We were inspired to write after our talk with Mikko Azul about her novel The Staff of Fire and Bone! She shared her inspiring writing journey and the details of her richly detailed story world.
Mikko Azul wrote her first book in second grade, proudly scribbling the cover with crayons and binding with yarn. She has always pursued knowledge of magic, secret societies, the occult, science and spirituality. As an adult, her tastes broadened to include historical fiction and action-adventure. These influences can be found in her epic fantasy novels.
Mikko was raised in the Pacific Northwest. She has traveled broadly and served in the United States Marine Corps, and does SCUBA diving, hiking, and Kung Fu. Her debut novel Askari won a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and took first place at the San Francisco Writers Conference. She lives on the shores of Puget Sound with her three sons.
The first book of her new series, The Staff of Fire and Bone, came out in January 2018 from Not a Pipe Publishing as part of the publisher’s participation in Kamila Shamsie’s challenge to make 2018 “The Year of Publishing Women”.*
We hear about Mikko’s writing journey, from her first story (from youth) was about a little mouse who’d lost his cheese, to writing in earnest in her thirties while stuck at home with two kids under two and needed some emotional and intellectual stimulation.
What winning 1st place in the San Francisco Writers Conference writing competition meant to her writing career and how she sees the value of conferences for writers. (Hint: to build community, camaraderie, and to measure yourself and your work against other writers.)
How she got to write with Writers Guild of America West and worked with screenwriters, Ashley Edward Miller (Thor) and Phil Bowman (Scary Movie series).
The power of maps in fantasy worlds.
How she developed the creation mythology, story of the deities, added different topography, flora, fauna and then extrapolated what sort of people might live in each of these.
How the multicultural aspects of her novel reflect modern day social difficulties. Mikko wanted to explore racial inequality and racism after her own experience in a mixed-race marriage.
The inspiring message Mikko hopes readers take away:
“Everyone can be a hero in their own life, take charge, make their own decisions.”
ON CREATING LANGUAGES
Fun fact – the name of Mikko’s people–Askari–means “Warrior” in Arabic.
How Mikko’s knowledge of Norse, Germanic, and Celtic based languages, plus her interest in exploring Arabic and Chinese sounds created the flavor of multiple languages and linguistic intricacies in The Staff of Fire and Bone.
Why Mikko chose not to include a pronunciation guide–because she understands that each reader brings their own interpretation to unfamiliar words. (We’ll wait for the audiobook to get the “official” pronunciation. Mikko is hoping for Davina Porter to narrate!)
ON WRITING AND LIFE
How she was inspired by Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces to include older, mentor-type characters and avoid the trope of one-dimensional adults
She doesn’t watch any TV (except Downton Abbey!), which gives her time to write.
Mikko learned time-management skills while in the Marine Corps and this helps her squeeze writing time in. She preplans her writing during her commute and then gets everything down during her writing sessions.
Mikko learned a lot from self-publishing the original version of her novel–Askari–and wanted to find a more traditional publisher, so Mikko interviewed Ben and Paige Gorman after hearing that Not a Pipe Publishing had accepted Kamila Shamsie challenge “The Year of Publishing Women”
The best writing advice Mikko ever got (from Stan Lee):
“Ya take your guy, right? Your hero and you make him want something really badly, but you make it impossible for him to get it. And the more he tries to get it, the more trouble he gets into. And the more he tries to get out of trouble, the deeper the pile of crap you dump him in. And that’s what makes a story move forward.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT MIKKO AZUL
Mikko’s on Facebook at Mikko Azul
Mikko tweets @azulmikko
Learn more about Mikko at www.mikkoazul.com