Interview with Erika McCorkle

Merchants of Light and Bone: Interview with Erika McCorkle

It’s our pleasure to host Erika McCorkle, the author of the Pentagonal Dominion series. Today I’m chatting with her about the series and the latest book in it, Merchants of Light and Bone as part of a blog tour hosted by TheWriteReads.

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Meet the Author
Erika McCorkle

Erika McCorkle, she/her, lives in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. She is a creator of fantasy worlds and a voyager to the worlds created by others. She spends much of her free time writing, reading, watching anime, and playing video games, all usually of the fantasy genre. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and currently works the night shift at a blood bank, meaning she is most definitely a vampire.

Connect with Erika McCorkle

About the Book
Merchants of Light and Bone by Erika McCorkle

Sorrow in paradise

A parent’s worst nightmare

When grief drives one to revenge

Living in a tropical paradise with his spouses and kids, Amiere is a merchant of light, a sculptor who carves glowing crystals into spectacular and powerful, demon-killing works of art. When the ground opens up near his idyllic village to reveal a massive supply of crystals, the whole nation of Aloutia celebrates. The merchants are guaranteed money for decades and officials predict Aloutia will be safe from demonkind for generations. But Amiere isn’t rejoicing—when the ground split apart, his seven-year-old daughter fell to her death.

Amiere’s grief turns to rage when an old enemy returns to the village with a young daughter displaying signs of starvation and abuse. Having witnessed his own daughter’s death, Amiere cannot bear the thought of watching another child die, especially when he can prevent it. Unable to ask police for help due to the village’s reputation of hostility toward authority figures, Amiere takes matters into his own hands, even at the risk of being exiled and separated from his family forever.

Welcome to the Asylum, Erika! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of beverage of your choice, and tell me something about yourself, that’s not in your bio!

Hello! And thank you so much for interviewing me! Ooh, something that’s not in my bio? What does my bio even say? I haven’t seen it in a hot minute. Hmm, worldbuilding forever… biology… ah, I confessed to being a vampire. Well, here’s a fun fact: part of my biology degree (and my vampiric lessons) involved study of human cadavers, and I had the honor to remove the heart of one of our donors. Although it sounds creepy, I am eternally grateful to the person who donated their body to science. That experience has lived with me all this time and is probably the single most “exciting” thing I’ve done. Which is to say, I’m an incredibly boring person, sadly.

What inspires your writing? Do you listen to music, stare into the fire, listen to the whispering of the wind, or make deals with the Devil?

All of the above, though I don’t think the entity I make deals with is the Devil. Or perhaps he is, but he has only my best intentions at heart, so I’m happy to give myself up to him in exchange for these stories. Music inspires, but I have to be in the right headspace to accept it, and lately I have not had that joy. Much of my inspiration comes from other fantasy media, particularly video games and anime. I’m a very visual person, so seeing something fantastical is more likely to work on me than hearing it or reading it.

What was the most memorable place you’ve visited? Did it inspire any of your work? How did that experience affect you personally?

I sadly haven’t had much opportunity to travel. I have never left the US, and I’ve barely left my state. Perhaps my most memorable trip was when I went to the northern California coast, near where the redwoods are. I had a good time at the beach and trekking through the redwoods. Being in nature inspires my worldbuilding, but moreso in the sense that it allows me to describe things from personal experience. 

Tell us about your publishing journey! When did you start writing, how did you decide on which publishing path you’ll follow and what were the most important lessons you’ve learned so far? How did you utilize those lessons when preparing to publish Merchants of Light and Bone?

I’m actually with a small publisher, Shadow Spark Publishing. I have been writing all my life, but the Pentagonal Dominion first came to me in 1999. I’ve been creating it ever since then by writing stories that take place in that world. However, those stories are pretty bad (come on, I was young when I wrote them…) I like to think of them as practice for the real deal. Around 2018, I got serious about publishing a book. I wrote Merchants of Knowledge and Magic over the course of about two years. In 2019, I joined Twitter on the urging of a friend from a Goodreads beta reader group who suggested the Writing Community would be a good resource for finding methods of publication. At the time, I only knew about trad publishing. I thought self-publishing was a last resort for people who couldn’t make it in trad. Since then, I’ve learned a lot, including the pros and cons of both kinds. I opted for a happy medium: publishing with a small pub. It worked out beautifully, because I found my publisher/editor, Jess Moon of Shadow Spark Publishing, who adores my stories and wants more of them. I plan to stick with SSP for as long as it works out for everyone involved. I didn’t have many hiccups when it came to publishing MoLaB. I think I learned all the lessons I needed with MoKaM, so MoLaB’s release went off without issue. With MoKaM, there was an issue with the footnotes in the ebook and for about a month, nobody could buy the ebook. I could send it to them, or they could buy the paperback, but Amazon wouldn’t sell the ebook until the issue was resolved. 

Talking about Merchants of Light and Bone, what was the main inspiration for the story? Which aspect of the book was the most challenging to write and why?

My inspiration for this story was a desire to see more fantasy that 1. Takes place in a tropical setting, and 2. Deals with more personal matters, such as family drama (in a commoner family). There are many assumptions about fantasy books—they are about saving the world or restoring a royal to the throne or killing a tyrant. I wanted to tell a story on a smaller scale. A father loses his daughter, then wishes to rescue another girl he sees being abused. It’s the sort of plot you would see in a contemporary or historical novel, but there’s no reason it can’t happen in a fantasy world. I wanted to see more fantasy settings dealing with small-scale and personal problems. As for the most challenging thing to write, it was Amiere’s grief. I am not a parent, nor could I ever fathom the loss of one’s child. I cannot begin to understand the pain involved there, and yet I did what I could to channel his grief into my own soul so I could accurately tell his story.

If you could have had a release party with your MC(s) present, how that would have gone down? 

I can’t imagine my MCs would be very thrilled about it! MoLaB is a fiercely personal and sorrowful tale for my MCs. They wouldn’t be happy with me if they knew I was telling the story of their daughter’s untimely demise to anyone who wants to listen. This book shows them at their worst—their saddest, angriest, most vengeful, most vulnerable. I doubt any of them want that vulnerability declared to the world.

I understand that Merchants of Light and Bone is the second book in The Pentagonal Dominion series. How does it relate to the first book, Merchants of Knowledge and Magic? What the series is about? How many books are you planning to have in it?

MoLaB is a standalone that takes place during the same year as MoKaM, but other than a few sly references, they are not connected. I plan to write a third Merchants novel: Merchants of Dance and Hedonism. That will comprise one trio of books that take place during the same year, but are otherwise unconnected, until the fourth Merchants novel, in which the MCs of the three standalones team up to take on a bigger threat. Those four books are a subseries I call “Merchants of the Pentagonal Dominion.” The entire “Pentagonal Dominion” mega-series will comprise as many books as I can write in my lifetime. I have many subseries planned, including “Chronicles of the Good Thyme Inn” and “The Greed Wars Cycle” which takes place 250 years before the Merchants series, and “The Amethyst Throne” which takes place 550 years before Merchants.

What would you say the main themes are in Merchants of Light and Bone?  Is there something you’d like readers to take away from it?

Ultimately, it’s a story of grief and revenge. Clouded by sorrow and anger, Amiere makes a terrible decision… or does he? He saves the life of a child, but his actions endanger his whole family. I want readers to question whether the choice he made was the right one or not, given the way his world works. I also hope the question the villain’s motives and whether or not his ends justified the means.

Let’s talk a bit about the characters. What was one thing about your MC(s) that you can identify with, and what were the most challenging bits of their personalities to write? 

When I started writing MoLaB, I specifically wanted to write an MC who was the opposite of me in every way. I was a youngish asexual woman with no interest in having a family or playing sports. Amiere is an olderish bisexual (and very sex-driven) man who loves his family and physical activity. Writing a sex-driven man was definitely the most difficult part, and I may have overdone it. I have no regrets about the sexual content of the book, but if I were rewriting it, I might tone down some of his sexual fantasies. 

If you were a character in your book, how would you be described? And what your profession/role would be? How long do you think, you would survive?

If I were living in MoLaB, I’d be a Flora living in Steena Village. As a Flora, my body would change to whatever I ate. If I ate a lot of rice, I might grow rice stalks for hair. If I ate roses, I might grow rose petals around my neck and wrists. As for my job, I’d love to work with the elephants! Their main role is to transport cargo, which I wouldn’t mind doing. If I were born in that world, I would have the Gods’ Blessings, so living in the tropics would be pleasant and never feel too hot. Survival would be easy. This is a good time in Aloutia’s history, the land is blessed, the people are blessed, and the war that is about to happen (authorial knowledge; my Flora-self wouldn’t know about it!) will thankfully be left to the professional soldiers. And the army doesn’t want any weak little flowers like me, so I would be at no risk of being drafted.

Describe an asylum set in the world of  The Pentagonal Dominion series!

It’s a good thing you asked about such a broad range (the Pentagonal Dominion series being all my books across my world’s history) because large chunks of it don’t have asylums. When the God Lucognidus reigns, all people are sane. If something occurs to traumatize them, they are brought to a Mind church, the volkhv performs a ritual, and the madness is removed. However, some time and places aren’t so lucky. Before Lucognidus’s reign, and in certain parts of the Makai where Gods hold no sway, the insane might be tossed into a place where they serve as little more than toys for Demon Lords. Trapped in cages until their master wishes to play with them, then tortured in whatever foul methods they can imagine. Impaled. Burned. Drowned. Psychologically or sexually tortured. If you can think of it, a demon somewhere can make it happen. Or make you think it’s happening to you.

While you are locked in here for eternity, we will allow you to invite one visitor (fictional and otherwise) – who would you invite? And no, they can’t help you to escape.

If it can be one of my own characters, then I would choose the God Lucognidus. Although he can’t help me escape (he would try…) he can talk to me, keep me calm, tell me about the outside world, and generally comfort me. Ahh, how wonderful it would be to be in his arms. 

Well then, it was a pleasure to have a chat with you! Please allow these nice attendants to escort you out. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words? 

It’s been my pleasure to chat with you! And hey, as long as I can write my books and play video games, I have no complaints about being locked up in here. You can’t threaten ME with a good time!

*locks door*

Grab a copy of Merchants of Light and Bone by Erika McCorkle!

Merchants of Light and Bone by Erika McCorkle

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