The Marked Ones

S. K. Munt

S. K. Munt


Today, we have with us an exciting new author who has brought the concept of mermaids – often considered to be the province of children’s stories and Young Adult Fiction – into the realm of adult fantasy novels. Not only has she given mer-folk a change of venue but her writing has managed to turn quite a few heads and she has quickly developed an enthusiastic following.

The Marked Ones is the first installment in Ms Munt’s Fairytail series that is expected to run to at least thee books if not more. Given the accolades for her debut novel, the second, Three Rings, is likely to cement her position as a nascent writer of outstanding fiction. Her fans would seem to agree that S.K. Munt is an author to watch.

For example, one person on wrote the following upon completion of  The Marked Ones:

I am gone on The Marked Ones. Gone. I can’t function.
It’s so different from everything I’ve ever read!  — Abby Jocavich

S.K. Munt is an intriguing writer and we are grateful that she took time out from her busy schedule to answer our 20 Questions.

Large Q How did you get started as an author?
Large A I think every writer gets their ‘calling’ through a love of reading. I taught myself to read at 4, using those old Alf books that came with a cassette. When the tape went ‘ding’ you turned the page. By year two it was ghost stories (J.B Stamper, Tales Of the Midnight Hour) and by the third grade I’d made it to Stephen King and The Baby-Sitters Club.
Ghost stories fascinated me. I was that kid that ‘weird’ things happened to (Note, not the weird kid) and I was always dreaming up things to tell my friends at slumber parties that would guarantee emotional scarring well into adulthood. In fact, one story I made up, based on a true one from Borley Rectory, has become a local urban legend. As I grew, it did. I am probably the only person in my town who will stand on that cliff face at night by themselves without knocking-knees. And giggle my ass off.
Then think of something terrifying and hightail it back down to civilisation. I always kept a diary and by the fifth grade, I was writing whole books by hand. This went on and on-always a different genre, and by the eighth grade, I knew what my path was. I didn’t have a choice. Another very important aspect, was that I was alone a lot growing up, and suffered a lot of bullying. But nine times out of ten, I talked my way out of situations I didn’t belong in. I’d even have recurring dreams about charming monsters. So from a very young age, as a very small person – I knew that words were my allies.
Large Q What led you to write The Marked Ones?
Large A I grew up next to a beach, near a resort, so mermaids were just something ingrained in my sub-conscious and fantasies. And after a trip to Hawaii I got hooked on surfing. Once I started, I couldn’t make myself stop – the ocean is the most magical thing on this planet. But the real idea came when I found myself defending an unflattering portrayal of mermaids back in 2011, and I decided to charge myself with the job of making mermaids relate-able, feasible, and as glamorous as in my wildest dreams. It was hard. There are so many differing myths that I scrapped them all and started from scratch. It took months. I didn’t have any specific scenes in mind, just a vague outline-when I encountered a very large tiger shark while surfing. Alone. I took the fact that it didn’t eat me as a sign that the ocean was on my side. (A theory rebuffed by a marine biologist a few weeks ago, because apparently, tiger sharks are just lazy and not hungry during the day) and I had a scene. I started writing that day and haven’t stopped. The same thing happens to Ivyanne in TMO, and I see it as a parallel to my childhood nightmares about talking myself out of bad situations with creatures who have sharp teeth. I did talk to the shark too. Something along the lines of : ‘Hey…you’ve got pretty markings there…I think I’ll appreciate them better from the shore…you must be bored huh? It’s a flat day…oh look…here comes a wave…I’m going to paddle, gently – don’t be alarmed – it’s not a rejection….but I can’t pass up a minnow like that around here…’
Large Q Mermaid stories are quite popular at the moment in the Young Adult market. How do you think this popularity translates to the adult market?
Large A When I was little, my mermaid dreams consisted of sitting on a rock and combing my hair. When I was a teenager, they consisted on sitting on a rock, combing my hair, and flirting with the cute sailor I saved (who would have the face of my crush at the time.) When I was a young adult, I’d be on that same rock, willing a ship-load of ex boyfriends and bullies into another rock while singing sweetly, and now, I want the rock, a fancier boat, a hotter sailor, maybe two, (were I not happily married to the one from my early teens 😉 ) and the chance to just take off underwater when I need to escape, and find my centre when life becomes overwhelming and the kids won’t make their beds. Young adults will grow, and as they evolve, their own mermaid fantasies will shift, and I hope the current drags them in my direction. I’ve already rescued a few, so I know they’re out there and that others will follow.
Large Q Was there any particular literary inspiration for your “world-building”?
Large A Not specifically. The world in TMO is my reality. It’s my home town. But I will credit the ‘darker’ paranormal romance genres for breaking all of the traditional rules in the last few years and making the possibilities for world building with ANY kind of mythical creature more easily recieved.
Large Q Are there any real people or literary characters that influenced the development of your own characters for The Marked Ones?
Large A Yes on the real people part. Very few characters in TMO are complete figments of my imagination. But I live in a small town so to avoid burning at the stake, a lot of them are hybrids of similar souls, so no one is going to read it and go: ‘Oh she is SO dead!’.
Ivyanne, the main character and Aubrielle are probably the only ones who are like no one I know. As for literary influences, I think I’ve put a facet of every fictional man I’ve ever loved into my main characters: Edward Cullen, Rhett Butler, Eric Northman, Noah Calhoun, Slim Mackenzie, Pacey Witter, Wesley from The Princess Bride and Spike from Buffy, lol.
Large Q Let’s talk about the main characters. What can you tell us about Ivyanne – both outside and inside?
Large A Ivyanne is in a position in life that every girl wishes they were in. She’s is astoundingly beautiful, sweet, tolerant, a guardian of the environment, beloved and coveted. She is also wealthy, and clever. The ideal mermaid princess, on the page. But those we view in life as perfect are often the most unhappy and that is Ivyanne’s curse. She doesn’t care about her beauty, because she’s not allowed near men. It’s like owning a ferrari when you live on an a tiny island with no roads. People adore her for being self-sacrificing, virginal and sweet, but in truth she resents the sacrifices, is horny as hell and wants everyone to stop caring so she can break all the rules and finally live her life. The catch 22 of perfection is that one has to be perfect, and there is no fun in that. No one likes being the designated driver when the people in the backseat are having the time of their lives and you are excluded from it. In TMO, Ivyanne is coming of age-ten years later than everyone else-and she has to struggle to hold on to who she has to be for her people, and who she needs to become so she can live with herself for a very, very long time.
Large Q Ivyanne has three suitors. Let’s talk about Tristan. He seems to be something of a rake doesn’t he?
Large A Tristan is absolutely a rake. But he is born that way and is unapologetic about it, and this is what redeems him. In a world full of people striving for the top, while feigning modesty-Tristan is a breath of fresh air that gets what he wants because he knows he deserves it. There are not many people this honest with themselves around, but if you know one-I bet they’re your favourite person-in small doses. He is Ivyanne’s polar opposite in that sense – a vision of who she could be, and how she could dominate her own world, if only she believed in herself to the same degree. People assume Tristan’s role in this tale is as the token dark-knight bad boy, but I see him as a reflection of our heroine’s potential, as well as the poster child for the ultimate mermaid ideal, and he has a journey of his own to undertake before he becomes as fulfilled as he is flawless.
Large Q Ivyanne’s childhood friend, Ardhi, seems to be something of a loose cannon doesn’t he?
Large A Ardhi is a complex character. He has grown up under the shadow of a scandal, because his parents broke a serious rule by marrying withinThe Marked families without royal approval first. This has made his sister eager to please others and tow the line, but has had the opposite effect on Ardhi, leading him to isolate himself from the community. He understands it was wrong, but because the Loveridge family were given a blessing to do the same thing – he is unapologetic about it and sees himself as a victim of an unfair system. His mother is a bit of a social climber, trying to remove the tarnish from her family name by forcing her company onto the queen, who is tolerant but not overly receptive. This embarrasses Ardhi, and he resents his mother using him as a pawn to marry as best as he possibly can-yet when he falls for Ivyanne, he quickly begins to covet not just her heart, but the title that will come with it, demonstrating that he is more like his mother than he thinks. He is a loyal, intense and quiet man with very few desires in life. This made him a wonderful friend for Ivyanne, who preferred to keep to herself as well. But when she breaks out into the big world and is welcomed by others – people Ardhi either judges or resents – Ardhi panics. For the first time in his life, he wants something he might not get, and his true nature rises to the surface in pursuit of it.
Large Q Finally, there’s Bane, Tristan’s nephew. We don’t know much about him until the latter chapters in the book. Tell us about him and his impact on the plot.
Large A Bane is a character you don’t get to know well until books two and three, but he plays a vital role within the Saga. To me, he is the lighthouse guiding ships in distress to safety when things are at their darkest, and not just for Ivyanne-but all of them.
Large Q Then there’s Lincoln Grey, Ivyanne’s crush from her teen years. What can you tell us about him?
Large A Everybody knows a Lincoln. He is that guy who seemed to have it all as a teenager – Gorgeous, clean-cut, well mannered, popular with a sort of boyish charm. People flocked to them in school environments because they’re just genuinely pleasant to be around, never seem to get on anyone’s bad side and have the world laid out at their feet. That’s what we want for our own sons – the looks, the grades, the kindness and the popularity. Even-Steven, you might also say.Men like these are the ‘marrying kind’ every woman is after, and yet because these guys have always had it so easy, they never really know how to fight for anything. As a result, they tend to lose themselves in their relationships or work or family lives unless they discover something they have to challenge themselves over in order to attain. Lincoln was this passionate boy in his youth because of Ivanna – but tragic events broke his spirit, and so he chose to drift where the tide led him. Lincoln has been shaped by the ocean – it made him come alive when he almost drowned as an 11 year old, and he met Ivanna, and then crippled him when it took his mother. Both things happened at pivotal times in his life – the verge of adolescence and the verge of adulthood. Now it’s going to happen again, and how he handles it will define the rest of his life-but he will have to swim against the current to emerge victorious.
Large Q Lincoln’s character is sure to strike a chord with many male readers of The Lost Ones as some of us have found ourselves – at one time or another – caught in the trap of the forbidden/hopeless romance. How did you come up with such a spot-on characterisation?
Large A From the ages of 16 to 24, I worked as a bartender/ waitress in multiple venues. And if there’s one thing a bartender sees a lot of, it’s lonely men. Men that lost their love, or their job or their drive. When a woman is lonely, you might be completely unaware of it. They can pass themselves off as exuberant and fun-loving and ultra confident and you’d never know that they’re keeping so much pain within themselves. Men on the other hand, cannot hide such intense emotions. It shows through their eyes, their posture and the way they talk. Just as it shows when they truly love someone, or are very happy. I’ve seen men like Link at all stages in life – the young man falling in love, and the young man brokenhearted and scanning the room for the culprit. The same man, five years later out to dinner with a woman he may not be interested in but has settled for, and then ten years later when he’s completely resigned himself to a life without passion – but those eyes still scan the room, searching for her. Those same eyes avoid the mirror, though they speak endlessly of the past, and you know that mentally, they never left it. And then I’ve seen them forty years down the track, reacting to a girl who resembles their long-lost love-and it lights them from within. Hope can die, but memories never lose their grip on a broken heart. Want to see a man blossom? Whistle at a fifty year old construction worker on the side of the road. No virgin has a blush that equals the beauty of those smiles.
Large Q Finally, there is Adele, Lincoln’s off-again, on-again girlfriend who seems to be something of a consolation prize. She seems to be opportunistic and a bit
of a gold digger. How does she fit into all of this?
Large A I don’t believe in one-dimensional characters – It may have been easy to write Adele off as the token bitchy, blonde ice queen placed within the novel solely to irritate our darling heroine in the beginning, but there’s more to her than that. Yes she’s a socialite, yes she’s spoiled and she’s definitely opportunistic – but she’s not a model or a spokes girl – she’s an English major who sees more, feels more and wants more than people realise. Really, she and Tristan are mirror images of one another at this point – but her weaker character stems from the fact that she is human. She’s about to swim in the deep end which should guarantee her finding a sort of inner peace, but unfortunately, it’s a shark she’s swimming with. Either way, her journey is far from over.

Now that we’ve discussed the main characters, we’re going to take a bit of a break. Tomorrow, we’ll have the 2nd Part of our interview with S.K. Munt.

Read Part II of our interview with S.K. Munt.

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