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2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner


The winner of the September 2016 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp from Orbit with 37% of all votes.



The Last Days of Jack Sparks
Orbit, September 13, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner
"Ingenious and funny . . . Magnificent." -- Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta

Jack Sparks died while writing this book.

It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.

Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed -- until now.




The Results

2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner




The September 2016 Debut Covers

2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.



Barbara Barnett

The Apothecary's Curse
Pyr, October 11, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 340 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett
In Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder—only to find he cannot die. Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.

When modern-day pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?

Interview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack Sparks


Please welcome Jason Arnopp to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Last Days of Jack Sparks was published on September 13th by Orbit.



Interview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack Sparks




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

Jason:  Hello! Thanks very much for ushering me in. I started writing at around the age of five, having been inspired by Tom Baker-era Doctor Who and Enid Blyton stories like The Magic Faraway Tree. I created my own comic strips and short stories, all of which involved an explosion roughly every five seconds.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jason:  I’m very much a hybrid, so you could call me a plotser. I establish a skeletal framework, which tends to work out the story’s big turning points, and I try to decide what the story’s really about (although this will often change). Then I dive on in and work it out as I go. This can cause me untold trouble, in the form of rewriting and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I think it’s important to engage the subconscious mind and let the story grow the right way. I find it extraordinarily difficult to put myself entirely into character’s heads before I start writing them. It’s like the difference between viewing them from above, as if they’re chess pieces, and actually possessing them like some kind of demon.

When I do go off the story rails, incidentally, that’s when I tend to turn to hardcore plotting wisdom. I kind of treat story structure templates like they’re Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad – I only call them when I’m in trouble.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jason:  It would honestly be quicker to tell you what I don’t find challenging. I pretty much find it all very challenging and sometimes just unpleasantly difficult. The more writing experience you gain, the harder it arguably seems to become, because you get a more accurate idea of what it actually takes if you want to really achieve things and break any kind of new ground. For me, the most challenging thing about writing is that each new project seems to require a whole new skillset. It’s not like you learn your trade and then it’s plain sailing, oh no. What a ludicrous way to try and earn a living.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does having a background in journalism affect (or not) your fiction writing?

Jason:  I’m influenced by every genre thing I’ve ever enjoyed, and some I haven’t. Particularly things involving the supernatural, or what seems to involve the supernatural. So that would be everything from Doctor Who to The Evil Dead to Stephen King to Mark Z Danielewski’s House Of Leaves to Scooby Doo to John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing. Chuck Palahniuk is also one of my favourite authors: I love how he has his very own style, and takes such unflinching looks at the human condition.

To make the obvious joke, journalism certainly trained me in the art of making stuff up! But actually that’s not true, because I was always lucky to avoid the dark side of journalism that involves ruining lives or bugging people’s phones. Spending over a decade on a weekly rock magazine certainly prepared me for deadlines and possibly taught me how to work out what to write first in any given piece. And in the case of The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, of course, it helped me write a journalist character with some degree of authority.



TQDescribe The Last Days of Jack Sparks in 140 characters or less.

Jason:  It’s a scary and funny thriller about an arrogant celebrity journalist who sets out to debunk the supernatural and ends up dead. #JackSparks



TQTell us something about The Last Days of Jack Sparks that is not found in the book description.

Jason:  At one point, the book incorporates a scenario based on a real-life thing called The Philip Experiment. In 1972, a group of Toronto researchers invented their own fictional character then tried to summon him into some form of existence. The results remain ambiguous to this day, making the whole thing rather fascinating. I changed its name to The Harold Experiment in this book, for reasons which should become plain enough when you read it.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Last Days of Jack Sparks? What appealed to you about writing a psychological thriller?

Jason:  I do like to climb inside characters’ heads and have a natural curiosity about life’s big questions. So I suppose I combined both interests by writing about a guy who travels the world looking to disprove the existence of ghosts. It appealed to me to make Jack an unreliable narrator, because that can be a useful way to reveal character while keeping the reader guessing.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Last Days of Jack Sparks?

Jason:  Of the global locations featured in the book, Hong Kong was the one I hadn’t visited in a long time, so Google Street View really helped there. God bless Google Street View, it’s a real unsung hero for writers. One brief part of the book is told from the POV of a flight stewardess, so I interviewed my friend Phill Barron, who works in the air as well as being a prolific screenwriter. Perhaps the most research-intensive topic in the book, though, was combat magic. More about that in a minute…



TQIn The Last Days of Jack Sparks who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jason:  I hate to say it, but Jack was the easiest character to write. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it’s true nonetheless. The thing is, authors regularly seesaw between egotism and self-loathing, so perhaps it’s healthy to let some of that ego run riot through a fictional character. A lot of people siphon out some of their worst traits out through writing and maybe I’m one of ‘em. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, the hardest character to write? That was Sherilyn Chastain. Since Sherilyn’s a combat magician, she had to know her stuff. Luckily, my friend Cat Vincent is a retired combat magician and could tell me lots of stuff. In fact, plenty of Cat’s sage words went straight into Sherilyn’s mouth, which made reading the book quite an odd experience for him!



TQWhy have you chosen to include social issues in The Last Days of Jack Sparks?

Jason:  I suppose what I chose to include were social media issues. I’d noticed quite a lot of certainty expressed on social media, perhaps as an unconscious response to what often feels like an increasingly chaotic world. There are lots of great things about social media (and about certain kinds of certainty, for that matter), but sometimes it’s hard to escape the nagging sense that Twitter’s a vast room full of people yelling through megaphones, then wondering why no-one’s listening. Often feels like we’re in broadcast mode more often than we’re in receive mode. So that darker side of social media was interesting to me and helped to illuminate Jack’s own character, particularly as his own ego starts to peel away and reveal more of him beneath. Thematically, the book ended up being an exploration of how ego, belief and certainty interact in the social media age.



TQWhich question about The Last Days of Jack Sparks do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Jason:  That’s a great question, I like it. Hmm, let’s see. The ideal question would be, “Would it be a big help if I reviewed the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks or Indiebound?” And my answer to this would be, “Hell yes, thank you so much, it would be a bigger help than you know! Especially for a debut novel, positive reviews are gold dust. Or, actually, word of mouth, off or on social media, can be just as valuable. Some folk might imagine that publishers put books out there and people just automatically buy them, but it’s tough – there’s a whole glittering constellation of books out there, vying for readers’ attention. You can practically feel each copy of the book selling, one at a time. When people pop up on Twitter to kindly tell me they enjoyed Jack Sparks, I send them a link to a secret page on my site that tells them how exactly how awesome they are. Word of mouth is vital.”



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Last Days of Jack Sparks.

Jason:  My favourite line appears twice in the novel: “There’s no such thing as the Devil”. I also like “No one listens any more. Only when it’s far too late do our ears open wide”.



TQWhat's next?

Jason:  I recently delivered the second book in my two-book deal with Orbit Books. This one is standalone and has nothing to do with Jack Sparks, who is after all, as dead as a doornail. It occupies the same general kind of territory, though, being a supernatural thriller. When I write, I aim to create an edgy kind of sense that almost anything can happen, so hopefully that unpredictability comes across in both The Last Days Of Jack Sparks and the next novel. Surprising (and hopefully delighting) readers is so much fun.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jason:  Thanks so much for having me. I had a totally qwiller time!





The Last Days of Jack Sparks
Orbit, September 13, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack Sparks
"Ingenious and funny . . . Magnificent." -- Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta

Jack Sparks died while writing this book.

It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.

Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed -- until now.



Qwill's Thoughts

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is spooky and strange. I absolutely love it. The novel's main character, Jack Sparks, is the poster person for unreliable narrator. I don't trust his brother Alistair either. The story is primarily told from Jack's POV in the form of a book he was writing called "Jack Sparks on the Supernatural", which is being edited and published with the help of his brother Alistair who offers his own notes on the events in the book. There are additional POVs included from people who are interacting with Jack and present a different picture of him.

Jack has written 3 prior books - "Jack Sparks on a Pogo Stick", "Jack Sparks on Gangs" and "Jack Sparks on Drugs". He ended up in rehab after that last book.

Jack has already made up his mind that the supernatural is all baloney. The intent of his latest book is to basically rip apart anyone involved with the supernatural and debunk what they are doing. It doesn't go quite as Jack planned. Jack Sparks is dead but how he gets there is a wild ride.

I really disliked Jack for the most part. He's self-important, self-entitled and unpleasant though he's often funny. His motives for writing about the supernatural are suspect. He's not nice. He's rude. However, toward the end of the novel I really came to feel for him, which is not to say I liked him.

Arnopp has put together a wonderful supporting cast for Jack, including his roommate Bex, his brother Alistair, and many of the people he encounters on his global trek to interview those who work in the the supernatural fields - an exorcist from the Church in Italy, a group in the US trying to recreate an experiment from the 1970s during which they try to create a ghost, and Sherilyn Chastain (a combat magician) in Hong Kong.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is tautly written and breathtakingly paced. Jack is both horrible and fantastic and the supporting cast of characters are well fleshed out.

Arnopp leads the reader deep into the chilling heart of the supernatural and Jack's psyche - neither of which are fun places to be. The Last Days of Jack Sparks is thrilling, astonishingly twisted and fabulous.





About Jason

Interview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack Sparks
Jason Arnopp is a British author and scriptwriter. His background is in journalism: he has worked on titles such as Heat, Q, The Word, Kerrang!, SFX and Doctor Who Magazine. He has written comedy for Radio 4 and official tie-in fiction for Doctor Who and Friday The 13th, but The Last Days of Jack Sparks is the first novel which is entirely Jason's own fault (though some may prefer to lay the blame on Jack...)






Website  ~  Twitter @JasonArnopp  ~  Facebook

The Jack Sparks Website


Interview with J. Patrick Black, author of Ninth City Burning


Please welcome J. Patrick Black to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Ninth City Burning was published on September 6th by Ace.







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

JPB:  Thanks for having me! I've always enjoyed writing, but I didn't get into it seriously until college. I took a creative writing seminar and was just hooked. I've been at it ever since.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

JPB:  I suppose I'd say I'm more of a hybrid. The broader the storyline gets, the larger and more sweeping the events involved, the more careful I am about plotting things out in advance, but I like to leave room for surprise and improvisation when it comes to filling in the details. That's especially true when I'm writing something especially character driven; for me it sometimes takes actually writing a scene out to really know what a given character will do or say.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

JPB:  Dealing with the fact that every word might not come out perfectly on the first try. It's easy for me to get hung up on the phrasing of a particular sentence or choice of vocabulary and lose track of the bigger picture. I have to remind myself to keep moving even if I'm not absolutely satisfied with the way my writing sounds--there will be time to come back and fuss over the words, but I need to make sure I've got a story first.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

JPB:  As I think is the case with a lot of writers in the speculative genres, there those books I encountered as a kid that marked out a territory in my mind that would always be off in some other world. Ursula K. LeGuin's "A Wizard of Earthsea" is one of many, many examples. I'm still an avid reader, and omnivorous, and I'm sure everything I read influences me to some degree or other. I'm a big fan of short stories--Lorrie Moore is one of my favorites--and I've got a soft spot for experimental fiction. Really, though, I'd say I have most of my ideas when I'm away from my desk: walking through the city (hometown: Boston), taking a long drive, standing in line at the supermarket. I'm not sure if those quite qualify as influences, but if so one of my more important ones would have to be going to the beach.



TQDescribe Ninth City Burning in 140 characters or less.

JPB:  Alternate reality invades Earth using a universe-altering power called thelemity. We learn to use it and fight back. Action, adventure ensue (think that's 140 exactly!)



TQTell us something about Ninth City Burning that is not found in the book description.

JPB:  It has seven first-person narrators, each with his or her own voice.



TQWhat inspired you to write Ninth City Burning? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction? Do you consider Ninth City Burning a Dystopian novel?

JPB:  There wasn't really any single moment of inspiration for Ninth City Burning. It was more like whole constellation of different proto-stories, ideas that had been floating around my head--for years, in some cases--merged together to create something larger than any of them. The catalyst was the concept of the fontani, sources capable of creating almost unlimited power, but only within a small area--sort of like wifi. That was the idea that bridged the space between all these other ideas, and allowed me to bring them all together.

One reason science fiction appeals to me is the sheer breadth of possibilities (or, seen another way, the absence of limitations). Every genre has its own tropes and conventions, but with science fiction these are far from required, and in the hands of really great writers can act as a kind of shorthand for the experienced reader. You see scifi elements everywhere, from literary fiction to joyously pulpy action extravaganzas--it can take you anywhere.

I don't consider Ninth City Burning a dystopian novel per se. To me, dystopian fiction tends to revolve around some central issue or ideology the consequence of which the story's author wants to explore. Ninth City Burning certainly has features common to dystopian fiction--there are plenty of totalitarian overtones, for example--but these aren't tied to any particular present day issue. They're a consequence of a highly militarized society, and war has been around longer than history.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Ninth City Burning?

JPB:  I read up on my military history, researching different eras of warfare. The conflict at the center of Ninth City Burning is very different from what we see in the modern world, but I had the idea that principles from the past would still apply. I also went back and revisited some of the story's conceptual ancestors: my favorite alien wars, adventures in fantastical other realms, giant robot battles. I had a good idea of the areas of genre I intended to inhabit, and I wanted to get a good view of the territory.



TQIn Ninth City Burning, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

JPB:  All of the characters presented their own challenges, but I think I had the easiest time with Kizabel, if only because I felt free to explain as much or as little as I wanted about the ideas behind the story; with most characters I had to be very careful about not loading down the plot with exposition, but Kizabel narrates with footnotes, so if there was some big idea I really wanted to get into, I could use those without interrupting the story. The hardest to write was probably Imway; he's very competent at what he does, and he wants you to know it, so I had to make sure I knew every little specification for everything he describes. Also, he's kind of a jerk, and I wanted that to come through but also feel sympathetic from his perspective; the dissonance between how I thought he was acting (like an ass) and how he thought he was acting (like a completely reasonable person) made his narrative the hardest to balance for me.



TQWhich question about Ninth City Burning do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

JPB:

Q: Where does the word "thelemity" come from?

A: Well, Patrick, I'm glad you asked! It comes from a word in Ancient Greek meaning "to will" or "to wish". It seemed like an appropriate root to use when describing an energy with quasi-magical properties.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Ninth City Burning.

JPB:

"When I think on Death, I imagine her as a child, a girl in a white dress with untidy hair, running barefoot through the battlefield, collecting lives like wildflowers."

"And when you think about it, most things that are really fun *aren't* toys."



TQWhat's next?

JPB:  The sequel to Ninth City Burning will (hopefully) be out next year!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

JPB:  Thanks! It's been fun!





Ninth City Burning
Ace, September 6, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 496 pages

For fans of Red Rising, Starship Troopers, and Ender’s Game comes an explosive, epic science fiction debut…

We never saw them coming.

Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.

But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.



You may read my review of Ninth City Burning here.





About J. Patrick Black

Photo by Beowulf Sheehan
J. Patrick Black has worked as a bartender, a small-town lawyer, a homebuilder, and a costumed theme park character, all while living a secret double life as a fiction writer. While fiction is now his profession, he still finds occasion to ply his other trades as well. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he likes to visit the ocean. NINTH CITY BURNING is his first novel. Find out more about J. Patrick Black online at www.jpatrickblack.com





Twitter @JPatrickBlack  ~  Instagram

Facebook







Interview with K.B. Wagers, author of Behind the Throne


Please welcome K.B. Wagers to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Behind the Throne , the first novel in the Indranan War series, was published on August 2nd by Orbit.



Interview with K.B. Wagers, author of Behind the Throne




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

K.B.: Thanks! *settles into a chair* I’ve been writing for basically my whole life. Somewhere there’s a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet in crayon. (Don’t ask, I’m still not sure how I knew about R&J when I was still using crayons.) I write because I have to or I’ll go mad.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

K.B.: Hybrid, definitely. I plot a bit, then throw it at my characters and see how they react. Sometimes I can predict the reactions, other times I get caught off guard. *laughs* That’s always fun.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

K.B.: Coherence. My brain runs a million miles a second, and sometimes the leaps it takes don’t end up on the page. Thankfully I have a lot of people checking me and making me explain the stuff I think everyone knows.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

K.B.: *whistles* How much time do we have? I was blessed with parents who encouraged my love of reading, so I started young and I’ve read a lot: classics and romance, westerns and science fiction. Same for movies and music. I find influences for my work in everything, from things as simple as a photography to a detailed fan description of just how improbable Steve Rogers’s running route is at the beginning of The Winter Soldier. It’s really just a grab bag of epic chaos in my brain.



TQDescribe Behind the Throne in 140 characters or less.

K.B.: A gunrunner is dragged back home to rule an empire, only to find becoming empress is far more dangerous than the life she left behind.



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

K.B.: I wrote a lot of scenes that happened outside of Hail’s POV. Obviously because the book is from her eyes I didn’t get to include any of those, but it was helpful to set down the motivations for some of the other characters.



TQWhat inspired you to write Behind the Throne? What appeals to you about writing SF?

K.B.: A Christmas tree ornament. *laughs* No, seriously. This whole book started when I was laying on my couch at Christmas time and spotted a tatted ornament my grandmother had made. My brain exploded with the opening scene of the book and the design of the ornament is the tattoo found on Emmory’s cheek.

I’ve always loved SF and it gives me a freedom of control that’s not found if you’re writing something a little more grounded. I get to design cities and worlds rather than having to do a lot of research if I were writing something set in Rome.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Behind the Throne?

K.B.: I tend to research on the fly as things come up. For this project there was a lot of language research, information about matriarchal societies, Hindu culture and fashion, the effects of colonialism on India’s military and government. Poisons and execution methods. Also faster-than-light travel and a number of astronomical topics.



TQIn Behind the Throne who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

K.B.: Hail would be the obvious answer because we’re in her head the whole time, but actually Emmory and Zin were nearly as easy to write, if not slightly more so. I love all three of them, and as characters go, they’ve been very cooperative.

Hail’s mother was really difficult to write. There was an awful lot of baggage to unpack between those two, and the circumstances didn’t help matters. It took a couple of tries to find the woman behind the empress mask.



TQWho would shoot first - Hail Bristol or Han Solo?

K.B.: Watch as I think way too hard about a silly question. This is how my brain works. *laughs* I think that it would depend on the circumstances, but Han is probably more impulsive than Hail is. She’s very controlled, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Hail tends to think things through very carefully (just at lightning speed) and plays through all the angles before making a decision. But she’s good at reading people, so if she’s convinced the other person is going to fire, she’ll shoot first.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Behind the Throne?

K.B.: It wasn’t a deliberate choice, the story more just evolved into what it is today. You can’t really write a book about people without including some of the issues that they deal with on a regular basis — and let’s be honest, none of us is writing in a vacuum. Things happen in the world that, consciously or not, influence what we choose to write.

I didn’t want to make the matriarchy of Behind the Throne super overpowering or “evil” in any sense, though it may seem that way at times during the story. Rather, I tried to flip things that happen to women pretty frequently around the world today and asked myself what would happen if over the years a society had evolved where men were treated that way instead?

It’s not the crux of the story, obviously, so I don’t feel like I set out to discuss that issue specifically. Hail provides the reader with a view of someone who grew up in that society but then left home and spent her adulthood in an environment that was definitely more male-skewed.



TQ Which question about Behind the Throne do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

K.B.:

What’s your working relationship with your characters like? Do you let them drive the plot, or do you drive the plot and just put us in their heads as they’re swept along?

Little of column A, little of column B. *laughs* Admittedly the characters in this particular novel have been super cooperative. I’ve written some earlier ones where they just did whatever they wanted. In the end, really, I think it speaks to growth as a writer to find a balance where you “let” the characters tell their story while maintaining control of the overall plot for your novel and/or series.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Behind the Throne.

K.B.: My favorite is the one that made it on the back cover, because it’s Hail and Emmory’s relationship in a sentence. *laughs* But another great one come from Zin:

“Sergeant Hoff is living every soldier’s nightmare of going to war in his underwear so we can hide you in plain sight.”



TQWhat's next?

K.B.: *rubs hands* Oh well, we’ve got two more books in the Indranan War series. After the Crown releases in December 2016 and then Book #3 will be out in 2017. When we’re done with that I have a closetful of ideas. It’s really just a matter of what I can talk my agent and editor into. *grins and winks*



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

K.B.: Thank you! This was a lot of fun.





Behind the Throne
The Indranan War 1
Orbit, August 2, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with K.B. Wagers, author of Behind the Throne
"Excellent SF adventure debut." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

Hail Bristol has made a name for herself in the galaxy for everything except what she was born to do: rule the Indranan Empire.

When she is dragged back to her home planet to take her rightful place as the only remaining heir, she finds that trading her ship for a palace is her most dangerous move yet.




Upcoming

After the Crown
The Indranan War 2
Orbit, December 13, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with K.B. Wagers, author of Behind the Throne
The adrenaline-fueled, Star Wars-style sequel to Behind the Throne, a new space adventure series from author K.B. Wagers.

Former gunrunner-turned-Empress Hail Bristol was dragged back to her home planet to fill her rightful position in the palace. With her sisters and parents murdered, the Indranan empire is on the brink of war. Hail must quickly make alliances with nearby worlds if she has any hope of surviving her rule.

When peace talks turn violent and Hail realizes she's been betrayed, she must rely on her old gunrunning ways to get out of trouble. With help from an old boss and some surprising new allies, she must risk everything to save her world.





About K.B. Wagers

Interview with K.B. Wagers, author of Behind the Throne
Photo by Donald Branum
K.B. Wagers has a bachelor's degree in Russian Studies and her non-fiction writing has earned her two Air Force Space Command media contest awards. A native of Colorado, she lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and son. In between books, she can be found playing in the mud, running on trails, dancing to music, and scribbling on spare bits of paper.





Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @kbwagers


Tumblr  ~  Instagram  ~  YouTube



2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts


2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts


Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2016 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on September 24, 2016.


Vote for your favorite September 2016 Debut Cover!
 
pollcode.com free polls



2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts




2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts
Cover by Victo Ngai




2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts




2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts
Cover design: The last design of Jack Smyth – LBBG
Cover images copyright © Shutterstock




2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts
Cover Illustration by Matthew Griffin
Cover Design by Adam Auerbach




2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts




2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts




2016 Debut Author Challenge - September Debuts


Interview with James Bennett and Review of Chasing Embers


Please welcome James Bennett to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Chasing Embers was published on September 6th by Orbit.



Interview with James Bennett and Review of Chasing Embers




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

James:  Thank you. I started out young, inspired by films like Star Wars, comics like Conan and books like The Wizard of Earthsea. I view these things as my cornerstones, if you like. I still think bits and pieces of these influences show up in my work today.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

James:  Oh, definitely a hybrid. I’ll sketch a loose plot, choose my themes and decide what the book is trying to say. Then when I sit down to write it, the book tends to decide those things for itself. The age old struggle. But flexibility is essential to a writer.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

James:  Exposition. I’ll come right out and say it. You’re always learning and for me, one of those lessons appears to be the fine art of avoiding info dumps. I love to write action pieces and dialogue. If it was up to me I’d include exposition in a little pamphlet at the back of the book for readers to refer to. I’m learning. I hope I’m getting better.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

James:  Too many to list. A wealth of fiction across genres, books, movies and comics. Life experiences. Travel. Somewhere in my teens my love of mythology met Stephen King and things kind of went boom. In terms of the Ben Garston novels, I wanted to take all these influences, from Tolkien to Le Guin to McCaffery to Barker et al and, well, punk them a little. I view Chasing Embers as mythpunk. Anything could end up in there. It’s a highly expansive theme.



TQDescribe Chasing Embers in 140 characters or less.

James:  I’ll give you my elevator pitch: James Bond with dragons.



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

James:  Ben Garston was (apparently) a real person. He’s listed as either a criminal or a nobleman in a 16th century Mordiford document. No one at the time really seemed sure. I liked that ambiguity. The myth of the Mordiford Dragon is old and obscure, of course, but it’s where Chasing Embers took root. You walk in the woods above Mordiford and wonder what these people would be doing now. I do, anyway.



TQWhat inspired you to write Chasing Embers? What appeals to you about writing Contemporary Fantasy?

James:  I have the greatest respect for secondary world-builders and it’s definitely something I’ll try one day. At the moment I’m interested in exploring this world and using monsters as a metaphor to reflect our modern issues, which of course you can do in a secondary world – and well – but I wanted to be up close and personal. I’ve read some reviews that pick up on the lack of humans in the novel, but to my mind, these are intensely human stories. That absence is deliberate.



TQWhy dragons?

James:  Who doesn’t love dragons? From Smaug the Magnificent to Toothless. Well, for one thing, I think a dragon comes at the top of the tree in the hierarchy of fabulous beasts. I felt an entirely humanoid character had been done brilliantly elsewhere (Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Benedict Jacka etc.) and I’m the kind of writer who will always look to do something new. Dragons in human form aren’t new, however. In fact, the mythological idea is very old, from Medieval European tales right back to Ancient China and creation myths. The more I thought about it, the more the idea intrigued me. Imagine a dragon living now, here among us in human form? What would he/she be like? You can have a lot of fun with that. And I write primarily to have fun.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Chasing Embers?

James:  I read a lot of history and a lot of mythology. I tracked down the remnants of the Mordiford story (see what I did there?) and embarked on a study of North African myths, which is where I stumbled on Punt. The idea of this once paradisiacal realm was quite affecting and when that led to the link with Ancient Egypt, a story began to take shape.



TQIn Chasing Embers who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

James:  Ben was the easiest. He’s perhaps the least like me, but the one I can most relate to.

Khadra and Ayan were the hardest. You’re looking out through eyes that you know you can’t ever really share and what they see is mostly painful. Hope is painful.



TQWhy have you chosen to include social issues in Chasing Embers?

James:  I grew up in South Africa and I’m aware of the vibrancy of African culture, which is every bit as rich and varied as western mythology. We’ve travelled in Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Also I’ve witnessed the hardships faced by so many over there that we simply don’t face in the west. I found the idea of contrasting these worlds fascinating, to offer a wider perspective for readers. I didn’t grow up in a straight white world and I think (hope) that my stories reflect that. I think we need a wider perspective in literature now. We need wider eyes. Isn’t that what wonder is all about? And what is Fantasy if not wonder?



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

James:  That’s a tough one. Oks a tough one. Ok, from some stuff I’ve read from readers I’d ask:

‘Will Rose McBriar be returning to this series?’

And answer: Maybe. But not in the next one. Just so no one hates me for it.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Chasing Embers.

James:  “The thing with myths is they never really die.”



TQWhat's next?

James:  Well, I have some new short stories coming out from Fox Spirit Books later this year. There are actually already about 6 or 7 published spin-off stories from the Ben Garston series that I may flag up on my blog next week http://curia-draconis.blogspot.co.uk/ Then next year we have the follow up to ‘Chasing Embers’, which is a darker story, I think, although with several dollops of fiery action. Now we’ve established the Remnant world, I’m looking forward to the fun we can have in it. I’m looking forward to spending the winter somewhere quiet and remote and getting my head down with Book 3.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

James:  My pleasure. Thank you for having me.





Chasing Embers
A Ben Garston Novel 1
Orbit, September 6, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Interview with James Bennett and Review of Chasing Embers
Behind every myth, there's a spark of truth...

There's nothing special about Ben Garston. He's just a guy with an attitude in a beat-up leather jacket, drowning his sorrows in a downtown bar. Or so he'd have you believe.

What Ben Garston can't let you know is that he was once known as Red Ben. That the world of myth and legend isn't just a fantasy, as we've been led to believe. And he certainly can't let you know the secret of what's hiding just beneath his skin...

But not even Ben knows what kind of hell is about to break loose. A centuries-old rivalry has just resurfaced, and the delicate balance between his world and ours is about to be shattered.



Qwill's Thoughts

Chasing Embers is the first novel in the Ben Garston series by James Bennett. Ben Garston is hard-drinking, difficult and the last of his kind on Earth (a dragon). The reasons for that are clearly explained in the novel and were put in place during the reign of King John (the Magna Carta King John). It's fascinating.

While Ben is the main character, there are quite a few really well-done supporting characters including Ben's love, Rose McBriar, some unpleasant witches and more. There are many mythological beings and objects of power introduced in the novel. Something has happened which shakes the foundations of Ben's world, threatens Rose, and may mean the ruination of Earth. If Ben could only figure out what is going on.

I enjoyed watching Ben piece things together. He's very introspective and we get to share in his thoughts. He understands his flaws for the most part. He struggles with his dragon nature - hoarding treasures, treating women as damsels, etc. Bennett makes it easy to feel Ben's love for Rose and all the worries he has about being different than she is (i.e., not human) as well as the weight he feels from the many years he's been alive. Bennett also lets the reader know how Rose feels about everything in no uncertain terms. She's a very strong woman.

Bennett beautifully entwines various mythologies (Egyptian, Puntian, British) and adds his own spin to create a complex and detailed background for Chasing Embers. The novel had me looking up various elements of these myths that are given as fact in the novel with variations because myths seldom get it right. I knew nothing about a the Land of Punt before Chasing Embers. I love when a novel has me looking up and learning new things.

There is a tremendous amount of action in Chasing Embers - some explosions, destruction of buildings, and more. There is also humor and quiet moments... and torture. There are heartbreaking scenes set in the area of Africa that was the Land of Punt and serve as a catalyst for much of what happens in the novel. The climatic scenes are stunning, frighting, and exciting. Bennett's writing flows gracefully throughout. The novel does not end on a cliffhanger but does leave you wondering about some things.

Chasing Embers is a compelling Contemporary Fantasy with a very rich mythology, a terrific story and engaging characters.





About James

Interview with James Bennett and Review of Chasing Embers
James Bennett is a debut fantasy author currently living in Wales. Born in England and raised in South Africa and Cornwall, his travels have furnished him with an abiding love of different cultures, history and mythology. He's had several short stories published internationally and draws inspiration from long walks, deep forests and old stones. Also the odd bottle of wine.








Website  ~  Twitter @Benjurigan


Interview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes


Please welcome Susan Bishop Crispell to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Secret Ingredient of Wishes was published on September 6th by Thomas Dunne Books.



Interview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes




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

Susan:  I started writing in the fall of 2000. (Wow that feels so long ago!) It was my sophomore year of college and when I was registering for classes the previous spring, I signed up for Intro to Fiction on a whim. I couldn’t get into any art classes because those suckers got filled up quickly, and fiction seemed like something I might enjoy for a semester. Or you know, my whole life. :)



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Susan:  I’m very much a plotter. Before I start a story, I have it all mapped out, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. That’s not to say that things don’t change along the way, because as the characters grow and do unexpected things, they change the plan. But then I re-plot, factoring in these new details and characters and tangents until the story feels right.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Susan:  For me, it’s finding time to write. I work full time and have to fit writing in around life in general. Some days my brain is tired and I just want to snuggle up and read or binge watch some TV. But if I don’t make time for writing, my stories won’t ever get told.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Susan:  My biggest influences come from magical stories, whether in book form à la Sarah Addison Allen’s gorgeous novels or television/movies like the movie Penelope or Bryan Fuller’s whimsical shows Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls. I love quirky towns and unforgettable characters and magic that feels real and of course a little romance. These are the things I enjoy reading and watching, which makes them exactly the things I want to write about too.



TQDescribe The Secret Ingredient of Wishes in 140 characters or less.

Susan:  Rachel Monroe's ability to make secrets come true has taken everything from her. But getting lost in Nowhere, NC just might lead her home.



TQTell us something about The Secret Ingredient of Wishes that is not found in the book description.

Susan:  When Rachel was young, she accidentally erased her little brother from existence with a wish. She’s the only one who remembers him and not matter how many times people told her she was crazy for believing in him, she never stopped hoping she could somehow wish him back.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Secret Ingredient of Wishes? What appeals to you about writing a contemporary novel that includes magic?

Susan:  I love the idea that the world is filled with magic. But for me, I’d rather it be whimsical and offbeat and life-changing but not necessarily world-changing. So instead of creating sweeping fantasy worlds, I like to keep things set in the real world (or fictional towns in the real world, anyway). That way my stories skirt the line between real life and fantasy and leave readers thinking what if that really could really happen?



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Secret Ingredient of Wishes? Do you have a favorite pie?

Susan:  Most of my research came in the form of pies. Not so much eating pies, but collecting recipes that sounded delicious and teaching myself to make crust from scratch and learning the best ways to peel peaches. I also researched organic soaps and lotions, etc. for the shop where Rachel ends up working. As for my favorite pie, it’s probably a peach raspberry pie. Though I make a blackberry sour cream pie that is a very close second.



TQIn The Secret Ingredient of Wishes who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Susan:  Catch, Rachel’s landlord and the town’s secret-keeper (via the pies she makes to bind the secrets from getting out) was the easiest. She’s sassy and cranky and likes to use nicknames for people when she’s annoyed. Her voice was loud in my head from day one, which made scenes with her so easy to write because I knew exactly who she was.

Rachel was probably the hardest. Her character changed a lot from the initial draft and learning how to really draw out who she was turned out to be a challenging and long process. It was worth of all the rewriting and deleted scenes and subplots that were dropped throughout my revisions because I finally figured her out.



TQWhich question about The Secret Ingredient of Wishes do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Susan:  I keep waiting for someone to ask me where Catch’s name comes from. And it hasn’t happened yet! So, I’ll tell you that I stole it from my great aunt. Her name is Catherine but everyone calls her Catch. When I was trying to find the name that fit my character, I knew I wanted something a little different. Then my aunt’s name popped into my head and I wasn’t able to shake it. Now I can’t imagine this character being called anything else.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Secret Ingredient of Wishes.

Susan:  Ooh, such a fun question. Here are two quotes (unrelated) quotes that I love:

“Well, Little-Miss-Doom-and-Gloom, too damn bad for you, ’cause I’m gonna do it anyway. And you’re gonna sit there with your mouth shut until I do.”

“Figured I should show you the difference so that next time I kiss you, you’ll know I mean it.”



TQWhat's next?

Susan:  My next novel, The Probability of Fate, comes out next fall. It’s set In Malarkey, North Carolina, a hole-in-the-wall town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, where residents rely on the magical chocolates at The Chocolate Cottage to get a glimpse of their futures. But life hasn’t turned out as planned for proprietor Penelope Dalton. Instead of living happily ever after, she’s raising her terminally ill daughter on her own, trying to pack a lifetime of experiences into Ella’s final six months. But when her ex comes back to town and Ella starts to play matchmaker, Penelope will learn that some fates are worth waiting for.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The Secret Ingredient of Wishes
Thomas Dunne Books, September 6, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes
26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good.

Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina—also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.

As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love—and her chance at happiness—all over again.





About Susan

Interview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes
Photo by Belinda Keller
Susan Bishop Crispell earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Born and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, she now lives twenty minutes from the beach in North Carolina with her husband and their literary-named cat. She is the author of THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES. As you might expect, she is very fond of pie. And she is always on the lookout for hints of magic in the real world.





Website  ~  Twitter @SBCrispell

Facebook  ~  Tumblr  ~  Pinterest



2016 DAC Cover Wars - August Winner


The winner of the August 2016 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper from Algonquin Books with 38% of all votes.

The Jacket Design is by Laura Klynstra and the Jacket Photograph is by Paul Knight / Trevillion Images.


The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
Algonquin Books, August 2, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

2016 DAC Cover Wars - August Winner
In the spirit of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers--and with a touch of the magical--The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a spellbinding debut about a wondrously gifted child and the family that she helps to heal.  

Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when growing up on their family’s Kentucky flower farm yet became distant as adults when Lily found herself unable to deal with the demands of Rose’s unusual daughter. But when Rose becomes ill, Lily is forced to return to the farm and to confront the fears that had driven her away.

Rose’s daughter, ten-year-old Antoinette, has a form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness--she can heal with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor’s tremors disappear, and even changes the course of nature on the flower farm.

Antoinette’s gift, though, comes at a price, since each healing puts her own life in jeopardy. As Rose--the center of her daughter’s life--struggles with her own failing health and Lily confronts her anguished past, the sisters, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.

Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be different, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

“This is the kind of book that invites you home, sits you down at the kitchen table, and feeds you something delicious and homemade. You will want to stay in this world where new relationships bloom out of broken ones, sisters find one another again, and miracles really do occur.” —Tiffany Baker




The Results

2016 DAC Cover Wars - August Winner




The August 2016 Debut Covers

2016 DAC Cover Wars - August Winner

Interview with Nisi Shawl


Please welcome Nisi Shawl to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Everfair, a thought-provoking debut, was published on September 6th by Tor Books.



Interview with Nisi Shawl




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

Nisi:  I’ve been writing since I could read. And I wanted to read long before I learned how. I wrote poetry in second grade which rather puzzled my teachers. Here’s one I memorized:

It’s Spring:
The crows are singing
And the old ladies are wearing new hats.

I’ve been getting paid for what I wrote since 1993. And I’ve made my living primarily as a writer--if you count teaching about writing--since 2001.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Nisi:  I can pretend to be a plotter when the need arises. But I pretty much write things and then act like a cat about them. You know, like, “I meant to do that.”

Cory Doctorow talks about “backshadowing,” that is, revising a story so the elements that you realize you need when you’ve reached the end are present for the reader all along. I do a fair bit of backshadowing.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Nisi:  So much. Everything. I’ve talked elsewhere about literary influences: Delany, Chandler, Colette, and so on. Music, though, is also an incredibly huge influence on my work. Music is so powerful, especially at an emotional level. I listen to all kinds of music. Really all kinds: even opera, country, and hip hop, the kinds usually excluded when people only *say* they listen to all kinds. Part of my writing process is figuring out what background music I need for a particular piece I’m working on; part of reading a story publicly is picking out the song I’ll sing to accompany it. A story I just sold, “Luisah’s Church,” is a tribute to a song Laura Nyro wrote.

Shall I name more names? I’m completely pwned by the Blue Note jazz recordings of Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, and many other geniuses; I’m an ardent fan of Michael Jackson’s work, both early and late; Julian Bream, Andre Segovia, Pepe Romero and a whole host of classical guitarists have made my writing life more easeful; and I’ve been on a huge Steely Dan kick for the last year. I yearn to edit a Dan-themed anthology. I’d call it Any World that We’re Welcome To, and the intro’s title would be “Only a Fool Would Say That.” They’re such an sfnal band. Other inspirational bands and solo artists in my collection: Royksopp, Orbital, David Bowie, Ray Charles, The Yoshida Brothers, Miriam Makeba, The Clash, The Ventures (I hear CJ Cherryh sometimes listens to them while writing), Angelique Kidjo, Erykah Badu, Sandy Denny, Karen Carpenter….OK, I’ll stop, but you get the idea. My tastes are eclectic.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing in general? Does being a journalist affect or not your fiction writing?

Nisi:  For me, the most challenging thing about writing is collecting the money I’m owed. I once waited two years for a check from a major SF market. That check was payment for a story I was supposed to have been paid for on acceptance. Not on publication. Which had happened long before I finally received my check. That’s an extreme example, but there are far too many others.

Yes, I do think being a journalist has affected my fiction writing, in that I’ve learned to pay close attention to wordcounts and deadlines. Journalism has taught me to cut embellishments, as well, and how to tell embellishments from essence, though they may resemble each other on their surfaces.



TQEverfair is your first published novel. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length and vice versa?

Nisi:  I know this is counterintuitive, and it’s not the common way of looking at these things, but I think that the plots of short stories tend to be quite complicated, and the plots of novels to be quite simple. I say that because novel plots are the armature for all sorts of other literary elements and excursions, themes and subplots and such. Novels are simple skeletons to which many other structures are attached. Short story plots, on the other hand, are designed to be freestanding. They need to support themselves in at least three dimensions. They need to do it all on their own. So they must necessarily be more multiplex.

In my opinion, the challenge of writing is one of continuity. I’ve written dozens of short stories. Everfair is only the fourth novel I’ve written, and I didn’t start writing novels till I was 45 years old. I began with poetry, expanded to short story length in my thirties, and then, when I felt I was the same person long enough to write at book length in the same voice, included novel-writing in my literary practice.



TQDescribe Everfair in 140 characters or less.

Nisi:  #Everfair premise: 19th century Britons and African American missionaries buy land in King Leopold II's Congo to create a socialist Utopia.



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

Nisi:  Many of the characters are based on literary figures such as George Bernard Shaw, Zora Neale Hurston, and J.M. Barrie. Why? Because I love them.



TQWhat inspired you to write Everfair? What appealed to you about writing a Steampunk, Neo-Victorian and Alternate History novel?

Nisi:  I was inspired to write Everfair by my dislike of a genre I should have been completely crushed out on.



TQWhat is Neo-Victorian?

Nisi:  Well, it’s not what I call Everfair. My term for what I’ve done is “AfroRetroFuturist,” a portmanteau of Afrofutrism and Retrofuturism. Afrofuturism is a movement focused on African contributions to, perspectives on, and presence in the future. Retrofuturism is what most steampunks call what they’re interested in: a re-visioning of the past including elements of its future and sometimes elements of our own future as well. AfroRetroFuturism is a combination of these attitudes and concerns.

The term “neo-Victorian,” to me, is a much more limited one in that it’s apparently just about alternate versions of the Victorian empire.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Everfair?

Nisi:  Tons. But probably not enough. I talked to people, I looked at photographs, I read books, I surfed the net. I pored over maps and tried out recipes. I listened to music. I sang. I prayed.



TQIn Everfair who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Nisi:  The easiest, no doubt at all, was Lisette Toutournier. That’s probably because I’ve long adored the writer I modeled her on, Colette. I’d already practiced emulating her literary style, and I had learned much of her fascinating history before I ever dreamed of writing her into Everfair.

The hardest? So many of the characters belonged to demographic groups whose histories have vanished. Alla them were hard: Fwendi, Mkoi, and other native Central Africans for sure. Tink was most likely the most difficult, because he differed from me in so many ways: his age at the time he appears in this book, his gender, his sexuality, his race, his career. Plus he was, as I discovered, so proud and so reticent. I hope my representation of him didn’t suffer because of these differences and how I dealt with them.



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

Nisi:  Oh, that’s so hard! All the questions I’m thinking of are ones I’m glad no one has thought of.

Maybe I wish someone would ask me about the Peter Pan references. “What are the Easter Eggs you’ve included in Everfair that relate to Peter Pan?” this hypothetical interviewer would wonder. And I would say, “Chiefly they’re names. ‘Fwendi’ is a tribute to a little girl who played with J.M. Barrie in Kensington Gardens and called him her ‘fwendy’ or friend. ‘Tink’ is a nod to Tinkerbell’s engineering roots. ‘Wendi-la’ is the play that would have been written rather than Peter Pan had the timeline I created been substituted for the real one, and as the title indicates, it focuses on a female protagonist. Everfair itself is named, in part, as a response to Neverland.

“Apart from the names there’s the fact that Matty Jamison was to a large extent inspired by J.M. Barrie.”

As for *why* I put in those Easter Eggs? That’s a second question, and it’s even less likely to be asked than the first.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Everfair.

Nisi:

“Not far off a redwing sang, cold water trickling uphill.”

“Cats and moonlight poured into the abandoned office.”

“Rima pressed herself against those fat thighs and darling buttocks, that dimpled, curving back. She ran her nose down from Lisette’s kitchen along her neck to where her spine sunk to dip between mounds of flesh firm as living bread. Lifted the cloth of her lover’s shirt and licked the salt gathering there.”



TQWhat's next?

Nisi:  I’ve still been writing lots of short stories. Some of them are in series with one another, and I want to gather those into books, a separate book for each series. Making Amends is my interstellar penal colony series, for instance: I project an eight-story arc for that one, and I’ve finished five so far: “Deep End,” “In Colors Everywhere,” “The Mighty Phin,” “Like the Deadly Hands,” and “The Best Friend We Never Had.” There are three other series in similar states of incompletion.

And I want to write a book called The Five Petals of Thought, a faux pop-psych text based on an imaginary activist movement. And I want to put out a collection of nonfiction. And I want to publish the three other novels I’ve written. And I want to write a sequel to Everfair--I’ve just finished one short story that I’m hoping will serve as a sort of pilot for the project, and I’ll finish another in about six weeks that may do the same thing.

Not to mention all the anthologies I’m itching to edit. I better get back to work.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Everfair
Tor Books, September 6, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Nisi Shawl
Everfair is a wonderful Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium's disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier. Fabian Socialists from Great Britian join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo's "owner," King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.

Nisi Shawl's speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.





About Nisi

Interview with Nisi Shawl
Photo by Caren Corley
Nisi Shawl is a writer of science fiction and fantasy short stories and a journalist. She is the co-author (with Cynthia Ward) of Writing the Other: Bridging Cultural Differences for Successful Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov's SF Magazine, Strange Horizons, and numerous other magazines and anthologies. Her story collection Filter House co-won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 2009 and her stories have been shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, and the Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award. To learn more about Nisi Shawl, visit www.nisishawl.com




Twitter @NisiShawl  ~  Facebook


2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara BarnettInterview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack SparksInterview with J. Patrick Black, author of Ninth City BurningInterview with K.B. Wagers, author of Behind the Throne2016 Debut Author Challenge - September DebutsInterview with James Bennett and Review of Chasing EmbersInterview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes2016 DAC Cover Wars - August WinnerInterview with Nisi Shawl

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