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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Carol J. Perry - September 5, 2014

Please welcome Carol J. Perry to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Caught Dead Handed, the first Witch City Mystery, was published on September 2, 2014 by Kensington. This is Carol's adult debut.

Interview with Carol J. Perry - September 5, 2014

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

Carol:  I probably started writing fiction when I was in the first grade! But my first published effort was my middle grade novel “Sandcastle Summer” in 1988. I’d been a non-fiction writer for a long time, writing articles for magazines and newspapers, when I met a writer who’d written a book for youngsters and I thought-- “I could do that!” At the time I was researching an article for Southern Travel magazine about the world’s tallest sandcastle which was being built near my home in Florida. That became the background for the book. It was followed by several other novels for young people, as well as a couple of biographies.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Carol:  I always begin as a plotter—that is, I know what the beginning, middle and end should be. . .but a pantser as far as filling in the details.

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

Carol:  The most challenging thing for me is time management. My books for this series are all about 90,000 to 100,000 words. I have six months to produce a finished book, so I try to set a reasonable word count for every day, allowing time at the end for the editing process.

TQ:  How different is it writing adult fiction versus YA fiction?

Carol:  There’s not too much difference in writing adult vs. YA for me. I like both genres.

TQ:  Describe Caught Dead Handed (A Witch City Mystery 1) in 140 characters or less.

Carol:  Lee Barrett faces a deep disappointment – a dilemma – a drowning – a decision – a drama – a delightful date – a devilish development – a dreadful death – a disaster – a deception – and finally – a dynamite discovery!

TQ:  Tell us something about Caught Dead Handed that is not in the book description.

Carol:  I named the character River North after the North River which flows through Salem. That’s something probably nobody except people from Salem, and readers of The Qwillery will know!

TQ:  What inspired you to write Caught Dead Handed? Why did you set the novel in Salem, Massachusetts?

Carol:  Salem Massachusetts, known world wide as “the witch city,” is my birthplace and a city I know well. It’s a never-ending source of story ideas. . . witches, ghosts, old buildings, a famous seaport, twisty narrow streets, hiding places, historical events. . .Salem has it all!

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Caught Dead Handed?

Carol:  I researched Tarot cards, crystals, scryers, the Salem witch trials, TV studios, camera operation, psychic terms and vocabulary. I also used maps and Google Earth a lot to be sure I had streets correctly plotted. I went to Salem and photographed landmarks and restaurants and a hotel to be sure my descriptions were accurate.

TQ:  In Caught Dead Handed, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Carol:  The easiest character to write was probably Lee, since the story is told from her point of view, so I had to be in her head all the time. The hardest one to write was George because he is so complex. Of course it was wonderful fun to write about O’Ryan the cat, who’ll be an important character in all of the books in this series. Aunt Ibby is fun too because she’s a combination of my favorite aunt and my dear ex-mother-in-law.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite lines from Caught Dead Handed.

Carol:  Here’s one I like. Page 158:

“We’d made the turn onto Winter Street, and even that familiar stretch of road, with its mellow brick sidewalks, fine old homes and sturdy trees, had somehow been turned into a scary, alien place. Leafless branches clawed at a starless sky and long, wavering shadows stretched from between darkened buildings.”

TQ:  What's next?

Carol:  Next in the Witch City Mystery series is “Tails, You Lose” It’s due out in April of 2015. Lee, O’Ryan and Aunt Ibby, along with Lee’s hunky boy friend Pete Mondello, face some more adventures as Lee takes a job in haunted school.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Caught Dead Handed
A Witch City Mystery 1
Kensington, September 2, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages
(Adult Debut)

Interview with Carol J. Perry - September 5, 2014
She's not a psychic--she just plays one on TV.

Most folks associate the city of Salem, Massachusetts with witches, but for Lee Barrett, it's home. This October she's returned to her hometown--where her beloved Aunt Ibby still lives--to interview for a job as a reporter at WICH-TV. But the only opening is for a call-in psychic to host the late night horror movies. It seems the previous host, Ariel Constellation, never saw her own murder coming.

Lee reluctantly takes the job, but when she starts seeing real events in the obsidian ball she's using as a prop, she wonders if she might really have psychic abilities. To make things even spookier, it's starting to look like Ariel may have been an actual practicing witch--especially when O'Ryan, the cat Lee and Aunt Ibby inherited from her, exhibits some strange powers of his own. With Halloween fast approaching, Lee must focus on unmasking a killer--or her career as a psychic may be very short lived. . .

A peak at Tails, You Lose (Witch City Mystery 2) coming 2015:

Tails, You Lose
A Witch City Mystery 2
Kensington, March 31, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Carol J. Perry - September 5, 2014
Her instincts may be killer--but can she catch one this wicked?

After losing her job as a TV psychic, Lee Barrett has decided to volunteer her talents as an instructor at the Tabitha Trumbull Academy of the Arts--known as "The Tabby"--in her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. But when the school's handyman turns up dead under seemingly inexplicable circumstances on Christmas night, Lee's clairvoyant capabilities begin bubbling to the surface once again.

The Tabby is housed in the long-vacant Trumbull's Department Store. As Lee and her intrepid students begin work on a documentary charting the store's history, they unravel a century of family secrets, deathbed whispers--and a mysterious labyrinth of tunnels hidden right below the streets of Salem. Even the witches in town are spooked, and when Lee begins seeing visions in the large black patent leather pump in her classroom, she's certain something evil is afoot. But ghosts in the store's attic are the least of her worries with a killer on the loose. . .

About Carol

Interview with Carol J. Perry - September 5, 2014
Carol J. Perry knew as a child that she wanted to be a writer. A voracious reader, whose list for Santa consisted mostly of book titles, she never lost sight of that goal. While living in Florida, Carol was on assignment for Southern Travel Magazine, preparing an article on the world’s largest sand castle which was being built near her home. That combination of events inspired her first young adult novel, Sand Castle Summer. That book was soon followed by half a dozen more.

Carol has always been an avid reader of mysteries. Her debut mystery novel is set in Salem and involves O’Ryan, a most mysterious cat, several witches and some strange Halloween happenings. Appropriately enough, this Salem-born author celebrates her birthday on Halloween Eve! Carol and her husband Dan live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida with two cats and a Black Lab.


Interview with Sylvia Izzo Hunter, author of The Midnight Queen - September 2, 2014

Please welcome Sylvia Izzo Hunter to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Midnight Queen is published on September 2, 2014 by Ace. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Sylvia a very Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Sylvia Izzo Hunter, author of The Midnight Queen - September 2, 2014

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

Sylvia:  Hi, and thank you! I'm delighted to be here :)

I don't really remember when I started writing; if you ask my mom, she'll tell you that I've been making up stories and inflicting them on people basically since I learned to talk, and at some point I started writing them down. Creative writing assignments were always my favourite thing. I also started writing fanfiction long before I had ever heard the term "fanfiction". For instance, I may be the only person ever to have written All of a Kind Family fic -- at least, I'm the only one I know -- but I spent almost the whole of Grade 6 doing that, in a very big stack of exercise books. Pro tip for teachers: do not assign your students to write a novel unless you are REALLY SURE that's what you want!

I started writing this particular book because of a conversation that I started overhearing in my head (don't look at me like that; it happens!) between two people in a garden. Which, not coincidentally, is one of the places where THE MIDNIGHT QUEEN does in fact start.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sylvia:  Um … let's say I'm trying to become more of a plotter and leave it at that, okay?

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

Sylvia:  Plot! Hands down, it's plot. (Well, that and carving out time to write in the first place.) That probably sounds weird, but: I'm good at the mechanics of writing (in my day job, I'm an editor), I enjoy worldbuilding, and I only occasionally struggle to work out what a character is about. I'm always coming up with interesting premises and really cool first lines. But then what? What are these characters I like so much going to do? Where in this really cool setting I just thought up is there going to be a story? One of the hardest writing tasks for me is doing a synopsis, because synopses are completely made of plot.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Sylvia:  In terms of the language and the setting, this book in particular owes quite a lot to Jane Austen, who is in fact one of my favourite authors, and in some of the characters there are echoes of my favourite Austen novel, Persuasion. I won't pretend that my book is as clever as any of hers, though.

My favourite authors are those I can re-read. I almost hesitate to start making a list because we could be here a long time … but here goes. In no particular order, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jo Walton, Kate Elliott, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Sarah Rees Brennan, Violette Malan, Naomi Kritzer, T.H. White, Marie Brennan, Georgette Heyer, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Rutu Modan, Gabrielle Roy, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, André Norton, Holly Black, Goscinny & Uderzo, Madeleine L'Engle ...

Yeah, I'm just going to stop now.

TQ:  Describe The Midnight Queen in 140 characters or less.

Sylvia:  Magic, mystery, mayhem, and marriages, set in a Europe where Christianity never really took off.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Midnight Queen that is not in the book description.

Sylvia:  There is a lot of music in this book, and it's not just for decoration. All the songs in it are real ones (or are based on real ones).

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Midnight Queen? What attracted you to Regency England for a setting?

Sylvia:  Well, as I mentioned earlier, one day I overheard these two characters having a conversation in my head. One of them was a university student, and for some reason he was working in the garden. The other was the daughter of some important person whom the student was, for whatever reason, worried about. I didn't know much about them to begin with, but I did know their names! At first I thought the setting was sort of Edwardian, but the more I wrote about these characters the clearer it became that they belonged in an earlier, more mannered and agrarian age -- or, at least, to a world without steamships and a comprehensive rail network. And of course, as generally happens to me, their world turned out to have magic in it.

So the worldbuilding does owe a lot to Regency England, but there are some pretty crucial differences -- the first and most obvious of which are, of course, the very different borders of the Kingdom of Britain (which includes what in our world are bits of France, but does not include Scotland) and the fact that this kingdom has a king, not a Prince Regent. The absence of Christianity as a load-bearing wall in the edifice of society is also a crucial difference: some of the things we take for granted are shifted around a bit, or approached from a different angle, because of that change.

I'm not sure how to answer the question "Why the Regency-ish setting?" except to say that these characters wanted their story told in that kind of voice, and as soon as I worked that out, the writing got easier. I expect that makes me sound a bit unhinged, but it's the best I can do!

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

Sylvia:  To keep the voice/style on track, I did a sort of continuous-loop Austen re-read for quite a while, and also spent some quality time with the OED Online. I read books about social customs and etiquette (and food and clothing and crockery) in Regency England, and did a lot of research online. I researched Roman wedding customs, Roman and Celtic gods and goddesses, Greco-Roman temple architecture, contredanses, and the history and micro-geography of Oxford colleges (particularly Balliol, which is in many ways the model for Merlin College). I drew lines on Google Maps, researched types of carriages and who used them, and pestered horse-loving friends for equine and equestrian information. I acquired an English-Breton phrasebook, a book on classically influenced interior decorating in Regency England, a Welsh phrasebook, and a great big Latin vocabulary file (and I threw myself on the mercy of some friends who have actually formally studied Latin, who helped me avoid some fairly embarrassing faux pas). Also, I once proofread a book on the topic of ceramics and society in the Regency period, and the author generously gave me a comp copy, which I used quite a bit for visual references.

And then I mixed it all together, stirred briskly, and made a bunch of stuff up.

TQ:  In The Midnight Queen, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Sylvia:  I found both Sophie and Gray very easy to write, but perhaps easiest of all was Joanna -- whom I originally intended to be a minor character who would provide a bit of comic relief in one chapter and a bit of drama in the next, then exit stage left to make way for the main plot, and who instead marched into the book, grabbed onto the plot with both hands, and refused to be shifted. Joanna might actually be my favourite character (but don't tell any of the others!). The only bit of her that gave me trouble was her name, which, as you'll have noticed if you know your etymologies, is completely inappropriate to a non-Biblically-influenced world, and which I tried and tried to change but couldn't. You will not be surprised to hear that Joanna is an extremely persistent person who really knows her own mind (and also where her towel is).

The character I had most trouble with is probably Sophie and Joanna's sister Amelia. Whereas many of the other characters had very strong personalities right up front, Amelia didn't -- but I didn't want to write her as stock footage of Every Young Woman in an Austen Novel Whom I Dislike. There's more to Amelia than may at first appear.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite lines from The Midnight Queen.

Sylvia:  When I thought about this, I realized that most of my favourite lines belong to Joanna. Here she is summarizing her father's approach to ethics and fair play:

"Father can scarcely manage not to cheat at chess, if he sees any possibility of losing; what might he do in a contest whose outcome truly mattered?"

TQ:  What's next?

Sylvia:  Well, right now I'm working on the sequel to The Midnight Queen -- it hasn't yet got a real title -- which continues the adventures of Sophie, Gray, Joanna, et al. a couple of years later. After that, book three!

On the back burner I've got a kind of quirky fantasy novel set in present-day Toronto, where I live, and one day I want to write the "Jewish colony in space" story that includes this line:

Even were we all wise, all women of understanding, it would still be our duty to tell the story of the departure from Earth. And the more one tells of the departure from Earth, the more is she to be praised.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sylvia:  And thank you for having me! :)

The Midnight Queen
A Noctis Magicae Novel 1
Ace, September 2, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Sylvia Izzo Hunter, author of The Midnight Queen - September 2, 2014
In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented—and highest born—sons of the Kingdom of Britain are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover…

Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.

Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…

About Sylvia

Interview with Sylvia Izzo Hunter, author of The Midnight Queen - September 2, 2014
Author Photo by Nicole Hilton
Sylvia Izzo Hunter was born in Calgary, Alberta, but now lives in Toronto with her husband, daughter, and their slightly out-of-control collections of books, comics, and DVDs.


Twitter @sylwritesthings

Interview with Angus Watson, author of Age of Iron - September 1, 2014

Please welcome Angus Watson to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Age of Iron will be published on September 2, 2014 by Orbit.

Interview with Angus Watson, author of Age of Iron - September 1, 2014

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

Angus:  At school, because they made me. Then, at boarding school I used to spend a lot of time composing hilarious and brilliantly written (I thought) letters to friends at other schools (this was way before email). The first time I wrote something big for pleasure was backpacking round India for three months when I was nineteen. I wrote a book full of observations on India, travelling, travellers and my life so far. That book was stolen from a train between Varanasi and Delhi on my second last day in India.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Angus:  I’m sort of a mix. I have a general overarching plot with an endpoint, but then I plot in chunks of maybe five chapters at a time as I go along. Then I don’t usually stick to that plot.

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

Angus:  Probably that there’s so much of it. I’m about halfway through writing book three of the series now and it seems that I’ve been sitting at my desk writing for about ten lifetimes.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Angus:  There are loads and they are varied, but since this is an American blog, I’ll give you my favourite Americans – Carl Hiaasen, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, Patrick De Witt, Stephen King and of course George R R Martin.

TQ:  Describe Age of Iron in 140 characters or less.

Angus:  Lazy ageing warrior, beautiful fierce archer and weird magical child unite to defend Britain from Caesar’s unstoppable dark legions

TQ:  Tell us something about Age of Iron that is not in the book description.

Angus:  The lazy ageing warrior has a very serious fight with a chimpanzee.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Age of Iron? What is the Iron Age? What attracted you to the Iron Age as a period setting?
Angus:  I wrote an article on Iron Age hillforts for a British newspaper. There are loads of these gigantic forts – ditches and ramparts dug around the flattened top of a hill - all over Britain. The Iron Age was a busy, massive, but totally unknown part of British history despite being relatively recent (it runs from roughly 2800 to 2000 years ago. The pyramids in Cairo are 4500 years old). Walking on a hillfort with an expert called Peter Woodward, I asked him if the British Iron Age was like Conan the Barbarian, full of muscle-bound warriors rescuing virgins from snake temples. He said that as far as we know, yes. I decided to write a novel set in the period there and then.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Age of Iron?

Angus:  Because the ancient Brits didn’t write, we know very little about the Iron Age and there are just a few books on it. I read all of them, and visited a load of hillforts. The next two books in the trilogy focus more on Rome and the Romans. There are tons of books written about that, so I was able to do a lot more book based research.

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

Angus:  Dug was probably easiest, because he’s a naturally lazy man in his early forties who finds himself living a busy life and looking after others. That’s not miles away from me. The hardest are probably all the minor characters, because each of them has to actually be a character with loves, hates, a back story etc, so it slows down the writing a lot to have to stop and work them out every time a new one pops up.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Age of Iron.

Angus:  ‘Dug fled’. Is my favourite line. Another one picked at random is: ‘Big badgers’ balls,’ said Dug. ‘I don’t like the look of this.’

TQ:  What's next?

Angus:  I’m finishing off the Age of Iron trilogy at the moment and should be done by February 2015. After that I’m thinking of sending some of the surviving characters to prehistoric north America, where there may be a war going on, possibly between humans and bigfoots. I’m not just saying this because you’re American, but I do love the States and would love an excuse to spend more time there. I already go there quite often with my wife to drive, hike, eat and take photos. We go less now we have baby, but he has already been to Las Vegas and hiking in the desert. He’ll be one next month.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Angus:  You’re welcome, thanks for asking me along!

Age of Iron
Iron Age Trilogy 1
Orbit, September 2, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 576 pages

Interview with Angus Watson, author of Age of Iron - September 1, 2014

Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary traveling south to join up with King Zadar's army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people.

First Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar's most fearsome warriors, who has vowed revenge on the king for her sister's execution.

Now Dug's on the wrong side of the thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­-- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one small child, and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that might get them all killed . . .

About Angus

Interview with Angus Watson, author of Age of Iron - September 1, 2014
Photo by Nicola Watson
ANGUS WATSON is an author and journalist living in London. He's written hundreds of features for many newspapers including the Times, Financial Times and the Telegraph, and the latter even sent him to look for Bigfoot. As a fan of both historical fiction and epic fantasy, Angus came up with the idea of writing a fantasy set in the Iron Age when exploring British hillforts for the Telegraph, and developed the story while walking Britain's ancient paths for further articles. You can find him on Twitter at @GusWatson or find his website at:

Website  ~  Twitter @GusWatson

Interview with Lauren Owen, author of The Quick - August 21, 2014

Please welcome Lauren Owen to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Quick was published on June 17, 2014 by Random House.

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

Lauren:  Thank you! I started writing when I was quite young, just for fun – I didn’t know that you could be a writer as a job, I just found it really enjoyable to come up with new ideas for characters and stories.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Lauren:  I love to plot, and I have a lot of fun writing elaborate plans before I start writing. I definitely like to have a journey mapped out before I begin. But once I do actually commence writing I usually deviate wildly, and have to rewrite my plans to match what I’ve written.

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

Lauren:  The most challenging thing is probably pushing through moments of doubt, the writing slumps. There are times when I feel like I’m getting nowhere – the best solution is to carry on writing, but that feels like the last thing I want to do. If I can’t bully myself into pushing on, I find the other thing that helps is spending a lot of time reading.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Lauren:  I am very influenced by the writing of the nineteenth century, which I loved growing up – many of my favorite authors are drawn from this period, including Charlotte Bronte, Wilkie Collins, and Oscar Wilde.

TQ:  Describe The Quick in 140 characters or less.

Lauren:  A gothic mystery set in late-Victorian London. A woman searches for her brother, who has vanished under sinister circumstances.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Quick that is not in the book description.

Lauren:  Two characters visit the premiere performance of Lady Windermere’s Fan in London, and Oscar Wilde makes a brief cameo appearance.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Quick? Why did you set the novel in Victorian London?

Lauren:  I find the Victorian period absolutely fascinating – particularly the later decades of the era, where a lot of the old certainties were beginning to crumble, and new ideas and inventions were emerge. The Quick is to a great extent a response to the gothic fiction of this era – books like Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and The Beetle, which brought the gothic genre to late-nineteenth-century London.

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

Lauren:  A lot of my research was done in the library – I was lucky enough to have access to the British Library some of the time, which was a wonderful opportunity to look up details on 19th century life. I also visited a couple of places in London which still have some similarities to their Victorian incarnations – the Natural History Museum, and Kensal Green graveyard.

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

Lauren:  Liza was one of the easiest characters to write, because in spite of her unusual circumstances she also has a number of typical child feelings – she wants to be important and brave, she wants approval, she’s frightened, she wants her mother.
Mould was one of the harder characters to write, simply because his narrative strand includes a lot of explication – I ended up having to cut a lot of superfluous detail.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Quick.

Lauren:  Two of my favourite lines from Chapter One, which I think illustrate the relationship between the siblings Charlotte and James, and one of the major themes of the book:

‘They would lie all night like that, snug as the pair of pistols that lived in the blue-lined case in Father’s study.’


‘The library was full of treasures.’

TQ:  What's next?

Lauren:  I’m currently working on a sequel to The Quick, which will continue the story into the next century.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Lauren:  Thank you!

The Quick
Random House, June 17, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 544 pages

For fans of Anne Rice, The Historian, and The Night Circus, an astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London

1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Alarmed, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine London that greets her, she uncovers a hidden, supernatural city populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of the exclusive, secretive Aegolius Club, whose predatory members include the most ambitious, and most bloodthirsty, men in England.

In her first novel, Lauren Owen has created a fantastical world that is both beguiling and terrifying. The Quick will establish her as one of fiction’s most dazzling talents.

About Lauren

LAUREN OWEN studied English Literature at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, before completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2009 Curtis Brown prize for the best fiction dissertation. The Quick is her first novel. She lives in northern England.

Interview with Patrick Swenson, author of The Ultra Thin Man - August 14, 2014

Please welcome Patrick Swenson to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.  The Ultra Thin Man was published on August 12, 2014 by Tor Books.

Interview with Patrick Swenson, author of The Ultra Thin Man - August 14, 2014

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

Patrick:  I appreciate being here on the site! Thank you.

If you don’t count “Mr. Mooney Goes to the Moon,” written when I was a nine-year-old, I started scribbling stories in notebooks in high school. But it wasn’t until a few years after college that I started sending stories out with any regularity.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Patrick:  I’m a total pantser. The Ultra Thin Man started with the title, an “ah-ha” moment, and two detectives who had to work the case. From then on, I told them to figure it out for me, and I just went along for the ride, finding out the mystery as the reader might. Naturally, I had to go back and tweak this and move that, to make everything fit together. Without any kind of deadline looming, I’ve approached book two the same way. I’m well into it, and I still don’t know exactly how it’ll end.

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

Patrick:  It really is that old excuse about finding the time to write consistently. I’m a full time teacher, a newspaper adviser, the publisher, editor, art director, and everything else for my own small press, and a father to a son with some special needs. Once I’m in front of my story, butt in chair, the words usually flow well.

I wrote most of this novel at the high school where I teach in 30-45 minute increments every day. This schedule hasn’t solidified as much for book two. I find it’s difficult to write at home, so I often grab my tablet computer and hole out somewhere. I have my “writer crawl” days, when I might visit two or three different establishments, order a drink, a little bit of food, and sit and write in one spot until I feel like I’ve worn out my welcome, then slip out and find another place. Sometimes it’s a coffee shop like Starbucks (although I don’t drink coffee), sometimes a fast food restaurant, sometimes a quiet bar.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Patrick:  I was brought up with science fiction from an early age. I discovered Dune by Frank Herbert in junior high, and have never been the same since. I loved many of the Golden Age science fiction writers as well as fantasy writers, including Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Leguin, Robert Silverberg, Patricia McKillip, Samuel R. Delany, and J.R.R. Tolkien. I also love mystery, and my favorites there include Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke, and James W. Hall, as well as noir writers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Then I can point to more recent writers I love, including Robert Charles Wilson, Connie Willis, Nancy Kress, James Van Pelt, and so many others. One of my favorite writers is Steve Erickson, author of Tours of the Black Clock. (Not Steven Erikson the fantasy writer.) His work does have some SF/Fantasy sensibilities, but he’s a literary writer. Cormac McCarthy is another favorite, as is Jeanette Winterson.

TQ:  You are the publisher and proprietor of a small press specializing in speculative fiction. How does this influence your own writing?

Patrick:  I’ve learned a lot about writing by running the press. I also had a small press magazine, Talebones, that ran for fourteen years. Read a slush pile for any length of time, and before long you understand what makes a story work and what doesn’t. I’ve also met many influential people in the field that may have cultivated a wider audience for my writing. Running the press can be frustrating at times, particularly when I’m up against deadlines for books, and I have to take so much attention away from my own writing. Much juggling ensues.

TQ:  Describe The Ultra Thin Man in 140 characters or less.

Patrick:  Two detectives, standing in the way of a terrorist network intent on threatening the galaxy, discover a larger, more insidious conspiracy.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Ultra Thin Man that is not in the book description.

Patrick:  The aliens known as Helks have Four Clans. The First Clan Helks are the largest, and dwarf humans by quite a lot. They’ve got height and breadth over us, and they have sharp teeth. In the older days they didn’t mind chowing down on other intelligent species. There’s an uneasy coexistence between them and humans now, but the leader of the terrorist movement is one of these aliens, which doesn’t help matters much.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Ultra Thin Man? What appealed to you about writing a genre blending Science Fiction (near-future) Thriller? Do you want to write in any other genres or sub-genres?

Patrick:  As mentioned above, most of my genre reading included science fiction and mystery (and thrillers). The title obviously has a noir feel, a nod to Hammett’s The Thin Man, but from the start, the book was going to blend the two genres I had fallen in love with.

I’d like to try my luck writing a fantasy series, or at least a standalone. There’s a published short story I’d like to try expanding. Also, some dark fantasy. I have eight chapters of a ghost murder mystery set in the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest that I had to put aside so I could finish The Ultra Thin Man.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Ultra Thin Man?

Patrick:  The research I did centered on weather control technology, as well as the best way to crash a moon into its planet, and the implications of what would happen because of it. There are other important details I had to research, including information about x-rays, antimatter, nanomachines, and superaccelerators. Revealing anything more about all that would be spoilerish!

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite character in The Ultra Thin Man?

Patrick:  David Crowell, one of the two detectives, was easy for me, as he’s somewhat an extension of who I am. Not completely of course, but he has my voice, so to speak. Alan Brindos was the hardest because he had a difficult past, his motivations are hard to understand, and he goes through a lot in the novel (to say the least). In that respect, Brindos might be my favorite character. I’m also pretty enamored with Tem Forno, one of the Helks who has to work with Crowell when they are on the run and trying to figure out the mystery.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite lines from The Ultra Thin Man.


A see-through cube on the front edge of the desk contained a blue and gold fluidic mass that budded, twisted, and elongated through the nano-slurry inside that controlled it.

They could put a man on a ship to the stars but they still couldn’t make an umbrella that would last.

TQ:  What's next?

Patrick:  I’m 85,000 words into a sequel to The Ultra Thin Man called [insert super sekrit title here]. I’m guessing I’ll hit the ending around 100,000 words. After that, if the publishing gods are kind, there’s a third book in the series, but I won’t know what it’s about until I finish this one and figure out the new title.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Patrick:  Thanks for letting me be a part of it!

The Ultra Thin Man
Tor Books, August 12, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Patrick Swenson, author of The Ultra Thin Man - August 14, 2014
In the twenty-second century, a future in which mortaline wire controls the weather on the settled planets and entire refugee camps drowse in drug-induced slumber, no one—alive or dead, human or alien—is quite what they seem. When terrorists manage to crash Coral, the moon, into its home planet of Ribon, forcing evacuation, it’s up to Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos, contract detectives for the Network Intelligence Organization, to solve a case of interplanetary consequences. Crowell’ and Brindos’s investigation plunges them neck-deep into a conspiracy much more dangerous than anything they could have imagined.

The two detectives soon find themselves separated, chasing opposite leads: Brindos has to hunt down the massive Helkunn alien Terl Plenko, shadow leader of the terrorist Movement of Worlds. Crowell, meanwhile, runs into something far more sinister—an elaborate frame job that puts our heroes on the hook for treason.

In this novel from Patrick Swenson, Crowell and Brindos are forced to fight through the intrigue to discover the depths of an interstellar conspiracy. And to answer the all-important question: Who, and what, is the Ultra Thin Man?

About Patrick

Interview with Patrick Swenson, author of The Ultra Thin Man - August 14, 2014
© 2012 Bobbie Climer
Patrick Swenson’s first novel The Ultra Thin Man is forthcoming from  Tor in 2014. He edited the small press magazine Talebones magazine  for 14 years, and still runs Fairwood Press, a book line, which began in 2000. A graduate of Clarion West, he has sold stories to the anthology Like Water for Quarks, and magazines such as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, Figment, and others. He runs the Rainforest Writers Village retreat every spring at Lake Quinault, Washington. Patrick, a high school teacher for 28 years, has a Masters Degree in Education, teaches in Auburn, Washington, and lives in Bonney Lake, Washington with his twelve-year-old son Orion.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~   Twitter @patrick_swenson

Interview with Sarah Creech, author of Season of the Dragonflies - August 13, 2014

Please welcome Sarah Creech to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Season of the Dragonflies was published on August 12th by William Morrow.

Interview with Sarah Creech, author of Season of the Dragonflies - August 13, 2014

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

Sarah:  I began writing poetry in the fourth grade and started my first novel in the sixth grade. It was titled Lisa’s Halloween. My sixth grade teacher helped me type the chapters during her lunch break. Bless her! I started writing because my mother loved reading novels so much and I wanted to impress her and make her proud. Twenty+ years later, I managed to do it. Season of the Dragonflies is dedicated to her.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sarah:  Panster. Super intuitive writer. I have a sense of the scope but I don’t know the details of the plot until I write the first draft in full. Being a plotter seems much more productive.

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

Sarah:  Doubting my choices. But the best part of writing is the affirmation of said choices. Our strengths are often are weaknesses, right?

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Sarah:  Influences: Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Colette, Tolstoy, Henry James. Favorite contemporary authors: Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith, Haruki Murakami, Alice Hoffman.

TQ:  Describe Season of the Dragonflies in 140 characters or less.

Sarah:  It’s about a family-owned perfumery, passed down by generations of women, who manufacture a perfume that guarantees the success of any woman who wears it. But the company is in trouble.

TQSeason of the Dragonflies is describe by the publisher as "... a story of flowers, sisters, practical magic, old secrets, and new love..." What is "practical magic"?

Sarah:  This phrase calls to mind Alice Hoffman’s bestselling novel. Beyond that connection, I consider practical magic to be the kind of power that’s useful, like a perfume that will guarantee extreme success in a career. A potion to make your hair change colors? Not as much.

TQ:  Tell us something about Season of the Dragonflies that is not in the book description.

Sarah:  The book has a darker side than what the description suggests. The novel explores the consequences of decisions made out of greed, anger, and impulse.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Season of the Dragonflies? Why did you set the novel in the Blue Ridge Mountains?

Sarah:  I became obsessed with the work of Birute Galdikas and her work with orangutans in Borneo. Birute traveled alone to Borneo in the South China Sea to study the most elusive of the primates. I admired her ability to pursue her work despite the isolation. Before I began writing Season of the Dragonflies, I studied as much of her work as I could find. I was most moved by her memoir titled Reflections of Eden. I’m inspired by the adventurous spirit of women like her, and Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, to name but a few powerful female scientists. I wanted a character to go to that mysterious and beautiful place like Birute did and find self-affirmation. What my character Serena finds is the magical flower at the base of the Lenore family perfume. And that’s how my writing process began, with Serena Lenore traveling to the South China Sea at the turn of the twentieth century. From there, the novel is a story about Serena’s heirs and what they do with the power she discovered.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Season of the Dragonflies?

Sarah:  I studied Birute Galdikas and work by Fossey and Goodall. I also researched the life and work of Coco Chanel, especially the development of Chanel 5. I researched the history of perfume and distillation. Traveling to Paris turned out to be very informative. The Creed family of Paris is the world’s only dynastic perfume business passed down to male heirs. I studied this company and felt inspired to make an American dynasty of women.

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

Sarah:  Willow was the easiest character to write, which surprised me. She is sixty-one year old with far more life experience than me. What connects us is motherhood. I’ve discovered that motherhood defies boundaries that age can sometimes create. I had a harder time writing Lucia and Mya, even though they are in their thirties, simply because they’ve had the luxury to postpone different elements of adulthood. And I did not.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Season of the Dragonflies.

Sarah:  This one captures the sisters’ tense relationship at the beginning of the novel: “Lucia inched the smooth cotton covers down from her face just enough to see Mya had sauntered into her room completely naked except for a pair of fuzzy purple socks.”

Lucia’s yearning to go home: “She couldn’t suppress the smells of wild honeysuckle vining on fencerows and split trunks of cedar and tulip poplars and oaks ushering forth from her memory; the smell of wet leaf mulch on the forest floor and peeled peat moss along creek banks; the smells of girlhood, of her mother and her older sister and the Blue Ridge Mountains; acres upon acres of her family’s flower planted on the hills above the cabin, blanketing the town of Quartz Hollow with a smell richer than jasmine.”

TQ:  What's next?

Sarah:  I’m working on a new novel of a completely different subject matter. Here’s to hoping for magic in the writing process!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Season of the Dragonflies
William Morrow,  August 12, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Sarah Creech, author of Season of the Dragonflies - August 13, 2014
As beguiling as the novels of Alice Hoffman, Adriana Trigiani, Aimee Bender, and Sarah Addison Allen, Season of the Dragonflies is a story of flowers, sisters, practical magic, old secrets, and new love, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

For generations, the Lenore women have manufactured a perfume unlike any other, and guarded the unique and mysterious ingredients. Their perfumery, hidden in the quiet rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, creates one special elixir that secretly sells for millions of dollars to the world’s most powerful—movie stars, politicians, artists, and CEOs. The Lenore’s signature perfume is actually the key to their success.

Willow, the coolly elegant Lenore family matriarch, is the brains behind the company. Her gorgeous, golden-haired daughter Mya is its heart. Like her foremothers, she can “read” scents and envision their power. Willow’s younger daughter, dark-haired, soulful Lucia, claims no magical touch, nor does she want any part of the family business. She left the mountains years ago to make her own way. But trouble is brewing. Willow is experiencing strange spells of forgetfulness. Mya is plotting a coup. A client is threatening blackmail. And most ominously, the unique flowers used in their perfume are dying.

Whoever can save the company will inherit it. Though Mya is the obvious choice, Lucia has begun showing signs of her own special abilities. And her return to the mountains—heralded by a swarm of blue dragonflies—may be the answer they all need.

About Sarah
Interview with Sarah Creech, author of Season of the Dragonflies - August 13, 2014
Photo by Magen Portanova
Born and raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sarah Creech grew up in a house full of women who told stories about black cloud visions and other premonitions. Her work has appeared in storySouth, Literary Mama, Aroostook Review, Glass, and Glimmer Train. She received an MFA in 2008 and now teaches English and creative writing at Queens University of Charlotte. She lives in North Carolina with her two children and her husband, a poet. This is her first novel.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @SarahECreech

Interview with Jacopo della Quercia, author of The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy - August 1, 2014

Please welcome Jacopo della Quercia to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy will be published on August 5, 2014 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Interview with Jacopo della Quercia, author of The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy - August 1, 2014

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

Jacopo:  Thanks for having me! I guess my first foray into fiction started with some of the outlandish explanations I offered for historical events in my earliest Cracked articles. In one article in particular, I joked that the reason the Library of Alexandria was destroyed was "to prevent Greece from using time-travel against the Roman Empire again." Although this was an aside, I enjoyed the fanciful scenario it illustrated for my readers. Once I was given the opportunity to expand such hilarious scenarios into full novels, I immediately fell in love with narrative writing.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Jacopo:  Just a moment. I need to Google "pantser." [moments later] Now that I know what a pantser is, I guess I'm a bit of both. While I have a rough idea how my stories will begin and end during the pitch process, the finer points hinge entirely on what I find during my research. I try to base my writing as much as possible on real events, so the more I research my subjects, the richer and more interwoven the plot becomes.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How has being an educator and history writer influenced the writing of The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy?

Jacopo:  The most challenging thing for me is knowing when to stop editing. I have wasted months obsessing over individual paragraphs when I should have simply ventured forward. In my experience, all the sweat and stress that comes with micromanaging your own work is ultimately unnecessary, especially since your publishers will be reviewing it anyway.

As for how my teaching and history writing influenced The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy, let me put it this way: I specifically wrote the book to be used as a handy tool in the classroom. It's a device for making history more engaging and exciting for readers of all backgrounds, and my pages are filled with footnotes, historic documents, and recommended texts to aide those interested in learning more for themselves. Interestingly, this makes all the existing history from the period serve as an "expanded universe" of sorts, and several of my reviewers even read my book with Google and Wikipedia open on their computers.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Jacopo:  I love high adventure, so I am immensely indebted to Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and the ancient poets Homer and Virgil. Naturally, this appreciation extends just as much to the minds, writers, and artists behind some of my favorite movies and video games as a child, such as The Princess Bride, the original Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies, King's Quest V, and The Dagger of Amon Ra. In terms of my writing style, I'd say Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Herman Melville, and Lewis Carroll all influenced me in various ways ranching from visual detail to humor. However, I think the poet Dante is ultimately my biggest influence. His detailed Commedia and frequent use of symbolism compelled me to create worlds so richly populated and intricate that nobody could read my book the same way twice.

TQ:  Describe The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy in 140 characters or less.

Jacopo:  "A Jules Verne action-adventure starring President Taft and Robert Todd Lincoln in a race to solve a mystery stretching back to the Civil War." If you omit the period and quotation marks, that should be exactly 140 characters!

TQ:  Tell us something about The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy that is not in the book description.

Jacopo:  The entire book was written using historically-accurate vocabulary; even the narration! I didn't want anybody using words that didn't exist at the time. I also worked with several engineers to make sure that the science featured in the book was faithful to the methods, material, and technologies available at the time the story is set.

TQThe Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy is a genre bending and blending (alternate) historical thriller whose main characters are President William Howard Taft and Robert Todd Lincoln. What attracted you to President Taft as a character? And to Robert Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln's first child?

Jacopo:  Honestly, I picked President Taft because I knew next to nothing about him when I started my research! This was my first novel, and I wanted to challenge the hell out of myself. Fortunately, Taft turned out to be such a fascinating character in real life, and tailor-made for a steampunk adventure. By the time I finished researching him, I was convinced he was one of the most underrated presidents in US history.

As for Robert Todd Lincoln, I was always drawn to the allure he exuded as being the closest thing to Abraham Lincoln following his father's assassination. Robert could have been president, but for whatever reason, he chose not to. He was such a mysterious figure, and when coupled with his appreciation for the sciences, he was the perfect ingénieur for the story.

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

Jacopo:  I think the easiest character to write was Nikola Tesla. I knew precisely what role he had to play in the story and already had a good impression of how he spoke. As for the hardest character, I have to go with Abraham Lincoln. So many people already have their own versions of Lincoln in their heads based on his countless appearances in movies, books, cartoons, etc., never mind his letters and speeches. He's such a universally known figure that I had to go to greater lengths to make his dialogue sound both true to history and compatible with the Lincoln in the public imagination.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy.


"Taft wasn’t a president; he was a puzzlewit. A flubdub. A fathead with brains of about three-guinea-pig power."

TQ:  What's next?

Jacopo:  In addition to promoting my book, I'm already hard at work on my next novel for St. Martin's Press. It's called License to Quill, and it's a Ian Fleming-esque spy/thriller starring William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe during the Gunpowder Plot. It's written in the same style as The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy and set in the same universe, so I hope it will be the second of many adventures I take you and your readers on through time and space!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jacopo:  Thank you kindly! It is a delight to be a part of your Challenge.

The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy
St. Martin's Griffin, August 5, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Jacopo della Quercia, author of The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy - August 1, 2014
This historical thriller is an equal-parts cocktail of action, adventure, science-fiction and comedy. The book follows a globe-trotting President Taft and Robert Todd Lincoln in a race to solve a mystery stretching back to the Civil War and the Lincoln assassination. Based on true events, readers will find themselves swept into a vast conspiracy spanning four continents and three oceans during the turn of the century. Fascinating technologies will be harnessed, dark secrets revealed, true villains exposed, and some of the most famous figures in history will take the stage. With surprises lurking around every corner, and a vast cast of characters to root for, Jacopo della Quercia's The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy is a heart-pounding adventure that only history could have made possible.

About Jacopo

Interview with Jacopo della Quercia, author of The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy - August 1, 2014
Jacopo della Quercia is an educator and history writer perhaps best known for his more than 100 articles on the comedy website His work has been featured on BBC America, CNN Money, The Huffington Post, Slate, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Playboy's The Smoking Jacket, CBS’s Man Cave Daily, and academic resources offered by Brigham Young University, George Mason University, and Georgetown University professor John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review.

As a writer, Jacopo strives to present otherwise obscure scholarly subjects in a manner more easily accessible and enjoyable for all audiences: a practice he honed in the classroom throughout his career.

In print, Jacopo can be found alongside his fellow Cracked writers in the New York Times best-seller You Might Be A Zombie and Other Bad News and its follow-up The De-Textbook. He was also featured in the May 2011 "Best of America" global special issue of Reader's Digest and his article translated into more than twenty languages, including Braille.

As an academic, Jacopo has taught classes on Medieval and Renaissance history, literature, and art since 2006. He has delivered lectures on Machiavellian political psychology at institutions such as Rowan University and the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU. Most recently, Jacopo had an article on the works of Dante and J. R. R. Tolkien featured in the Electronic Bulletin of the Dante Society of America, a scholarly publication offered by Princeton University.

The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy is Jacopo's debut novel, and it is dedicated to students and teachers of history everywhere.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @Jacopo_della_Q

Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 2014

Please welcome Stephanie Feldman to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Angel of Losses will published on July 29th by Ecco.

Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 2014

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

Stephanie:  Thank you for inviting me to talk about the book! I've been telling stories and playing around with poems and essays and short stories since I was a kid, but I became serious about fiction in college. That's when I wrote my first a novel (now in a drawer), and I've been hard at work ever since.

As for why: I was born with a big imagination. I had to do something constructive with it.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Stephanie:  A little bit of both. I always begin with a loose outline: an emotional arc for my main characters and a series of scenes and beats I want to hit. But when I start writing, I follow the story where it wants to go. I rely on the outline when I write myself into a corner, or find myself running out of steam. Most the time, though, my best ideas come while writing.

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

Stephanie:  There's a Sherman Alexie quote along the lines of: "There's no writer's block, only laziness and fear." He has me pegged. These days, I'd add chronic distraction, mostly in the form of the Internet. My biggest challenges are maintaining focus and silencing my inner critic.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Stephanie:  This the hardest question to answer! I've collected a lot of favorites over a lifetime of reading. If you read The Angel of Losses, you probably won't be surprised that I love Judy Budnitz, Angela Carter, Sarah Waters, and Jeanette Winterson. The Kiss of the Spiderwoman is a favorite of mine—another a story about stories, though very different in style. I also love Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Dan Simmons' Drood.

TQ:  Describe The Angel of Losses in 140 characters or less.

Stephanie:  A haunted woman searches for her grandfather’s lost fairy tales in order to save her sister from the consequences of his secret past.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Angel of Losses that is not in the book description.

Stephanie:  One of my characters, Simon, is building a digital map that attempts to place folklore and historical accounts of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel on a single plane and timeline.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Angel of Losses? The novel is describes as "[i]nterweaving history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales... ." Do you have favorite Jewish folktales and how hard was it to create your own?

Stephanie:  I first got the idea in college while studying 18th-century gothic novels. I wanted to write something similar: a tale with mysterious figures, ghosts, and family secrets that also tackles the issues of identity and social obligation. I made it my own by setting it in the contemporary U.S., and rewriting the Wandering Jew, a common Gothic character, using Jewish tradition.

I didn't have any favorite folktales coming in, but the ones that struck me the most—and which you'll see in the book—describe holy men who attempted to force the coming of the Messiah and Paradise. These men love God so much they're willing to destroy His laws for the chance to be closer to Him.

Creating my own legends was the best part! The novel is also about a family whose members love each other but make a lot of mistakes. Untying those knotty relationships was intense, and I was grateful to escape into fairy tales sometime.

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

Stephanie:  I read tons of legends, but also books about Jewish mysticism and the history of Jewish communities in Europe, and narratives from medieval travelers. I also studied theories of history and memory, how we record and make meaning of the past.

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

Stephanie:  The majority of the story is from Marjorie's point of view, and I became comfortable with her voice and point of view very quickly. The challenge became writing for the characters with whom she's feuding, particularly her sister Holly. Marjorie loves Holly fiercely but is also furious with her--though most of her anger, she comes to realize, is a mask for her own hurt and sadness. It took time for me to put Marjorie's feelings and judgments aside and see Holly as she sees herself.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Angel of Losses.


"He passed a room of cobalt and gold, where a podium stood tall as a tree on cracked tile, heaped with ledgers inscribed with lists of lost things: lost shoes, lost keys, lost pets, lost nations, lost hopes. There were whole pages of names: lost souls."

"I wanted to ask him why Grandpa was coming to me in my dreams, and why the old man was coming to me in their aftermath; why Holly was painting faceless men in a maddening paradise; why Nathan was afraid of our books."

TQ:  What's next?

Stephanie:  I'm working on a new novel now, but I'm a little superstitious about describing a story before it's done. I can tell you it's another mix of history and magic, as well as a character study of a man trying to make a place for himself in a spiritually and biologically evolving world.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephanie:  Thank YOU!

The Angel of Losses
Ecco, July 29, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 2014
The Tiger's Wife meets The History of Love in this inventive, lushly imagined debut novel that explores the intersections of family secrets, Jewish myths, the legacy of war and history, and the bonds between sisters

When Eli Burke dies, he leaves behind a mysterious notebook full of stories about a miracle worker named the White Rebbe and the enigmatic Angel of Losses, both protectors of things gone astray and guardians of the lost letter of the alphabet, which completes the secret name of God.

Years later, when Eli's granddaughter Marjorie stumbles upon his notebook, everything she thought she knew about her grandfather—and her family—comes undone. To learn the truth about Eli's origins and unlock the secrets he kept, Marjorie embarks on an odyssey that takes her deep into the past, from the medieval Holy Land to eighteenth-century Venice and Nazi-occupied Lithuania. What she finds leads her back to present-day New York City and her estranged sister, Holly, whom she must save from the consequences of Eli's past.

Interweaving history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales, The Angel of Losses is a family story of what lasts, and of what we can—and cannot—escape.

About Stephanie

Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 2014
Stephanie Feldman is a graduate of Barnard College. She lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her husband and her daughter. For more on her writing and inspiration, visit her at:

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @sbfeldman  ~  Pinterest

Interview with Arianne 'Tex' Thompson, author of One Night in Sixes - July 23, 2014

Please welcome Arianne 'Tex' Thompson to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. One Night in Sixes will published on July 29th by Solaris Books.

Interview with Arianne 'Tex' Thompson, author of One Night in Sixes - July 23, 2014

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

Tex:  You know, I always see these great author bios that make me green with envy – "I learned to read when I was a zygote and wrote my first short story in pureed carrots on my high-chair table" – but the semi-ridiculous truth is that I first hit on the idea of writing a novel in 11th grade, and even then it was mostly as a lark. It took a whole lot longer to grow any sense of urgency.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Tex:  Well, the story behind this particular story is so long and bizarre (it's actually the resurrected Frankenstein's-monster version of that first 11th-grade novel) that I'm not even sure I have a capital-P Process yet. But so far, I think I enjoy writing most when I have a few anchor-point scenes in mind, and enough leeway to make new discoveries on my way from one to the next.

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

Tex:  Definitely, definitely time. I'm one of these people who doesn't want to step through the wardrobe into Narnia until I am 100% caught up on all real-world responsibilities and can enjoy a long, leisurely frolic in fantasyland. I've learned the hard way that that kind of "dessert-last" thinking is a GREAT way not to get anything finished, ever – but I'm still a long way from having a regular, sustainable writing routine.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Tex:  Oh, boy – well, this might sound strange, but when you think about it, Terry Pratchett and William Faulkner actually have a heck of a lot in common. I love their sharp turns of phrase, and how they can bring a place to life (and Yoknapatawpha County is every bit as fantastical as Ankh-Morpork!) More than that, though, I love how they treat every character as a fully-realized person. There are good characters in their books and bad ones, big roles and small ones, but nobody is a straw man or a punching bag or a stereotype. Any author who gives that kind of love and respect even to their villains and bit parts is someone I admire.

TQ:  Describe One Night in Sixes in 140 characters or less.

Tex:  "It's a cowboys-and-Indians story: the cowboy's accidentally shot an Indian, and if the family doesn't come after him, the fishmen will."

TQ:  Tell us something about One Night in Sixes that is not in the book description.

Tex:  Actually, one thing that I haven't really gotten to advertise much is that this world is one that runs on "culture magic." Basically, if you live the way your ancestors lived – eat what they ate, speak their language, work their land, and follow their customs – you get these supernatural powers that are specific to your culture and community. That's had a huge impact on the clash of cultures here. On the one hand, the settlers from the east have industrialized and spread out so quickly that most of their magic is gone. On the other, the native peoples in the west have used their power to defend their land and freedom, but are also having to decide how much of their old ways they can afford to keep in this new, changing world.

TQ:  What inspired you to write One Night in Sixes? The novel has been described by your publisher as a "Western-influenced rural fantasy novel." What is a "rural fantasy"? Which Westerns count among your favorites?

Tex:  Well, for me, the Western is defined less by geographic location than by atmosphere – you know, the frontier, the great unknown, and the sense that humanity is a fragile speck in a vast, dangerous world. I think that's one reason why it's so spec-fic friendly – you can re-imagine the Western into something like Star Trek, Firefly, or The Dark Tower without losing a bit of that. (I have a big love for all three of those, by the way – though for straight Westerns, I am a huge fan of True Grit in all its forms, and HBO's Deadwood. I applaud any storyteller who can reach past traditional heroic "types" to include people we don't get to see as often, and make them important without making them invincible. Show me someone who can save the day – or ruin it! – without ever picking up a gun, and I'll show you my money.)

Still, if we were to re-tell The Grapes of Wrath with a herd of migrating giants fleeing a drought, or imagine the creatures from Wizard of Oz overrunning Dust Bowl-era Kansas – to my mind, those would be "rural" fantasy stories, but not Western as such. And I like that, because it gives us so much room to explore a world beyond bright city lights, but without always centering the story on the clash between civilization and wilderness.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for One Night in Sixes?

Tex:  As it happens, I did the usual obligatory bucketloads of homework about all the particulars: educating myself on 19th-century architecture, horse handling, the geography of the American Southwest, and so on. But I think the most important part of my research was actually going to New Mexico – visiting not only the nifty old ghost towns and monuments, but also the living pueblos and modern communities. I'm acutely aware of how poorly and infrequently American Indians have been represented in pop culture – and while I want to do a good job all around, I am especially anxious to do justice to their fictional analogues. I'm in no position to judge the success of my efforts on that front, but having the opportunity to visit and be a guest in real, living communities has been a tremendous blessing.

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

Tex:  Elim is definitely an easy character to inhabit: he's thoughtful and mellow and sympathetic enough that thinking from his perspective isn't much of a stretch. Strangely enough, my biggest challenge has been with Día, the grave bride (a kind of "science nun", so to speak.) She's a deeply religious young black woman who divides her time between studying the living and burying the dead – and while she's one of my absolute favorite characters, her experience is so far outside mine that I'm not at all comfortable "winging it" with her. I feel like I really need to triple-check everything to do her justice.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from One Night in Sixes.

Tex:  Haha, well, I'm monstrously terrible at one-line anything, but here's a bit I like, from chapter 1. Elim and Sil have failed in their horse-selling expedition, and Elim is about to console himself with an all-you-can-eat chowdown.

"For his part, Elim intended to stuff his guts enough to last him all the way through until next year... presuming of course that there was still going to BE a next year, which was another item on that whole long list of things that Elim had no ability to order, and sometimes even to understand.

In view of which, it became all the more critically important to keep a two-handed hold on your plate, and full faith in the immediate comfort and solace of pie."

TQ:  What's next?

Tex:  Well, I'm currently editing the sequel to One Night in Sixes, called Medicine for the Dead, which will hopefully be out in March 2015. And as we say in Texas, "Lord willing and the creek don't rise," these two books will do well enough that I'll get to write the third book, which will finish the story. Fingers crossed, anyway!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tex:  Thank you so much for having me!

One Night in Sixes
Children of the Drought One
Solaris, July 29, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Interview with Arianne 'Tex' Thompson, author of One Night in Sixes - July 23, 2014
The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day. Still, Appaloosa Elim has heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.

And the daylight is running out. Elim's so-called 'partner' - that lily-white lordling Sil Halfwick – has disappeared inside the old adobe walls, hell-bent on making a name for himself among Sixes' notorious black-market traders. Elim, whose worldly station is written in the bastard browns and whites of his cow-spotted face, doesn't dare show up home without him.

If he ever wants to go home again, he'd better find his missing partner fast. But if he's caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth in his own flesh - and discovering just how far he'll go to survive the night.

About Tex

Interview with Arianne 'Tex' Thompson, author of One Night in Sixes - July 23, 2014
Arianne "Tex" Thompson is home-grown Texas success story. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from UT Dallas and a master’s degree in literature from the University of Dallas, she went on to become a community college professor, teaching the fundamentals of English to adults writing below the eighth-grade level. Now a master teacher for academic tutoring and test prep services, as well as the managing editor for the DFW Writers Conference, Tex is a regular feature at high schools, writing conferences, and genre conventions alike.

With her first book, a ‘rural fantasy’ novel called One Night in Sixes, Tex joins the growing ranks of Solaris authors committed to exciting, innovative and inclusive science fiction and fantasy.  Find her online at and on Twitter as @tex_maam!

Interview with Carol J. Perry - September 5, 2014Interview with Sylvia Izzo Hunter, author of The Midnight Queen - September 2, 2014Interview with Angus Watson, author of Age of Iron - September 1, 2014Interview with Lauren Owen, author of The Quick - August 21, 2014Interview with Patrick Swenson, author of The Ultra Thin Man - August 14, 2014Interview with Sarah Creech, author of Season of the Dragonflies - August 13, 2014Interview with Jacopo della Quercia, author of The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy - August 1, 2014Interview with J.C. Nelson, author of Free Agent, and Giveaway - July 30, 2014Interview with Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses - July 28, 2014Interview with Arianne 'Tex' Thompson, author of One Night in Sixes - July 23, 2014

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