An interview with Marc Graham

Interview by Chelsea Apple

You went to school for Mechanical Engineering. How did you get on such a creative path of author, speaker, and story coach?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been both a storyteller and a tinkerer. On the one hand I created imaginary worlds, while on the other hand, I took apart the objects of the real world and put them back together again—hopefully without too many leftover parts. Engineering is about creative problem-solving, identifying a need or challenge, and crafting a satisfying solution. Storytelling serves much the same function, whether the need be sheer entertainment or social change. Since many of my stories involve lost or forgotten or hidden history, I have to reverse-engineer the accepted story to get to a plausible version of “what actually happened.”

Your in-depth research and incredible storytelling makes readers truly feel like they’ve been transported to another time. What inspires you to write historical fiction?

I love reading historical novels, so I guess it’s fitting I should write them, as well. As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” The challenges that we face in the present can easily be cast into history. By exploring how people dealt with their problems in  a long-ago time, we can–without being overly threatened–find ways to address the challenges of today.

Son of the Sea, Daughter of the Sun delves into an entirely new moment in history than Of Ashes of Dust or Song of Songs. Did this research look any different?

Quite a bit. My previous novels each had a basis either in historical fact or well established legend, so I had a good foundation to work with. For Son of the Sea, Daughter of the Sun, the idea sprang from complete speculation. I knew I wanted a pre-Columbian European voyage to the Americas, but it was only after I began researching that I settled on my time period and primary characters. In a way, the research is as much responsible for the plot as my imagination.

Can you tell us a little bit about the system used in Runes for Writers and how that came to be?

The Norse Runes (specifically the Elder Futhark) have been used for divination and other shamanic practices for thousands of years. Their use is similar to that of the Tarot, but far more ancient. As I’ve developed their use in my own shamanic journey, it occurred to me that they could be applied to the creative act of storytelling. Similar to Corrine Kenner’s practice in Tarot for Writers, the Runes help to develop the storyteller’s link to the Subconscious, the seat of creativity. By distracting the Intellect, the writer is able to bypass the internal editor and connect directly to the heart of their story.

Did you find the transition from fiction to nonfiction difficult?

The biggest challenge was in discovering and refining my own voice. I have a very distinct voice in my fiction, generally driven by the characters. In nonfiction, the voice is just me, so there’s a challenge in balancing conversational style with an authoritative competence.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Write what you love. There’s a school of thought that encourages writing to the market and trying to capture the ever-fleeting zeitgeist of the publishing world. This can be very challenging (much like predicting the stock market). Without a passion for story, there’s little to carry the author through the inevitable challenges that arise both in the writing and in seeking publication. But if you’re captivated by your story, if you’re driven by your passion for the story, you’ll find the strength and the drive to bring it into the world.

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