The Qwillery | category: 2014 DAC Interview | (page 4 of 9)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Bishop O'Connell, author of The Stolen - July 22, 2014

Please welcome Bishop O'Connell to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Stolen is published today digitally by Harper Voyager Impulse and will be out in Mass Market Paperback on August 5th. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Bishop a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Bishop O'Connell, author of The Stolen - July 22, 2014

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

Bishop:  Thanks for inviting me. The first story I wrote that got a positive reaction was penned in Mrs. Bugg’s (yes, her real name) first grade class. It was three pages long, and I was very proud of it. I can’t remember what it was about, but she read it to the class at story time. It was well received and for a short time, I was a minor celebrity. I’ve always been a storyteller. Even as I pursued other career paths, I still wrote short stories, and even poetry. I also took to the stage for a while, with aspirations of becoming a professional actor. I eventually gave that up, but I did learn how to verbally tell a story as well as write one. I love the connection, the escape, and being able to bring others into a new world. Or show them a new aspect of this world. To me, that’s a special kind of magic, a real kind of magic.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Bishop:  I really try to be a plotter, but I’m a panster to the core. In both The Stolen and its sequel, I tried outlining but in no time at all, the story went down a different road. I’ve even tried just outlining what key things I want to have happen in specific chapters, but that doesn’t work out either. My characters are very real to me, and I’m often surprised by them and how they shape the story. I’d liken it to planning a road trip. I have a destination in mind, but if I see an interesting side road, I take it. Sure, sometimes I hit a dead end, but other times I find some truly spectacular hidden places.

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

Bishop:  Honestly, it’s finding the time. Unfortunately I don’t have as much free time to write as I’d like. I travel a lot for my job and work long hours on top of that. I’ve never been someone who could sit and write for just half an hour. When I write, I become lost in the story. It takes me a good twenty minutes, though often times more, to get into the groove, but when I do, I don’t want to stop. Hours go by without my realizing it. It takes times to cast a proper spell. I try to give myself one day a week to write, and it’s normal for me to spend the entire day doing so. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hard at work and, at seeing the time, realize the reason I’m so hungry is I haven’t eaten in twelve hours.

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

Bishop:  I have the usual suspects on my list of favorites: J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, R.A. Salvatore, and such. But, I really enjoy The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. I love his humor and how his characters are flawed, but those flaws just add to the depth of those characters.

TQ:  Describe The Stolen in 140 characters or less.

Bishop:  What happens when a normal person learns faerie tales and magic are real and then gets thrown feet first into a world they thought existed only in children’s stories.

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

Bishop:  It’s based on a true story. Just kidding.

Or am I?

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Stolen? Why write about the Fae?

Bishop:  I’m a big fan of W.B. Yeats, and “The Stolen Child” is one of my favorite poems. It’s also been nicely done by a few artists into song—The Waterboys and Loreena McKennitt specifically. Those songs and the poem make the idea of being taken away by faeries sound so beautiful and magical. Then I began to wonder about the other side of that story. What about the parents? What happens after the child is stolen? Why would faeries take a child? How would the average person react to having her child stolen?

As for writing about the fae, I’ve always loved faerie stories. As a kid playing D&D, I invariably wanted to play the elf. However, I found it incredibly unfair that elves couldn’t be bards. I started reading about various mythologies in the fifth grade. My grade school offered elective courses during the year, and for two hours, two days a week, you studied some subject outside the normal curriculum. Most kids picked music, or dance, or sports, the usual things. I took a mythology class and was hooked! It started with Greek mythology, but quickly grew. I’m also very proud of my Irish heritage, and I have a special place in my heart for Irish faerie stories.

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

BishopThe Stolen has a lot of Irish myth and legend in it, so I read the old stories again to familiarize myself with them: Fionn McCool and the Fianna, Tír na nÓg, Diarmuid and Grainne, the story of Oishin, the Wild Hunt in its various incarnations, and the like. Ultimately though, the mythology in the An American Faerie Tale universe is my own, if heavily influenced by traditional faerie tales. I wanted it to be familiar to those who know and love the old stories, but different enough to make it interesting and a bit intriguing. Not unlike visiting a country that speaks the same language, but a different dialect.

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

Bishop:  The easiest was probably a tie between Edward and Brendan. From the start they felt the most real and complete to me, the most relatable. Edward, for me, is an homage to geeks everywhere who’ve always wanted to be a wizard (myself included). He’s what I think would happen if any of us ever got our wish.

The hardest, without a doubt, was Caitlin. I struggled with her from the start. Not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a mother. I don’t have children and I think it’s hard for someone without children to understand the pain and fear of losing a child. I talked with my friends who are parents, but it’s not the same. It took a lot of hard work, but in the end, I think I’m happiest with how she turned out.

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

Bishop:  There are two examples, though more than a couple lines each, that I think really show everything you need to know about the characters.

The first is when Edward is alone and doesn’t hear Dante come up behind him. Edward speaks first:

“No, that’s not creepy at all.”
“What isn’t?” Dante asked.
“No, but people confuse us all the time,” Dante said through a smile. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”
“I know cats that make more noise than you.”

The second is when Brendan, who wears a kilt, encounters a security guard in a dance club who won’t let him into the VIP section:

“Not going to happen,” the man said. “Now, why don’t you go back to your renaissance faire before something bad happens to you?”
“Sorry?” Brendan leaned in close. “I don’t think I heard you right. Did you just ask how far I could put me boot up your arse?”

TQ:  What's next?

Bishop:  I’m currently working on the sequel to The Stolen, it’s titled The Forgotten. In it I take the idea of merging science and magic, specifically some of the interesting and seemingly counter intuitive parts of quantum mechanics. I combine that with the idea of how our perception of reality can shape reality. I’m really stretching myself on this one, but I like how it’s coming. Perhaps because I felt like a needed more of a challenge, I’m also trying the concept of an unreliable narrator. I’m sure I’ll need to go back and do a lot of editing to get right, and to keep the reader from being completely lost, but I think it’s also something that people will enjoy, and make them think. I like to say that I don’t espouse the belief in magic, merely in the possibility of magic.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Bishop:  Thank you for this opportunity! I hope your readers really enjoy the book.

The Stolen
An American Faerie Tale 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, July 22, 2014
     eBook, 336 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, August 5, 2014
     Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages

Interview with Bishop O'Connell, author of The Stolen - July 22, 2014
Tonight, for the first time in over a century, a mortal child will be kidnapped by faeries.

When her daughter Fiona is snatched from her bed, Caitlin's entire world crumbles. Once certain that faeries were only a fantasy, Caitlin must now accept that these supernatural creatures do exist—and that they have traded in their ancient swords and horses for modern guns and sports cars. Hopelessly outmatched, she accepts help from a trio of unlikely heroes: Eddy, a psychiatrist and novice wizard; Brendan, an outcast Fian warrior; and Dante, a Magister of the fae's Rogue Court. Moving from the busy streets of Boston's suburbs to the shadowy land of Tír na nÓg, Caitlin and her allies will risk everything to save Fiona. But can this disparate quartet conquer their own inner demons and outwit the dark faeries before it's too late?

Mass Market Paperback

You may read an 8 chapter excerpt of The Stolen at Harper Voyager!

About Bishop

Interview with Bishop O'Connell, author of The Stolen - July 22, 2014
Bishop O’Connell is a consultant, writer, poet, blogger, and member of the New Hampshire Writer’s Project. Born in Naples, Italy while his father was stationed in Sardinia, Bishop grew up in San Diego, CA where he fell in love with the ocean and fish tacos. While wandering the country for work and school, he experienced autumn in New England. Soon after, he settled in Manchester, NH, where he collects swords and kilts. But he only dons one of those two in public. He can be found online at A Quiet Pint (, where he muses philosophical on the various aspects of writing and the road to getting published.

A Quiet Pint  ~  Twitter @BishopMOConnell

Interview with Letitia Trent, author of Echo Lake - July 18, 2014

Please welcome Letitia Trent to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Echo Lake was published on July 15, 2014 by Dark House Press.

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

Letitia:  Thanks! I wrote sometimes as a kid, usually very derivative stories based on the books I was reading, often written right there in the blank pages before the title page and after the ending. I didn't start writing in earnest until I turned 18 and moved out of my house. By the time I was a senior in undergrad, I knew I wanted to write and applied to MFA programs.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Letitia:  A little bit of both. I like to jump into an atmosphere or character or setting and then, as I go, figure out what particular tensions I want to explore and how I want the story to progress. I usually make a rough, changeable outline after I've started writing and then, after the first draft is done, I outline what happens in each section or chapter and see if I have any "holes"--any places were I've dropped a plot element or have not followed through with something that was signaled as important early on the story.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a poet influence your prose writing (or not)?

Letitia:  I love writing: it's fun for me. But I often get frustrated when I can't translate the idea in my head to something on paper. Sometimes I just feel incredibly limited by words, sentences, paragraphs--the very structures of language. Which is probably where poetry comes in: when I feel frustrated by prose, I remember the freedom I feel in poetry. I think my poetry background allows me to not be afraid to play with sentence structure, to linger on an image, or to get "creative" with punctuation when it feels like this is what I need to get ideas from my brain to the page.

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

Letitia:  I have so many! In poetry, Wallace Stevens is my master. I also love Barbara Guest, a lesser-known New York School poet. I enjoy the verbal complexity and attention to sound of poets like Lucie Brock-Broido and Heidi Lynn Staples. I also like the dreamy, thinky work of Mei-mei Berssenbrugge and Arthur Sze. My first poetry love was Sylvia Plath, though.

In prose, my influences range from the Bronte sisters to Ramsey Campbell to Joan Didion to Patricia Highsmith. I tend towards horror, crime, weirdness, and darkness in my reading, whether it's genre or literary (though I don't really recognize the distinction there: good writing is good writing). Some of my favorite books are Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, In the Woods by Tana French, Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill, Tenth of December by George Saunders, and The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher.

TQ:  Describe Echo Lake in 140 characters or less.

Letitia:  I'm terrible at this kind of thing, but here I go:

Echo Lake is the story of a woman in search of a home that she's never had in a town that refuses to acknowledge its own past.

TQ:  Tell us something about Echo Lake that is not in the book description.

Letitia:  It takes place both in a contemporary setting and in the 1960's.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Echo Lake? Why did you set the novel in Oklahoma?

Letitia:  A couple of things inspired the book. First, I learned about the flooding of a man-made lake near where I spent my teenage years in Oklahoma that caused the uprooting of caskets in the graveyard by the lake. I loved the image of unearthed caskets, and how much that image made me think of the things that we bury coming up to the surface. Second, in the same town, there was a gruesome and still unsolved murder of an elderly woman in her home: she was found with her throat cut, no signs of burglary, no motive as far as anyone could tell. When I was reading about this murder, I saw several comments on message boards by people in town saying things like "somebody knows who did this: they need to talk" or "A lot of us know who done this and he will get his justice". It made me think of how "justice" in an isolated, rural place can be very different from justice in a suburb or city.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Echo Lake?

Letitia:  Not much: my own experience and a few Google searches about crimes in rural Oklahoma helped fill in some details. I also researched pop culture from the 60's for some sections of the book.

TQ:  The novel is described as a "...gothic neo-noir thriller..." (by your publisher). What is "neo-noir"?

Letitia:  Richard Thomas wrote an excellent essay in LitReactor ( explaining the term, but for me, it points to a kind of fiction that mixes noir conventions, specifically a focus on moral ambiguity and darkness, with elements of horror and the fantastic, all with a kind of "literary" sensibility.

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

Letitia:  I really liked writing Levi, the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church. Though I'm not a Southern Baptist or even a Christian, I liked getting into the head of a "believer" who genuinely wants to do good in the world, who feels a sincere calling, but also feels a conflict between his identity and the identity that his religion and culture asks of him. I wanted to make him human and relateable no matter your beliefs, and I hope I did.

I think Emily was probably the hardest to write. Unlike Levi, she doesn't have a clear sense of herself. It was a challenge to see how I could make a person who starts the story rather passive become somebody who takes charge of her life in a more active way.

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

Letitia:  I don't know if I have any favorite lines, as it's hard for me to think that way about my own writing, but here is one my husband likes:

"A woman from Vermont telling her about the evils of air conditioning was like a eunuch giving sex tips."

TQ:  What's next?

Letitia:  I have my second novel, Almost Dark, out from ChiZine Publications in 2015. Other than that, I'm taking care of a newborn right now, so I'm not doing much writing. When I can get back to work, I plan to finish up a novel and a short story collection.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Letitia:  Thank you!

Echo Lake: A Novel
Dark House Press, July 15, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 280 pages

30-something Emily Collins inherits her recently murdered Aunt's house, deciding to move to Heartshorne, Oklahoma, to claim it and confront her family's dark past after her dead mother begins speaking to her in dreams, propelling this gothic, neo-noir thriller toward terrifying revelations of murderous small-town justice when a horrible community secret is revealed through the supernatural pull of Echo Lake.

About Letitia

Photo by K Michelle Johnson
Letitia Trent's first novel, Echo Lake, is available from Dark House Press/Curbside Splendor in 2014. Trent's work has appeared in the Denver Quarterly, The Black Warrior Review, Fence, Folio, The Journal, Blazevox, and many others. Her first full-length poetry collection, One Perfect Bird, is available from Sundress Publications. Her chapbooks include You aren't in this movie (dancing girl press), Splice (Blue Hour Press) and The Medical Diaries (Scantily Clad Press). She was the 2010 winner of the Alumni Flash Writing Award from the Ohio State University's the Journal and has been awarded fellowships from The Vermont Studio Center and the MacDowell Colony. She lives in Colorado with her husband and son.

Website  ~ Twitter @letrent  ~  Goodreads  ~  tumblr

Interview with Sharona Muir, author of Invisible Beasts - July 16, 2014

Please welcome Sharona Muir to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Invisible Beasts was published on July 15, 2014 by Bellevue Literary Press.

Interview with Sharona Muir, author of Invisible Beasts - July 16, 2014

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

Sharona:  Thanks, it’s great to chat with The Qwillery. I started writing shortly after I stopped crawling, because it was a good excuse to hide under a table or piano, escaping the ruthless scrutiny that bipedalism had brought upon me. My first published poem, in high school, entitled “Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation,” was printed in a medical textbook of that name. Since then, science and the wonders it reveals have been my inspiration.

TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sharona:  Italo Calvino draws the distinction between two schools of creativity: the flame and the crystal. I tend to the crystalline, hoping to reach a point where structure and meaning are indissolubly wedded. But if there’s no flame—no transforming obsession that throws off casual smoke and hot light—there’s no point in writing.

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

Sharona:  Working at a state school run on the “corporate model.” My writing gets left for when normal Americans take vacation, which I haven’t taken since the nineties. Otherwise I get up in the wee hours, recite a few psalms, and work till seven. But I fall asleep later, so I can only do this on the few days when prayer and art may present their claims without discomposing Mammon (the god of lucre.)

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

Sharona:  When I was fifteen, I wrote a long fan letter to Isaac Asimov, in which, inter alia, I complained about boys who called feminists like me “castrating women.” The great SF author replied that if guys said that, I should ask them what they had to castrate. I also love H.G. Wells for The Island of Dr. Moreau (“Are we not men?”), Mary Shelley, and ancient authors—Ariosto, who spent years on a lush fantasy epic in honor of his mistress; Erasmus of Rotterdam, for his book in which the Goddess of Folly tells all; Pliny the Elder, who died in an eruption of Vesuvius; and medieval bestiaries. But my guiding light is Italo Calvino, who perceived the common inspiration of scientists and poets, and gave it enduring contemporary form. Also, a lifelong love of Moby-Dick helps me to associate animals with learning, wisdom, mystery, and beauty.

TQ: Describe Invisible Beasts in 140 characters or less.

Sharona:  Sophie, a naturalist who sees invisible beasts, tells playful tales mixing science with visions of love, truth, and a changing biosphere.

TQ: Tell us something about Invisible Beasts that is not in the book description.

Sharona:  If you read carefully, you’ll realize that Evie, Sophie’s sister, is married to a big, mute, vegetarian, powerful, peaceful silverback gorilla, though he’s not named as such. I wanted Evie to be married to a gorilla—not a real one, but one capable of holding down a job at a psychology lab, and reading Nature magazine, turning the pages with his toes. He also reads something called “Off de Waal Comix,” which doesn’t exist but should; it’s my tribute to Frans de Waal, the primatologist whose ideas inspired the chapter in which Erik appears. I was worried that having a man-ape would put me into the ugly territory of racist imagery, so I made sure that Erik, Evie’s husband, is a Nordic gorilla, covered in white fur, who comes from an obscure whaling station in Greenland. Sophie describes him as “as apparition in the smokiest corner of a Viking hall, fists filled with icicles and thunderbolts.” No one seems to have noticed Erik’s species—who are people dating these days?

TQ: What inspired you to write Invisible Beasts? Are the 'beasts' that you have created for the novel based on real animals, etc.? Why did you have your main character create a bestiary?

SharonaInvisible Beasts began as a game I played with biologist friends. I’d research some scientific facts about real animals, cells, or even molecules, then invent an imaginary animal based on them. My friends would say, “Oh yes, there’s a creature that does that.” Then I’d go try something weirder. As I live in a small forest, surrounded by wildlife (as I write, a phoebe is screaming from my porch, and earlier I found a chicken foot at the entrance to a fox den under my barn) inspiration was never far, and a bestiary was inevitable.

TQ: What sort of research did you do for Invisible Beasts?

Sharona:  Well, I’ve been thinking about animals, science, and imagination since childhood. My father, a freelance inventor, was also what is now known as a “biomimic”—he imitated nature’s solutions to technical engineering problems, for instance, the design of a snake’s fang to make a non-clotting hypodermic needle. This approach encouraged a view of nature and animals as teachers and equals.

Later, I wrote my Ph.D. thesis, at Stanford, on science fiction and American attitudes toward nature. This book showed how the myth of the Earthly Paradise lies at the root of science fiction as a genre—an historical connection between science, nature, and cultural imagination.

Recently, in many fields, researchers and scholars are replacing our old human-centered perspective with a view of life more like the biomimic’s. Reading new work in ethnography, neuroscience, philosophy, and literary theory has helped me focus the ideas behind Invisible Beasts. Especially helpful are the works of Frans de Waal, Marc Hauser, E.O. Wilson, Martha Nussbaum, Paul Churchland, Christof Koch, Janine Benyus, and Cary Wolfe. My experiences with the Humane Society were also useful.

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

Sharona:  The two sisters: Sophie, the narrator who sees invisible beasts, and her sister, Evie, the biologist who tolerantly helps her to understand them, were easy. They just naturally went together, like right-and-left brain. Granduncle Erasmus was the most fun, playing off my favorite Victorian gentlemen oddballs. The hardest character was Nature herself, who is the protagonist of “The Golden Egg,” the chapter covering four hundred million years of evolution. It was hard because the technique I use, namely writing, was invented an hour ago by Sumerian accountants, and is barely up to the job.

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

Sharona:  There’s the epigraph: Animal life is mindful, and the mind’s life is animal. In early drafts this was attributed to one “Heraclitus of Eucyon.” But since the name means, roughly, “Heraclitus of Nice Doggie,” friends who objected to fake Greeks convinced me to dump the attribution. Also there’s the motto of my narrator, Sophie the naturalist: Human beings are the most invisible beasts, because we do not see ourselves as beasts. Think about it. Then there’s… “A night of passion is a hard thing to remember (no pun intended).”

TQ: What's next?

Sharona:  I’m writing a novel based on the story of Oedipus, set in a genetics lab at Stanford University. Beyond that, I plan to write another bestiary. . . . Sssshh. Fates are listening!

TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Sharona:  Thank you so much for the pleasure of sharing this work with you and your imagination-minded readers.

Invisible Beasts
Bellevue Literary Press, July 15, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 256 pages

Interview with Sharona Muir, author of Invisible Beasts - July 16, 2014
Sophie is an amateur naturalist with a rare genetic gift: the ability to see a marvelous kingdom of invisible, sentient creatures that share a vital relationship with humankind. To record her observations, Sophie creates a personal bestiary and, as she relates the strange abilities of these endangered beings, her tales become extraordinary meditations on love, sex, evolution, extinction, truth, and self-knowledge.

In the tradition of E.O. Wilson’s Anthill, Invisible Beasts is inspiring, philosophical, and richly detailed fiction grounded by scientific fact and a profound insight into nature. The fantastic creations within its pages—an ancient animal that uses natural cold fusion for energy, a species of vampire bat that can hear when their human host is lying, a continent-sized sponge living under the ice of Antarctica—illuminate the role that all living creatures play in the environment and remind us of what we stand to lose if we fail to recognize our entwined destinies.

About Sharona

Interview with Sharona Muir, author of Invisible Beasts - July 16, 2014
Photograph by Tom Muir
Sharona Muir’s writing has appeared in Granta, Orion magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She is a Professor of Creative Writing and English at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Invisible Beasts is her first novel.

Interview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014

Please welcome Sebastien de Castell to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Traitor's Blade is published today in the US by Jo Fletcher Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Sebastien a Happy US Publication Day!

Interview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014

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

Sebastien:  Thanks for having me. I wrote my first novel in 1997 in part to see if I had it in me and in part because when I was reading other books I’d find myself distracted by thoughts of my own stories. In 2006, despite there being many great fantasy novels out, I was never able to find one that really spoke to me, so I decided to try and write it myself. That book became Traitor’s Blade. I was rather shocked to later discover that when you just focus on writing the book you yourself most want to read, other people want to read it, too.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sebastien:  I tend to develop various elements of a novel into sample scenes or short stories and then grow those into full-fledged outlines. So really, I’m not a plotter or a pantser. I’m a plantser.

TQ:  Your publisher bio includes a long list of professions ("a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist."), which of these have influenced your writing? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sebastien:  I think that, as with most writers, every experience becomes a tool you can use in your storytelling. My degree is in archaeology and that inspired me to want to show Falcio’s own buried history inside Traitor’s Blade - so that events in the present are informed by the little pieces of evidence from the past. The fight scenes are inspired in part by my experience as a sword choreographer for the theatre. Those gigs taught me that every fight has to be a story in and of itself, and every moment within the fight needs to be as specific to the character as their lines of dialogue.

Sometimes it’s the little experiences inside a profession that influence you. The idea for the coats that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti wear came from an actual greatcoat that my brother bought me one year. When I was working as an actor I found I’d always bring this coat because no matter how cold it got or how long I had to wait before filming a scene, I could pretty much carry everything I needed in it and stay warm and ready to go. Alas, mine doesn’t have secret bone plates to protect me from being hit by swords nor does it have the various tricks, traps, and potions that the characters in Traitor’s Blade rely on.

The most challenging thing about writing is that every book changes you as an author. Your brain seems to change in some ineffable way that makes it impossible to reproduce the same process you used in the previous book and so you have to uncover your internal creative process all over again.

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

Sebastien:  I draw from a lot of different places - authors, screenwriters, and sometimes comic book writers all have different approaches that can help in building a novel. When it comes to fantasy writers, Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber, which is written with almost no fluff or embellishment, really grabbed me. I’m also a fan of Steven Brust - especially the Vlad Taltos novels - which taught me that you could write fantasy without having all your characters speak in fake old-timey dialects.

Reviewers of Traitor’s Blade have tended to bring up Dumas and The Three Musketeers as influences on me but I’m equally enthralled by C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower stories. I loved the way Hornblower looked at every battle as if it were a puzzle that needed to be solved rather than simply a contest of might or manliness.

When writing description and setting I tend to look to noir authors like Raymond Chandler or, more recently, Dennis Lehane, who have a style and an economy in their prose that really draws me in as a reader. Aaron Sorkin, who writes largely for television and film, is unmatched for my taste when it comes to dialogue and making even small moments between characters feel dramatic. Finally, because I write fantasy and adventure, I have to think about balancing the more bombastic nature of heroic characters with a more grounded approach to personal relationships. Brian Michael Bendis does this brilliantly with super-heroic figures, as do a number of new comic book writers out there.

TQ:  Describe Traitor's Blade (Greatcoats 1) in 140 characters or less.

Sebastien:  A disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by saving a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy. Swashbuckling ensues.

TQ:  Tell us something about Traitor's Blade that is not in the book description.

Sebastien:  Most people are surprised by the humour - something that generally isn’t conveyed in the book descriptions. It’s not a comedy by any means (it’s rather dark as fantasy goes, in fact) but I love to write the banter between Falcio, Kest, and Brasti. They’ve known each other so long and been through so much that they really can stare death in the face and make a joke about it. In fact, they generally prefer it that way.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Traitor's Blade? Why did you choose to write Fantasy? Do you want to write in any other genres?

SebastienTraitor’s Blade is really a story about idealism in the face of overwhelming cynical pragmatism. In that sense, it’s a story I wanted to write because, while it’s set in a fantasy milieu, it deals with the kinds of questions many of us ask ourselves in our own world.

You often hear people say that fantasy is an escape but what I enjoy most about the genre is that you sometimes find a book that lets you bring that sense of wonder - of enchantment - back into your own life and the world around you. Fantasy can be enchanting in the best sense of the word, and that’s what I’m aiming to do with my own books. It’s also a genre that gives an author the flexibility to let themes drive the world of the story. You can explore an idea in depth without having to either make the situation feel completely contrived or force your characters to be subservient to our pre-defined understanding of our own day-to-day existence.

In addition to swashbuckling fantasy, I’ve occasionally written mystery novels. I’m working on one now, in fact.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Traitor's Blade?

Sebastien:  I studied history and archaeology in university and that, perhaps strangely, makes me not want to get stuck in historicism when writing fantasy novels. So many historical events, technologies, and social practices are inextricably connected and it always feels a bit weird to me to take one or two of them and then switch everything else up. So I prefer to be inspired by history rather than thinking of it as research material.

The idea for the Greatcoats - the sword fighting travelling magistrates who play a central role in the novel - came from reading about the itinerant judges of the English Middle-Ages. These poor devils had to go out on a circuit that could take an entire year, travelling from town to town, hearing cases and trying to mete out the King’s justice. It sounded like an awfully dangerous job, though it’s vastly more so in the world of Traitor’s Blade.

I often get asked about researching sword fighting for the book but I actually stayed very much away from historical fighting styles for Traitor’s Blade because I wanted to let the characters in this world have their own unique fighting techniques.

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

Sebastien:  King Paelis, who we only see in flashbacks, was the easiest to write. We know of him only through Falcio’s memories - through the eyes of a young man who very much idealized this visionary King. This allowed me to make Paelis not so much larger than life but a better, more decent man than we expect to find in a ruler.

The most difficult character to write was, believe it or not, the horse. Making her work was definitely threading a very fine needle.

Falcio’s always been my favourite character simply because he’s always engaged in this struggle to do the right thing without being sure what the right thing is anymore. That being said, I’m growing more and more fond of Brasti with each book. One of my favourite arcs in book 2 is watching his ‘charming rogue’ act start to fall apart and seeing him grow into something else that’s more uniquely his own.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Traitor's Blade .


"Ah, fool. Dying isn't sacrifice. Haven't you figured that out yet? All those years of trying to get yourself killed in battle? That ain't sacrifice. That's self-loathing. It's gleeful suicide. It's vanity."
I felt her hand release my jaw and saw her stand, she pushed Aline in front of me and took the sword in both her hands, pulling it back in line with the girl's neck. "Now this? This is sacrifice!”

TQ:  What's next?

Sebastien:  The second book in the Greatcoats series is with the publisher and I’m writing the third book over the next couple of months. My other fantasy series, Spellslinger, is with my agent right now. Finally, I’m writing a new mystery series that’s a bit of a 'Nancy Drew meets Chinatown’ thing (weird, I know, but I promise it’ll work!)

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sebastien:  My pleasure. Thanks for having me!

Traitor's Blade
Greatcoats 1
Jo Fletcher Books, July 15, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
(US Debut)

Interview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014
With swashbuckling action that recall Dumas' Three Musketeers Sebastien de Castell has created a dynamic new fantasy series. In Traitor’s Blade a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.

The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they’ll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor’s blade.

About Sebastien

Interview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014
Photo by Pink Monkey Studios
Sebastien de Castell had just finished a degree in Archaeology when he started work on his first dig. Four hours later he realised how much he hated archaeology and left to pursue a very focused career as a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist. He lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @decastell

Interview with Elise Walters, author of Tentyrian Legacy - July 11, 2014

Please welcome Elise Walters to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Tentyrian Legacy will be published on July 15, 2014 by Permuted Platinum.

Interview with Elise Walters, author of Tentyrian Legacy - July 11, 2014

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

Elise:  I’ve always considered myself a writer in some capacity. When I was in high school I’d write short stories and poems (they were pretty terrible) and when I went to college I majored in English. In college I was more focused on analyzing writing rather than creating it myself. It was really when I started working as an adult that I turned to writing as an escape and stress reliever. The decision to get serious about it was based on two things. First, I had very long commutes to and from work and I felt like I could use that time to do something productive and for myself. Second, I was downloading a fortune in books on my e-reader and I figured I could write what I wanted to read.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Elise:  Both. However, I lean more towards pantser. Before I get into the trenches writing, I map out the big plot milestones and subsequent order. I also will keep a running list of random things/plot clues that I want to include. It’s literally just a bulleted list and there is no “real outline” with roman numerals. After that, it’s just a free for all and I write by the seat of my pants.

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

Elise:  Finding the time! I’m a new mom and before my son’s birth I felt like I could always sneak in SOME time to write, even with a full time job. But now is a whole different ball game…it’s exhausting. When I do have some free time, it’s usually when I need to tackle things like laundry or cleaning the bathroom. I lead a very glamorous life.

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

Elise:  Jane Austen, Anne Rice, Karen Essex, Jill Marie Landis, Catherine Coulter, Max Brooks

TQ:  Describe Tentyrian Legacy in 140 characters or less.

Elise:  Grown up version of Twilight meets an Egyptian version of The DaVinci Code.

TQ:  Tell us something about Tentyrian Legacy that is not in the book description.

Elise:  It has some steamy moments that make me blush! BUT they aren’t vulgar (I promise!). I wanted to make sure if my future daughter read it when she was a young teenager she wouldn’t need therapy from reading mommy’s writing.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Tentyrian Legacy? And why vampires?

Elise:  The Dendera Zodiac in the Louvre museum inspired all of my main characters. It is a bas relief taken from a ceiling of the Hathor Temple found in Dendera, Egypt. When I saw it as a teenager on a trip to Paris and many years later researched it as an adult, I felt like I could write something original with it. Hopefully I have with Tentyrian Legacy! And vampires because I LOVE them. A vampire romance for me doesn’t get much better.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Tentyrian Legacy?

Elise:  I researched a lot about the zodiac of Dendera and ancient Egypt around 50 B.C., which as I mentioned was the inspiration for the book. I tried to sprinkle in historical nuances where I could. Google was a huge help and I didn’t necessarily track down primary sources for everything I used…The scenes and details that occur in modern day were often pulled from my own experience. I grew up in New Canaan, CT and lived in New York City for many years—these are two of the main locations in the book. Writing about places and things you are familiar with feels natural and it’s something I would recommend to aspiring writers. Write about what you know.

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

Elise:  The easiest were Stavros and Calix—two of the main antagonists. I think it was because I didn’t need to layer in as many facets of personality as the other characters. They are the bad guys and while they have their own motivations and unique personalities, it was easy to slip into their voice because it is consistently evil. The hardest was probably Arianna the heroine. This was because there was so much about her I wanted to convey and her personality evolves throughout the book as she grows into a woman.

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

Elise:  “I thought she would follow my direction—my centuries-old wisdom. Laughable. There is nothing wise about me now. The truth is—I’ve wanted her for myself the moment I began to track her and obsess over her like a miser does his gold.”

TQ:  What's next?

Elise:  The second book in the series is next! It’s tentatively titled Tentyrian Thirst and will follow the journey of the Second Luminary—Kiersten Kincaid. She will struggle to balance her Tentyrian heritage with the scars of her childhood and potential future with the man she loves—Xavier Shafer.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery

Elise:  Thank you!

Tentyrian Legacy
Permuted Platinum, July 15, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 450 pages

Interview with Elise Walters, author of Tentyrian Legacy - July 11, 2014
The legacy begins in the sands of Egypt in a time when an ancient city called Tentyris flourished. Its secretive people, ruled by the Council of the Zodiac, lived peacefully alongside humanity. That time was 53 B.C. More than two millennia later, the power of the Tentyrian people has been all but forgotten. The remnants of memory that live on have been turned into twisted folklore about vampires and astrology.

One girl on the cusp of womanhood is about to discover just how real that folklore is.
With telepathic powers that made her parents send her to a mental institution, Arianna Parker always knew she was different—but she never thought a job interview would lead to the discovery of her being a prophesied descendent of an ancient Egyptian vampire race. Nor for that matter did she think she would fall in love with Maximos Vasilliadis, a 2,225 year old vampire. Maximos is the creator of the Tentyrian Brotherhood—a secret order of warriors, pledged to prevent a catastrophic event predicted to wipe out Earth.

Maximos believes Arianna is a descendent of his kind—the Tentyrian vampires—and she has been destined to lead their cause in saving the world. With her 25th birthday approaching, an event that will change her forever, Arianna finds herself caught in the middle of warring vampires—some of whom intend to use her and her power of telepathy for evil.

From the manicured lawns of Connecticut, to the streets of New York City and an exotic island in the Ionian Sea, Arianna must learn to trust Maximos and her heart if she is to save the world, herself, and the Tentyrian legacy.

About Elise

Interview with Elise Walters, author of Tentyrian Legacy - July 11, 2014
Elise Walters is a marketing executive with over seven years of experience in the advertising and marketing industry. Elise has helped articulate the value propositions for a wide array of products – from birth control to checking accounts.  If her career has taught her one thing it is the importance of crafting a story, a skill she has translated into her debut novel Tentyrian Legacy.

Elise graduated from Wake Forest University in 2007 with a B.A. in English. While her career led her into advertising, her passion for literature was one she continued to nurture as an avid reader. That passion began at the age of 12 when Elise ordered her first batch of romance novels from With titles by Catherine Coulter and Nora Roberts, she hid her books, embarrassed at their lack of age appropriateness and scholarly pedigree. However, it was those books that helped shape her teen years by offering an escape to the awkward time of adolescence.

In college, Elise specialized in Victorian literature and well-worn copies of Jane Eyre and Emma were never far from reach. However, teen romance favorites like the Twilight series also stacked the shelves. In creating Tentyrian Legacy, Elise sought to write a story for her own enjoyment and one that combined the elements she appreciates in a good book—romance, an evil plot that must be foiled, and vampires.

Elise grew up in New Canaan, CT and now lives in Pound Ridge, NY with her husband Jonathan and son Jack.

Website  ~  Twitter @tentyrian  ~  Goodreads

Interview with Thomas Sweterlitsch, author of Tomorrow and Tomorrow - July 10, 2014

Please welcome Thomas Sweterlitsch to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Tomorrow and Tomorrow is published today by Putnam Adult. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Thomas a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Thomas Sweterlitsch, author of Tomorrow and Tomorrow - July 10, 2014

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

Thomas:  Thanks for having me! I started writing when I was seven—scrawling out Red Dawn-inspired stories about G.I. Joe (I have a clear memory of trying to figure out how to spell the sound of a rocket propelled grenade…). I also have a notebook from when I was nine filled with a story called “The Red Ribbons of Death, part 6”—so, I assume I wrote parts 1 through 5 at a fairly young age, too. As for why I write? I don’t have a good answer for that—it’s just something I’d do, whether publishing or not. I like language—the sounds of words and all the slippery meanings.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Thomas:  A little of both—though mostly a “plotter.” I tend to think of plot as a house: I want to know the architecture before moving in, but I want to decorate as I move from room to room.

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

Thomas:  Luckily, with writing, some of the most challenging parts are also the most fun. I dread those early phases of starting a new book, as you write and rewrite and rewrite the beginning pages, infuriatingly stuck before you find your way inside the story—but that’s also the part where you’re meeting the characters that you’ll live with for the rest of your life. Similarly, I love the late revision stages, when the plot is set and I’m just working in the sandbox of language—but at the same time, that phase can go on forever if you let it, and you can’t let it. You have to stop sometime.

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

Thomas:  I love reading, and I love being influenced by literature. So, to name just a few:

Classic: Dickinson, Dante, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Poe.
SF/F: Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, J.G. Ballard. I’m heavily influenced by New Wave SF. Joanna Russ, John Brunner. Theodore Sturgeon.
Other: Robbe-Grillet, Stewart O’Nan, Houellebecq, Murakami, Flannery O’Connor.

TQ:  Describe Tomorrow and Tomorrow in 140 characters or less.

Thomas:  A bleak, near-future noir in which a grieving man tracks a woman who’s disappearing from a digital Archive.

TQ:  Tell us something about Tomorrow and Tomorrow that is not in the book description.

The book has been described as Cyberpunk, as tech-noir, as a thriller—but when I think of the book, I think of it as the story of each character’s search for personal grace, whether through a kind of Christian salvation, through forgiveness of their past, or healing from grief.

TQTomorrow and Tomorrow is described by the publisher as "Leading the next wave of cyberpunk..." What is "cyberpunk?"

Thomas:  “Cyberpunk,” emblemized by the movie Blade Runner and William Gibson’s Neuromancer (first published July, 1984—30 years ago this month), is not only a certain kind of science fiction writing, but a widely significant cultural movement that influenced everything from fashion to philosophy. Generally inspired by punk aesthetics, a hacker ethos and film noir, Cyberpunk typically focuses on marginalized characters and outlaws in a high tech, often grim, future.

I once saw an interview with Alfonso Cuarón who said his movie Children of Men was meant to be the “anti-Blade Runner,” in terms of the film’s visual language, that he didn’t want “inventiveness” but rather “references.” Children of Men is a major touchstone for me—the only movie that I saw and loved so much I immediately bought a ticket to see the very next showing—and in my book I wanted to write about the near-future as if I was writing about our everyday lives right now. In the sense that Children of Men is the “anti-Blade Runner,” my book might be “anti-Cyberpunk.”

TQ:  The novel is set in Pittsburgh or rather its remains. Why Pittsburgh?

Thomas:  I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for sixteen years, so it’s a natural setting for my work—most of my stories are either set in Pittsburgh or the surrounding area, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia.

Pittsburgh, though, is also a city with a layered history—the once mighty furnaces are either rusted out wastelands or they’ve been repurposed into upscale shopping plazas; near abandoned mill towns have been inhabited by artists; brand new robotics facilities now occupy derelict industrial sites. I find the mash up of histories and identities inspiring.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Tomorrow and Tomorrow?

Thomas:  Most of the novel takes place in an immersive, digital reconstruction of Pittsburgh called the Archive—a city that no longer exists. All of those Pittsburgh scenes were drawn from locations I know very well. The first part of the novel is set in Washington DC—another city I know well because my wife is from Silver Spring, so we’ve visited DC many, many times. About halfway through the book, though, I decided to set the action in a city I’ve never been to—I wanted to describe a city that I’ve only interacted with on a digital level, to mimic the way characters in the book interact with the Archive. I chose San Francisco, because that’s the setting of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, another influence on my novel, and used Google Street View to find my way around the city. I’ve had people from San Francisco assume I was familiar with the city—so, I think it’s accurate, although I took some liberties in imagining certain neighborhoods and locations as if they were pushed a few decades into the future.

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

Thomas:  For both questions, the answer is the main character, Dominic. The book’s in first person, so we live with him—and he’s not always the easiest to live with. He’s addicted to grieving, he’s addicted to drugs, he’s addicted to junk food—but at his core he is a man motivated by the most profound and pure love. I think his arc isn’t always the easiest to watch, but I hope his acceptance of grace is rewarding.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite lines from Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

Thomas:  Here is an early description of the attack that destroyed an entire city:

“The end occurred quickly, that much is verifiable—no one suffered except the ones who lived. Five hundred thousand lives ended in the blinding white flash. Shadows elongated and became like charcoal smudges, the city became like snowy ash and in a breath of wind vanished.”

TQ:  What's next?

Thomas:  I’m writing a new novel, this one a time-travel thriller; it’s also my take on a “space opera.”

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Thomas:  Thank you!

Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Putnam Adult, July 10, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Thomas Sweterlitsch, author of Tomorrow and Tomorrow - July 10, 2014
"Simultaneously trippy and hardboiled, Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a rich, absorbing, relentlessly inventive mindfuck, a smart, dark noir… Sweterlisch's debut is a wild mashup of Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs, and, like their work, utterly visionary."—Stewart O’Nan author of The Odds

Leading the next wave of cyberpunk in the tradition of William Gibson and Jonathan Lethem, Thomas Sweterlitsch is a bold new voice in literary science fiction.

A decade has passed since the city of Pittsburgh was reduced to ash.

While the rest of the world has moved on, losing itself in the noise of a media-glutted future, survivor John Dominic Blaxton remains obsessed with the past. Grieving for his wife and unborn child who perished in the blast, Dominic relives his lost life by immersing in the Archive—a fully interactive digital reconstruction of Pittsburgh, accessible to anyone who wants to visit the places they remember and the people they loved.

Dominic investigates deaths recorded in the Archive to help close cases long since grown cold, but when he discovers glitches in the code surrounding a crime scene—the body of a beautiful woman abandoned in a muddy park that he’s convinced someone tried to delete from the Archive—his cycle of grief is shattered.

With nothing left to lose, Dominic tracks the murder through a web of deceit that takes him from the darkest corners of the Archive to the ruins of the city itself, leading him into the heart of a nightmare more horrific than anything he could have imagined.

About Thomas

Interview with Thomas Sweterlitsch, author of Tomorrow and Tomorrow - July 10, 2014
Thomas Sweterlitsch lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and daughter. He worked for twelve years at the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Tomorrow and Tomorrow is his first novel

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @LetterSwitch

Interview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 2014

Please welcome Stephen Lloyd Jones to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The String Diaries was published (in North America) on July 1, 2014 by Mulholland Books.

Interview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 2014

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

Stephen:  Thanks for having me! I’ve enjoyed telling stories, in one guise or another, for as long as I can remember. I received my first rejection slip aged fifteen, from a British magazine called FEAR. I took screenwriting classes at university, where I also wrote my first novel (a dreadful effort, long consigned to the attic). After graduation I fell into a job at a London advertising agency. While I concentrated on building a career, the writing began to dwindle. My father’s death, a few years ago, was a turning point. I began to consider how easy it is to neglect childhood dreams. I started writing The String Diaries shortly afterwards.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Stephen:  I guess I’m half and half, which makes me either an impatient plotter, or a paranoid pantser. I need to know exactly what’s happening in the opening five chapters, so I can spring out of the blocks without worrying about what’s up ahead. I do like to have a possible ending in mind and a loose idea of major plot points, but they often change along the way. I can plot for only so long before I feel the engine beginning to overheat. That’s when I know it’s time to start.

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

Stephen:  Finding the time, definitely - an advertising career is extremely demanding of it. The String Diaries was written either very late at night or during snatched lunch breaks in coffee shops. I squeezed in edits on the train to and from London. Now things are a littler easier, as I’ve taken the gamble to write full-time.

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

Stephen:  Other than Tolkien and Dickens, they’re mainly US authors. I’m always first in line for the new Stephen King or Dean Koontz, and I love the work of Joe Hill, Robin Hobb and Thomas Harris (I wish he’d write another book.)

TQ:  Describe The String Diaries in 140 characters or less.

Stephen:  A supernatural thriller about a young woman, Hannah Wilde, fleeing from a man who’s murdered the last five generations of her family.

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

Stephen:  Although much has been made of the novel’s shocks, it’s fundamentally a story about sacrifice and love.

TQThe String Diaries is described as "...a sweeping thriller...". What appeals to you about thrillers?

Stephen:  I love reading about characters placed in impossible situations and forced to become instruments of their own redemption. The larger the landscape upon which those events take place, the more immersed I become.

TQ:  What sorts of research did you do for The String Diaries?

Stephen:  The historical sections set in Budapest required the most research. I’d already visited Hungary in 2010, but I spent months studying the country’s history, poring over old photographs and maps. I also took Hungarian language lessons to ensure that the foreign phrases I used were correct.

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

Stephen:  The easiest was Beckett, an Oxford professor of Philology. He has a minor role in the book, but he arrived fully formed and was enormous fun to write. The most difficult characters were Hannah and Jakab: Hannah, because so much of her journey is laced with pain; Jakab, because of his increasingly disturbing actions as the novel progresses.

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

Stephen:  To avoid any chance of spoilers, I’ll give you the very first line. ‘It was only when Hannah Wilde reached the farmhouse shortly after midnight that she realised how much blood her husband had lost.’

TQ:  What's next?

Stephen:  I’ve just delivered the sequel to my publishers. We don’t have a title yet, but it’s out November 6th in the UK, and next summer in the US. I’m very excited about it. Meanwhile I’m about to start work on my next book. (Once the World Cup is over, that is…)

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The String Diaries
Mulholland Books, July 1, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
US Debut

Interview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 2014
A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.

The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night--her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?

Stephen Lloyd Jones's debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion--a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.

If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.

Qwills Thoughts

The String Diaries hit all the sweet spots for me: interesting mythology, strong female characters, a sociopathic shape-shifting antagonist (who's had a long time to practice), action, fear, a bit of gore and horror, and a terrific story.

Hannah Wilde is the main character in the present as she is the most recent generation to have to deal with the horror that has been stalking and killing members of her family for years. She's a strong woman. She makes mistakes. She's a mother, wife and daughter. She loves her family deeply. She has decisions to make about how she will live and how her family and future generations of her family will live.

While the main plot centers around Hannah, Jones takes us back and forth through her family's history to show how this all started, how it has affected generations of her family, how the monster Jakab came to be, and who and what he is. It's fascinating. It's chilling as Jones slowly lets the reader in on the history of this multi-generational horror as the characters ineluctably move towards each other. Jones does a great job of building and building the tension. The end chapters of the novel are pure adrenaline as things finally come to a head.

There is gore and violence, but it's not over the top. The writing is crisp with a mythology that is inventive and different.

The String Diaries is compulsively readable. It's a taut unnerving supernatural thriller about what one woman will do to finally save her family. I loved every minute I spent reading this debut novel. I can't wait to see what Jones does next.

About Stephen

Interview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 2014
Stephen Lloyd Jones was born in 1973, and grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire.

He studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and far too many books.

Website  ~  Twitter @sljonesauthor  ~  Facebook

Interview with Carrie Patel, author of The Buried Life - June 26, 2014

Please welcome Carrie Patel to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Buried Life will be published on July 29, 2014 in eBook and in print in North America and on August 7th in print in the UK. Look for a Guest Blog by Carrie on July 31st.

Interview with Carrie Patel, author of The Buried Life - June 26, 2014

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

Carrie:  I'd scribbled poetry in high school and college, but I was always drawn to longer fiction, particularly since that's what I spent most of my time reading. I probably wrote about half a dozen first pages at various points, but none of the concepts really stuck with me. It wasn't until a study trip to Argentina just before my junior year of college that I started thinking about a story that had enough character and plot momentum to keep me writing.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Carrie:  I am a creature of conflict and indecision, so I end up being a bit of both. However, even when I end up writing a progression of scenes in a more-or-less organic fashion, it only works when I have a pretty clear mental sketch of where it's all headed. With a project like The Buried Life (and its upcoming sequel), in which numerous characters and interests are set in motion, it's useful for me to have notes on the major players and their trajectories. It keeps my writing time focused, and it forces me to articulate motives and subplots that might otherwise get vague.

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

Carrie:  Worming my way into a character's head can be a huge challenge, but it's a worthwhile one because it makes such a difference in the quality and focus of the writing. Once I find my way there the first time, I can usually find my way back, but forging that initial trail can be a chore.

I like to write in a variety of locations--it really depends on how much time I have and whether I'm itching to get out of the apartment. As cliche as it may sound, I love a good coffee shop. Especially one that serves Vietnamese iced coffee. Getting out helps me set writing time aside as a specific and purposeful occasion, and the right amount of ambient chatter and activity can make a pleasant backdrop. As often as not, however, I end up writing at home, particularly in the evening.

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

Carrie:  I love China Miéville, and I definitely see him as a major influence for The Buried Life. Perdido Street Station was a brilliant novel that bundled complex characters, a thrilling plot, and a unique setting. His world comes alive with sweat, soot, and steam, and even though it has a Victorian flavor, it's a totally unique creation. The characters shape and are shaped by their world, which is rife with corruption and political complexity, but the politics don't overtake the story.

I also thought of Mark Frost's The List of Seven and the Agent Pendergast series from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. They're fast-paced thrillers featuring eccentric detectives and dark, unusual mysteries. The gaslight-and-shadows atmosphere of The List of Seven was something I particularly remember enjoying.

TQ:  Describe The Buried Life in 140 characters or less.

Carrie:  Two inspectors chase a murderer, dodge politicians, and unearth a conspiracy in an underground city.

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

Carrie:  It features old grudges, fancy manners, and salmon canapés.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Buried Life? Angry Robot describes the novel as Science Fantasy? What is Science Fantasy and why did you choose to write in that genre? Would you like to write in any other genres or sub-genres?

Carrie:  Visiting Argentina and the Recoleta Cemetary jump-started the process. From there, it was just a matter of teasing characters and a story out of a specific setting and atmosphere.

Science fantasy encompasses elements of both traditional science fiction and fantasy. In some cases, I think it also describes a work that falls through the cracks of both genres and doesn't land solidly on horror, New Weird, steampunk, or anything else.

It wasn't something I specifically set out to write--in fact, I was curious to see how Angry Robot would categorize The Buried Life--but it turned out to be a great fit. I tend to be a fairly omnivorous reader, and I enjoy writing across the spectrum of speculative fiction. My short story, "Here Be Monsters," is an alternate history with sea monsters, and I have another novel-in-progress that's near-future science fiction.

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

Carrie:  The research was a mix of studying actual underground environments and researching random minutiae to flesh out the details of a technologically regressed setting: fabrics, firearms, modes of transportation, etc. I particularly remember reading about laundry methods of the 1800s to fill out an early scene with one of the protagonists. When you're inventing many of the details in a fictional world, having a few realistic reference points can add a layer of believability.

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

Carrie:  Roman Arnault was probably the easiest. He's not a perspective character, so I never had to get inside his head to write him--I generally wrote him from the vantage point of the two perspective characters, both of whom have strong (and opposing) reactions to him. In fact, most characters have a pretty strong reaction to him one way or the other, so they always have something colorful to say about him.

Inspector Liesl Malone, on the other hand, was pretty hard. She's deadpan, which can come across as bland, and she's a by-the-book badass, which can become a cliché. With a character like her, nuance is key. You have to show the brittleness that accompanies her rigidity, the sense of humor beneath her solemnity, and the hollowness that belies her sense of purpose.

My favorite character is definitely Roman. He's a troublemaker and a snarker, and he guarantees hijinks of some sort whenever he shows up. I think he's also the biggest puzzle for readers, and all of these aspects made him a ton of fun to write.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from The Buried Life.


"For whatever reason, a fugitive on the last leg of flight almost always made for the surface the way a wounded rabbit crawls to the bushes to die."

TQ:  What's next?

Carrie:  Right now, I'm working on Cities and Thrones! It explores the consequences and aftershocks of events in The Buried Life, both for the characters and for neighboring cities.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Carrie:  Thanks so much for having me! It's been a pleasure, and I'm looking forward to the rest of your debut author features.

The Buried Life
Angry Robot Books, July 29, 2014 (North America Print / eBook)
       August 7, 2014 (UK Print)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Cover by John Coulthart

Interview with Carrie Patel, author of The Buried Life - June 26, 2014
The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Recoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.

When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…

File Under: Science Fantasy [ Thriller | Society in Ruins | Fully Booked | New and Weird ]

About Carrie

Interview with Carrie Patel, author of The Buried Life - June 26, 2014
Carrie Patel was born and raised in Houston, Texas. An avid traveller, she studied abroad in Granada, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas A&M University and worked in transfer pricing at Ernst & Young for two years.

She now works as a narrative designer at Obsidian Entertainment in Irvine, California, where the only season is Always Perfect.

You can find Carrie online at and @Carrie_Patel on Twitter.

Interview with Bishop O'Connell, author of The Stolen - July 22, 2014Interview with Letitia Trent, author of Echo Lake - July 18, 2014Interview with Sharona Muir, author of Invisible Beasts - July 16, 2014Interview with Sebastien de Castell, author of Traitor's Blade - July 15, 2014Interview with Jamie Schultz, author of Premonitions, and Giveaway - July 12, 2014Interview with Elise Walters, author of Tentyrian Legacy - July 11, 2014Interview with Thomas Sweterlitsch, author of Tomorrow and Tomorrow - July 10, 2014Interview with Errick A. Nunnally, author of Blood for the Sun - July 9, 2014Interview with Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The String Diaries - July 5, 2014Interview with Carrie Patel, author of The Buried Life - June 26, 2014

Report "The Qwillery"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?