Harlots and Heros and Espionage, Oh My!

Today we’re sitting with co-authors: Ben R. Marsten and Rhissana Collins. Their adventurous historical fantasy, MABEL BUNT AND THE MASKED MONARCHS (A Mabel Bunt Novel) sets the scene for what is sure to be a bumpy and thrilling ride for readers as the series unfolds. You can snatch up your copy of Mabel’s debut on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Bnb1dQ – and I suggest you do! They were kind enough to swing by my blog with their characters for a review and some interview questions.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of an online encounter with these authors, then allow me… Ben Marsten is a writer with delusions of grandeur, who spends his time plotting tales and screaming in outrage at the internet. I don’t keep tabs on his plotting, but he’s very active online. He’s found his way to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. His books can be found on Amazon under B.R. Marsten. As for Ms. Collins, you can check out her Etsy shop for dolls much like the famed Mabel Bunt, who inspired this wonderful read. She’s quite the multi-medium artist, you know!


Onto the review…
MABEL BUNT AND THE MASKED MONARCHS is the first in a series featuring a rambunctious and carefree harlot (Miss Bunt). When she’s hired to send off a nobleman before his meeting with the executioner, Mabel finds herself thrust head first into a tale of espionage and opportunity following a less-than chance encounter with one mysterious Lord Guise. He’s challenging the powers that be and unintentionally creating hope for the deprived people of Stestia. This story is filled with well-developed and unique characters (including one villain that makes my fan girl knees weak, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention him… go see for yourself), vivid imagery of a well-plotted fantasy realm, along with heart-racing action scenes and some blood-pumping shenanigans. I enjoyed every bit of this story. Marsten and Collins blend their styles beautifully, and together they challenge the limited POV rationale. If I were to have any opinion beyond wanting the second book out now, dammit, it would be to say that I love Miss Bunt, but her speech is a bit rough and can be difficult to work through at times. There’s good reason for it though, and I respect the artist’s poetic justice in applying such a thick accent to the rough-around-the-edges girl. Overall, this is a fun read that should take no more than a few days to enjoy.

As this was a partnership, I took the opportunity to ask both authors a few questions…
1.How did your collaboration come about?
Rhissanna: I was on an MMO and Ben was part of a circle of friends/writers who Hubby and I hung around with. Everyone talked about writing, but Ben was one of the few people who actually did any.

Ben: I met Rhissanna and her husband on an MMO that we all played. She got me hooked on blogging. I had an idea for a swashbuckling fantasy I wanted to write, and Rhissanna had an amazing character that became Mabel. It sort of developed from there.

2. I’m so very impressed by how seamlessly this story was co-authored. If you would indulge me, what was the writing process like?
Rhissanna: The method has its madness and we both came to the project with different techniques. Usually, if its Mabel’s point-of-view, it’s (almost always) mine, otherwise it’s likely to be Ben’s. Ben has the final say on fight scenes and dialogue, I’m descriptions and historical colour. He assembles the draft, I do a long edit, then he checks my edit and we’re done.

3. And on the flip side, there must have been disagreements, bumping heads, how’d you cope?
Rhissanna: Ben writes fast. Like, really, really fast. I’m a chronic procrastinator. When he says on Facebook that he has a chapter in my inbox, he’s not joking. And spelling/ phrasing is an issue as I’m British English and he’s American English. I use American spellings, but I also weed out USA idioms if they appear too anachronistic.

Ben: Disagreements were few. Mostly about tone, or motivation. We have a simple rule system. I am in charge of story. Rhissanna is in charge of Mabel. I have final say over plot. She has final say over how Mabel reacts and involves herself in that plot. Once you write following those rules, you know where you can and cannot tread.

4. If you could have dinner with any of your characters, who would they be? Why?
Rhissanna: The Poker. He has such nice manners.

(JC: Ooooh… this is a good one. I loved this character!)

Ben: Mabel. She likes beer and wouldn’t chide me for not using a napkin. And there might be sex after if I have enough pocket change.

5. The historical element is apparent in this fictitious realm. Who set the scene and tone for the story?
Rhissanna: Oooh, this is a good question. The era came from Lord Guise’s weapon. Once we’d focused on clockwork, we had to find an era that fitted and it seemed to be a time that History largely ignored. After the Great Fire of London and before Marie Antoinette and powdered wigs. For a USA reference, after the Salem Witch trials but before the Stamp Act. Corsets and swords, people. Corsets and swords.

6. From which barony would you hail? Why?
Rhissanna: I’m not staying in a Barony! I’m off to Filbrecia, where they know how to treat a girl!

Ben: Hepstead. They’re the most rural and agriculture based barony. The women wear breeches in some of their fashion and the men smoke long pipes like wizards and comment on the weather a lot. I’d probably feel at home there…

So, let’s meet Miss Mabel Bunt:

1. If you could go back in time and change any of the circumstances that brought you to this day, what would you change… if at all?
I’d have charged more. Lots more.

(JC: Hell yeah, girl!)

2. What do you miss most about your “old” life?
The romance, mainly… If I were to be honest, I miss getting three good meals a day, a bed to sleep in when I wanted sleep and not being on posters with a price on me head.

3. Let’s talk girl-to-girl. It’s fun getting all dolled up like a lady and having men ogle, isn’t it?
If yer’ve got the goods, might as well sell them and if yer gonna sell them, best make them look like they’re worth the coin. So, yes, I likes a pretty dress as much as Lord Guise seems to and even he’ll tell yer they look better on someone what has the proper bits. Not sure about all the soapin’ and scrubbin’ people insist on.

4. You seem to have a carefree-no bull take on life. What’s your overall motto?
“Get up an’ keep goin!”

Let us not forget the intriguing Lord Guise:

1. What is your weapon of choice?
An eastern saber is a beautiful thing. Designed for both speed and strength. But I prefer a sword cane. As a former instructor once said, “A man who can’t win a duel with a stick, has no business holding a blade…”

2. How do you remain so calm under pressure?
Calm? You think I’m calm under pressure? No. Sadly, every conflict comes with its own fears and uncertainty. Being calm under pressure is simply putting on another mask for others. I’m as terrified as the next man. I just wouldn’t be foolish enough to let the next man see it…

3. Which conflict is worse: the physical or the mental? Why?
“A man can think himself into defeat,” goes the old saying. Wounds heal. Bad memories and uncertain thoughts remain. They join you for dinner and sleep in the same bed with you at night. I’ll take a sword cut over an uncertain thought any day.

4. What does it take to pique the interest or earn the trust of a man such as yourself?
Why, a miracle, my dear…

(JC: somehow, I think I should have expected this answer.)


6 thoughts on “Harlots and Heros and Espionage, Oh My!

  1. Aw, what can I say but the biggest, noisiest Thank-You that there is? This was a lot of fun. I’ve never written an interview as one of my characters on a blog. Such nice things you said – everything a new author wants to hear! You’re a pip, JC Stockli!

  2. Oh, Jessica, this was such an delightful and engaging thing to do. I thought your questions were spot on and it made me look at the novel in a new way. The collaborative process for writing “Mabel” felt so spontaneous, I’m really happy the joins aren’t visible! Thank you again for doing this and for your support for Mabel and her world.

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