Guest Post: E.C. Blake on Writing Masks

November 4, 2013 Author Feature, Guest Post 10

Are you a lover of fantasy? Do you like new and unique magical systems in a world not our own? If so, Masks is a book you will want to check out. We are lucky enough to have with us today the author, E.C. Blake to tell us a bit about his writing experience with MASKS!

Masks E.C. Blake

Read my review of Masks
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Hi, I’m E.C. Blake, author of Masks, and I have a confession to make: it isn’t at all the book I originally set out to write.

I thought it would be a stand-alone novel. Instead, it’s the first book in a series, which continues with Shadows next August and Faces in the spring of 2015. I also thought it would be a young adult novel. Instead, it’s being published by DAW Books, in the general fantasy market.

All of which presented me with some interesting challenges, because even though it’s not being published as a YA book, I’m still hoping YA readers will gravitate to it—because the main character is a 15 year old girl named Mara Holdfast..

So how do you write a book with a teenaged character that will also appeal to adults?

For that matter, how do you write a believable teenaged girl when you’ve never even been a teenaged girl, when, in fact, it’s been (mumble-mumble) years since you’ve even been a teenager?

To which my not entirely flippant answer is, “I used my imagination.”

I’ve never had much use for that old saying “write what you know.” If I wrote what I knew, I wouldn’t have written about a land where everyone at age 15 has to don a magical Mask that subjects them to constant surveillance by the ruler’s Watchers. I wouldn’t have written about a place where certain Gifted individuals can see magic, which they perceive as having colours that correspond to what can be done with that magic. I wouldn’t have had (spoiler alert!) an exploding horse in the prologue, because I’ve never seen a horse explode. (Honestly, there’s an exploding horse. I love being a writer.)

But I can imagine all those things, and I can imagine being a teenaged girl, too. After all, although I may not have been a girl, I’ve known lots of them. I’ll very soon have one as a daughter. And I’ve seen the world through the eyes of any number of teenaged girls through my own reading of YA fiction, much of which was written by people who were once teenaged girls.

And besides, I know people. I am a people. And as I once shocked my pre-pubescent friends by saying during their “I hate girls” phase, girls are people, too.

The fact is, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed inhabiting Mara’s head during the writing of Masks (and the ongoing writing of Shadows and Faces). Which is a good thing, because somewhat unusually, all of these books are told from a single viewpoint: Mara’s.  If I didn’t like viewing the world through Mara’s eyes and thoughts and emotions, I’d have found writing these books an onerous task indeed.

But you know what? I think the fact that I have had to work to make that connection to Mara, a character so unlike myself, bodes well for the other challenge of making the book appeal to both adult and young adult readers.

Young adult readers, I hope, will be drawn to the tale because Mara is as young as they are, and if the challenges she faces are unique, they’re still recognizably similar to the challenges faced by any young person beginning to make their way into the wider world of adult concerns and responsibilities.

And older readers, I hope, will be drawn to the tale because, although Mara is young, the world she inhabits is a fully realized fantasy world with all the wonders and dangers, beauties and horrors, fantasy readers expect.

There’s no doubt Masks has one foot in the adult fantasy world and one in the young adult fantasy world. But I believe Mara is appealing enough, and her world fascinating enough, that readers of any age will want to accompany her on her journey of discovery and danger.


Masks E.C. Blake

Masks, the first novel in a mesmerizing new fantasy series, draws readers into a world in which cataclysmic events have left the Autarchy of Aygrima—the one land blessed with magical resources—cut off from its former trading partners across the waters, not knowing if any of those distant peoples still live. Yet under the rule of the Autarch, Aygrima survives. And thanks to the creation of the Masks and the vigilance of the Autarch’s Watchers, no one can threaten the security of the empire.

In Aygrima, magic is a Gift possessed from birth by a very small percentage of the population, with the Autarch himself the most powerful magic worker of all. Only the long-vanquished Lady of Pain and Fire had been able to challenge his rule.

At the age of fifteen, citizens are recognized as adults and must don the spell-infused Masks—which denote both status and profession—whenever they are in public. To maintain the secure rule of the kingdom, the Masks are magically crafted to reveal any treasonous thoughts or actions. And once such betrayals are exposed, the Watchers are there to enforce the law.

Mara Holdfast, daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, is fast approaching her fifteenth birthday and her all-important Masking ceremony. Her father himself has been working behind closed doors to create Mara’s Mask. Once the ceremony is done, she will take her place as an adult, and Gifted with the same magical abilities as her father, she will also claim her rightful place as his apprentice.

But on the day of her Masking something goes horribly wrong…


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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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10 Responses to “Guest Post: E.C. Blake on Writing Masks”

  1. Silvia

    Ha, if your writing style in the book is anything like in the post, I’m sold. (It probably isn’t, what with one being fantasy and all, but I’m still going to read it.) Going by this and the review, the world sounds interesting (not sure about the exploding horse though). I’m firmly in the older reader box. It doesn’t matter to me what age the characters are – books geared towards adults can definitely have young characters, especially ones with a coming of age theme.

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I agree that a book is definitely not YA just because it has a young main character. I enjoy YA and adult books both but I think you can definitely tell when a book with a young protagonist was written/intended for a more mature audience.

    • E.C. Blake

      Thanks, Silvia. Well, it’s probably a little bit different in the book…but not entirely. It’s written in a fairly modern conversational style instead of in a high-fantasy kinda style. And I can never quite manage to keep my sense of humour from creeping in… 🙂

      • Tabitha the Pabkins

        Masks was great! I thought the style flowed and made for quick – enjoyable reading. I’ve never been a huge fan of the high fantasy style of writing if its something I have to struggle to wrap my head around it could make the reading a chore. Thanks for stopping by E.C.

  2. Pamela D

    This was an interesting post. I have had lots of conversations both online and off about what constitutes being YA versus Adult. I read Among Others by Jo Walton a few months ago for a book club, and people were very opinionated about what shelf Among Others should sit. [The protagonist in Among Others is 15-years old (which “screams YA”); however, the book is set in the 1970s and the protagonist reads tons of SF&F and refers to it so much that most likely only an adult audience (who read these books) will appreciate.] It is great to hear an author say that sometimes an adult book can have a teenage protagonist.
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    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      It really could cause quite the debate. I mean what REALLY makes a book YA versus adult? The tone? The themes? Content? I heard one debate that if it contained sex and drugs that a book shouldn’t be considered YA – but then the rebuttle to that would be – but real teenager DO have sex and DO take drugs and you’ll see that in any public high school you go to. So what makes something YA versus adult really might be more up to the reader. I can see reasons I suspect this was published as an adult book but I don’t think a teenager would have any trouble reading it.

        • Tabitha the Pabkins

          So funny how those things work out!! I’m going to have to find it in the book store on my next visit to see where they decided to shelve it! Almost all the readers I know read adult as well as YA fiction so wherever MASKS ends up I think it will do well. It makes me hope though that they’ll shelve it in YA because I know some teens never venture outside of that aisle.