Ritesh: Today I welcome to the blog, Marie J. S. Phillips, author of books such as KHAN: A Maine Coon and ‘The Furlites of Aroriel’ series. I had the opportunity to interact with her and we talked about her, her books and her plans for the future.
Describe your books? What genre do you consider your books?
Mostly Science fiction / Fantasy, though KHAN: A MAINE COON is not of that genre. I suppose it is an animal tale, but is also a biography. It is hard to categorize.
When and why did you begin writing? Who inspired you to start writing?
I started writing when I was five, creating picture type stories with a tree as the main character! As I grew older, I even designed my own publishing “firm” called “Sunrise Publications” and it featured a rainbow over a sunrise logo in glorious Crayola crayon! I’ve had the desire to write from the nonhuman point of view for as long as I can remember.
How did the idea for this book come to mind?
I started out with the idea of turning Khan’s early months before we adopted him into a fantasy cat yarn, but as time went by I ended up writing his life story from his point of view. I did use some of the fantasy elements, but for the most part stuck to the true events of his life. When he fell ill, the story was no longer just a cat’s tale but a tribute to him, a bit of immortality for such a sweet gentle giant.
Who is your favourite character in the book besides the protagonist and why?
Khan’s best buddy Phantom. In writing this story, I realized just how special this cat was in all our lives. He was Khan’s best friend and in the end, protector.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing the book to life?
In the research, all I had to do was carefully comb my memory, photo accounts, and medical records to keep everything true to what happened. In doing this from his point of view and allowing the characters to speak, I tried to be sure that stayed true to the cat’s personalities as well as the species. I tried to get into their heads.
What is the hardest part of writing the book?
The last few chapters, since when doing revisions and editing, it was very difficult reading about the events.
Who designed the covers of the book?
I did. It features a photo of Khan when he was two years old.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what is it?
I learned more about my own cats and everything that goes into caring for them when they are ill. The book helped heal my heart, and in it, Khan and his best buddy will always live on.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in the book?
I think I might have added Phantom’s point of view. But since I did not, it leaves it wide open for another story, this time Phantom’s.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Was there somewhere in the book you felt stuck?
My problem is I have more I wish to write than I could possibly ever finish! On the rare occasion I get stuck, I will shift to another project and come back to it. Generally, the answers come suddenly and I must write myself notes! With KHAN: A MAINE COON, I never got stuck. The story was already there to transpose to print.
What are your current projects?
I have the first two books of my Furlites of Aroriel series out now. Book one is On Matissia Wings and Book II is Earth-Bred, Matissia-born. I am working on Book 3 – Eyes in the Dark of my Furlites of Aroriel series, short story Fantasy collection, that includes a tale about Old Gent, an ancient Norway Spruce, a Furlitian Tales collection, Phantom’s tale called F-4 Phantom Wild Weasel, and eccentric collection of stories called The Secret Life of Model Horses.
Which book of yours will be coming out next and when? Could you describe what happens in this book? Can we get an excerpt?
The Fantasy short story collection should be the next book out sometime early in 2012. It features a story called The White Dragons of Suvwilur. Here is an excerpt.
From The White Dragons of Suvwilur
Feklaar lifted his head, ears pricked and quivering, as thunder cracked suddenly in the high, frigid peaks he called home. A shaft of bright sunlight illuminated the entrance to his lair, telling the majestic dragon no mere thunder reverberated in the mountains. The sounds died away, and Feklaar listened carefully. The unmistakable keen of a dragon followed the last echo of thunder. Feklaar growled deeply, the utterance rumbling deep in his broad chest. Another of his kind killed by the Strange Ones, who appeared in the skies south of the Mountains months ago. He lurched to his feet, allowing a puff of smoke to escape his toothy maw. Unfurling his vast pinions, Feklaar bared impressive cutlery and shot a brief burst of flame.
“Why isss thou angry?” A gentle voice asked. Feklaar swung his head around, and instantly the silky fur along his spine lay flat. He met his mate’s gentle blue eyes, and admired her long, silvery-white pelt. She blinked slowly, tilting her head. “Thy eyes ssspit purple fire.”
“Beloved Tarrvaj, thou issss right.” Feklaar answered, lashing his long whip tail. Silvery iridescent strands floated behind him. “Strange Ones kill again! Endanger this one, thee and our young.”
Tarrvaj swung her head towards the mouth of their lair, ears erect. The long hair on her spine rose, obliterating her graceful dorsal spires. She lifted her lip, revealing glittering fangs as the keening of a dragon in anguish grew louder.
“Thou issss right!” She unfurled her wings just as two small white fuzzy dragonets tumbled into the lair, scurrying to their parents. Fear sparked in both pairs of eyes.
“Mother! Father! “ Two shrill voices echoed in the lair. Feklaar puffed, sensing the dragonets’ terror.
“Children, please.” he commanded sternly, watching them as they faced him. Still in their baby fuzz, and only a few years old, they practiced flying for the first time three days ago. The female stared up at him, her aqua eyes wide, her entire coat bristling. Her brother drew himself erect, wings unfurling, his golden eyes ablaze.
“Thorlaar sssssee!” The youngster bobbed his head. “Practice fly. Ssssseee Strange Onessss in flyer. Kill Old One! Thorlaar and Elavaj fly home! Ssscared!!! Why? Sssstrange Onesss kill Old Doqularr Why?”
“They kill Doqularr?” Tarrvaj hissed, curling her wings protectively around the young ones. Anger and paternal instincts flooded Feklaar.
“This One flyssss!” The huge white dragon roared in outrage. “Sssstrange Onessss go too far!”
“Feklaar No!” Tarrvaj threw her head back, shrieking. “Ssstrange Oness fire too powerful! Thou no match!”
“Must go. They come too close. They kill old ancient Wissse One.” Feklaar snarled, and scrambled to the mouth of his lair. Ignoring Tarrvaj’s protests, and launched himself into the sky. Shutting his mind to her mental pleas, he belched forth a blast of fire, searing the rock outcrop as he banked upward with strong, wing sweeps. Steam sizzled, as the snow cover evaporated instantly. The bright sun played over his crystalline white pelt. Illusive rainbow colors sparkled across his wings as icy winds whistled in his ears. He soared, pulling his attention away from admiring the sunlight on his own body. No time for that selfish delight. He roared in fury, and heard answering Draconian bellows. He surveyed the high Suvwian peaks with sharp vision, and spotted old Doqularr’s mate as she swooped and dove near the entrance of a dangerous, narrow canyon. Her flames flared bright against the deep azure sky. A pang shot through Feklaar as he realized now, with the Wise One gone, the job of Dragon Chieftain fell to him. His anger diminished with the influx of emotions. Though he wished to do nothing better than char that new den of creatures to ash, reckless revenge might evoke unwanted retaliation from the Strange Ones. The flyers the Strange Ones possessed out maneuvered any dragon out on the plains and in the low hills. Only here, in the mountain peaks, did he and his kind have any type of safety. He rumbled his frustration and flew to the bereaved female.
*Meervaj!* He mindcried firmly. *Meervaj! May This One speak with thee?*
*Feklaar?* The slender dragoness halted her wild flaming, and looked up. Her violet-blue eyes gleamed with hate and grief. Her voice echoed among the peaks.. “Feklaar! Doqularr issss gone! The Sssstrange Onesss flamed him from the sky!! Protecting This One!!”
“Sssssoo, Thorlaar hass told Thisss One.” Feklaar answered gently, though his second stomach roiled. He belched a cloud of smoke.
“They took him! Down, down they went! How can Thisss One sssssend him on his Final Flight to the Ancessstorsss!” Meervaj wailed, a short flame jetting from her jaws.
“Isss Thee sssure they took him?” Feklaar asked.
“Thissss One sseeee him fall, fall, fall! Sssstrange Onesss follow in flyer! Doqularr fight flyer!! All fall! In there! Thissss One cannot find.” Meervaj pointed a foreclaw at the entrance of a narrow canyon.
“Meervaj, Doqularr will make hisss Final Flight. Thisss One will find him.”
What book are you reading now? Which are your all-time favourite authors / books? Favourite movies and favourite music band?
I am reading Merry Maines: A Shaggy Cat Tale by Garnet Quinn. Also am reading The Land of the Painted Caves by Auel. I have many others on the Kindle, waiting. I love Anne Mccaffery’s Pern stories, Robert Sawyers’ Quintaglio series, Shirley Murphy’s Joe Grey Mysteries, Mercedes Lackey’s Valdamar series, and have already fallen in love with the Merry Maines feline crew! There are so many more. I love Science Fiction/ fantasy and one of my favourite movies was ET, and one of my favourite TV shows is Dr Who. I love the old classic rock bands, and Christmas music in just about any genre.
Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you, something you could not read just about anywhere.
I love birdwatching, collect, customize, and show model horses and other animals, and I suppose my political affiliation could best be described as a conservative libertarian.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to readers?
Well, my stories are definitely off the mainstream. I love to write stories from the nonhuman point of view. If you are a reader like myself, who loves to read stories that feature aliens, cats, horses, trees, fantasy creatures, which tell the story from their eyes, then you will likely enjoy my work! If talking animals bother you, or non-humanoid aliens bother you, you will likely not enjoy my books. I had one editor tell me she could not relate to my Furlites because they had tails! She suggested removing them and I laughed. My proofreader and mentor said, “don’t you dare”. I replied, “don’t fret, I can’t! Cut off a Furlite’s tail and they can’t walk very well!” We had a great laugh. You can’t lop off the tail of a Saurian biped!!! So if you enjoy books like Watership Down, Tad William’s Tailchaser’s Song, or Robert Sawyer’s FARSEER, you most likely will enjoy mine.
And now for a quick-fire round:
ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
I always loved hardcovers and paperbacks, but since I got my Kindle—its ebooks now
Cats or dogs?
Love them both but choose cats.
Coffee or tea?
Coffeeee-where is the IV????
So many to choose from but I love a nice rare steak!!
Vanilla or chocolate icecream?
What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Purse, cellphone, keys, and a special bracelet I have in memory of my Mom.
Laptop or desktop for writing?
Mostly desktop, but have a laptop for times working at the desktop is not possible.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
At my desktop, with the huge 24’ screen, during the day.
If you were deserted on an island, who are 3 famous people you would want with you?
Dan Marino, Anne McCaffery, Chef Gordon Ramsey
List 3 of your all-time favourite movies?
ET, Star Trek IV and Lord of the Rings
What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?
DR Who Christmas episode
Born in 1957, in Huntington, on Long Island, I’ve been driven by an insatiable love of writing, art, and the sciences since very early childhood. My love of animal tales fueled my desire to write, always manifesting in stories from the non-human point of view. I invented my very first character at six years old, creating picture books with a tree as the main protagonist. I included, on the inside covers, my very own publishing logo, complete with rainbow and shining sun!
In my senior year of High School, one of my teachers, Mr. O’Connor, lent me a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, which changed my reading and writing life forever, driving me into the unique and futuristic world of Fantasy/Science Fiction.
In college, I majored in Art and Earth Sciences, where inspiration fired my vivid and eccentric imagination, planting the seeds for my Furlites of Aroriel novels. Over the years, I honed the complex world of this alien family saga. My husband’s love and support over the decades proved invaluable, since his scientific knowledge and expertise quickly surpassed my own, once we graduated high school, went off to college, and entered the working world. With his help, and that of my mentor, David Ayscue, who passed away in 2010, I completed the first two of these books, On Matissia Wings, and, Earth-bred Matissia-born,which are now available. Other tales are in the works!
I dabbled with another tale many years ago, using my Khan as a character, when my big Maine Coon became seriously ill. While battling Khan’s insidious disease, I completed the story, which took on deeper impact far beyond my intended feline fantasy yarn. KHAN: A Maine Coon is the result, a biography of his life, with fictional elements, written from his point of view.
Owned by three cats, two of which are Maine Coon cats, I live with my husband in the rolling hills of northwestern Connecticut.
About her books:
KHAN: A MAINE COON:
Semi-fictional biography of Khan, a real Maine Coon. Abandoned and left at a local shelter, a Maine Coon kitten awaits an uncertain fate. During his stay, Khan befriends a wise old tomcat. Four days later, to Khan’s horror, the shelter workers take his friend away to the Big Sleep, leaving Khan scared and alone. Just before Khan’s time is up, a man enters the shelter and adopts Khan. Though he feels loved, he is also alone, and misses his mother, his litter mates, and his tomcat friend. Weeks later, when another young kitten joins the household, Khan befriends him, and they form a tight bond. Khan deals with life’s challenges and surprises, always finding strength in feline friendships, old and new, and in love from his humans — until a monster from within suddenly strikes him down in the prime of life. Down, but not out, Khan struggles against his internal foe, wanting only to stay beside the humans and cats he adores.
On Matissia Wings-Book 1 of THE FURLITES OF ARORIEL series
The cold distant world Aroriel — where primate species never evolved — has spawned a furry saurian race that now reaches for the stars. Commander Geupetus of Clan Darius, offered command of the first near-lightspeed Starship, hesitates to take the job, as Furlitian Law forbids his teen-aged twins Murkuria and Thorius from accompanying their Clan on this historic mission into interstellar space. Clan Darius, after careful deliberation as a family, driven by their rigid sense of military honor, discipline, and duty, decide they must squelch their emotions and accept the commission — leaving the twins on Aroriel. Distraught, They conceives an outrageous plan to stow aboard the great Starship,and with their winged pet Matissia, become stowaways, causing the Sunpyne to crash land on an alien world, where saurian life like their own is long extinct, where primate beings that call themselves Human populate the planet. Will they ever see their beloved home again? Some sexual content.
Earth-bred, Matissia-born – Book 2 of THE FURLITES OF ARORIEL series
Young Murkuria discovers that the homeworld-bound Sunpyne harbors yet another stowaway. This time, it is the Human’s lost pet Maine Coon cat, which is pregnant and dying from malnutrition. Murkuria succeeds in genetically altering the Earth cat’s unborn zygotes so they can thrive on Aroriel’s magnesium-rich foods. Seven kittens — born to surrogate mother Iggie the Matissia — bond to and communicate telepathically with Furlites of their own choosing. These exotic smart treasures which Murkuria dubs Felakoons, endear themselves to the proud Clan, proving to be far more than mere pets. However, as the Sunpyne and Sauri return from their first mission to the stars, anticipating awe, triumph, and glory, unexpected opposition to the new “alien” life throws the planet into strife and conflict such has not been seen in centuries. Will the Felakoons earn a place in Furlitian society, or be sterilized, and die out as a species before have barely begun to live? Some sexual content.
Finding the author:
Ritesh: I’d like t thank Marie J. S. Phillips for taking time to talk to me, as well as Kai Wilson for organising the ’12 days of xmas GIR’s Bloghop’ event.