The Qwillery | category: 2018 DAC Interview | (page 2 of 6)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Sam Hawke, author of City of Lies

Please welcome Sam Hawke to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. City of Lies was published on July 3rd by Tor Books.

Interview with Sam Hawke, author of City of Lies

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Sam:  There is a photograph of me (aged 4ish) in my parents' photo album, with a picture I painted and the accompanying story written down by my preschool teacher. My face is dark with rage because she transcribed the story incorrectly ("Then I had an idea, and it worked!" is written as "Then I had an indeed, and it worked!"). I must have known then that I couldn't trust anyone else to relay my apparent genius and I would have to do it myself. Hehe.

By age 6 I had graduated to stapling piles of paper together and writing chapter titles and the first sentence of each on each page, because by then I had figured out there was such thing as a novelist, and I wanted to be one (my follow-through was a bit poor though).

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sam:  I work very well to a plot if I have one, but they take me a lot of time and pain and so sometimes I have to plough ahead without one. City of Lies was very well plotted in advance. The sequel I'm figuring out as I go along, madly trying to stay one step ahead of myself.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sam:  First drafting, getting the words on screen in the first place, will always be my hurdle. I love revising but I find it very hard to just switch off the critical part of my brain and embrace the creative so first drafting is a laborious process. I live in desperate admiration of writers who can just spew out first drafts and then go back and fix them.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sam:  Really good writing, and occasionally really bad writing - the former because I want to share stories that make me feel things the way good writers do, the latter because I think I can do better! (I'm sure one day I'm going to be someone else's example of a bad writer that they find inspiring, and that's OK. Gotta stay useful.)

TQDescribe City of Lies using only 5 words.

Sam:  Poison, treachery, city under siege.

TQTell us something about City of Lies that is not found in the book description.

Sam:  Oooh, tricky. Well, it's not on the back cover but the main large-scale conflict in City of Lies is about cultural divides, and the consequences when cultures forget their roots. Some long past decisions come back to bite everyone in the arse, basically.

TQWhat inspired you to write City of Lies? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Sam:  I love writing fantasy. I can't really imagine writing anything else. There's just something transportive about working outside our own reality. Basically I like having the freedom to work outside what we think we know about the world in order to explore what we do know about it. Also, I prefer making stuff up to researching, so secondary worlds are a natural fit for my lazy self.

City of Lies was kind of my love letter to the two kinds of books I like reading the best - secondary world fantasy, and closed room mysteries. I wanted to write something that gave me the kind of ratcheting tension of a good mystery/crime novel, but which was also in my preferred setting.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for City of Lies?

Sam:  Not a lot, honestly, other than a fair bit of reading about poisons and supertasting. I'll steal this expression from my friend Rob and say I like to 'research like a ninja', which is to say that I'm not the type of person who spends a lot of time doing background research and detailed worldbuilding before I start writing, but rather just look things up as I go. My favourite system is to stick stuff in square brackets that says something like '[check if you call the railing on a ship a railing or if it has some special name]' or '[check if this is physically possible??] which I leave for Future Sam to handle.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for City of Lies.

Sam:  The Tor cover is a beautiful hand drawn picture by Greg Ruth of a hand holding a knife, and a city reflected in the blade. It is stunning and I love it so much I bought the original graphite art off Greg for my wall. It's not depicting something specific about the book so much as a flavour - I think looking at it you get a sense of danger and mystery and treachery, and a glimpse at what the city looks like.

TQIn City of Lies who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Sam:  I found the main characters - the two POV characters and the two main secondary characters - the easiest to write because I knew them so well, I knew what they wanted and what they were afraid of, and how they would react to a situation (Well, when I say easiest, this is a relative term, heh).

The tertiary characters were probably the hardest because I needed to give them all distinct voices, personalities and motivations, but I had so little page space to do it in.

TQDoes City of Lies touch on any social issues?

Sam:  I mean, all books have social issues, don't they, as long as they're about people? But yeah, City of Lies touches on classism, the concentration of wealth in cities, how dominant cultures interact with non-dominant cultures, xenophobia, and the ways that societies under external pressures can turn on themselves.

It's not an issue in the book, just a fact of how the society is structured, but gender politics are a completely different beast in this world. There's no strict assumptions about what roles and professions are available to either gender and no concept of marriage (families are defined by blood relationships, not romantic ones). I suspect some readers may regard the basic premise of women being allowed and expected to contribute to their families in the same way as men as a social issue even though it's simply a background fact of the worldbuilding.

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


Q: How can I order 1000 copies of your fine publication for all my friends and family?
A: Why, thank you for asking, it's available at all good bookstores, or anywhere online that sells good books!

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

Sam:  Most of my favourite bits are spoilery but this one's from the first chapter. A bit of a shameless self-insert but I've seen a number of people quoting it so I'll assume it resonates with anyone who's ever been on the way home after a long trip and had something delay them further when they just want a cuppa:

I dodged a stray blow in my direction and, as the man launched himself heavily at Tain again, his drunken focus on this new target of his rage, I chopped into his stomach as hard as I could with the side of my hand. "I just want a cup of tea," I told him bitterly.

TQWhat's next?

Sam:  Busy finishing off the sequel, Hollow Empire, and then no doubt I'll be very focussed on editing that for the next while. Then it's largely up to my publisher - if they would like more books in this world, I'll launch into a third one. If not,

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sam:  Thanks so much for having me!

City of Lies
The Poison Wars 1
Tor Books, July 3, 2018
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 560 pages

Interview with Sam Hawke, author of City of Lies
Poison. Treachery. Ancient spirits. Sieges. The Poison Wars begin now, with City of Lies, a fabulous epic fantasy debut by Sam Hawke

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me...

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he's a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising...and angry.

About Sam

Interview with Sam Hawke, author of City of Lies
Sam Hawke has wanted to write books since realising as a child that they didn’t just breed between themselves in libraries. Having contemplated careers as varied as engineer, tax accountant and zookeeper Sam eventually settled on the law. After marrying her jujitsu training partner and travelling to as many countries as possible, Sam now resides in Canberra, Australia raising two small ninjas and two idiot dogs. City of Lies is her debut novel.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @samhawkewrites  ~  Instagram

Interview with Lauren C. Teffeau, author of Implanted

Please welcome Lauren C. Teffeau to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Implanted was published on August 7th by Angry Robot.

Interview with Lauren C. Teffeau, author of Implanted

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

LCT:  A horrible fantasy novel in my early teens. It was full of wish fulfillment and the worldbuilding was illogical at best, nonexistent at worst. I’m happy to say I’ve improved dramatically since then.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

LCT:  I’m a plotter, though how strict I am depends on the project. I want to ensure even when I have the entire story worked out in my head that there is some space for the unexpected, for the story elements to breathe, and in some instances surprise me.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

LCT:  In the past year, I’d say it’s been the difficulty in tuning out the noise of the larger world. I have lots of projects I’d like to work on or revisit, but it’s been harder than usual for me to quiet my mind to focus for long periods.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

LCT:  I took a screenwriting class in college. I was a bit of a film buff and wanted to see how things worked on the other side of the camera, so to speak. The emphasis on structure, dialogue, and action have been extremely formative and have provided the backbone to just about everything I’ve done since.

TQDescribe Implanted using only 5 words.

LCT:  Cyberpunk, adventure, gadgetry, couriers, and communication

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

LCT:  There’s a romantic subplot that I’m rather proud of.

TQWhat inspired you to write Implanted? What appeals to you about writing Cyberpunk?

LCT:  I’ve always enjoyed cyberpunk as a genre, but while those stories made me think, they didn’t necessarily make me feel welcome. I wanted to write something that wasn’t as emotionally sterile as other entries in the cyberpunk genre but still present an interesting examination of technology and where it’s taking us.

TQWhat is Cyberpunk and in your opinion what elements are essential to a Cyberpunk story?

LCT:  Cool tech, some sort of mystery (often originating in the corporate or government sectors of society), and some implicit or explicit commentary on technology and humanity’s relationship to it.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Implanted?

LCT:  Lots in bits and pieces over the years. I researched art nouveau and sustainability practices to get a better handle on the architecture of my domed city. I took a look at cybersecurity practices. I also included a lot of worldbuilding assumptions that can be mapped back to my social science background in information science, data curation, and mass communication as a graduate student and later on as a university researcher. I also never turn down the opportunity to consume the latest espionage thriller, no matter what the medium.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Implanted.

LCT:  The cover was created in consultation with Angry Robot’s Marc Gascoigne and the rest of the graphics team at Argh! Nottingham. I think cyberpunk as a genre is particularly hard to represent well on covers given the abstract nature of the concepts. In the case of Implanted, we wanted something captivating and landed on the human eye (that hopefully readers can’t stop looking at) and hint at some of the gadgetry you’ll find in the book thanks to the eye’s digital overlay. Combined with a bold and compelling title font, I hope it not only signals the cyberpunk genre to readers but that it's an exciting read as well.

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

LCT:  My main character Emery was easily the hardest. She valiantly fought me over the course of successive drafts. Sometimes I had trouble uncovering her motivations or pinning down her voice, but I eventually brought her to heel. I am the author after all. One of the easiest and (most enjoyable) character to write was Emery’s handler Tahir. He seems like he’s bit stuck-up and by-the-book but underneath his prickly exterior, he's a big softy.

TQDoes Implanted touch on any social issues?

LCT:  Besides technology and sustainability, I also delve quite a bit into inequality. Not simply in terms of who has money and who doesn’t, but what that money can buy—in particular neural implants and access to the network they're connected to that dictate just about everything in the domed city.

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

LCT:  Why blood as a data transmission vehicle? Well, for starters, recent research shows that tons of information can be encoded in DNA (frex: So it seemed like using blood could be a practical solution in a world where information networks can’t be trusted. It was also a way to inject something fundamentally human into a high-tech future.

TQGive us your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Implanted.


Rik simply lets the silence build, the connection between us alive with feeling. Synching can be surprisingly intimate, depending on how a user customizes their implant settings. The length of delay between thought and message. Whether or not nonverbals should be broadcasted. The priority of the interaction over other tasks and contacts. We’ve become so attuned to one another over the years, now our connection practically vibrates with what’s left unsaid. My doubts, his certainty, yes, but also a desire for more – a strange sort of friction as we run up against the limitations of our current configuration, like a snail that’s outgrown its shell.

TQWhat's next?

LCT:  I’m hard at work on a few sekrit projects, which may or may not include a sequel to Implanted. My website is the best way to stay up-to-date with what’s going on with me.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

LCT:  It was my pleasure!

Angry Robot, August 7, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Lauren C. Teffeau, author of Implanted
The data stored in her blood can save a city on the brink… or destroy it, in this gripping cyberpunk thriller

When college student Emery Driscoll is blackmailed into being a courier for a clandestine organisation, she’s cut off from the neural implant community which binds the domed city of New Worth together. Her new masters exploit her rare condition which allows her to carry encoded data in her blood, and train her to transport secrets throughout the troubled city. New Worth is on the brink of Emergence – freedom from the dome – but not everyone wants to leave. Then a data drop goes bad, and Emery is caught between factions: those who want her blood, and those who just want her dead.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Under the Dome | Blood Courier | Disconnected | Bright Future ]

About Lauren

Interview with Lauren C. Teffeau, author of Implanted
Photo courtesy of Kim Jew
Photography Studios
Lauren C. Teffeau lives and dreams in the southwestern United States. When she was younger, she poked around in the back of wardrobes, tried to walk through mirrors, and always kept an eye out for secret passages, fairy rings, and messages from aliens. Now, she writes to cope with her ordinary existence. Implanted is her first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @teffeau

Interview with Jay Schiffman, author of Game of the Gods

Please welcome Jay Schiffman to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Game of the Gods was published on July 10th by Tor Books.

Interview with Jay Schiffman, author of Game of the Gods

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Jay:  It was a fourth-grade poem about “progress.” I decided to write about farms and cities. I have it memorized, so here it goes:

Everything’s always moving.
There’s no time to stop.
No bench to sit on.
No one to grow crop.

Not a field, nor a meadow.
Not a tractor, just a car.
Everything’s always moving.
But we’re not going too far.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jay:  83.67% pantser, 10.91% plotter, 5.42% unknown.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jay:  In terms of the logistics of writing, time and place are important to me. I can be very finicky about the setting. Generally speaking, I like to write in the morning with a cup of coffee at my desk. I’m a creature of habit, so if you make me start writing in the afternoon, coming down from a caffeine high, sitting uncomfortably in a noisy restaurant, I probably won’t be productive.

In terms of the mechanics of writing, the biggest challenge is writing about things we all do every day. I have the literary luxury of rarely having to write a lot about characters washing their faces or eating toast, but sometimes it comes up even in a sci-fi action adventure like mine. The key is to avoid being cliché, while also conveying the truisms that underlie the most mundane aspects of life.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jay:  I read a lot of science fiction, see a lot of science fiction movies, and watch a lot of science fiction television. So, obviously whatever is going on in science fiction, I’m influenced by it. But I am also a huge politics junkie. I am passionate about the current state of American politics—particularly the lack of truth, fact-based reasoning, and meaningful political discourse—and this has greatly influenced Game of the Gods. But even more importantly, it is strongly impacting what I want to write about next.

TQDescribe Game of the Gods with only 5 words.

JayA man fights for his family. (Sorry, six words, but I’m not great at math and writing is all about breaking rules).

TQTell us something about Game of the Gods that is not found in the book description.

JayGame of the Gods is a story about a flawed hero, Max Cone. His flaws are many, but one of his more interesting flaws is that he acts as though he’s completely detached, completely above it all. Max claims he abhors all of the trappings of power, including awards and titles, yet he wraps himself in them. Max’s identity is built on a set of rigid formalities—he’s a revered military Commander, an esteemed Judge, a leader who everyone believes is a man of great character. He is boxed-in not just by what others think, but what he believes they need him to be. But when his family is taken from him, these layers of detachment, duty, and convention slowly start to peel away and he begins to understand his true self.

TQWhat inspired you to write Game of the Gods? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Jay:  I grew up loving Kurt Vonnegut and reading everything he ever wrote. I also read all the great dystopian novelists—Huxley, Bradbury, Orwell to name a few. I didn’t necessarily start out writing Game of the Gods thinking it would be science fiction. But early on in the process, I realized I was writing in this rich tradition, and I came to understand that science fiction is the perfect vehicle for telling an action adventure that touches on big political issues. I mostly wanted to entertain people with a fast-moving plot with lots of twists and turns and political intrigue. Clearly, politics and the idea of the hero against the world were huge influences for me. But at the same time, I grew up reading science fiction novels and watching Steven Spielberg movies that were just fun. The “fun” part of sci-fi was a huge influence as well.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Game of the Gods?

Jay:  One of the characters in my novel is a mathematical genius. I am not. Truth be told, calculus was an enormous struggle for me, and although my graduate studies required me to take statistics, game theory, and some calculus, I remembered very little of it. So, I wanted to make sure I understood the mathematical concepts that were addressed in the book—irrational numbers, pi, infinite numbers, etc. This same character also explains concepts relating to time and space, and I similarly had to do research on the scientific underpinning of those concepts. I didn’t read Einstein’s Theory of Relativity—it was more “Space & Time for Dummies”—but it did require me to hurt my brain a little.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Game of the Gods.

Jay:  The cover is a gloved hand reaching up to the heavens. It is an insignia that the leader of the Nation of Yerusalom, the Holy Father, used. It represents the idea of humankind reaching for the heavens.

TQIn Game of the Gods who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jay:  Two of the most important characters in the book are the Holy Father, the religious and political leader of the Nation of Yerusalom, and Max Cone, a former military commander and High Judge in the Federacy. The Holy Father was the easiest to write while Max, the narrator and central figure in the story, was the hardest.

The Holy Father is a conniving, manipulative character whose intentions are hard to discern. But he articulates a clear and consistent view of the world. Although I purposefully wanted his motivations to be unclear to the reader, I also wanted him to speak with a singularly coherent and uniform voice. It was easy to write this character, because he was extremely disciplined and guarded in what he said to others.

To the contrary, Max, who narrates in the first person, freely shares his everchanging motivations with the reader. His views of the world are in flux and this presented a challenge for me. I wanted Max’s internal confusion and the instability in his beliefs to come through to the reader. This was at times challenging because I needed to balance Max’s core qualities with how he was adapting to new circumstances.

TQDoes Game of the Gods touch on any social issues?

JayGame of the Gods touches on a number of political and social issues, but one that I hope the reader thinks deeply about is the importance of family in comparison to the importance of religion, political affiliation, and other larger transcendent relationships. This theme permeates the book, and many of the characters have strong views on the role of family versus the role of larger institutions like nations or religions. There is no right answer to this polemic, but it’s one that I hope the reader considers.

TQWhich question about Game of the Gods do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: Do you wish you did something different in terms of how you wrote Game of the Gods?

A: I am not the kind of person to generally look backwards, but I wish I had read Margaret Atwood’s 2017 introduction to The Handmaid’s Tale before I started writing Game of the Gods. I only read this new introduction recently. In it, Atwood describes a set of rules she created to guide her through the writing process. I wish I had made a similar set of rules. I have already started drafting a set of rules like this and will use it for my next novel.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Game of the Gods.


“Trust comes slowly to most—especially those who have perfected the art of judgment.”
                                --The Holy Father to Judge Max Cone

“To win the Game of the Gods, men only need to know one thing. Gods need men more than men need gods.”
                                --Anther Vrig, Chancellor, National Freedom Force

TQWhat's next?

Jay:  I have a well-developed sequel in my mind, but at the same time, I am very interested on working on a new idea I have about gangs, religion, and politics in near future America. I am truly torn about which to write next, but I’m sure I will decide soon.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Game of the Gods
Tor Books, July 10, 2018
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Jay Schiffman, author of Game of the Gods
"The dystopian novel is alive and well in the blisteringly effective Game of the Gods. Jay Schiffman breathes life into a moribund genre and ends up crafting a sly, shrewd and stunning take on a darkly depraved future that is every bit the equal of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and the Divergent series. Schiffman's striking vision serves up a cloud-riddled tomorrow featuring just enough silver linings to provide hope to an otherwise bleak landscape. A must read for fans of classics like Judge Dredd and Doc Savage." --Jon Land, USA Today bestselling author of the Caitlin Strong series

Jay Schiffman's Game of the Gods is a debut sci-fi/fantasy thriller of political intrigue and Speilberg-worthy action sequences in the vein of Pierce Brown's Red Rising.

Max Cone wants to be an ordinary citizen of the Federacy and leave war and politics behind. He wants the leaders of the world to leave him alone. But he’s too good a military commander, and too powerful a judge, to be left alone. War breaks out, and Max becomes the ultimate prize for the nation that can convince him to fight again.

When one leader gives the Judge a powerful device that predicts the future, the Judge doesn’t want to believe its chilling prophecy: The world will soon end, and he’s to blame. But bad things start to happen. His wife and children are taken. His friends are falsely imprisoned. His closest allies are killed. Worst of all, the world descends into a cataclysmic global war.

In order to find his family, free his friends, and save the world, the Judge must become a lethal killer willing to destroy anyone who stands in his way. He leads a ragtag band of warriors—a 13-year old girl with special powers, a mathematical genius, a religious zealot blinded by faith, and a former revolutionary turned drug addict. Together, they are the only hope of saving the world.

About Jay

Interview with Jay Schiffman, author of Game of the Gods
Photo by Abbie Sophis
Jay grew up in an unremarkable New York City suburb playing basketball, watching Steven Spielberg movies, and reading everything that Kurt Vonnegut ever wrote. As a kid, it was obvious what Jay’s two main passions were—writing and arguing. So, eventually, he would become a lawyer.

Jay went to the University of Michigan where he studied English and Political Science. After that, Jay received a law degree and Ph.D. in Political Science from New York University. He wrote his dissertation on competing theories of tolerance in American law and politics. He taught at NYU, published academic papers, and was a Bradley Fellow in American Government. Jay found the academic life a little too academic and so he committed himself to practicing law.

As an attorney, Jay worked on a wide variety of issues. He started as a Law Clerk to a United States Judge before joining his first firm. As a practicing attorney, Jay worked on civil rights, children’s issues, commercial litigation, constitutional law, criminal law, and federal death penalty cases. Towards the end of his legal career, he spent a lot of time visiting prisoners in detention centers. Jay worked many hours with individuals accused of murder and awaiting death penalty trials. In the confined spaces of these detention centers, he learned two important things—there’s a lot of humanity in people who do inhumane things and never take for granted the fact that you get to leave.

When his first daughter was born, Jay decided to leave law and start his first business, an educational learning company for children. A few years later, he sold that company to a large private equity firm. Jay had caught the entrepreneurial bug. Since founding his first company, Jay has been involved in a number of successful businesses in the digital, educational, technology, and consumer goods spaces.

Website  ~  Twitter @JaySchiffman  ~  Facebook

Interview with Rich Larson, author of Annex

Please welcome Rich Larson to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Annex was published on July 24th by Orbit.

Interview with Rich Larson, author of Annex

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Rich:  Glad to be here. Before I could actually read or write, I would sometimes get my older sisters to transcribe the stories I liked to tell them. The earliest one I can remember involved pyramids, hot air balloons, sword fights, gun fights, King Tut and Spider-Man.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Rich:  I write by the seat of my pants, which is fine for short stories but potentially disastrous for novels.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rich:  I think the most challenging thing for me is actually sitting down and getting the words out. It's very easy to procrastinate without a boss or an office. I'm procrastinating right now, actually, by answering these interview questions.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Rich:  Lots of stuff. A few authors include Kenneth Oppel, Megan Whalen Turner, K.A. Applegate and William Nicholson. A few specific works include Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and Feed by M.T. Anderson.

TQDescribe Annex with only 5 words.

Rich:  Kids fighting aliens -- darker Animorphs.

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

Rich:  It's actually pretty good.

TQWhat inspired you to write Annex? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Rich:  The aesthetic of the ruined city and floating biomechanical pods was something that came to me while I was high around Christmas time several years ago. The character of Violet was from an old unfinished post-apocalyptic short story with parasitic zombies. Those two elements both went into a short story called "Mother Mother," which never saw publication and eventually spun out into Annex, which is more or less a love letter to the books I loved as a kid, including Animorphs, The Thief Lord, Shade's Children, Coraline and A Series of Unfortunate Events.

I write science fiction because it lets me be extremely creative and because I've always liked wondering about the future. I feel like it can do anything literary fiction can do, but also do it on the Moon, which is much better.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Annex?

Rich:  Not a whole lot of research was required for the setting, since it's a fictional amalgamation of a couple different cities I've lived in. For the characters, details about Violet's transition came from reading people's personal stories and anecdotes on Reddit, whereas Bo's memories of Niger were basically my own. I did have to get my dad to check my Hausa spelling.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Annex.

Rich:  Gregory Manchess did the cover, and it looks good as hell. The texture really pops in real life.

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

Rich:  I'd say Bo was easiest, because his motivation is very simple: he wants to rescue his sister. Hardest was Violet, and I already know there are some things I'll do better in the next book.

TQDoes Annex touch on any social issues?

RichAnnex touches on issues that to me are personal -- outsiderhood, family, loneliness -- but might bleed into the social as well.

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

Rich:  I wish someone would ask me to autograph it. I will. I'll totally autograph it.

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

Rich:  This is from a conversation between Violet and one of the invaders in their virtual reality:

"If you were adrift in the ocean with no home to return to, and you found the only island in that ocean that you could make into a home, what would you do?" her not-mom asked, voice grating. "If there were animals on the island, simple apes with simple tools, what would you do? Would you keep sailing and sailing until you were dead?"

Violet paused. Thought about it. "No," she said. "But when an ape bashed my head in with a rock, I'd know I had it coming."

TQWhat's next?

Rich:  I'm supposed to turn in the sequel to Annex this October -- it's going very slowly and painfully right now -- and at the end of October my debut short story collection Tomorrow Factory will be coming out from Talos Press. Before then, in terms of short stories, I'll have a near-future tragedy in Analog and a West African military cyberpunk type story in

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Rich:  Thanks for having me! If anyone is interested in finding free stories / supporting my work, drop by

The Violet Wars 1
Orbit, July 24, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Rich Larson, author of Annex
In Rich Larson’s astonishing debut Annex, two young kids are the only ones who can fight off the alien invasion.

“A thrilling and imaginative entry into the alien invasion genre with two fierce and desperate young protagonists you won’t be able to stop rooting for.”–Fonda Lee, Nebula-nominated author of Jade City

When the aliens invade, all seems lost. The world as they know it is destroyed. Their friends are kidnapped. Their families are changed.

But with no adults left to run things, young trans-girl Violet and her new friend Bo realize that they are free to do whatever they want to to do and be whoever they want to be.

Except the invaders won’t leave them alone for long…

This thrilling debut by one of the most acclaimed short form writers in science fiction tells the story of two young outsiders who must find a way to fight back against the aliens who have taken over their city.

About Rich

Rich Larson was born in Galmi, Niger, has studied in Rhode Island and worked in the south of Spain, and now lives in Ottawa, Canada. Since he began writing in 2011, he’s sold over a hundred stories, the majority of them speculative fiction published in magazines like Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, F&SF, Lightspeed, and His work appears in numerous Year’s Best anthologies and has been translated into Chinese, Vietnamese, Polish, French and Italian.

Annex, his debut novel and first book of The Violet Wars trilogy, comes out in July 2018 from Orbit Books. Tomorrow Factory, his debut collection, follows in October 2018 from Talos Press. Besides writing, he enjoys travelling, learning languages, playing soccer, watching basketball, shooting pool, and dancing salsa and kizomba.


Coming in October

The Tomorrow Factory: Collected Fiction
Talos, October 16, 2018
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Rich Larson, author of Annex
Twenty-three stories from one of speculative fiction’s up-and-coming stars, Pushcart and Journey Prize-nominated author Rich Larson.

Welcome to the Tomorrow Factory.

On your left, post-human hedonists on a distant space station bring diseases back in fashion, two scavengers find a super-powered parasite under the waves of Sunk Seattle, and a terminally-ill chemist orchestrates an asteroid prison break.

On your right, an alien optometrist spins illusions for irradiated survivors of the apocalypse, a high-tech grifter meets his match in near-future Thailand, and two teens use a blackmarket personality mod to get into the year’s wickedest, wildest party.

This collection of published and original fiction by award-winning writer Rich Larson will bring you from a Bujumbura cyberpunk junkyard to the icy depths of Europa, from the slick streets of future-noir Chicago to a tropical island of sapient robots. You'll explore a mysterious ghost ship in deep space, meet an android learning to dream, and fend off predatory alien fungi on a combat mission gone wrong.

Twenty-three futures, ranging from grimy cyberpunk to far-flung space opera, are waiting to blow you away.

So step inside the Tomorrow Factory, and mind your head.

Interview with Michael Mammay, author of Planetside

Please welcome Michael Mammay to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Planetside is published on July 31st by Harper Voyager.

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

Interview with Michael Mammay, author of Planetside

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Michael:  I wrote some in college. I had a couple of funny essays published in The Pointer, at West Point. While I’ve known that I wanted to write fiction since I was about 18 or 19, I never really started to do it seriously until much later in life.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Michael:  I definitely started out as a pantser, and probably still am, though I do plot certain elements. So maybe a hybrid? I tend to write to events. So I might pants the first act, but I have a pretty good idea what the end of that act looks like. Then I’ll write to the midpoint. So I kind of plot out what each quarter of the book looks like. But inside of scenes, I’m definitely a pantser. Half the time I get characters together, they do something I don’t plan for them to do. It keeps things interesting.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  Not immediately hating what I’ve written. It took me a long time to believe that Planetside is good. Even past the point where I knew it was going to be published, which is of course ridiculous. So when I write new stuff--and at the time I write it, it’s not as good--I hate it. Depending on the day, I either hate it a little, or I hate it a lot. I rely a lot on other people to help me know what is good and what needs work. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist, because I don’t obsess over it. It’s more like a thing where it only affects me when I think about it. But yeah, I’m highly critical of my own work.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Michael:  I read a lot. While I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy, I also teach literature, so I’m pretty well read in the classics, too. For Planetside, the two biggest influences weren’t sci-fi at all. The thing I was reading that got me to start writing Planetside was reading Gone Girl. I’d been writing third person, and was reading GG and it has this amazing first person voice that just punches you in the face from the first chapter. I knew immediately that that’s how I needed to write Planetside. I sat down that night and banged out a chapter which I sent to a few readers. That fast…just sent them a draft. Their reaction to it was all the motivation I needed. There’s also a lot of Heart of Darkness influence in it.

TQDescribe Planetside using only 5 words.

Michael:  NCIS in space combat zone

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

Michael:  It’s actually got some pretty funny parts. It’s not a comedy by any means, but Carl Butler, the main character, doesn’t take himself too seriously, even when the situation around him might be pretty dire. He can be a sarcastic bastard.

TQWhat inspired you to write Planetside? What appeals to you about writing Military SF?

Michael:  I did three year-long tours in Iraq, and another year in Afghanistan, so writing Military SF comes pretty natural to me because the characters are real. None of them are based on real people, but for people who have served in combat, they’re going to recognize a lot of these people. As far as the book itself, the ideas mostly came from my time in Afghanistan. I didn’t do a front line job there, so not the combat part of the book. More the politics and the command structure, and how those people work with each other (real life was nowhere near as dysfunctional as it is in the book!)

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Planetside?

Michael:  I spent a long time in the army. Seriously, I’m pretty light on the science in this book, so I didn’t do a ton of research. I did research stars, and what type would support life. Recently I went to a conference called Launchpad (sponsored by SFWA) and learned a ton of science stuff, so I think there will be more in later books.

TQHow does the military in Planetside differ (or not) from your own experiences with the U.S. Army?

Michael:  The thing that really comes from my time in the army is the relationships between the characters. That’s pretty real. Officers are in charge and enlisted follow orders from them, but it’s more subtle than that. There’s not an undying loyalty to a cause or unwavering support. They know who the boss is, and they treat him with respect, but it’s a two-way street. Good leaders also give respect, and the people they lead feel it, and do better because of it. The other thing that I think comes across, I hope, is I tried to write how it feels to be in a situation where bad things are happening. What it feels like when something explodes. In the combat scenes, I wanted to put the reader as close to it as I could.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Planetside.

Michael:  I love my cover. Sebastien Hue did the art, and I think it’s just beautiful. It kind of provides a big picture of the setting, though a part you never seen in the novel. Planetside is set on a space station orbiting a planet, with a war going on down below. The cover shows part of the station and a distant view of the planet, both of which, in the book, you see from closer up. Butler is inside the station and he’s down on the planet.

Only one side of the war has space technology, so if you’re on the station, you’re kind of away from the war zone. This leads to a situation where there are really two different war experiences…the support of the war, spaceside, and the shooting war, planetside. This isn’t unlike some of our current conflicts where some soldiers are in base camps and others are out on missions. That’s another aspect I wanted to capture, and I think from a larger perspective that’s something the cover shows.

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

Michael:  Butler was the easiest. He just spoke to me from day one. It’s his story, and he told it to me. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. The hardest, I think…there are two. I’m writing about Dr. Elliott in some detail for another site, so I’ll go with Lex Alenda here. Lex was hard to write because I didn’t know her role in the story when I wrote the first draft. First off, in the first draft, she was a man. When I changed her to a woman in a later draft, she got some life. She went from being just a character who Butler used to do basic errands to a three-dimensional person who had her own thoughts on things and played her own role in the greater story. She develops a lot throughout, and the relationship between her and Butler has a lot of depth. Trying to get their scene together at the end right was something I had to go back to several times…it was probably the hardest scene to get right.

TQDoes Planetside touch on any social issues?

Michael:  There are definitely some colonialism issues. Humans have basically taken over a planet with life on it because they want the resources. I don’t spend a ton of time with that, but it’s there, underlying everything. We’re not necessarily the good guys.

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

Michael:  Well my favorite question to answer is when people ask me how much of this is real, and happened to me while I was in the army. I get a real serious look on my face and say ‘All of it. It’s all true. I went to a distant planet and fought aliens.’ Seriously, though, there are a lot of twists in Planetside, so almost anything I say here is going to be a spoiler, and I don’t want to do that. I love talking about the book with people after they read it. There are always great questions.

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

Michael:  Oh man, that’s tough. I’ve been working on other books for so long now. Here’s one where Butler is describing what it feels like to come out of sedation after space travel:

I’m not sure what to compare it to, as it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done. I had one colleague compare it to finishing a twenty-kilometer run, combined with a hangover and vertigo.
   In other words, it sucks.

Another non-spoilery one that I really like is an interchange between Butler and a reporter named Karen Plazz, where she’s trying to get information from him and he’s being a bit of a dick, trying to avoid the questions. I really like these two characters together.

“So what can you tell me about the attack?” asked Plazz.
I shrugged. “Certainly nothing you don’t know.”
“But you’re in danger.”
I looked around suspiciously. “Am I?”
“You have three armed soldiers walking with you.”
I glanced over at my guards. “Yeah, but I don’t think they’re that dangerous.”
“You’re avoiding the question.”
“I really am.”

TQWhat's next?

Michael:  Planetside 2 (not it’s real name) is done and with my editor, and I expect that will come out next year. It’s the further adventures of Carl Butler, a couple years after the events of Planetside. I’m on a two book deal, so right now I’m working on a couple different projects that I want to write; developing the concepts, doing the research, and writing the pitches. Which will get written and when depends on a lot of different factors, but I’m excited about both of them.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Harper Voyager, July 31, 2018
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Michael Mammay, author of Planetside
--“PLANETSIDE is a smart and fast-paced blend of mystery and boots-in-the-dirt military SF that reads like a high-speed collision between Courage Under Fire and Heart of Darkness.” – Marko Kloos, bestselling author of the Frontline series

--“Not just for military SF fans—although military SF fans will love it—Planetside is an amazing debut novel, and I’m looking forward to what Mammay writes next.” – Tanya Huff, author of the Confederation and Peacekeeper series

--“A tough, authentic-feeling story that starts out fast and accelerates from there.” – Jack Campbell, author of Ascendant

--“Definitely the best military sci-fi debut I’ve come across in a while.” – Gavin Smith, author of Bastard Legion and Age of Scorpio

A seasoned military officer uncovers a deadly conspiracy on a distant, war-torn planet…

War heroes aren't usually called out of semi-retirement and sent to the far reaches of the galaxy for a routine investigation. So when Colonel Carl Butler answers the call from an old and powerful friend, he knows it's something big—and he's not being told the whole story. A high councilor's son has gone MIA out of Cappa Base, the space station orbiting a battle-ravaged planet. The young lieutenant had been wounded and evacuated—but there's no record of him having ever arrived at hospital command.

The colonel quickly finds Cappa Base to be a labyrinth of dead ends and sabotage: the hospital commander stonewalls him, the Special Ops leader won't come off the planet, witnesses go missing, radar data disappears, and that’s before he encounters the alien enemy. Butler has no choice but to drop down onto a hostile planet—because someone is using the war zone as a cover. The answers are there—Butler just has to make it back alive…

About Michael

Interview with Michael Mammay, author of Planetside
Photo by Lisa K. Davis
Michael Mammay is a retired army officer and a graduate of the United States Military Academy. He has a master’s degree in military history and is a veteran of Desert Storm, Somalia, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives with his family in Georgia.


Twitter @MichaelMammay

Interview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes

Please welcome Thea Lim to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. An Ocean of Minutes is published on July 10th by Touchstone.

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

Interview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Thea:  I once wrote a whole novel on my mother's Word Perfect program about an underground motorcycle club in 1993.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Thea:  A hybrid. I make a very skeletal outline, because I need to have some sense of where I'm going, but the only thing that will really let me know whether or not my plot is going to work is test-driving it -- by writing it. So I don't spend too much time drawing up a plan, because it's never long before I have to make a new one.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Thea:  The writing part. I once heard ZZ Packer say that writing is like being in marriage counselling, except with a total stranger. That sounds about right.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Thea:  Cityscapes, and trying to write about my life, and process the things that have happened -- but without it looking like I'm writing about myself in the slightest.

TQDescribe An Ocean of Minutes using only 5 words.

Thea:  LDR but 1991 to 1998. (I used an acronym and cheated.)

TQTell us something about An Ocean of Minutes that is not found in the book description.

Thea:  The whole thing is an analogy for immigration. It's been described as a dystopic novel -- and I'll take it! -- but I actually think of it as allegorical fiction. I wanted to offer a different view of our own world, rather than a future, more dire world. This world is already dire enough.

TQWhat inspired you to write An Ocean of Minutes? What appeals to you about writing a time-travel novel?

Thea:  If, for example, vampire movies are always about sex, and zombie movies are always about the economy, time travel stories are usually about fate -- trying to undo it, but failing. But my favourite time travel narratives are about time itself -- the human instinct to try to dig in our heels and make it stop, kill change, even though we know it's hopeless. (The 1998 film After Life, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- which is totally a time travel movie if you think about it -- are good examples.) It's hard these days to write something totally new, so my strategy was to try and combine two well-worn genres into something else. I wanted to write a work of migration lit (inspired by writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Maxine Hong Kingston), combined with time travel. In what way does the past feel like another country? In what way is returning to an old home like travelling through time?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for An Ocean of Minutes?

Thea:  I visited Galveston and Buffalo, two cities I love, that are like spiritual twins, on either ends of the country. Both are cities trying to outrun time (Galveston dealing with natural disaster, and Buffalo dealing with economic disaster), and both have a sense of faded history that echoes through each day. I interviewed an upholsterer (She owns Maple Leaf Furnishings in Toronto if you are looking to get a chair recovered) so that I could properly write about Polly's time working at the Hotel Galvez. And I read many first-person accounts of migrant work, many of them wrenching and sad, like El Contrato, a documentary about tomato farmers in Ontario, or this comic strip about Almaz, a domestic worker from Ethiopia who sought work in Saudi Arabia, or the book Underground America, about migrant workers to the US.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for An Ocean of Minutes.

Thea:  The cover was designed by Scott Richardson, who is a really well-known Canadian designer (who happens to be a novelist himself!), so I was very lucky to have him. I loved how he worked in the Texas horizon, and the subtle touches to indicate that the book tells the story of our world, but a slightly off-kilter variant -- the slant of the skyline, and the two mirrored shores, side by side but forever apart, like parallel timelines.

TQIn An Ocean of Minutes who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Thea:  Norberto was the easiest to write, even though he makes some terrible choices. I knew that I wanted him to offer a kind of inverted version of Polly's suffering, so I had a clear model to follow, and just his overall personality -- so gloomy and vulnerable and hopeful still -- spoke to my heart. Frank was the hardest to write. He was mysterious to the end. It wasn't until I wrote the sections where he retrieves Polly's lost furniture, and where his mother throws an anniversary party -- they were late-stage additions! -- that I really figured out who he was.

TQWhich question about An Ocean of Minutes do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: What's your favourite part of the book?

A: The second last chapter, when (very mild spoiler) Polly sees her childhood home for the first time since 1980.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from An Ocean of Minutes.


"They will have a September wedding, so their anniversary doesn't change. Their guests will blow bubbles instead of throwing rice, rice is bad for birds. They will have something of her mother's there --her bicycle or her rocking chair. In another universe, this timeline becomes actual. In their universe, the vial breaks, the virus spreads, the borders are closed. Frank gets sick."

"But what could she do? She kept laughing in the evening light, which is what people do when monstrous epiphanies surface in their minds. You cannot put life on hold to have a moment of grief, so every second, half the people in the world are split in two. This is what they mean by life goes on, and the worst is that you go along too."

TQWhat's next?

Thea:  I'll be appearing this Friday at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, with the writer Jessica Wilbanks, to celebrate the US launch of An Ocean of Minutes!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

An Ocean of Minutes
Touchstone, July 10, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes
In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Station Eleven, a sweeping literary love story about two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart.

America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan—time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded laborer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a new life and find a way to locate Frank, to discover if he is alive, and if their love has endured.

An Ocean of Minutes is a gorgeous and heartbreaking story about the endurance and complexity of human relationships and the cost of holding onto the past—and the price of letting it go.

About Thea

Interview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes
Photo by Elisha Lim, © Thea Lim
Thea Lim’s writing has appeared in publications including the Southampton Review, the Guardian, The Millions, Salon, and others. She has an MFA from the University of Houston, and she has received multiple awards and fellowships for her work, including artists’ grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.  She grew up in Singapore and now lives in Toronto with her family.

Website  ~  Twitter @thea_lim

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence

Please welcome Christopher Ruocchio to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Empire of Silence was published on July 3rd by DAW.

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Christopher:  Thank you for inviting me! It’s hard to say exactly. I began writing in second grade. My friends and I would play make believe on the playground (it started out with them all playing as Dragonball Z characters with myself as Batman—I wasn’t allowed to watch DBZ, you see). It fell to me to catalog the events of the week, and as my friends discovered football and social skills, I just kept writing. I think the first thing I ever finished was what amounted to a handwritten piece of The Legend of Zelda fanfiction with the serial numbers filed off. I did finish a novel in about the ninth grade, but being wise for a high schooler, I put it in a box in my attic and have not thought of it since.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Christopher:  A hybrid, certainly, but with more plotter than pantser. That said, Empire of Silence’s development was far more organic than its sequel. I was working on “a book” since I was about eight, and so I had all the time in the world to make things right. That book eventually became Empire, but not without about fourteen years of false starts and mistakes. For the sequel—which I have finished—I composed about 60 pages of outline, which I then proceeded to only look at with one eye. Artists must have a plan, in my opinion, and a structure, but they should always keep one eye open to inspiration, and some of the best moments in both Empire and its sequel came to me in the heat of the moment.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Christopher:  Sitting still! I tend to find excuses to stand up and move about or to get distracted cleaning my room, but I bought a standing desk recently and that’s helped curb the worst of my meandering. I’m also not very keen on the revision part of the process. Writing new material is easy, but to go back through and pull out pieces and to try and look at plot threads or character arcs distributed through the book sometimes feels like playing four-dimensional chess. That being said, Hemingway was dead on (I believe it was Hemingway) when he said that all writing is rewriting. Onerous a task though it may be, revision is the most crucial part of this enterprise, and editors are unsung heroes (or heroines, as is more often the case)!

TQYou are the Assistant Editor at Baen Books. How does being an Editor affect (or not) your own writing?

Christopher:  The most prominent effect my job’s had on my writing is on my writing time. When I wrote Empire, I was a waiter and a college student, which is a much more forgiving schedule for someone trying to write a book than any 9-5 office job. I wake up at about 6 AM each morning to write before work, and then again after. Those are long days (though much shorter days than those of factory workers, so I remain very grateful—both to my employer and the factory workers). Most of the other effects of my work with Baen have been procedural. I know how the book-publishing process works, and so I’ve been spared the plague of doubts and questions that seem to afflict many newer writers. It’s taught me the importance of being on time, and of clear and quick responses to emails (both as a writer and editor). I think I’m learning to be a better client in relation to my agents and publishers, and a better publishing employee relative to the authors I’ve had the privilege of working with.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Christopher:  Gosh, what hasn’t! The book’s been compared to Dune and The Name of the Wind, which was surreal hearing someone else say out loud. Frank Herbert certainly has been a large influence on me, and I wanted the book to start someplace familiar. The Name of the Wind comparison has more to do with the fact that they’re both first person narratives, though while I do enjoy Mr. Rothfuss’s work—he’s one of the finest prose stylists working today—his work wasn’t a factor in my choice of narrative-style. I was practically born a Star Wars fan, one of the last to experience the franchise before the prequels swept in. Stargate and the Alien films are also perennial favorites—though I never cared much for Star Trek, I will confess. Tolkien was and is absolutely foundational for me, as he was for so many. There has never been a finer writer in all of genre fiction. Being a child of the 1990s, I was also very much influenced by anime/manga. Cowboy Bebop is an all-time favorite, and Akira and Ghost in the Shell have played a role as well (though more in informing Empire of Silence’s sequel than Empire itself). I’m also a great fan of Kentaro Miura’s Berserk, which I’m rather afraid may not bode well for the well-being of my characters. Video games also played a role. Tales of Symphonia was nearly as foundational for me as some of the books I read, if not more so, as were games like Baten Kaitos and Lost Odyssey. In addition to that, I’m an ardent fan of classic literature: Elizabethan drama/poetry, the Romantics, and even Greek theater. History as well. People are quick to note the Roman influences on my worldbuilding, but there are echoes of Byzantine, Spanish, and British Imperial history in this book, as well as some Qing Dynasty China. And lastly, I was raised Roman Catholic—and while my feelings about theology are conflicted enough to fill an entire book—it would be a mistake to imagine that upbringing had no impact on my thinking.

TQDescribe Empire of Silence using only 5 words.

Christopher:  “A love-letter to classic SF.”

(Hyphenated words count as one, right?)

TQTell us something about Empire of Silence that is not found in the book description.

Christopher:  I think it’s quite funny some of them time. Make no mistake: it’s quite a serious book, but there’s enough social comedy elements in places to relieve that. Hadrian is extremely grandiose and formal, and the rest of the cast constantly needles him for it—as does Hadrian himself. I also think it has a lot of heart to it. You can lose sight of that focusing on all the larger-than-life galactic politics and the like, but I consider myself a very character-centric writer and Hadrian’s relationships with the rest of the cast—warts and all, Hadrian is far from perfect—are what I think holds the story together.

TQWhat inspired you to write Empire of Silence? What appeals to you about genre blending - Space Opera and Epic Fantasy?

Christopher:  I’ve always wanted to write. As I say, since I was eight-years-old to be a novelist has been the sum of my professional ambition. Empire simply grew up with me. There was no apple falling out of the tree moment: I just wanted to write a heroic adventure story like I enjoyed when I was a kid, but one that paid homage to the more “complex” stories I’d grown to love as a teenager. As to genre blending, I don’t think I ever thought about it. Fandom’s obsession with genre reminds me of metalheads’ insistence on their love for hyper-specific, micro-genres. The distinction between black metal and power metal, for instance, is totally opaque and arcane to outsiders, and is thereby meaningless. (It’s also so obscure that people don’t want to get into it). Genre fiction is going that way. Some readers will only read epic fantasy, but not urban fantasy, for example. On principle. My question is: How long before realize we’re on our way to creating as many genres as there are writers and give up the whole system? Stepping down off my soapbox, I had a story I wanted to tell, and that story had both fantasy and space opera elements. I thought, “Hey, it’s worked before!” and went about writing it. I hope that fans of both space opera and epic fantasy will find something to love about it!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Empire of Silence?

Christopher:  I haven’t done much by way of formal research. The truth is, I’m constantly reading something or watching something else, and if you’ll forgive me for boasting, I have an excellent memory for facts, such that I can retain at least the gist (but very often the precise wording and even the tone) of anything I hear after just one exposure. I’m very taken with all the lectures and podcast interviews available now with all sorts of experts on subjects from psychology to biology to ancient history. One has to be careful to vet one’s sources, of course, but it’s not uncommon I’ll get through two or three lectures a day as I drive and make dinner and so on. There’s a Greek Orthodox icon carver called Jonathan Pageau I’ve watched a lot of recently, for example, he discusses literary and visual symbolism in the early Christian tradition and how ideas embedded in these ancient icons still persist in popular culture today (he once compared Shrek to The Bacchae by Euripides. Yes, really). I tend to float from topic to topic as it catches my interest. I never know what might be of use and how. There’s a great channel called Invicta which covers Roman military history in exquisite detail. We live in an age of unprecedented access to educational material for even the most idiosyncratic interests, and I mean to take full advantage of the opportunity!

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Empire of Silence.

Christopher:  The US cover was done by the immensely talented Sam Weber, who did the art for the Dune Folio Edition, as well as Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and the tenth anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind. I’ve adored his work for years and feel very fortunate to have gotten to work with him. It doesn’t so much depict a moment in the novel as it does evoke the world and feel of the text. It shows my hero, Hadrian, in sort of a lordly, formal set of armor. Mr. Weber balanced the futuristic nature of the setting with the historical influences my worldbuilding draws from Imperial Rome and Victorian Britain. He’s depicted against the dark of space, with two moons to help signify that this is science fiction we’re dealing with (and because the planet Emesh, where most of the book takes place, has two moons). He stands with his sword towards the ground—an unknown hand clutching the blade, looking up as if for some word. We were slightly inspired Pollice Verso, the famous Gerome painting of the gladiator looking up at Caesar’s box for the order to spare or kill his beaten opponent.

TQIn Empire of Silence who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Christopher:  Hadrian has been easiest, far and away. Since he is our narrator, I spend more time in his head than any other character and am more familiar with him the rest of the cast. I’ve also got more space in the text to flesh him out than any other character. The most difficult character by far was Valka Onderra, a xeno-archaeologist who disagrees with Hadrian’s world view at practically every given opportunity. The two have a very antagonistic relationship in the book, which is complicated by Hadrian’s trying very hard to stay on her good side, so every scene she’s in becomes a complex mire of negotiating complex emotions and verbal combat. I think the end result was worth the headache, however. Several early readers seem to really like her!

TQWhich question about Empire of Silence do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

ChristopherIt seems like a lot of your writing relies on reusing old ideas/tropes. Why the homages? Shouldn’t SF/F always be something new?

This thread’s come up in a few of the early reviews, and it’s been bothering me because, yes, I do lay on the homages very heavy at the beginning of this novel. As I say, I wanted the book to start out somewhere familiar, to give audiences a window into the kind of story I’m telling, if only to give them a false sense of security because the book will take us somewhere quite different than the beginning might lead one to suspect. If you look at the great successes in recent years, especially in the film industry, say, none of those things are original. Nonetheless, the industry so often gets fixated on writers who are going to “smash” tropes or “break” a genre. I’ve yet to see one really succeed. For me, doing something different in this day and age means less experimentation, and more focus on telling a story as well as I can. Scotch tobacco ice cream may appeal to foodies, but the average person with a sweet tooth would still rather have vanilla or mint chocolate. And that’s not to say I’m not experimenting, but if you’re going to blend genres the way I am, you need those classic ingredients or the fact this is a blend might go unnoticed.

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

Christopher:  I’ll pick two at random:

“We live in stories, and in stories, we are subject to phenomena beyond the mechanisms of space and time. Fear and love, death and wrath and wisdom—these are as much parts of our universe as light and gravity. The ancients called them gods, for we are their creatures, shaped by their winds.”

“But there are other powers that move our world, powers greater than man. Powers that, like time and tide, wait for none. Even Emperors, like starlight, bend to the blackest forces of natural law.”

TQWhat's next?

Christopher:  I’ve just finished the sequel to Empire of Silence—well, the first draft of it, anyway—and have turned that in to my editor. I’m starting work outlining book 3, which I plan to have done by the time revision notes for book 2 come in. Hadrian and his story will be with me for a few years yet! In addition to that, I’ve just finished compiling stories for a reprint anthology called Space Pioneers with Baen’s Editor Emeritus, Hank Davis. It’s just what the name says on the tin: a collection of older stories about people braving the environs of space. We’ve got stories by Niven and Pournelle, Sturgeon and Heinlein and so on. Hank has an archival memory of everything in SF up until the ‘80s, and there are some real gems in this anthology. I’m also working on an original story/novelette to include in the book as well! That’ll be along in December!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Christopher:  It’s been a pleasure! Thank you!

Empire of Silence
The Sun Eater 1
DAW, July 3, 2018
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 624 pages

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

About Christopher

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence
Photo © Paul Ruocchio
Christopher Ruocchio is the author of The Sun Eater, a space opera fantasy series from DAW Books, as well as the Assistant Editor at Baen Books, where he co-edited the military SF anthology Star Destroyers, as well as the upcoming Space Pioneers, a collection of Golden Age reprints showcasing tales of human exploration. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision-making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Christopher has been writing since he was eight years old and sold his first book —Empire of Silence— at twenty-two. The Sun Eater series in available from Gollancz in the UK, and has been translated into French and German.

Christopher lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he spends most of his time hunched over a keyboard writing. He may be found on both Facebook and Twitter at @TheRuocchio.

Twitter @TheRuocchio ~ Facebook

Interview with TJ Berry, author of Space Unicorn Blues

Please welcome TJ Berry to The Qwillery as part of  the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Space Unicorn Blues was published on July 3rd by Angry Robot.

Interview with TJ Berry, author of Space Unicorn Blues

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

TJ:  The first thing I ever wrote was a Famous Five fan fiction story when I was ten years old. I was living in Hong Kong, and British boarding school books and the Famous Five were all the rage among the primary school crowd. Five Go Off in a Caravan was life-changing for me. I couldn’t imagine that four children and their dog were allowed to go off on their own and camp near the circus for the summer, solving actual crimes. My mother wouldn’t even allow me to walk to the corner store on my own.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

TJ:  I’m a hybrid writer. I always start with a question instead of an outline. In Space Unicorn Blues it was, “Is humanity worth saving?” Outlines are excellent for honing a story, but for what I call the zero draft, I aim to be expansive. I give myself permission to write anything related to the story. This includes scenes out of order, tangents about minor characters, and even alternate endings. The goal at this stage is to shut off my inner editor and allow for every possibility on the page.

Before the next draft, I outline the story into a cohesive shape, making notes about what needs to be added and deleted. I also write a synopsis to ensure the story makes sense from start to finish. As rewrite, I mold the text to fit the new outline and this is usually where I find the heart of the story. I make a few more passes to add description, exposition, and pull out themes, then send it off to an editor who tears it all apart and the process starts from the beginning.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

TJ:  I have an aversion to exposition and description, just ask my editor. My early drafts look like screenplays—with chapters full of only dialogue and stage directions. I have to spend a lot of time ensuring that the backstory that’s in my head ends up on the page and the locations I create are actually laid out for the reader.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

TJ:  Even though I primarily write science fiction, most of my writing influences come from the horror world. I grew up on Stephen King novels. When I was twelve, I found Cujo in the trash after my mother had thrown it away in disgust. It was mesmerizing. I put aside my Babysitter’s Club books and plowed through King’s entire back catalog instead.

I add visceral horror in the early stages of everything I write—there’s a lot of daily life that’s downright horrific. I edit most of the more disturbing pieces out of my science fiction work; though in this book you’ll find remnants in some scenes involving Gary and his horn.

TQDescribe Space Unicorn Blues using only 5 words.

TJ:  Bizarre, complex, conflicted, science fantasy.

TQTell us something about Space Unicorn Blues that is not found in the book description.

TJ:  If you were ever curious about the purpose of the bug-eyed alien “greys” that purportedly visit Earth, Space Unicorn Blues has an answer for you. One thing that always terrifies me about the idea of alien visitations is not that they’re malicious, but that they’re apathetic. It’s much easier to fight an aggressive alien threat than it is to try to prove your entire species should be worthy of consideration as thinking beings.

TQWhat inspired you to write Space Unicorn Blues? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

TJ:  I wrote Space Unicorn Blues out of spite. My lovely husband was trying to console me after yet another rejection on a bizarre short story and he suggested that I write more “normal” stories. Instead of following his advice, I turned around and resolved to write the most outlandish story I could dream of. The joke was on both of us when I sold the book.

Science fiction is invaluable as a way for humans to extrapolate future paths of current actions from within the safety of fiction. Our speculative storytelling can be a warning of dire things to come or a beacon of hope during dark times. Also, I like space.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Space Unicorn Blues?

TJ:  Not only did I do a tremendous amount of research on my own, I also hired several experts and sensitivity readers to help ensure my characters were as accurate as possible. For example, Captain Jenny Perata has used a wheelchair for the last decade. It was important to have a disabled person read the book to ensure that Jenny’s experience using a chair in space was handled with accuracy and respect.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Space Unicorn Blues?

TJ:  The cover was a collaboration between Angry Robot’s publisher, Marc Gascoigne and artist Lee Gibbons. I absolutely love how it conveys the seriousness of space and technology while also suggesting the unpredictable outlandishness of the magical creatures who are also in the story. There’s even an asteroid to suggest Gary’s faster-than-light starship, the Jaggery.

TQIn Space Unicorn Blues who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

TJ:  I’m always able to slip into Jenny Perata’s voice quite easily. She’s strong, smart, and swears like a sailor. She’s tremendous fun to write. Gary Cobalt is a character that I dearly love, but he is also very difficult to write. He’s so lawful good—without much moral ambiguity—that it takes a bit more work to keep his point of view from getting too strident. In fact, I originally had most of the book in his voice and during rewrites I took those chapters and gave them to Jenny. Sorry, Gary!

Cowboy Jim’s head is a terrible place, which is why he gets only one chapter in this book. I’m currently working on the sequel, which has a lot of Jim’s point of view and he’s a downright despicable person.

TQDoes Space Unicorn Blues touch on any social issues?

TJSpace Unicorn Blues takes on a couple of big social issues. First, it asks what responsibility colonizers have toward the people they have colonized, displaced, and exploited. Second, the book asks if humans are capable of sharing the universe with other creatures at all. I don’t think we come to a tidy resolution on either of those questions, but it definitely grapples with them throughout the story.

TQWhich question about Space Unicorn Blues do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

TJ:  I wish someone would ask where the Sisters of the Supersymmetrical Axion live. The answer is that they have a fortified abbey on an island in the middle of an ocean planet. It’s steeped in magic and weirdness and I hope to be able to bring readers there someday.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Space Unicorn Blues.

TJ:  "Harboring silent resentments was like stabbing yourself and hoping the other person died."

“Humans were never more persistent than when they were in the wrong."

TQWhat's next?

TJ:  I’m working on a sequel to Space Unicorn Blues which is, for the moment, totally secret. I can say that we’re going to pick up with Jenny, Gary, Ricky, and Jim where we left off in the first book. There are a lot of questions which need to be resolved, daring escapes to be had, and it wouldn’t be space opera without few explosions in orbit.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

TJ:  Thank you for having me!

Space Unicorn Blues
The Reason 1
Angry Robot, July 3, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with TJ Berry, author of Space Unicorn Blues
A misfit crew race across the galaxy to prevent the genocide of magical creatures, in this unique science fiction debut.

Humanity joining the intergalactic community has been a disaster for Bala, the magical creatures of the galaxy: they’ve been exploited, enslaved and ground down for parts. Now the Century Summit is approaching, when humans will be judged by godlike aliens.

When Jenny Perata, disabled Maori shuttle captain, is contracted to take a shipment to the summit, she must enlist half-unicorn Gary Cobalt, whose horn powers faster-than-light travel. But he’s just been released from prison, for murdering the wife of Jenny’s co-pilot, Cowboy Jim… When the Reason regime suddenly enact laws making Bala property, Jenny’s ship becomes the last hope for magic.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Rocks in Space | Stand Up to Reason | The Human Experiment | Last Unicorn ]

About TJ

Interview with TJ Berry, author of Space Unicorn Blues
Photo by Landon Harris
TJ BERRY grew up between Repulse Bay, Hong Kong and the New Jersey shore. She has been a political blogger, bakery owner, and spent a disastrous two weeks working in a razor blade factory. TJ co-hosts the Warp Drives Podcast with her husband, in which they explore science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her short fiction has appeared in Pseudopod and PodCastle.

Website  ~ Twitter @tjaneberry

Interview with Francesco Dimitri, author of The Book of Hidden Things

Please welcome Francesco Dimitri to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Book of Hidden Things is published on July 3rd by Titan Books.

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

Interview with Francesco Dimitri, author of The Book of Hidden Things

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Dimitri:  Thank you for having me! I remember it very clearly: I wrote it at eleven or so, and it was a short story with a nameless character drawing a parallel between the battle of Waterloo and the ineluctable fate of humanity. Yeah, I was an intense kid.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Dimitri:  A total pantser on the first draft, a moderate plotter on the others. To me, a ‘story’ is people doing stuff. You put specific people in a specific situation and see what happens. If you have the right characters, and you are honest about what they do and how they feel, what happens is your story. Then you go back and tidy it up.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Dimitri:  Having a life while I am working on a first draft. Everything that is not the book is annoying. There are moments in which I truly hate myself for needing food and sleep.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Dimitri:  Other books, yes, and films, sure, and TV series, of course, not to mention songs. But mostly people. I am a very sociable guy (when I am not writing a first draft): I enjoy being with other humans, listening to them. I don’t want my stories to be about other stories, books concerning other books. I want to write echoes of real life, with all its messiness, confusion, and glory.

TQDescribe The Book of Hidden Things in 140 characters or less.

Dimitri:  Your best friend disappeared. He did some nasty things. He might also be a saint. What do you do?

TQTell us something about The Book of Hidden Things that is not found in the book description.

Dimitri:  It is a very sensuous book. I really, really like being alive, and I wanted this story in particular to communicate the joys of food, scent, sex, even against the backdrop of pretty dark events. It is mind-boggling how fine-tuned to physical pleasures we are, and how often we deny them to ourselves for no good reason whatsoever.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Book of Hidden Things? What appeals to you about writing Contemporary Fantasy?

Dimitri:  The very idea of magic is wonderful. We have this word, that sometimes is a metaphor, sometimes is not, sometimes indicates a theatrical performance, sometimes is shorthand for love, sometimes is cheesy, sometimes terrifying. It is a maddenly vague, beautiful word. Magic to me is a topic on its own, rather than a tool to explore other topics. I want readers to feel the possibility of it, its strangeness and beauty. And I just find it easier to do that against a contemporary backdrop.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Book of Hidden Things?

Dimitri:  It is set in the place where I grew up. My main sources were memory, friends, and family.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Book of Hidden Things.

Dimitri:  It is beautiful and upsetting. It is so perfect that, had I not written the book first, I would write it now just for it to have that cover. Julia Lloyd, the artist, got perfectly well what I was trying to do, and came out with a work that is brazen but not gimmicky, a rare balance.

TQIn The Book of Hidden Things who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Dimitri:  The easy one was Tony, because I see the world like him: at the end of the day, what matters to a good life are family and friends. You stick to them and they stick to you. The hardest… well. The landscape, I would say. I wanted to make the landscape a character, which required a touch of lyricism and a lot of restrain, and it was very easy to mess up. I hope I didn’t. All I can say is, I tried.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Book of Hidden Things?

Dimitri:  There are social issues echoing through the book – organised criminality, the taken-for-granted sexism of the place and of people’s gaze - but this is a book about personal matters, and I wanted to keep it close and personal. A lot of social issues would go away if only we were better adjusted grown-ups.

TQWhich question about The Book of Hidden Things do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Dimitri:  The question is, ‘was it a pleasure to write?’, and the answer is, ‘yes, and I hope it is going to be a pleasure to read.’

TQGive us one or two of your favourite non-spoilery quotes from The Book of Hidden Things.

Dimitri:  A gentleman does not quote himself.

TQWhat's next?

Dimitri:  I am putting the last touches on a nonfiction book on sense of wonder. Very soon I will start writing my next novel, but I tend not to talk about stuff that is not finished or at least almost there…

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Dimitri:  Thank you, guys!

The Book of Hidden Things
Titan Books, July 3, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook,

Interview with Francesco Dimitri, author of The Book of Hidden Things
Four old school friends have a pact: to meet up every year in the small town in Puglia they grew up in. Art, the charismatic leader of the group and creator of the pact, insists that the agreement must remain unshakable and enduring. But this year, he never shows up.

A visit to his house increases the friends' worry; Art is farming marijuana. In Southern Italy doing that kind of thing can be very dangerous. They can’t go to the Carabinieri so must make enquiries of their own. This is how they come across the rumours about Art; bizarre and unbelievable rumours that he miraculously cured the local mafia boss’s daughter of terminal leukaemia. And among the chaos of his house, they find a document written by Art, The Book of Hidden Things, which promises to reveal dark secrets and wonders beyond anything previously known.

Francesco Dimitri's first novel written in English, following his career as one of the most significant fantasy writers in Italy, will entrance fans of Elena Ferrante, Neil Gaiman and Donna Tartt. Set in the beguiling and seductive landscape of Southern Italy, this story is about friendship and landscape, love and betrayal; above all it is about the nature of mystery itself.

About Francesco

Interview with Francesco Dimitri, author of The Book of Hidden Things
Francesco Dimitri is an Italian author and speaker living in London. He is on the Faculty of the School of Life. He is considered one of the foremost fantasy writers in Italy, and his works have been widely appreciated by non-genre readers too. A film has been made from his first novel, La Ragazza dei miei Sogni. The Book of Hidden Things is his debut novel in English.

Twitter @fdimitri

Interview with Rebecca Roanhorse, author of Trail of Lightning

Please welcome Rebecca Roanhorse to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Trail of Lightning was published on June 26th by Saga Press.

Interview with Rebecca Roanhorse, author of Trail of Lightning

TQWelcome to The Qwillery and congratulations on your recent Nebula win for Short Story. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Rebecca:  Thanks for having me! Let's see...I remember writing a poem in 3rd grade about a tree succumbing to the inevitability of Fall. It was very tortured and angst-ridden. It went on to win a school-wide award. The first SFF story I remember writing was in 7th grade. We were supposed to write a science report on the planets and I turned my report into a story about a an astronaut on a suicide mission into the sun. That one did not win any awards. lol. What can I say, I was an emo kid.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Rebecca:  A hybrid. I like to know where I’m going, but I’m not married to it. I like to leave room for the story to surprise me while I’m telling but, but I find that without a clear goal of what kind of story I’m telling, the writing gets lost and slo​pp​y and I end up doing too many rewrites. I like to write fairly clean out of the gate.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rebecca:  Finding the time. I have a full-time job and a family. Sometimes words don’t get written until after work, soccer practice, dinner and bedtime. Some days words don’t get written at all.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Rebecca:  What hasn't? Everything around me. Everything I read. My lived experiences. I sponge it all up and it comes out in my writing. I think most writers are like that.

TQ Describe Trail of Lightning in 140 characters or less.

Rebecca:  An Indigenous Mad Max: Fury Road. A post-apocalyptic monster hunting adventure with a badass Navajo woman protagonist and her unconventional medicine man sidekick.

TQTell us something about Trail of Lightning that is not found in the book description.

Rebecca:  There’s a gun-running, boot-legging paramilitary hideout that's also a honky tonk bar called Grace’s All-American that’s run by a Black woman and her kids. They are the only non-Navajo characters in the book, and they will become Maggie's allies and sometimes antagonists and second family. They're a lot of fun.

TQWhat inspired you to write Trail of Lightning? What appeals to you about writing Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic fiction?

Rebecca:  I wanted to write an Indigenous story set in the future because so many stories set us in the past. But I think it’s not really accurate to call the story dystopian. The world after cataclysmic climate change is bleak outside the walls of the Navajo reservation, but inside things are going pretty good…except for the monsters, of course.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Trail of Lightning?

Rebecca:  A lot of it is simply drawn from my real life experiences of living on the Navajo reservation. The people and places are familiar because I lived them. The stories are stories that I learned through studying Navajo law (I practiced law on the Navajo reservation and part of passing the ​B​ar is learning traditional stories) or by reading the traditional stories that are publicly available. I tried to be thoughtful in what stories I told and what stories and characters I changed to fit my imaginary world. I got various Navajo friends to read the book and make sure I was staying in my lane. But that’s not to say my story isn’t wholly fictitious. I’m writing SFF, after all.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Trail of Lightning.

Rebecca:  I love that cover. Two Navajo characters (Maggie Hoskie the protagonist and her sidekick, Kai Arviso) and Maggie's rez truck. But the best thing about it is there are no feathers, no braids, nothing that screams stereotypical Native. Instead we have two very contemporary Native characters looking pretty badass, if I do say so myself. Thanks to Tommy Arnold for that incredible art and Nick Sciacca for the art design, including that peeling weathered font. Very cool.

TQIn Trail of Lightning who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Rebecca:  ​Ma'ii (The Coyote) was probably the easiest to write, or if not the easiest, certainly the most fun. He's got such a distinct personality and he's a scene stealer. The hardest was probably Kai Arviso because while he is a sidekick, I wanted him to be a fully fleshed out character. He is also complex and contradictory in a lot of ways and he needed to be Maggie's foil, and her balance. I'm still not sure I understand him totally, but I have no doubt he will reveal himself to me in future books.​

TQWhich question about Trail of Lightning do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Rebecca:  While Trail of Lighting is a fast, fun post-apocalyptic adventure, it's also about violence and how it haunts us and changes the course of our lives. I would love for people to ask more about how they think trauma has changed Maggie's life, for better or worse. My answer would be it has alienated her from her community and her own self and because of it, she makes some spectacularly bad decisions. But it is also the source of her greatest strengths, quite literally, since her supernatural powers springs from trauma. It's a core idea in the book and I'm excited when people pick up on it.

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


1. "But I’m no hero. I’m more of a last resort, a scorched-earth policy. I’m the person you hire when the heroes have already come home in body bags."

2. “One of you assholes better start talking about that dead body in your truck, quick. Or I’m hauling you all down to the jail, where I’ll be happy to beat the both of you like a piñata until the truth falls out of your mouth like goddamn candy.”

TQWhat's next?

Rebecca:  The second book in the Sixth World Series, Storm of Locusts, drops April 2019, and later that year I also have a middle grade book, Race to the Sun, coming out on Rick Riordan's imprint for Disney-Hyperion. And then in 2020 I have an Anasazi-inspired epic fantasy coming, Between Earth and Sky, wherein the great matriarchal clans of a prosperous cliff-city vying for power against a backdrop of political intrigue, celestial prophecies, rising rebellion & dark magic.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Rebecca:  Thanks for having me!

Trail of Lightning
Sixth World 1
Saga Press, June 26, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Rebecca Roanhorse, author of Trail of Lightning
“Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick.” —The New York Times

“An excitingly novel tale.” —Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series and Midnight Crossroads series

“Fun, terrifying, hilarious, and brilliant.” —Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author of Shadowshaper and Star Wars: Last Shot

“[C]rafts a powerful and fiercely personal journey through a compelling postapocalyptic landscape.” —Kate Elliott, New York Times bestselling author of Court of Fives and Black Wolves

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

About Rebecca

Interview with Rebecca Roanhorse, author of Trail of Lightning
Photograph by Stephen Land
Rebecca Roanhorse is speculative fiction writer and Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Award Finalist. She is also a 2017 Campbell Award Finalist for Best New Science Fiction and Fantasy writer. Her novel Trail of Lightning is the first book in the Sixth World series, followed by Storm of Locusts in 2019. She lives in northern New Mexico with her husband, daughter, and pug. Find more at and follow her on Twitter at @RoanhorseBex.

Website  ~  Twitter @RoanhorseBex  ~  Facebook
Interview with Sam Hawke, author of City of LiesInterview with Lauren C. Teffeau, author of ImplantedInterview with Jay Schiffman, author of Game of the GodsInterview with Rich Larson, author of AnnexInterview with Michael Mammay, author of PlanetsideInterview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of MinutesInterview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of SilenceInterview with TJ Berry, author of Space Unicorn BluesInterview with Francesco Dimitri, author of The Book of Hidden ThingsInterview with Rebecca Roanhorse, author of Trail of Lightning

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