Welcome! Today I’m thrilled to interview Dora Machado, author of The Curse Giver. As always, feet up and relax while you learn more about this intriguing romantic fantasy!
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy, Fantasy Romance, Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Number of pages: 420
Word Count: 165,000 aprox.
Cover Artist: Brad Fraunfelter
GIVEAWAY! Curse Giver Tour Giveaway Details
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1) One of three autographed books of Dora Machado's Stonewiser Series.
2) One of ten special edition bracelets commemorating The Curse Giver's EBook release.
This handcrafted, customized, limited-edition, 1/4 inch aluminum bracelet from Silver Statements is hammered and stamped with The Curse Giver's signature message—Knowledge, Reason and Awareness, and flanked by the stylized outline of butterfly wings. Inside, the bracelet is stamped with the word Strength. Aluminum is a great metal for jewelry. It won't turn your skin green, doesn't oxidize or tarnish, and its water safe. Plus it's so lightweight that you might even forget you're wearing it.
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Giveaway Terms and Condition:
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Betrayed and condemned to die for a crime she didn't commit, an innocent healer must ally with the embittered lord pledged to kill her in order to defeat not only the vile curse obliterating their lives, but also the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.
Lusielle's bleak but orderly life as a remedy mixer is shattered when her husband betrays her and she is sentenced to die for a crime she didn't commit. She's on the pyre, about to be burned, when a stranger breaks through the crowd and rescues her from the flames.
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. To defeat the curse, he must hunt a birthmark and kill the woman who bears it in the foulest of ways. Lusielle bears such a mark.
Stalked by intrigue and confounded by the forbidden passion flaring between them, predator and prey must come together to defeat not only the vile curse, but also the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.
SKY: What inspired you to write this book?
DORA: I was inspired to write The Curse Giver when I came across an ancient pair of clay tablets that popped up on my screen one night while I was researching another story. The clay tablets dated from 600 BC and were part of the same collection that gave us the famous Gilgamesh epic. Visually, the tablets weren't much to look at, chicken scratches on clay. But the translated words had a huge impact on me.
"May all these [gods] curse him with a curse that cannot be relieved, terrible and merciless, as long as he lives, may they let his name, his seed, be carried off from the land.”
I know, hardly an inspiration for most. Me? I immediately thought of the man who had been thus cursed, of the pain and hardship such a curse would bring upon him and his people, of the character that eventually became Bren, Lord of Laonia, in The Curse Giver.
I started to think: Who would cast a curse like that and why? What kind of creature could be capable of such powerful evil? What would motivate a person to curse another? A new character began to emerge in my mind, the curse giver herself, someone whose understanding of good and evil was very different from my own.
And, once cursed, how could a person defend himself? A third character emerged from this question, Lusielle, a common remedy mixer, a healer of bodies and souls, someone who didn't realize the scope of her own strength until it began to transform her life.
With Bren, Lusielle and the curse giver thus crystalized, I set out to write this fast, plot-twisting fantasy romance about an innocent woman condemned to die for a crime she didn't commit, who must ally with the cursed lord pledged to kill her in order to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends. The Curse Giver is an epic fantasy story with brawn, brains, and lots of heart, something that I think your epic dark fantasy romance readers might enjoy.
SKY: How did you come up with the title?
DORA: 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.
DORA: 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?
SKY: Tell us a little bit about the conflict in your story.
DORA: 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?
SKY: Tell us about your book cover and how it relates to your story.
DORA: 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 at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/?p=140, 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!
SKY: What sort of personality does your hero have?
DORA: 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.
SKY: What sort of personality does your heroine have?
DORA: 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.
SKY: 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.
DORA: Because The Curse Giver is so new, it is not yet available in audio. However, the first book of my Stonewiser series, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, has just been released as an audiobook. 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. You can listen to a chapter sample at: http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Stonewiser-Audiobook/B00F52CJIY/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1379186069&sr=1-1 It's good, old-fashioned storytelling at its very best!
SKY: Great interview, Dora! Thanks so much for joining us today.
The Curse Giver Chapter One
Dread stared at Lusielle from the depths of the rowdy crowd. Concealed under a heavy hood, only the stranger’s black eyes dared to meet her gaze among the growing throng. The man’s eyes refused to flinch or shift from her face. His stare was free of the hatred she had gotten from the others, but also devoid of mercy. He held on to her gaze like an anchor to her soul, testing her fortitude, knowing full well her fears’ vast range.
She had always been meant for the fire. Even as she had escaped the blaze that killed her parents and burned the inn to the ground, Lusielle had known that the flame’s greedy god would return to claim her life. But she hadn’t expected it to happen after days of torture, surrounded by the raging mob, found guilty of a crime she didn’t commit, betrayed and condemned.
The town’s cobbler, one of her husband’s best customers, tightened the noose around her neck until it cut off her breath. She had waited on him countless times at the shop, and had always padded his order with a free measure of coriander to help with his wife’s cough.
But none of the town’s inhabitants seemed to remember any of her kindnesses as of late. On the contrary, the crowd was booing and jeering when they weren’t pelting her with rotten fruit. They treated her as if she were a common thief.
The brute who had conducted her torture shoved the cobbler aside, tying her elbows and wrists around the wooden stake. Orell. She remembered his name. His bearded face might have been handsome if not for the permanent leer. Like the magistrate, he wore the king’s burgundy colors, but his role had been more vicious. Had he been granted more time, he might have succeeded at extracting the false confession he wanted, but the magistrate was in a hurry, afraid of any possible unrest.
Orell yanked on the ropes, tightening her bonds. The wound on her back broke open all over again. She swallowed a strangled hiss. It was as if the thug wanted her to suffer, as if he had a private reason to profit from her pain.
But she had never seen him until three days ago, when he and the magistrate had shown up unannounced, making random accusations.
Lusielle couldn’t understand any of this.
She knew that the king’s justice was notoriously arbitrary. It was one of the main reasons why she loathed living under King Riva’s rule. But she also knew better than to express her opinion. Ruin and tragedy trailed those who dared to criticize the king. That’s why she had never mentioned her misgivings to anyone.
What had she done to deserve this fate? And why did they continue to be so cruel? After all, she wasn’t fighting them anymore.
True, she had resisted at first. Out of fear and pride, she had tried to defend herself. But in the end, it hadn’t mattered. Her accusers had relied on the testimony of the devious liar who had turned her in—Aponte Rummins—her own husband.
The mock hearing had been too painful to bear, too absurd to believe. Aponte swore before the magistrate that Lusielle was a secret practitioner of the forbidden odd arts. It was ridiculous. How could anyone believe that she, who had always relied on logic, measure and observation to mix her remedies, could possi¬bly serve the Odd God’s dark purposes? And how could anyone believe Aponte’s lies?
But they did, they believed him as he called on his paid witnesses and presented fabricated evidence, swearing that he himself had caught her at the shop, worshipping the Odd God. In the end, it had been her husband’s false testimony that provided the ultimate proof of the heinous charge for which Lusielle was about to die.
Burning torch in hand, the magistrate stepped forward. Still in shock, Lusielle swallowed a gulp of bitter horror and steeled for the flames’ excruciating pain. She didn’t want to die like a shrieking coward. But nothing could have prepared her for what happened next.
The magistrate offered the torch to Aponte.
“The king upholds a husband’s authority over his wife in the kingdom,” the magistrate shouted for the crowd to hear. “There can be no protests, no doubt of the wisdom of royal justice if a husband does as he’s entitled to do by his marital rights.”
Aponte could have forgone her execution. Considering the magistrate’s proclamation, he could have chosen a different punishment for her. Instead, he accepted the torch and, without hesitation, put the flame to the tinder and blew over the kindling to start the fire.
“Go now,” he said, grinning like a hog about to gorge. “Go find your dark lord.”
Lusielle glared at the poor excuse for a man who had ruined her life many times over. She had known from the beginning that he was fatally flawed, just as he had known on the day he claimed her that she couldn’t pledge him any affection.
But Aponte had never wanted her affection. He had wanted her servitude, and in that sense she proved to be the reluctant but dutiful servant he craved.
Over the years he had taught her hatred.
His gratification came from beating and humiliating her. His crass and vulgar tastes turned his bed into a nightmare. She felt so ashamed of the things he made her do. Still, even if she loathed him—and not just him, but the slave she had become under his rule—she had tried to make the best of it.
She had served him diligently, tending to his businesses, reorganizing his stores, rearranging his trading routes and increasing his profits. His table had always been ready. His meals had been hot and flavorsome. His sheets had been crisp and his bed had been coal-warmed every night. Perhaps due to all of this, he had seemed genuinely pleased with their marital arrangement.
Why, then, had he surrendered her so easily to the magistrate’s brute?
Aponte had to have some purpose for this betrayal. He was, above all, a practical man. He would not surrender all the advantages that Lusielle brought to him—money, standing, common sense, business acumen—without the benefit of an even greater windfall.
Lusielle couldn’t understand how, but she was sure that the bastard was going to profit handsomely from her death.
The scent of pine turned acrid and hot. Cones crackled and popped. The fire hissed a sinister murmur, a sure promise of pain. She didn’t watch the little sparks grow into flames at her feet. Instead, her eyes returned to the back of the crowd, seeking the stranger’s stare. She found him even as a puff of white smoke clouded her sight and the fire’s rising heat distorted his scarred face’s fixed expression.
The nearing flames thawed the pervasive cold chilling her bones. Flying sparks pecked at her skin. Her toes curled. Her feet flinched. Pain teased her ankles in alarming, nipping jolts. Dear gods. They were really going to burn her alive!
Lusielle shut her eyes. When she looked again, the stranger was gone from the crowd. She couldn’t blame him. She would have never chosen to watch the flame’s devouring dance.
A commotion ensued somewhere beyond the pyre. People were screaming, but she couldn’t see through the flames and smoke. She flinched when a lick of fire ignited her shift’s hem. A vile stink filled her lungs. Her body shivered in shock. She coughed, then hacked. Fear’s fiery fingers began to torment her legs.
“Come and find me,” she called to the God of fire.
And he did.
For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html
About the Author
Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books July 2013. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.
To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com
Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/ , sign up for her newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html
About Dora Machado's Novels
Dora Machado is the award winning author of the Stonewiser trilogy and her newest novel, The Curse Giver. She is one of the few Latinas exploring her heritage and her world through the epic fantasy genre today. Her first novel, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, won the 2009 Benjamin Franklin award for best debut novel. Her second novel, Stonewiser: The Call of the Stone, won the 2010 Independent Publishers Book Award's (IPPY) Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy book of the year. Her third novel, Stonewiser: The Lament of the Stone, won the 2012 Independent Publishers Book Award's (IPPY) Silver Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy book of the year. All three novels were finalists in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Category. Her latest novel, The Curse Giver from Twilight Times Books is available July 2013.
Twitter: @DoraMachado or https://twitter.com/DoraMachado
Amazon Author Central: www.amazon.com/author/doramachado