The Qwillery | category: 2015 DAC Interview | (page 4 of 9)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Zen Cho, author of Sorcerer to the Crown

Please welcome Zen Cho to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Sorcerer to the Crown was published on September 1st by Ace.

Interview with Zen Cho, author of Sorcerer to the Crown

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

Zen Cho (ZC):  Thanks! I started when I was six, but I didn't figure out how to finish stories till I was 16. I started writing for publication when I was 24, so it's taken a while.

I started writing because books made me. So I wanted to make books of my own.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

ZC:  Plotter. Especially for longer works, I outline in detail: it means that when I get home from my day job in the evening, I don't have to think about what happens next. I can just look at my outline and bash it out.

The two most challenging things are time – there never seems to be enough, and because writing is the hardest thing I have to do on a regular basis (though it's also the most rewarding), it can end up going to the bottom of the to-do list if I don't force myself to move it up. And I also have a lot of self-doubt, which I'm sure all writers have. A small amount is healthy but too much can stop you from doing the work.

TQYou edited Cyberpunk: Malaysia, which was published in 2015. How has your editing experience affected or not your own writing?

ZC:  It was a very interesting experience! I'd known in theory that (good) editors only want to help you improve your work, and they don't critique to hurt your feelings or because they think you're an idiot. But doing editorial work myself made me really get that. I hope it'll make me better at dealing with the editorial process as a writer.

I'm more sensitive about the stories I've edited than my own work, even. I can't read negative reviews of Cyberpunk: Malaysia because I get so defensive on behalf of the writers.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

ZC:  I'm very much influenced by the authors I read as a child and teenager, so Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, Georgette Heyer, Patrick O'Brian and Jane Austen. When it comes to more recent authors, I love the work of Susanna Clarke, Naomi Novik, Geoff Ryman and Karen Lord. I've jokingly said that as a writer I'd like to be a combination of Pankaj Mishra and Edith Nesbit.

TQDescribe Sorcerer to the Crown in 140 characters or less.

ZC:  In Regency London, England's first black Sorcerer Royal doesn't need any more problems, but female magician Prunella Gentleman disagrees ...

TQTell us something about Sorcerer to the Crown that is not found in the book description.

ZC:  The blurb has a lot about English magic, but the book's really interested not in England, but Britain – the United Kingdom – and its connections with the wider world. There are a couple of appearances of magicians from the sorts of countries that don't usually appear in Regency novels!

TQWhat inspired you to write Sorcerer to the Crown? What appealed to you about writing Historical Fantasy?

ZC:  I really love Regency romances and like genre crossovers, so a Regency fantasy is my idea of a good time. I'd written two novels before Sorcerer to the Crown and had to chuck them and I was ready for a good time!

My interest in historical fantasy specifically comes from all the period fiction I read as a kid, by 19th century British writers. To a child in 20th century Malaysia Jane Austen's world might as well have been a fantasy world. I really enjoy playing with the different social norms in historical settings, and the language is such a delight. The fantasy element is because I just really like dragons. I go to fiction for things that couldn't happen in real life.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Sorcerer to the Crown?

ZC:  I read a lot of nonfiction about Georgian Britain, including the history of black people in Britain. I also read about India, China and Southeast Asia in that period. With fiction I was reading a lot of Georgette Heyer novels and the more obscure books written during the period – Maria Edgeworth, Mrs Inchbald, Pierce Egan's Real Life in London.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

ZC:  Prunella Gentleman was both the easiest and the hardest! She's the ambitious runaway orphan and female magical prodigy who vexes the protagonist, Zacharias Wythe. She writes herself because, to me, she has such a strong voice – I know exactly who she is. But in the course of revisions with my agent and editor it became evident that she wasn't really coming across to others as I'd imagined her, so I had to do a lot of work to get my understanding of her down onto the page.

TQWhich question about Sorcerer to the Crown do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


     Q: What does the name of Malayan witch Mak Genggang mean?

     A: It means "Mother Gingham" and I stole it from Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals, a historical/legendary work about the Melaka Sultanate).

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Sorcerer to the Crown.

ZC:  "The women of Janda Baik are not mild. Blood, and not milk, flows in our veins."

TQWhat's next?

ZC:  I'm working on Book 2 of the Sorcerer Royal trilogy. I've never worked on a second book before and it's both nervewracking and exciting.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

ZC:  Thank you for having me!

Sorcerer to the Crown
Sorcerer Royal 1
Ace, September 1, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Zen Cho, author of Sorcerer to the Crown
In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite…

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

About Zen Cho

Interview with Zen Cho, author of Sorcerer to the Crown
Darren Johnson / IDJ Photography
Zen Cho was born and raised in Malaysia. She has lived in three different countries and speaks around two and a half languages. She began publishing short stories in 2010 and has since been nominated for the Selangor Young Talent Awards, the Pushcart Prize and the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and honour-listed for the Carl Brandon Society Awards. Her short story collection Spirits Abroad, published by Malaysian indie press Buku Fixi in 2014, was a joint winner of the Crawford Fantasy Award, along with Stephanie Feldman’s novel The Angel of Losses. She occasionally writes romance as well as speculative fiction, and has self-published a historical romance novella set in the 1920s, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo.

Cho is the editor of anthology Cyberpunk: Malaysia, also published by Buku Fixi. She was a juror for the Speculative Literature Foundation 2014 Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds grants. She also co-organised Nine Worlds Geekfest’s first Race & Culture track.

Her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is a historical fantasy set in Regency London, published in September 2015. It follows the adventures of Britain’s first African Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias Wythe, whose many problems are compounded when he meets runaway orphan Prunella Gentleman — a female magical prodigy, of all things. Sorcerer to the Crown is the first in a trilogy published by Ace/Roc Books (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK and Commonwealth).

Cho has a BA from Cambridge University. She lives in London with her partner and practises law in her copious free time. The two things she loves most in the world are books and food, but she also enjoys travel, shoes and lively conversations.

Website  ~   Twitter @zenaldehyde  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest  ~  Instagram

Interview with Hester Young, author of The Gates of Evangeline

Please welcome Hester Young to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Gates of Evangeline is published on September 1st by G.P. Putnam's Sons. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Hester a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Hester Young, author of The Gates of Evangeline

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Hester:  Thanks for so much for inviting me. Amazingly enough, I have been writing since the first grade. I remember a lot of our class time that year was spent learning to read, which I had already taught myself to do. My boredom started to manifest as stomachaches, anything to get out of school. Fortunately, I had a wonderful teacher who saw my interest in writing and used it to transform my school experience. Every day I would blaze through our assignments and then, upon completion, I’d receive writing time as my reward. My mother still has lots of “books”—little yellow stapled pages with blobby drawings and poor spelling—that I wrote back then. I’ve been jotting down bits and pieces of stories ever since.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser or a hybrid? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Hester:  I tried to pants it when I first started The Gates of Evangeline, but with mysteries, the things that happen at the end of the book directly affect the way you have to plot the beginning. I eventually broke down and made an outline. Of course, there were still several surprises along the way, characters who evolved in unexpected ways or scenes unfolding in a manner I didn’t anticipate.

The hardest thing for me about writing a novel is keeping the story to myself. I don’t tell anyone what I have planned. I need to feel the ending of my novel burning inside me like a secret or I will lack the motivation to finish.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Hester:  It’s hard to pinpoint my influences because so much of that is subconscious. But I was a huge Agatha Christie and Lois Duncan fan starting around the age of ten. In college, I was blown away by The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter’s collection of feminist Gothic fairytales. I love classics in true crime, like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and In Cold Blood. And in terms of contemporary lit, I really enjoy the complex psychological territory that Tana French covers in her Dublin Murder Squad series. Her book Broken Harbour has perhaps the most terrifying—and totally original—setting I’ve ever encountered.

TQDescribe The Gates of Evangeline in 140 characters or less.

Hester:  “After her son’s death, the dreams began. Now Charlie’s dark premonitions are leading her South, to a wealthy family with twisted secrets…”

TQTell us something about The Gates of Evangeline that is not found in the book description.

Hester:  The book is dedicated to my grandmother, who passed away in 2009, and to her son, Bobby. Like my protagonist’s son, Bobby was just four years old when he died. Before his death, my grandmother had a recurring nightmare about him falling from a window and one day, while in someone else’s care, he did. In the course of writing the novel, I thought a lot about my grandmother and the son she lost. I’m glad to have created some small thing in their memory.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Gates of Evangeline? What appealed to you about writing in a suspense novel, particularly a Southern Gothic mystery? What is Southern Gothic?

Hester:  The inspiration for the novel—and its Southern setting—actually came to me in a dream. I dreamt that I was in a boat drifting through a Louisiana swamp with a little boy. He began to tell me about himself and then said, “Let me tell you how I died.” My novel now opens in a similar fashion.

I certainly didn’t set out to write a Southern Gothic mystery. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever really heard the term “Southern Gothic” until my agent used it to describe my work. In retrospect, I can see how elements of my novel play into the genre: an old plantation home inhabited by a dying matriarch, complex characters with violent secrets, the whisper of the supernatural. I am hardly a Southern writer, however. I chose to explore this world through the lens of a Northern narrator because that is what I can mostly fairly represent.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Gates of Evangeline?

Hester:  Three of my husband’s immediate family members were living in Louisiana as I wrote this novel, so it was relatively easy to visit. We made a total of three research trips, each about a week long, during which I’d gather experiences I could use for the book: plantation home and swamp tours, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and just hanging around one particular town that I loosely based the fictional Chicory on. I was amazed by the variety of accents I heard—Louisiana is very linguistically diverse.

Back at home, I spent a lot of time reading about Louisiana accents, listening to recordings and watching videos of different regions, and learning about the phonological features of certain dialects. (Yes, I am a huge nerd.) Southern voices in all their many shades are warm and musical to me in a way that northeastern accents are decidedly not. Though I’m from Boston and currently live in New Jersey, I’ll take a Cajun accent any day!

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Did any of your characters surprise you?

Hester:  I don’t think I could write a novel if my characters didn’t surprise me. I initially had a different villain and a different love interest in my head. In the end, some characters were worse and some far better people than I’d pegged them for. And my narrator definitely had her own ideas about who she was attracted to. That took the book in an altogether new direction.

The easiest character to write was Charlie, my protagonist. Her voice has always been very clear in my head—a good thing, when I have two more books with her! The hardest was probably Hettie Deveau, the dying mother of the long-missing child. Hettie isn’t especially self-aware, and her addled brain and failing health sort of scramble the woman I know she once was.

TQWhich question about The Gates of Evangeline do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Hester:  Readers often ask me, “How is it writing about a child’s death when you have two children of your own?” Quite simply: it is dark. You have to go to an ugly place. But I think most mothers go there at some time or other. Your baby sleeps too late one morning, and suddenly your heart is pounding, wondering. Your child falls from a structure at the playground and hits his head, and for a brief second, the possibility flashes before you. The scariest part of motherhood, I think, is living with that potential for loss, however unlikely it may be.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite (non-spoilery) lines from The Gates of Evangeline.

Hester:  There’s one line of dialogue at the climax of the book that many people seem to like, but I’ll let readers find that little nugget for themselves because it’s definitely a spoiler.

TQWhat's next?

HesterThe Gates of Evangeline is actually the first book in a trilogy. Right now I’m wrapping up the first draft to the sequel, and by spring, I should be wading into the third book. I love the chance to follow my protagonist through different environments and phases of life.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Hester:  I appreciate you having me!

The Gates of Evangeline
Charlie Cates 1
G.P. Putnam's Sons, September 1, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Hester Young, author of The Gates of Evangeline
From a unique new talent comes a fast-paced debut, introducing a heroine whose dark visions bring to light secrets that will heal or destroy those around her . . .

When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined.A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist, THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is a story that readers of Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and Alice Sebold won’t be able to put down.

About Hester

Interview with Hester Young, author of The Gates of Evangeline
Photo © Francine Daveta Photography
Hester Young holds a Master’s degree in English with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and her work has been published in literary magazines such as The Hawai’i Review. Before turning to writing full time, she worked as a teacher in Arizona and New Hampshire. She lives with her husband and two children in New Jersey.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @HesterAuthor

Interview with Stephen Moore, author of Graynelore

Please welcome Stephen Moore to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Graynelore is published on August 13th by Harper Voyager UK. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Stephen a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Stephen Moore, author of Graynelore

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Stephen:  Graynelore is my first adult fantasy novel, but I had my first children’s fantasy book, Spilling the Magic, published way back in 1996. (Was it THAT long ago?) Why did I start writing? I’ve got a photo of myself when I was eight years old. I’m dressed in ragamuffin hitched-up jeans complete with holes in the knees. That kid didn’t read many books. Looking back, I realised most of the classic children’s books I subsequently read (and loved) were all very prim and proper, and dare I say it, rather middle class. No one seemed to have written books for the eight year old boy I had been in that old photo. So I wrote him a book... Spilling the Magic.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Stephen:  I guess I’m both in an odd way. When I begin a project I write longhand and piecemeal: not to a storyline. There’s no starting at the beginning. I let ideas tumble as they will. Whether its characters, or landscapes, conversations or plot. Nothing’s a mistake and there’s no writers block. I’m happy to surprise myself. Then, when I’m done scribbling the laptop comes out. That’s when I begin to shape the story – find the beginning, middle, end, and all that – and after ten drafts or so the book takes on its final form.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Stephen:  I’m a slow writer... It can take me a year or even two to write a book depending on the story. So that’s sometimes frustrating. I’ve got so many book ideas and not enough time to write them! Choosing the right project to take forward, knowing what’s ahead, can be daunting. If it’s a nice problem to have! I would like to write faster (Believe me, I’ve tried). But I guess the writing method I use works for me – and that’s the key. (You can’t have everything.)

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Stephen:  My favourite reads are my influences. Charles Dickens for one: his character development is superb. Then there’s Tolkien for his storytelling and world building. And Mervyn Peake can’t be bettered for his descriptive powers, particularly in his novel Gormanghast. Then again, Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island is my all time favourite book. That’s the stuff of true adventures! If my favourite author is Robert Westall: best known for his wartime novel for older children, The Machine Gunners. He’s a writer whose stories have a ring of authenticity about them. An authenticity I strive to match.

TQDescribe Graynelore in 140 characters or less.

Stephen:  A story of divided loyalty. An epic fantasy. A grown-up faerie tale. A blood-soaked mystery. And, in its own twisted way, a love story.

TQTell us something about Graynelore that is not found in the book description.

Stephen:  Some of the atmosphere, characters and place names in Graynelore find their inspiration in the music of early rock bands, such as Genesis, Lindisfarne, Wishbone Ash and Pink Floyd. Though I’ll leave it up to my readers to discover the connections...

TQWhat inspired you to write Graynelore? What appealed to you about writing Fantasy?

Stephen:  A few years ago I discovered a most amazing thing: my family history includes a link to the infamous Sixteenth Century Border Reivers. The Reivers were inhabitants of the English/Scottish Borderlands; family groups who considered theft, kidnap, blackmail, murder and deadly blood-feud as all part of their day job. I couldn’t resist writing about them! If I knew from the start, to do the idea justice, for the first time I was going to be writing for adults and not children. Of course, I’m an author of fantasy, not historical fiction... it was a long and winding path that eventually lead me to Graynelore.

Why fantasy? The genre has always appealed to me. I see no limits. I get to write about anything I want. I get to travel anywhere I want to go, real or imaginary, and I get to do pretty much anything I like when I get there. What could be better?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Graynelore?

Stephen:  The fantasy elements of Graynelore needed no research: just my imagination. As for Border Reivers, that’s different. They lived virtually on my doorstep. To follow their trail, I went out into rural Northumberland – their natural landscape – and up into the Scottish Borders. Scattered across the countryside you can still find architecture associated with them. In the form of bastle houses (literally fortified farm houses) and peel towers (tall fortified towers) where they both lived and found shelter against their reiving neighbours when under attack.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Stephen:  The easiest has to be my narrator, Rogrig Wishard. I knew I wanted Graynelore to have its own distinctive voice. I was lucky. The very first fragment I wrote was a description of a bloody killing field he gave to me. It was immediately in his distinctive turn of phrase. And it was so unguardedly honest, it even shocked me! Of all my characters my blood-soaked reiver is a favourite.

The hardest...? From wyrms to elfwyches, from unifauns to shape-shifting crows, you know I don’t recall any of them being particularly difficult to write. However unusual, I don’t tend to have trouble getting to the heart of my characters.

TQWhich question about Graynelore do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Stephen:  Let me see... something like: With all the talk of Reivers, is Graynelore truly a faerie tale? And my answer is: Yes of course! This is fantasy – why ever not! Mind, if it is a faerie tale – believe me when I say – beware, you’ve never read one quite like this before.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Graynelore.

Stephen:  I’ll let my narrator introduce himself to you in his own inimitable way (that’s a favourite of mine):

I am Rogrig, Rogrig Wishard by grayne. Though, I was always, Rogrig Stone Heart by desire. This is my memoir and my testimony. What can I tell you about myself that will be believed? Not much, I fear. I am a poor fell-stockman and a worse farmer (that much is true). I am a fighting-man. I am a killer, a soldier-thief, and a blood-soaked reiver. I am a sometime liar and a coward. I have a cruel tongue, a foul temper, not to be crossed. And, I am – reliably informed – a pitiful dagger’s arse when blathering, drunk.
        You can see, my friend, I am not well blessed.
        For all that, I am just an ordinary man of Graynelore. No different to any other man of my breed. (Ah, now we come to the nub of it. I must temper my words.)
        Rogrig is mostly an ordinary man. The emphasis is important. For if a tale really can hang, then it is from this single thread mine is suspended...

TQWhat's next?

Stephen:  Graynelore is a stand-alone novel. However I do have an idea for another book based in the same world... I have already begun to scribble, if it’s early days as yet.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Harper Voyager UK, August 13, 2015
eBook, 400 pages
(Debut - Adult)

Interview with Stephen Moore, author of Graynelore
Rodrig Wishard is a killer, a thief and a liar. He’s a fighting man who prefers to solve his problems with his sword.

In a world without government or law, where a man’s only loyalty is to his family and faerie tales are strictly for children, Rodrig Wishard is not happy to discover that he’s carrying faerie blood. Something his family neglected to tell him. Not only that but he’s started to see faeries for real.

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth.

About Stephen

Interview with Stephen Moore, author of Graynelore
Stephen Moore is the author of the fantasy novel, GRAYNELORE. (Published by, HarperVoyager. 13th August 2015.)

A published author since the mid 1990's he’s also written several well received fantasy books for older children (ages 9-14yrs/YA) including, TOOTH AND CLAW, SPILLING THE MAGIC and FAY. (Published by, Crossroad Press.)

Stephen hails from the North of England; a beautiful land he loves to explore; full of ancient Roman history, medieval castles and remnants of the infamous Border Reivers.

Long ago, before he discovered the magic of storytelling, he was an exhibition designer and he has fond memories of working in the strange old world of museums. Sometimes he can still be found in auction houses pawing over old relics!

He loves art and books, old and new. He’s into rock music, movies, history and RPG video games! But mostly, he likes to write, where he gets to create his own worlds.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @SMoore_Author  ~  Goodreads

Interview with David Nabhan, author of The Pilots of the Borealis

Please welcome David Nabhan to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Pilots of the Borealis is published on August 11th by Talos Press. Please join The Qwillery in wishing David a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with David Nabhan, author of The Pilots of the Borealis

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

David:  Twenty-five years ago, owing to a number of large temblors I experienced living in Los Angeles, a catalog of data regarding a possible pattern of higher probability windows for seismicity in Southern California was compiled. Over the next two decades those studies gave rise to three books I wrote on seismic forecasting and hundreds of major media interviews, articles and papers all over the world. Wrestling for all that time with any number of scientific conundrums—having to do with earthquake prediction and every other “impossible” art that now is quickly becoming science fact—was an excellent curriculum for the very plausible science fiction in Pilots of Borealis.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser or a hybrid?

David:  I’m tempted to say “plotter,” because with science fiction especially there are real and absolute parameters around any story, due simply to physical laws. I’d be fibbing, however, were I to say that a few great ideas (and escapes from dead-ends!) didn’t owe their origin to the seat of the writer’s pants. It helps to have a great editor too, no doubt.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

David:  Getting everything right. I write both science and science fiction and that means that there are literally thousands of facts that not only have to be checked, but explained properly and in a way easily understood and satisfying to read.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

David:  Well, the description of Pilots of Borealis at Edelweiss is “Top Gun heads to outer space in this throwback to the classic science fiction of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein.” Those are real giants and I’m more than honored to have my name uttered in the same sentence with them.

TQDescribe The Pilots of Borealis in 140 characters or less.

David:  A look into a future where everything is exponentially heightened and amplified, including the unbounded daring of the human race entering its adulthood.

TQTell us something about The Pilots of Borealis that is not found in the book description.

David:  There is a love story hidden within this book, but one like few others. It’s a very poignant one, between two very incongruous characters. Pilots of Borealis is a fast-moving, death-defying thrill ride in many ways, but still, what every reader will take from it at end, where the lasting impact will be made, will have nothing at all to do with the exploits of the most celebrated and deadly mercenary of his time. Any tears and sighs wrung from the reader will be pulled from a different emotional well.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Pilots of Borealis? What appealed to you about writing Science Fiction?

David:  I wanted to bring to life the protagonist of Pilots of Borealis, Clinton Rittener. He’s someone that is impossible to meet without making a deep impression. There aren't too many characters in literature—in science fiction or any other genre—like him, at all. Yet, science fiction is the only place where a Clinton Rittener could be crafted. He's an embodiment of the kind of human being that might be forged in the confluence of multiple and ferocious perfect storms, but the product of tempests that can only take place in the future. Only science fiction is wide enough for this most unlikely of candidates to be thrust into such a terrifying crucible. But he's very much at the same time a man of our century too, especially the young Rittener, with his superlative achievements in mathematics, linguistics, science and diplomacy. The tattered remnants of that same humanism is nonetheless the foundation for how the horrific challenges sculpt one of the most dangerous, stony, lethal mercenaries in existence five centuries in the future…and yet bizarrely, a most extremely likable and engaging one nonetheless. It’s a real test for the reader not only to forgive him his many outrageous solutions—he’s a “pilot,” after all, and they have their own code unlike other humans—but also to try to avoid pulling for him, harder and harder with every turn of the page.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Pilots of Borealis? Why did you focus on Helium-3?

David:  We’ve all been schooled to dread a future where resources will be supposedly running out. This, in my view, should turn out to be the exact opposite of what tomorrow holds. We live in a Solar System that has such staggering amounts of energy and materiel, sufficient to power humankind for a mind-boggling number of millennia. There is enough iron in just the Asteroid Belt alone to forge the girders to construct a building ten stories high—across the entire face of the Earth. And, as far as power is concerned, the statistics regarding the Sun—and a Dyson Shell orbiting it which may someday glean much of the energy that now just washes out into space—indicate that energy in the far future could be as commonplace and taken for granted as the dirt upon which we walk. Fusion reactors will be the next step; they’re really not that far off. There is a furious race going on at this moment, among a half-dozen countries, to get a working fusion reactor up and running. Helium-3 may turn out to be indispensable to those reactors, which could make the surface of the Moon the next great Klondike, its regolith infused with the stuff, just waiting to be mined and shipped to Earth.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

David:  Clinton Rittener, the protagonist, and his foil, Nerissa were both the most difficult and easiest—by far. For starters, they resemble no one, either alive or in fiction. They are the most arrogant, self-reliant, sure-footed, superbly trained, fearless human beings that can be imagined—or better—that really can’t. It’s certain that readers will be completely enthralled with individuals like them, which makes things very, very easy. The hard part is getting the reader to fall into love with them. Clinton Rittener, for example, is an ex-soldier who led forces which cut a swath of death and destruction across Asia not seen since the days of Tamerlane. It was a task to nudge one toward not only allowing Rittener his redemption, but to convince the reader by the end that he or she had wound up on Clinton’s side. That…was…hard.

TQWhich question about The Pilots of Borealis do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

David:  Question: Be honest. There have been so many sci-fi books written, taking place in space. We will have seen this before, right? There must be quite a few themes and motifs that will seem almost re-hashed and bordering on stale? Isn’t this at least partially a fair guess? Answer: No.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Pilots of Borealis.

David:  To set the stage, there is no city like Borealis. It is so incredibly rich, beautiful and visually stunning that visitors are warned to take it in by snippets; too much too soon can be almost physically daunting. Clinton Rittener is preparing to take part in his first “piloting” match there, where athletes actually fly around Borealis’s dome—the light gravity and artificial wings allow for that—propelled by their own muscle power. And these “pilots” are, well, they’re something else…..“For Rittener, a newcomer to Borealis, everything else now was as distant as the heliopause at the far edge of Sol’s reign. Indeed, he was displaying the endemic condition of all neophytes to the city. He was “drifting.” Even moments away from being thrust into a do or die crucible, no matter that every ounce of his determination should have been spent on preparing himself for the looming trial—he was drifting. The pilot next to him snapped a warning. ‘You’d better get the stars out of your eyes, Clinton. This may look like Heaven, but these angels around us here, they’re more like the kind that flew with Lucifer.’ ”

TQWhat's next?

David:  The sequel to “Pilots of Borealis” is already finished, so it’s just a matter of letting the market decide if it should see the light of publication. In the meanwhile, I’m very fortunate to have my opinions about seismic forecasting judged by the media as fully meriting the nation’s attention. I’m constantly writing op-ed commentary pieces for magazines and newspapers worldwide and invite your audience to access many dozens of the more recent ones, archived at

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

David:  It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for your interest; I’m very much obliged.

The Pilots of the Borealis
Talos Press, August 11, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 236 pages

Interview with David Nabhan, author of The Pilots of the Borealis
Top Gun heads to outer space in this throwback to the classic science fiction of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein.

Strapped in to artificial wings spanning twenty-five feet across, your arms push a tenth of your body weight with each pump as you propel yourself at frightening speeds through the air. Inside a pressurized dome on the Moon, subject to one-sixth Earth’s gravity, there are swarms of chiseled, fearless, superbly trained flyers all around you, jostling for air space like peregrine falcons racing for the prize. This was the sport of piloting, and after Helium-3, piloting was one of the first things that entered anyone’s mind when Borealis was mentioned.

It was Helium-3 that powered humanity’s far-flung civilization expansion, feeding fusion reactors from the Alliances on Earth to the Terran Ring, Mars, the Jovian colonies, and all the way out to distant Titan. The supply, taken from the surface of the Moon, had once seemed endless. But that was long ago. Borealis, the glittering, fabulously rich city stretched out across the lunar North Pole, had amassed centuries of unimaginable wealth harvesting it, and as such was the first to realize that its supplies were running out.

The distant memories of the horrific planetwide devastation spawned by the petroleum wars were not enough to quell the rising energy and political crises. A new war to rival no other appeared imminent, but the solar system’s competing powers would discover something more powerful than Helium-3: the indomitable spirit of an Earth-born, war-weary mercenary and pilot extraordinaire.

About David

Interview with David Nabhan, author of The Pilots of the Borealis
David Nabhan is a science and science fiction writer. “Pilots of Borealis” is his first book in the sci-fi genre (Skyhorse Publishing/Talos Press). He is very well-known, however, for his controversial books and papers in seismology; he’s the author of “Earthquake Prediction: Answers in Plain Sight” (2013) and two other books on seismic forecasting. Mr. Nabhan has been featured in the media many hundreds of times (television, radio, newspapers, magazines). He is a retired teacher having spent two decades teaching public school in South Central Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Unified School District—fifteen of those years as an Earthquake Preparedness Coordinator.

Website  ~  Twitter @DaveNabhan  ~  Facebook

Interview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

Please welcome Scott Wilbanks to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster was published on August 4th by Sourcebooks Landmark.

Interview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Scott:  Thank you, but we’re so not digging into these questions until someone tells me how you came up with the name for the blogspot. I… love… it.

Assuming a response will find its way into my inbox shortly, I’ll admit that my writing career didn’t have conscious beginnings. It was all a bit of an accident, really. I’d just returned to my hotel room after the closing arguments in a trial that was three years in the making, one in which I’d had to bring a suit against a very large company.

I’d barely closed the door to my hotel room when I experienced an anxiety attack that was so severe I basically collapsed. When able, I crawled into the shower, and the strangest thing happened while the water poured over my head. An odd sentence popped into my head that had to do with an imaginary character I’d been toying with. It was still bouncing around in my head when I was heading to bed, so I simply wrote it down on a piece of loose-leaf paper.

Two days later, I stumbled over it while I was cleaning out my brief case back in San Francisco. It intrigued me. I wrote another sentence on a whim. Then another. A little over two months later, I’d written close to four-hundred-fifty pages.

Now, let me be clear. They were the worst words ever written. Full Stop. But they provided the seed from which I taught myself the basics in the craft of writing, and eventually—after several detours—evolved into The Lemoncholy Life Of Annie Aster in its final iteration.

TQAre you a plotter, pantser or hybrid?

Scott:  Well, I haven’t established much of a track record yet, but if Lemoncholy is any example, I’m not just a pantser, I’m a bona fide stream-of-consciousness(er).

That being said, I recently had to flip the script for my sophomore effort, because my agent was pressing not only for opening chapters, but also a plot synopsis. That meant I couldn’t simply follow my nose. I had to build the story line from start to finish before I dug into my chapters. And while I can say that it is a more efficient approach, I can also confidently say that I’m more of a free-for-all, throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of guy at heart.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Scott:  Finding the courage to put the first word down on the page, I kid you not. I suspect it’s an OCD thing. By the time I’d whipped Lemoncholy into publishable shape, I had a basic grasp of how high to set the literary bar, and that’s a good thing. The problem lies in the fact that I don’t simply want to attain it, I want to leave it in the dust—from the word go. I set impossible standards for myself. So, starting is a wrench, sort of like getting a train moving. The wheels move slowly at first, but eventually gain a head of steam.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Scott:  Don’t laugh, but I’m falling in love with Jane Austen these days. Of the contemporary authors whose work I’ve been reading, Deborah Harkness, Erin Morgenstern, and David Mitchell’s works have lingered in my head long after I’ve closed the back cover. It’s JRR Tolkien, however, who turned me into a book-a-day nerd by the age of fourteen and who fuelled my outside-the-lines imagination. I would never have written a word if it weren’t for his trilogy.

TQDescribe The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster in 140 characters or less.

Scott:  OMG, this is going to suck really bad! Tweeting is my Achilles heel. LOL

In LEMONCHOLY, love and fate conspire to save two, awaken three, and unite a family of five misfits separated in the stream of time.

Or (for those who prefer less abstraction in their loglines)

LEMONCHOLY tells a story of two pen pals, separated in time, who must solve a homicide that is yet to happen, and yet somehow already did.

TQTell us something about The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster that is not found in the book description.

Scott:  All the hype has been on Annabelle Aster and Elsbeth Grundy’s time-twisting adventure, but there is a secondary story line woven throughout Lemoncholy that I’m quite fond of. It involves Annie’s best friend, Christian, a man burdened by a secret buried so deep within his subconscious that it leaves him with a debilitating stutter, and Edmond, a man whose struggle to master his own demon—drug addiction—brings the thing that is haunting Christian into the light of day.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster? What appealed to you about writing an historical fantasy?

Scott:  A botched first date, I kid you not.

We were having coffee, and I thought everything was going swimmingly, that is, until he said, “I think we’re destined to be great friends.” The conversation took a cataclysmic decline at that point, and I drove home with my tail tucked between my legs. It was during that drive that I decided outcomes are only inevitable if you accept them as such, and immediately drummed up Annie and Elsbeth in my head. When I got home, I had Annie write a letter to El, asking for advice regarding her lovestruck friend—me—and fired it off to my failed date’s email address.

The next day, I received a call… from him… at work. Apparently, my email had done the rounds at his office and was a bit of a hit.

“Annie needs to write more,” he said.

“Sadly, she can’t,” I responded.

“Why not?”

“El has to write back,” I answered, as if nothing could be more obvious.

That snippy little retort got me an email in return (from Elsbeth), and a second date. It also got me a third, and led to a regular correspondence in which I acted as the director, and which, ultimately, cemented the personalities of my two leading ladies for LEMONCHOLY.

The historical fiction component, itself, was just a happy accident. I saw Annie as a contemporary San Franciscan with an old world (Victorian) sensibility. So, when I created Elsbeth to be her foil, I simply flipped the script and made her an old world Kansan with a contemporary sensibility, simply for the sake of irony.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster?

Scott:  It’s going to kill me to admit this, but I took a sort of ridiculous pride in doing no research whatsoever. When I was picked up by my agent, things changed. She said the manuscript needed more historical detail, and I quickly learned just how frighteningly comprehensive Google can be. In the end, I went for quirk. I wanted to fold in historical detail that wasn’t expected. For instance, I learned that certain women-of-standing used arsenic as a beauty product, to provide the “wan” look. How weird is that?

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Scott:  I’d have to say that Elsbeth was the easiest for me to write, because she’s so unfiltered with her take-no-prisoners attitude. I could let it rip, splattering her cantankerousness all over the page. The only really tricky part censoring that potty mouth of hers while also making the end result blend believably with her expansive schoolmarm vocabulary.

The hardest? Christian—mainly because I used myself as his template. I raised some long-buried demons and rubbed myself raw to get that young man onto the page.

TQWhich question about The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Scott:  What did you wish to accomplish by writing The Lemoncholy Life Of Annie Aster?

I want readers to be as charmed by the words as they are by the story line. I want them to savor the sentences. If I can evoke the wonder of A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Woods in any way, or the magic of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, gifting someone with a smile as they read, then I feel I’ve accomplished something meaningful.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster.


Elsbeth Grundy was a loner, and an odd one at that, but company was headed her way whether she liked it or not.

It very nearly broke Annie’s heart to look at the photograph she’d found on microfiche at the library—Christian being lifted onto a gurney in the foreground, limp as a forgotten saint, his arm dangling over its side, and in the distance behind him, a spray of water arcing from a fireman’s hose onto the blaze that charred the light post about which his car was pulled like taffy.

TQWhat's next?

Scott:  When the book tour is over, and I’m back home in New Zealand, I’m looking forward to digging in on my sophomore effort, a manuscript about the misadventures of a young Southern man who is burdened with the world’s only documented case of chronic, incurable naiveté—the result of a curious subtype of ADD and a lightning strike at the age of four.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Scott:  I’m whooped! That was hard! LOL Seriously, though, it was fun, and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to interview me.

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Sourcebooks Landmark, August 4, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Annabelle Aster doesn't bow to convention-not even that of space and time-which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds.

Annie and Elsbeth's search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery-and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen...and yet somehow already did.

About Scott

Interview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Scott Wilbanks graduated summa cum laude from The University of Oklahoma and went on to garner several national titles in the sport of gymnastics. Scott's husband, Mike, is a New Zealander by birth, and the two split their time between the two countries while Scott is at work on his next standalone novel.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @scottbwilbanks  ~  Google+

Interview with M.E. Roufa, author of The Norma Gene - August 5, 2015

Please welcome M.E. Roufa to The Qwillery  as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Norma Gene is published by Bitingduck Press.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

M.E.:  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I still have some of the books I wrote from elementary and middle school, which I saved at the time because even then I thought were worth hanging on to. (Which is either a sign that I was precocious, or that I have a long history of falling in love with my own writing. Ack)

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

M.E.:  A little of both. By nature, I'm a total pantser. But if I don't see where something is going, it's a lot easier for me to abandon it. For The Norma Gene, I hit that point where I knew how the characters started out and ended up, but I couldn't figure out how to get them together from one place to another, knowing the paths each one was going to take. So I did end up outlining their interactions to help me make the timeframe make sense. So I guess that makes me a plontzer? Please tell me that’s not yet another Yiddish word for penis.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

M.E.:  Actually doing it.

TQYou are a creative director and copywriter. How does this affect or not your fiction writing?

M.E.:  To be any good at writing ads, you learn to compress everything you need to say toward the shortest possible attention span. So you develop an inner voice that has no tolerance for filler. You have to cut to the chase. That’s great for a 30 second television spot, but much harder when you’re staring down the long barrel of an 80,000 word novel. I had to relearn things like environment descriptions and introspective thinking. HEY YOU, BUY THIS NOW has no room for that sort of thing.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

M.E.:  Influences? Douglas Adams. Jasper Fforde. Everyone who ever wrote for The Muppet Show. Favorite authors would be all of those, plus Terry Pratchett, Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope. And Lemony Snicket.

TQDescribe The Norma Gene in 140 characters or less.

M.E.:  An illegal Abraham Lincoln Clone goes on the run, and a Marilyn Monroe clone comes to his rescue. On segways. Plus they eat dodo.

TQTell us something about The Norma Gene that is not found in the book description.

M.E.:  There’s a small mini-plotline that I love – Abe has a hard time in general with being an Abraham Lincoln clone, and does everything he can to keep people from associating him with the man he can’t help but resemble. But more than anything else about his genetic ancestor, he really, really hates the stovepipe hat. Part of his journey involves his coming to terms with it. It casts a long goofy shadow.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Norma Gene?

M.E.:  About a thousand years ago, I wrote a TV commercial for Little Caesars Pizza about cloning ( . It got me thinking about Dolly, the first cloned sheep and because of that, the first celebrity clone. It brought up all sorts of thoughts about identity and fame – who you are versus how people perceive you based on your image.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Norma Gene?

M.E.:  I did a lot of Lincoln research. I read Sandburg’s amazing bio along with a lot of online resources, and visited the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, MO. I talked with cast members at Disney World and took a tour through the utilidors (secret underground tunnels) beneath the Magic Kingdom. I also did some research into Marilyn Monroe, especially about her transformations and her role in fashion and beauty iconography, but mostly with her I winged it. Marilyn Monroe was a cultural construct – she wasn’t born looking or even acting like we envision her. So I wanted Norma to be more of a blank slate with these unforgettable images projected onto her.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

M.E.:  Norma was incredibly easy to write, in many ways. Women are constantly being told they don’t measure up to some feminine ideal, especially physically. Now imagine not only having society’s pressure to groom yourself toward perfection, but also a couple decades worth of “proof” of what you could look like, if you chose. How incredibly pulled you would be toward getting that “easy” approval, and how repellent that would be.

Ed (one of the People Who Don’t Work for the Government who is after Abe) was probably the hardest. We’ve all seen the straight laced “good cop” who is actually out to get the hero, and I didn’t want him to feel like a cliché.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Norma Gene.


“This despite the fact that the Hitler clone had not only failed to live up to his “potential,” his sense of inferiority and petty vindictiveness kept him from rising past assistant manager at McDonalds.”

“Later that night, after The Dress forced her to drink a bottle of chardonnay and pose in front of the mirror in every conceivable position short of Downward Facing Dog, Norma suddenly remembered the word Stealing. Also the word Wrong, and the word Prison. When the next mental leap brought her to the words Jumpsuit and Orange, the dress suddenly weakened its silken grip.”

TQWhat's next?

M.E.:  I’ve been thinking a lot about time travel.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

M.E.:  Thanks for having me! I really love the work you showcase and am thrilled to be included here.

The Norma Gene
Bitingduck Press, August 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 310 pages

Abe Finkelstein is an illegal clone of Abraham Lincoln - not an easy thing to keep secret when your face is on money. Norma Greenberg, one of the world’s many Marilyn Monroe clones, is wrestling with identity issues of a different sort. It’s not easy living as a perfect copy of the beautiful Norma Jeane Baker! When Abe is kidnapped by government agents eager to discover the secrets of his illustrious ancestor, Norma could be Abe’s last hope of escape - or thanks to her barely suppressed kleptomania, his worst chance of recapture. With only their wits, a cigarette lighter, a bottle of perfume, and the disembodied arm of Richard Millhouse Nixon (don't ask), can Abe and Norma make it back to safety and anonymity? Set in Orlando, Florida, where artifice beats authenticity with one animatronic hand tied behind its back, The Norma Gene features a host of Abe Lincolns, a gaggle of Marilyns, a segway chase through the secret underground tunnels of the Magic Kingdom, and the answer to the age-old mystery about the dodo bird: what flavor was it?

About M.E. Roufa

M.E. Roufa has ridden an ostrich, appeared on Jeopardy, and can crochet a mean banana. In her spare time, she works as an award winning advertising writer and creative director whose work has appeared everywhere from the Super Bowl to the sides of shampoo bottles. THE NORMA GENE is her first novel.

Twitter  @MERoufa ~  FacebookWebsite

Interview with Rob Boffard, author of Tracer - July 23, 2015

Please welcome Rob Boffard to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Tracer was published on July 16th by Orbit.

Interview with Rob Boffard, author of Tracer - July 23, 2015

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Rob:  I started writing when I was around seven years old, after a poem I wrote about an elephant got a really enthusiastic response from the teacher. It was essentially the earliest dopamine head I ever had, and I'm still chasing it.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Rob:  Little bit of both! I wrote TRACER based on an outline, which I drew up because I had absolutely no idea how to write a novel and just figured it would be the easiest way. What I've found since then is that outlines remain really helpful for working out the core events of the story, but that I'm a lot less hesitant to go off plan and to see where the story takes me. That's been happening more and more with my writing, and I welcome it, although I'm not certain I'll ever completely abandon the outline.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rob:  Starting. Getting the very first line down in a writing session is absolute hell for me, and always has been. Once I get over that hump, it's normally smooth sailing, but it's really something I struggle with. It doesn't help that I'm not a morning person at all, and I somehow got into my head but I should do all my writing in the mornings. Go figure.

TQYou're a journalist and a rapper. How do either of these affect or not your fiction writing?

Rob:  Journalism was writing school for me. It taught me to write hard, right smart, write fast, and never miss deadlines. It helped me excise a lot of really terrible writing, simply because if I didn't, my editors wouldn't pay me. Rapping, which I still do from time to time, was even better. I still think a lot of fiction writers would benefit from learning how to write songs and put lyrics inside bars. It not only teaches you how to be creative in the constraints you've been given, but it teaches you the rhythm of words and how they sound together. Because I can rap, I can sense when words on a page aren't working together or are too similar. It really helps.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Rob:  I come from a classic mystery/thriller background, so Ed McBain and Jeffrey Deaver and Raymond Chandler form a big part of my influences. I'm also one of the biggest Stephen King fans on the planet, although there are hundreds of thousands of people who would say that these days.

TQDescribe Tracer in 140 characters or less.

Rob:  TRACER is the craziest, fastest scifi action thriller you'll ever read. The story has a V8 engine strapped to it, and it's on full power.

TQTell us something about Tracer that is not found in the book description.

Rob:  Riley (my hero) doesn't work alone. She's part of a tracer crew: a group of scrappy underdogs who live between the levels on the station. They've got her back, but they're in just as much danger as she is...

TQWhat inspired you to write Tracer? While Tracer is set on a space station, it is described as a thriller. Why set the novel on a space station? How Science Fictional is Tracer?

Rob:  Lot of questions there! Let's see… I wanted to set the novel on a space station because I've always been obsessed with space, and I got to thinking about what it would be like to live on a station that had been up there for a really long time. Really, it's an action thriller that just happens to be set on a space station. It's science fiction by accident, rather by design. I love scifi to death, but I never set out to write a science-fiction novel. I set out to write a novel that my sixteen-year-old self would geek out over.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Tracer?

Rob:  Loads. I consulted a genuine rocket scientist at a university in London to help get my space station straight. I spoke to a fusion reactor specialist to make sure that the power source was realistic. I consulted an entomologist about food sources, and a pair of freerunners about movement. Put this way: TRACER could totally happen.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Rob:  Riley was the easiest. I put myself into her, so it was relatively easy to work out how she reacted (although of course I exaggerated certain parts and tone down others). Darnell was probably the hardest to get right, because he's a really dark character, and while it was a lot of fun investigating his psyche it was also quite draining.

TQWhich question about Tracer do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Rob:  The one I've yet to see is whether TRACER counts as dystopian sci-fi or not. I'm not usually big into academic questions, but I quite like that one. It's easy to refer to the book as dystopia because everything is falling apart, but really, one of the key features of dystopia is an oppressive regime, and that's missing in TRACER. It's more like post-dystopia. There have been oppressive regimes in the station's history, but they were defeated, and the story in the book takes place along way down the track. It doesn't matter what government is in place: they're exactly the same boat as the people they are governing. Everybody's stuck there, and the current government, under Janice Okwembu, has more or less thrown in the towel.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Tracer.

Rob:  I don't know if these are the best, but they're definitely my favourites...and yes, they both involve violence. So sue me.

“Who’d you get in a fight with?” Yao asks, squirming to her feet. “Everyone on the station? Did you win?”

My knuckles rip and tear and shred as his face explodes with blood and bruises.

TQWhat's next?

Rob:  The sequels! We're wrapping them up now, and they are absolutely crazy.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Rob:  *High five*

Orbit, July 16, 2015
eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Rob Boffard, author of Tracer - July 23, 2015

Our planet is in ruins. Three hundred miles above its scarred surface orbits Outer Earth: a space station with a million souls on board. They are all that remain of the human race.

Darnell is the head of the station's biotech lab. He's also a man with dark secrets. And he has ambitions for Outer Earth that no one will see coming.

Prakesh is a scientist, and he has no idea what his boss Darnell is capable of. He'll have to move fast if he doesn't want to end up dead.

And then there's Riley. She's a tracer - a courier. For her, speed is everything. But with her latest cargo, she's taken on more than she bargained for.

A chilling conspiracy connects them all.

The countdown has begun for Outer Earth - and for mankind.

About Rob

Interview with Rob Boffard, author of Tracer - July 23, 2015
Photo by Nicole Simpson
Rob Boffard was born in Johannesburg in 1984. He grew up reading encyclopaedias for fun (he was that kind of kid). He quickly became obsessed with science fiction, action movies and speaking very loudly to anybody who would listen.

In high school, he added a new obsession to his list: hip-hop. While studying journalism at Rhodes University in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, he was an active rap artist, and became one of the presenters on the longest-running rap radio show in Africa. After graduating in 2007, he moved to the UK with his longtime girlfriend, aiming to blow every spare cent they had on travel.

This endeavour was entirely successful, leaving them both broke but very happy. Rob did numerous jobs in the UK, including being a reader at a media analysis agency, and picking cigarettes up off a pub floor. He edited a London music magazine, got himself fired, and as a result undertook a very successful freelance career. In the past five or six years, he has written for The Guardian, Wired Magazine, Huck Magazine, the BBC, and io9. He has also worked on corporate copy for Google and Microsoft.

Rob continued to rap, and released a full album in 2011, entitled African. By this time, he had a successful second career as a sound engineer. This led to him working closely with a creative agency in London, Maple Street Studios, where he worked on campaigns for companies like EA Games, 20th Century Fox and more.

He began writing Tracer at the end of 2011, after realising that while he was quite happy being a journalist, he enjoyed the writing part most of all. It was the first book he had ever written. Orbit Books bought the rights to the trilogy, and the first novel is due to be released in July 2015.

Some more interesting facts about Rob: He permanently lost his sense of smell after falling out of a tree in Zimbabwe, aged four. He runs a hip-hop podcast. He once spent two months traveling 11,000 miles around the United States. He’s a really good cook. In junior school, he wrote to Nelson Mandela, complaining about having to study Afrikaans, and got a reply. He speaks Zulu, and French. He is the last person on the planet who collects CDs

Rob now splits his time between Vancouver, London and Johannesburg. He still loves action movies and science-fiction. He’s online at and on Twitter at @robboffard.

Interview with Gary Whitta, author of Abomination - July 22, 2015

Please welcome Gary Whitta to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Abomination will published on July 29th by Inkshares.

Interview with Gary Whitta, author of Abomination - July 22, 2015

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing fiction?

Gary:  Around 1989 when I was 16-17 years old. I grew up in England but was very much a product of the American sci-fi and fantasy scene, growing on Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, all the greats. Writing was pretty much the only subject at school I ever had any interest in or showed much aptitude for, I’d write little short stories and comics to amuse myself. The Star Wars films and the movie Time Bandits had had a huge impact on me as a kid, sparking my imagination and my desire to try to create things like that for myself. I started writing my first movie scripts after I saw Die Hard and was inspired to write my own version of it - which, to be fair, everyone else in Hollywood was also doing at that time. My version was basically Die Hard in the future, on a spaceship, with robots. It was pretty bad.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser or hybrid? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Gary:  Now I’m a hybrid, but I passed through both of those others to get there. When I was younger I was so impatient to get stuff down on the page that I’d dive in with practically no planning at all and as a result I’d inevitably write myself into corners or wind up with stories that were very flat because I hadn’t done the prep work necessary to give them dimension. So having tried both extremes I’ve wound up somewhere in between. I do outline and create other prep documents before I start actually writing, but I don’t like to write story documents that are too detailed because I find it leaves very little room for discovery in the actual writing process, which is the most fun part. All I need is a backbone, a basic throughline so I don’t lose my way, and I’ll figure out the rest as I write. With Abomination I wrote almost nothing in preparation, but it’s a really simple story and I felt like I knew the characters well enough that I could write it without having to do too much planning.

TQYou are screenwriter, a writer and story consultant on Telltale Games' interactive The Walking Dead adaption, as well as a writer on Lucasfilm's new generation of Star Wars projects. How does this affect or not your novel writing?

Gary:  Novel writing has been a very different experience than anything I’ve done before. My first language is screenwriting, I grew up loving film and that’s now become my day job, the form in which I am most fluent. But it’s also a very restrictive form in many ways, simply because of the realities of the movie business, your story often has to fit into a familiar, comfortable box or it’s unlikely to ever see the light of day. I got very lucky with The Book of Eli in that regard. I never ever realistically expected that film to get made, given that it’s extremely violent, deals with religious themes and breaks a lot of the traditional screenwriting “rules”. So that was very satisfying but I consider that an outlier and not something I could repeat over and over. Abomination also does a lot of things that might not seem like a great fit for a movie script so I decided to write it a novel as a way of bypassing a lot of those concerns. I could write it and know that when I was done I would have the finished product, not just the speculative blueprint for an eventual finished product, which is what a screenplay is.

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

Gary:  Growing up it was primarily Roald Dahl, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Spike Milligan, all the British greats. Later in life I have become a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, I think he’s currently tied with Douglas Adams as my all-time favorite. I actually had no idea until a few years that Vonnegut wrote so much sci-fi, and I’ve been devouring it ever since.

TQDescribe Abomination in 140 characters or less.

Gary:  It’s a mix of history and fantasy, tossing magic and monsters into the time of Alfred the Great. Kind of a medieval version of The Wolfman.

TQTell us something about Abomination that is not in the book description.

Gary:  In some ways it’s a story about family and I think the writing of it was heavily influenced by the fact that I got married and become a dad during that time. I wrote it on and off, between paying gigs, over the course of a few years, and I think you can maybe see the changes that I went through in my life in the writing. I grew up a lot.

TQWhat inspired you to write Abomination? What appealed to you about writing Fantasy?

Gary:  I’ve always loved fantasy. Star Wars is a fantasy, just one that happens to take place in outer space. World-building is one of the most fun things we can do as writers, so the opportunity to come up with all kinds of crazy stuff from pure imagination, magic and monsters and the rules of an entire world was too good to pass up. And I think Abomination is maybe a little different from a lot of fantasy books in that it’s not set in some imaginary kingdom, but at a real time and place in history. So it was really interesting to take that real-world setting and imbue it with the fantastical. Hopefully it makes those more fantastical elements feel more grounded and real, because they’re taking place in a real historical context.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Abomination?

Gary:  I read a lot of stuff about the time period and learned a lot of really incredible stuff. The Dark Ages are an absolutely fascinating and in many ways terrifying period in our ancient history, you hardly need the fantasy elements to tell a great story there. I was fascinated to learn about the full extent of the Viking invasions of England during that period, how Alfred was only able to save England from total invasion by agreeing to cede vast tracts of English soil to the invaders after he had finally defeated them in battle. For a long time pretty much the entire Eastern half of England was official Viking territory. We had a map drawn up for the front of the book — actually done by the same guy who does the official Game of Thrones maps for George RR Martin — and it’s really interesting to look at because you recognize the shape of the country as England, but the way it’s divided up between the English kingdoms and the Viking “Danelaw” almost looks like something out of a fantasy story.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Gary:  I don’t know if any one character was “easier" to write than another. I think overall the one I enjoyed writing the most was Indra, the female protagonist. I think she’s a proper “strong female hero” in the sense that I believe the strongest characters are forged by weighing them down with the greatest number of flaws and weaknesses possible, and then showing how the strength of their inner character allows them to overcome them. Indra is deeply troubled in many ways. She’s angry, she’s a liar, she’s possibly doing what she’s doing for all the wrong reasons, but underneath it all there’s a very warm human soul that hopefully the story allows her to discover.

TQWhich question about Abomination do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: Where can I buy a copy immediately?
A: It’s available at Amazon, Inkshares, Barnes & Noble, and wherever good books are sold!

TQWhat's next?

Gary:  Currently I’m working on the upcoming season of the TV series Star Wars Rebels and finishing up a feature adaptation of the Mark Miller graphic novel Starlight for 20th Century Fox. I have a comic-book coming out next year from Image Comics called Oliver, which is kind of a gnarly post-apocalyptic steampunk adaptation of Oliver Twist.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Inkshares, July 29, 2015
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Gary Whitta, author of Abomination - July 22, 2015
He is England's greatest knight, the man who saved the life of Alfred the Great and an entire kingdom from a Viking invasion. But when he is called back into service to combat a plague of monstrous beasts known as abominations, he meets a fate worse than death and is condemned to a life of anguish, solitude, and remorse.

She is a fierce young warrior, raised among an elite order of knights. Driven by a dark secret from her past, she defies her controlling father and sets out on a dangerous quest to do what none before her ever have―hunt down and kill an abomination, alone.

When a chance encounter sets these two against one another, an incredible twist of fate will lead them toward a salvation they never thought possible―and prove that the power of love, mercy, and forgiveness can shine a hopeful light even in history’s darkest age.

About Gary

Interview with Gary Whitta, author of Abomination - July 22, 2015
Gary Whitta's BIo: Gary Whitta is an award-winning screenwriter best known for the postapocalyptic thriller The Book of Eli. He was also a writer and story consultant on Telltale Games’ interactive adaptation of The Walking Dead, for which he was the co-recipient of a BAFTA award. Most recently he served as a writer on Lucasfilm’s new generation of Star Wars projects for film and television. Abomination is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @garywhitta  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+

Interview with Sophie Jaff, author of Love is Red - July 10, 2015

Please welcome Sophie Jaff to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Love is Red was published on May 12th by Harper.

Interview with Sophie Jaff, author of Love is Red - July 10, 2015

TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. Please tell us something about Love is Red that is not in the book description.

Sophie:  Two things come to mind; while I was writing Love is Red I experience a series of incredibly creepy incidents. This tends to happen to me, I put myself so thoroughly in the book that it’s almost as though a strange energy begins to generate and things happen. I didn’t help that I hung out in or visited all the places I wrote about; the bars, the gourmet grocery stores, the parks, the libraries…I won’t elaborate but given all the inexplicable events I was pretty terrified. I’d like to my experiences comes through in the writing.

I’m obsessed with the number three so if you’re reading Love is Red you’ll probably come across all sorts of multiples or various forms of three-starting with the title. As the song says ‘3 is a magic number.’

TQ: What inspired you to write Love is Red? What appealed to you about writing a genre bending and blending novel?

Sophie:  I was looking for a novel that was truly scary without being particularly gory. I wanted something that combined psychological horror with romance with dark currents of the occult, mythology and paranormal without being overtly fantasy based. I wanted a book that would give me an elegant scare, unfortunately I couldn’t find what I was looking for so I decided to write it. I have always had a passion for ghost stories and wanted to create a modern day elevated ghost story.

TQ: What sort of research did you do for Love is Red?

Sophie:  I studied a multitude of serial killers, their methods, childhoods and personalities ranging from Edmund Kemper, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gacy and Dennis Rader (the BTK killer.) I took a special interest in Ted Bundy who truly used his charm, and looks to deceive women before killing them. I also researched their victims lives, so I could hopefully write with understanding and respect. I studied Medieval texts and beautiful manuscripts in the Morgan Library, one of my all time favorite places in the world. I was a legitimate Dungeon Master(Head Writer for an Massive Multiplayer Online game) for three years and so had to research the Medieval era. The rest was down to my own life experience of being a single women living and dating in New York, my all time favorite city.

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

Sophie:  The easiest character to write was the Sickle Man, I’m an extremely empathetic, guilty and often anxious person so it was a fabulous feeling to write a character so remorseless, so passionate and brutal. It felt weightless as if I was not bound by gravity. I really had a blast prowling around the city doing terrible things. The hardest character to write was Katherine because I related so much to who she was and it was incredibly hard to separate from her. My characters tend to take on a life of their own. Sometimes I was almost jealous of her and at other times I was frustrated with the choices she made.

TQ:  Thank  you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Love is Red
The Night Song Trilogy 1
Harper, May 12, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Sophie Jaff, author of Love is Red - July 10, 2015
Redefining the thriller's tale of the hunter and the hunted, This electrifying, hypnotically beautiful debut spins dark suspense and literary fantasy into a mesmerizing story of survival.

Katherine Emerson was born to fulfill a dark prophecy centuries in the making, but she doesn't know it yet. However, one man does: a killer stalking the women of New York City, a monster the media dubs the "Sickle Man" because of the weapon he uses to turn his victims' bodies into canvases for his twisted art. People think he's the next Son of Sam, but we know how he thinks and how he feels . . . and discover that he is driven by darker, much more dangerous desires than we can bear to imagine. He takes more than just his victims' lives, and each death brings him closer to the one woman he must possess at any cost.

Amid the city's escalating hysteria, Katherine is trying to unknot her tangled heart. Two very different men have entered her previously uneventful world—handsome and personable David, alluring yet aloof Sael—and turned it upside down. She finds herself involved in a complicated triangle . . . but how well does she really know either of them?

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Katherine and the Sickle Man, Sophie Jaff's intoxicating narrative will pull you in and hold you close. As the body count rises, Katherine is haunted by harrowing visions that force her to question her sanity. All she wants is to find love. He just wants to find her.

Ablaze with fear, mystery, and possibility, Love Is Red is the first book in the Night Song trilogy. With this unforgettable novel—one that combines the literary and the supernatural, fantasy and horror, the past and the present—Katherine's moment of awakening is here. And her story is only just beginning.

About Sophie
(photo from the Author's website)

Interview with Sophie Jaff, author of Love is Red - July 10, 2015
A native of South Africa, Sophie Jaff is an alumna of the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, and a fellow of the Dramatists Guild of America. Her work has been performed at Symphony Space, Lincoln Center, the Duplex, the Gershwin, and Goodspeed Musicals. She lives in New York City.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @sophjaff

Interview with Zen Cho, author of Sorcerer to the CrownInterview with Hester Young, author of The Gates of EvangelineInterview with Stephen Moore, author of GrayneloreInterview with David Nabhan, author of The Pilots of the BorealisInterview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie AsterInterview with M.E. Roufa, author of The Norma Gene - August 5, 2015Interview with Rob Boffard, author of Tracer - July 23, 2015Interview with Gary Whitta, author of Abomination - July 22, 2015Interview with Rhonda Mason, author of The Empress Game and Giveaway- July 14, 2015Interview with Sophie Jaff, author of Love is Red - July 10, 2015

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