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Interview with Linnea Hartsuyker, author of The Half-Drowned King


Please welcome Linnea Hartsuyker to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Half-Drowned King is published on August 1st by Harper. Read Linnea's Guest Blog - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels - here.

Happy Publication Day to Linnea!



Interview with Linnea Hartsuyker, author of The Half-Drowned King




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

Linnea:  I’ve always written, off and on. When I was 9, I wrote and bound a little book called “Eleanor and the Great Nail polish Disaster”. In middle school I tried to write a gothic romance novel, having never read one. I believe the heroine’s name was Laetitia. But as I got into high school I thought I should concentrate on skills that were likely to get me a good job. I studied engineering in college, while taking creative writing and literature classes for fun. A few years after graduating, I wasn’t finding creative fulfillment from the opportunities that my engineering degree gave me, and I starting writing again in my spare time. I began writing more and more seriously and eventually took up the project what would become The Half-Drowned King.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Linnea:  I’m more of a plotter, but definitely a hybrid—plans can and do change, and often I outline as much to figure out where I am as where I’m going. The Half-Drowned King and its sequels are based in history and myth, so there are certain events I know need to be part of the plot. I start by making a very rough, high level outline that includes those events, and how I think I’m going to get the characters there. I write until I get stuck, and then go back to the outline, or re-outline from scratch to figure out new and dramatic ways to get the characters where they need to be. With all three books, I’ve found that after writing about 70% of the rough draft, I need to do a full re-outline to make sure all the plot threads connect. By that time point there is so much I want to change that I usually go back to the beginning and start rewriting, and writing new material until I get to the end.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Linnea:  I think it is being patient with myself, and being comfortable with uncertainty. Writing requires dedication, but also inspiration and serendipity. Sheer perseverance, the kind that works in other areas of life, does not always work for me when I’m writing. If I get stuck, or if a scene isn’t working, I need to step back and find a new way in. I’ve also had to learn that even if I’m capable of writing 10,000 words in a day, I probably shouldn’t, because I’ll feel burned out for a while. I have to stop while I still have lots of ideas for what to write the next day.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Linnea:  I grew up in the middle of the woods in upstate New York, and my family that is very into doing things by hand. We baked our own bread, and did fiber arts like weaving, sewing, and knitting. We heated the house with wood and coal fires, and had to split and chop wood all summer. I think that is why I’ve always been drawn to history, eras which required more physical labor than our own, and making things from scratch. My father also read to us, frequently myths and legends from various cultures, including Norse. When I was 12 or so, I discovered The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton, which retold Arthurian and Welsh legends in novel form—and that has been my favorite genre ever since. I’ve always read widely, in many genres, literary, speculative, popular, and everything in between; some of my favorite writers are Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, Emma Donoghue, C. S. Friedman, Janet Fitch, and Sharon Kay Penman, but I think The Half-Drowned King owes the most to those very early influences.



TQDescribe The Half-Drowned King in 140 characters or less.

Linnea:  A saga about a brother and sister’s struggle to fulfill their ambitions in Viking-Age Norway, balancing revenge, love, freedom and safety.



TQTell us something about The Half-Drowned King that is not found in the book description.

Linnea:  I’m very interested in the ways that women could navigate the challenges of a pre-modern society. I wanted my women characters to be plausible for the time-period, while reflecting the fact that women are people, every bit as much as men, and would rebel, have ambitions, and struggle against their limitations. I’ve tried to represent different ways that women would deal with a violent society in which they had fewer rights than today: Hilda goes along to get along, Ascrida is nearly broken by what she’s endured but still tries to make choices to keep her family safe, Vigdis uses her sexuality to further her ambitions, and Svanhild, the heroine, makes rash and idealistic choices, and then has to face the consequences.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Half-Drowned King? What appealed to you about writing a saga about the Vikings?

Linnea:  When I was in my early teens, my family began tracing our ancestry. Because the Scandinavian countries have church records going back to the coming of Christianity (around 1000 CE) we could track at least some lines of descent to then, and before that, we followed the genealogies in the sagas, all the way to Harald Harfagr (Fairhair), the first king of Norway in the 9th century CE.

As I attempted to write various novels in my 20s, I had in the back of my mind that one day, when I was a good enough writer, I would tackle Harald’s story. I was never able to finish any of those other novels because, I think, I didn’t care enough about the stories I was trying to tell. Eventually, I decided that even if I wasn’t a good enough writer, I still needed to attempt this story. Later, a writing teacher gave me a piece of advice I’d been in the process of discovering for myself: if you’re going to write a novel about something, you should be obsessed with it, because you’re going to be spending so long with it—especially in the case of writing a trilogy! The Half-Drowned King and its sequels combine many of my passions: sea battles, retold myths, pagan legends, sword fights, and women’s stories, so I never tire of this world and characters.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Half-Drowned King?

Linnea:  I did a great deal of reading: sagas, histories, and archeology, but I also visited Norway a few times, including kayaking the fjord in the opening chapters. At the Viking Ship museum at Roskilde, I got to help crew a small viking boat. I also learned how to spin yarn from fleece using a drop spindle—which is something that Viking women would have spent an enormous amount of time doing.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Half-Drowned King.

Linnea:  It’s been so fun to work with the editors at my publishers in the US and Europe to come up with different cover ideas. All of them have wanted to show a balance of masculine and feminine imagery, since the book follows both Ragnvald and his sister Svanhild. The US cover, with the crown sinking under the waves was actually the very first idea that HarperCollins’s in-house designer Milan Bozic came up with. We talked over some other ideas, but settled on this one, and it was fully illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith. There is little evidence that Viking kings wore crowns, but I love how this cover it illustrates the title and evokes the mood of the novel, with the crown sinking into the waves and the ship in the background.



TQIn The Half-Drowned King who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Linnea:  It really varied depending on my mood! I would go weeks only writing Ragnvald sections, then want to switch to Svanhild for a while. Svanhild is really fun because she does whatever she wants—she tends to be people’s favorite character. Ragnvald can be a bit more trouble—he’s more careful, less friendly and winning, and because he’s an ambitious Viking warrior, he commits acts of violence that can be troubling for modern readers. Solvi, who is identified with the trickster god Loki, was also one of my favorite characters to write, though he had his challenges as well.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Half-Drowned King?

Linnea:  I don’t think it’s possible to write a book that doesn’t comment on social issues. Novels express the values of the writer whether we want them to or not. The characters in The Half-Drowned King deal with issues of their time, but even these are expressions of timeless questions: how do we balance freedom and security, what do we look for in our leaders, how far will we go for justice or vengeance? I’ve tried to show both the rewards and costs of different ways of answering those questions.



TQWhich question about The Half-Drowned King do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Linnea:  You originally wanted to write about Harald Harfagr, your ancestor. Why did you choose to make Ragnvald and Svanhild your main characters?

As I was doing my early research about Harald Harfagr, I started to find him a little dull. He has one interesting episode with Princess Gyda but other than that, he doesn’t face enough serious challenges. In many retellings of the Arthurian legends, Arthur is the least interesting character—he’s the fixed point around whom others orbit. So as I read the sagas, I grew more interested Ragnvald, who becomes Harald’s closest adviser, and suffers for that closeness. Ragnvald’s decisions and eventual fate in the sagas made me wonder about what kind of man he was, and how he would grow and change over his lifetime.

The dawn of the Scandinavian kingdoms was a time when some local kings and chieftains were giving away some of their power to a high king of a much larger area, while others fled to Iceland to retain their freedom. The question of freedom versus security became a guiding theme, and I decided to make Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild the other main character—a woman’s choices about freedom and security would be even more difficult and circumscribed than a man’s. And then, because Ragnvald often makes more cautious choices, and follows a king, I was able to give some of the bolder, more rebellious choices to Svanhild.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Half-Drowned King.

Linnea:
“Above the plain stretched an ice field whose meltwater fed all the river systems of the Sogn district. Ragnvald and Oddi walked up to it, over a steep slope. A great mouth of ice, dark and blue in its recesses, opened where the ice field began. It looked as though a frost giant had been frozen there, about to take a bite big enough to consume a herd of cattle. Cold air issued from it, the giant’s breath. Ragnvald walked along the opening behind Oddi. He did not want to turn his back on the great maw, so he tossed a pebble into its depths. It skittered for a moment, then fell into a pool of water far below.

Inhuman spirits lived in places like this. It might be the mouth of not a giant but Niflheim, one of the lands of the dead. Oddi peered in and would have climbed in, but Ragnvald held him back.”



TQWhat's next?

Linnea:  I just turned in the final draft of The Sea Queen, which is the sequel to The Half-Drowned King, and am currently working on the first draft of The Golden Wolf, the final book in the trilogy. After that, I have a long list of interesting periods of history I’d like to tackle. During my MFA program, I wrote the rough draft of a novel I wrote about a priest dealing with church politics during the early 12th century when there were two popes and clerical celibacy was just starting to be enforced—I’d like to dust that off. And I have a huge and sprawling fantasy world in my head that I would someday like to put down on the page.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Linnea:  My pleasure! Thank you for these interesting questions.





The Half-Drowned King
Harper, August 1, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Linnea Hartsuyker, author of The Half-Drowned King
"Lovers of epic rejoice! Hartsuyker illuminates these old stories with authority and visceral detail, bringing to life the adventure, bleak beauty, and human struggle that lie at their heart. A vivid and gripping read." —Madeline Miller, bestselling author of The Song of Achilles

"Linnea Hartsuyker brings myth and legend roaring to life in this superbly good page-turning saga of Viking-era Norway. Hartsuyker is fearless as she navigates a harsh, exacting, and hair-raising world, with icy fjords and raiding seasons and ancient blood feuds. But the book’s fiercest magic shines in the characters of Ragnvald and Svanhild, as unforgettable a brother and sister duo as I can remember in recent literature. Linnea Hartsuyker is an exciting, original voice in historical fiction, and The Half-Drowned King is nothing short of mesmerizing."—Paula McLain, bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

An exhilarating saga of the Vikings that conjures a brutal, superstitious, and thrilling ninth-century world and the birth of a kingdom—the debut installment in a historical literary trilogy that combines the bold imagination and sweeping narrative power of Game of Thrones, Vikings, and Outlander.
Centuries ago, in a blood-soaked land ruled by legendary gods and warring men, a prophecy foretold of a high king who would come to reign over all of the north. . . .

Ragnvald Eysteinsson, the son and grandson of kings, grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather, Olaf. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal, claim his birthright and the woman he loves, and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Opportunity may lie with Harald of Vestfold, the strong young Norse warrior rumored to be the prophesied king. Ragnvald pledges his sword to King Harald, a choice that will hold enormous consequence in the years to come.

While Ragnvald’s duty is to fight—and even die—for his honor, Svanhild must make an advantageous marriage, though her adventurous spirit yearns to see the world. Her stepfather, Olaf, has arranged a husband for her—a hard old man she neither loves nor desires. When the chance to escape Olaf’s cruelty comes at the hands of her brother’s arch rival, the shrewd young woman is forced to make a heartbreaking choice: family or freedom.

Set in a mystical and violent world defined by honor, loyalty, deceit, passion, and courage, The Half-Drowned King is an electrifying adventure that breathtakingly illuminates the Viking world and the birth of Scandinavia.





About Linnea

Interview with Linnea Hartsuyker, author of The Half-Drowned King
Linnea Hartsuyker grew up in the middle of the woods outside Ithaca, New York, and studied Engineering at Cornell University. After a decade of working at internet startups, and writing in her spare time, she attended NYU and received an MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in New York City with her husband.








Website  ~  Twitter @linneaharts

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2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts


2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts


There are 15 debut novels for August.

Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.

The August debut authors and their novels are listed in alphabetical order by author (not book title or publication date). Take a good look at the covers. Voting for your favorite August cover for the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will take place starting on August 15, 2017.

If you are participating as a reader in the Challenge, please let us know in the comments what you are thinking of reading or email us at "DAC . TheQwillery @ gmail . com" (remove the spaces and quotation marks). Please note that we list all debuts for the month (of which we are aware), but not all of these authors will be 2017 Debut Author Challenge featured authors. However, any of these novels may be read by Challenge readers to meet the goal for August 2017 The list is correct as of the day posted.



Asa Avdic

The Dying Game
Penguin Books, August 1, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages
     Dystopian, Thrillers, Psychological Thrillers
      Contemporary Women

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
A masterly locked-room mystery set in a near-future Orwellian state—for fans of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Dave Eggers’ The Circle, and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games

Do you live to play? Or play to live?

The year is 2037. The Soviet Union never fell, and much of Europe has been consolidated under the totalitarian Union of Friendship. On the tiny island of Isola, seven people have been selected to compete in a forty-eight-hour test for a top-secret intelligence position. One of them is Anna Francis, a workaholic bureaucrat with a nine-year-old daughter she rarely sees and a secret that haunts her. Her assignment: to stage her own death and then to observe, from her hiding place inside the walls of the house, how the six other candidates react to the news that a murderer is among them. Who will take control? Who will crack under pressure? But then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and the real game begins. . . .

Combining suspense, unexpected twists, psychological gamesmanship, and a sinister dystopian future, The Dying Game conjures a world in which one woman is forced to ask, “Can I save my life by staging my death?”




RJ Barker

Age of Assassins
The Wounded Kingdom 1
Orbit, August 1, 2017
Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
     Epic Fantasy

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
IT'S A GAME OF ASSASSIN VERSUS ASSASSIN

Girton Club-foot has no family, a crippled leg, and is apprenticed to the best assassin in the land.

He's learning the art of taking lives, but his latest mission tasks him with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince's murder.

Age of Assassins is the first in an epic new trilogy set in a world ravaged by magic, featuring a cast of assassins, knights, ambitious noblemen, and fools.




Brian Allen Carr

Sip
Soho Press, August 29, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
     Science Fiction, Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic,
       Literary Fiction

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
A lyrical, apocalyptic debut novel about addiction, friendship, and the struggle for survival …

It started with a single child, and quickly spread: you could get high by drinking your own shadow. At night, lights were destroyed so that addicts could sip shadow in the pure light of the moon.

Gangs of shadow addicts chased down children on playgrounds, rounded up old ladies from retirement homes. Cities were destroyed and governments fell. And if your shadow was sipped entirely, you became one of them, had to find more shadow, at any cost, or go mad.

150 years later, what’s left of the world is divided between the highly regimented life of those inside dome-cities that are protected from natural light (and natural shadows), and those forced to the dangerous, hardscrabble life in the wilds outside. In rural Texas, Mira, her shadow-addicted friend Murk, and an ex-Domer named Bale, search for a possible mythological cure to the shadow sickness—but they must do so, it is said, before the return of Halley’s Comet, which is only days away.




Curtis Craddock

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors
The Risen Kingdoms 1
Tor Books, August 29, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
     Epic Fantasy, Historical Fantasy

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
A delightful and engrossing fantasy debut featuring an intelligent heroine and her guardian, a royal musketeer.

In a world of soaring continents and bottomless skies, where a burgeoning new science lifts skyships into the cloud-strewn heights, and ancient blood-borne sorceries cling to a fading glory, Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs is about to be married to a man she has barely heard of, the second son of a dying king in an empire collapsing into civil war.

Born without the sorcery that is her birthright but with a perspicacious intellect, Isabelle believes her marriage will stave off disastrous conflict and bring her opportunity and influence. But the last two women betrothed to this prince were murdered, and a sorcerer-assassin is bent on making Isabelle the third. Aided and defended by her loyal musketeer, Jean-Claude, Isabelle plunges into a great maze of prophecy, intrigue, and betrayal, where everyone wears masks of glamour and lies. Step by dangerous step, she unravels the lies of her enemies and discovers a truth more perilous than any deception.




Alana Delacroix

Masked Possession
The Masked Arcana 1
Lyrical Press, August 8, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 258 pages

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
A Man Who Can Wear Any Face

Caro Yeats doesn’t run from much. As a former investigative reporter now working PR for Toronto’s supernaturals, what she hasn’t seen mostly isn’t worth seeing. But the assignment to “rebrand” Eric Kelton’s out-of-control alter egos has her on edge from the start. Kelton is the heirarch of the Masquerada, beings able to change their face—their entire persona—on a whim. Eric’s charisma muddles her instincts. How can she trust a man who can become anybody?

A Woman Without A Past

Eric has never met anyone like Caro, with her lightning wit and uncanny insight. But desirable as she is, he’d be a fool to let her near. Struggling to hide the sudden loss of his powers, Eric can’t risk becoming entangled with a woman who scorns her supernatural side and claims not to play politics. The enemies on her trail are strong, clever, and vicious. And when they force Eric and Caro together, the fallout could shatter far more than two hearts . . .




Spencer Ellsworth

A Red Peace
The Starfire Trilogy 1
Tor.com, August 22, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 208 pages
     Science Fiction, Space Opera

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
A Red Peace, first in Spencer Ellsworth's Starfire trilogy, is an action-packed space opera in a universe where the oppressed half-Jorian crosses have risen up to supplant humanity and dominate the galaxy.

Half-breed human star navigator Jaqi, working the edges of human-settled space on contract to whoever will hire her, stumbles into possession of an artifact that the leader of the Rebellion wants desperately enough to send his personal guard after. An interstellar empire and the fate of the remnant of humanity hang in the balance.

Spencer Ellsworth has written a classic space opera, with space battles between giant bugs, sun-sized spiders, planets of cyborgs and a heroine with enough grit to bring down the galaxy's newest warlord.




Linnea Hartsuyker

The Half-Drowned King
Harper, August 1, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages
     Sagas

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
"Lovers of epic rejoice! Hartsuyker illuminates these old stories with authority and visceral detail, bringing to life the adventure, bleak beauty, and human struggle that lie at their heart. A vivid and gripping read." —Madeline Miller, bestselling author of The Song of Achilles

"Linnea Hartsuyker brings myth and legend roaring to life in this superbly good page-turning saga of Viking-era Norway. Hartsuyker is fearless as she navigates a harsh, exacting, and hair-raising world, with icy fjords and raiding seasons and ancient blood feuds. But the book’s fiercest magic shines in the characters of Ragnvald and Svanhild, as unforgettable a brother and sister duo as I can remember in recent literature. Linnea Hartsuyker is an exciting, original voice in historical fiction, and The Half-Drowned King is nothing short of mesmerizing."—Paula McLain, bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

An exhilarating saga of the Vikings that conjures a brutal, superstitious, and thrilling ninth-century world and the birth of a kingdom—the debut installment in a historical literary trilogy that combines the bold imagination and sweeping narrative power of Game of Thrones, Vikings, and Outlander.
Centuries ago, in a blood-soaked land ruled by legendary gods and warring men, a prophecy foretold of a high king who would come to reign over all of the north. . . .

Ragnvald Eysteinsson, the son and grandson of kings, grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather, Olaf. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal, claim his birthright and the woman he loves, and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Opportunity may lie with Harald of Vestfold, the strong young Norse warrior rumored to be the prophesied king. Ragnvald pledges his sword to King Harald, a choice that will hold enormous consequence in the years to come.

While Ragnvald’s duty is to fight—and even die—for his honor, Svanhild must make an advantageous marriage, though her adventurous spirit yearns to see the world. Her stepfather, Olaf, has arranged a husband for her—a hard old man she neither loves nor desires. When the chance to escape Olaf’s cruelty comes at the hands of her brother’s arch rival, the shrewd young woman is forced to make a heartbreaking choice: family or freedom.

Set in a mystical and violent world defined by honor, loyalty, deceit, passion, and courage, The Half-Drowned King is an electrifying adventure that breathtakingly illuminates the Viking world and the birth of Scandinavia.




Ladee Hubbard

The Talented Ribkins
Melville House, August 8, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
      African American, Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Family Life

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
At seventy-two, Johnny Ribkins shouldn’t have such problems: He’s got one week to come up with the money he stole from his mobster boss or it’s curtains for Johnny.

What may or may not be useful to Johnny as he flees is that he comes from an African-American family that has been gifted with super powers that are rather sad, but superpowers nonetheless. For example, Johnny’s father could see colors no one else could see. His brother could scale perfectly flat walls. His cousin belches fire. And Johnny himself can make precise maps of any space you name, whether he’s been there or not.

In the old days, the Ribkins family tried to apply their gifts to the civil rights effort, calling themselves the Justice Committee. But when their, eh, superpowers proved insufficient, the group fell apart. Out of frustration Johnny and his brother used their talents to stage a series of burglaries, each more daring than the last.

Fast forward a couple decades and Johnny’s on a race against the clock to dig up loot he’s stashed all over Florida.  His brother is gone, but he has an unexpected sidekick: his brother’s daughter, Eloise, who has a special superpower of her own.

Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous essay “The Talented Tenth” and fuelled by Ladee Hubbard’s marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together.




Lucy Ives

Impossible Views of the World
Penguin Press, August 1, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
     Literary Fiction, Contemporary Women,
      Mystery and Detective, Amateur Sleuth

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
A witty, urbane, and sometimes shocking debut novel, set in a hallowed New York museum, in which a co-worker’s disappearance and a mysterious map change a life forever

Stella Krakus, a curator at Manhattan’s renowned Central Museum of Art, is having the roughest week in approximately ever. Her soon-to-be ex-husband (the perfectly awful Whit Ghiscolmbe) is stalking her, a workplace romance with “a fascinating, hyper-rational narcissist” is in freefall, and a beloved colleague, Paul, has gone missing. Strange things are afoot: CeMArt’s current exhibit is sponsored by a Belgian multinational that wants to take over the world’s water supply, she unwittingly stars in a viral video that’s making the rounds, and her mother–the imperious, impossibly glamorous Caro–wants to have lunch. It’s almost more than she can overanalyze.

But the appearance of a mysterious map, depicting a 19th-century utopian settlement, sends Stella–a dogged expert in American graphics and fluidomanie (don’t ask)–on an all-consuming research mission. As she teases out the links between a haunting poem, several unusual novels, a counterfeiting scheme, and one of the museum’s colorful early benefactors, she discovers the unbearable secret that Paul’s been keeping, and charts a course out of the chaos of her own life. Pulsing with neurotic humor and dagger-sharp prose, Impossible Views of the World is a dazzling debut novel about how to make it through your early thirties with your brain and heart intact.




Sophie Chen Keller

The Luster of Lost Things
G.P. Putnam's Sons, August 8, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Coming Of Age, Family Life, Literary Fiction

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
In this story for readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and A Man Called Ove, when all seems lost, he finds what matters most.

Walter Lavender Jr. is a master of finding. A wearer of high-tops. A maker of croissants. A son keeping vigil, twelve years counting.

But he wouldn’t be able to tell you. Silenced by his motor speech disorder, Walter’s life gets lonely. Fortunately, he has The Lavenders—his mother’s enchanted dessert shop, where marzipan dragons breathe actual fire. He also has a knack for tracking down any missing thing—except for his lost father.

So when the Book at the root of the bakery’s magic vanishes, Walter, accompanied by his overweight golden retriever, journeys through New York City to find it—along the way encountering an unforgettable cast of lost souls.

Steeped in nostalgic wonder, The Luster of Lost Things explores the depths of our capacity for kindness and our ability to heal. A lyrical meditation on why we become lost and how we are found, from the bright, broken heart of a boy who knows where to look for everyone but himself.




Marina J. Lostetter

Noumenon
Harper Voyager, August 1, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
     Science Fiction, Space Opera

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
With nods to Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama series and the real science of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, a touch of Hugh Howey’s Wool, and echoes of Octavia Butler’s voice, a powerful tale of space travel, adventure, discovery, and humanity that unfolds through a series of generational vignettes.

In 2088, humankind is at last ready to explore beyond Earth’s solar system. But one uncertainty remains: Where do we go?

Astrophysicist Reggie Straifer has an idea. He’s discovered an anomalous star that appears to defy the laws of physics, and proposes the creation of a deep-space mission to find out whether the star is a weird natural phenomenon, or something manufactured.

The journey will take eons. In order to maintain the genetic talent of the original crew, humankind’s greatest ambition—to explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy— is undertaken by clones. But a clone is not a perfect copy, and each new generation has its own quirks, desires, and neuroses. As the centuries fly by, the society living aboard the nine ships (designated Convoy Seven) changes and evolves, but their mission remains the same: to reach Reggie’s mysterious star and explore its origins—and implications.

A mosaic novel of discovery, Noumenon—in a series of vignettes—examines the dedication, adventure, growth, and fear of having your entire world consist of nine ships in the vacuum of space. The men and women, and even the AI, must learn to work and live together in harmony, as their original DNA is continuously replicated and they are born again and again into a thousand new lives. With the stars their home and the unknown their destination, they are on a voyage of many lifetimes—an odyssey to understand what lies beyond the limits of human knowledge and imagination.




Maja Lunde

The History of Bees
Touchstone, August 22, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
     Literary Fiction

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
In the spirit of Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go, this dazzling and ambitious literary debut follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees—and to their children and one another—against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis.

England, 1852. William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive—one that will give both him and his children honor and fame.

United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation.

China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident, she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him.

Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees joins these three very different narratives into one gripping and thought-provoking story that is just as much about the powerful bond between children and parents as it is about our very relationship to nature and humanity.




Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done
Atlantic Monthly Press, August 1, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 324 pages
     Literary Fiction

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
 Or did she?

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done—which is already gaining outstanding acclaim—Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.




Jonathan Skariton

Séance Infernale
Knopf, August 29, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
     Private Investigators, Thrillers, Historical Thrillers

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
An extraordinary debut novel—dark, fast-paced, thrilling—set in contemporary and nineteenth-century Europe, the United States, and Scotland, involving the true inventor of moving pictures; his lost film made in Edinburgh in 1888; and a shocking series of crimes terrorizing the city in present time.

The time: 2002. The city: Los Angeles.

Alex Whitman, movie memorabilia dealer who can find anything, is hired by an eccentric film collector to locate what could be the first film ever made, Séance Infernale. Its creator, Augustin Sekuler, is considered by those who know about movies to be the true inventor of motion pictures—not the Lumiére brothers; nor Thomas Edison.

Sekuler was to present to the world in 1890 his greatest new invention, the first of its kind—a moving picture machine. He had boarded a train headed from Dijon to Paris, but never arrived at Gare de Lyons station. He and his moving picture machine vanished, never to be heard from again, his claim in history as the inventor of the moving image vanishing with him.

When Whitman tracks down what could be fragments of Sekuler’s famously lost film, questions are raised—about Sekuler, about what happened to him and to his invention, and about the film itself.

In this riveting story of suspense, the search for the answers lead to curious riddles that may (or may not) shed light on Sekuler’s darkest secret locked away for more than a century, riddles that set in motion a frantic hunt taking Whitman from Los Angeles and Paris, to Geneva, and finally to Sekuler’s ancient labyrinthine city of Edinburgh, where the stakes become ratcheted up as the film’s riddles lead to a darker, far more dangerous mystery.




Anna Smith Spark

The Court of Broken Knives
Empires of Dust 1
Orbit, August 15, 2017
Trade Paperback, 512 pages
eBook, June 27, 2017
     Epic Fantasy

2017 Debut Author Challenge - August Debuts
In this dark and gripping debut fantasy that Miles Cameron called "gritty and glorious!" the exiled son of the king must fight to reclaim his throne no matter the cost.

It is the richest empire the world has ever known, and it is also doomed. Governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The Yellow Empire is on the verge of invasion--and only one man can see it.

Haunted by prophetic dreams, Orhan has hired a company of soldiers to cross the desert to reach the capital city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from the ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Young, ambitious, and impossibly charming, something dark hides in Marith's past--and in his blood.

Dark and brilliant, dive into this new fantasy series for readers looking for epic battle scenes, gritty heroes, and blood-soaked revenge.

Interview with Christopher Brown, author of Tropic of Kansas


Please welcome Christopher Brown to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Tropic of Kansas was published on July 11th by Harper Voyager.



Interview with Christopher Brown, author of Tropic of Kansas




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


Christopher Brown:  Thank you for having me! I’ve been writing professionally since I was in college, but my early work was mostly journalism. It wasn’t until I moved to Austin and got involved in the Turkey City Writers Workshop run by Bruce Sterling that I started to seriously write sf. I write because I love language. And I love speculative fiction as a laboratory for exploring the world we have and the worlds we could make—a lab where none of the subjects get hurt because they are all imaginary.



TQ:  Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

CB:  I write the same way I explore—go way off the trail, see what discoveries you can make, and then find your way back. I usually have an ending in mind when I start—it was the first thing I wrote for Tropic of Kansas, and about the only thing that survived serial revision. But I get the best results when I send the characters out with that destination in mind but no maps for how to get there. The surprises that occur when you take that approach are the real engine of a character-driven novel, for me. I have friends that map out elaborate narratives in volumes of notebooks, but that doesn’t work for me. Too bad, since my approach takes a lot longer!



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

CB:  Language comes easily to me, but story is harder. I’m interested in writing a realist science fiction, one grounded in description of the observed world, and propelled by character more than plot, which tends to produce episodic, picaresque narratives more like real life. But I also love the satisfaction of building a compelling page-turner. So those things are at odds, and the process of letting character-driven lyricism find its way into plot takes a lot of time—two or three deep rewrites of the whole thing before what I want really emerges.



TQ:  What has influenced / influences your writing?

CB:  The work I dig all starts with a love of language, writing that paints with words. I like fiction that uses the power of brevity, economy as a design principle, versus the self-indulgent meanders of much contemporary literary fiction—with exceptions, of course. The writers I have learned the most from are probably Joan Didion, J.G. Ballard, William Gibson, Doris Lessing, Walker Percy, Renata Adler and Hunter S. Thompson. That’s an eclectic set, one that includes some writers better known for their journalism, which probably reveals much about how my science fiction wants to engage with the problems of the “allegedly real world.” I also have a background in law and politics, and I imagine the influences of those experiences shows. I’ve learned to be deeply suspicious of power—having worked as both its butler and adversary—and deeply sympathetic with people who have none.



TQ:  Describe Tropic of Kansas in 140 characters or less.

CB:  A dark road trip through an Americana-infused dystopia, as brother and sister seek sanctuary and redemption in a nation torn apart by revolutionary unrest.



TQ:  Tell us something about Tropic of Kansas that is not found in the book description.

CB:  It’s not really meant as a vision of the future, even though that’s how many people read it. While the book has no timestamp, I imagined it as a dark mirror of the present. It’s an effort at a realist dystopia, taking things I have witnessed in the real world and bringing out the emphasis, remixing the proportions. Turning the world upside down in fiction is not only a fun way to tell an engaging story—it’s also a great way to see real-world problems with fresh eyes.



TQ:  What inspired you to write Tropic of Kansas? What appealed to you about writing a post-apocalyptic novel?


CB:  I never really thought that was what I was doing—Tropic of Kansas just tries to report on the world I see around me, through the speculative prism of a repurposed adventure novel. If there’s an apocalypse in Tropic of Kansas, it’s the combined ecological, economic and social failures happening around us that we tend not to notice—maybe because we aren’t the ones most affected.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Tropic of Kansas?


CB:  I did a lot of travel on the back roads of middle America, from the Southwest borderzone to the upper Midwest. I explored a lot of edgelands on foot, including the place where I live in Austin, on a former brownfield lot between a row of factories and the urban woods they hide. I met people living in those woods, and learned about their lives. I saw how wild nature exists in the “empty lots” of the city, and how quickly it reasserts itself if we let it. I worked as a volunteer in my community, lawyering for people who often do not have access to legal services, serving on a grand jury, and learning how unevenly distributed justice often is. I read a ton of source material—American folklore, obscure cartographies of pioneer trails, scholarly studies of bandits and revolutions, and the invisible literature of the war on terror. I tried to pull together all this material from the fabric of the world we live in and remix it to show the worlds it could be—both the worse one, and the better one lurking on the horizon.



TQ:  In Tropic of Kansas who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

CB:  The character of Sig, whose journey really defines the book, was both the easiest and the hardest. He was easy in that he draws on a deeply familiar archetype—the backwoodsman who can be found at the edge of the American woods from Cooper’s Hawkeye to Conan, Rambo and even Katniss Everdeen. But an archetype is not a real character, and writing the true personality and point of view of someone who has spent their adolescence surviving off the land, who doesn’t even have the preoccupation with self that is the basic characteristic of almost all characters in the modern novel, was much harder than I anticipated. You have to learn to show feeling without interiority, vulnerability through toughness—a hard undertaking with a great payoff, I think.



TQ:  Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Tropic of Kansas?

CB:  I can’t seem to get on the subway without grabbing the third rail. When I set out to write Tropic of Kansas I really just wanted to write an entertaining adventure story with a contemporary setting—and ended up starting a revolution in dystopia. Oops! I think writing is inherently political, and you can’t report on the world without showing it as it is. I also think you can deal with tough issues and still tell an entertaining, fun and big-hearted story—and sf is a great way to achieve that.



TQ:  Which question about Tropic of Kansas do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

CB:     Q—Where is the Tropic of Kansas?

            A—It’s not a real place, but you can see it from here.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Tropic of Kansas.


CB:  The emerging consensus is that the best line in the book is the last one, and it’s not really a spoiler, but worth waiting for.

This passage is a pretty good encapsulation of the world of the book, from Tania’s pov:
“Back east they called it the ‘Tropic of Kansas.’ It wasn’t a specific place you could draw on a map, and Kansas wasn’t really even a part of it, but you knew when you were in it and you knew just what they meant. Which wasn’t a compliment. The parts of the Midwest that had somehow turned third world. They tried to return the Louisiana Purchase to the French, the joke went, but it was too damaged.”


TQ:  What's next?

CB:  I have three longer works in progress: a book of speculative nature writing, a story about a criminal defense lawyer in a dystopian society—think Better Call Saul meets 1984—and a novel about capitalists in space. As divergent as they sound, they are all concerned with similar issues—and both easier and harder to write than Tropic of Kansas (but just as fun). Thanks for asking!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Tropic of Kansas
Harper Voyager, July 11, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with Christopher Brown, author of Tropic of Kansas
“Futurist as provocateur! The world is sheer batshit genius . . . a truly hallucinatorily envisioned environment.”—William Gibson, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author

“Timely, dark, and ultimately hopeful: it might not ‘make America great again,’ but then again, it just might.”—Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling and award winning author of Homeland

Acclaimed short story writer and editor of the World Fantasy Award-nominee Three Messages and a Warning eerily envisions an American society unraveling and our borders closed off—from the other side—in this haunting and provocative novel that combines Max Barry’s Jennifer Government, Philip K. Dick’s classic Man in the High Castle, and China Mieville’s The City & the City

The United States of America is no more. Broken into warring territories, its center has become a wasteland DMZ known as “the Tropic of Kansas.” Though this gaping geographic hole has no clear boundaries, everyone knows it's out there—that once-bountiful part of the heartland, broken by greed and exploitation, where neglect now breeds unrest. Two travelers appear in this arid American wilderness: Sig, the fugitive orphan of political dissidents, and his foster sister Tania, a government investigator whose search for Sig leads her into her own past—and towards an unexpected future.

Sig promised those he loves that he would make it to the revolutionary redoubt of occupied New Orleans. But first he must survive the wild edgelands of a barren mid-America policed by citizen militias and autonomous drones, where one wrong move can mean capture . . . or death. One step behind, undercover in the underground, is Tania. Her infiltration of clandestine networks made of old technology and new politics soon transforms her into the hunted one, and gives her a shot at being the agent of real change—if she is willing to give up the explosive government secrets she has sworn to protect.

As brother and sister traverse these vast and dangerous badlands, their paths will eventually intersect on the front lines of a revolution whose fuse they are about to light.





About Christopher

Interview with Christopher Brown, author of Tropic of Kansas
Christopher was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for the anthology Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including MIT Technology Review’s “Twelve Tomorrows,” The Baffler, and Stories for Chip. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Aside from his writing, though, Brown has lived a varied life in which he has, among many other things, taken two companies public, restored a small prairie, worked on two Supreme Court confirmations, rehabilitated a brownfield, reported from Central American war zones, washed airplanes, co-hosted a punk rock radio show, built an eco-bunker, worked day labor, negotiated hundreds of technology deals, protected government whistleblowers, investigated fraud, raised venture capital, explored a lot of secret woodlands, raised an amazing kid, and trained a few dogs.

Website  ~  Twitter @NB_Chris  ~  Instagram  ~  Facebook

Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters


Please welcome Jennie Melamed to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Gather the Daughters was published on July 25th by Little, Brown and Company.



Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters




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

Jennie:  I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember. I don’t know exactly why I do it, just that not writing isn’t an option for me. I go through periods when I’m writing less, or even not at all, but I always return to it. Gather the Daughters, though, was the first piece where I really persevered trying to get it published.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jennie:  I’d say 70% pantser, 30% plotter. I often know in my head what’s going to happen in terms of broad strokes, but then my characters will run off and do something completely different than I was planning for them. I’m often surprised by what happens when I sit down and write.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jennie:  Finding the time. I wrote Gather the Daughters while going to graduate school and working- it was a challenge! Even now, when I only work four days a week, sometimes my three days off fly by as I take care of normal human business, and I can only get an hour or so in of writing. It’s frustrating.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jennie:  I read constantly, and I read very quickly. I’ve found that if I stop reading, I actually get depressed in a week or two. I go through phases in what I read- my last was a Victorian literature phase that lasted a year or two. Everything I read influences my writing in some way.

My work also influences my writing. I work with children as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and I can’t begin to describe some of the chaos and trauma that I witness. I find it comes out in my work, to the point where my agent and editor have to remind me to please lighten up a little bit!



TQDescribe Gather the Daughters in 140 characters or less.

Jennie:  A novel about the daughters of a post-apocalyptic cult at the end of the world.



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

JennieGather the Daughters is, in part, a love story. Most people miss it, and so I probably made it too subtle, but two of the main characters are in love and in another world could live happily ever after.



TQWhat inspired you to write Gather the Daughters? What appealed to you about writing a novel with a post-apocalyptic setting?

Jennie:  I can’t go into depth without revealing spoilers, but the idea of Gather the Daughters came to me when I was about eighteen, after listening to so many of my friends reveal child abuse in the their past. I began wondering what it would mean for abuse to be encoded into a culture.

When I was a child, I had post-apocalyptic daydreams all the time. Vanessa’s guilt over her own depicts what I consider to be a fairly common child fantasy- that you are the only one left in all the world, and can do whatever you want. I am fascinated by end-of-the-world scenarios in general. I’m not sure exactly what that says about my personality.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Gather the Daughters?

Jennie:  I didn’t do any specifically for Gather the Daughters, but research I did in graduate school made its way into the book. I did some anthropological and sociological investigation into child abuse in other cultures, as well as studying perpetrators of child abuse. It definitely affected what I wrote.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Gather the Daughters.

Jennie:  The US cover came first. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. There is a girl with her eyes closed in a white dress, falling, with the ground vertical instead of horizontal. To me, it depicts the theme of the novel, not any particular scene. The UK cover came next and has the roses, thorns, and mosquitoes, which I think wonderfully contrasts the beauty of the island with the wildness and cruelty it contains.



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

Jennie:  Vanessa was definitely the easiest; she is a smart girl who reads a lot and tries to please her father, just like I was as a child, although she’s definitely more popular than I was!
Janey was probably the hardest, simply because the first drafts did not have Janey as one of the main characters- Janey’s story was told from Mary’s point of view. Eventually my editor suggested that I switch to having Janey’s point of view instead, and it wasn’t too difficult, but I felt a sense of loss leaving Mary’s narrative behind. I have a huge soft spot for Mary, and I think she’s a less complex character with Janey running the narrative. That said, it was definitely the right decision.



TQHow does isolating the characters on an island affect how they deal with social issues?

Jennie:  There is no point of reference. I think we see this in isolated cultures worldwide, although the number of societies this isolated is shrinking. People live in ways we find wrong or even abhorrent, but they have no way to see that it can be different. Or perhaps someone in power knows it can be different, but chooses to withhold this information, for a variety of reasons. I’m not exempting ourselves from this, I’m often amazed at what a product of culture we are, all of us. That’s part of why I think universal child education is so important, just the ability to think critically and question what we do every day is invaluable.



TQWhich question about Gather the Daughters do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Jennie:

Q: Why did you write such a disturbing book?

A: To me, Gather the Daughters deals with types of violence that happen all the time, under our noses, and unless one has a way to be exposed to it, it happens hidden and unseen. Violence towards children has been happening since there were children, as far as I can tell, simply because children are vulnerable, and there are those who are drawn to abuse the vulnerable. I guess in short, I have a disturbing take on humankind in general. I think we are overall selfish creatures, and sometimes that selfishness leaps over a boundary to translate into the oppression of others. And I think we are so good at fooling ourselves that the majority of those who oppress others feel their actions are right and good. I don’t mean to say that people can’t be kind, altruistic, or compassionate. But I think those attributes often have to be taught and nurtured, whereas the darker instincts arise and have a strength all their own.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Gather the Daughters.

Jennie:

“She discovers that grief is a liquid. It passes thickly down her throat as she drinks water and pools soggily around her food. It flows through her veins, dark and heavy, and fills the cavities of her bones until they weigh so much she can barely lift her head. It coats her skin like a slick of fat, moving and swirling over her eyes, turning their clear surfaces to dull gray. At night, it rises up from the floor silently until she feels it seep into the bedclothes, lick at her heels and elbows and throat, thrust upward like a rising tide that will drown her in sorrow.”



TQWhat's next?

Jennie:  I am at the very beginning of a work that is related to Gather the Daughters. I can’t promise it will flourish into anything, but I really like what I have so far. That’s all I’m going to say!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jennie:  You’re very welcome!





Gather the Daughters
Little, Brown and Company, July 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters
NEVER LET ME GO meets THE GIVER in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.
 

Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers--chosen male descendants of the original ten--are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly--they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers' hands and their mothers' despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively readable, Melamed's novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.





About Jennie

Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters
Jennie Melamed is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in working with traumatized children. During her doctoral work at the University of Washington, she investigated anthropological, biological, and cultural aspects of child sexual abuse. Jennie lives in Seattle with her husband and their two dogs.

Website  ~  Facebook
Twitter @jennie_melamed

Interview with Lee Markham, author of The Truants


Please welcome Lee Markham to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Truants was published on July 11th by The Overlook Press.



Interview with Lee Markham, author of The Truants




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

Lee:  I’ve written for as long as I’ve been able to, all the way back to my early childhood. Storytelling has always been a big thing on both sides of my family. I’m Irish on my mother’s side, and they always like to spin a good yarn. On my father’s side, lots of Christianity (to which I seem to have an immunity, if not quite an allergy) – including quite a few preachers in the bloodline. So the why part of the question doesn’t really apply, or at least feels like it doesn’t – storytelling is something I’ve always been made of, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make stuff up.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Lee:  OK so, here’s the thing – my internet is down right now, so I can’t read through what the other guys you’ve asked have said in response to this, so I’m going to have to answer it blind: is it actually possible to be exclusively one or the other? I do get what you’re saying, and am perhaps being (deliberately?) obtuse, but for me it kinda goes in zebra stripes – plot then pants, pants then plot – and if you fly through it fast enough perhaps it starts to look like the greyness of a hybrid approach… but I can’t begin to imagine that if you subscribe to pantsing (and on a side-note, while we’re here, can we think about addressing the terminology?! I mean, really: pantsing?!) that you don’t have to eventually stream it into some kind of structure. And vice versa, if you have too rigid a structure/plan, your characters will suffocate if you stop them wandering off-piste… they just become Sims ¬– just crappy automaton versions of you.

With The Truants it went like this – I had a neat idea: vampire blood on a knife, that knife ending up on the streets and dropped into the knife-crime mix – so I’d say that would fall at the ‘plan’ end of the spectrum. I then ‘pants’ed my way through the first few scenes of that scenario, and saw where it went. From there I could then see some very clear narrative pillars dotted right the way across the novel – so more plan (I’d say mapping actually feels nearer the mark). I then ‘pants’ed my way out from those opening scenes towards those new pillars on the map. And a ways across the map from there a huge twist (which lands about one third of the way in) came out of nowhere, took even me by surprise and so a huge pants moment, but from which the whole map then revealed itself, so plan plan plan to the end. But yeah – you gotta flip between the two, surely?



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lee:  Writing for me seems to be quite a visceral, primal thing. When it comes, it just explodes out of me, and oftentimes largely fully formed and ready to roll. The hardest thing for me to do is to tame it, and make it do what I need it to do. With The Truants, entirely by necessity (at the time I was working a horrible job for a sociopathic manager, commuting, all consumed) I accidentally stumbled across a process that worked – I set my alarm clock for 4am every day. Fell out of bed. Was writing by 4:15am. By 6:15am I’d have done 2000 words, half of them from somewhere unknowable between my conscious and subconscious mind. I did that for about 40 days straight and the book was done. I genuinely don’t recall writing huge chunks of it. But the question you asked was what’s the hardest thing about writing – my answer is this: getting up a 4am every morning until the bastard is done. That’s how I do it. It’s massively antisocial. I disappear from the world when I’m writing. It’s like a moon mission. I really struggle to do it around other stuff… and by other stuff I even mean the sound of my own conscious mind wittering about day-to-day rubbish.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Lee:  At the risk of sounding pretentious, simply the pursuit of truth. Even if I’m writing about vampires. It’s just that constant internal churn of questioning about why we’re here, what we’re for, is it really worth it? I struggle sometimes with the world we live in, and have to battle frequently to work around existential impasses. My mind never lets it go. A line in a poem I wrote once rather neatly summarises this process as “Chewing on these same old rages, like dogs killing sticks”. It’s pointless, and no answer ever seems to stick, but that’s the essential machinery of me, and it can be quite exhausting (one reviewer has actually picked up on this, and yeah… it’s a fair cop, I’ll take it). On the plus side though, when I have a narrative idea (like for example a knife with vampire blood on it), I can throw it into that same machine and all sorts of interesting stuff comes out. So there’s that.

I have of course been influenced by other storytellers too – all of whom seem to chew on those same old rages too – and by storytellers I mean anyone working creatively, imaginatively. So not just writers. Filmmakers and musicians too. And journalists. All those guys lifting up the rocks, looking underneath, and reporting back. But to check off a few writers: formatively I went the Stephen King/Clive Barker route… alongside that there was David Cronenberg and John Carpenter working in film… more recently the writings of Robert Fisk, Blake Morrison (whose As If was the single biggest influence on The Truants), and Cormac McCarthy have hugely influenced my voice, if not my style. Alan Moore too.

But the thing that most fires up the 4am writing beast is music. Certain songs can hit a core id button and trigger off whole scenes of a story… the song that was most on a loop whilst writing The Truants is one called CPU by Skream. It’s quite cold and mechanical on one level, but has swirls of fractal undercurrents that perfectly tapped me into The Truants duality of the old-ones’ ancient manipulations contrasting the feral survival instinct that governs the world they’re thrown into. Too much other stuff to go into here – there’s actually a Truants playlist on Spotify and even that only skims the surface.



TQDescribe The Truants in 140 characters or less.

Lee:  A desperate prayer for love and purpose in this endless age of rage and sadness



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

Lee:  I think what perhaps gets lost in the description is the truth of it. That it’s more about love, and grief, and the futility of being, than it is about vampires and neglect. But – and this is a huge but – I don’t feel comfortable claiming any higher-ground credit for that. The Truants really did explode out from somewhere deep down and hurt, and it is what it is. It’s not easy. It assaults. For better or worse it is the sound of my soul weeping for us all, and raging at us all. And it doesn’t have any answers. I don’t know… it seems to catch a lot of readers off guard – they come in expecting something they’ve experienced before, and it breaks the rules. No-one, and nothing is safe. Nothing is assured or sacred. It’s asking, it’s pleading… it’s destabilising… because that’s where I was when I wrote it. Where I still am, really. I think, when it’s boiled down to a soundbite, what’s missing from the book description is this: The Truants hates you, but it wishes, more than anything, to be loved by you. Just like the children in the tale it tells. It’s hoping you will tell it everything will be OK, whilst blaming you for everything being screwed. It wouldn’t blame you for fearing it, but really it just wants to hold you. It’s complicated. It might make you sad. Or angry. Or both.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Truants? What appealed to you about writing a dystopian novel?

Lee:  I’m not sure I would actually call The Truants dystopian. To my mind it’s simply the here and now. With vampires. The world of The Truants is very much a documentary vision of the world we already live in. And so in that sense the inspiration to write The Truants was simply this: how might this horror high-concept (Vampire knife!) play out in the real world? What might that story look like as an after-the-watershed BBC Panorama documentary about inner-city strife? Or what if we looked at the events in this story in the same way Blake Morrison looked at the events in As If? Might it be possible to drag horror, vampires and all, back into reality like Romero did in the 60s with Night of the Living Dead? What might something like that look like today?



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Truants?

Lee:  Obviously As If formed the core of that research – although interestingly the crime it details is far less alluded to in The Truants than other incidents. Those incidents that do form key pillars in the novel – the murders of Baby P and Damilola Taylor, as well as the shooting of Mark Duggan and the subsequent city riots of 2011 – are all events that received extensive coverage in the media both at the time and subsequently. To an extent these things are key strands in the weave of the narrative that currently exists in the UK about our inner cities – with one side seeing these horrors as symptomatic of how far people have fallen from decent society, whilst the other side sees them as symptoms of how much decent society is actually failing its people. Round and round, tit-for-tat. The Truants dives into that debate, lives in the minds of both sides, and tries to explore how such opposing views have become so hopelessly entrenched. So from a research POV, I just buried myself in as much objective, inquiry-based reading on each event as I could – which was pretty rough, especially in the case of Baby P – as well as then swinging to each end of the commentary-spectrum. In terms of locale for the story – I just set it in the city I’ve known and lived in for years.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Truants.

Lee:  The cover for The Truants is by a guy called Zack Crook. I think it’s an incredible piece of work. In fact, when the book was initially going through preparations for publication, it went through a name-change – it was originally called The Knife – and I wasn’t 100% sold on the new title. I was open to persuasion, but had my reservations. But when I saw the new title dropped into Zack’s cover design, everything came together for me – that was the moment I thought “OK, cool – we’re all on the same page here.” He may not be aware quite how pivotal he was in putting my mind to rest on the matter, so quite nice to be able to put it on the record here.



TQThe vampire is often used as a metaphor for something else. Are the old-ones of The Truants a new twist on the vampire mythos? What do they stand for in your novel or are they simply another type of vampire?

Lee:  If anything I’d say they’re a metaphor for society itself – a representation of what humanity, and the so-called civilization and social mores it has accrued over millennia, might look like as an individual – which is then used as a device to explore the notion that society might be just as susceptible to patterns of behaviors – doubts and insecurities, judgments and belief systems, a conflicting sense of purpose/purposelessness – as we all are as fleeting, mortal individuals. And then what was interesting was to force this immortal psychology to exist within its constituent mortal ones and see how, perhaps, it’s not as different/superior as it thought it was. For that to work though, I did have to twist the vampire mythos into a new form, so that’s true as well.



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

Lee:  None of the characters were technically hard to write. They all represent voices that chatter in my own journey through life, and so it was easy enough to allow them each time on the platform to say their piece uninterrupted. But writing as Peter was especially tough existentially – painfully heart-breaking – certainly his early scenes.



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

Lee:  Ha! OK… The question would be: is it just me, or is there something being said about gender roles, and gender politics, in the final chapter? Yes. Absolutely. There’s a lot of noise out there at the moment about what constitutes the family unit, and the argument that parenting should ideally consist of a male-female/mother-father double-helix. The final chapter is a discrete parting shot that calls bullshit on that. And on notions of gender and sexuality being defined simply by physical biology. It’s not a core point of the novel, but it pleases me to think some readers might think “Hey, is he saying here that it’s OK for two people of the same gender to start a family?” Yes, I am saying that. Although to be fair it could be argued that the way the point is only very lightly alluded to it might suggest I’m saying the opposite – let me clear right here that I’m not saying that at all. But yes, there is a nod to that debate tucked in there at the end.



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

Lee:  Probably my very favourite quote in the book is also kinda silly, certainly throwaway. And divisive. Most readers I suspect don’t even notice it, but some laugh out loud at it – much like I did when it came to me – others think it’s really annoying (one reviewer went so far as to accuse of it “triteness bordering on the twee”, which also makes me smile – the contrarian in me likes to think the publishers might one day even put “Twee” on the cover in amongst the other reviews because that would tickle me). But anyway, that quote is:
“She didn’t put food down for the cat. She didn’t have a cat.”

The next two are particular favourites with readers. Both capture the melancholy that underpins the whole novel, but the second one punches through into the actual grief of losing a child and forms part of a longer passage that I’ve heard a number of times has left readers on the floor:
“The black tiger-stripes burnt into the blade reminded him of the trails raindrops would weave as they fattened and became too heavy to cling to rain-struck windows. He remembered watching the rain on the windows when he was little. He remembered liking it. He remembered when he was little and would sit and watch the rain on the windows for what seemed like hours and he would feel OK. It had made a kind of sense to him that he couldn’t put into words, but which made everything else seem acceptable. It made everything seem as if it had its place, even the bad stuff, and that if things got too much, they’d simply roll away under their own weight.”
“She hadn’t turned any lights on when she’d got in. She’d gone through to her room, in her coat and her shoes, and she’d lain on the bed and looked at the ceiling. She hadn’t cried. She barely even made a sound. She tried not to breathe. She tried not to blink. But in the end her body would oblige her. That’s just the way it was built. She felt guilty about that. Eventually she got tired, and eventually she slept. She’d felt guilty about even countenancing the idea of sleep, but it had crept up on her in the end and taken her away from it all. She hadn’t dreamt.
        When she’d awoken there had been a few moments when it had all been a dream. A heavenly interlude of untruth, swaddling her in the beautiful notion of her boy not being dead. It had been her shoes that had shattered that moment. The shoes still on her feet. On her bed. They were the vicious little detail that moored her to reality. It had been her shoes that had appropriately repositioned her existence from hope to despair and had reset the trajectory of her life ever since. It had been her shoes that had calibrated the sine wave of her grief. Set in motion the pendulum of her pain.”

But the passage I think I’m proudest of, and which is one of a few passages that I don’t quite recall writing – I channelled it from somewhere in an early-hours haze between sleep and waking – is this one:
“For so long, he ran with me, hunted with me, lived with me, and he was beautiful.
        But if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then time serves only to blind us. Or perhaps time merely serves to erode beauty’s myopia and reveal the base offal at our core, that writhing, desperate need to be something more than life-struck mud and barely repressible appetites. Engines of procreation and decay. Bubbling and gurgling towers of digestion and waste.
        I don’t know. I think these things, and I sound like him.
        I see him now, as he sees everything. That too, I suppose, has been gifted to us both by age.
        After all these years, lifetimes really, I still don’t even know what beauty is, much less love. Other than that once I found him beautiful, and that I remember thinking I loved him.
        But he changed. Of course he changed. Everything changed, everything changes. And perhaps that’s what really happened to him – he stopped changing, stopped moving. And like a shark that stops swimming, the stasis brought him low. His vision clouded over and he lost sight of beauty. He started to hate.
        He started to die.
        He got old.”


TQWhat's next?

Lee:  I have a lot of ideas for a follow-up to The Truants. It’s set about 7 or 8 years after the event of the first novel, and goes a lot deeper and wider. That’s something I’d love to get stuck into. I’m also keen to finish work on a novel I’ve been kicking around for about 25 years now. That one is called The River, and would I suppose be my own Dark Tower – the one that forms the spine into which everything else might plug into. Beyond that, I’ve a few ideas for some other stories in the vault that look pretty interesting. And I’m also working on a series of children’s stories – Chestnut Tree Tales – that have gathered some dust recently, but which I’d love to get up and running again.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Lee:  You’re welcome!





The Truants
The Overlook Press, July 11, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages

Interview with Lee Markham, author of The Truants
A fresh twist on the vampire mythos, The Truants is a dystopian novel of startling intensity, narrated by immortal old-ones.

Contorting the conventional vampire narrative into a startling tale of immortality, blood lust, and rage contaminating London’s inner-city youth like a virus, The Truants tells the story of the last of the old-ones―creatures afflicted with a condition not unlike vampirism: ancient, bloodthirsty, and unable to withstand sunlight.

The last old-one has decided to end his life, but before he can act he is held up at knifepoint. His assailant disappears, the knife in his pocket, the blood of the old-one seared into its sharpened edge. The knife trades hands, drawing blood again, and the old-one is resurrected through his victims’ consciousness and divided, spreading through the infected. With his horde of infected youth, the old-one must reclaim the knife to regain control of his soul. But someone is out to stop him...





About Lee

Lee Markham is the founder of the children’s publishing house Chestnut Tree Tales and No Man, an independent publishing house. He has previously worked as a brand content developer, and he has written articles for magazines including Admap and Brand Strategy. The Truants is his debut novel.

Website

Interview with Vivian Shaw, author of Strange Practice


Please welcome Vivian Shaw to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Strange Practice was published on July 25th by Orbit.



Interview with Vivian Shaw, author of Strange Practice




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

Vivian:  Thank you! I've been writing since I was very small; I think I started my first trilogy around age 11 or 12. Those weren't novel-length, probably around 20,000 words, but for a kid that's not too shabby. Mostly I wrote books because I loved reading them, and I had my own stories I wanted to tell.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Vivian:  Not gonna lie, I had to look this one up. I think I prefer George R.R. Martin's are you an architect or a gardener taxonomy of writers, but of the three options you present I'm definitely a hybrid. I have the plot of any given arc or scene outlined -- i.e. this character has to do this thing or get to this place -- and the specific means by which I get that done often just comes to me as I go along. I find it helpful to talk over a scene with someone else, because complaining out loud about how it's not working or I can't come up with an idea almost always kickstarts my brain into figuring out the answer.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

VivianDoing it when I don't want to, or I'm tired, or I can't come up with good words but I'm on deadline and I have to produce.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Vivian:  The authors who have been most influential on me are Mervyn Peake, Robin McKinley, Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman; but I find inspiration everywhere, from architecture to urban exploration blogs to medical case studies. I'm interested in so many things.



TQDescribe Strange Practice in 140 characters or less.

Vivian:  Greta Helsing, doctor to London’s monstrous and undead, fights to defend her community alongside characters out of classic vampire lit.



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

Vivian:  There's not only ghouls, but demons, a witch, lots of detail about the geography of the London sewer system, and frank discussion of the nature of Heaven and Hell. Also, I'd like to state for the record that I wrote the first version of this novel as a National Novel Writing Month entry back in 2004, so my concept of vampires in Volvos just barely predates Stephenie Meyer's in Twilight.



TQWhat inspired you to write Strange Practice?

Vivian:  Two main threads gave rise to the original concept: the wonderfully spooky world of London's subterranean network of tunnels and shelters and conduits (and the amazing 1940s-vintage electrical technology that was at least up until recently still being used down there) and a challenge I gave myself to see how many characters from classic gothic/horror literature I could put together into a story. The original version included Dracula and Carmilla as well, but they ended up being reserved for future books in the series.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Strange Practice?

Vivian:  Lots of it. I mean lots. Nothing infuriates me more than an author who has either not bothered to do the research or has done the bare minimum to get themselves some useful-sounding buzzwords and concepts but failed to investigate what they actually mean. I spent a lot of time on Google Street View working out what my characters would have seen while moving through particular spaces, and I tracked down some actual plans for one of the deep-level shelters connected to a Tube station. Incidentally, while there is no deep-level shelter at the St. Paul's station, one was planned for that location -- but excavations were halted when concerns for the stability of the cathedral's foundation arose. Also the details of the science of mirabilics, my universe's version of magic, took a long time to work out and I wish I could have included more of that in the book.



TQWhat do you think are the reasons for the ongoing popularity of the Van Helsing / Helsing family?

Vivian:  Vampire hunters have always been exciting. The original Van Helsing wasn't even slightly sexy, but he was an expert and he could advise Stoker's characters through their extraordinary experience; it's not surprising that later readers of the novel should have wondered about the possibilities of expanding the character and examining his backstory, wondering what kind of exciting adventures he could have had prior to the events of Dracula. Also, the name is cool.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Strange Practice.

Vivian:  The cover artist is Will Staehle, the designer behind Unusual Co. (http://unusualco.com/) For Strange Practice Staehle has taken elements of immediately-recognizable modern London -- the landmark London Eye, the Shard, the Tower, Westminster Palace, even the Thames Flood Barrier -- and combined them with an old-fashioned Victorian engraving design that to me brings to mind the work of Edward Gorey, one of my favorite artists. The combination of modern and elegantly old-fashioned elements echoes the book's juxtaposition of characters from classic horror lit with the modern day.



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

Vivian:  Greta is dead easy, because she is an ordinary human: she has no powers at all other than skill and training and intelligence. I used to want to be a doctor myself, I read medical textbooks for fun, I'm fascinated with the history of medicine and therefore it's a lot of fun writing characters who work in the medical field. August Cranswell is also a human, but he's a bit more difficult because I don't have the knowledge background in museum studies that I do in medicine. Probably the Gladius Sancti monks were the most difficult, because I have the least in common with them, and it was challenging to get inside their heads.



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

Vivian:  There are so many! One of the questions I'd love to answer is are arc rectifiers real? They absolutely are, and they're fantastically weird and gorgeous. The actual electromagnetic principles on which they work are elegantly simple, even for someone like me who has no official science background at all, and it is oddly satisfying to be able to see the principles in action rather than simply knowing they exist. Up until fairly recently a few of them were still on display, and even still in use, but I don't know if any of them are currently active. Google "mercury arc rectifier" and look at the videos to see what I mean.



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

Vivian:

Ruthven wasn't much of a traditionalist. He didn't even own a coffin, let alone sleep in one; there simply wasn't room to roll over, even in the newer, wider models, and anyway the mattresses were a complete joke and played merry hell with one's back.

and maybe

"You are not human," she said at last, "but you are people. All of you. The ghouls, the mummies, the sanguivores, the weres, the banshees, the wights, the bogeys, everyone who comes to me for help, everyone who trusts me to provide it. You are all people, and you all deserve medical care, no matter what you do or have done, and you deserve to be able to seek and receive that care without putting yourselves in jeopardy. What I do is necessary, and while it isn't in the slightest bit easy, it is also the thing I want to do more than anything else in the world."

or

Sir Francis Varney was also damned, with the Devil and his angels and all the reprobate, and it was keeping him up at nights.



TQWhat's next?

Vivian:  The next book in the Greta Helsing series, Dreadful Company, will be coming out next year. It's set in Paris, and follows Greta's somewhat complicated adventures in and under the city. Also featured: M. R. James monsters; remedial psychopomps; vampires in leather pants; a werewolf, and potential disruptions in the fabric of reality. The third book, Grave Importance, is set in a mummy spa and resort outside of Marseille where Greta is spending a year as acting medical director. There's also a lot of other projects I'm planning for the future, including a popular-history book on the space program and a science fantasy epic co-written with my wife, the author Arkady Martine.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Vivian:  Thank you for having me!





Strange Practice
A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel 1
Orbit, July 25, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Vivian Shaw, author of Strange Practice
Meet Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead.

Dr. Greta Helsing has inherited the family's highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. She treats the undead for a host of ills - vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies.

It's a quiet, supernatural-adjacent life, until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.





About Vivian

Interview with Vivian Shaw, author of Strange Practice
Photo by Emilia Blaser
Vivian Shaw was born in Kenya and spent her early childhood at home in England before relocating to the US at the age of seven. She has a BA in art history and an MFA in creative writing, and has worked in academic publishing and development while researching everything from the history of spaceflight to supernatural physiology. In her spare time, she writes fan fiction under the name of Coldhope.



Website  ~  Twitter @ceruleancynic  ~  Blog



Interview with Leena Likitalo, author of The Five Daughters of the Moon


Please welcome Leena Likitalo to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Five Daughters of the Moon is published on July 25th by Tor.com.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Leena a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Leena Likitalo, author of The Five Daughters of the Moon




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

Leena:  Thank you so much for inviting me! It's a pleasure to be here!

I have always loved telling stories. In fact, so much that I started writing before I learned to read. No one else could make sense out of my scribbling which somewhat dented my credibility. Yet as far as I was concerned, the adventures of the butterfly-fairies had been duly recorded and that sufficed to me for the time being.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Leena:  I'm definitely a plotter.

I like to understand the big picture and what needs to happen in each chapter before I unleash creativity from the gilded cage where I keep it until a story is ready to be fully written. Creating an outline also enables me to know pretty accurately how much time I need to complete a bigger piece of work – I could never imagine committing to a timeline without being absolutely certain that I can pull it off!

If we do look into my dark past, I used to be a pantser. Let's just say I've learned my lesson. There was this story where it took me over 200 pages to get the main character and his horse to the right continent… After that, it was borderline impossible to get the pacing of that story back on tracks!



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Leena:  To me, it's not knowing if what I wrote, especially when it comes grammar and idioms, is at all correct English.

When I was in my teens, I really struggled to learn foreign languages. My father grew quite concerned about this and came up with a cunning plan. He dared me to read a novel from his fantasy and science fiction collection without the help of a dictionary.

Did I mention that his plan was cunning? The first book I read was none other than The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, and very soon indeed I found myself utterly and totally addicted to Wheel of Time and not so accidentally learned English.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Leena:  Endless curiosity in such scale that the world's kitten population is truly in danger here.

I've always been immensely interested in a wide variety of things: ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, fairy tales, royalty and aristocracy, French revolution, mechanical machines, early computers… I still go "ooh, shiny" every time I see an article about the history of a scientific discovery or an autobiography about a kick-ass woman. Usually after these "ooh, shiny" moments my brain starts ticking: where can I use this piece of information!

In terms of writers who've influenced me, Russian literature works fantastically in Finnish – though, I was probably the only kid in school who was ecstatic to read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I have a long lasting love-love relationship with Patrick Rothfuss' novels and I really enjoy the works of Mary Robinette Kowal, Gail Carriger, and Maria Turtschaninoff.



TQDescribe The Five Daughters of the Moon in 140 characters or less.

Leena:  Court Intrigue. Revolution. A Great Thinking Machine that devours human souls. No one is safe, not even the Five Daughters of the Moon.



TQTell us something about The Five Daughters of the Moon that is not found in the book description.

Leena:  Some of my favorite scenes were brainstormed over lunch breaks with my friend at the Helsinki museum of modern arts. And the two dogs, Rafa and Mufu? Completely based on her Italian greyhounds – I studied their mannerism and habits for weeks to get the details right!



TQWhat inspired you to write The Five Daughters of the Moon? What appealed to you about writing historical fantasy based on the Romanovs?

Leena:  It all began with the Great Thinking Machine. For years and years now, I have wanted to tell the story of a girl genius who hacks the machine. I knew all along that the story would take place in an industrialized empire, some time after a revolution. But I really needed to know more about the world to be able to flesh out the storylines – and that's where intensive research kicked in.

One day, I happened upon an article about the Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov family. Midway through the article, inspiration struck me with such force that whole scenes unfolded before my eyes and I started hearing voice - the Five Daughters of the Moon came to life and demanded I tell their story.

Though The Five Daughters of the Moon is inspired by real historical events, it's to be noted that I would never presume to write about real persons. Rather, I explore how a fictitious character placed in similar circumstances might feel and react.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Five Daughters of the Moon?

Leena:  Sensory details are very important to me. I need to understand what everything feels, smells, and sounds like. And when applicable, I also want to know how everything tastes.

Whenever I visit an old house, a ship, or a forest that strikes me a as a place that I might want to use in a story later on, I stroll around brushing surfaces and… much to the imminent embarrassment of my friends and family, sniff things until I can provide a sufficient description of the object in question.

I'm also obsessed with getting even minute details right. My friends can testify on this – I've turned to their areas of expertise when it comes to the direction of shadows during specific timeframe, diseases that cause the desired symptoms, plants that grow only in certain latitudes, and fabrics that give just the right touch of authenticity.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Five Daughters of the Moon.

Leena:  I'm the luckiest author in the world when it comes to covers! I absolute adore the artwork by the super talented Balbusso sisters and the cover design by Christine Foltzer.

To me, the cover oozes the very essence of the novel. I love the girl's expression – it's haunted and haunting but defiant, all at the same time. Her posture is that of someone standing before a tide of change that can't be avoided, only accepted. And the composition of the cover, with the Summer Palace at the back and the mechanical peacock in the front – yes, I'm a lucky author indeed!



TQIn The Five Daughters of the Moon who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Leena:  I love all the daughters, and it's borderline impossible for me to pick a favorite from amongst frail Alina, opinionated Merile, angsty Sibilia, passionate Elise, and rational Celestia.

But if I do have to pick one, I'm going to have to say that Sibilia was the easiest--and funniest--character to write. Fifteen years old, over-the-top emotional, sarcastic, and just a teeny-weeny bit self-centered, there was never a boring moment with her! She took control of her scenes as soon as I started writing, and then steered off the tangent, revealing the juiciest plot twists.

The hardest character to write… As the point of view character changes in every chapter, each of the daughters was the most difficult one to write on their own turn. Keeping track of who knew what and when was beyond challenging at times!



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Five Daughters of the Moon?

Leena:  Fantasy, especially steampunk, as a genre provides the option to explore social issues relating to industrial revolution and its aftermath.

The Five Daughters of the Moon is written from the perspective of aristocracy. In the beginning, the main characters are very young and hence somewhat naïve. But as the novel progresses, they gradually become aware of the reasons behind the revolution and start questioning the things they earlier took for granted – and this also opens the window for them to consider social issues.



TQWhich question about The Five Daughters of the Moon do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Leena:  Is it true that some of the scenes came to you in the form of an opera?

Yes, this is indeed true. Almost all the main characters have their own theme, which plays on the background of every scene in which they make an appearance. I could see and hear these themes weaving together to form a grander structure – this novel was a very sensory experience to write.

There's one scene in particular (looking at you, Chapter 9) where my writing prompt to myself was "Elise and Captain Janlav sing their famous duet about [removed due to spoilers]"


TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Five Daughters of the Moon.

Leena:  I've gushed earlier about how much I loved writing Sibilia - and reading her early chapters always cracks me up. Here's a sample:

“Dear Father Moon.” Elise curtsied between giggles. I curtsied too, heart beating with guilt and excitement. Nurse Nookes would chide me if she learnt of this. To sneak from my room, to fool around outside without a coat or gloves!

But Elise spread her arms wide, bent her head back, and addressed our father. “Please send us lovers, handsome and tall.”

“Elise! You can’t just . . .”

Elise glanced at me, grinning. She fluttered her painted lashes. “I can’t just what? We are the Daughters of the Moon. We have the right to call out for his help when in desperate need.”

At that moment, I did consider if I really was that desperate to meet K again. His lineage is impeccable; not that I care about that sort of thing. He adores me. I’m sure of that, though we shared only one waltz, in secret, during Alina’s name day celebrations. But the look he cast me afterwards, from across the dance floor. Smoldering.



TQWhat's next?

Leena:  The second part of the Waning Moon duology, The Sisters of the Crescent Empress, is coming out in early November. You'd never guess, but I'm super excited about that!

I've also got two more stories set in the Waning Moon world in works. The first one takes place directly after The Sisters of the Crescent Empress. The second one will be the story about the Great Thinking Machine – at last!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Leena:  Thank you so much for having me!





The Five Daughters of the Moon
The Waning Moon Duology 1
Tor.com, July 25, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 224 pages

Interview with Leena Likitalo, author of The Five Daughters of the Moon
Inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov sisters, The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo is a beautifully crafted historical fantasy with elements of technology fueled by evil magic.

The Crescent Empire teeters on the edge of a revolution, and the Five Daughters of the Moon are the ones to determine its future.

Alina, six, fears Gagargi Prataslav and his Great Thinking Machine. The gagargi claims that the machine can predict the future, but at a cost that no one seems to want to know.

Merile, eleven, cares only for her dogs, but she smells that something is afoul with the gagargi. By chance, she learns that the machine devours human souls for fuel, and yet no one believes her claim.

Sibilia, fifteen, has fallen in love for the first time in her life. She couldn't care less about the unrests spreading through the countryside. Or the rumors about the gagargi and his machine.

Elise, sixteen, follows the captain of her heart to orphanages and workhouses. But soon she realizes that the unhappiness amongst her people runs much deeper that anyone could have ever predicted.

And Celestia, twenty-two, who will be the empress one day. Lately, she's been drawn to the gagargi. But which one of them was the first to mention the idea of a coup?

Inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov sisters, The Five Daughters of the Moon is a beautifully crafted historical fantasy with elements of technology fuelled by evil magic.





About Leena

Interview with Leena Likitalo, author of The Five Daughters of the Moon
Writers of the Future
LEENA LIKITALO hails from Finland, the land of endless summer days and long, dark winter nights. She breaks computer games for a living and lives with her husband on an island at the outskirts of Helsinki, the capital. But regardless of her remote location, stories find their way to her and demand to be told. Leena is the author of The Waning Moon Duology, including The Five Daughters of the Moon and The Sisters of the Crescent Empress.






Website   ~  Twitter @LeenaLikitalo  ~  Facebook



Guest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels


Please welcome Linnea Hartsuyker to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Half-Drowned King will be published on August 1st by Harper.



Guest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels




Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels

I’ve always loved historical fiction and fantasy, and some of my favorite books mix the two genres. The first book that made me want to be an author was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which retells the Arthurian Legends from the points of view of Morgan le Fay and Guinevere. Here are some stand-outs from the last thirty years from a genre that inspired me when writing The Half-Drowned King.


The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon is better known, but The Firebrand, Bradley’s retelling of The Illiad, from the point of view the prophet Kassandra, condemned by Apollo to be disbelieved as she predicts Troy’s doom, is my favorite of her novels. Bradley frames the Trojan War as both a political conflict between Troy and the Greeks, as well as a conflict between the Greek gods with which we are familiar, and the older goddess-centric worship of the Anatolian peninsula. The gods intervene literally, as they do in Homer’s version, but the story is also grounded in the archeology of the time, painting a vivid picture of Ancient Troy and the surrounding kingdoms, replete with details of sandals and chariots, rituals and feasts.


The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Just as in Men in Black, aliens hide among the strangeness and vast numbers of people and cultures in New York City, so does the melting pot of nineteenth century New York hide magical creatures in The Golem and the Jinni. It is a slow moving and engrossing tale of these two creatures, a female golem freed from her masters who finds the world’s infinite choices, and her attunement to human’s desires, daunting, and a Jinni who chafes at any strictures. This book does a beautiful job evoking nineteenth century New York and the Jewish and Syrian communities that formed their own little worlds within the huge city.


Finn MacCool by Morgan Llywelyn

Finn MacCool was a legendary Irish warrior, or perhaps giant. I grew up with a picture book about Finn’s trickster wife running off a much bigger giant who wanted to do Finn harm. When I read Llywelyn’s Finn MacCool as a teenager, I discovered a much different version, a Bronze-Age Irish warrior trying to rise above his uncertain birth, falling in love with a fairy woman, and in his middle age, weathering the loss of a young wife and his pride. This book evokes the strange customs of Bronze-Age Ireland, and gives Finn a wonderful supporting cast of brother warriors whose stories are as compelling as his.


Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Fantasy and horror have always been kissing cousins, and in Lovecraft Country Matt Ruff explores the more fantastical side of Lovecraft, while also delving into the precarious, dangerous position occupied by a black family in Jim Crow era US. Ruff uses the more fantastical elements of the Lovecraft mythos to tell this story, and in his hands, Lovecraft’s obsessions with blood and contagions are used to illuminate the horrors of racism. Still, this book is not relentlessly bleak. The characters approach the weird situations they encounter with a gallows humor, and cleverly outwit their antagonists, making it an enjoyable and thoughtful read.


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Another take on The Illiad, this time focusing on a romance between Achilles and Patroclus, strained when Achilles is overcome with the madness of battle, moving further and further from the gentle Patroclus. This novel invents Patroclus’s upbringing in the court of his father and later with the centaur Chiron. A more intimate novel than The Firebrand, The Song of Achilles deals with the Trojan War’s impact on one couple, and shows how harmful violence is even to its perpetrators.


The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas

On the surface, the plot of The Flower Reader seems as though it would be at home in a Phillippa Gregory book, but it approaches the story differently because the heroine, Rinette, can tell the future from flowers. It is a charming device that provides some of the most compelling scenes in the novel and makes it easy to believe in its reality in this novel’s world. When Rinette’s husband is murdered she comes into possession of a casket that contains documents her enemies will kill for. She uses her talent and her cleverness to outwit her more obvious enemies and those who would use her affections against her.


The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton

Predating The Mists of Avalon by almost 50 years, The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton is a set of four books that re-tell the Mabinogion, the Welsh creation legends, and mythological underpinnings of the Arthurian legend. Fans of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain will recognize re-workings of his source material in these books, with Prince Arawn of Annwyn, who is no villain here, and the hero Gwydion and his brothers, who are not nearly as noble in the original mythology or Walton’s retelling of it. Walton’s sparse prose suits the legends, and paints vivid characters, like Prince Pwyll, a haughty young man who loves hunting above all, and because of his single minded pursuit of his prey has to spend a year in the land of the dead. These books are as fresh and strange today as when they were first written in the 1930s and 40s.





The Half-Drowned King
Harper, August 1, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Guest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels
"Lovers of epic rejoice! Hartsuyker illuminates these old stories with authority and visceral detail, bringing to life the adventure, bleak beauty, and human struggle that lie at their heart. A vivid and gripping read." —Madeline Miller, bestselling author of The Song of Achilles

"Linnea Hartsuyker brings myth and legend roaring to life in this superbly good page-turning saga of Viking-era Norway. Hartsuyker is fearless as she navigates a harsh, exacting, and hair-raising world, with icy fjords and raiding seasons and ancient blood feuds. But the book’s fiercest magic shines in the characters of Ragnvald and Svanhild, as unforgettable a brother and sister duo as I can remember in recent literature. Linnea Hartsuyker is an exciting, original voice in historical fiction, and The Half-Drowned King is nothing short of mesmerizing."—Paula McLain, bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

An exhilarating saga of the Vikings that conjures a brutal, superstitious, and thrilling ninth-century world and the birth of a kingdom—the debut installment in a historical literary trilogy that combines the bold imagination and sweeping narrative power of Game of Thrones, Vikings, and Outlander.
Centuries ago, in a blood-soaked land ruled by legendary gods and warring men, a prophecy foretold of a high king who would come to reign over all of the north. . . .

Ragnvald Eysteinsson, the son and grandson of kings, grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather, Olaf. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal, claim his birthright and the woman he loves, and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Opportunity may lie with Harald of Vestfold, the strong young Norse warrior rumored to be the prophesied king. Ragnvald pledges his sword to King Harald, a choice that will hold enormous consequence in the years to come.

While Ragnvald’s duty is to fight—and even die—for his honor, Svanhild must make an advantageous marriage, though her adventurous spirit yearns to see the world. Her stepfather, Olaf, has arranged a husband for her—a hard old man she neither loves nor desires. When the chance to escape Olaf’s cruelty comes at the hands of her brother’s arch rival, the shrewd young woman is forced to make a heartbreaking choice: family or freedom.

Set in a mystical and violent world defined by honor, loyalty, deceit, passion, and courage, The Half-Drowned King is an electrifying adventure that breathtakingly illuminates the Viking world and the birth of Scandinavia.





About Linnea

Guest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy Novels
Linnea Hartsuyker grew up in the middle of the woods outside Ithaca, New York, and studied Engineering at Cornell University. After a decade of working at internet startups, and writing in her spare time, she attended NYU and received an MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in New York City with her husband.








Website  ~  Twitter @linneaharts

Facebook  ~  Instagram  ~  Tumblr


Interview with Michael F. Haspil, author of Graveyard Shift


Please welcome Michael F. Haspil to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Graveyard Shift was published on July 18th by Tor Books.



Interview with Michael F. Haspil, author of Graveyard Shift




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

Michael F. Haspil:  Thank you for your welcome. I enter of my own free will. I started writing in earnest probably in the 5th or 6th grade when I was at New York Military Academy. I may have written stories before but my English teacher there at NYMA, Mrs. Marion Thomas, ran a small literary magazine students would publish stories in. She ran it off on a ditto machine, so it wasn’t the most sophisticated of affairs. But I remember a story I wrote which she published (which happened to be about werewolves) was the first one I received any acclaim for. My classmates loved it and we even made a quick one-shot role-playing campaign out of it.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

MH:  I’m a hybrid, though lately I’m more of a plotter than a pantser. Before I even start a story, I tend to have a scene, usually the climax or the ending, firmly in my mind. Then I break out a plotting grid and start working out the story from there. But the plotting grid is a guide, not fixed in stone. So, as I write, if something better comes up or a plot point becomes too problematic, I jettison the plot grid and revise it.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

MH:  The most challenging thing for me, and I suspect for others, is simply finding the time to write. I’ve gotten rid of my television and cut incredibly back on computer games, but it still seems that I can’t find the time. One thing that has helped me recently is to come to terms that I will never find the ideal block of free time to let me summon the muse. So, I just have to make do without her and write despite having no time to do it. I find that usually if I get going without her, she gets annoyed and shows up anyway.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

MH:  I would like to say all kinds of lofty references to literary great works, but that wouldn’t be true. The truth would be a lot of genre fiction in film, in books, and comics; a lot of which are considered schlocky by today’s standards.



TQDescribe Graveyard Shift in 140 characters or less.

MH:  An immortal pharaoh battles an ancient vampire conspiracy, using drastic measures and questionable allies, to prevent something much worse.



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

MH:  One of the vampires is a Catholic priest who used to be a Spanish conquistador.



TQWhat inspired you to write Graveyard Shift? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

MH:  I had a dream about the world where it takes place. When I woke, all I could remember was the sentence, “I used to kill vampires for the NSA, now I work vice.”

What I like about writing Urban Fantasy is that it isn’t that far removed from our own world. It’s that thing you catch a glimpse of out of the corner of your eye. It’s the rumpled jacket on the chair in the dim light that might just be some demonic imp crouching and observing you through the darkness, waiting for you to look away so it can pounce. I love the idea that we think we know what is real, but we’re most probably wrong.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Graveyard Shift?

MH:  I did a lot of research on the Miami-Dade police department and on urban police operations in general. I really wanted to try and get that as right as I could so the story would be grounded. At the same time, I had to loosen up and acknowledge that strictly realistic police work might not be possible in a Miami populated by all manner of preternatural beings.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Graveyard Shift.

MH:  Stephen Youll is the cover artist behind the magnificent cover for Graveyard Shift. It doesn’t portray any single moment from the novel and yet he managed to capture the spirit of the novel perfectly. When I saw the cover, I thought, “Wow. That’s is exactly what the book is about.” And yet it is silhouettes, splashes of color, and ghostly figures from out of time. I love it.



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

MH:  Marcus was the easiest character to right because his motivations are very straightforward. In many ways, he’s the “Boy Scout” of the characters. He’s a former Roman who was beholden to some serious secret societies (and he might still be loyal to them) but he knows what he should do and is generally focused on exactly how to do it.

The hardest character to write was Rhuna, who is a shapeshifter. She is vicious and deadly and takes pleasure in being so. But she’s not a bad person. She’s not entirely human and so her emotions and motivations are also not entirely human. She can be laughing one instant and at another’s throat in the next. But she’s very loyal in her own way. The surrounding characters very much need to walk on eggshells when around her.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Graveyard Shift?

MH:  There are some social issues present throughout Graveyard Shift, though I don’t present solutions to any of them. The book certainly touches on issues of drug abuse and human trafficking very prominently. But our heroes often deal with issues where situational ethics come into play and they are forced to make awful decisions to avoid something worse in the future.



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

MH:  How did the Pharaoh Menkaure become an immortal mummy? Well, I won’t answer much of that but it had something to do with him sacrificing his immortal soul to protect humanity from an unspeakable evil. That’s much of the plot of an upcoming novel and if I answered the entire question truthfully, then it would be rife with spoilers.



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

MH

Quote 1: “I rewarded them with the finest of Hathor’s yrp wine and from that day forth, they called themselves Menkaure’s Drunkards.”

Quote 2: “I remember the story that Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf…but that’s just a myth, right?”



TQWhat's next?

MH:  Right now, I’m working on a fun pop-culture geek novel in the tradition of Geekomancy and Scott Pilgrim. Sort of Ready Player-One meets Through the Looking Glass (complete with a live Jabberwock and a vorpal blade!) It’s not connected to the world of Graveyard Shift in any way.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

MH:  Thank you for hosting me! I really hope people will enjoy the book.





Graveyard Shift
Tor Books, July 18, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Michael F. Haspil, author of Graveyard Shift
Police procedurals go supernatural in this gritty urban fantasy debut by Michael F. Haspil in Graveyard Shift

Alex Menkaure, former pharaoh and mummy, and his vampire partner, Marcus, born in ancient Rome, are vice cops in a special Miami police unit. They fight to keep the streets safe from criminal vampires, shape-shifters, bootleg blood-dealers, and anti-vampire vigilantes.

When poisoned artificial blood drives vampires to murder, the city threatens to tear itself apart. Only an unlikely alliance with former opponents can give Alex and Marcus a fighting chance against an ancient vampire conspiracy.

If they succeed, they'll be pariahs, hunted by everyone. If they fail, the result will be a race-war bloodier than any the world has ever seen.

“Gritty urban fantasy and hard-boiled noir packed into a hand grenade of awesome!” —Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown





About Michael

Interview with Michael F. Haspil, author of Graveyard Shift
MICHAEL F. HASPIL is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he distinguished himself as an ICBM crew commander. After retiring from the military, he served as a launch director at Cape Canaveral. He has been writing original stories for as long as he can remember and has dabbled in many genres. Graveyard Shift is his first novel.








Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @MichaelHaspil


Interview with David Demchuk, author of The Bone Mother


Please welcome David Demchuk to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Bone Mother was published on July 18th by ChiZine Publications.



Interview with David Demchuk, author of The Bone Mother




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

David Demchuk:  I always had a vivid imagination and loved words and storytelling from when I could first speak (I was an exhausting child), so you could say I was a writer well before I could actually write.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

DD:  While I often have a loose structure in mind (and quite often have something of an ending to aim for), I tend to be a pantser for the first third of any given project, and then more of a hybrid after that.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

DD:  Overcoming crippling self-doubt and maintaining discipline and momentum. There's really no other way to say it. As I reach various milestones in a project (fairly predictable milestones at that), my confidence begins to waver and various insecurities creep in and then the second-guessing begins. By then I'm in the thick of it with no clear path through and I find myself wondering if I should go back keep going or tear back or give up entirely. It's at times like that that you have to turn a cold clear eye on the work and then, more often than not, just push through till you can get a better perspective. But it's tough. Every story I start, I feel like I've completely forgotten how to write and have to learn all over again. But after many years I've come to recognize it for what it is, and remember that there is no formula or recipe, there are no rules, you just have to write.



TQYou have been writing for theater, film, television, radio and other media for over 3 decades. How does this affect your novel writing?

DD:  Well, I have the benefit of years of experience--which hopefully translates into a certain level of craft, an understanding of structure and conflict, a respect for the values and characteristics of each medium I've written for, an awareness of the needs of the audience whether it's one person or one thousand. I have a certain level of discipline and tenacity, or flat-out stubbornness. And I'm old now, so publishers and producers and directors and editors are more inclined to trust me and let me have my way. Conversely, I'm more inclined to trust them and to let them into my process so we can support each other with our strengths.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

DD:  In general, I'm still heavily influenced by books I read as a child and stories that were read to me, as well as the movies and television and music that I grew up on. My mother read to my brother and me from very early on, and I was a precocious and voracious reader throughout my childhood and teenage years. For specific projects, I am usually inspired by something I read in the news or overhear in conversation or a question or issue that comes up in my life that I can only work through by writing about it, creating a mental and emotional process where I can look at the question from different perspectives and the conflicts created between them.

The Bone Mother is a bit of an exception in that I started it almost arbitrarily. I decided I would start the year (in this case 2015) with a new project and that I would find some photographs in the public domain to use as prompts--each one would be a different character, and in adding them all together I would tell a larger story and create a larger world for them. I was very lucky to find the archive of Romanian wartime photographer Costica Acsinte. His work was very much the impetus for the stories that make up the novel.



TQDescribe The Bone Mother in 140 characters or less.

DD:  The last mythical creatures of Eastern Europe tell their stories and face their destines as they await a war that may eradicate them forever



TQTell us something about The Bone Mother that is not found in the book description.

DD: Interspersed through the book are four longer contemporary pieces, set in North America, told by the children and grandchildren of those few creatures who survived. Some of them know their heritage, some do not. They are, in a way, part of a supernatural diaspora.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Bone Mother? What appeals to you about writing horror and why did you focus on Eastern European mythical creatures?

DD:  As I mentioned earlier, the Acsinte photographs were the spark for the book. What they did, I think, was unlock a long-forgotten knowledge of and interest in the stories I heard and read about when I was a child, about the enigmatic forest witch Baba Yaga (who of course is The Bone Mother of the title) and creatures like the strigoi and the rusalka. Some of the classic monsters of horror--the vampire and the werewolf in particular--have their roots in these legends.

I've long been a huge horror fan (in short fiction and novels, in film, television and video games), but had not had many opportunities to actually write in the genre. As I started the book, I realized that I was writing a series of love letters to the stories and characters that scared and delighted me as a young reader.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Bone Mother?

DD:  I drew a lot from my own knowledge of Ukrainian culture and from life in small towns and on farms--I'm a prairie boy after all--but I did need to research some of the more obscure Eastern European legends, as well as what happened in Ukraine and Romania before and during the war. Many of the true stories are more frightening than anything that I could make up.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Bone Mother.

DD:  The cover artist is the award-winning Erik Mohr, who is responsible for almost all of the covers for ChiZine Publications. His amazing covers are one of the reasons why I first approached ChiZine. They're just such beautiful books. And while it's not an image specific to any one story, I would say that his illustration is a superb evocation of The Bone Mother herself.



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

DD:  One section is about a young boy, Andreas, who visits a haunted house on a dare and finds a reflection of himself. This piece tumbled out in one evening of writing, it was like transcribing a horrible dream. His voice came out perfectly. I think it was one of two pieces that never changed from the very first draft.

The hardest was a character named Gregor, the narrator of one of the contemporary pieces. As I reached his section, I had a crisis of faith around the intensity of the horror in the book. (In the end I needn't have worried.) As a result, I decided to write a character who would frighten me personally. Unfortunately I succeeded, and I ended up gritting my teeth, having violent nightmares, and just generally dreading every moment I sat at the keyboard. He left a nasty mark on me that took a while to get over. I promptly wrote a love story as a kind of antidote, and that piece can be found near the end of the book.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Bone Mother?

DD:  In dark times, people turn to dark stories for affirmation, for catharsis and for illumination. I think the best works of horror are those that speak both to the cultural anxieties of their time and to the ageless fears that we all carry. Much of The Bone Mother is centred on the effects of war on those who have the least power to fight, particularly on women and children. The fairytales and folklore that are the basis of The Bone Mother often focus on mothers and children--mothers who reject their children or who try to destroy them, mothers who try to save their children or who sacrifice themselves so their children may live, surrogate mothers who take in children that others have cast out or left behind. The book looks at that within the context of war in order to grapple with the choices that desperate people make in desperate situations. I also gave special attention to gay and lesbian characters and to characters who we would now consider to be transgender, as these voices and stories, particularly in historical settings, continue to be underheard and underappreciated.



TQWhich question about The Bone Mother do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

DD:  "What scares you personally?" Everything scares me, actually--I'm a catalogue of phobias: heights, water, enclosed spaces, crowds, spiders, interviews ;) The one thing that doesn't scare me is snakes--I have always loved them (but I could never have one as a pet because I can't handle their eating habits).



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Bone Mother.

DD:  "Knitting is a good way to pass the time when you're waiting for something to die."

"But the Bone Mother is a wicked witch who eats naughty children!" I cried.
"Good children do taste better," she said wistfully, "but there are so few of them. If you can be satisfied with naughty children, you will always have food on the table. They are never in short supply"



TQWhat's next?

DD:  I will be at Readercon and Necon in the month of July, and I have some other readings and book launches scheduled between now and November. I'm expecting to start a new book in the fall--but that's as much as I'll say for now.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

DD:  Thank you very much for inviting me!





The Bone Mother
ChiZine Publications, July 18, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

Interview with David Demchuk, author of The Bone Mother
Three neighboring villages on the Ukrainian/Romanian border are the final refuge for the last of the mythical creatures of Eastern Europe. Now, on the eve of the war that may eradicate their kind—and with the ruthless Night Police descending upon their sanctuary—they tell their stories and confront their destinies.

Eerie and unsettling like the best fairy tales, these incisor-sharp portraits of ghosts, witches, sirens, and seers—and the mortals who live at their side and in their thrall—will chill your marrow and tear at your heart.





About David

Interview with David Demchuk, author of The Bone Mother
David Demchuk was born and raised in Winnipeg and now lives in Toronto. He has been writing for theatre, film, television, radio, and other media for more than thirty years. His publications include the short-fiction cycle Seven Dreams, and the Lewis Carroll adaptation Alice in Cyberspace, and appearances in the anthologies Making, Out!, Outspoken, and Canadian Brash. His reviews, essays, interviews, and columns have appeared in such magazines as Toronto Life, Xtra, What! Magazine, and Prairie Fire, as well as the Toronto Star. Most recently, he has been a contributing writer for the digital magazine Torontoist. The Bone Mother is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @david_demchuk  ~  Facebook

Interview with Linnea Hartsuyker, author of The Half-Drowned King2017 Debut Author Challenge - August DebutsInterview with Christopher Brown, author of Tropic of KansasInterview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the DaughtersInterview with Lee Markham, author of The TruantsInterview with Vivian Shaw, author of Strange PracticeInterview with Leena Likitalo, author of The Five Daughters of the MoonGuest Blog by Linnea Hartsuyker - Some of my favorite Genre-Bending Historical Fantasy NovelsInterview with Michael F. Haspil, author of Graveyard ShiftInterview with David Demchuk, author of The Bone Mother

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