-Ra. I really wanted to increase the lore around the Daughters of the Sun, but with Shereen off with Mya, I needed a new character to do that. I really wanted to use Lela to add interest to this group, so I could indirectly add interest to Shereen, and her religion.

Mya is the hero, and this is her story, but a hero is only as good as her opposition. The Games does an incredible job of putting Mya into a precarious position, which leaves the reader wondering how on earth is she going to survive. She really is an amalgamation of several of my own personality traits, but also of a lot of heroes that I grew up admiring. My goal was to create a hero for my little girl that she could imagine adventuring with, just like I was able to with all my childhood heroes.

Q: Your bio mentions leaving the corporate world and starting to write as a response to a desire to dream for yourself. How did this personal motivation shape the creation of “The Games”?

A: Like many other indy authors, I am living in two dreams – the corporate world, and the worlds I create in my head. When working in a corporate setting, you are often working on projects and initiatives brought forth by your boss, or your boss’s boss. It wasn’t until I started writing down Mya’s adventures that I started dreaming for myself. And in a sense, becoming an author is me trying to dream for me, and putting my energy into something I can say is my own. It is my name on each novel I publish, and my words and worlds that people read and enjoy.

Every book I write has a little bit of me in it. It is more to me than just words on paper. It is a dream that I have worked to make real. It is a piece of me that I am leaving behind when I am gone. It is something that my little girl can always have, and pass on to future generations.

Q: Creating a fantasy world that people fall in love with is a beautiful goal. What were the most exciting parts of building this world, and did you face any challenges along the way?

A: I wanted a world where you could just let your imagination wonder, and while creating it, it consumed my thoughts. That was the best part. I would be walking my dog, picturing what I would do if I was on the journey to Kamun-Ra with Mya. Or what it would be like to join on a treasure hunt with the team. This incessant day dreaming allowed me to experience it like a reader.

I think there are challenges every time you try to create something new. To me, it was making sure I stayed grounded, and while my world has magic in it, I wanted it to always feel like it could be real, because one of my goals was to make it feel like it could have been part of our ancient, forgotten history.

Q: You talk about moments of self-doubt in your writing journey. How did you overcome these challenges, and what advice would you give to others facing similar doubts?

A: I am not sure if I will ever be free from self-doubt about my writing. It is the ever-present itch in the back of your mind. Initially, I would tell myself that so long as one-person liked my work, it was worth it. I still believe that, but now it is a little different. After I held my first book in my hands, I felt like I was creating art.

Which is such a personal experience, that while I want everyone to read my work, I had to remember to celebrate that I created something. Me. I did it. For any authors facing similar doubts, fight them with every fibre of your being. Do not let them win. Because when you are done this journey, you will be glad you did. Even if only a couple people read it. It won’t matter. Because you did it. And that, in itself, is meaningful.

Q: The blend of different tropes in “The Games” creates a unique twist on the classic fantasy adventure novel. Can you share some of your favorite influences that inspired the Mya of Thebes Chronicles?

A: Oh, there are many. The first would be A Song of Ice and Fire. George R.R. Martin has talked about his love of history inspiring his work, and I followed his example. When creating the world of Pangea, I would base each country very loosely off an area in ancient history. I would use it to inform the myths, the language, the climate, as much as I could to help make the world feel real, and like a part of our history.

The second would be the Lord of the Rings. The inter-person relationships were informed by the Fellowship, and how you can have a group of heroes that fight together against evil. Mya’s drive to be a hero was very much inspired by Aragorn.

Moving outside of the traditional swords and shields literary fantasy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been a huge influence on me. I really appreciated the juxtaposition of the cheerleader being the one to chase the monsters. This is reflected in Mya and her friends having to defeat mythical beasts on their quests.

Q: As a writer and a parent, how do you balance family life with the creative process, and have there been any surprising intersections between your family and your writing?

A: First, without the support from my amazing wife, I am not sure if I would have been able to publish anything. I am very lucky she supports my dreams. It is hard finding time to write, but what worked for me was building out a routine that I could follow. Which typically means that after bedtime for my little one, I can find an hour or two to do a writing sprint.

Q: What can readers look forward to in your future projects? Any hints or details you can share about what might be next in the Mya of Thebes Chronicles or any other works you have in mind?

A: Right now, I am focusing on completing the Mya of Thebes Chronicles before I start another project. Now, a funny story. Kamun-Ra was my debut novel, but I wrote the first three books at the same time. It was not intentional. I had just finished my first manuscript and was busy hunting down editors. I told them the word count, and they looked at me like I was crazy.

My first manuscript was 275,000 words. They gently recommended that I split that up, which I did into Kamun-Ra, the Games – which releases on March 21, 2024 – and Soulstone, which I hope to release later this year.

Q: Lastly, what do you hope readers feel or take away from this new novel, and what’s the key message or emotion you want them to remember about the Mya of Thebes Chronicles?

A: The Games is not a book where the heroes win at the end. It is the second book in a larger series, and by the end, the heroes are in trouble. Now, the question is, how will they respond as the series progresses?

This is a book that really explores how you can manipulate and de-stabilize a country, and it uses a couple themes that are relevant today to do it. As a reader, you get to see a beautiful place that is destroyed by lies. In a twist, you also really empathize with the people doing it. You see how they have been manipulated, and you know that they are just trying to make the world better but have been caught in deceit.

Over the series, it will resonate with anyone that has looked at a world in pain, and wanted to fix it, but feel like they can’t because the problem is too big, and they don’t know where to start. They just know that they want to make the world better, and they don’t care about what happens to them, just so long as they leave things better than how they found it.

Check out Matt’s website, and social media, for more!

Happy reading! ❤️