Today’s author spotlight features fantasy romance author and All The Kissing cofounder, Maxym M. Martineau. Her debut, Kingdom of Exiles (out now!) was featured in The New York Times, selected as June LibraryReads Pick, named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of Summer 2019, chosen as a Bookish Staff Reads Pick, and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Introducing Maxym M. Martineau
Maxym M. Martineau is a staff writer and editor by day, and a fantasy romance author by night. When she’s not getting heated over broken hearts, she enjoys playing video games, sipping a well-made margarita, binge-watching television shows, competing in just about any sport, and of course, reading.
Following her passion, Maxym earned her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. She is represented by Cate Hart of Corvisiero Literary Agency. Her debut, Kingdom of Exiles, is available now.
Congratulations on your amazing debut, Kingdom of Exiles! From the thousands of messages I’ve sent you fangirling over every page, you know I think it is amazing. But, for everyone who hasn’t gotten their hands on a copy yet, could you tell them what it is about?
*Immense blushing ensues.* You’re too kind! Of course, I think your work is amazing, so we can keep trading fan-girl messages for eternity.
As for Kingdom of Exiles it’s a fantasy romance novel (for adults, I’d be hesitant to let younger readers tackle this) featuring assassins, magical creatures, beast charmers, black market trades and of course, lots and lots of kissing. It primarily follows the story of two main characters: Leena Edenfrell, an exiled beast charmer, and Noc, the leader of the undead assassins guild, Cruor.
After being wrongly exiled by her people, Leena is forced to sell magical beasts on the black market—an offense punishable by death—to survive. This results in a bounty being placed on her head. Enter Noc, the brooding and distant master of death who’s more than willing to capitalize on the job. But when Leena offers magical beasts in exchange for her life, something no charmer has ever done before, Noc relents. After all, beasts are a rare find, and there are rumors of a creature that can grant any wish, no matter how insurmountable it may seem.
Together with Noc’s three closest brethren, they set off on a beast hunt across Lendria. Unbeknownst to Leena, though, it’s impossible for Noc to renege on his contract; if he does, he’d have to sacrifice his life in exchange for hers. And despite his shifting feelings toward his mark, he’s unwilling to jeopardize his Cruor family. With the contract looming, and something even darker from his past threatening Leena’s life with the same tenacity as the people who placed the hit, no manner of beasts or money can protect their hides.
Lendria, the island continent where Kingdom of Exiles is set, is so wonderfully written. You’ve made everything feel so surreal, yet at the same time, so natural. Is world building something that has always come naturally to you?
I think, for the most part, yes. There are some smaller nuances of world building that always take me a bit longer to finesse—economic systems, politics, games, etc.—but those are so vital to the overall feel of something being real.
As for the world itself, the locations, the creatures, the people? Definitely. I have very vivid, bordering-on-lucid dreams, and I pull from them to create the worlds you find in my books. Nearly all of my dreams are fantastical in nature, and for the most part, I can recall details and scenes so long as I jot down some notes the following day/morning. They don’t have to be overly specific—just a note here or there about maybe the type of beast I saw, the colors of the environment, they way the people looked/acted, etc. When I actually sit down to write it, I find myself remembering even more than I thought I would.
We know that this is your debut novel, could you tell us about your journey to becoming a
*Checks watch to see how much time we have.* I kid. It’s not that long, but my path to publication definitely had some twists and turns. And then it was fed high-octane fuel and we entered light-speed once Kingdom of Exiles was written. (Something I never thought I’d say about publishing in my entire life!)
I suffered from some really horrific nightmares as a kid, and my mother taught me to use writing as a way to exercise that negative energy. As I discovered how therapeutic that process could be, my views of my dreams shifted, and I fell more and more in love with the worlds I was discovering. So, I started writing early, but I’d say my foray into the publishing world didn’t start until my college days.
Kingdom of Exiles is my fifth manuscript. And let me tell you, I had NO idea how vital the writing community and Twitter were until my second or third manuscript, and that completely changed my life. I seriously went kicking-and-screaming into Twitter, and now I’m kicking and screaming at myself that I didn’t do it sooner.
In 2016, I was selected for Pitch Wars with a different manuscript, and I learned SO much from that family. (If you’re thinking about entering this year, do it!) While that manuscript didn’t land me an agent, I was able to take the learnings from my mentor and apply them to my NEXT manuscript (can you guess what it is? Yup. Kingdom of Exiles.), which did land me my agent and subsequent publishing deal.
Now, here’s where the aforementioned high-octane fuel comes into play. Let me preface this by saying my experience is atypical.
I’m not saying you can’t get a publishing deal overnight (which I certainly didn’t, but it did feel like an accelerated whirlwind), but it’s far more common to expect to wait for months (sometimes even years).
I wrote Kingdom of Exiles toward the end of 2016, beginning of 2017, with a goal to finish before my wedding (March 17, 2017). I somehow managed that, then sent it to an editor (who is now a fabulous CP of mine) while I was on my honeymoon. I came back, edited it, and then decided to hold off on seriously querying so I could enter it in Query Kombat 2017, where I was selected as the Adult Champion. (I’m a huge advocate for writing contests.)
QK took place from May-July (I think?) and then I signed with my agent in September. We spent a few months editing, sent it out after the holidays (ish?), and then I signed a three-book deal with Sourcebooks in the summer of 2018. And now, on June 25, 2019, my book is finally out in the world!
What has been the biggest shock throughout this process for you?
I came into this process expecting to handle so much more of the marketing for Kingdom of Exiles on my own. I’ve been in forums and threads where authors talk about their experiences and how much they’ve had to do themselves, so I kind of expected the same thing. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Sourcebooks has been an amazing partner through all of this, and they’ve championed my story in a way that makes my heart flutter.
Your main character Leena, is a beast charmer—something I could not be more obsessed with. If you could create one beast to help you with the writing process, what would it do?
OMG, this is a great question. Definitely a beast that could record my dreams and then play them like a movie for me to review. While I’m fairly good at recalling what happens, there’s nothing like having a visual to go along with it. (Hence why I’m so obsessed with Pinterest boards for my books.)
Obviously, as one of the cofounders of All The Kissing, you understand the importance of community. What has been the best part of being involved in Romancelandia?
Easily the best part of being involved in Romancelandia is the people. I’ve met all of my critique partners through the online writing community, and more than that, some of my closest friends. We’re all going through this wild ride together, so to have someone to celebrate every victory, support you through all the rough patches, and just be there to vent in general, is invaluable.
If you could give new writers one piece of advice for getting involved and reaching out to other writers, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to say hello. I know this is scary for a lot of us, myself included, but finding your people is a must in this industry. Get involved in writing contests.
The best part about them isn’t winning or being picked—it’s the relationships you make and the friendships that come along with them.
I didn’t get into Pitch Wars the first time I applied, and the second time, I didn’t get many agent requests (or even an agent for that manuscript). But you know what I did get? A critique partner, something I’d never had before. And then because of Pitch Wars, I met all the lovely ladies of All The Kissing and we went on to found this amazing group.
Don’t be afraid to take that first step and start fostering those relationships. They’ll help you in more ways than you can imagine.
Beyond connecting with other writers, you must also want to reach your readers. What social media platform do you use the most and how has it opened up the dialogue you have with readers?
Well, I’d have to say Instagram has been the most surprising platform for me when it comes to connecting with readers (and it’s the platform I’m probably the worst at). Bookstagrammers are huge, and there are a plethora of hashtags you can follow to see how they’re styling books, featuring reviews, and just doing generally awesome things with books. I’m seriously jealous of their ability to put together an insanely beautiful photo.
When I knew I’d have advanced reader copies (ARCs) in my hands, I started following several accounts on Instagram and just started naturally commenting on their posts (not, “Hey, I have a book coming out, want to read it?!” but more along the lines of, “Beautiful pic” or, if they had a prompt, “My fave fantasy right now is XYZ.”). The key is to be genuine. A few of them ended up following me back, and then once my book started to gain awareness, I took the leap and offered them an ARC. (They accepted, ended up featuring my book, and are just awesome people in general.)
I’m still learning with Instagram, but I definitely think it’s the place to be to connect with readers. Twitter is also fantastic, but I’ve found, at least for the moment, that my following is much more writer-based than reader-based.
If anyone follows you on social media, they’ll know that a baby Martineau is on their way! Congratulations! What are some of the books that made you discover your love of reading that
you’re excited to introduce your baby to?
I’m so excited to welcome my baby girl into the world. I can’t wait to meet her and share all of my favorite stories with her. My mom read to my brother and me all the time growing up. I remember patiently waiting (read: not patiently waiting at all, because my brother cared about Legos a heck of a lot more than stories) for our regular readings before bed of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. So once she’s old enough, that might still be on my list. And of course, Harry Potter. My mom didn’t get to read that one to me, though—I straight up stole that book and read it (and every book in the series) before anyone else in the house could.
And for us older readers who might be new to fantasy, what are some recommendations you can give to us when we’re craving more fantasy after finishing Kingdom of Exiles?
Oh gosh, so many! Let me list a few:
- Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope — So. Good. L. Penelope is a master at world building, and the way she weaves in fables is fantastic. The romance in here isn’t totally in your face, so if you’re looking for a ease-your-way-into-it story, I’d go with this one.
- The Folk of Air Series by Holly Black — This one is more geared toward YA readers and the romance is not the driving plot, which is fine for me. Jude is a fantastic protagonist, and I cannot wait for the third book in this series (though disclaimer, if you HATE cliffhangers, maybe wait until it’s out because the ending to book two, where the romance is a bit more prominent, KILLED me).
- A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Mass — Strap in for the long haul, because the best romance happens in book two, and it’s so worth the wait. Also, this is NOT a YA. The first one, maybe. The second one? Definitely not. The sex scenes are hot and detailed, so if you dig fantasy romance, get ready.
- Kat Daniels series by Illona Andrews — This one is definitely more like an urban fantasy with a post-apocalyptic vibe and a true slow-burn romance (I’m talking it takes a few books before the two MCs finally get to sexy times). I love the heroine in this series. She kicks ass.
- The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet — This series is full of Greek lore and romance, so if you’re looking for another fantasy romance specifically, this is a good place to start.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Maxym. And congrats on your debut!
All images provided by author.