RITA Finalist M. J. Scott Builds Worlds to Fall in Love With

It’s award season in the romance world, so I'm delighted to welcome Australian author and 2016 RITA finalist M.J. Scott to Get Lost in a Story. The annual RITA Award – the world’s preeminent award program for romance novels and novellas – attracts up to 2,000 entries across all romance sub-genres. M.J.’s novel, The Shattered Court, is a finalist in the Paranormal category. 
M.J Scott is an unrepentant bookworm. Luckily she grew up in a family that fed her a properly varied diet of books and these days is surrounded by people who are understanding of her story addiction. When not wrestling one of her own stories to the ground, she can generally be found reading someone else’s. Her other distractions include yarn, cat butlering, dark chocolate and fabric. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

You can connect with M.J. via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.… 

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden. 

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown. 

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.


Read a little, buy the book... 


Cameron reached for his pouch for the coins Eloisa had given him. Thank the goddess that this errand running was nearly over and that he could get Lady Sophia back to the palace. Then his unplanned babysitting stint would be over, and he could get back to his duties instead. The girl was pleasant enough, but her wide-eyed air of curiosity about the port and Madame de Montesse’s dubious store was proof that she didn’t belong in Portholme. But as he lifted the pouch, a growling rumble boomed through the air. A second later, the building shook violently. Jars crashed off the shelves, the sound of shattering glass echoed by an outcry of cries and screams from the street.

“What was that?” Sophia said, twisting.

“Stay here, milady.” He strode to the door and wrenched it open, drawing his sword. The crowd was beginning to move, screams and cries filling the street as stallholders tried to stow away their goods or run away. If he were any judge, they were minutes away from full-blown panic.

He grabbed the nearest man. “What’s happening?”

The man only shook his head and pointed.

Cameron followed the direction of his arm and went cold. Smoke billowed from one of the palace’s wide round towers—the east tower, which sat at the intersection of the northern front wall and the east wall. As he watched, another roaring rumble was followed by a flash of fire, and a hole appeared in one of the walls of the west tower. An explosion that large was no fire or accident. They were being attacked. Instinctively, he started toward the palace but checked himself after half a step. Lady Sophia.

He couldn’t leave her unprotected. Who knew what was happening? She was part of the royal family—however distant a part—and if they were under attack, then his duty was also to her.

Another rumble, and stones spewed into the air. Goddess.

“What is that?” Sophia appeared beside him, looking terrified.

“Get back inside,” he snarled. He didn’t wait for her to protest or argue, just bundled her back into the shop, bolted the door, and drew the shades.

Chloe was standing by the window. “The palace?”

“Under attack,” he said shortly.

“Attack?” Sophia echoed.

He spared her one glance. She had turned a sickly sort of yellow shade, fear dulling the sheen of her skin, but so far wasn’t having hysterics. “As far as I can tell, milady.” He turned back to Madame de Montesse. “Where’s the nearest portal?” The safest thing would be to get Sophia out of the city altogether and hide her somewhere until he could get some idea of the situation.

“I have one here,” Chloe admitted.

Now, that was unexpected. Portals cost money. A lot of money. Both to establish and maintain. But where Chloe de Montesse got that sort of cash was a question for another day. Now all that mattered was she had one. “Show me,” he said, and took Sophia by the arm, leading her after Chloe.

They ducked into a back room, and then Chloe threw back a rug to reveal a trapdoor. It led down into a cellar and to another door. When he approached, he felt the familiar pull of a portal stone. As Chloe unlocked the door, he turned to Sophia. “Have you used a portal before?”

She nodded. “O-once.”

“Did it make you ill?” Portals were uncomfortable for most. If she was going to faint or throw up, better to know now.

“A little,” she said, straightening her shoulders as if to say “don’t worry about me.” “Where are we going?”

“Away from here. Never mind.” He shot a look at Chloe. “My apologies, Madame, but if you do not know, you can’t tell.”

She nodded and pulled the door open. “I understand. Do you need a focus?”

“No. I have one.” Stepping through the door, he lit the candle Chloe had handed him and raised it so he could read the symbols around the portal stone. Portals were linked to other portals. The more destinations, the more expensive and power-consuming to maintain. This one showed ten, and thankfully, he recognized two of them as being in the general direction he required. He took Sophie’s hand. “Stay close.” She obediently stepped nearer.

“You would be wise to run yourself, Madame. The city will not be safe. Not if . . .” He didn’t want to speak the possibilities and scare Sophia. Or give them reality.

Chloe shrugged, a peculiarly Illvyan quality to her gesture. “I will wait and see how things lie. It is only a few moments’ work to leave if needs be. Salt protect you.”

She stepped back and closed the door, leaving them in darkness broken only by the ring of flickering light provided by the candle. “Ready?” he asked Sophia, drawing her against his chest.

She nodded, a movement he felt rather than saw. He pulled the dagger he carried in his boot free and slashed his thumb, using the blood to open the key to magic. He thought fast as his thumb throbbed and the power built; then he focused on the symbol of his chosen destination, blew out the candle, keyed the portal stone, and moved through the portal with three rapid strides, never loosening his grip on Sophia.

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Avril: Tell us about the RITA experience and what it means to you to be a finalist.

M.J.: Luckily, I was at home for the call. Australians get called early so its not 2am in the morning our time. So I was just at home on Good Friday, doing a bit of writing and I almost didn’t answer the phone because hardly anyone other than telemarketers calls me on my landline any more and I’d forgotten it was RITA call weekend. So I was very surprised to hear an American accent on the end of the line. I remember saying Oh My God a lot. Then I had a very long day because I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. I had to wait from about 11 am my time to about 1.30am the next morning. It’s still hard to believe that I finalled. Like most romance writers, I’ve imagined being a RITA finalist since I first started writing romance and knew what the RITAs are, so it’s a big deal to me that I’ve done it! 

Avril: The Shattered Court is the start of The Four Arts series. What can readers look forward to in future books? 
M.J.: At this stage, I’m planning three books in the series. I’m working on book 2, The Forbidden Heir, now. All three will be about Sophie and Cameron and how what’s happening to them continues to have consequences for their world. 

Avril: How would you ‘sell’ a paranormal romance to a person who’s never read one?
M.J.: All the excitement of falling in love with the bonus of all the wonder and imagination and action of a fantasy world.

Avril: What are the special challenges of weaving romance and fantasy together?
M.J.: I think balancing the world building and external plot that’s moving the action along with building the relationship on the page (and making the relationship believable when the hero and heroine are possibly fighting for their lives).

Avril: I know you also write contemporary romance as Melanie Scott. Do you approach writing in each sub-genre differently?
M.J.: It’s not a hugely different approach. I write in different fonts which helps me switch modes but other than the fantasy books requiring more worldbuilding, I start them the same way (with an idea for a character or a scene). The contemporaries have a tighter focus on the couple as they’re probably not trying to save the world at the same time as everything else that’s going on. I’m not a plotter so after I start it’s a matter of muddling my way through to the end, no matter what genre I’m writing.

Avril: What would you say is your writing trademark?
M.J.: Hopefully good banter between the hero and heroine and a touch of humor but also characters who are smart and who go after what they want!

Avril: When you reach for a book to relax you, who are some of the authors you choose and why?
M.J.: My go to comfort reads are Lois McMaster Bujold, Terry Pratchett, Jenny Crusie and Robin McKinley. All brilliant authors who I can read multiple times. Some of my other favourite authors are Guy Gavriel Kay, Loretta Chase, Barbara O’Neal, Kylie Scott, C.S Pacat and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. While that lists spans a few different genres I think what they have in common (other than great writing) is at least some hint of romance, some good banter and characters who are, at heart, honourable in whatever they are pursuing.

Avril: What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
M.J.: Lots of writing. Having a couple of names keeps me busy. I’m going to the RWA conference in San Diego which will be great. I’ve always wanted to go to San Diego. And, at some point later in the year, maybe a kitten as I lost one of my cats recently. We’ll see how life is after I’ve done all my travel for the year!

Avril: This is my GOTTA ASK question! As a romance reader, what’s your pet hate?
M.J.: There are a few tropes that aren’t my favorites but I’ve seen all of them done in ways that make me forget they aren’t my favorites. So probably my real pet hate is characters doing stupid things. Of course, what’s a stupid thing is in the eye of the beholder! 

M.J. is keen to hear what your favourite fantasy element is - magic, magical creatures, other races, something else? Tell us in the Comments and enter the Rafflecotper draw to win an e-copy of The Shattered Court!

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  1. Hi Mel and Avril

    Firstly huge congrats on the RITA nomination and as for my favourite fantasy element the magic and the worlds ☺

    Have Fun

    1. Thanks, Helen! And thanks for stopping by!

  2. Congratulations on being a finalist.

    I have always loved magic in stories.

    1. Hi Mary! Thank you! I like magic too...all the things you could do :D

  3. I usually prefer magic itself instead of all kinds of new creatures.

    1. There's something very appealing about magic.

    2. I like the infinite variety of magic that you can have in different worlds!

  4. Congratulations on your RITA final and welcome to Get Lost In a Story! What a stunning cover.
    I love a well-written paranormal--period. I would have said no Vampires - but hello - The Black Dagger Brotherhood changed my mind. So - if the writing is excellent - I will read it.
    Can't wait to get to the paranormals in my RITA reads!

    1. Thank you, Nan! Hope you enjoy the paranormals!

  5. Replies
    1. Magic definitely seems to be popular today :D

  6. This sounds VERY good. A good story is a good story, but I love a touch of intrigue, mystery, and new found magic.

    1. Brenda, I like the "just finding out their powers" when it comes to magic too. You get to explore it along with the character.

  7. Love this post, Laura and Nan! Love your covers, Laura. And always enjoy learning more about you and your work. Can't wait to see you in SD. Hope to see you at GRW soon. Hugs!

  8. Oh and ditto on the jewelry and mullets! :)