The Qwillery | category: 2015 DAC Interview | (page 5 of 9)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with J. Dalton Jennings, author of Solomon's Arrow - July 7, 2015

Please welcome J. Dalton Jennings to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Solomon's Arrow is published on July 7th by Talos Press. Please join The Qwillery in wishing him a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with J. Dalton Jennings, author of Solomon's Arrow - July 7, 2015

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

JDJ:  Thank you for inviting me to participate, Sally. I first started in 1978, when I wrote a longhand, prototype version of Solomon's Arrow. I never tried to publish it, and years later, in a fit of frustration, tossed it in the trash. Then, almost eight years ago, I retired from being a graphic artist and returned to writing. This time I took it seriously. I wrote a non-fiction book, which is yet to be published. I then wrote my first fiction novel, which is set 2000 years ago in the Far East, and is over 200k words long. As one would expect, it is also yet to be published. However, while trying to find an agent for that novel, I realized I could rewrite my actual first novel and make it even better than before. I found an agent, Jeff Schmidt, at NY Creative Management, and he quickly sold it to Skyhorse Publishing. As to why I write: I'm like most writers, in that I feel an unquenchable urge to write. It's almost a compulsion; the germ of a story enters my mind and it won't be satisfied until it's birthed on the page.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser or a hybrid?

JDJ:  I ascribe to the Isaac Asimov school of writing, which means I'm a pantser. He would devise a beginning, a middle and an end for his novels, and then let his characters guide him through the spaces in between. I'm often surprised by where my characters take the story. As such, I hope my surprise is shared by the reader.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

JDJ:  As a self-taught writer, I would say it's getting past the notion that I'm not good enough to be in the company of the writers I most admire. But, it also drives me to study and improve my skills.

TQYou were a graphic artist. How does being an artist affect (or not) your writing?

JDJ:  As a graphic artist, I used my imagination on a daily basis. Also, having deadlines to meet provided discipline, of which I was lacking in my younger years; and that discipline has translated over to my writing. I make it a point to write between three to four hours each day, six days a week.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

JDJ:  First and foremost, my favorite author and biggest influence is Frank Herbert, of Dune fame. I also love Robert Heinlein; Isaac Asimov; Kevin J. Anderson; James Rollins; Orson Scott Card (for his writing, not his politics); J. K. Rowling; Clifford D. Simak; Philip K. Dick, and many more.

TQDescribe Solomon's Arrow in 140 characters or less.

JDJ:  With Earth's fate in his hands, the mysterious Solomon Chavez embarks on an ambitious quest that might save humanity, or cause its destruction.

TQTell us something about Solomon's Arrow that is not found in the book description.

JDJSolomon's Arrow attempts to shine a light on mankind's foibles, and bring the issues of today into clearer focus through the use of science fiction. It also explores identity and loss, which are vital sub-themes in the novel.

TQWhat inspired you to write Solomon's Arrow? What appealed to you about writing Science Fiction. In your opinion, should Science Fiction deal with 'big issues', just be entertaining, or both?

JDJ:  That's an interesting question. As I said, the novel was inspired by my misbegotten attempt to write the same novel back in the late 70's. As for Science fiction's appeal? My literary tastes have always leaned in that direction, or toward novels with big, mystical or earthshaking plots. I hate to say it, but subtle, literary fiction bores me to tears. Should science fiction deal with 'big issues?' It doesn't have to; but as they say, the best sci-fi can shine a light on issues in a way that other genres have a difficult time tackling. However, if a novel fails to entertain, the reader may as well be reading a technical manual. The big issues are a must in my writing.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Solomon's Arrow?

JDJ:  I researched Phoenix, AZ; did some research on the Pacific Ocean; sharks; the Epsilon Eridani star system; the various methods of propelling starships; cryogenics, and a few other things that would be spoilers if I revealed them here.

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

JDJ:  In my novels the characters write themselves. That being said, the hardest character was Solomon Chavez. I found it difficult at times to make him compelling, while not revealing too much about him. Halfway through the book it became easier, after a shocking reveal. The easiest character to write was Floyd Sullivant, the ship's security chief. I put quite a lot of my humor into him; and although we're dissimilar in many respects, his character was a joy to write. But, my favorite character to write was Bram Waters, mostly for the many layers of character he brings to the book's plot.

TQWhich question about Solomon's Arrow do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

JDJ:  “Judging by the state of society and the catastrophic events in Solomon's Arrow, Mr. Jennings, are you still hopeful for humanity's future?”

“Yes, I am, and I say that because we are a contradiction. Humans generate so much darkness and pain and suffering, and yet we are capable of so much beauty and potential. There will come a point in time where we must make a choice: continue down the unsustainable road we're on and risk destruction, or change course and live up to our innate potential. I hope we choose the latter.”

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Solomon's Arrow.

JDJ:  Wow! That's a tough question. All right, this line, in context, always brings tears to my eyes:

In a barely audible voice, she said, "I . . . I had a sister . . ."

TQWhat's next?

JDJ:  I'm presently hard at work on a kinda, sorta, prequel to Solomon's Arrow, starring Bram Waters. The working title is The Dark of Night and is a companion novel that takes place twenty years before the events of Solomon's Arrow. After that, I may write a second companion novel starring Solomon Chavez. However, judging from the plot structure I already have percolating in my brain, that one is so complex I may need to break down and actually create an outline. Maybe not. We'll see.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

JDJ:  You're welcome, Sally. It was my great pleasure.

Solomon's Arrow
Talos Press, July 14, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with J. Dalton Jennings, author of Solomon's Arrow - July 7, 2015
It’s the mid-twenty-first century. The oceans are rising, the world’s population is growing, terrorist organizations are running rampant, and it has become readily apparent that humanity’s destructive nature is at the heart of the matter.

When all faith in humanity seems lost, a startling proposal is announced: Solomon Chavez, the mysterious son of the world’s first trillionaire, announces that he, backed by a consortium of governments and wealthy donors, will build an interstellar starship—one that will convey a select group of six thousand individuals, all under the age of fifty, with no living relatives, to a recently discovered planet in the Epsilon Eridani star system. His goal is lofty: to build a colony that will ensure the survival of the human race. However, Solomon Chavez has a secret that he doesn’t dare share with the rest of the world.

With the launch date rapidly approaching, great odds must be overcome so that the starship Solomon’s Arrow can fulfill what the human race has dreamed of for millennia: reaching for the stars. The goal is noble, but looming on the horizon are threats nobody could have imagined—ones that may spell the end of all human life and end the universe as we know it.

Filled with action, suspense, and characters that will live on in the imagination, Solomon’s Arrow will leave readers breathless, while at the same time questioning what humanity’s true goals should be: reaching for the stars, or exploring the limits of the human mind?

About J. Dalton Jennings

Interview with J. Dalton Jennings, author of Solomon's Arrow - July 7, 2015
Photo by Janna Virden, © 2014
J. Dalton Jennings is a retired graphic artist who served for six years as an Avionics Technician in the Arkansas Air National Guard. Solomon’s Arrow is Jennings’s first published novel, and he currently resides in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @JayJennings57

Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015

Please welcome S.K. Dunstall to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Linesman was published on June 30th by Ace.

Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015

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

Hi. We are so happy to be here.

Sherylyn:  I have never known a time when I didn’t write or tell stories. Even in primary school, Karen and I wrote stories for each other. I used to tell stories at night to my younger sisters to send them to sleep – or until I fell asleep. During the day, I would tell stories to other kids at primary school. I just loved telling stories.

Karen:  Being one of those younger sisters, I was obviously indoctrinated at an early age. Like Sherylyn, I’ve been telling stories ever since. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been writing.

TQAre you a plotters, pantsers or hybrids?

S. K.:  Pantsers, without a doubt. Although we came across George R. R. Martin’s ‘gardeners and architects’ (via a You Tube lecture by Brandon Sanderson) and think gardener suits us better. We’re constantly rearranging the garden and trying out new plants. Rewriting parts of the book, moving things around. And weeding. My goodness, weeding words.

We plot by talking ideas. We don’t actually write these down, just get the ideas and let them percolate.

We have found that we can over-talk things and when that happens we don’t write it. So we have to balance the talking and the writing.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you both about writing? What is your co-writing process like?

S. K.:  The most challenging thing? Time. We like to leave our writing sit for as long as possible and come back to it fresh. Ideally, we like to write one book, put it aside and write another. Then go back to the first book and rework the whole thing. Having a contract—as wonderful and fantastic as that is—means you can’t do this. We are not fast writers, and both of us work full time.

Co-writing is so much fun. We spend hours talking stories and ideas. We’ll try different ways of co-writing, too. Sometimes we each write a different character, sometimes we write the same chapter and pick out what we want to keep. Other times one writes the first draft while the other edits.

We always talk about a story as it progresses and if one of us doesn’t like something, we talk and come up with new ideas until we can both agree.

For Linesman, we wanted to keep the voice the same across all three books, so we wrote/are writing all of them the same way, as the person who writes the first draft sets the tone for the whole book.

Every day we’ll discuss what has happened so far, and what we think might happen next. Then Karen writes a rough first draft, with Sherylyn following behind, adding comments and rewriting sections.

Once the first draft is written Sherylyn takes over the bulk of the edits, while Karen comes along behind and works on what Sherylyn has edited.

As we fine-tune the story, Sherylyn takes over more of the work. In the end, for every one time Karen reads the book and makes changes, Sherylyn re-reads it at least five times.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Sherylyn: I read anything I could get my hands on; school adventure stories, Australian stories, science fiction, westerns. Anything except horror. Some of my favorite authors today are Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Diana Wynne-Jones, Robin Hobb, Anne Bishop, to name a few. There are so many writers I love. The list would fill the page.

Karen: Likewise, anything. We’d both read out the library at our primary school years before we moved on to secondary school, and ditto there. As a child I remember reading my way through every one of those yellow covered Gollancz science fiction books I could get my hands on. Some of my favourite current authors today are Diana Wynne Jones, Robin Hobb, Vernor Vinge, Connie Willis. We both read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. We also read mysteries and thrillers. And anything else that takes our fancy.

TQDescribe Linesman in 140 characters or less.

S. K.:  A guy who repairs ships gets caught up in the discovery of an alien spaceship and the fight between two warring factions who want possession of it.

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

S. K.:  Is it cheating if we say ‘sentient spaceships’? It’s not part of the description, but one of the blurbs mentions it.

TQWhat inspired you to write Linesman? What appealed to you about writing Science Fiction, especially Space Opera? What is a 'Space Opera'?

S. K.:  Space opera is science fiction action adventure in space. There’s usually a war, or fighting, and it’s not too heavily scientific, although it can be. Most importantly, it is based around the characters. Star Wars (the original) is the classic space opera. Guardians of the Galaxy is also space opera.

We love both science fiction and fantasy. There’s something about creating worlds, and making everything fit, that’s so much fun. Plus, it allows us to write things we can’t if we’re restricted to our own world. Equality, for example. A world where anyone can be an admiral and no-one cares whether they’re male or female, or white or black or purple or green.

And to explore ideas. Linesman, for example, started as a “what if” dinner-table conversation. What if humans found alien technology in space? Would they know what to do with it? What if they worked out how to use part of it, but not all of it? It’s a bit like using a Swiss army knife. Suppose you learned to use the corkscrew to open bottles of wine, but didn’t even realise anything else on the knife existed? Then, as time passed, how would what they learned about the original technology diverge into something else?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Linesman?

S. K.:  The brain is a fascinating part of the body and there’s so much we don’t know about it. For Linesman we looked at how the brain worked—particularly how it interpreted music. Plus a bit about synaesthesia, and handedness.

We also looked at spaceship design, and realised that provided a ship didn’t need to land on a planet it isn’t constrained aerodynamically. The limitations are air and power. Thus we came up with the idea that the ships in our universe will be large, any shape, with lots of levels, and modules that can be attached as required. And anyone who’s been following Commander Chris Hadfield (excellent source of research, by the way), would know that null-g in space is undesirable if you’re going to be on a ship for long periods of time, so we had to have gravity too.

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

S. K.:  Jordan Rossi was easy to write because he could be unpleasant and it didn’t matter.

Hardest character? That’s difficult. Each character had a life of their own and wanted to be written.

Ean was fun to write because he is such an unreliable narrator (and because he’s great), but he was probably the hardest to write too, because he could be such a wimp. He isn’t helpless, but he lets things happen to him. We had to be careful because that’s very frustrating for the reader, who just wants him to do something. It was a hard balance. We hope we got it right.

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


Q. Will Rossi have his own book?

A. I’d like to think so. I would love people to want a Rossi story.

Sherylyn: You wish. I might let him take part in another book, but he will not have a book to himself. You will have to work hard to sell me on this one.

Karen: Jordan Rossi is an unpleasant man. Confident, arrogant, always putting other people down, but I love him. Most people hate him.

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

Sherylyn: “The lines were crying out to be heard and no-one was listening.” Karen wrote that line and when I read it, I went cold. It held so much emotion for me.

Karen: I love the clever lines. The ones they say you should get rid of, because they’re not in the book to further the story but simply because you think they’re good. For example, after Michelle tells Ean that Abram likes him, and Ean thinks, ‘yes, and everyone sang to the lines too’. Which is a lie, because no-one except Ean sings to the lines.

TQWhat's next?

S. K.:  We’re contracted for three books in the Linesman series.

We just got the editor’s feedback on book two (Alliance), so we’re about to start working on those. Before that we were in middle of the first draft of book three. The next six weeks we’ll concentrate on Alliance, then it’s back to book three.

After we finish book three? Who knows?

There are so many books to write, so many ideas. We have a couple of science fiction stories we would love work on. One set in the Linesman world, the other a separate series. We also have an Australian fantasy we would love to finish, but that is for a distant future.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

S. K.:  Thank you for having us. It was a pleasure to take part.

Linesman 1
Ace, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015
First in a brand new thought-provoking science fiction series.

The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…

Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.

Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.

The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.

About S.K. Dunstall

Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015
Andrew Kopp ©2015
Karen (left) and Sherylyn (right) Dunstall
S. K. Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who have been telling stories—and sharing them with each other—all their lives. Around five years ago, they realised the stories they worked on together were much better than the stories they worked on alone. A co-writing partnership was born.


Twitter @SKDunstall


Interview with Camille Griep, author of Letters to Zell - July 1, 2015

Please welcome Camille Griep to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Letters to Zell is published on July 1st by 47North. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Camille a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Camille Griep, author of Letters to Zell - July 1, 2015

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

Camille:  Thanks so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be able share my very first book with you and your readers.

I started writing very early in life. I was one of those children who liked to soothe myself with stories, whether I was lamenting a fruitless wish for a Pegasus of my very own or a failed friendship. Growing up with my grandparents and no siblings, I read a lot to keep myself company, to fill the hours of my persistent childhood insomnia, and to attempt to understand my own imagination. I wrote books in school, but kept writing when I was out of school, too – journals and notebooks and diaries. I wrote for myself, for my parents, and for my friends. I was lucky to have friends who indulged this behavior well into our teens: in high school, we passed fairy tales instead of notes for a while. Telling stories is something that has always been a part of who I am, whether or not I’ve been actively writing.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Camille:  Definitely a pantser. I would so like to be a plotter – almost as much as I (still) want a Pegasus. Both are about as likely to happen.

Ideally, I write a book as I did Zell: starting with the beginning, moving to the end, then creating a bridge in the middle. I’m a visual writer and that lends itself to more surprises than is often healthy for an outline.

I know this because I sold my second novel on spec, so I had to submit full outline. While the plan itself was difficult to wrangle, it was even harder to stick to it. I prefer a much more organic process of creation, and, of course, I ended up having to rewrite the outline as I got deeper into the text and made new decisions based on how I’d moved the characters through their environment.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Camille:  My attention span is very short. I am easily distracted and that is directly in conflict with my needs for novel writing – long, uninterrupted stretches of time. I work constantly to schedule my days and weeks efficiently, so that I can chop up some into small pieces for small projects and spend long days to do immersive projects. I’m not very good about saying no and tend to get a bit over my skis with commitments. With one major exception, all of the writing-related projects, groups, and publications I’ve been involved with have been worth every stressful minute.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Camille:  I think I’m influenced by everything I read. That said, my writing has been most shaped by those whose work can be read a variety of ways. Frost has this nice, pastoral reputation these days when in actuality, his writing is much darker. I’m trying to put my own spin on using humor to diffuse the utterly heartbreaking, like Pamela Ribon and Libba Bray. I love Dorothy Parker and Fran Lebowitz, whose writings are true and awful and funny all at the same time. Finally, I’m under the spell of whimsicists like Walter Moers and CS Lewis. The Horse and His Boy changed my life when I stumbled upon it in my grandparents’ library all those years ago.

It’s hard to whittle down a list of favorite contemporary authors, but if I had to add to the ones above, I’d add fiction writers: Yannick Murphy, Jandy Nelson, Chad Simpson, Stephen Graham Jones, Annie Proulx, and Kent Haruf. There are so many more, but we’ll say these are my favorites right this very minute.

TQDescribe Letters to Zell in 140 characters or less.

Camille:  Fairy tale princesses discover Happily Ever After isn’t the Happy they’re After.

TQ Tell us something about Letters to Zell that is not found in the book description.

Camille:  While the book is indeed a paean to the epistolary form, it’s a tribute to many other things close to my heart. One of those things is Los Angeles. When the characters emerge Outside, they find themselves in present day L.A., their portal exiting at the famed, door-less magician’s hangout The Magic Castle. This was an amazing solution in my mind, L.A. being the home of all sorts of strange things, a few overdressed women popping out of thin air would be within the realm of normal at a place like the Magic Castle.

TQWhat inspired you to write Letters to Zell? What appealed to you about re-imagining the fairy tales of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel?

Camille:  This book really came about as a result of my grappling – as many of us in our mid 30s do – with expectations. No matter what kind of life path you align yourself to, there are a lot of societal pressures telling you whether you’re acceptable or not. A woman really never gets it right. The singletons are doing it wrong, mothers are doing it wrong, the childless are doing it wrong, the stay-at-homes are doing it wrong, the work-around-the-clock women are doing it wrong, the. I guess it’s fair to say that I’d been on the receiving end of things for too long, and I was tired of hearing friends lament their shortcomings and how their lives failed to measure up.

A friend remarked that instead of the life she had, she wanted the fairy tale. I thought darkly, what if the fairy tales wanted reality?

At first I meant to simply turn the concept into a short piece. But I couldn’t fit the expectations of Cosmo, Vogue, TMZ, and Dr. Ruth into a bite-sized portion of fiction. I dug into the well-known princess stories, trying to choose whose might fit best, when it dawned on me that perhaps all of them, in a wider world of imagination, could find freedom and acceptance from each other. Combining their stories took patience, but allowed me to create a very unique, character-driven narrative.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Letters to Zell?

Camille:  Most of the research required for LTZ was reading. In order to ensure I’d grounded myself in the Grimm versions of the fairy tales instead of the Disney versions, I carefully read each of the main and minor characters’ fairy tales, whether they were Grimm, or Christian Anderson, or otherwise. I threw the kitchen sink into the Realm of Imagination. This will undoubtedly annoy some readers, but it was a conscious allusion to the fact that everything we write for readers is influenced by other imaginative works, whether we like it or not.

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

Camille:  The easiest character to write was probably Bianca aka Snow White. Even though CeCi’s voice is likely closer to my own, Bianca’s reactions to most things boiled down to what would someone say if their patience ran out five minutes ago.

Conversely, Rory (Sleeping Beauty) was the toughest. I worked really hard to make her anachronistic in a setting (Grimmland, the Realm of Imagination) that is already pretty strange. In order to offset much of her passive voice and fervent romanticism, I layered in as much humor as I could. The downside here, of course, is that humor isn’t universal. Readers who don’t perceive that the women begin the narrative as caricatures will miss the way the women gradually break free as they find their own space in the world.

TQWhich question about Letters to Zell do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Camille:  How did you choose the personalities for each princess?

I like to say the characters begin the book with their personalities turned up to eleven. Because the book is satire, it’s necessary for us to encounter them at their most obnoxious in order to have the character arc I was aiming for, whereupon they begin to soften and take on the best qualities of one another, as old friends often do.

Zell became the letter recipient because her life seemed to be most complete in the traditional sense. In the Grimm version of Rapunzel, she is pregnant with (gasp, illegitimate!) twins when she is evicted from the tower. Since she ends her tale with a life that looks the most like what is considered “normal,” I decided to upend it as the catalyst for the book.

CeCi is the most practical of the bunch she’s used to running a large household. Used to being useful, her recognition of the loss of her own resourcefulness causes her to closely examine her own life, wants, and needs. She does, however, retain a fair bit of whimsy, as she really didn’t have much of a childhood.

Rory is antiquated and dreamy because of her long sleep. But her inability to see things for what they really are isn’t so much stupidity as avoidance. Rather than lose anyone else or any more time, Rory clings to the fragile latticework of her own optimism.

Bianca is unfiltered because she was raised for a time by a bunch of rough diamond miners. She’s embittered because she so desperately wanted her stepmother’s love. As with most prickly beings, her defense mechanisms are largely a smokescreen of her own tender heart.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Letters to Zell.


1. “You couldn’t shut up about [yoga] a few weeks might want to give it a try. Maybe you’ll get flexible enough to pull your head out of your ass.” (CeCi, after telling Bianca, “Namaste, bitch.”)

2. “Humans can’t all be assholes, right? Head of Soufflés herself can’t be responsible for techno music, Chia Pets, and pies in a jar.” (Bianca/Snow White)

3. “You would be proud of me, Zell. I feel much braver these days. Bravery is exhausting, though, so I do have to drink a good deal of coffee.” (Rory/Sleeping Beauty)

TQWhat's next?

Camille:  Next spring I’ll be releasing my 2nd novel. In New Charity Blues, two women struggle with cultural expectations, their own motivations, and friendship in the midst of a streamlined, reimagined Trojan War set in a post-plague western country rife with prophecy and magic.

Ex-ballerina Cressyda (Syd) Turner joins the effort to rebuild her unnamed City after a pandemic plague decimates the country’s population – all except for that of her hometown, the rural backwater community of New Charity. Yearning to be an influential voice in her City, Syd is embittered by the irrelevance of her art and her inability to find a purpose. When the opportunity to return to New Charity arises, she jumps at the chance to open the hydroelectric dam the town has shut down and restore power to the city.

Cassandra (Cas) Willis, a Seer and Acolyte, is a pensive cowgirl, quietly wishing to be more than just a voice in New Charity’s strict Sanctuary. Her ability to see into the future is her greatest gift, but when she learns that Syd’s father, Cal, was killed by the Sanctuary's Bishop, she strives to find a justification so as to maintain her perception of the institution she grew up in.

Syd – used to being seen and not heard – and Cas – used to being heard and not seen – each balk at the expectation that they will fulfill supporting roles in whatever the men in their communities decide. Disowned by her powerful family, Cas aligns herself with Syd, and a careful respect emerges as each begins to understand the pressures put upon the other, until Cas receives a vision of her town’s utter destruction.

Though these women are minor characters in older narratives, they are remembered primarily as representative symbols of womanhood – Cressyda the pandering, inconstant floozy and Cassandra, the helpless, crazed prophetess. I want to explore the choices that bring them to their decisions, their loves, their families, and most importantly, their friendship with one another.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Letters to Zell
47North, July 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Camille Griep, author of Letters to Zell - July 1, 2015
Everything is going according to story for CeCi (Cinderella), Bianca (Snow White), and Rory (Sleeping Beauty)—until the day that Zell (Rapunzel) decides to leave Grimmland and pursue her life. Now, Zell’s best friends are left to wonder whether their own passions are worth risking their predetermined “happily ever afters,” regardless of the consequences. CeCi wonders whether she should become a professional chef, sharp-tongued and quick-witted Bianca wants to escape an engagement to her platonic friend, and Rory will do anything to make her boorish husband love her. But as Bianca’s wedding approaches, can they escape their fates—and is there enough wine in all of the Realm to help them?

In this hilarious modern interpretation of the fairy-tale stories we all know and love, Letters to Zell explores what happens when women abandon the stories they didn’t write for themselves and go completely off script to follow their dreams.

About Camille

Interview with Camille Griep, author of Letters to Zell - July 1, 2015
Photograph by Jackie Donnelly.
Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

She wrote her way through corporate careers in marketing, commercial real estate, and financial analysis before taking an sabbatical to devote more time to her craft in 2011.

She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. She is a 2012 graduate of Viable Paradise, a residential workshop for speculative fiction novelists.

Her first novel, Letters to Zell, will be released July 1st from 47North.

Website  ~   Twitter @camillethegriep  ~  Facebook

Interview with Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven - June 30, 2015

Please welcome Alyc Helms to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Dragons of Heaven is published on June 30th (North American print) by Angry Robot Books and is already available in digital format.

Interview with Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven - June 30, 2015

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing? How does having a background in Anthropology affect (or not) your writing?

Alyc:  Hello to all and sundry.

I could go with the old standard, which is that I've been writing for as long as I can remember. That's true after a fashion. My dad has a book I handmade when I was nine that has a few illustrated short stories, some very-dark-for-a-nine-year-old poetry, and some transcribed family folklore. I continued to noodle with writing throughout my teens and twenties, and I even sent a few short stories out. I just moved to a new home, and while I was unpacking I found a small stack of rejection letters from Shawna McCarthy at Realms of Fantasy from back in the *cough* 90s *cough*.

But the truth is that I didn't really get serious about writing – especially finishing things I'd started, which is my benchmark for 'serious' – until I was in graduate school. Writing fiction became my way of keeping sane when my coursework and dissertation research became too much to handle. With my fiction, I could have fun. Nobody cared if I was wrong. Nobody was judging me. I could be as ridiculous as I wanted to be.

I could also use all the things I'd learned about cultural structures, about representation and identity, about politics and economics and activism, to ground my writing. I sometimes joke that I really just write critical theory fanfic.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Alyc:  I started out a pure pantser, and for a long time I thought I was more of a pantser than I probably actually am because I like structures. I love structures. I'm a big fan of using ritual and structures to trick myself into doing work that I'd rather avoid. And because of my background in folklore (and anthropology), I've got a pretty good grasp of how we structure stories. I tend to determine my structure early on in my drafting process (in terms of acts and beats and rising/falling action), and then I refine my upcoming framework and leave the further-off stuff fuzzy until I get closer to it. So in that way, I'm definitely a plotter.

With The Dragons of Heaven, I had written several self-contained story chunks before I decided to turn it into something novel-shaped, but in doing that, I had to figure out a shape for the novel. That birthed the palimpsest-like Now-and-Then structure that goes a good deal beyond your typical flashbacks. I wanted the 'Then' sections to inform and give added meaning and depth to the 'Now' sections, so that when readers meet a major character in a 'Now' section, they know why the character is important to Missy and the story because they just saw the same character in a 'Then' section. It wasn't something I'd often seen done in popular fiction, and I knew it'd be a weird structure for some readers and potentially a hard sell to publishers, but I thought it offered some interesting storytelling opportunities. And now I can point to the television version of The Arrow (which I love like whoa) to show that it's not as weird a device as all that.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Alyc:  Butt-in-chair, because it pervades every aspect of the process. Need to write a first draft? You gotta get butt-in-chair. Research? Revisions? Butt-in-chair. Querying, marketing, all the business aspects also require you to show up and do the work. I know so many people who are super smart, who have fantastic ideas that I'd love to read, and who write beautiful or hilarious or profound snippets of prose. But none of that matters if you're not sitting down, finding the time, doing the work, getting it wrong, working toward making it right.

This is a challenge for me because (like many writers), I have what I call page-fear. Getting started is the hardest hurdle to get over because writers have excellent imaginations, and we're very good at turning them against ourselves. The game of 'what if?' becomes 'What if I get it wrong? What if it sucks? What if I'm not the right person to tell this story?' There's no right answer, so every word is a leap of faith. You have to be willing to be wrong. Writing is an alchemical process. A great idea transmutes into crap the moment it hits the page, and then you have to putrefy and purify it until it becomes gold. And that won't happen if you don't get butt-in-chair.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Alyc:  I grew up reading Katherine Kurtz, Mercedes Lackey, Melanie Rawn, and (of course) Anne McCaffery. I was dragon-obsessed as only a girl weaned on McCaffery could be, and there were never enough non-McCaffery dragon books to satisfy me.

More recently, I've gobbled up everything Robin Hobb is willing to give me. The Fool is one of my favorite fictional characters for the way he skewers gender assumptions. Naomi Novak and Temeraire are up there, too. Marie Brennan is a good friend, but she's also one of my favorite authors, and I love her naturalist take on dragons. It makes me feel like I'm back in field school.

For The Dragons of Heaven, however, I had to wander outside of fantasy fiction for my inspiration. I drew from Chinese folklore and legends (The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and The Water Margin/Outlaws of the Marsh were brilliant for this). I also drew inspiration from pulp and wuxia in other media: Indiana Jones, The Mummy movies, The Shadow (radio show), Big Trouble in Little China, K-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces. Bunraku. I read literary pulp to get a good grounding in it, but it didn't quite have what I was looking for. Filmic pulp adventure/wuxia was the vibe I wanted.

TQDescribe The Dragons of Heaven in 140 characters or less.

Alyc:  Oh man. You guys are mean with these questions. Okay, I just yoinked my unsuccessful #PitMad entry from two years ago:

Pulp and wuxia collide when Missy Masters faces off against an ancient dragon to save China and get the guy.

TQTell us something about The Dragons of Heaven that is not found in the book description.

Alyc:  I'm a sucker for complicated, adult romances. Also, consent is sexy.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Dragons of Heaven? How would you describe into which genre(s) The Dragons of Heaven fit(s)? Having asked that, do you think that genre classifications are useful?

Dragons started as a side-adventure fic for a character I was playing in a tabletop game, and it lives in the intersection between pulp adventure and wuxia. About the time I hit 40k words, I realized I had the longest thing I’d ever written, the seed of a novel, and I still wasn’t bored. Of course, it was a character fic. It wasn’t novel-shaped at all. Missy was unfocused as a character, and the story was based in a world owned by a large corporate gaming company. I spent the next several years carving down, building up, reshaping, rewriting. The current iteration contains less than 10% of the original character fic.

Neither pulp adventure nor wuxia are what you would call well-known genre categories, especially in prose fiction. I keep expecting them to be better-known, but the consistently confused looks I get when I call Dragons a pulp adventure/wuxia mash-up indicate that I am mistaken in my expectations. I have three frivolous goals with Dragons: a) to bring back fedoras and tailored suits for men and women, b) to encourage demand for more cart-delivered dim sum restaurants, and c) to encourage more demand for pulp adventure wuxia, preferably including Eastern dragons.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Dragons of Heaven?

Alyc:  I have an outdated and incomplete bibliography on my website that covers some of my research materials, but it only covers the things I read specifically for Dragons. It doesn't cover the years I spent studying world folklores, anthropology, representation and identity politics, etc.

Some of the most valuable texts are a little hard to come by (especially now that I don't have access to a university library ::sobs::). I've already mentioned The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and The Water Margin, which is a little like mainlining Aurthurian mythology and all the works of Shakespeare before writing a Western fantasy. Wasserstrom was my main source for contemporary Chinese history. Sheridan Prasso's The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient was a great starting point for considering problematic tropes and issues in representation. Booth's The Dragon Syndicates and Huston's Tongs, Gangs, and Triads formed my hopefully-a-little-more-nuanced portrayal of the Triads' role in Chinese diaspora communities. And I can't shower enough love on Kang's The Cult of the Fox, which is an obscure monograph about household fox worship in southern China, and why I decided my fox spirits would be called huxian rather than the more derogatory huli-jing.

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

Alyc:  Easiest was Missy, definitely. If I've been away from her for a while then it can be a bit of work to get back into her voice, but once I'm in it, I'm in it. She says the things I wish I was quick enough to come up with on the fly.

Hardest was the dragons because I had to balance giving them the gravitas they deserved with making them personable to the reading audience. In addition, there are nine of them (though some get more screen time than others), each with their own concerns, personalities, and agendas, which meant that in addition to differentiating them from each other so readers didn't get confused, I had to do a lot of work figuring out their histories and relationships with each other, not just with Missy.

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

Alyc:  Where can I go to get proper, cart-delivered dim-sum?

Sadly, my favorite cart-delivered dim-sum isn't in San Francisco at all. It's in Los Angeles. My go-to dim sum when I lived in L.A. was The Palace Seafood & Dim Sum on Wilshire on the Westside (I expect to get lots of hate-mail for this from San Gabriel Valley purists). For special occasions, though, we'd haul over to Chinatown to The Empress Pavilion. I understand The Empress Pavilion closed for a while and was recently re-opened under new ownership, so I can't say if it's as great as it used to be.

I've yet to find the right combination of carts, cost, and quality for dim sum in San Francisco, but this probably just means I need to go out for dim sum more often.

I'd love for readers to leave suggestions for good dim sum in the comments so I can try it if I ever visit wherever they are!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Dragons of Heaven.

"Idealism is a series of compromises waiting to happen."

TQWhat's next?

Alyc:  I'm deep in the weeds on writing The Conclave of Shadow, the sequel to Dragons. In it, Mr. Mystic teams up with Professor Abigail Trent, aka The Antiquarian. My original pitch on this one was 'Thelma and Louise take on 1,001 Nights.' It's high on adventures and escapades, but I do get to jump around on my soapbox for a bit regarding archaeological ethics, looting, and repatriation. Sorry Indiana Jones. That artifact may 'belong in a museum,' but without decent provenance, it's not much use to anyone!

I just turned in some freelance game writing for the Dragon Age tabletop RPG, and I'm putting final touches on the manuscript for an Italianate secondary-world fantasy full of politics and poisoners, courtiers and courtesans, rapiers and repartee. My elevator pitch for that one is 'Game of Thrones meets Queer as Folk,' though in truth, it owes a bit more to Dumas than to Martin.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Alyc:  Thank you for having me!

The Dragons of Heaven
Dragons of Heaven 1
Angry Robot Books, June 30, 2015  (North America Print)
      June 2, 2015 (eBook)
      June 4, 2015 (UK Print)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 512 pages

Interview with Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven - June 30, 2015
Would you deal with the devil to save the world?

Street magician Missy Masters inherited more than the usual genetic cocktail from her estranged grandfather – she also got his preternatural control of shadow and his legacy as the vigilante hero, Mr Mystic. Problem is, being a pulp hero takes more than a good fedora and a knack for witty banter, and Missy lacks the one thing Mr. Mystic had: experience. Determined to live up to her birthright, Missy journeys to China to seek the aid of Lung Huang, the ancient master who once guided her grandfather.

Lung Huang isn’t quite as ancient as Missy expected, and she finds herself embroiled in the politics of Lung Huang and his siblings, the nine dragon-guardians of creation. When Lung Di, Lung Huang’s brother and mortal enemy, raises a magical barrier that cuts off China from the rest of the world, it falls to the new Mr Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier. But is it too great a task for a lone adventure hero?

File Under: Fantasy [ Sins of the Grandfather / Missy and Master / Geek Fu / Little Trouble in Big China ]

About Alyc

Interview with Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven - June 30, 2015
Alyc Helms fled her doctoral program in anthropology and folklore when she realized she preferred fiction to academic writing. She dabbles in corsetry and costuming, dances at Renaissance and Dickens fairs, gets her dander up about social justice issues, and games in all forms of media. She sometimes refers to her work as “critical theory fanfic,” which is a fancy way to say that she is obsessed with liminality, gender identity, and foxes.

She’s a freelance game writer and a graduate of Clarion West, and her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres, to name a few. Her first novel, The Dragons of Heaven, will be published by Angry Robot Books in June 2015.

You can find Alyc online at and follow her @alychelms on Twitter.

Interview with Ishbelle Bee, author of The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath - June 29, 2015

Please welcome Ishbelle Bee to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath will be published on June 30th (North American print) by Angry Robot Books and is already available in digital format.

Interview with Ishbelle Bee, author of The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath - June 29, 2015

TQWhen and why did you start writing?

Ishbelle:  I have been writing stories, poetry and film scripts since I was a little girl. I found the ‘real’ world boring and I was disappointed there were no magicians flying about.

TQAre you a plotter of a pantser?

Ishbelle:  Pantser. My prep work is a few pages of scribbles and then I start writing.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ishbelle:  I get bored very easily

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favourite authors?

Ishbelle:  Angela Carter, Philip K Dick, Terry Pratchett, Margaret Atwood and Lovecraft

TQDescribe The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath in 140 characters or less?

Ishbelle:  (A very strange Victorian fairy tale) - A little girl is locked inside a grandfather clock. She is rescued by a policeman who becomes her supernatural guardian. The Lord of the Underworld orders his assassin/ son Mr Loveheart to hunt her down because he wants to eat her.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath? What appealed to you about writing a dark fairytale? Do you have any favorite fairytales?

Ishbelle:  I am fascinated by fairy tales, as I am a huge fan of symbolism and fairy tales are stuffed full of them. My favourite fairy tale is BLUEBEARD. Nearly all fairy tales were originally very dark and have been sadly sanitized over the years.

TQTell us something about The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath that is not found in the book description.

Ishbelle:  It explores a little of the mythology of the kidnaping of Persephone and her descent into the Underworld.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath?

Ishbelle:  I wanted, initially to write a book about exorcisms and the idea of having a demon inside a child. The character of Goliath was going to be priest.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath?

Ishbelle:  I read a lot of books on mythology and fairy tales, and also looked into Victorian Spiritualism.

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

Ishbelle:  The easiest was Mr Loveheart, whose madness is a joy to write. The hardest was perhaps Detective White, who, because he is neither quirky or deranged, actually makes it trickier for me. (I prefer narrative voices which are unbalanced)

TQWhich question about The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath do you wish someone would ask you? Ask it and answer it!

Ishbelle:  The book seems to be obsessed with food and eating. WHY?

I am fascinated with cannibalism in fairy tales and mythology and this reoccurring theme appears in all my books

TQGive us two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath.


“… I’ve witnessed some horrible things in my life. Musical Theatre! Frightened the buggery out of me.” ( Rufus Hazard )

“ Sometimes I think I am a strange key. Swallow me and I will unlock every door inside of you.” (Loveheart)

TQWhat’s next?

Ishbelle:   Book 2 : The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl is being published in August and features an insane collector of butterflies.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath
From the Peculiar Adventures of John Loveheart, Esq., Volume 1
Angry Robot Books, June 30, 2015 (North America Print)
     June 2, 2015 (eBook)
     June 4, 2015 (UK Print)
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Ishbelle Bee, author of The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath - June 29, 2015
1888. A little girl called Mirror and her extraordinary shape-shifting guardian Goliath Honeyflower are washed up on the shores of Victorian England. Something has been wrong with Mirror since the day her grandfather locked her inside a mysterious clock that was painted all over with ladybirds. Mirror does not know what she is, but she knows she is no longer human.

John Loveheart, meanwhile, was not born wicked. But after the sinister death of his parents, he was taken by Mr Fingers, the demon lord of the underworld. Some say he is mad. John would be inclined to agree.

Now Mr Fingers is determined to find the little girl called Mirror, whose flesh he intends to eat, and whose soul is the key to his eternal reign. And John Loveheart has been called by his otherworldly father to help him track Mirror down…

An extraordinary dark fairytale for adults, for fans of Catherine Valente and Neil Gaiman.

File Under: Fantasy [ Shapes Shifting / Inside the Clock / A Tasty Little Girl / 12 Dancing Princesses ]

The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl
From the Peculiar Adventures of John Loveheart, Esq., Volume2
Angry Robot Books, August 4, 2015 (North America Print and eBook)
        August 6, 2015 (UK Print)
Trade Paperback and eBook

Interview with Ishbelle Bee, author of The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath - June 29, 2015
A dark and twisted Victorian melodrama, like Alice in Wonderland goes to Hell, from the author of The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath.
Two orphans, Pedrock and Boo Boo, are sent to live in the sinister village of Darkwound. There they meet and befriend the magical and dangerous Mr Loveheart and his neighbour, Professor Hummingbird, a recluse who collects rare butterflies. Little do they know that Professor Hummingbird has attracted the wrath of a demon named Mr Angelcakes.

One night, Mr Angelcakes visits Boo Boo and carves a butterfly onto her back. Boo Boo starts to metamorphose into a butterfly/human hybrid, and is kidnapped by Professor Hummingbird. When Mr Loveheart attempts to rescue her with the aid of Detective White and Constable Walnut, they too are turned into butterflies.

Caught between Professor Hummingbird and the demon Angelcakes, Loveheart finds himself entangled in a web much wider and darker than he could have imagined, and a plot that leads him right to the Prime Minister and even Queen Victoria herself …

File Under: Fantasy [ Closing the Net / Heads in the Trees / The Angel-Eater / Prime Minister’s Questions ]

About Ishbelle

Interview with Ishbelle Bee, author of The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath - June 29, 2015
Ishbelle Bee writes horror and loves fairy-tales, the Victorian period (especially top hats!) and cake tents at village fêtes (she believes serial killers usually opt for the Victoria Sponge).
She currently lives in Edinburgh. She doesn’t own a rescue cat, but if she did his name would be Mr Pickles.

Twitter @ishbellebee

Interview with Sam Munson - June 26, 2015

Please welcome Sam Munson to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The War Against the Assholes was published on June 16th by Saga Press.

Interview with Sam Munson - June 26, 2015

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

Sam:  Thanks for having me. I started – I think – in first grade, when I was assigned to write a holiday poem of some kind. Under the compulsion of state and society, in other words.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Sam:  I have never heard those terms before. If they mean what I think they mean, I’d in all honesty have to describe myself as a sleepwalker or stumbler. I think at least some readers will know what I mean, here.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sam:  Talking about it. Whenever I open my mouth, I get nervous. It seems to verge on violating a taboo.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Sam:  I don’t want to say that I am influenced by this or that writer, because I think that’s arrogant – claiming to be influenced by Tolstoy, for example, is effectively claiming that your work resembles his – but there are many writers I love. Most of them are Russian or Central European. In immediate private impact, The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil ranks first for me.

TQDescribe The War Against the Assholes in 140 characters or less.

Sam:  The book for everyone who ever wanted to punch Harry Potter in the face.

TQTell us something about The War Against the Assholes that is not found in the book description.

Sam:  At least four of the characters would be diagnosed as sociopaths if they ever found themselves in the hands of our psychoanalytical establishment. Which four? That’s the trouble with sociopathy: its adeptness at camouflage.

TQWhat inspired you to write The War Against the Assholes? What appealed to you about writing a contemporary fantasy?

Sam:  I discovered, via a coworker, the existence of a book called THE EXPERT AT THE CARD TABLE, which is a manual -- the manual, really -- of legerdemain. And I had always wanted to write a fantasy novel. Though I object to the distinction as a little specious: novels are fantastic by definition, and verisimilar ones the most fantastic of all.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The War Against the Assholes?

Sam:  Ashamed as I am to say it, I did very little – I read THE EXPERT AT THE CARD TABLE. Beyond that, nothing really.

TQWhich question about your The War Against the Assholes do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Sam:  Will it stop a bullet? Possibly, but don’t hold me to that.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The War Against the Assholes.

Sam:  Endurance equals greatness.

TQWhat's next?

Sam:  I wish I knew. Then again, maybe I’m fortunate not to – it might be massive and humiliating failure. But my first novel, THE NOVEMBER CRIMINALS, is (I am happy to say) being re-issued this fall. I don’t know if that counts as “next” or as eternal recurrence, but . . .

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The War Against the Assholes
Saga Press, June 16, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
(Debut Fantasy)

Interview with Sam Munson - June 26, 2015
Contemporary fantasy meets true crime when schools of ancient sorcery go up against the art of the long con in this stunningly entertaining debut fantasy novel.

Mike Wood is satisfied just being a guy with broad shoulders at a decidedly unprestigious Catholic school in Manhattan. But on the dirty streets of New York City he’s an everyman with a moral code who is unafraid of violence. And when Mike is unwittingly recruited into a secret cell of magicians by a fellow student, Mike’s role as a steadfast soldier begins. These magicians don’t use ritualized rote to work their magic, they use willpower in their clandestine war with the establishment: The Assholes.

About Sam

Interview with Sam Munson - June 26, 2015
Sam Munson’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The National, The Daily Beast, Commentary, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Observer, The Utopian, n+1, Tablet, and numerous other publications. He is also the author of The November Criminals, soon to be a motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Ansel Elgort.


Interview with John Ayliff, author of Belt Three - June 18, 2015

Please welcome John Ayliff to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Belt Three is published on June 18th by Harper Voyager UK. Please join The Qwillery in wishing John a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with John Ayliff, author of Belt Three - June 18, 2015

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

John:  Thanks, it's good to be here! I've been writing most of my life and I can't remember the point at which I started. Let's just say that my first SF stories were about a spaceship called simply the Falcon, because I didn't know what "millennium" meant or how to spell it! I've been writing with the serious goal of getting published for about fifteen years. The first story I submitted to a magazine (British SF magazine Interzone) received a personal, hand-written rejection slip, which I found enormously encouraging.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

John:  As I've developed as a writer I've become more and more of a plotter. I can't start something without knowing at least roughly where it's going to go--although I'm very likely to rewrite my plan entirely before each new draft. I think the most challenging thing for me is overcoming the fabled "inner editor" in order to write the bad first draft that needs to happen before the decent second or fourth or eighth draft.

TQYou've worked in the computer games industry. How does this affect (or not) your prose writing?

John:  The writing I did in the games industry was for a game in which the main character is heavily customisable by the player, which meant I wrote them as a blank slate onto which the player could project their own personality. When I wrote Belt Three, I found this habit hard to break: for the whole first draft, my point-of-view character was kind of flat, less interesting than the characters around him. It took until part way through my second draft before I really worked out who my main character was and re-wrote the novel around that.

The games industry taught me some useful habits as well. When I'm writing I like to think in terms of game mechanics: what interesting abilities do the characters have, and how can they solve problems by using those abilities in clever ways? So, for example, the main character (as I eventually developed him) is very good at reading people and finding the best things to say to manipulate them. The other major character isn't good with people but is a genius engineer, so she'll approach the same problems using a different set of skills.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

John:  My first favourite author, the one who got me interested in science fiction, was Isaac Asimov; his style influenced me greatly, including in ways that I've later tried to un-learn as I developed my own style. A couple of favourite authors from more recent years are Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter. I try to read widely within my genre and don't really have a list of favourites, though.

TQDescribe Belt Three in 140 characters or less.

John:  A grieving identity thief is kidnapped by a space pirate, who makes him join her futile crusade against the robots that destroyed Earth.

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

John:  Although it doesn't look like a typical one, Belt Three is really a post-apocalyptic novel. The Earth has been destroyed by alien 'Worldbreakers'; they have already won, and all people can hope for is to survive in the wreckage. The Worldbreakers are more like a natural disaster than an invading force: they're dumb and predictable but have destroyed Earth due to sheer power and numbers. This means that rather than being a story of humanity versus the Worldbreakers, it's a story about how humanity is surviving in the wreckage and the kind of society they've built there. For most of the novel the conflict is between human characters and the Worldbreakers are part of the backdrop.

TQWhat inspired you to write Belt Three? What appealed to you about writing SF? Is Belt Three Hard SF?

JohnBelt Three started out because I saw a prompt to write a story about a female pirate, whom I decided to make a space pirate who was obsessively hunting alien robots. When I showed it my writing group, some of them said it read more like the start of a novel than like a short story, so I kept writing.

SF is the genre I most love to read, so it's where I have most of my ideas and it's the only genre in which I think I'm experienced enough to write. I love hard SF, and I tried to give Belt Three a hard-SF sensibility, not because I think hard SF is always better but because I thought it was what was appropriate for the story I wanted to tell. I wanted the Belt Three setting, in which people are hanging on to existence on asteroid colonies after the planets have been destroyed, to feel like a difficult and unnatural place for people to live, so I avoided soft-SF comforts such as artificial gravity and faster-than-light drives. Want gravity? You'll have to spin up your ship or habitat--which ended up having interesting implications for culture, because I realised that gravity close to Earth's would be healthier and therefore a marker of higher social class. Want to get somewhere? You'll be doing so slowly, according to real orbital mechanics. With the Worldbreakers I took more liberties, since they're meant to be products of a technology far in advance of our own, but even then I tried to make sure nothing they did was impossible: they can't create something from nothing and they can't travel faster than light. Belt Three isn't the sort of hard-SF novel that makes scientific details at the focus, though. The hard-SF setting is a backdrop for a character-driven story.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Belt Three?

John:  As much as I like the mental image of a writer buried deep in a public library, most of my research was online. Being a writer in the age of the internet makes simple research questions so much quicker to answer. Can you use a solar sail to move closer to the sun? Yes, hence the references in the book to "tacking against orbit". Can a conventional gun fire while in a vacuum? Contrary to that Firefly episode, probably yes, hence one character keeps firing after falling out of an airlock.

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

John:  The book has two main characters, Jonas and Keldra, and I think they were the hardest and easiest characters to write. Jonas was the one who was initially a bit flat, and the little personality he had was so unsympathetic as to put off my beta-readers. Half way through my second draft I stopped and invented a new backstory and personality for him and rewrote the book with that in mind. This new backstory also included scenes that I found quite difficult to write, but I decided I had to go where my story logic was taking me so I stuck with it. Keldra, on the other hand, seemed to spring from the page fully-formed in my first draft--I fleshed her out, but I didn't change her central concept--and writing her was both easy and fun.

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

John:  Wow, this is a good question. I can't think of anything major I want to reveal, so I will go for something more whimsical:

Q: Do you use any special techniques to visualise your characters?

A: I have been known to spend ages at the character-creation stage of a computer RPG, trying to recreate a character's appearance...then play through the whole game roleplaying as that character. Not that I count this as time spent writing!

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

John:  I'm quite proud of this one-sentence character description:

"Her facial tattoos were neon-blue today."

And here's something a little more lyrical:

"Here at the heart of the solar system Keldra had found the last real clouds, and they were clouds of fire."

TQWhat's next?

JohnBelt Three is a standalone novel, but I don't intend it to be my only novel. I think you'll see more novels and short stories from me in the future.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

John:  Thank you for having me!

Belt Three
Harper Voyager UK, June 18, 2015
eBook, 400 pages
Trade Paperback, December 2, 2015

Interview with John Ayliff, author of Belt Three - June 18, 2015
Worldbreakers do not think, do not feel and cannot be stopped.

Captain Gabriel Reinhardt’s latest mining mission has been brought to a halt by the arrival of a Worldbreaker, one of the vast alien machines that destroyed Earth and its solar system long ago. As he and his crew flee they are kidnapped by a pirate to be mind-wiped and sold into slavery, a fate worse than death in this shattered universe.

But Captain Reinhardt is hiding a secret. The real Gabriel Reinhardt died six years ago, and in his place is Jonas, one of the millions of clones produced for menial labour by the last descendants of Earth.

Forced to aid the pirate Keldra’s obsessive campaign against the Worldbreakers in exchange for his life, Jonas discovers that humanity’s last hope might just be found in the very machines that have destroyed it.

About John

Interview with John Ayliff, author of Belt Three - June 18, 2015
Photo by David Riley
I honed my writing skills while working in the computer games industry, and still sometimes call my protagonist the ‘player character’ by mistake. I enjoy interesting character drama against a backdrop of hard science fiction, and that’s what I aim to write. Outside of writing, my interests include computer games, tabletop roleplaying games, and going to the opera. I currently live in Vancouver, Canada.

Website  ~  Twitter @johnayliff  ~  Facebook

Interview with Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char - June 16, 2015

Please welcome Scott Hawkins to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Library at Mount Char is published on June 16th by Crown. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Scott a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char - June 16, 2015

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

Scott:  Thanks very much for inviting me.

As far as ‘why’--reading has always been my main entertainment, and I’ve got a do-it-yourself streak. I guess it was natural that sooner or later I’d try my hand at writing. The first time I tried to make up a story was around 1980, when I was eleven. I was going to write a novel about Superman. I got a page and a half into it—pencil on spiral bound notebook--before I decided it was too much work.

I got my first rejection slip for a short story a couple of years later. It was an actual slip, about the size of an index card with the publisher’s address and a very brief “no thanks” printed on it. I remember being a little disappointed, but I also remember thinking “well, it’s probably normal to not hit it out of the park on your first try. But I learned a lot from writing that. Surely the next one will sell.” This was in, I think, 1982.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Scott:  A little of both. The first time I set out to write a novel, I tried to write everything in the order that it would be read. That didn’t work for me. The problem was I’d find myself kind of rushing through whatever was up on Tuesday to get to the bit slated for Friday, or whatever. Then Friday would roll around and my mind would be back on the Tuesday stuff. Eventually I just started working on whatever I was in the mood for when the caffeine kicked in.

These days the way I get started on a book is to just noodle around on random stuff—dialog, action sequence, character sketch--until something sparks. I’ll be a little vague here to avoid spoilers, but the first couple of things that I wrote on Mount Char were a guy going out for a jog, and a neighborhood picnic that ended badly. In the final product those two scenes ended up about dead center and near the end, respectively.

Once I’ve got 50,000 words or so of snippets that feel like they have potential, I shuffle them around until I can see some sort of narrative thread emerging, then go back and fill in any gaps.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Scott:  I think the most challenging thing about writing for anyone is to keep at it. After X number of years without any breakthrough it starts getting hard to think up reasons why you shouldn’t just say “oh well, at least I gave it a shot, I wonder what’s on TV?” But when it’s going well there really is nothing I enjoy more.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

My first big love as a reader was the Robert Heinlein juveniles. That started when I was maybe eight. Stephen King was next. It was around the time I read ‘Salem’s Lot that I started seriously wanting to get published. Ursula Le Guin and Thomas Harris were big influences. In college I took a class on writing non-fiction that introduced me to Annie Dillard’s essays. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time studying a guy named Adam Johnson, who manages to work in some sort of emotional sledgehammer about every other page. He’s phenomenal.

TQDescribe The Library at Mount Char in 140 characters or less.

Scott:  Monty Python presents The Godfather starring the X-Men.

TQTell us something about The Library at Mount Char that is not in the book description.

Scott:  The last four chapters of the book as its being published are very different from what I originally wrote. My wife Heather absolutely hated the original ending. Heather is my first reader for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is that, God love her, she’s really not one to mince words. I gave her the first draft of Mount Char to read over Labor Day weekend. A day or so later she came back with a big grin on her face. She handed me the first 2/3 of the manuscript and said “this, I love.” Then she literally whacked me on the head with the third act. “This part sucks! Fix it!” Those are more or less direct quotes.

It took me a while to understand what she was getting at, but in the end I saw her point.

For anybody who’s read the book, the original ending had a lot more to do with the Black Folio than what ended up as the final version.

TQWhat appeals to you about writing contemporary fantasy?

Scott:  It just seems to be where my head goes. I guess that’s because I read so much speculative fiction when I was a kid. These days my tastes in fiction are a lot broader, and about half of what I read is nonfiction. The first novel I tried to write was a crime thriller, but while I was working on it I noticed it kept wanting to skew magical. For the next book I decided not to fight it.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Library at Mount Char?

Scott:  I made an effort to get anything that took place in the real world at least in the ballpark of accurate. I spent forever tracking down pictures of the room just outside the Oval Office. I tried to verify that AH-64 helicopters can conceivably have mounted loudspeakers without getting myself put on some sort of NSA watch list. I spent a good bit of time mangling foreign languages on google translate. A really nice veterinarian from the internet helped me out with a scene of unlikely veterinary medicine.

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

Scott:  The easiest was one of the protagonists, a guy named Erwin. Erwin is every inappropriate remark you ever bit back because you’re too polite to say it out loud. You can put him in any situation with one other person to act as a straight man and he just flows onto the page.

Another one of the protagonists, an everyman sort of guy named Steve, was probably the hardest. In the early drafts I spent a lot of time fighting the urge to turn him into some sort of half-baked action hero. It’s just not that sort of book.

TQWhich question about The Library at Mount Char do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


“So, Scott, a couple times in Mount Char you briefly mentioned an old adversary of Father’s who the librarians refer to as The Duke—can you tell us a bit more about him?”

The Duke was so-called because he was, in fact, John Wayne. I have about five pages on this, and they are absolutely nuts. The gist was that during the filming of the 1956 movie The Conqueror, John Wayne fell through some sort of wormhole back to the days before Father’s reign—seventy thousand years ago, more or less. He eventually used good old American gumption to fight his way back to our time, but along the way he was driven insane and grotesquely scarred. Today, The Duke only appears in public wearing a wooden tribal mask, but to movie fans of a certain age—like one of the main characters, Steve--his voice is unmistakable.

Originally The Duke was invented to illustrate the idea that there were at least some commonalities between librarian culture and the culture of normal Americans. Later on in the book when Steve was having trouble getting through to Carolyn, his encounter with The Duke was going to spark the idea that he could get through to her via this small-but-non-zero cultural overlap.

Partly I cut the sequence with The Duke for length. Partly I thought the story could get by without it. But the main reason—you won’t often hear me say this—was that it was just too far over the top.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Library at Mount Char.

Scott:  I always liked the last line of the first chapter. It ties everything up to that point in a neat little bow, and hints at things to come:
Her fingertips trembled with the memory of faint, fading vibrations carried down the shaft of a brass spear, and in her heart the hate of them blazed like a black sun.

TQWhat's next?

Scott:  Right now I’m working on a hardboiled detective novel. It’s not related to Mount Char, but it’s a similar kind of story in that a more or less normal person gets catapulted into a very weird situation where she’s way out of her depth.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Scott:  Thank you!

The Library at Mount Char
Crown, June 16, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char - June 16, 2015
A missing God.
A library with the secrets to the universe.
A woman too busy to notice her heart slipping away.

Carolyn's not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts.

After all, she was a normal American herself once.

That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.

In the years since then, Carolyn hasn't had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient customs. They've studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own.

But Carolyn has accounted for this.

And Carolyn has a plan.

The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she's forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

Populated by an unforgettable cast of characters and propelled by a plot that will shock you again and again, The Library at Mount Char is at once horrifying and hilarious, mind-blowingly alien and heartbreakingly human, sweepingly visionary and nail-bitingly thrilling—and signals the arrival of a major new voice in fantasy.

About Scott

Interview with Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char - June 16, 2015
Photo: © Scott Hawkins
SCOTT HAWKINS lives in Atlanta with his wife and a large pack of foster dogs.  When not writing he enjoys woodwork, cooking long and impractical recipes, and playing fetch with his dogs.  He works as a computer programmer.  The Library at Mount Char is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @scottrhawkins

Facebook Goodreads

Interview with Brian Kirk, author of We Are Monsters - July 9, 2015Interview with J. Dalton Jennings, author of Solomon's Arrow - July 7, 2015Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015Interview with A.F.E. Smith, author of Darkhaven - July 2, 2015Interview with Camille Griep, author of Letters to Zell - July 1, 2015Interview with Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven - June 30, 2015Interview with Ishbelle Bee, author of The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath - June 29, 2015Interview with Sam Munson - June 26, 2015Interview with John Ayliff, author of Belt Three - June 18, 2015Interview with Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char - June 16, 2015

Report "The Qwillery"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?