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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - May 22, 2013

Please welcome Mark T. Barnes to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Garden of Stones (Echoes of Empire 1) was published on May 21, 2013.

Interview with Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - May 22, 2013

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Mark:  Hi Sally, and thanks for inviting me.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Mark:  I started writing, painting, drawing and experimenting with music when I was very young. Though I'd forgotten about it, my mother found a short story I'd written when I was seven years old, secreted away in a cupboard at my old primary school. I dabbled with story telling as part of roleplaying when I was in high school, but did not consider taking up writing as a profession until after I attendted Clarion South, 2005. That was such a profound experience, having the chance to listen and learn from some great mentors--and fellow students--that it cemented my desire to take writing seriously. As for why? I've always been fascinated by stories, and love being swept away in the wonder of them. My childhood and teenage years formed my reading habits: tales of heroism and nobility, sacrifice and love, good, evil, morality, ethics, law and justice. Grace, and the epic falls from it, or notoriety and the reach for redemption. I love the tales of flawed, complex characters, layered stories, and rich, new worlds that I can wander through. So it wasn't a stretch to want to share stories of my own with other people, hoping they loved the escape as much as I do.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Mark:  I suppose I tend to be a little obsessive compulsive, so I become oblivious to what's going on outside the story: like eating, drinking, or the front door bell ringing. I also tend to find I only ever write to music, tending towards favourite sound tracks.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mark:  Definitely a plotter!

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Mark:  There are a few. I don't pretend it's an easy thing. Being able to run my consulting business, spend time with the people I love, as well as finding the time to write, means there are sacrifices that come along with it. But you have to go into this with your eyes open, and be realistic about the time it takes, as well as what the impacts are not only on yourself, but others. Thankfully I've some very understanding, tremendously generous and caring people in my life. The other thing I find challenging is to write what I want to write, rather than write what I think might be popular, or profitable. Writing is as much an art, as it is a business. Genre readers are a cluey bunch, and I think they know when a writer is being disingenuous. So the challenge is to write what you love. It's also an intensely personal thing, and somewhat challenging, to put yourself in the public domain.

TQ:   Describe The Garden of Stones (Echoes of Empire 1) in 140 characters or less.

Mark:  Hahaha. I've never Tweeted anything! Here we go: Action, magic & adventure. Love, revenge, betrayal & murder. People of action, ambition, intelligence, & conscience. Garden of Stones. Buy it!

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Garden of Stones?

Mark:  I wasn't seeing a lot of what I liked to read, so decided to write it myself. Readers tastes are varied, and 'Garden' won't be for everybody, but I wanted to create a rich, new world with characters that were believable, flawed, yet ultimately aware of who they are, and what they were doing.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Garden of Stones?

Mark:  Am I a bad person to say, not a lot? I did some research into languages, as well as various socio-economic and political systems.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Mark:  Indris was the easiest to write because he's an honest man who cares about people, and has realistic motivations that we can all relate to: duty, love, guilt, etc. And as a Sēq Scholar, he's part adventurer, part archaeologist, part inventor, part warrior, and part magi: so weaving those elements together gave me somebody who was smart, who could take care of himself, and tries to do the right thing for the people he cares for. The most difficult, though no less fun for it, was Omen. He's a man out of his time, becoming more disconnected from life, and a little insane because of it. So giving the character, in the position he was in, rational motivations and interractions was sometimes hard.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Garden of Stones?

Mark:  I have a few favourites, for different reasons. Generally, I like the chapters where the three point of view characters finally accept what it is they have to do, are aware of the consequences (both good and bad), and decide to proceed regardless. Of those, the scene where Corajidin and Mari are discussing what the next few hours will mean for their Great House, and their possible futures, was the most fun to write. There's something about the inevitability of helping your family that can be quite tragic when there's doubt across the board.

TQ:  What's next?

Mark:  'Garden of Stones' is part of a deal with 47North for 'The Echoes of Empire' trilogy. I've written and we've done the copy edits for the second volume, 'The Obsidian Heart', and I'm currently writing the third volume, 'The Pillars of Sand'. I've seen the concept art for the cover of 'Obsidian' and am once more humbled, and awed, by Stephan Martiniere's talent. Seeing the final art is something I'm looking forward to. There is also the audiobook work for 'Obsidian', which should land on my desk soon. 'The Obsidian Heart' is scheduled for October 2013, and 'The Pillars of Sand' for May 2014.

With regards to other projects, I've more stories to tell with some of these characters--and this world--so we'll see whether readers are also interested, and go from there. Best scenario for me is that 'Garden of Stones' is a success, and that people enjoy 'The Echoes of Empire' enough that I can write Indris's much larger story. If not, there are some stand alone novels, as well as another idea for a trilogy I'd quite happily explore. Seeing 'The Echoes of Empire' done as a graphic novel, or adapted for television, would be amazing. There are no plans for either at present, but a man can dream.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Mark:  It was my pleasure, Sally. Thanks again for asking me. I hope that you and your readers enjoy 'The Garden of Stones', as much as I enjoyed writing it.

About The Garden of Stones

The Garden of Stones
Echoes of Empire 1
47North, May 21, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 506 pages

Interview with Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - May 22, 2013
An uneasy peace has existed since the fall of the Awakened Empire centuries ago. Now the hybrid Avān share the land with the people they once conquered: the star-born humans; the spectral, undead Nomads; and what remains of the Elemental Masters.

With the Empress-in-Shadows an estranged ghost, it is the ancient dynasties of the Great Houses and the Hundred Families that rule. But now civil war threatens to draw all of Shrīan into a vicious struggle sparked by one man’s lust for power, and his drive to cheat death.

Visions have foretold that Corajidin, dying ruler of House Erebus, will not only survive, but rise to rule his people. The wily nobleman seeks to make his destiny certain—by plundering the ruins of his civilization’s past for the arcane science needed to ensure his survival, and by mercilessly eliminating his rivals. But mercenary warrior-mage Indris, scion of the rival House Näsarat, stands most powerfully in the usurper’s bloody path. For it is Indris who reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing man, the only one able to steer the teetering nation towards peace.

About Mark

Interview with Mark T. Barnes, author of The Garden of Stones - May 22, 2013
Mark Barnes was born in September, 1966 in Sydney, Australia. Raised and educated in Sydney, he was a champion swimmer who also played water-polo, soccer, cricket and volleyball. Drawn to the arts at a young age he wrote his first short story at age 7 though was active in drawing, painting, and music as well.

His career stuttered in finance, slid into advertising then leaped into Information Technology where he continues to manage a freelance Organizational Change consultancy. It was not until January 2005, when Mark was selected to attend the Clarion South residential short story workshop, he began to write with a view to making it more than a hobby. Since Clarion South 2005 Mark has published a small number of short stories, worked as a freelance script editor and done creative consultancy for a television series.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter 

Interview with E.B. Hudspeth, author of The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black - May 21, 2013

Please welcome E.B. Hudspeth to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.  The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black is published today.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

E.B. Hudspeth:  Thank you for having me.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

E.B. Hudspeth:  I started writing in my late teens. I enjoyed telling a story, it was a different kind of communication than art, both were important to me. I also liked how inexpensive writing was, there were many months or years when I couldn’t afford to paint or sculpt so I would write instead.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

E.B. Hudspeth:  I don’t know if other writers do this or not, but I can listen to the same few songs hundreds of times in a loop. It’s like it moderates a specific mood so regardless of what is going on in my real life, when I sit down to write, the song helps me pick up where I left off. Selecting the right music can take some time though.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

E.B. Hudspeth:  I am a pantser. I try to use an outline, I appreciate the structure and the planning and I would love to be able to outline an entire story, but I never stick to it. I change too many things as I move through the story, which is good, but I end up at dead ends or I get stuck. With an outline, I feel like I miss out on some nice creative directions the story might have taken. For me, I don’t know the characters very well until I write them, so I try to stay flexible.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

E.B. Hudspeth:  Other than writing itself, it’s probably sticking to the project. I drift in and out of multiple projects which doesn’t do any good; it only frustrates me.

TQ:  Describe The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black in 140 characters or less.

E.B. Hudspeth:  A Victorian era scientist believes that humankind evolved from mythological animals in a macabre story with 100 detailed anatomy drawings.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Resurrectionist?

E.B. Hudspeth:  The art inspired the story. It started out as an anatomy project regarding the anatomy of an angel. I wanted to try and justify the musculature for the wings. I liked the results so much I drew more. Eventually the story grew out of it. I knew it was going to be a nineteenth century doctor because of the hand-drawn anatomy diagrams. I knew I wanted it to be creepy and I knew I wanted it to be brief and to feel like we just don’t have all the pieces. I think the rest of the story came together from researching what medical practice looked like at that time; there’s a lot to build on.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Resurrectionist?

E.B. Hudspeth:  I read the books that I thought were similar like Frankenstein and The Island of Dr. Moreau. I didn’t want to mistakenly go down the same roads. I tried to give as much legitimacy to the time period as I could. I read a lot of medical works from well known doctors at the time: Osler, Halsted, and Cushing are good examples. I read about mythology, taxonomy, circuses, freaks shows, teratology, anatomy, biology and so on. I have a fun collection of books now for Halloween.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

E.B. Hudspeth:  Dr. Holace was the easiest, he became a bit of a jerk with no accountability. Sadly, that was easy to write. Dr. Black was the hardest. I enjoyed him a lot and I looked forward to the challenge but trying to write within a time period and very high level of education (a brilliant surgeon) was difficult.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Resurrectionist?

E.B. Hudspeth:  One of my favorite scenes is during a debate when Dr. Black hurls a glass through a window, attempting to illustrate that God does not intend for man to fly, but man alone intends it.

TQ:  What's next?

E.B. Hudspeth:  I am working on the second book. There will be a lot of artwork but it’s going to be different. I hope to add a new flavor to the story and go further into the world of the Black family.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

About The Resurrectionist

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black
Quirk Books, May 21, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 208 pages

Philadelphia. The late 1870s. A city of cobblestone sidewalks and horse-drawn carriages. Home to the famous anatomist and surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a “resurrectionist” (aka grave robber), Dr. Black studied at Philadelphia’s esteemed Academy of Medicine, where he develops an unconventional hypothesis: What if the world’s most celebrated mythological beasts—mermaids, minotaurs, and satyrs—were in fact the evolutionary ancestors of humankind?

The Resurrectionist offers two extraordinary books in one. The first is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, from his humble beginnings to the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life. The second book is Black’s magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia, a Gray’s Anatomy for mythological beasts—dragons, centaurs, Pegasus, Cerberus—all rendered in meticulously detailed black-and-white anatomical illustrations. You need only look at these images to realize they are the work of a madman. The Resurrectionist tells his story.

About E.B. Hudspeth

E. B. HUDSPETH is an artist and author living in New Jersey. The Resurrectionist is his first book.

Website  ~  Facebook

Interview with Michael Logan, author of Apocalypse Cow - May 20, 2013

Please welcome Michael Logan to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Apocalypse Cow, Michael's debut, will be published tomorrow, May 21, 2013. You may read Michael's fantastic Guest Blog - On the Feasibility of Zombie Cows - here.

Interview with Michael Logan, author of Apocalypse Cow - May 20, 2013

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Michael:  Thank you for having me. It’s always a pleasure to be allowed to waffle about writing.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Michael:  I believe I wrote my first short story when I was nine. It was called My Push-Button World and essentially revolved around me being able to call up whatever I wanted, such as a full-size football field complete with 21 robotic players to accompany me, at the push of a button. My mum still has it on a wrinkled piece of A4 paper somewhere, and says it proves I must have been a lonely child. I’m pretty sure I had real friends as well, though.

Since then then I’ve always written, at varying degrees of intensity, to provide an outlet for my over-active imagination. With an underdeveloped brain-to-mouth filter, I have a tendency to blurt out whatever odd idea pops up in my head. Without writing this would be a lot worse, and I would draw a lot more odd looks than I already do.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Michael:  I’m not sure I have any quirks. I know that some writers have very set processes, such as only being able to write in their wife’s underwear, but I tend to be able to write anywhere at any time in whatever clothes I happen to be wearing. Then again, years of journalism have taught me to do most of my writing in my head, so I keep a voice recorder at hand to capture the ideas I have while in the car, the bath or in bed. Then, when I sit down at the computer, it’s usually ready to come out – at least at the early stages.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Michael:  I’m a bit of both. I always draw up an initial plot outline, usually on flip-chart paper, with timelines, character arcs, key scenes, etc. However, this changes as I go and I can never summon up enough energy to go back and modify. So, I will always start out with a plan but then let the story go where it has to go. I am a compulsive editor, though, and every story goes through countless drafts. I always want to change something, and even when I’ve hit ‘send’ I have to force myself not to go back and tinker some more.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  Two things: deciding which particular story to develop and finding the time. I currently have a list of 17 novels and as many short stories, all of which are clamouring for my attention. I have a dreadful habit of flip-flopping between several projects at once and it can take me a long time to settle on one. Even then, I always want to zip off to something else. I’ve had to teach myself to stick with a project once it’s started, even if I am bogged down and tempted to go to another project that is at an easier stage.

In terms of time, I have a full-time job, two young children, a wife I very much enjoy spending time with, a hectic social life, a serious reading habit, a sporadic addiction to exercise and love of playing and listening to music. When I am in a project, I will usually get up at the crack of dawn and get an hour in before work. Then I will snatch a quick lunch and do some more. When I can, I will grab an evening. The problem with this is that I often find I am have to stop writing when I want to keep going for hours, and it can be challenge to keep the flow with such fragmentation.

TQ:  Describe Apocalypse Cow in 140 characters or less.

Michael:  Social and political satire through the scandalously neglected medium of zombie cows.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Apocalypse Cow?

Michael:  Back in 2006, I was writing a lot of literary short fiction and trying to find the headspace to work on a very serious novel that had stalled. I decided I needed to do something that would be outright fun, for me at least, so I could look forward to writing after a long day at work. I had always loved zombies, and knew that I wanted to do something a little different. After a night of imbibing wine with some friends, we came up with a list of zombie angles that hadn’t been pursued. I did think of writing a book in which only pre-pubescent children were infected, forcing parents to kill their progeny, but that seemed just too horrific. Zombie animals, on the other hand, gave plenty of opportunity for silliness. I never actually expected it to be published, particularly since I started this way before the zombie craze got back into full swing.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Apocalypse Cow?

Michael:   It is set in my hometown of Glasgow, so locations weren’t a problem. I did, however, watch a lot of videos of abattoirs to really understand how it all works, read up on the UK’s planned responses to terror attacks and/or viral outbreaks, and researched how viruses works. My job as a journalist meant I’d had a lot of experience of chaotic situations, such as riots and refugee camps, so that helped a lot when it came to certain scenes.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Michael:  Geldof was probably the easiest, since I was also a ginger geek with a crush on my maths teacher as a teenager. I wouldn’t say any of them were particularly hard, but perhaps Terry was the most difficult as I gave him rather an odd hang-up, which I had to present without making it too obvious where it came from.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Apocalypse Cow?

Michael:  I am very fond of Geldof being stuck in the middle of the first interaction between Fanny, his vegan mother, and David, his meat-obsessed neighbour, in chapter two. There is also a scene that satirizes UK minister John Selwyn Gummer’s disgusting PR stunt in which he fed his daughter a burger on TV during the height of the BSE (Mad Cow Disease) crisis. Quite a few readers found this scene disturbing, as they should. I suspect the reference may pass many people by, as it happened in the UK over 20 years ago.

TQ:  What's next?

Michael:  My second novel, Wannabes, is now complete. It’s darker and more ambitious, and revolves around Heaven and Hell tussling for humanity’s soul through music. I am now writing the follow-up to Apocalypse Cow, entitled Cruel Britannia. I don’t want to say too much about it at the moment, but Geldof will definitely be making a return, as will another character from the first book that may surprise the reader.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michael:  You’re very welcome.

About Apocalypse Cow

Apocalypse Cow
St. Martin's Griffin, May 21, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
(US Debut)

Interview with Michael Logan, author of Apocalypse Cow - May 20, 2013

If you think you've seen it all -- WORLD WAR Z, THE WALKING DEAD-- you haven't seen anything like this. From the twisted brain of Michael Logan comes Apocalypse Cow, a story about three unlikely heroes who must save Britain . . . from a rampaging horde of ZOMBIE COWS!

Forget the cud. They want blood.

It began with a cow that just wouldn't die. It would become an epidemic that transformed Britain's livestock into sneezing, slavering, flesh-craving four-legged zombies.

And if that wasn't bad enough, the fate of the nation seems to rest on the shoulders of three unlikely heroes: an abattoir worker whose love life is non-existent thanks to the stench of death that clings to him, a teenage vegan with eczema and a weird crush on his maths teacher, and an inept journalist who wouldn't recognize a scoop if she tripped over one.

As the nation descends into chaos, can they pool their resources, unlock a cure, and save the world?

Three losers.
Overwhelming odds.
One outcome . . .

Yup, we're screwed.

About Michael

Interview with Michael Logan, author of Apocalypse Cow - May 20, 2013
Michael Logan is a Scottish journalist, whose career has taken him across the globe. He left Scotland in 2003 at the age of 32, has lived in Bosnia, Hungary, Switzerland and Kenya, and reported from many other countries. His experience of riots, refugee camps and other turbulent situations helps fuel his writing.

Apocalypse Cow is his first novel. His short fiction has appeared in literary journals and newspapers such as Chapman and The Telegraph, and his piece We Will Go On Ahead and Wait for You won Fish Publishing’s 2008 international One-Page Fiction Prize.

He currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya and is married with a young daughter and son.

Website  ~   Blog  ~  Twitter @MichaelLogan

Interview with Brian McClellan, author of Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage Trilogy 1) - May 16, 2013

Please welcome Brian McClellan to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.  Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage Trilogy 1) was published on April 16, , 2013.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.  When and why did you start writing?

Brian:  I entered a writing contest in the third grade. It was a two-page story about being kidnapped and escaping from my attacker. I ended up winning the class contest, but losing the grade-wide one.

In retrospect, that story may have freaked out my mother a little bit.

I didn't start writing as a real hobby until my mid-teens when I discovered internet forums and fanfiction and realized that lots of people were doing this kind of thing for fun.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Brian:  I'll sometimes play computer games while I'm writing. I'll play a turn-based strategy game or something else that can be easily stopped and I'll jump between writing and played over the course of the day. It helps me work my way through difficult scenes.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Brian:  A mix. I start a book with a very general outline and then plot my chapters as I go. I try to keep a detailed outline of the next four or five chapter from wherever I am in the book.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Brian:  Making myself sit down and do it. If a scene is not flowing well, or I'm not sure what happens next, I get all tripped up over myself and give up for a week at a time. This can result in a lot of hair-pulling frustration, but I've also gotten some of my best ideas by mulling on the plot for a while.

TQ:  Describe Promise of Blood (Powder Mage Trilogy 1) in 140 characters or less.

Brian:  Promise of Blood is an epic fantasy where a magical world has advanced into the Industrial Age. The people rise, kings fall, and nations clash.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Promise of Blood?

Brian:  Several things. I wanted something different, but I still wanted to write "epic fantasy." I had already decided that I wanted to create a magic system around gunpowder, and then I saw the show Sharpe with Sean Bean and I fell in love with the idea of a Napoleonic epic fantasy.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Promise of Blood?

Brian:  Books. Lots of books. I spent tons of time on Wikipedia. One of my good friends is a gun enthusiast and I talked to him a lot about flintlock rifles and the development of gunpowder. In fact, the Hrusch Rifle in the book is named after him.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Brian:  The easiest character to write was Olem. His dialogue flowed well, and he has a relaxed approach to life that's not unlike my own.

The hardest character was probably Mihali. I had to walk a bit of a line with him: I wanted him to be over-the-top, but not in a way that the reader would find off-putting. And, as the reader will discover, there are things about him that make him very... strange.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Promise of Blood?

Brian:  It's gotta be the climax. When [REDACTED] does that thing with the [REDACTED] and then [REDACTED] the [REDACTED], it was so much fun to write!

In all seriousness, though, Tamas gives a short speech near the beginning of the book where he talks about his intentions for the coup. It reveals a lot about him as a character and was a scene I had in mind from the very earliest iterations of the book.

TQ:  What's next?

Brian:  Well, book two of The Powder Mage Trilogy, The Crimson Campaign, is set to come out in February of 2014, followed by book three in September of the same year. Other than that I have a few projects I'm working on behind the scenes, but we'll see how quickly I can finish those.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Brian:  No problem! Thank you for having me on.

The Powder Mage Trilogy

Promise of Blood
The Powder Mage Trilogy 1
Orbit, April 16, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 560 pages

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It's a bloody business overthrowing a king...
Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

It's up to a few...
Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved...
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should...

The Crimson Campaign
The Powder Mage Trilogy 2
Orbit, February 18, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages

About Brian

Brian lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife, two dogs, a cat, and between 6,000 and 60,000 honey bees (depending on the time of year).

He began writing on Wheel of Time role playing websites at fifteen. Encouraged toward writing by his parents, he started working on short stories and novellas in his late teens. He went on to major in English with an emphasis on creative writing at Brigham Young University. It was here he met Brandon Sanderson, who encouraged Brian’s feeble attempts at plotting and characters more than he should have.

Brian continued to study writing not just as an art but as a business and was determined this would be his life-long career. He attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp in 2006. In 2008, he received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.

In November 2011, PROMISE OF BLOOD and two sequels sold at auction to Orbit Books. It is due out in April of 2013.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  The Powder Mage Trilogy FB Page

Interview with Emma Newman, author of The Split Worlds series - May 4, 2013

Please welcome Emma Newman to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Emma's adult debut, Between Two Thorns (The Split Worlds 1) was published in the US/Canada on February 26, 2013. (Yes, I realized very late this an adult debut!)  Any Other Name (The Split Worlds 2) will be published in the US/Canada on May 28, 2013 followed by All is Fair (The Split Worlds 3) in September.

Interview with Emma Newman, author of The Split Worlds series - May 4, 2013

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Emma:  Thank you, I'm delighted to be here!

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Emma:  When I was 4, according to my grandmother, although I don't remember it! I'd been beavering away at her kitchen table for a while and when she asked what I was doing, I said "Writing a story, Nana."

I do remember writing stories throughout my childhood and into my teens. I think there were a number of reasons, chief amongst them being a disappointment that real life didn't have anything fantastical in it and writing to escape a lot of family troubles and upheaval. Certainly in my teens, writing fiction was my primary form of escapism. Well, that and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Emma:  I don't think I could truly say any of my quirks are interesting. Right now, the only thing that comes to mind that could be considered a quirk is that every time I sit down to write something new I say out loud: "I give myself permission to write complete and utter crap." It helps me to combat fear and the dreaded internal censor.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Emma:  Both. I outline major story arcs – across each novel and across the series – and I outline character development and key decisions/actions as far as I can. Then I outline about five chapters or so – just single sentences, some details occasionally if it's a complex scene and then I write them. Once they are done – or earlier if the plan doesn't fit – I outline the next five. I can't plan any further ahead than that as the story evolves once I'm inside the scenes. Sometimes a decision seems realistic in planning, but when I'm there, really inside the character's heads, it just doesn't work. I like that though – I would be worried if it didn't happen, because it would be likely I was writing dull characters without their own internal consistency and motivations.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Emma:  Managing fear. Well, I find that the most challenging thing about life, really, and seeing as writing is my passion, my livelihood and what I want to do for the rest of my life, it only makes sense that it's the biggest challenge.

The fear makes it hard to start, hard to finish, hard to let others read it – the list is endless. It also makes it so hard to know if anything I'm writing is any good. I think that's a universal problem though; I've had many conversations with fellow writers along those lines.

TQ:  Describe Between Two Thorns in 140 characters or less.

Urban fantasy - and a dash of noir - with feuding dynastic families, supernatural patrons, mad sorcerers, evil faeries and nice cups of tea.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Between Two Thorns?

Emma:  It grew organically. It started with a flash I wrote about a shopkeeper, an unhappy customer and a faerie in a bell jar and that turned into a weekly flash serial before I realised that what I was actually doing was building a world for my next series of novels.

So I suppose it kind of crept up on me.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Between Two Thorns?

Emma:  I visited several of the locations in Bath and London and took photos (I'm a bit of nerd when it comes to real world locations in books) and I read a lot of material about Regency and Victorian England, Anglo-Saxon politics, key events in British history and a lot of fairy tales. I've also read a lot about chemical elements, but don't want to give too much away.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Emma:  Sam was the easiest as he's just an average bloke who falls down the rabbit hole, so to speak. He's a mundane computer programmer living in Bath with an unhappy marriage, so I didn't need to make huge leaps of imagination to figure out how he'd react to the weird things that happen around him.

I think the hardest character was Cathy. I wanted her to be angry but not petulant, selfish but sympathetically so and she brings in a lot of the feminist themes that I really wanted to get right. It's been interesting seeing how people have reacted to her – I'm happy to say that many, many more people love her than I worried would be the case!

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Between Two Thorns?

Emma:  That's really hard to answer without giving anything away! When Lord Poppy first talks to Cathy is one of my favourites because he is just so delightfully horrid.

TQ:  What's next?

Emma:  Well, the second Split Worlds novel "Any Other Name" comes out in June and I've just handed in the third novel "All Is Fair" to my editor at Angry Robot. That's due out in October, so it's a busy year.

I'm starting my own podcast, so that's what I'm working on next, and, of course, the next novel but I can't say anything about that yet!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Emma:  And thank you for having me!

The Split Worlds

Between Two Thorns
The Split Worlds 1
Angry Robot Books, February 26, 2013 (US/Canada)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
March 7, 2013 (UK)

Interview with Emma Newman, author of The Split Worlds series - May 4, 2013
Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.

The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer.

There is a witness but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the enemy can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.

But can she be trusted? And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she’s been born into?

File Under: Urban Fantasy[ Gargoyle Sidekick | Finder's Keepers | A Rose By Any Other Name | Manners ]

Any Other Name
The Split Worlds 2
Angry Robot Books, May 28, 2013 (US/Canada)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
June 6, 2013 (UK)

Interview with Emma Newman, author of The Split Worlds series - May 4, 2013
It’s been an interesting year…

Cat has been forced into an arranged marriage with William – a situation that comes with far more strings than even she could have anticipated, especially when she learns of his family’s intentions for them both.

Meanwhile, Max and the gargoyle investigate The Agency – a mysterious organisation that appears to play by its own rules – and none of them favourable to Society.

Over in Mundanus, Sam has discovered something very peculiar about his wife’s employer – something that could herald a change for everyone in both sides of the Split Worlds.

File Under: Fantasy [ How Grotesque | Taking Tea | Lords of Misrule | Sorcerous Magic ]

All is Fair
The Split Worlds 3
Angry Robot Books,  September 24, 2013 (US/Canada)
Trade Paperback and eBook
October 3, 2013 (UK)

[cover not yet revealed]
In love and war nothing is safe.

William Iris struggles to keep the throne of Londinium whilst hated by his own court and beset by outsiders, while Cathy discovers the legacy of her former governess. But those who dare to speak out about Society are always silenced. Sometimes for good.

While trying to avoid further torments from the mercurial fae, Sam finds himself getting tangled in the affairs of the Elemental Court. But an unexpected offer from the powerful and enigmatic Lord Iron turns out to be far more than Sam bargained for.

Max and the gargoyle are getting closer to uncovering who is behind the murder of the Bath Chapter and the corruption in London and Max finds the gargoyle's controversial ideas harder to ignore. Can he stay true to his sworn duty without being destroyed by his own master, whose insanity threatens to unravel them all?

File Under: Fantasy [ Grotesquerie | The Throne of London | Elementary, My Dear | Among Many Thorns ]

About Emma

Interview with Emma Newman, author of The Split Worlds series - May 4, 2013
Emma lives in Somerset, England and drinks far too much tea. She writes dark short stories, post-apocalyptic and urban fantasy novels and records audiobooks in all genres. The first book of Emma's new Split Worlds urban fantasy series called "Between Two Thorns" was recently published by Angry Robot Books. She is represented by Jennifer Udden at DMLA. Her hobbies include dressmaking and playing RPGs. She blogs at, rarely gets enough sleep and refuses to eat mushrooms. You can sign up for a year and a day of free weekly stories set in the Split Worlds at

Website  ~  Split Worlds  ~  Twitter @EmApocalyptic

Interview with Bee Ridgway, author of The River of No Return - April 24, 2013

Please welcome Bee Ridgway to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.  The River of No Return was published on April 23, 2013.  You may read Bee's moving Guest Blog here.

Interview with Bee Ridgway, author of The River of No Return - April 24, 2013

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Bee:  Thank you. I’m very happy to be here.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Bee:  When I was six or seven my mother went back to school to get an MFA in creative writing. She cleared a bit of the basement and she sat down there banging away on an electric typewriter. After she got her degree she started teaching creative writing workshops in my hometown, and I often sat in on them, all the way up through high school. She is a brilliant teacher, and I owe a huge amount to her and to her courage in pursuing her art. I stopped writing fiction after college, though, and didn’t start again until a week before my 40th birthday, when I sat down and began writing THE RIVER OF NO RETURN. I thought a lot about my mother and that old electric typewriter as I worked hour after hour on my nearly silent laptop. She dedicated herself to writing when she was in her early forties . . . maybe I just needed to live a big chunk of my life before I knew what I wanted to write.

TQ:   What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Bee:  If I don’t start writing by 10 am I won’t write all day. But if I do start by 10 am I can write all day and into the night.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Bee:  I am totally and completely a pantser! Every day I make myself write until I don’t know what happens next. So in other words I write until I reach some sort of emotional or action-based cliff-hanger. Then I go to sleep and usually when I wake up I know how to continue. It’s not that I know what happens next, exactly, but I know what the next move needs to be.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Bee:  Staying healthy while I’m in it. While I was writing my novel my health regime went to pot. I didn’t exercise, I ate too much, I skipped haircuts . . . it was intense! I turned down invitations from friends and stopped reading, going to movies, going for walks. Since only two people in my entire life knew what I was doing, everyone else thought I had fallen into some sort of pit of despair. In fact I was having more fun than I ever thought humanly possible. I’m trying to balance things out more as I work on the next novel.

TQ:  Describe The River of No Return in 140 characters or less.

Bee:  A Georgian lord jumps in time & thinks he’s stuck, but “The Guild” helps him return. True love, swashbuckling & hints of apocalypse ensue.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The River of No Return?

Bee:  There are several answers to this question, since I wrote the first scene seven years before the rest of the novel came spilling out, and it sat buried deep in my computer’s hard drive, slowly building pressure. But what caused me to sit down a week before my 40th birthday and start writing a novel that then came out in a rush, like water bursting a dam? I think the answer is that I was unhappy and I didn’t even know it. I love my job, my city, my family. But I had lost the sense that I was living my life creatively. Actually, to be honest, I had lost that sense years ago, but I didn’t know it was gone and so I didn’t know to miss it. But some part of me must have known, and must have pushed me into the deep-end of writing. I describe it that way because the decision to write was not a conscious decision at all, but more like an irresistible physical impulse. One day I was living my old life, and thinking that I was content, and the next day I found myself hunched over a laptop, crashing through a big, fun, fast-paced adventure novel. Before that first day (July 23, 2011) was over I knew that my life had changed.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The River of No Return?

Bee:  Since I am a scholar of 19th century literature, a lot of the history I engage was already familiar to me. And since I am a reader of genre fiction, the various genres I engage were also familiar to me. But my characters have to dress and move around in space and speak and eat and otherwise engage a detailed world of minutiae that wasn’t so familiar to me. I did a lot of research into the quotidian details of everyday life in Georgian Britain. But I also decided early on that, since this was a time travel novel, I needed to find a way to make my reader feel the uncanny nature of time. I decided to imbed dozens of little references to the literature I study and know so well throughout the book. My friend Kathy describes them as “Easter eggs” hidden throughout the text. But although some of them are very obvious, I would rather that most of them go by completely unnoticed, except perhaps to make the reader feel an almost unconscious pull backward through the prose itself. A sense that there are some little currents in the prose, whispering from other times and other voices than my own. In order to achieve that, I had to research, I had to return to texts I read long ago, and I had to work hard to make sure the seams between my voice and the voice I’m borrowing are almost invisible.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Bee:  Nick, my main male character, was the easiest. He was the one who turned up in my head seven years before the rest of the novel arrived, and he led the way through the story. He is a jovial companion, easy to get along with. His self-doubts never crippled my writing, and his insouciance helped me keep going when I was tired. The person who was difficult was Julia, my main female character. In the first draft she was – to be perfectly honest – an airhead. She really was almost obnoxiously dim. I revised every single sentence that she speaks, or that describes her, at least twice before she finally sprang up and joined the rest of the characters in complexity. For the final few revisions she was a delight to work with, just like Nick. But my early difficulties with Julia really surprised me. I am an intelligent woman, I teach at a women’s college, I teach literature by and about women. My sisters and my mother and my female friends are all perfectly brainy. In fact, it’s rare to meet a woman making her way through life, making choices and keeping body and soul together who isn’t at least reasonably sharp and interesting. I’m constantly meeting fascinating women in real life. And Nick is an intelligent character who wouldn’t want to shack up with a dim bulb. So why was Julia so stubbornly shallow at first?

I have a rather long answer to that question. Let me begin by reminding you, or perhaps informing you, of “The Bechdel Test.” The Bechdel Test is cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s guide for how to choose a film to watch, and the horrifying thing is, very few films pass the test. Here are the criteria a film has to meet in order to pass the test: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.

The reason I bring this up is because many, many very good movies and very good books do not pass this test. Movies and books I love. And they don’t pass this test because even though the novel as we have inherited it from the 18th century is a form that is all about inventing the middle class woman and therefore the story of the middle class itself, you don’t need more than one or maybe two women in a novel for action to be instigated by her and to proceed on her behalf or in her name. The good woman, the bad woman, the woman in danger. Stuff happens to her or around her but really, all she has to do to start a story going is walk on and stand there with a sign around her neck that reads “Virgin” or “Whore” or “Mom” or “MILF” or “Dead Girl” or whatever. For many plots – good plots, plots we love -- a woman is absolutely necessary, but she doesn’t have to do very much. She is like the rising agent in a cake. Essential, but you shouldn’t taste her.

So I knew that about novels and women. I’d noticed it in many books and films, I’d laughed about the Bechdel Test, I’d read countless student papers that critique shallow female characters or get excited about complex ones. And yet, when I sat down to write a novel that moved among genres and that needed to be plot driven, I wrote a shallow woman to begin with. Making Julia have flavor, and more than that, have character that could and should and would move action, was hard. It was also very fun, and a real awakening for me about how genre works, how plot works, and how hard it is to do the thing we’re always critiquing other writers for not doing. I’m very happy with Julia now, and I’ll always be grateful to her for teaching me what she did.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The River of No Return?

Bee:  My favorite scene is one of the last I wrote. I’ll call it the paper airplane scene. You’ll know it when you reach it. I like it because it feels like my two main characters are simply at home in themselves. I’ve just told you how hard I had to work at making Julia herself. It was a pleasure to write this late-comer of a scene when she was really in place and fully fledged. It’s actually not a scene in which she does much! But I knew who she was and that was great.

TQ:  What's next?

Bee:  I’m hard at work on the sequel to THE RIVER OF NO RETURN. Its working title is BROTHERS AND SISTERS. It stays in the world I’ve created for the first novel, and like the first novel it is centered around a love story. This means that Julia and Nick become secondary characters, and a new pair of lovers move into the foreground. So far it’s just as much fun to write as the first novel, and since I learned so much from working on THE RIVER OF NO RETURN, some things about it are much easier.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Bee:  Thank you. It is such an honor to be invited.

About The River of No Return

The River of No Return
Dutton Adult (Penguin), April 23, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages

Interview with Bee Ridgway, author of The River of No Return - April 24, 2013
In Bee Ridgway’s wonderfully imaginative debut novel, a man and a woman travel through time in a quest to bring down a secret society that controls the past and, thus, the future.

“You are now a member of the Guild. There is no return.” Two hundred years after he was about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield, Nick Falcott, soldier and aristocrat, wakes up in a hospital bed in modern London. The Guild, an entity that controls time travel, showers him with life's advantages. But Nick yearns for home and for one brown-eyed girl, lost now down the centuries. Then the Guild asks him to break its own rule. It needs Nick to go back to 1815 to fight the Guild’s enemies and to find something called the Talisman.

In 1815, Julia Percy mourns the death of her beloved grandfather, an earl who could play with time. On his deathbed he whispers in her ear: “Pretend!” Pretend what? When Nick returns home as if from the dead, older than he should be and battle scarred, Julia begins to suspect that her very life depends upon the secrets Grandfather never told her. Soon enough Julia and Nick are caught up in an adventure that stretches up and down the river of time. As their knowledge of the Guild and their feelings for each other grow, the fate of the future itself is hanging in the balance.

About Bee

Interview with Bee Ridgway, author of The River of No Return - April 24, 2013
Bee Ridgway was born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts.  After various adventures in the US and the UK, she has finally come home to roost in Philadelphia.   She is an English professor at Bryn Mawr College.  THE RIVER OF NO RETURN is her first novel.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Facebook   ~  Twitter

Interview with Rhonda Riley, author of The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope - April 23, 2013

Please welcome Rhonda Riley to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope is out today. Happy Publication Day to Rhonda!

Interview with Rhonda Riley, author of The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope - April 23, 2013

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Rhonda:  Happy to be here! Thank you for inviting me to talk about my work.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Rhonda:  I started writing when I slammed into the wall of hormones that is adolescence. Writing was a way to dissemble that impact. I wrote lots of really awful abstract, angst-ridden poetry and filled a few journals. The act of writing clarified things for me and saved my psyche. I continued writing poetry through college and got a few poems published in small literary journals. Later, I switched to fiction and some excruciatingly flat short stories. Really, I still can’t get those stories off the floor. I took a hiatus and then, after two kids and a divorce, returned to fiction, abandoned the stories, and started Adam Hope.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Rhonda:  That’s an oddly tough question. Generally speaking, I am far too fond of dashes and semicolons. But that may be more of an annoying quirk than an interesting one. I’ve noticed that in the early drafts of things, I often have a character throw up. Usually, the throw-up scene gets edited out and I find a better way of conveying how upset a someone is, but it strikes me as peculiar since I never get nauseous when something awful happens and I’ve rarely seen it happen to others. In the initial drafts of Adam Hope the narrator, Evelyn, threw up when she first saw Adam or “A.” as she refers to him. That got toned down to a few unproductive retches. (His initial appearance isn’t gory, just very alarming for a solitary farm-girl narrator.) In the novel I am working on now, I finally have a good reason from someone to throw up in the first scene—the main character is pregnant.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Rhonda:  Pantser? Someone who flies by the seat of the pants? How is it that I missed that word until now? I think I am a mixture of the two approaches. Mostly, I start from some pivotal moment or central truth for a character and that, rather than a concern for plot, determines where I will go. I can’t imagine setting up a plot and sticking to it, nor can I imagine starting a novel without any idea of where it is going. I plot to give myself something to bounce against and, when necessary, to deviate from. I’m the kind of person who loves maps and cookbooks. But I hardly ever follow a recipe completely, and I don’t mind getting lost once in a while. The most interesting things can happen then. I guess that puts me closer to the pantser camp.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rhonda:  Without question, self-discipline. The world is infinitely interesting, I have trouble sitting still for long periods, and I’m almost incapable of forming habits, good or bad—except, of course, my habitual lack of self-discipline. To finish the first draft of this novel, I quit my job and took all the money I had in savings to buy myself a “sabbatical” year of writing, and I made all my friends promise to ask every time they saw me how my novel was going. I used my pride to leverage my lack of self-discipline. It worked, but it was unnerving and not a strategy I’d recommend. It’s a writing method fit only for the truly desperate. Another thing that challenges me is the very thing I love—good writing. Well-told stories are so wonderfully seductive! I can be overwhelmed by the effect of the craft while being unable to see its mechanisms. Not good if you’re trying to become a better writer. Trying to both be in the story and see the craft was like trying to make an anatomy lesson of my lover’s body. But about ten years ago that began to change for me—I actually felt like something shifted in my brain. There are far more times now when I can be deep in a good read and still be consciously aware of the beautiful tricks and talents of a writer. Now, if only my brain can also learn that self-discipline trick!

TQ:  Describe The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope in 140 characters or less.

Rhonda:  That was the most difficult part of writing query letters! My micro-pitch has been: The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Cold Mountain with a dusting of LSD. Of course, that summary works only if I’m speaking to someone familiar with both of those books. But I have noticed that ending any sentence with the words “dusting of LSD” gets most peoples’ attention, thus giving me the chance to give a more elaborate description: In 1944 on her family’s farm, Evelyn Roe rescues what she thinks is a badly burned soldier. But he is not a man, perhaps not even one of us. The stranger’s arrival changes everything, and Evelyn must learn to love what she cannot understand, explain or share.

The single word I most often use to describe the book: mystery. Not as genre but as subject.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope?

Rhonda:  Initially, I was trying to write a nonfiction account of my mother’s life. She was a good and generous story-teller (especially at night on the front porch surrounded by the odor of blooming ligustrum). She died when I was in college and left me with some crucial and unanswered questions about who she and, by extension, I was. After fits of pursuing those familial truths with no success (the dead are very difficult to bargain with), I turned to fiction. With the character of Adam Hope, I took a 180-degree turn from the truth or rather I decided to rely on fiction to tell the truth. But my relationship to my mother and the ways in which she remained a mystery to me was big factor in Adam Hope. Family secrets are very much a part of the book. There’s that moment in every relationship—lovers, spouses, parent/child, friends—when we turn to the person we have known and loved, maybe for years, and we think, “Who the hell are you?” The question can be a terrible shock or wondrous surprise. That question drove me to write this book. I also have to say that nature inspired me. I fell in love with Florida. The landscapes of North Carolina and northern Florida are central to the story and the character of Adam Hope. So the book is my tribute to my mother and to Mother Nature. People ask me where the supernatural/surreal elements in the novel came from and where I got the inspiration for Adam’s character. I’ve always been drawn to androgyny and the question of gender, so his talents in that area seemed obvious to me once I decided to depart from the “real.” The only aspect of Adam that I can trace back to an actual moment of inspiration is his voice. A friend told that she was awakened from a deep sleep one morning by a beautiful, inexplicable tone that swept through her, rising in pitch as it passed up her body. It left her euphoric for hours. She had no idea what had happened to her but her story stuck with me, and when I began to write Adam, I knew he would have a voice that could do that. Then someone introduced me to Tibetan singing bowls. I knew Adam had to have unusual vocal abilities. Voice is, of course, important to any writer. I’ve wondered in a more general way what inspired me write a character like Adam, I’d never been interested in writing supernatural or surreal characters before. But that is what I wrote, and that’s what many people are writing. Supernatural characters seem to be everywhere now. Mostly zombies, vampires and werewolves. Adam Hope is very different spin on that kind of character. His powers come from his voice and from the natural world. His focus is life, not death, and his story is definitely not one of thwarted sexuality. He is very sexual and sensual.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope?

Rhonda:  There was the obvious research about the times and places where novel it set. The book starts on a North Carolina farm outside a textile mill town near the end of WWII and ends in the college town of Gainesville, Florida in 2000. So I had to research that period and some farm practices. I read oral histories and newspapers from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The irony was that, while doing my fiction research I stumbled on some information about my family! My biggest research challenge was horses. I knew nothing about them and they became THE animal in the novel. I read about them and watched them, and then I wrote the best I could. I have a couple friends who’ve raised horses. They proofed the horse scenes to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself. I also interviewed an ER doctor when I decided to kill one of my characters in a bloody farm accident. That was a bit of macabre fun. But the most unusual research I did was on the genitalia of infant hermaphrodites. I’d given a cursory description of what Evelyn and Adam saw when their first child was born, but my agent wasn’t happy with my vague, wimpy description. So off I went to the University of Florida medical library. I didn’t dare to that research online! A lot of the photographs and illustrations I found were in older medical books, black and white photos of people of all ages with every degree of variation in gender physiology. The surrendered dignity of the people in those photos was disturbing and moving.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Rhonda:  By far, the narrator, Evelyn, was the easiest to write, I felt like I was channeling my mother’s voice and the voice of my Great- Aunt Lil. Once I got that voice, she wrote herself. Roy Hope was the most difficult to write. For the purposes of the book, he had to be a loser and a little despicable, but attractive enough for two intelligent women to desire him.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope?

Rhonda:  The scene when Evelyn finds A. is one of my favorites because that’s the first image I had. Long before I wrote the first chapter, I saw their hands touching in the mud. All I knew at that point was that they, somehow, were bringing each other into being. I’m also fond of the scene where Addie returns. Evelyn, at first refuses to believe who she is, and Addie must prove her identity. The underwater scene in Florida was fun to imagine, though it was a little difficult to describe Adam’s upside down stroll in the cave. Some of the lighter scenes were also fun to write: the doolywhacker scene when Evelyn tries to fool Addie about the size of the normal male “thing” and the LSD scene before Evelyn realizes what’s going on and everything is still whacky and beautiful.

TQ:  What's next?

Rhonda:  Currently, I’m working on a new unrelated novel about some good people who suffer the consequences of their innocence as well as their sin. Its focus will be a father-son relationship--a stretch of my imagination. But the Adam Hope story is still very much with me. The narrator of The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope takes her story pretty seriously. Of course, she had to; she’s the narrator and that’s how I wrote her. But my take is a little more playful, especially now that the novel is published. It’s very interesting to me to hear other people’s reaction to the story. I purposefully left a little ambiguity about his situation. At the end of the novel, he really could be anywhere. Or anyone. I’m hoping readers will post their sightings of Adam Hope, maybe photos or drawings of where and who he is now. Though I’m not pursuing his story, I LOVE the idea of others playing with it. Stories should be able to expand beyond their borders. Right now, I am more interested in the continuation of his daughters’ stories. At the novel’s close, the daughters are scattered around the world. His genes have gone global. For a sequel, I’m thinking: India, China and tigers. And lots of research on genetics.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Rhonda:  Thanks for inviting me. It’s been fun. I think it’s great that you dedicate your time to letting authors talk about their work!

TQ:  It's an absolute pleasure!

About The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope
Ecco (HarperCollins), April 23, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Rhonda Riley, author of The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope - April 23, 2013
In the waning months of World War II, young Evelyn Roe's life is transformed when she finds what she takes to be a badly burned soldier, all but completely buried in the heavy red-clay soil on her family's farm in North Carolina. When Evelyn rescues the stranger, it quickly becomes clear he is not a simple man. As innocent as a newborn, he recovers at an unnatural speed, and then begins to change—first into Evelyn's mirror image, and then into her complement, a man she comes to know as Adam.

Evelyn and Adam fall in love, sharing a connection that reaches to the essence of Evelyn's being. But the small town where they live is not ready to accept the likes of Adam, and his unusual origin becomes the secret at the center of their seemingly normal marriage.

Adam proves gifted with horses, and together he and Evelyn establish a horse-training business. They raise five daughters, each of whom possesses something of Adam's supernatural gifts. Then a tragic accident strikes the family, and Adam, in his grief, reveals his extraordinary character to the local community. Evelyn and Adam must flee to Florida with their daughters to avoid ostracism and prying doctors. Adrift in their new surroundings, they soon realize that the difference between Adam and other men is greater than they ever imagined.

Intensely moving and unforgettable, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope captures the beauty of the natural world, and explores the power of abiding love and otherness in all its guises. It illuminates the magic in ordinary life and makes us believe in the extraordinary. 

About Rhonda

Interview with Rhonda Riley, author of The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope - April 23, 2013
Photo by Isaac Oster

Rhonda Riley is a graduate of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Florida. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope is her first novel. She lives in Gainesville, FL.

Interview with Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni - April 22, 2013

Please welcome Helene Wecker to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Golem and the Jinni, Helene's debut, will be published on April 23, 2013. You may read Helene's Guest Blog - On Accidentally Writing a Historical Fantasy - here.

Interview with Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni - April 22, 2013

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Helene:  Thanks so much for having me here!

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Helene:  I started when I was pretty young. I don't know the "why" exactly, except that reading stories wasn't enough -- I wanted to tell them too. I kept up with it through high school and college, mostly bad imitations of whatever I was reading at the time. I remember a lot of Robert Heinlein and Emma Bull pastiches, and a few Doctor Who fanfics. It was awful stuff, and I kind of knew it, but it still felt vital to me. After college I got a "real job" and stopped writing fiction for a long time. It wasn't a good decision. Finally I had to admit that I was miserable and I hated my career, and I decided to take the leap back into writing. Not long after that I got laid off, and that gave me the push to consider getting my MFA.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Helene:  I do my best writing on the couch. Most of The Golem and the Jinni was written on our ratty old flower-print sofa, with my feet up on the cushions and a cat sitting on my legs. I have a very sturdy desk and a comfy ergonomic chair, but for some reason I keep gravitating back to the couch!

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Helene:  A bit of both, I think. I made a plot outline for The Golem and the Jinni, but it was pretty thin as far as outlines go, and I'd change it at the drop of a hat. It was really more a series of important scenes than an actual outline. Every time I hit a scene, I'd have to figure out how to get to the next one. It felt like wilderness orienteering.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Helene:  I think I'll always struggle with the sheer discipline that it takes to sit down at the desk (or couch!) every day, by myself, and start writing. I grouse about not having enough writing time, but put the keyboard in front of me and I'll immediately remember everything else I absolutely, positively have to get done right now.

TQ:  Describe The Golem and the Jinni in 140 characters or less.

Helene:  In 1899, a female golem and a male jinni arrive separately in NYC. Both struggle to hide their true natures. One night, they meet.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Golem and the Jinni?

Helene:  When I was in grad school, I started working on a series of linked short stories about my own Jewish family and my husband's Arab-America) family. A couple of the stories were okay, but the rest were terrible, frustratingly so. I was talking with a friend of mine about it, and she suggested I try a different approach. She knew that I was a total scifi/fantasy geek, and she challenged me to add a fantastical element, to take the stories out of the realm of straight-up realism. So instead of a Jewish woman and an Arab-American man, I decided to write about a golem and a jinni. I thought I was just taking a break and writing a fun little story, but then it became clear that I had a novel on my hands.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Golem and the Jinni?

Helene:  At first I spent a lot of time in the Columbia University library, photocopying all the archive materials that I could find. I had a lot of learning to do, especially about Little Syria -- I knew next to nothing about the neighborhood going in. I found a few scholarly studies, which helped immensely. Then we moved to California, and I started using Internet resources more and more. The New York Public Library online archives in particular were a huge help, especially for their photo archives. The Tenement Museum website was another source that I went back to over and over again.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Helene:  I think Saleh might have been the easiest character to write. He's only got one real conflict in his life: his desire to live as alone as possible versus his doctor's instinct to help others. He's not a very complicated guy! The Golem was definitely the hardest. She can hear the fears and desires of others, and if she's not careful they influence her actions -- so I always had to take into account whatever might be floating through the atmosphere around her.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Golem and the Jinni?

Helene:  The Jinni has a very memorable night out in the first half of the book, and that was a lot of fun to write. (A few of my readers have told me that it's one of their favorite scenes as well.) Towards the end of the book, there's an important scene involving a fireplace. I'd been imagining that scene for years, so it was very satisfying to finally write it!

TQ:  What's next?

Helene:  To be honest, I'm not quite certain. I've got a lot of story ideas waiting in a file on my computer. I need to open it and take a look, and see which ones are still interesting to me. I'm sure some of them will sound like total nonsense!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Helene:  It was a pleasure!

About The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni
Harper, April 23, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 496 pages

Interview with Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni - April 22, 2013
In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker's debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

About Helene

Interview with Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni - April 22, 2013
Helene Wecker grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, and received her Bachelor's in English from Carleton College in Minnesota. After college, she worked a number of disheartening Marketing and Communications jobs before returning to her first love, fiction writing. In 2007 she received her Master's in Fiction from Columbia University. After a dozen years spent bouncing between both coasts and the Midwest, she's finally putting down roots near San Francisco, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Her first novel, THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI, will be published in late April 2013 by HarperCollins.

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