Author: D.A. Mucci
Narrator: Tim Campbell
Length: 8 hours and 25 minutes
Series: The Ignatius Series, Book 1
Publisher: St. Barts Publishing
Released: Nov. 22, 2021
Genre: YA Fantasy
The towering stone Castle Maol, the unrivaled seat of power in the Kingdom of Skye, sat inland almost bereft of life. Once known for its inspirational beauty, Skye’s forests and meadows were more barren than green now, enveloped by stillness instead of bustling wildlife. Lakes and waterways once teeming with marine life lay stagnant. Most of those who lived here survived under gray clouds of despair. Several of the eldest knew of the prophecy that would return the land to its prior golden age and quietly hoped it was true. Only a handful knew the secret that would allow the prophecy to come true. They refused to speak of it. Fifteen-year-old Iggy is good at three things: languages, witty retorts, and running from a fight. When a guy pulls a knife on him during a high school argument, all the banter in the world isn’t enough to save him, so Iggy resorts to his backup plan – running. But before he can make his escape, the locket he always wears around his neck heats up, and someone tackles him from behind, pinning him to the ground. Iggy’s never thought of himself as a fighter. He’s spent his life running from anything that can’t be solved with a quick one-liner or a snarky comeback. But as he learns more about the strange place he’s landed, one thing becomes abundantly clear: In the World on Skye, they need a hero. And Iggy just might be the one they’re looking for, even if he’s not so sure.
Months of self-induced isolation to protect loved ones from exposure to Covid-19 led Emergency Medicine Physician David Mucci to create a fantasy world as an outlet to manage pandemic stress and support his own mental health. The resulting novel, Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw (St. Bart’s Publishing, October 2021), tells the tale of an impossible mission led by an unlikely hero – a relatable feeling for many figuring out how to survive unprecedented circumstances in 2020. Accustomed to acting quickly to save a life or manage an urgent health situation by applying the knowledge and experience gained over his nearly 40 years in emergency medicine, Dr. Mucci deeply felt the impact of the pandemic in the ER. “Amongst widespread unknowns, without comparable experiences to help manage patient outcomes while trying to keep up on ever-changing medical news to treat suffering patients, the pandemic was a higher level of stress to endure. Coupled with the deep fear of bringing a deadly virus into my home after ER shifts, I needed to dig deeper than TV binges or reading books to cope and to remember the potential each person has to be a hero in everyday life,” said Mucci. The product of his creative outlet is the coming-of-age story of 15-year-old Ignatius, “Iggy”, who is thrown into a world of unknowns, transported to a medieval world filled with magic. Based on research of myths and legends, Mucci created The Kingdom of Skye, the setting for Iggy to develop special powers and accomplish quests to fight evildoers and find his way home. According to Mucci, Iggy must learn to trust a diverse set of characters but also learn to believe in himself and grow; much like as a medical provider, Mucci had to trust himself, trust his colleagues and learn how to adapt during the pandemic. The first in a planned 5-part series, Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw is YA fantasy suitable for both teens and adults as it gently reminds readers that they are responsible for their own destiny, and that sometimes the most unexpected people can be the best teachers. At 67 years old writing a YA Lit fantasy series, Mucci is also proving that there is no limit for being creative. “The only limitation is the one that you place on yourself and on your imagination,” says Mucci.
Q&A with Author D.A. Mucci
- What was your experience working full-time in an emergency room during the height of the pandemic and writing this book?
- As a physician for almost 40 years, most of them in an Emergency Room setting, you see all kinds of ailments, accidents and death. While no two cases are exactly the same, experience and knowledge helps you decide quickly what action you’ll take to save a life or manage an urgent health condition. Then a pandemic hits that you don’t have a set of experiences to rely on to truly help you manage patients, and treating patients becomes a whole new level of stress as you make your best guess and read the latest medical news to help you treat those patients suffering significantly. All as you are praying none of your protective gear reeks so you don’t bring exposure home to the family you love. These stressful circumstances pushed me to bring this fantasy world to fruition. Most of us binge watched shows during the pandemic and I simply needed a different outlet after a while to feel like I was doing something to help others escape and relax for their stress also.
- How did you go about world building for Ignatius and the Swords of Nostaw?
- I was drawn to the Isle of Skye for its rich history that includes folklore and magic, in doing research for the world I wanted to build. I used photos of the Isle of Skye as my inspiration for the landscape of The Kingdom of Skye and Matreach. As my family is comprised of different ethnicities, I wanted to reflect that in my lands, with the four lands having their own uniqueness. My wife is a stickler for detail and keeping me grounded, so she had a map drawn up for the book and had the website developer create “hot spots” on the website map to help readers visualize locations and happenings.
- Though Iggy is the star, you’ve also created new languages and nearly 50 different characters. Which are some of your favorites?
- I love the Madam Trinity character. She doesn’t appear to have it all together, but underneath the crazy facade you know she is an extremely capable, intelligent, and formidable person to have on your side. I wanted a very diverse set of characters so readers of all ages had someone to relate to. Iggy is the geeky character while rebellious Lecque fights for what he feels is right. Ansel is the strong mentor Iggy needs. Kylian is one of the strongest male characters, holding true to his principles while being imprisoned for years. Allistair is the most powerful man in Matreach and has a physical disability. And there are strong female characters along with Madam Trinity, each strong in their own unique way: Raraesa is physically a strong sword fighter with a soft side she doesn’t often show, Trafalga has a bohemian carefree look, with a gift that will help save many and guide Iggy. Nyreada is the strong, brave personality who is typically quiet unless she sees unethical practices, and Scathatch is known for being the best warrior that oversees all, helping in a stealthy critical manner. I wanted to include different languages to highlight Iggy’s special ability to learn them, to showcase his intelligence. While this intelligence was ridiculed in a typical middle school and high school setting, language is one of Iggy’s strengths and he will use it along the way to accomplish his quests.
- What advice would you give to writers who feel like their time to write a book has expired?
- At 67 years old I’m writing a story that caters to Young Adults. There is no age limit for using your creativity and imagination.
- Without giving spoilers, can you give readers any sneak peek into the rest of the planned series? Will we meet new characters, visit new places, etc.?
- Kylian, the Death Knight and Ansel will struggle with the true knowledge they have of Iggy and how important he is to the Kingdom of Skye and the other lands. Lecque will have to face his own demons that will rear their ugly head, and Iggy will be the only one who can help Lecque with his personal battle. While the Kingdom of Skye and Matreach were featured in Book 1, Dinas Affaron and Cambria will be featured more heavily in future stories.
- Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
- Turning my book into an audiobook was something I had planned to do right from the start. I have multiple family members who can only ‘read’ books by listening to them, so audiobooks are important to many in my family. I worked closely with a group named “Books Fluent” to get my audiobook created.
- How did you select your narrator?
- I selected passages from my book that included different characters for narrator “auditions”. Books Fluent had 6 or 7 narrators read the passages using different character voices, and asked me to choose a narrator. I asked my wife and daughter to help me decide since they avidly listen to audiobooks. No one liked any of the auditions. My daughter Elisa said to me, “I listen to stories often just because Tim Campbell narrates them.” I was so fortunate to get him to narrate for me. My story is based on the location The Isle of Skye just west of mainland Scotland. Tim actually spent a month there with his wife learning the different dialects of the area. Tim was the perfect match to narrate my story and he did a fantastic job.
- How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
- My narrator Tim Campbell was like working with a professional musician hired to come in and play for a band. I provided a sheet with how to pronounce my made-up names and requested specific accents. That’s all I had to do.
- Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
- I modeled Iggy after some of my high school experiences. I was 4 feet, 11 inches tall when I graduated high school and definitely not of the popular crowd. I would have been considered a nerd, and that was before is being a nerd was cool. I actually did have a high school crush on a girl I never talked to and had a girl flash me her underwear in class to try to embarrass me. It was easy for me to relate to writing about Iggy.
- Are you an audiobook listener?
- When my children were young, they would sit next to me as I read them a book. As children age but you still want that ‘reading’ time together as a family, my wife and I found listening to an audiobook was a great way to do this. We’d find a series both children were interested in and spend elementary school years listening to stories together. If we were all in the car together for a long trip, we would listen to a story together. My wife and young adult daughter still listen to audiobooks together on longer drives — rather than having music or the one not driving immersed in their smart phone.
- What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
- I love audiobooks when a narrator can really bring a story to life. Their intonations, pauses, and accents can really give the reader what an author means to convey, but is not available in written word. I love how Tim Campbell conveyed Madam Trinity in my story. She sounded exactly as I had envisioned her, batty with moments of insightfulness.
- What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
- I am saddened by those who feel audiobooks are cheating or not real reading. Audiobooks are the means for providing access to written words for many people. Anyone with sight deficiencies is provided access to written words through audiobooks. My mother-in-law was able to listen to stories while recovering from eye surgery, while her vision was impaired. My wife has difficulty holding books for long periods, so she only listens to stories. She has to skip her book group meetings when the chosen book is not available on audio. There are plenty of people with reading learning disorders that do not affect their auditory processing, thus audiobooks make their lives richer. Audiobooks are enriching many lives each day.
- In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
- My writing style is adventure fantasy. Many authors are great at writing all the details of their plot line into a stand-alone book that allows a reader to immerse themselves in a single story. I believe the adventure fantasy genre is more like a TV series, I can developer characters that move from one adventure to the next that keeps the audience rooting for the character. It feels natural to move the story into a second book, with a character driven story.
- What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Don’t let anyone tell you that your dream of writing a book is not achievable. Find yourself a good editor and don’t be stubborn about listening to how the editor can make your story more palatable to a reader. Writing is an evolving process, continue to learn about how to write to inspire or entertain your audience. And lastly, at 67 years old, you are never too old to write a book.
- Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
- When turning your book into an audiobook, be thoughtful about what sections of the book you want to use for your narrator auditions. Use parts of your book that require different characters to speak, different aged characters, and multiple accents if that is important. Provide clear pronunciation if that is important to you. Be selective about your narrator, that can make or break a good audiobook. And lastly, make sure to have a good producer — it is just as important as having a good editor.
- What’s next for you?
- I’m actively writing the next book and my series and have been sure to line up having my fabulous narrator for the next book.
Plugging you into the audio community since 2016.