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Some of Dora's Favorite Interviews about The Curse Giver

A quick Interview with Dora Machado about The Curse Giver

I: In your own words, what's The Curse Giver about?

DM: The Curse Giver is about an innocent healer called Lusielle, who is betrayed and condemned to die for a crime she didn't commit. When she's about to be executed, Lusielle is rescued from the pyre by an angry, embittered lord doomed by a mysterious curse. You might think that Bren, Lord of Laonia, is Lusielle's savior, but he isn't. On the contrary, Bren is pledged to kill Lusielle himself, because her murder is his people's only salvation.

What ensues is a dangerous journey, where Lusielle and Bren have to escape their ruthless enemies and unravel the mystery of the terrible curse that has fallen upon the Lord of Laonia. They also have to overcome the distrust they have for each other, fight the forbidden attraction between them, and work together to defeat The Curse Giver who has already conjured their ends.

I: How is The Curse Giver different from the novels of the Stonewiser series?

DM: Well, these are very different books in many ways. To begin with, The Curse Giver takes place in a completely different setting, a river-centered world facing social and political dissolution. The mythology of each world is very different and unique. Also, the magic in the Stonewiser series comes from the stones and from the way in which stonewisers interact with the stones.

In The Curse Giver, the magic is equally intriguing but also more complex and personal. It comes from being different and distinct from everyone else, from embracing the strength within. There are some stylistic differences as well. Whereas Stonewiser was told from Sariah's point of view, The Curse Giver is told in different points of views. Even the cover is a drastic departure from my usual!

I: How is The Curse Giver similar to the Stonewiser series?

DM: I think you will find those intricate plot twists that many enjoyed in the Stonewiser series also in The Curse Giver. The characters are complex, engaging and endearing. Like Sariah and Kael, Lusielle and Bren come from opposing factions who distrust and suspect each other. Lusielle and Bren's relationship is also passionate, conflicted and forbidden. But there's a lot more at stake in the romance between Lusielle and Bren than what I can tell you, and you might be a little shocked when you find out the terrible secret that torments the Lord of Laonia.

I: What's The Curse Giver's availability?

DM: The Curse Giver is now available in e-book and print, and it will soon be available as an audiobook as well! You can get a free excerpt from The Curse Giver at Twilight Times Books or check out the book on

A Writer's Mind Interview, Abridged

Thanks for choosing to be interviewed at A Writer's Mind.

Thank you for having me!

How did you come up with the title for The Curse Giver?

My villain gave The Curse Giver its title. She is an intriguing, mysterious curse giver, a creature who makes her living from casting curses. For her, good is evil and evil is the only way to go.

As the book begins, she has cast a fatal curse on the line of Uras, and only Bren, the last Lord of Laonia, remains alive. But, like his father and his brothers before him, he is also about to die. His only hope is to find a birthmark and kill the woman who bears it in the foulest way. But when Bren finds the woman, the condemned healer he rescues from the pyre is not what he expects.

What made you choose the main setting for your book?

I've always been struck by river-centered cultures. If you think about it, historically, most great cities—most great civilizations—have developed at the mouths and confluences of major rivers. So the geographical setting of the book was inspired by the great American rivers, the Amazon River, the Mississippi River and the Colorado River, especially, which I have rafted before.

In addition, to create rich and authentic settings, I usually draw a lot of inspiration from the places I travel to. For example, I had an opportunity to visit Peru when I was writing The Curse Giver. The breathtaking sights of Machu Pichu, the religious ceremonies that I witnessed in Cuzco, and the Quechuan legends I learned about influenced The Curse Giver's settings, both physically and conceptually.

At the heart of every great fantasy, there is a rich and complex fantasy world. I like to create fantasy worlds that feel "real," interesting geographies with diverse and unique populations that have their own cultures and beliefs, worlds riddled with conflict, discord and controversy. Sound familiar?

Tell us a little bit about the conflict in your story.

There is lots of conflict in The Curse Giver. You've got political, social and personal conflict permeating every aspect of the story, complicating the plot and challenging the relationships between the characters. The hero and the heroine, Bren and Lusielle, come from two different parts of their sharply divided world. Lusielle is baseborn, whereas Bren is highborn. They believe in different gods. They've grown up with different priorities. Sparks fly when they first meet, and I don't mean in a good way. The conflict between them is at the heart of the story.

A healer by trade, Lusielle is an outstanding remedy mixer who uses herbs and all kinds of ingredients to make her extraordinary healing potions. She's smart, able and has a great business sense, but ever since she was a young woman, she has been trapped in an abusive marriage with a greedy trader who treats her as his slave. Her bleak world falls apart when her cruel husband accuses her of practicing the odd arts. The bitter highborn lord who rescues her from her execution can't offer any hope. As she joins with him in a desperate escape, she must change, learn and adapt. She must face her fears, discover her strength, and risk healing the very man who's fated to kill her.

Brennus, Lord of Laonia, is embittered by the terrible curse that has killed his fathers and brothers. His own time is running short. If he can't defeat the curse, he will die and his people will suffer blight and destruction. He is torn between his duty and the vile crimes he must commit in order to defeat the curse. His only hope is to hunt for a woman bearing a particular birthmark and kill her. Lusielle bears such a mark. As he attempts to defeat his enemies and unravel the curse's mysteries with Lusielle by his side, he faces a new problem: Can he kill the only woman capable of healing more than his body, his soul?

Tell us about your book cover and how it relates to your story.

The Curse Giver's cover is an original work of art, and it was designed by the talented Brad Fraunfelter, who decided to stress the story's conflict by contrasting the image of Bren as a powerful warrior with the delicate figure of Lusielle with her back bared, displaying the mysterious birthmark, which resembles butterfly wings. In his own words, Brad wanted to "show a dramatic contrast between the softness of the skin and dress of the girl, against the harshness of the armor of the man." Brad added a subtle ring to the birthmark in order to highlight the magic in the story. Finally, he brushed a soft white haze to imbue the image with a mystical glow. I think it's beautiful. Don't you?

I was so impressed with Brad's artwork, that I featured an interview with him on my blog, where he talks about his inspiration for the cover, his light studies, the preliminary photo-shoots he did before he sat down to draw, and his creative process. He even shared some of his early drawings with us. Don't miss it!

What sort of personality does your hero have?

I like to say that Bren is a type-A personality gone desperate. At the beginning of the story, he comes across as arrogant, brash, blunt, stubborn and bitter. In reality, his dire circumstances have forced him to become a person he doesn't like. As Lusielle soon discovers, beneath all the anger and hostility he is brave, honorable and determined. He will not quit, not even when facing dismal odds and overwhelming force. He is also smart, decisive and loyal. He has a brilliant, strategic mind and he is not afraid to challenge injustice and defy tyranny. Above all, he is a good man, fighting extraordinary evil while trying to do right by his people.

What sort of personality does your heroine have?

Lusielle is smart, kind, trustworthy, warm and caring, a true healer in all ways, a healer of bodies, minds and souls. She is incredibly competent at her craft, an excellent remedy mixer who studies her ingredients, understands how they work, and is always trying to create new and more effective cures. She is also resilient, open-minded, and uses her good instincts to see beyond appearances, blind beliefs and assumptions. Perhaps most importantly, Lusielle learns from her mistakes and has the courage to take risks, even when those risks involve the dangers of a forbidden relationship with a cursed outlaw who must kill her in order to survive.

Are your book/books available in audio? In other languages? If so, give us more details about where we can get them and what languages they're in.

We hope that The Curse Giver will be available as an audiobook by midsummer 2014. However, the entire Stonewiser series is now available at I have to tell you, listening to the story was one of the most powerful and joyful experiences I have ever had as an author. The narrator, Melissa Reizian, is an incredibly talented voice actress. She did an amazing job, applying a broad spectrum of accents and sounds, enriching and enlivening the story. Even if you have already read Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, I encourage you to listen to the audiobook. And if you're an audiobook lover, this is one you have to hear. It's good, old-fashioned storytelling at its very best! You can listen to a chapter sample at

Interview for, Abridged

Why don't you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

Well, hello everybody. My name is Dora Machado. I'm the author of the Stonewiser epic fantasy series and The Curse Giver, my latest novel. I've been writing fantasy for about six or seven years. I was born in Michigan, but I grew up in the Dominican Republic. I'm one of a handful of Latinas writing fantasy these days.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

Even in my earliest memories, I was fascinated by books. As a child, I made up stories in my mind all the time. My teachers called it daydreaming, but I remember it as character development and plotting, even if it was all done in my mind. No wonder I had such trouble with sixth grade math!

It took me a long time to realize that those stories in my head were actually novels that needed to be written. By the time I figured it out, I was a wife and a mom and, with a full-time job, I didn't have the time to write. But as my children grew older and more independent, I realized that my time to write was coming at last. And when it did, I seized it and now I plan to keep at it for the duration.

Do you have another job besides writing?

Not anymore!

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

The Curse Giver is a fantasy novel about an innocent healer called Lusielle, who is betrayed and condemned to die for a crime she didn't commit. When she's about to be executed, Lusielle is rescued from the pyre by an angry, embittered lord doomed by a mysterious curse. You might think that Bren, Lord of Laonia, is Lusielle's savior, but no, he isn't. On the contrary. Bren is pledged to kill Lusielle himself, because her murder is his people's only salvation.

What ensues is a dangerous journey, where Lusielle and Bren have to escape their ruthless enemies and unravel the mystery of the terrible curse that has fallen upon the Lord of Laonia. They also have to overcome the distrust they have for each other, fight off the forbidden attraction between them, and work together to defeat The Curse Giver who has already conjured their ends.

I was inspired to write the story while I was working on another project. I was doing research and came across the striking picture of an old tablet, an ancient curse. The more I learned about curses, the more I realized how pervasive they were to the human story. I mean, every culture in the world believes in curses in one way or another. Right?

From crime prevention to religious practices, curses have all kind of applications and influences. My mind has only two settings, on and off, obsessed or uninterested. Fascinated with the subject, my subconscious went to work.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

My initial creative process is subconscious at first and then tied by a very loose outline to my writing journey, which entails equal measures of disciplined plotting and stream-of-consciousness writing. Most of the time my creative process is sparked by a scene, a vivid image that fuels an intricate plot. I hate to repeat this because literature snobs everywhere frown upon it, but it's the truth: Both the Stonewiser series and The Curse Giver were born in my dreams.

In the case of The Curse Giver, I dreamed about this wretched man, bitter and angry, who had been cursed to live in fear and die in agony and was desperately searching for a way to defeat his curse. The image was very powerful and unforgettable. It got me thinking. What type of curse ailed him? Something very dark, I told myself, something shocking, something that forced him to straddle the boundaries between good and evil, duty and crime. From then on, the story took off, acquiring a life of its own, with the outline as a guide but the plot twists and the characters in charge. That's how I wrote The Curse Giver.

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

Hmm. What an interesting question. I've never been asked that before. You might think that I'm the latter rather than the former, and yet that's not completely true. While I fantasize a lot in my head—after all, I do write fantasy—I also draw a lot on my experiences to develop my stories. Traveling is key to my creative process. I get a lot of ideas from my experiences while traveling. For example, while I was writing The Curse Giver's mythology, I went to Peru and visited Cuzco and Machu Pichu. What I saw, heard and experienced helped me fashion the details of The Curse Giver's mythology. I think that for me the writing process entails experience meeting imagination to create rich, powerful, multidimensional stories.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

The shower, definitively the shower. Maybe it's because I can't sing, so instead, I think. Seriously, I think that after a long night writing, a hot shower relaxes the body, clears the mind and allows the stories to flow. I also get a lot of ideas in my dreams when I'm asleep. Driving is good too. In fact, I have a pen and pad always ready in my car. The scribbles are really hard to read, though. So please, on behalf of highway patrols everywhere, don't drink and drive and don't write and drive either. Okay?

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

About a year, give or take.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

I always edit what I wrote the night before prior to writing new material. So if I wrote three chapters last night, then today I'll read through those before I start a new chapter. It's something that I've always done and I think it helps set the tone and ease the flow as well. I have moments where I go back and read the story from the beginning to make sure all the elements are in place before I continue on to the next section. I guess you could say that I'm editing when I do this, because I do make changes as I go along.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

Not being able to write.

Are you a disciplined writer?

I think I'm a disciplined writer, or perhaps I'm just compulsive about my writing, because I love what I do and I would love to have even more time to download the stories in my mind.

When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?

I'm a creature of the night, a night owl for sure. It's peaceful at night. It's quiet and there are no interruptions. At night, I'm free to dream, even if I'm fully awake.

What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush' a fledgling writer?

I think critique groups can be very helpful, as long as they are a good fit for the writer. In my experience, critique groups come in all different types. Some are exclusively social groups, some offer support, encouragement and commiseration, some are very much into the mechanics of writing, others are very production oriented. There are groups that are very strict about membership and participation requirements and others that are very relaxed. I think the best thing to do is ask yourself: What is it that you are looking for in a critique group? If you have a clear goal in mind, the search will be easier.

Lurking about is a good practice to learn more about a group and get acclimated when you first join. Reading old posts and getting familiar with the members and their work will also help to establish the nature of the group that you are considering joining. Visiting is always a good idea and reciprocating is vital. Notice how members treat each other and how they approach their critiques. Make sure you are comfortable with the level of openness and respect that the group demonstrates. And if you don't like what you see/hear, you can always try another group.

What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

Write like the wind, (it's actually a book by Aaron Lazar), write often, diligently and continuously, write for yourself and my favorite, write to The End.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

I do and I'd love to welcome your readers to I can also be contacted through email at [email protected], on Facebook, at my blog, or @doramachado on Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

Thank you for having me. I had a lot of fun visiting with you and your readers.

Interview with Marsha A. Moore, Abridged

In The Curse Giver, your heroine, Lusielle, leads a bleak but orderly life as a remedy mixer... What are her responsibilities as a remedy mixer? What are her world and lifestyle like in her ordinary life? Does she live in the present-day world we know?

Lusielle lives in a small village in the kingdom of a fantasy world centered around the great River Nerpes. Her life is hard. Orphaned and destitute as a young woman, she has been forced to marry a greedy trader who treats her like a slave. Lusielle has tried to please her husband, organizing his trade routes, running his stores and increasing his profits, but his cruelty can't be appeased.

Lusielle is a gifted remedy mixer, trained to prepare medicines to heal the sick. She uses plants, herbs, spices and minerals to create healing and strengthening potions. She is very popular in her village—that is, until her husband conspires with the king to kill her.

As Lusielle is on the pyre and about to burn, she can't understand her husband's actions. She realizes that there's got to be something else to account for his betrayal—some kind of profit, she suspects, and it has to do with the odd birthmark that the king's thugs have tried to remove from her back.

That's how we meet Lusielle in The Curse Giver's opening chapter: helpless, terrified and desperate. As the flames begin to burn, she calls on the god of fire to release her from her suffering. And you know what? Incredibly, he comes!

Does Lusielle's husband betrayal lead to the accusations Lusielle faces, implicating her for the crime?

Yes, very much so. Lusielle's cruel husband accuses her of worshiping the forbidden odd god. It's an offense that the ruthless king who rules over the west bank of the Nerpes punishes by death. To gain the king's favor, Lusielle's husband lies to everyone, delivering her to the king's thugs. Lusielle is tried, convicted and condemned to death based on her husband's lies.

Brennus, Lord of Laonia, is the last of his line. He is caught in the grip of a mysterious curse that has murdered his kin, doomed his people and embittered his life... Who has cursed his people and why?

Ah, see, now you we are getting into the mysteries and the plot twists that make The Curse Giver such an interesting read!

I can't answer your question fully without giving up some of the twists, but I'll tell you this: Bren's father was doomed by a powerful and mysterious curse giver, who also cursed his sons and vowed to destroy their homeland. Bren has witnessed the terrible deaths of his father and his brothers. One by one, they've succumbed to the curse and now Bren has only a few weeks left before the curse kills him as well.

Bren doesn't know who The Curse Giver is or why his father was cursed in the first place, but it's not for lack of trying. He is desperately trying to find a way to defeat or defuse the curse. He and his men have been following every lead possible, including a mysterious set of riddles that suggest that if he finds a woman who bears the goddess's mark, he might be able to stop The Curse Giver. That's why he risks it all to rescue Lusielle from the pyre. That's why he takes her as his prisoner as they flee the kingdom. But when he is wounded during the escape, he discovers that Lusielle is very different from what he expects. Now he faces a dismal choice: Can he kill the only woman capable of healing more than his body, his soul?

What qualities about Lusielle attract Brennus? What about Brennus attracts Lusielle?

Good questions! I think Brennus is attracted to Lusielle because she is smart, warm and caring, a true healer in all ways, a healer of bodies, minds and souls. At the beginning, he is dazzled by her competencies, her resilience and her ability to see beyond appearances, beliefs and assumptions. As a cursed man, an outlaw and a fugitive, Bren expects nothing from people. So he is stunned when the very woman he is fated to kill turns out to be open-minded, trustworthy and kind.

Lusielle is attracted to Brennus because she can see through his desperation. He is brave, honorable and determined, and he will not quit, not even when he faces dismal odds. He is also smart, decisive and loyal. He is not afraid to challenge tyranny and injustice. Lusielle can see that, beyond the bitterness, Bren is a good man trying to do right by his people.

How can the two help each other in the difficulties they face while attempting to defeat the curse and curse giver? What special skills does each contribute?

These two realize very quickly that they need each other to survive. Bren has the brawn and brains to help Lusielle escape her husband's abuse and the king's wrath. He is the only one willing to protect her, at least for the moment. On the other hand, Lusielle has the mark that may hold the key to defeating the curse. But Bren soon discovers that Lusielle is also very crafty. Her tradeswoman skills are incredibly helpful to him. She's a skilled negotiator, a cunning businesswoman and a shrewd judge of character. She gets things done. Her potions and medicines heal and strengthen him, allowing him to face his enemies, including the mysterious curse giver. But there's more to Lusielle than meets the eye, a special kind of magic that might change everything, if only she can discover it in time.

Briefly describe the magical systems of your world. How do those who are empowered gain their abilities?

The magical systems of The Curse Giver are part of a rich mythology and a set of beliefs that enhance and add to the conflict of this vivid fantasy world. I can't tell you a lot without giving away the plot, but I'll tell you this: Magic is real in this world. It's personal, distinctive and individual. It comes through as characters make choices, fail, cope, learn, adapt and change; as they establish emotional connections and engage in each other's quests. It's fueled by knowledge, reason and awareness. At the end of the day, magic is only as powerful as the strength within.