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2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September 2014 Winner


The winner of the August 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Mr. Wicker by Maria Alexander with 69 votes equaling 39% of all votes. Mr. Wicker is published by Raw Dog Screaming Press.



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September 2014 Winner




The Final Results

2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September 2014 Winner




The September 2014 Debut Covers

2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September 2014 Winner




Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue with voting on the October Debut covers starting on October 15, 2014. Look for the list of October's Debuts on October 1st.


Interview with Chrysler Szarlan, author of The Hawley Book of the Dead - September 23, 2014


Please welcome Chrysler Szarlan to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Hawley Book of the Dead is published on September 23rd by Ballantine Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Chrysler a very Happy Publication Day.



Interview with Chrysler Szarlan, author of The Hawley Book of the Dead - September 23, 2014




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

Chrysler:  It’s a pleasure to be here, in the virtual world of The Qwillery. Thank you for having me. I love virtual worlds, after all, and write of them often.

I began writing as a kid. I wanted to be an actor or a writer; I used to pen poems and stories about horses and put on plays in the back yard for an audience of stuffed animals. My parents were always too busy to attend as they had to work hard to keep me well supplied with books.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Chrysler:  Oh, definitely a pantser. My characters tell me what to write. I can’t do anything without them. I’m actually not sure I would write with any regularity, only I’ve somehow, luckily, managed to tap into this very cool world that’s half real and half fantasy, with all these brilliant characters who spur me on.



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

Chrysler:  Revising. Because after they tell me their stories and a little bit about themselves, my characters head back to the western Massachusetts hilltowns where they live and leave me to it. They run off to ride their horses in the cool haunted forests of Hawley, and hang out at Pizza by Earl or the Perpetual Tag Sale, and have all kinds of further adventures with evil magicians, and I get stuck messing about with bits of paper filled with their thoughts that I then have to sort out and make some sense of.



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

Chrysler:  The list is really endless. I love the creepy New England writers so much I had to become one. Nathaniel Hawthorne and H.P. Lovecraft and Shirley Jackson and Stephen King and Alice Hoffman and early Annie Proulx—before she moved to Wyoming, she lived in Vermont and wrote brilliantly and creepily of New England. And I’ve always loved the nineteenth century Brits, especially Charlotte Bronte. She was pretty creepy, too (what is a Gytrash, does anyone know?). And now, I work at an amazing indie bookstore, the Odyssey Bookshop, and I help choose the First Edition Club picks, so I’m always getting to read brilliant writers I hadn’t read before: Cynthia Bond and Emily St John Mandel and Lauren Francis Sharma and Jess Walter and John Vaillant, and the new books of my old favorites, Ruth Ozeki and Julia Glass and John Irving and I could go on, but suffice it to say my favorite writers remain, in no particular order, Annie Proulx and Stephen King and Louise Erdrich and Barbara Pym, whose books I read when I am anxious.



TQ:  Describe The Hawley Book of the Dead in 140 characters or less.

Chrysler:  A woman magician with real powers is the reluctant heroine, a wife and mother, who must fight an unknown evil nemesis in a haunted forest.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Hawley Book of the Dead that is not in the book description.

Chrysler:  It’s the first in a series called The Revelation Chronicles. I think that’s the most important thing that gets left out of many of the descriptions of the book, oddly. And there’s falconry and Irish mythology in it, too. But it’s subtle in this book. This is not high fantasy. Not yet.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Hawley Book of the Dead? Why did you set the novel primarily in Massachusetts?

Chrysler:  So many things inspired me and allowed the characters to come to me. Riding my own horse in the actual Hawley Forest. The title, which I had stuck in my head for years before I found its story. Reading Robertson Davies, and his very cool Deptford Trilogy, which is about magic and a magician (also saints and rural Canada). NaNoWriMo (that’s the very cool National Novel Writing Month) inspired me. But I guess just living in the hilltowns, among the people and the landscape. That’s what inspired me the most. I have this whole half real, half fictional world going now, with all its characters. And I can’t stop writing about them. And we all just live here, in western Massachusetts. It’s a magical place. After all, so many writers lived here and got inspiration from the landscape and the people – Emily Dickinson, Hawthorne, Melville, Robert Frost, Richard Wilbur. It’s kind of a mecca for writers.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Hawley Book of the Dead?

Chrysler:  I got to go to Las Vegas. Everything else I just kind of knew. I know western Mass and the people who live here. I know enough about Irish mythology, as I’ve spent a bit of time in Ireland. But I didn’t know much about magic, and the history of magic, despite being a magician’s assistant for about two minutes in the ‘80’s (I was terrible). I really only started researching stage magic when my heroine, Reve, told me she was an illusionist in Las Vegas. I actually hated the thought of going there, it was never a place that held any attraction for me. But it was amazing. It was this over the top city springing up from the desert. It was actually about five cities, Paris and Venice and Cairo and New York and Florence. And it is the city of magic. I had an amazing time there, in the city and the surrounding desert. There’s real magic there, as well as in Hawley.



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

Chrysler:  The easiest was Caleigh, I think. She is the most direct, maybe because she is the youngest. She’s very open. Reve was really hard. She has these different personas; there are different levels to her. The wife and mother. The performer. The woman with a special power that she doesn’t want to give any room to in the real world, because she’s afraid of it and it has burned her in the past. And she is also the character of mine who is most like me. Not that I have a super-power, but we see the world in the same way and have similar ways of expressing ourselves. I didn’t even see it until a good friend pointed it out, though.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Hawley Book of the Dead.

Chrysler:  Well, the first sentence is kind of cool: “On the day I killed my husband, the scent of lilacs startled me awake.” A lot of people seem to like it.

And I love a lot of things Falcon Eddy says, like: “You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind, missy.”



TQ:  What's next?

Chrysler:  The second book in The Revelation Chronicles, which is so far called Dreamland. It’s the further adventures of Reve and her daughters.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Chrysler:  Thank you so much for welcoming me to your world!





The Hawley Book of the Dead
The Revelation Chronicles 1
Ballantine Books, September 23, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Chrysler Szarlan, author of The Hawley Book of the Dead - September 23, 2014
For fans of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and A Discovery of Witches comes a brilliantly imagined debut novel brimming with rich history, suspense, and magic.

Revelation “Reve” Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

Reve and her husband are world-famous Las Vegas illusionists. They have three lovely young daughters, a beautiful home, and what seems like a charmed life. But Reve’s world is shattered when an intruder alters her trick pistol and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage.

Fearing for her daughters’ lives, Reve flees with them to the place she has always felt safest—an antiquated farmhouse in the forest of Hawley Five Corners, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, and her oldest friend—and first love—is the town’s chief of police. Here, in the forest, with its undeniable air of enchantment, Reve hopes she and her girls will be protected.

Delving into the past for answers, Reve is drawn deeper into her family’s legends. What she discovers is The Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient leather-bound journal holding mysterious mythic power. As she pieces together the truth behind the book, Reve will have to shield herself and her daughters against an uncertain, increasingly dangerous fate. For soon it becomes clear that the stranger who upended Reve’s life in Las Vegas has followed her to Hawley—and that she has something he desperately wants.

Brimming with rich history, suspense, and magic, The Hawley Book of the Dead is a brilliantly imagined debut novel from a riveting new voice.





About Chrysler

Interview with Chrysler Szarlan, author of The Hawley Book of the Dead - September 23, 2014
Photo by Tracey Eller
Chrysler Szarlan lives in western Massachusetts with her family, works part-time as a bookseller at the Odyssey Bookshop, and rides her horse in the Hawley Forest whenever possible. An alumnae of Marlboro College, she jogged racehorses and worked as a magician’s assistant before graduating from law school, after which she worked as a managing attorney with Connecticut Legal Rights Project. She is deep into her next novel.



Website  ~  Twitter @/ChryslerSzarlan  ~  Facebook  ~  Goodreads


Interview with Lauren Oliver - September 22, 2014


Please welcome Lauren Oliver to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Rooms, Lauren's adult fiction debut, will be published on September 23rd by Ecco.



Interview with Lauren Oliver - September 22, 2014




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

Lauren:  I've been writing pretty much every day since I was nine! I started because, as an avid reader, I wanted to spend more time in the worlds of books I loved. It was really a kind of fan-fiction!



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Lauren:  I'm a combination of both! I start out with just writing, and then after I get a firm foot in the story I'm telling, I force myself to write a really detailed outline of the rest of the book.



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

Lauren:  Every book has its own challenges, just like each one has its own joys. It really changes from story to story.



TQ:  How different is it writing a book for adults vs. young adults?

Lauren:  Again, I think it is really a matter of the individual book rather than the age it's meant for. Adult books are obviously tonally and thematically different than children's book, but the process of writing remains pretty similar.



TQ:  Describe Rooms in 140 characters or less.

Lauren:  Here is EXACTLY 140 characters!

After the death of the patriarch, a family goes home to clean out the house. They are watched by the ghosts that inhabit the walls. SECRETS!



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

Lauren:  There is a story within the story called The Raven Heliotrope.



TQRooms is described by your publisher a "ghost story." Why ghosts?

Lauren:  I'm kind of obsessed with ghosts! Rooms is my third published novel to include a character that speaks from the afterlife (after Before I Fall and Liesl & Po). I think we're all interested in exploring what an afterlife would be like.



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

Lauren:  That's a difficult question to answer. I guess in some ways, Trenton was easiest. He'd existed in various permutations of the novel, since its earliest inception. I knew him very well when I sat down to write. And I think Sandra was possibly the hardest. Her vocabulary and her experiences were so distinct from mine, and I wanted to give her sections resonance while having to restrict myself to her kind of curt, somewhat crass voice.



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

Lauren:  That is what it is to be alive: The dust doesn’t blow backward for you. The roads remain. For the shortest time, shorter than the shortest second’s breath, you get to stand up to infinity. But eventually, and always, infinity wins.


TQ:  What's next?

Lauren:  My next YA Novel, Vanishing Girls, is coming out this Spring! After that I have a new Middle Grade series that I'm very excited for. :)



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Rooms
Ecco, September 23, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
(Adult Debut)

Interview with Lauren Oliver - September 22, 2014
The New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy makes her brilliant adult debut with this mesmerizing story in the tradition of The Lovely Bones, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways.

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.

Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant.





About Lauren

Interview with Lauren Oliver - September 22, 2014
c. Charles Grantham, 2014
Lauren Oliver is the author of the New York Times bestselling YA novels Before I Fall, Panic, and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem. Her books have been translated into thirty languages. She is also the author of two novels for middle-grade readers, The Spindlers and Liesl & Po, which was a 2012 E. B. White Read-Aloud Award nominee. Lauren's first adult novel, Rooms, will be published in September 2014. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the co-founder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit. You can visit her online at www.laurenoliverbooks.com




Twitter @ OliverBooks  ~  Facebook




Interview with Maria Alexander, author of Mr. Wicker - September 19, 2014


Please welcome Maria Alexander to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Mr. Wicker was published on September 16th by Raw Dog Screaming Press.



Interview with Maria Alexander, author of Mr. Wicker - September 19, 2014




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

Maria:  Pleased to be here! I started playing with stories when I was 8 years old while I was recovering from chicken pox. I wrote on and off throughout my childhood, but I was more of a musician until I was in college. That’s when I co-founded a company called Dead Earth Productions that designed and ran fully immersive, live-action horror games. We were based in the San Francisco Bay Area. This meant many of our players came from the big RPG companies, like Chaosium, R. Talsorian and White Wolf. Because I loved games and creating interactive experiences more than anything, I devoted my nascent writing talents to that. I didn’t start writing fiction seriously until Neil Gaiman and I started corresponding years later.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Maria:  Having spent a long time as a screenwriter, I’m a hopeless plotter. But I’m not so locked into my plotting that, if something cool jumps out of my head and it feels right, I can’t be flexible.



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

Maria:  Typing. Right now, I have hand problems and I write with voice technology. You would never know it based on my output. Ask my publisher!



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

Maria:  Gabrielle Garcia Marquez. Clive Barker. Michael Marshall Smith. Tim Powers. Neil Gaiman. I recently realized how much Julio Cortázar has shaped my creativity. I first read him in college and he is astonishing. “The Night Face Up” is one of the greatest stories ever written, I think.



TQ:  Describe Mr. Wicker in 140 characters or less.

Maria:  Alicia Baum is missing a deadly childhood memory. She must get it back before it destroys her life — again.



TQ:  Tell us something about Mr. Wicker that is not in the book description.

Maria:  At the midpoint of the story, Mr. Wicker shares with Alicia a story about who he used to be before the Library. He takes the reader on a brutal, chilling adventure in ancient Gaul on the eve of the Gallic Wars. The fate of those ancient people is entwined with Alicia’s in ways she could never guess.



TQ:  What inspired you to write Mr. Wicker? From the description of the novel it appears to be a genre bender. Is it essentially an Urban Fantasy? You also touch on suicide on the novel. Why did you go there?

Maria:  Mr. Wicker is quite similar to American Gods in that it’s mostly urban fantasy with parts that are historical fantasy. (Now that I think about it, I wonder if American Gods is considered cross genre.) The difference is that the historical fantasy in Mr. Wicker is one larger story, rather than several shorter, individual stories distributed throughout the book.

As for inspiration, I had a close encounter of sorts with Mr. Wicker himself back in 1997. If you solve the puzzle at the end of the book trailer, it unlocks something that ultimately reveals the bizarre yet true tale. Two people have solved it so far: legendary “Monkey Island” game designer/online community guru Randy Farmer, and brilliant actress/puzzle aficionado Whitney Avalon. (Remember the mom in that controversial Cheerios commercial? Yep. Her.) The puzzle is really not that hard. You’ve seen that sequence before…



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Mr. Wicker?

Maria:  I haunted mental health forums looking for information about suicide and lockdowns. I wish there was more transparency in the mental health profession about what it’s like in a proper lockdown environment. The book is set in 2005. When I started writing the book in 2004, we didn’t have as much information about mental health treatment online as we do today. It was very difficult to get a solid idea of what happens inside mental health facilities from a professional perspective, and still is. Eventually, a friend of mine who’d recently obtained her medical degree graciously shared with me her experiences as a med student on rotation in a lockdown, but I could have used more information.

As for the historical fantasy, I initially started researching ancient Gaul and Rome according to guidelines that Tim Powers gave me for historical research. However, I encountered difficulties because the Gauls were so obscure and my Roman interests so particular. I went to the UCLA library, where I found journal articles written by a classicist named Dr. Maurice James Moscovich at the Western University in London Ontario, Canada. His scholastic specialty covered exactly what I needed to know. I got in touch with him and he took me under his wing. I’m truly lucky. He even read what I wrote and gave me feedback. (I took at least 90% of it.) He’s retired now, thinking more about golf than the Gauls, but he considers me one of his students.



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

Maria:  Alicia was both the easiest and the hardest because, even when I thought she was being an idiot, I understood her. I got the most blowback about her from male agents. One jackass in particular, who had obviously read the entire book, sent me a long letter explaining how much he disliked her and that no one would ever like a female character who is angry. When my friend Edith Speed committed suicide in 2009, she was incredibly angry. (She was a very strong woman most of her life, by the way.) There was no way I was going to soften Alicia to please anyone’s aesthetic palate, especially after Edith’s death. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s honest, and I think readers prefer that. I know I do.



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

Maria:  From Chapter 40:

      She’ll die if you don’t come.
      The words rolled before him and retreated like a riptide into the darkness. His will got caught in the undertow and he could not resist the plea.
      Dr. Farron put down the water cup and sized up the hallway, the portrait glimmering. Forget sanity. Eat me. Drink me. Vomit me. Scorch me. Love me. Remember me...
      He ran.



TQ:  What's next?

Maria:  I’ve just finished writing a dark, action-packed YA novel called Snowed. It’s about a 16-year-old engineering prodigy named Charity Jones whose social worker mother brings home a mysterious boy named Aidan to foster for the holidays. But as Charity and Aidan fall in love, violent deaths occur that Charity investigates with her Skeptics Club. They wind up battling a terrifying twist on the Christmas myth that changes their lives — and human history — forever.

I recruited a team of teen beta readers and their moms for notes to help make the book more authentic. They gave me great notes, but I was not prepared for their overwhelming, unrelenting excitement. Not even the moms were able to put down the book. I also got resounding approval from my 13-year-old male beta reader. (He says it’s a mystery, not a romance. I’m good with that.) I’m querying agents now, as well as plotting the second book in the trilogy.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Maria:  You’re welcome! Thank you for having me.





Mr. Wicker
Raw Dog Screaming Press, September 16, 20414
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 236 pages

Interview with Maria Alexander, author of Mr. Wicker - September 19, 2014
Alicia Baum is missing a deadly childhood memory.

Located beyond life, The Library of Lost Childhood Memories holds the answer. The Librarian is Mr. Wicker — a seductive yet sinister creature with an unthinkable past and an agenda just as lethal. After committing suicide, Alicia finds herself before the Librarian, who informs her that her lost memory is not only the reason she took her life, but the cause of every bad thing that has happened to her.

Alicia spurns Mr. Wicker and attempts to enter the hereafter without the Book that would make her spirit whole. But instead of the oblivion she craves, she finds herself in a psychiatric hold at Bayford Hospital, where the staff is more pernicious than its patients.

Child psychiatrist Dr. James Farron is researching an unusual phenomenon: traumatized children whisper to a mysterious figure in their sleep. When they awaken, they forget both the traumatic event and the character that kept them company in their dreams — someone they call “Mr. Wicker.”

During an emergency room shift, Dr. Farron hears an unconscious Alicia talking to Mr. Wicker—the first time he’s heard of an adult speaking to the presence. Drawn to the mystery, and then to each other, they team up to find the memory before it annihilates Alicia for good. To do so they must struggle not only against Mr. Wicker’s passions, but also a powerful attraction that threatens to derail her search, ruin Dr. Farron’s career, and inflame the Librarian’s fury.

After all, Mr. Wicker wants Alicia to himself, and will destroy anyone to get what he wants. Even Alicia herself.





About Maria

Interview with Maria Alexander, author of Mr. Wicker - September 19, 2014
Maria Alexander writes pretty much every damned thing and gets paid to do it. She’s a produced screenwriter and playwright, published games writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, interactive theatre designer, prolific fiction writer, snarkiologist and poet. Her stories have appeared in publications such as Chiaroscuro Magazine, Gothic.net and Paradox, as well as numerous acclaimed anthologies alongside living legends such as David Morrell and Heather Graham.

Her second poetry collection—At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned and the Absinthe-Minded—was nominated for the 2011 Bram Stoker Award. And she was a winner of the 2004 AOL Time-Warner “Time to Rhyme” poetry contest.

When she’s not wielding a katana at her local shinkendo dojo, she’s on the BBC World Have Your Say radio program shooting off her mouth about blasphemy, international politics and more. She lives in Los Angeles with two
ungrateful cats and a purse called Trog.

Explore her website: www.mariaalexander.net. You won’t regret it.

Twitter @LaMaupin


Interview with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams - September 18, 2014


Please welcome Chloe Benjamin to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Anatomy of Dreams was published on September 16th by Atria Books.



Interview with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams - September 18, 2014




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

Chloe:  I'm one of those annoying people who's been writing as long as she (I) can remember. As for why, hmm--I think I've always had an overactive imagination and a ferocious appetite for knowledge, as well as more curiosity than is probably healthy, and in combination they've led me to reading and writing.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Chloe:  Is it embarrassing that I had to google "What is a pantser"? I'd say I'm a combination of both. I always have some idea of where the story is going; I tend to know the beginning and have a hazy idea of the end, as well as some twists and turns along the way. But I'm also a believer in the notion that writing a novel is like driving through a dark tunnel at night--you can only see as far as the headlights will show you, but you can make the whole trip that way. For me, plotting a book out entirely ahead of time would reduce the possibility of discovery and surprise, which are (for me, at least) the chief delights of writing a first draft.



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

Chloe:  Oh, there are so many things. I find revision really grueling. As I mentioned above, I really love the process of writing early drafts: there is so much to be uncovered, so much room to invent and play. Revisions are about taking that pulpy mass of invention and turning it into something with shape and cohesion--in other words, narrative and structural integrity. That process is absolutely necessary but it's simply less fun and less intuitive for me.



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

Chloe:  I tend to fall for authors who explore human relationships with insight and style. That's a really big umbrella, and I suppose it could cover all authors ever, but I'm thinking of people like Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore. I also love authors who push the limits of speculative or genre fiction, like Kazuo Ishiguro, Tana French, Judy Budnitz, Lev Grossman, Margaret Atwood, George Saunders and Philip Pullman.



TQ:  Describe The Anatomy of Dreams in 140 characters or less.

Chloe:  Couple pursues experimental dream research beneath a charismatic but ethically-questionable professor; trouble ensues.



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

Chloe:  The book actually doesn't veer into sci-fi or even speculative fiction--it stays firmly in the realm of what's possible within our world, though I do think it nudges those boundaries.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Anatomy of Dreams? What is lucid dreaming?

Chloe:  I've always had very vivid dreams, and I find dreams in general so fascinating--they're such evidence of the human brain's tendency toward narrative. And because we have little control over that narrative--it's so subconscious--dreams can be very revealing.

Lucid dreaming is the act of knowing that you're dreaming while in the midst of a dream. The researchers in the novel think this presents an opportunity for patients with sleep disorders to regain some control: they reason that if disordered dreamers can become aware of their dreams while inside them, they'll be able to intervene in their own behavior and better process their subconscious fears and urges.



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

Chloe:  I did a few different layers of research. I wanted to be grounded in the history of dream theory, so I read Freud and Jung, whose ideas still influence the way we think about sleep and the subconscious. Then I read the work of current dream researchers, both those who work on sleep disorders and those who work on lucid dreaming--people like Rosalind Cartwright and Stephen Laberge. Finally, I researched the nuts and bolts of sleep studies: how to operate polysomnography equipment, for instance, as well as academic papers that explore methodology for lucidity studies.



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

Chloe:  What an interesting question! I'm going to be a cheater and say that Sylvie was both the easiest and the hardest to write: the easiest because her voice came to me immediately, and the hardest because it took a lot of finessing and revision to make sure that she didn't come off as too much of a wet blanket. That was a big part of what I hoped to convey with her character--that even someone who seems utterly practical and conventional can have many layers of weirdness--but in early drafts she was, in my agent's words, somewhat pathetic. In later drafts, I tried to bring out her voice and give her more agency.



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

Chloe:  Another great question! It's so easy, as an author, to focus on self-criticism and forget to highlight the things you're proud of. I've always liked these lines:

"I’d heard about the power of striped bass, how they grew as heavy as sixty pounds; mature, they had few enemies. But the one in Keller’s hands was docile, resigned. Its eyes--even larger than a human’s, the black irises pits in pools of yellow--stared out at the room with what seemed like attention, as if Keller were offering not death but a privilege. Here, he seemed to say, was life on land."



TQ:  What's next?

Chloe:  In addition to promotion for ANATOMY and a few short writing projects, I'm working on my next novel. I'm superstitious about sharing plot info, but I will say that I'm researching divination, vaudeville and sex work in 1980s San Francisco. My Google searches are getting pretty sketchy!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Chloe:  Thank you!





The Anatomy of Dreams
Atria Books, September 16, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams - September 18, 2014
Long-listed for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

“A sly, promising and ambitious debut.” —Publishers Weekly

“Chloe Benjamin is a great new talent.” —Lorrie Moore, author of Bark: Stories

It’s 1998, and Sylvie Patterson, a bookish student at a Northern California boarding school, falls in love with a spirited, elusive classmate named Gabe. Their headmaster, Dr. Adrian Keller, is a charismatic medical researcher who has staked his career on the therapeutic potential of lucid dreaming: By teaching his patients to become conscious during sleep, he helps them to relieve stress and heal from trauma. Over the next six years, Sylvie and Gabe become consumed by Keller’s work, following him from the redwood forests of Eureka, California, to the enchanting New England coast.

But when an opportunity brings the trio to the Midwest, Sylvie and Gabe stumble into a tangled relationship with their mysterious neighbors—and Sylvie begins to doubt the ethics of Keller’s research, recognizing the harm that can be wrought under the guise of progress. As she navigates the hazy, permeable boundaries between what is real and what isn’t, who can be trusted and who cannot, Sylvie also faces surprising developments in herself: an unexpected infatuation, growing paranoia, and a new sense of rebellion.

In stirring, elegant prose, Benjamin’s tale exposes the slippery nature of trust—and the immense power of our dreams.





About Chloe

Interview with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams - September 18, 2014
Photograph © Nicholas Wilkes
Chloe Benjamin is a graduate of Vassar College and The University of Wisconsin-Madison MFA program. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, Pank, Whiskey Island, and The Washington Independent Review of Books. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.








Website  ~  Twitter @chloekbenjamin




Interview with Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger - September 16, 2014


Please welcome Beth Cato to The Qwillery as part of the  2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Clockwork Dagger is out today from Harper Voyager. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Beth a very Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger - September 16, 2014




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

Beth:  Thanks for having me here! It's an amazing feeling to be on a site that I've visited for years as a reader.

I was the odd four-year-old who wrote and illustrated my own stapled-together books. I continued to dream of being an author into my teenage years, at which point reality and my own insecurities smacked me upside the head. I gave up on writing for a decade. I was at home with my toddler son while my husband deployed in the Navy and I realized I wasn't being true to myself. I needed to do something more. I needed to write again.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Beth:  I'm a dedicated plotter but I leave a lot of wiggle room in my outlines. My stories always manage to surprise me!



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

Beth:  Oh, rejection. No question. It's hard to work on something for weeks or months and see it turned away with a form rejection, or worse, a personal rejection that let's you know it was oh-so-close to be accepted. I've developed a thicker skin over the years but it's still hard sometimes. My husband is acting as the screener for my book reviews so that I mostly see the positives ones.



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

Beth:  I adore C. E. Murphy's Walker Papers series. I found her books when I was starting to write again and I desperately wanted to be published, and I studied her books to figure out why they worked. I also love Elizabeth Moon's work--in particular, her Paksenarrion and Vatta's War books. On a personal level, she inspires me because she was a prolific writer while raising a son with autism, just as I am. I really needed a role model like that, especially during my son's hard preschool years.



TQ:  Describe The Clockwork Dagger in 140 characters or less.

Beth:  Healer on airship. Murder, spies, poison, cute gremlins & world tree that seriously plays favorites. Epic fantasy meets steampunk!



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

Beth:  The setting is based on post-World War I Europe, while the geography is based on western Washington state.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Clockwork Dagger? What appealed to you about writing a steampunk mystery novel? What do you think is the appeal of steampunk and why do you believe that steampunk blends so well with other genres / subgenres?

Beth:  I knew I wanted to write about a healer. I've loved steampunk for ages. My mom raised me on Agatha Christie mysteries. Everything mashed together in my brain. I initially pitched the idea to my agent as "Murder on the Orient Express, on an airship, with a healer."

First of all, steampunk is just plain fun. The clothes! The gadgets! The manners! Yet there's also depth to it. The Victorian and Edwardian periods were filled with such scientific promise and excitement, but at the same time you had the horrors of colonization and the dark side of industrialization. Steampunk literature lets us rewrite history or use that framework on a different world (as I do). Women can fight for empowerment, and minorities are given a greater voice. The real-life steampunk community reflects that, too--all ages, all body types, all backgrounds. Everyone is accepted and celebrated.

Steampunk blends well with other genres--mystery, post-apocalyptic, future science fiction--because there is so much inherent conflict, and anyone can be the hero.



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

Beth:  I read a number of books set during the American Civil War and World War I, fiction and nonfiction, though I most heavily relied on books about battlefield medicine. Within The Clockwork Dagger, the Lady's herbs are the only thing I invented. Other herbs, tools, and usages are drawn from history--things like the use of iodine for tender-feet.



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

Beth:  Leaf was by far the easiest to write. He's also the character that readers are the most crazy about. I based Leaf on my cat Palom--I thought, what would Palom be like if he understood more language and had wings? The hardest character was Octavia. In early drafts she was an extreme good-two-shoes. I had to soften her a lot to make sure she was relatable.



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

Beth:

"I'll try not to grope you without a legitimate medical excuse."

Apparently, one doesn't make friends by assaulting fellow passengers with a serving tray.



TQ:  What's next?

Beth:  I just wrapped up revisions for the second book in the duology, The Clockwork Crown. It's set to come out next autumn. I also have another steampunk series in the works, but no guarantees about that yet!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Beth:  Thanks for letting me be part of the site!





The Clockwork Dagger
Harper Voyager, September 16, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger - September 16, 2014
Full of magic, mystery, and romance, an enchanting steampunk fantasy debut in the bestselling vein of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.


You may read an excerpt from The Clockwork Dagger at Tor.com here.





About Beth

Interview with Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger - September 16, 2014
Photo by Corey Ralston
Beth Cato resides in the outskirts of Phoenix, AZ. Her husband Jason, son Nicholas, and crazy cat keep her busy, but she still manages to squeeze in time for writing and other activities that help preserve her sanity. She is originally from Hanford, CA, a lovely city often pungent with cow manure.







Website  ~ Twitter @BethCato  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest




2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts


It's time for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for September 2014!


2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts


Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2014 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is released in the US. Cover artist/illustrator information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on September 24, 2014.


Vote for your favorite September 2014 Debut Cover
  
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2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts



Guest Blog by Arianne 'Tex' Thompson: "You Got Western in my Fantasy!" - September 13, 2014


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



Guest Blog by Arianne 'Tex' Thompson:




"You Got Western in my Fantasy!"


Nonsense – it was already there.


This year, I had an egregiously good time at ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas. One of the panels I participated in was called Space Westerns - moderated by the unrelentingly excellent Bill Crider. At one point, he asked us a question: how should we define a Western?


Well, it's set in the American West, for one thing. (Except when it's Australian, like Quigley Down Under, or Canadian, like the Trail of the Yukon series, or African, like The Jackals - and let's not even get into all those Zapata Westerns in Mexico.)


And there's cowboys, of course. You can't have a Western without a hefty helping of square-jawed gunslingers. (Disregarding Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; Little Big Man; and Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage, naturally.)


But it's about the time period, more than anything – the frontier and the closing of the West in the 19th century. (Provided we don't count Justified, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, or any of the Leatherstocking Tales.)


In seriousness, though, I believe the question is worth asking: what is the essence of a Western? Of all genres, it's the one that seems most bound to a particular place and time – and yet it's constantly spilling over into other places and times, and even other genres. We've got spy Westerns (Wild Wild West), thriller Westerns (No Country for Old Men), comedy Westerns (Blazing Saddles), kids' Westerns (Rango), and absolutely every flavor of supernatural sci-fi and fantasy Western imaginable.


So there must be more to it than the big hats and six-guns – something behind the tropes and props that keeps us coming back to Sheriff Woody, even in the age of Buzz Lightyear. Certainly there must be a reason why the 19th century American West is so much more firmly cemented in our imaginations than, say, the antebellum South, or colonial New England. But what is it?


Well, here is a thought. Whether we're talking about the marshal versus the outlaws, the lone man braving the wilderness, or the coming of the railroad, the Western has an uncanny knack for tapping into some of our oldest fears. Watch yourself, it seems to say. Look sharp and step lightly – because you're on your own out here.


And let me tell you something – that is EXACTLY the feeling I get from all my favorite fantasy. Now there's a genre that's short on prerequisites! No maps, dates, or genre checklists needed here: the only requirement for fantasy is that it takes place outside the world as we know it. Maybe we're leaving the Shire behind to venture into the big, wide world. Maybe strange creatures are stepping out of the shadows of midtown Manhattan – or maybe we're the ones stepping out of the wardrobe and into Narnia. Regardless, our only guarantee in this part of the bookstore is that we're not in Kansas anymore.


Which, if you ask me, makes it a perfect complement for the Western. At the end of the day, the Western ultimately centers on the conflict between the world you know and the world you don't – and fantasy is the world you don't.


And if that's true, then maybe these two genres share more DNA than we thought – in fact, maybe they have a common ancestor. Think about Beowulf. Think about the Danes huddled together in their mead hall, desperately hoping to survive the night... and think about the dark, wild world outside the fire's light. Enter the hero, the stranger, the gunslinger who will fight the monsters in defense of humanity and civilization – leaving behind ordinary people who know they won't see a man of his caliber again. It's a hell of a story, isn't it? Hardly surprising that we've been telling it for literally thousands of years.


So maybe it's time we stopped thinking of Firefly and The Dark Tower and all the rest as cross-genre novelties and gave them their proper acknowledgement: as stories told with two facets of an idea that's as old and potent as we are.





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

Guest Blog by Arianne 'Tex' Thompson:
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

Guest Blog by Arianne 'Tex' Thompson:
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 www.thetexfiles.com and on Twitter as @tex_maam!


Interview with Gregory Sherl, author of The Future for Curious People - September 11, 2014


Please welcome Gregory Sherl to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Future for Curious People was published on September 2, 2014 by Algonquin Books.



Interview with Gregory Sherl, author of The Future for Curious People - September 11, 2014




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

Gregory:  I began writing (with the realization that I was writing) when I was nineteen. I had dropped out of college and moved back home. My life was directionless. I got a job at Starbucks, which was terrible—I couldn’t handle the stress of making people’s drinks. I was always so worried about screwing up an order for a caramel macchiato or a latte, which often happened. (Pathetic, I know.) At the time I was searching—a theme that can be found through most of my writing—for anything. A purpose to go back to school; something to attach my name to. A couple months after dropping out of college, I visited my old high school English teacher. I asked her what I should do with my life. She said two words. She said, “Go write.”

I have ever since.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Gregory:  Is there something in between? I’ll call myself a desperate—if I’ve got an idea, all the better; if not, I’ll take whatever my mind will give me at the time.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How has being a poet influenced your prose writing?

Gregory:  The most challenging thing lately has been finding the time to write. When I was working on The Future for Curious People, all I had was time. But lately, I’m finding that I don’t have enough time. This is new for me (but then again, so is growing up).

I was focusing solely on poetry for about three years before diving into The Future for Curious People. I’m glad you asked me this question because I’ve thought about it a lot. I was a fiction writer before I was a poet, but devoting all of my writing to poetry for so long had a huge effect on my prose writing. For one, I had forgotten how to write a scene. I was used to writing a poem—a page or two in length that would be a singular self-contained piece of work. Scenes involved so much more. They involved scenes that led to other scenes that led to other scenes. They had to fit together, this puzzle of sorts. The upside of working solely on poetry before starting on the novel was that it allowed me to strengthen my voice, the language that went into my sentences, into my scenes. This translated into my prose.



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

Gregory:  Kanye West and Bob Hicok.



TQ:   Describe The Future For Curious People in 140 characters or less.

Gregory:  Where love dies and then is found and almost dies again. Also, bunnies, swim lessons on benches, and the Babymakers.

Or:

What Lloyd Dobler would read if he wasn’t too busy holding up a boombox.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Future For Curious People that is not in the book description.

Gregory:  Doing abstract art as a form of couple’s therapy is not a good way to fix a relationship.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Future For Curious People?

Gregory:  First, I should mention the collaboration process that went into writing The Future for Curious People. (There's an author's note in the back of the novel explaining this.) The original idea for The Future for Curious People came from Julianna Baggott—a bestselling novelist and poet who has published more books than I have fingers or toes. I met Julianna as an undergraduate at Florida State University. I took her fiction workshop and then I took her fiction workshop again and in these workshops is where I began developing as a writer. Julianna has been a mentor ever since.

At the time I started working on the novel, I was an Adjunct English Instructor at a community college by my parents' house. I had moved back home at twenty-seven, after dropping out of graduate school. (Insert more of that searching theme here.) When Julianna approached me about the book, it was one of those aha! moments. I was concerned about my own future, or lack of one. The struggles of the characters in the novel were the same struggles I was dealing with myself. I grew excited with possibilities. What if this was true? What if we really could see our futures? What if we knew we were destined to be alone? What if we knew if we’d ever find out what happiness was? What the hell is happiness? I had to be a part of it.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Future For Curious People?

Gregory:  There's a scene about halfway through the book where Godfrey wanders into a convenience store. He's looking to get drunk and bold, but he left his wallet at home and, because of circumstances, going home to retrieve his wallet just isn’t an option. But Godfrey finds thirteen dollars balled up in a pocket of his pants. The novel takes place during a Baltimore winter, so I decided he should be drinking whiskey, but I’m not a big drinker, and know very little about whiskey. What could Godfrey buy with thirteen dollars? Well, the Internet told me, a bottle of Evan Williams, which the Internet reassured me, cost a cool $11.99.



TQ:  In The Future For Curious People who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Gregory:  The easiest was probably Adam Greenberg, a patron of the library that Evelyn and Dot work at. An aficionado of sweater vests and maybe prescription glasses. I imagined what a love child of Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and my best friend, who the character is named after, would look like.

He would look a lot like Adam Greenberg.

The most difficult character had to be Evelyn Shriner. Before The Future for Curious People, I had never written in a woman’s voice. I was hesitant, and Evelyn’s chapters took much longer to write than Godfrey’s—the novel alternates points of view between the two characters—but the challenge was half the fun.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoliery lines from The Future For Curious People.

Gregory:  “Is anyone thinking about me right now? If not, do I exist just a little less?”



TQ:  What's next?

Gregory:  I just finished a new poetry manuscript, currently titled Is This Fire, and I've started work on my next prose project. I'm incredibly excited about both, and I hope they get the chance to crawl themselves into the world one day.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Gregory:  Thank you for letting me join you at The Qwillery!





The Future for Curious People
Algonquin Books, September 2, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Gregory Sherl, author of The Future for Curious People - September 11, 2014
“Comic and Exuberant . . . A fine and tender tale for anyone who has tried to let go of the past and envision the future while falling in love.” —Rhonda Riley, author of The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope

What if you could know your romantic future? What if an envisionist could enter the name of your prospective mate into a computer that would show you a film of your future life together?

In The Future for Curious People, a young librarian named Evelyn becomes obsessed with this new technology: she can’t stop visiting Dr. Chin’s office because she needs to know that she’ll meet someone and be happy one day. Godfrey, another client, ends up at the envisionist’s office only because his fiancée insisted they know their fate before taking the plunge. But when Godfrey meets Evelyn in the waiting room, true love may be right in front of them, but they are too preoccupied—and too burdened by their pasts—to recognize it.

This smart, fresh love story, with its quirky twists and turns, ponders life’s big questions—about happiness, fate, and our very existence—as it follows Evelyn and Godfrey’s quest for the elusive answers.

“A love story about love stories . . . The pages burst with laugh-out-loud scenes and crisply original set-ups. I loved it!” —Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine

“Somewhere between Jorge Luis Borge’s ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind you will find Gregory Sherl’s warm, intelligent debut novel.” —Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State

“Enormously appealing . . . Evelyn and Godfrey are two unforgettable characters you’ll root for and remember long after you’ve read the last page of this wildly  original, deeply moving novel.” —Mindy Friddle, author of Secret Keepers





About Gregory

Gregory Sherl's debut novel, The Future for Curious People, is out now from Algonquin Books. He is also the author of three collections of poetry, including The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail, shortlisted for the 2012 Believer Poetry Award. He can be found online at www.gregorysherl.net.


Interview with Deborah Blake, author of the Baba Yaga novels - September 8, 2014


Please welcome Deborah Blake to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Wickedly Dangerous, the first Baba Yaga novel, was published on September 2, 2014 by Berkley. This is Deborah's fiction debut.



Interview with Deborah Blake, author of the Baba Yaga novels - September 8, 2014




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

Deborah:  Which time? (Laughs.) I started writing when I was young. I think I wrote my first novel when I was in 6th grade. (It was very short, and SF, that’s about all I remember.) Then I sent out a bunch of short stories when I was a teen and got a lot of rejections, so I stopped for a while. Then I started again in my late 20’s, got a bunch of rejections…well, you see where this is going. In truth, I got serious after I sold my first nonfiction book (about modern witchcraft) to Llewellyn. Suddenly, I had no more excuses. I’d finished a book. If I could finish one, I could finish another. This was in 2006. As for why—honestly, I think it is just in my blood.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Deborah:  Yes. Oops, sorry, that’s not helpful, is it? I started out as a pantser, but after writing my first two books that way (and not getting an agent), I realized I needed to be more focused. My third book had a 21-page outline as well as detailed character studies before I ever wrote the first chapter. And yes, it did get me an agent, on its first round of submissions. These days, I am a little bit of both. I still start with detailed character studies and a general outline, but how much is outlined and how far into the book that outline reaches varies from book to book.



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

Deborah:  Revisions. Some authors love revisions, and hate first drafts. I’m the other way around. I love the first draft process, when the story springs into being. Dealing with revisions, first from my First Readers, then my agent, then my editor…not so much. On the other hand, the book is always much better when I’m done, so I’ve learned to more-or-less embrace them.



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

Deborah:  That’s a pretty long list. I have lots of favorite authors, from Jennifer Crusie (romantic comedy) to Jim Butcher and Kim Harrison (urban fantasy) to Donna Andrews (humorous mystery). The Baba Yaga series was most influenced by books written by Tanya Huff and Patricia McKillip, who are definitely two of my favorites.



TQ:  Describe Wickedly Dangerous (Baba Yaga 1) in 140 characters or less.

Deborah:  A not-so-wicked witch and her dragon-dog help some people, work some magic, and yes, there’s a guy. Absolutely nothing is as it seems.



TQ:  Tell us something about Wickedly Dangerous that is not in the book description.

Deborah:  Barbara Yager (the Baba Yaga in this book) is my favorite of all the characters I have ever written. (Shhh…don’t tell the others.) I love how cranky she is. To me, that makes her very real.



TQ:  What inspired you to write Wickedly Dangerous? Why is the series named after Baba Yaga and who or what is Baba Yaga?

Deborah:  My agent (Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency) and I were talking at one point about what I was going to write next—just spit-balling ideas, really. She said that she loved my witch characters (I’d written a couple of other ones) and we both agreed that we really liked modern retellings of old fairy tales. After we got off the phone, I starting thinking about which fairy tales hadn’t been overdone, and also had witches in them. Baba Yaga came into my mind right away, and once I had done some research, I knew I wanted to write about her.

The Baba Yaga was a Russian and Slavic fairy tale witch who is well known in Europe, but not so much here in the US. She was neither good nor evil, although she was certainly a scary figure sometimes used to scare children who didn’t eat all their peas. Instead, how she reacted was often based on the behavior of those who approached her; worthy seekers received help, those who were not so worthy, well…let’s just say it wasn’t a good idea to mess with the Baba Yaga. I decided to create a story based on a modern, kick-ass version of the old Baba Yaga, updated for today’s world.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Wickedly Dangerous?

Deborah:  I read every old Baba Yaga tale I could find, plus did a fair amount of plain old research about her, some of which gave me some great ideas for the book. In addition, I researched other elements of the book, like fracking (which is a huge issue where I live, but I had to find out a bunch of scientific things I didn’t already know), pit bulls, Airstream trailers, Rusalkas (you’ll have to read the book to find out what they are), and other strange things.



TQ:   In your opinion, does a romance novel always have to have a Happily Ever After?

Deborah:  Well, it at least has to have the potential for a happily ever after. Some series I’ve read don’t always resolve things in the first book, but I do think that eventually, there has to be one. One of my favorite things about the way this series ended up (with different Baba Yagas in each book) is that meant I could give each one her happily ever after. Let’s face it—life doesn’t always come with a HEA…isn’t it nice if we can at least get it in a book?



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

Deborah:  Chudo-Yudo was probably the easiest (and the most fun). He’s Baba’s dragon companion who travels with her these days disguised as a giant white pit bull—at least in the first story. He was a very elemental creature, and not very complicated. Mostly, he was very loyal and very ready to eat things. I think Liam, the sheriff who is Barbara’s love interest, was the hardest to write. He had to be flawed enough to be an interesting character, and yet strong enough to deal with Barbara, which wasn’t easy. He isn’t your typical “alpha male” protagonist, because really, the alpha of this story was Barbara herself. But he had to be her equal, and worthy of her love. NOT an easy character to write.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Wickedly Dangerous.

Deborah:  When Liam finally gets to see Chudo-Yudo in his true dragon form (instead of as a giant white pit bull, the way he usually appears), he is very impressed, of course. Then Chudo-Yudo turns back into a dog and continues speaking, to which Liam says, “Jeez—you can talk!” and Chudo-Yudo rolls his eyes and responds (and this is the line I love), “Right. So a talking dragon is okay, but a talking dog freaks you out? Dude, you are going to have to adjust to this crap a lot faster than that if you are going to be any help.”



TQ:  What's next?
 
Deborah:  The second book in the Baba Yaga series, Wickedly Wonderful, is coming out in December 2014. I’m really excited to have two books out back-to-back. And I’m working on something completely different, a humorous contemporary romance. Nary a witch nor a dragon to be seen, although there is one small dog. Plus a Sekrit Project for Llewellyn that I’m not free to talk about yet.


TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Deborah:  Thanks so much for having me here!





Wickedly Dangerous
A Baba Yaga Novel 1
Berkley, September 2, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
(Fiction Debut)

Interview with Deborah Blake, author of the Baba Yaga novels - September 8, 2014
FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!

Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.

But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.

Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…



Also out now:

Wickedly Magical
A Baba Yaga Novella
Berkley Sensation, August 5, 2014
eNovella, 73 pages

Interview with Deborah Blake, author of the Baba Yaga novels - September 8, 2014
Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one…

Barbara Yager loves being one of the most powerful witches in the world, but sometimes she’d rather kick back in her enchanted Airstream with a beer in her hand than work out how to grant the requests of the worthy few who seek her out.

But when a man appears with the token of a family debt of honor, Barbara must drop everything to satisfy the promise owed by her predecessor—and she isn’t above being a little wicked to make sure the debt is paid in full…



Upcoming:

Wickedly Wonderful
A Baba Yaga Novel 1
Berkley, December 2, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Deborah Blake, author of the Baba Yaga novels - September 8, 2014
Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Though she looks like a typical California surfer girl, Beka Yancy is in fact a powerful yet inexperienced witch who’s struggling with her duties as a Baba Yaga. Luckily she has her faithful dragon-turned-dog for moral support, especially when faced with her biggest job yet…

A mysterious toxin is driving the Selkie and Mer from their homes deep in the trenches of Monterey Bay. To investigate, Beka buys her way onto the boat of Marcus Dermott, a battle-scarred former U.S. Marine, and his ailing fisherman father.

While diving for clues, Beka drives Marcus crazy with her flaky New Age ideas and dazzling blue eyes. She thinks he’s rigid and cranky (and way too attractive). Meanwhile, a charming Selkie prince has plans that include Beka. Only by trusting her powers can Beka save the underwater races, pick the right man, and choose the path she’ll follow for the rest of her life…





About Deborah

Interview with Deborah Blake, author of the Baba Yaga novels - September 8, 2014
Deborah is the author of seven non-fiction books from Llewellyn. Circle, Coven & Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice (2007), Everyday Witch A to Z (2008), The Goddess is in the Details (2009), Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook (2010) Witchcraft on a Shoestring (2010), Everyday Witch Book of Rituals (2012), and The Witch's Broom (2014).

She is also the author of the Baba Yaga series from Berkley Romance, including Wickedly Magical (novella), Wickedly Dangerous, and Wickedly Wonderful.

When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 100 year old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magickal and mundane.


Website  ~  Blog  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @deborahblake  ~  Goodreads

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