In my ongoing “Author Spotlight” series, I present Mackenzie Flohr.
Author Spotlight: Mackenzie Flohr
Today I’m fortunate to present Mackenzie Flohr author of The Rite of Wands.
Hi Mackenzie, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. For as long as I can remember, I have loved the arts. My parents introduced me at a very young age to the artistic and cultural opportunities that the city of Cleveland had to offer. I spent my teen years developing my love of theatre and writing through The Beck Center for the Cultural Arts in Lakewood, Ohio.
How long have you been writing?
I have honestly been writing since I was a young child. My best friend and I would create little stories and draw pictures.
What inspired you to start writing?
I honestly didn’t think of writing as a career until I was on my way to Indiana to view a Lord of the Rings exhibit. That is when the concept of The Rite of Wands first came to me.
Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?
The Rite of Wands is the first book of an epic fantasy series. It follows the story of 12-year-old warlock Mierta McKinnon after he endures a harrowing ritual called The Rite of Wands in order to gain his magical powers.
What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?
Science Fiction & Fantasy.
What authors influenced you?
J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Michael Ende, Christopher Paolini.
What are you currently reading?
Gnarled Bones and other stories by Tam May.
Do you write every day? A few days per week?
I usually write a few days per week at night between the hours of 12 – 3 AM.
Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?
Sometimes if I really need to concentrate. Music seems to bring out emotions that I cannot quite describe. I actually created a playlist for The Rite of Wands, which can be found on my website.
How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?
When I first started I really struggled with getting clear thoughts onto the paper as well as describing something so others could understand what they should be seeing. Now I feel I can get into a character’s head much easier than before.
How do you create the covers for your books?
I work exclusively with Blue Harvest Creative, who design absolutely amazing covers.
Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?
When I write I can see my characters vividly, almost like they are performing in front of a green screen. Sometimes they also look and sound like actors. Specifically, for this series, the character of Mierta McKinnon was heavily inspired by actor Matt Smith. As the character evolved, I grew more confident to write this character for him, knowing I could take this character anywhere.
What is your favorite book and why?
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The story of Frodo and the hobbits, and their struggle to destroy the one ring of power, really touched me on an emotional level. I especially loved the relationship between Frodo and Sam, and it made me realize we all need a Sam Gamgee in our lives.
How do you market your books?
I am a member of several Facebook groups which support indie writers like myself. We share our triumphs and our struggles as well as mutually advertise our works through our various blogs, Twitter, and Facebook pages. I also have an amazing team behind BHC Press, which also helps me properly market my book and develop my brand.
Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?
Draconiera Mountain–The kingdom of Aracelly
The twelve-year-old warlock startled, hearing his name announced telepathically. Mierta stood up on shaky legs and brushed his brown bangs out of his green eyes. The room inside Draconiera Mountain was suffocating. Hot springs bubbling up from deep beneath the ground created a dense fog, which pushed down on Mierta’s shoulders. Sweat was already dripping from his brow onto his long dark royal blue robe. His heart raced as he approached a large wooden door. He occasionally glanced over at others who were anxiously waiting their turn, wondering which of those he made eye contact with would succeed.
No matter what happens. No matter what I see. I cannot allow my fears to overcome me, Mierta told himself. I will achieve what I have come to do. I cannot fail. I won’t. I will make Mum and Dad proud.
A loud creaking echoed across the room, and the ground shook underneath his feet. Two tall wooden doors opened up to a pathway of complete darkness.
“Step inside,” he heard the dragon say. Mierta swallowed hard and expelled air through his mouth.
Upon entering the pathway, a warm mist rose from below. Water splashed against rocks, and occasional water droplets hit his skin. A faint glow shined in the near distance. He walked towards the glow until he found himself in a large circular cavern. In the centre of this cavern was a short round pedestal. An opening off towards the right looked like it was open-aired, and off to the left side was another doorway, which was currently closed.
Mierta gazed up at the source of the glow and caught a glimpse of the magnificent creature standing on a rocky ledge. He could hear his pulse beating in his ears. He felt like his body was paralyzed, yet he felt unsteady. His own rapid breathing masked the sound of Lord Kaeto stepping into the light.
Mierta gasped, shielding his eyes against the bright yellow light from Lord Kaeto’s wings, trying to conquer his fear. When his eyes adjusted, he noted the ebony veins that traced a pattern like fingers. The veins seemed to pulse with power.
“Lord Kaeto,” Mierta uttered, bowing, keeping his eyes averted to the ground.
Lord Kaeto was the last of his kind—an omniscient ancient breed of telepathic dragons that had been around for longer than any could remember. The residents of the kingdom looked at him as if he were a God, straight out of the stories of old.
“Mierta McKinnon. Rise,” he spoke. “It is your time to participate in the Rite of Wands in which your soul shall face the ultimate analysis. You will be taken on a journey of your lifetime, viewing portions of your past, present, and future. Do you concede?”
“Yes,” Mierta answered, his voice breaking.
The Rite of Wands is a tradition among witches and warlocks when they reached their twelfth birthday. It was a ceremony, which once completed, would signify their initiation into the magical community of Aracelly.
I will not fail. I cannot fail, Mierta recited to himself.
“Very well,” Lord Kaeto nodded, pleased. “The Rite of Wands shall commence!”
Lord Kaeto tilted his head upwards and blew fire from his mouth.
Mierta lifted his hands to cover his face. When he heard the sound of the bolt slide open from the other side of the room, Mierta lowered his hands to watch as the door opened with a loud creak.
“Dragomir will be assisting me with the ritual.”
Out stepped a warlock wearing tall black boots, a black tunic with a golden lacing, royal blue breeches and a long sleeved white linen shirt. His face was hidden behind an orange and golden mask shaped like a dragon’s head. The warlock raised his right hand into the air and shouted, “Forina olivet!”
A lightning bolt crashed down beside him, followed by the sound of drums beating, which gradually became louder until it matched every thump of Mierta’s frantic heart.
While the door closed behind him, Dragomir walked to the edge of the room and bowed to the dragon. The drums stopped abruptly.
The warlock bowed his head toward Mierta.
Mierta glanced back not assured.
“His appearance may look frightening, but do not fear,” Kaeto continued. “I assure you he is only here to help me perform the magic, which is tiring for me. Now, Mierta, keep your eyes upon mine at all times. You may feel a tingling sensation as I investigate your essence.” He turned toward the warlock. “Dragomir, you may begin, wand at the ready.”
Mierta watched Dragomir raise his wand and hold it out towards him. He took in a deep breath. He had heard stories about the Rite of Wands, but it was forbidden for anyone to discuss specifics of their individual ritual. The little knowledge he had told him the ceremony represented a kind of test before he would either be accepted as a full member of the magical community or not. If he failed, there would not be another chance; he would become a Magulia-a magical person without his or her powers.
The Rite of Wands began when Lord Kaeto entered his soul, though he did not know exactly what would happen. What he was about to see was a mystery. However, how he endured would determine his fate.
When Mierta stared into Lord Kaeto’s golden amphibian eyes, they were not frightful like he expected. Instead, they appeared old and sad, like he already knew what he was about to see. This sent a chill down Mierta’s body.
Lord Kaeto could see what Mierta’s heart desired. There was both good and evil inside him, caused by a deep hurt that had yet to be mended.
Please, do not curse me to a life without magic, Mierta begged.
At the same time Dragomir shouted, “Fedish ramtatí!”
It did not take long before Mierta started to feel the effects of the spell. First, he experienced what felt like a dozen small black bugs crawling up his skin. His mind urged him to scratch to rid his body of them. He reached out a hand to scratch his left arm, when suddenly Dragomir cast another spell. “Gañoth!”
Mierta abruptly stopped. A small, “oooof” escaped his lips as he promptly was thrown backwards against the pedestal located directly behind him. He felt as if all the air was being released from his lungs, followed by intense pain, as though he had been punched in the stomach. Stars filled his vision.
Dragomir watched the young warlock’s eyes start to roll. He pointed his wand straight at Mierta’s heart and stepped in close to deliver the final blow. There was no hesitation in Dragomir’s movements or guilt in his eyes. He swung his hand around in a large circle and shouted, “Draciolamus!”
Mierta gasped and his eyes re-focused. He was rewarded with air returning to his lungs. He took in several deep breaths, treasuring them as if they were to be his last. He closed his eyes and reopened them just in time to see a set of arms and hands appear, detached and demon-like. They were the colour of misty grey mixed with black. As the disembodied parts slithered toward him like a snake, a moaning sound emanated from them.
He must have cast a spell that causes hallucinations. Oh, how brilliant! I reckon as long as I don’t give in to the fear, I will get through this, Mierta thought.
Mierta wanted to break the trance; however, he was determined not to show the dragon any weakness. One day, he was certain, he would become the most powerful warlock in Iverna. He would do wonders for the magical community while he sought vengeance for the crime committed against his mother.
His body trembled while the hands crawled up his legs. His pulse increased again and his breathing became uneven once he felt them slip underneath his breeches. They climbed up his legs and made their way under his wool shirt until they reached his chest. Then they stopped.
“Lord Kaeto?” Mierta questioned, perplexed.
He let out a cry when he felt a sharp, stabbing pain. One of the hands had entered his body through the right side of his chest. Crying out again when the other hand followed through his left side, Mierta looked down to see a gruesome sight of blood saturating through his royal blue robe where the hands had entered him. He felt overly hot as blood rushed to his face and nausea built in his throat. Taking a step forward, he heard a squishing sound. He looked down to see blood had pooled at his feet.
“Lord Kaeto,” Mierta uttered between breaths. “What?”
A high-pitched ringing filled his ears. The world before him rapidly spun and transformed into white puffy clouds. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and his knees buckled as the darkness engulfed him.
Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?
Where can we find you online?
BHC Press Author Page: http://www.bhcauthors.com/Author_Mackenzie_Flohr.html
If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?
I had thought originally about going the traditional route, but I realized I wanted more control over my work if someday it should be adapted for a television series or movie series. I also found a great group of people to support and develop me as a writer!
Any parting words for writers?
Keep writing! Look for what inspires you, and drives your muse. Stories pick their writer. You never know if you’ll be chosen to write the next best-seller.