The Qwillery | category: 2018 DAC Interview | (page 4 of 6)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Tyler Whitesides, author of The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

Please welcome Tyler Whitesides to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn was published on May 15th by Orbit.

Interview with Tyler Whitesides, author of The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

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

Tyler:  I recently found a story I wrote when I was about seven years old. It was about a monster who went looking for dinner, but he couldn't find any so he went home only to find out that his monster mother had made dinner for him.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Tyler:  I would consider myself a hybrid, but leaning quite heavily toward being a plotter. I've found that if I don't plot enough, the story will ramble on with no end in sight. I'd say I plot about 70% and leave about 30% up to discovery as I write. Often, that unplanned 30% takes me by surprise and ends up being some of my favorite parts.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Tyler:  For me, I'd say the most challenging thing is dealing with expectations. Not just readers' expectations, but my own. Every time I sit down to write I feel a tremendous pressure to make this paragraph better than the last one I wrote. Make this chapter better than the one before, the next book better than the first one. I've got so many ideas swimming around in my head, I want to make sure I execute them the very best that I can. With that comes a lot of self-imposed pressure that can be crippling if left unchecked.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Tyler:  Books! I've loved fantasy since I was little and the things I read definitely influence my writing. As a young reader, I loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, and The Dark Is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. As a teenager, I devoured the Shannara series by Terry Brooks. Lately, I've been loving the works of Brandon Sanderson.

In addition to reading, I spent a lot of my childhood outdoors, hiking and exploring the mountains of northern Utah with my friends and family. The grandeur of nature and the mountains always inspired me - when a fog settled in and covered the peaks it was easy to imagine a company of travelers and their wizard guide coming down the slopes.

TQYou are the author of 2 best-selling children's series - Janitors and The Wishmakers. How different for you (or not) is writing for adults?

Tyler:  That's a great question. There are definitely similarities. The more I learn about writing, the more I realize that everything is about characters. Whether writing a children's book or an adult fantasy, the focus should be on crafting interesting characters whose actions are well motivated. In writing The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn, I tried to keep what I loved about writing for children - fast pacing, humor, and plenty of dialogue. But this book also allowed me to do things I'd never done in writing - explore heavier themes, develop more complex magic systems, and take a little more time inside the characters' thoughts. I loved both experiences, and hope to continue writing in both genres.

TQDescribe The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn in 140 characters or less.

Tyler:  Ardor Benn is a master of intricate plans, but he may have bitten off more than he can chew. Hired by a priest to steal the king's crown, Ardor assembles his team and begins an infiltration into high society. But he soon discovers that there is more at stake than getting paid.

TQTell us something about The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn that is not found in the book description.

Tyler:  The magic system is derived from harvesting a biproduct from the dragons and processing it down into powder. This "Grit" can then be ignited to create detonation clouds with varying effects. There are fifteen types, ranging from Grit that creates clouds of Light, or Heat, or even clouds of weightlessness.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Tyler:  There's something appealing about tackling a long story. I love reading them because they last. I like to live in the world and think about the characters and their situations. There is so much imagination in fantasy, allowing the reader to extrapolate what they want to learn from the story, whether that was really the author's intention or not.

I've always wanted to write an epic fantasy. The idea for The Thousands Deaths of Ardor Benn started with the magic system, an idea I had been kicking around in my brain for more than fifteen years. I was between projects for my children's series, and decided I would begin my first fantasy epic. I thought I'd pick away at it whenever I had some down time, and eventually finish in a few years. To my surprise, the characters really took hold of me and I was able to write the entire first draft in about six months.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn?

Tyler:  I spent some time researching geography, elevation, climate, and vegetation. The book takes place on a series of large islands that are rather unique, with a high cliff shoreline (think fjords, or the cliffs of Dover all the way around each island). I also did some research into flintlock guns, although the firearms in the story (while similar to flintlock) are powered by in-world magic. High society in the world centers around symphony concerts. I have a BA in music, so it was fun to remember some of the composition and musical form/analysis terminology.

At the end of the day, I was writing a fantasy book, so I obviously deviated from some of the facts in order to make all the pieces work within the world I was creating. After all, I was worldbuilding, not going for historical accuracy.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn.

Tyler:  Tommy Arnold did a great job with the artwork for the cover (and Lauren Panepinto on design). The character depicted is indeed Ardor Benn, the cunning master of heists, crouched atop the skull of a dragon. Although you can't see it in the artwork, the kingdom's throne is actually mounted atop that skull. I love the way Ardor is poised, ready to spring into action with an expression on his face that seems to say, "I got this."

TQIn The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Tyler:  Writing the chapters from Ardor Benn's point of view was really fun and flowed quite naturally for me. I was able to put a lot of humor into the character, and Ardor is constantly engaging in witty banter. He likes to pretend that nothing bothers him, when in fact he tends to care deeply about what he's doing. Too deeply, sometimes. Ardor moves the story along at a swift pace.

The most difficult character to write was Isle Halavend. He's the priest who hires Ardor to steal the crown. His chapters explore religion, truth, and history of the world, so I had to be very careful to stay consistent and check my own facts. Halavend harbors his true motives, but his chapters unveil a lot of earth-shattering epiphanies for everyone. Needless to say, it was a challenge to keep it all straight and get it right.

TQWhich question about The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Tyler:  Which type of Grit is your favorite, and what does it do? Visitant Grit is by far the most powerful type. It is controlled by the Wayfarist religion, and will only work for those that are worthy to detonate it. The effect is a cloud in which a holy paladin can appear, powerful enough to decimate life with his very presence.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn.


"This was madness and genius, mixed and detonated on the spot."
"It's our new hideout."
"The Bakery on Humont Street?" she read.
"A dangerous place, to be sure," added Ard. "Enough secret meetings there and none of us will be squeezing through a culvert grate."

TQWhat's next?

TylerThe Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is the first book in the Kingdom of Grit trilogy. The second book should be coming out in 2019. In the meantime, I have another children's book coming out this fall, which is the sequel to the Wishmakers. I love writing and I feel so fortunate to be doing this. Thanks to everyone willing to take a chance and pick up one of my books. I hope you enjoy!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tyler:  Thank you for having me!

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn
Kingdom of Grit 1
Orbit, May 15, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 784 pages
(Adult Debut)

Interview with Tyler Whitesides, author of The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn
The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is the first in an action-packed epic fantasy series featuring master con artist Ardor Benn.

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory – Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.

About Tyler

Interview with Tyler Whitesides, author of The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn
Photo by Jamie Younker
Tyler is the author of bestselling children’s series, Janitors, and The Wishmakers. The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is his adult debut. When he’s not writing, Tyler enjoys playing percussion, hiking, fly fishing, cooking, and theater. He lives in the mountains of northern Utah with his wife and son.

Website  ~  Twitter @twhitesides

Interview with R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War

Please welcome R.F. Kuang to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Poppy War was published on May 1st by Harper Voyager.

Interview with R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War

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

R.F.:  I wrote a novel in fifth grade called Liberty or Death about the American Revolution. It was about a freedom fighter named Patrick Dawson whose best friend die sin the Boston Massacre, and it is really, really bad. There’s a scene where he takes this girl Hannah on a date, winks at her, and says something like “I don’t drink on dates.” The whole point of alcohol is drinking on dates.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

R.F.:  I used to be a pantser, realized that that does not work for trilogies or for long complicated military campaigns, and now I’m a hybrid. I only let myself writes scenes that I’m really feelin’, like emotionally, on a given day. So I always write the emotional “peaks” first–the cool scenes where things blow up and people die–and then try to make everything else fit around them. I write horrifically messy firsts drafts and it’s always a challenge making them internally coherent. But if I did it the other way, my prose would be lifeless.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

R.F.:  Balancing writing with schoolwork. I’m in the middle of finishing my senior thesis. There are not enough hours in the day. And it’s only going to get worse because I’m about to head off to grad school, so RIP my soul. Pray for me.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

R.F.:  Music! I write scenes by putting on songs and directing little music videos in my head. If I don’t know the right vibe for a scene I’ll play around with different songs until I start seeing the right images.

TQDescribe The Poppy War in 140 characters or less.

R.F.:  everything was good until the fire nation attacked. wait. we are the fire nation. where is drug man? Rin no. Rin YES!

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

R.F.:  The second half of the book gets really dark. Uncomfortable dark. You can find content warnings on my Goodreads review and just about every other SFF review site. Here they are just in case!
      -      Self-harm
      -      Genocide
      -      Graphic violence
      -      Rape/sexual assault
      -      Emotional and physical abuse
      -      Drug use
Please read with discretion.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Poppy War? What appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy?

R.F.:  The book is inspired by 20th century Chinese history, specifically the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanjing. This isn’t historical fantasy, it’s secondary world fantasy with historical roots.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Poppy War?

R.F.:  I researched it like I would an academic paper. I read a bunch of secondary source material on both the twentieth century and the Song Dynasty to form a framework for the plot. Then to make the world feel fully realized, I consulted primary source material, like military manuals. I got really excited about one text in particular: the Huolongjing, translated as the Fire Drake Manual, which is this amazing 14th century military treatise on all the different possible uses of gunpowder. Granted, that’s a few hundred years after the period that The Poppy War is purportedly set in, but this is fantasy. I’ll blur the lines if it means I get to give my characters fire lances.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Poppy War.

R.F.:  I’m so excited about the cover! The artist is a Taiwanese illustrator named who goes by JungShan, and she’s extraordinarily talented. I love her ink brush style so much. Here’s the link to her Deviantart!

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

R.F.:  Jiang was the easiest because he’s so much fun, and because I know things about him that you don’t so it’s always a game of how much I want to reveal. Altan was the hardest, because he’s modeled on an ex-boyfriend, so I kept wanting to punch him in the face. Fuck Altan.

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


Question: Which two characters do you ship hardest?
Answer: Jiang and Jun. No question.

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

R.F.:  I’ll give you two related quotes:

“You can’t kill me,” Altan hissed. “You love me.”
“I don’t love you,” Rin said. “And I can kill anything.”

TQWhat's next?

R.F.:  Next up is Untitled Book Two. And then Untitled Book Three! And then unnamed projects that haven’t sold because I haven’t written them! It’s all very mysterious.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

R.F.:  Thank you for having me!

The Poppy War
Harper Voyager, May 1, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 544 pages

Interview with R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War
A "Best of May" Science Fiction and Fantasy pick by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Audible, The Verge, SyFy Wire, and Kirkus

“I have no doubt this will end up being the best fantasy debut of the year [...] I have absolutely no doubt that [Kuang’s] name will be up there with the likes of Robin Hobb and N.K. Jemisin.” -- Booknest

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

About the Author

Interview with R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War
R.F. Kuang studies modern Chinese history. She has a BA from Georgetown University and is currently a graduate student in the United Kingdom on a Marshall Scholarship. The Poppy War is her debut novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @kuangrf  ~  Instagram

Interview with Julia Fine, author of What Should Be Wild

Please welcome Julia Fine to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. What Should Be Wild is published on May 8th by Harper.

Interview with Julia Fine, author of What Should Be Wild

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

Julia:  I’m so happy to be here! I’ve been writing since I can remember, but my first published piece was a poem in Stone Soup Magazine when I was nine. It was about the moon—I think I used the phrase “queen of the night.” Stone Soup is still around publishing kids’ writing and illustrations and is definitely worth checking out. It was huge for me as a kid to know that people were interested in what I had to say.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Julia:  A hybrid, though more of a pantser if I was forced to choose. In general I write from the gut. I’m definitely not good with outlines—I can make them, but have a lot of trouble finding the passion to write once I’m forced inside them. That said, it helps me to write the key scenes quickly to provide a sort of structure, and then jump around filling things in from there.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Julia:  For a novel it’s definitely the commitment. A lot of research and time and emotional investment goes into producing a full length book, and so it’s tough to know when an idea is “the one” and that investment is worth it. I also have a one year-old, so lately it’s hard to find that perfect combination of a good night’s sleep and a large chunk of uninterrupted time…

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Julia:  Maybe this is too obvious, but my reading. I’m so inspired by so many books and writers—for What Should Be Wild it was Angela Carter and Shirley Jackson and Philip Pullman and Karen Russell and Doris Lessing and so many more. I’m also hugely influenced by music—for this book I listened to a lot of Hozier, Tori Amos, Damien Rice, and PJ Harvey. Pan’s Labyrinth was influential, and Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods (the original version).

TQDescribe What Should be Wild in 140 characters or less.

Julia:  Female desire is powerful!

TQTell us something about What Should be Wild that is not found in the book description.

Julia:  There are nods to classic fairy tales all throughout the book. If you’re looking for them, you can catch references to Snow White, Little Red Ridinghood, The Snow Queen, etc.

TQWhat inspired you to write What Should be Wild? Do you consider the story a fairy tale or something else?

Julia:  I was first inspired by a legal case in Texas several years ago—a woman was declared brain-dead at about three months pregnant and her husband was fighting the hospital to get her taken off of life support. I started thinking about what life would be like for that child if medical circumstances were different and the fetus could realistically come to term. At the time I was reading Marina Warner’s From the Beast to the Blonde, a book about the feminist history of fairytales. The two worlds collided to form What Should Be Wild.

I do consider the story a fairy tale, in that it’s about figuring out the boundaries between personal desires and social responsibility. I think that juxtaposition is at the heart of all fairy tales, especially the ones with female protagonists. That said, I didn’t consciously set out to write a fairy tale, and I’m happy with whatever shelf the book is put on!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for What Should be Wild?

Julia:  What Should Be Wild is basically a big mash-up of all of my research interests. As I mentioned earlier, From the Beast to the Blonde was incredibly helpful in giving me a history of female storytelling. I did historical research for each of the vignettes about the Blakely women. I read a wonderful book called The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben that helped me ground some of the magic of the forest in scientific research. I read The White Goddess by Robert Graves and The Golden Bough by James Fraser to get a sense for the folklore Peter studies and the history of Maisie’s village. I read a lot of William Blake and Dylan Thomas for philosophy and mood.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for What Should be Wild.

Julia:  It’s up to the reader to decide if these are living flowers in the process of dying, or dead flowers coming back to life…either way they’re very feisty. I love this cover because it gives you that Gothic forest vibe without being too explicit. I also love how every time you look at it you notice something different, whether it’s the moth at the top, or the rainbow reflections.

TQIn What Should be Wild who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Julia:  Lucy Blakely was fully formed with very clear desires and personality quirks from the second she showed up on the page. Rafe took me several iterations—he’s the hardest for Maisie to fully understand, so I think some of my narrator’s struggles bled through!

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in What Should be Wild?

Julia:  For me, speculative fiction is all about tackling social issues. I was looking for a way to talk about the pressures and restrictions placed on women, and the fear and fetishization of female desire. Maisie and her family don’t speak for all women, of course, but I hope I’ve captured something universal about the way those of us who identify as female move through the world.

TQWhich question about What Should be Wild do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Julia:  So far no one has asked me about place names, so I guess I’ll use this as an opportunity to discuss them! Urizon is totally stolen from William Blake’s mythopoeia. He has a character named Urizen who represents order and authority. The Blakelys are also a nod to his work. Couers Crossing, Maisie’s village, comes from the French for heart—it was initially Coeds Crossing, from the Welsh for trees, but that came off as too collegial.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from What Should be Wild.

Julia:  “Tell a child a tale is not true, give her reason to believe. No handsome prince awaits you. No godmother hides in the hawthorn. Those stirrings you hear in the forest are foxes and birds, nothing more. Tell her that after death comes heaven, harpists, bare-bottomed babes with sprouted wings. Show her where her mother has been eaten by the earth, where her ancestors lie buried. Tell her that souls float up around her, as she watches rigor mortis of her own pathetic making cover the body of a loved one with its frost. Nothing begs question of permanence, of sin, like the power to kill and revive. Nothing promises revival like a fairy tale.”

TQWhat's next?

Julia:  I’m in the very early stages of working on a post-partum poltergeist story. Because I’m a pantser I’m not yet sure where it’s going to go!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Julia:  Thanks so much for having me!

What Should Be Wild
Harper, May 8, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Julia Fine, author of What Should Be Wild
“Delightful and darkly magical. Julia Fine has written a beautiful modern myth, a coming-of-age story for a girl with a worrisome power over life and death. I loved it.”  —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry

In this darkly funny, striking debut, a highly unusual young woman must venture into the woods at the edge of her home to remove a curse that has plagued the women in her family for millennia—an utterly original novel with all the mesmerizing power of The Tiger’s Wife, The Snow Child, and Swamplandia!

Cursed. Maisie Cothay has never known the feel of human flesh: born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch, she has spent her childhood sequestered in her family’s manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. Maisie’s father, an anthropologist who sees her as more experiment than daughter, has warned Maisie not to venture into the wood. Locals talk of men disappearing within, emerging with addled minds and strange stories. What he does not tell Maisie is that for over a millennium her female ancestors have also vanished into the wood, never to emerge—for she is descended from a long line of cursed women.

But one day Maisie’s father disappears, and Maisie must venture beyond the walls of her carefully constructed life to find him. Away from her home and the wood for the very first time, she encounters a strange world filled with wonder and deception. Yet the farther she strays, the more the wood calls her home. For only there can Maisie finally reckon with her power and come to understand the wildest parts of herself.

About Julia

Interview with Julia Fine, author of What Should Be Wild
Photo by Nastasia Mora
Julia Fine teaches writing at DePaul University and is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s MFA program. She lives in Chicago with her husband and their son.

Website  ~  Twitter @finejuli  ~  Facebook

Interview with Cass Morris, author of From Unseen Fire

Please welcome Cass Morris to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. From Unseen Fire is published on April 16th by DAW.

Interview with Cass Morris, author of From Unseen Fire

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

Cass:  Hello, and thanks for having me! The very first thing I remember writing was a story about a girl named Janine and her dog. I can’t remember if I was in kindergarten or first grade, but I do remember that the teacher kept insisting I had misspelled the name “Janie”. I hadn’t; I had picked up the name Janine from the Babysitter’s Club novels. I distinctly recall dragging a book out of my backpack to show her it was a real name.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Cass:  By instinct, largely a pantser on early drafts. I tend to dive into a manuscript with a strong idea of the place and at least a few of the characters, let them all collide into each other, and see what happens from there. From Unseen Fire is the first of a three-book deal, though, which has meant I’ve had to learn to be a bit more of a plotter so far as the overall narrative is concerned.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Cass:  Defeating the urge to include too many world-building details. I was a kid who read the encyclopedia for fun, so I have to be careful not to let the world detract from the story.

TQWhat influences your writing? You worked for the education department at the American Shakespeare Center. Has being around Shakespeare's works since 2010 influenced your writing?

Cass:  I sure hope so! I fell in love with Shakespeare when I was eleven, acted in his plays through high school and college, got a graduate degree in Shakespeare studies, and then decided to work for him for another seven years. I think what I learned most from him in all that time was a sense of rhetorical stylings. I love the study of rhetoric so much. One of the things it gave Shakespeare, and that I try to emulate, is a sense of voice -- how different people talk differently, resort to different syntactical patterns, fall into different cadences. I also get a lot of influence from the other media I consume -- historical novels, fantasy novels, and musical theatre, in particular.

TQDescribe From Unseen Fire in 140 characters or less.

Cass:  In an alternate version of ancient Rome, a trio of patrician sisters and an ambitious senator use wit, charm, and magic to realize their dreams for the city they love.

TQTell us something about From Unseen Fire that is not found in the book description.

Cass:  The elemental magic of Aven, my alt-Rome, isn’t the only kind you’ll encounter. The Iberians waging war on the provincial borders have their own brand, tied to their own gods, drawing power from the stars, rivers, and blood.

TQWhat inspired you to write From Unseen Fire? What appeals to you about writing alt-Roman historical fantasy?

Cass:  Directly, a painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema called “The Baths of Caracalla”. I’d been thinking I wanted to play with something outside of the medieval European mold, and I’d been toying with the idea of using a Roman-based model, when that painting happened across my eyes. The Vitelliae -- my heroine Latona and her sisters -- sprang into my head in that moment.

The alt-Roman setting gives me so much to mess about with. You get a fantasy world with sanitation and health care, for one thing! The pantheon of gods dovetailed with the magical system I was building in so many beneficial ways. And Rome was such a magnificently diverse, complex place, with social and political issues that are in many ways so familiar to the modern age. It’s a wonderfully fertile playground.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for From Unseen Fire?

Cass:  A lot of it was reviving past studies. I started taking Latin in the seventh grade and kept it up through high school, and I took so many courses on the ancient world in college that I was only a few credits short of an accidental Classics minor. So I had a lot to remind myself of, and a lot that needed more exploration, particularly when it came to the social history. I read a lot of books, listened to a lot of podcasts, watched a lot of documentaries. I’ve got a list of sources on my website, actually (, for anyone who’s interested in delving in themselves.

The most fun research, though, was a trip I took in 2016 to do some on-the-ground investigations in Rome itself. I spent three days tramping all around the ancient city, figuring out what was visible from various points on the hills, how long it would take to walk from the Esquiline to the Palatine, all sorts of little details. It also gave me a great sense of the city as a bustling, multicultural metropolis.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for From Unseen Fire.

Cass:  The gorgeous artwork on the cover was done by Tran Nguyen (you can find her on Instagram). My editor, Betsy Wolheim, found a piece of hers based on Roman frescoes and we both loved the style. The woman on the cover is the main female protagonist, Latona, a mage of Fire and Spirit. Tran nailed her look so perfectly. I love that she’s looking the reader right in the eyes, bold and proud, but there’s a vulnerability in her, too. The background is based on a Roman lararium -- a sort of household shrine. The crackled effect was something we’d both loved in Tran’s earlier work, and here it carries a sort of hidden meaning. One of the other magical elements is Fracture, and while it isn’t inherently a dark or evil power, one of the antagonists turns it to warped purposes. I love that the shattered-fresco effect nods towards that as well as communicating a sense of Roman antiquity.

TQIn From Unseen Fire who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Cass:  My knee-jerk reaction was to say Latona, because she’s the character I poured the most of myself into, but I think that actually required too much emotional crafting to call it “easy”. Aula, her older sister, is the one who leaps effortlessly to the page. Her voice comes into my head with resonant clarity, and her relationship with Latona has never given me a moment’s trouble.

The hardest character was probably her brother, Gaius, who’s leading a small legionary expedition in Iberia. He’s early in his career, eager to succeed, and in way over his head. Military matters are so far from my experience, and they’re entirely what he’s thinking about, so that’s a harder mode to get myself into. I leaned a lot on my research for that. Fortunately the ancient Romans wrote down a lot about their warfare!

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in From Unseen Fire?

Cass:  Because socio-political issues are personal issues. I wouldn’t know how to remove them from the story or the characters. I wanted to write Aven as Rome was, a diverse, multicultural, sprawling, wonderful mess of a city. There was no way to write that without engaging in politics. The male protag, Sempronius, has a vision of using that diversity to make Aven the center of a sprawling federation of interconnected nations; his opponents are men who fear change and prefer isolationism. Latona is a woman hemmed in by the patriarchy, recovering from trauma and breaking free of chains forged by what we would call gaslighting. The Iberians worry they’re facing a choice between colonization and conquest. Social issues compose the very beings of these characters. Nothing in From Unseen Fire was meant as a direct analog for current issues or modern political figures, but humanity has wrestled with a lot of the same questions for thousands of years. I think that’s always worth engaging with.

TQWhich question about From Unseen Fire do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Cass:  What scene do I most regret having to cut? There was a whole 20k section taking place at chariot races that I just loved but ended up not fitting -- but I’m hoping to rework it into Book 2!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from From Unseen Fire.


Shadow and Water both moved in him, a blend that lent itself to a strange intuition, an ability to hear words unsaid and see things not yet done.


‘All my life,’ she thought, ‘someone has been telling me what I must not do. Mother, father, husband, priestesses . . . How did it take me till now to realize how heartily sick of it I am?’

TQWhat's next?

Cass:  Books two and three of the Aven Cycle! Latona’s story isn’t over yet, so I’m working on getting those manuscripts into fighting shape. I’m also in the early stages of drafting a space opera with a heroine inspired by the French swordswoman/opera singer Julie d’Aubigny. I’m not far into it yet, but that one’s going to be a total romp, and I’m quite looking forward to it.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Cass:  Thanks for having me! I can’t wait to share From Unseen Fire and the world of Aven with more people.

From Unseen Fire
Aven Cycle 1
DAW, April 17, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Cass Morris, author of From Unseen Fire
From Unseen Fire is the first novel in the Aven Cycle, a historical fantasy set in an alternate Rome, by debut author Cass Morris

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people—if only she can find the courage to try.

Her siblings—a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition in the province of Iberia—will be her allies as she builds a place for herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?

About Cass

Interview with Cass Morris, author of From Unseen Fire
Cass Morris lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with the companionship of two royal felines, Princess and Ptolemy. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart. She can be found on Twitter at @CassRMorris.

Website  ~  Twitter @CassRMorris

Interview with Leo Carew, author of The Wolf

Please welcome Leo Carew to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Wolf was published on April 3rd by Orbit Books.

Interview with Leo Carew, author of The Wolf

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

Leo:  Thank you for having me!

I first remember writing a piece of school creative writing homework when I was about 10. It was about an alien escaping from a lab which ends up being captured by an heroic policeman. My teacher was very pleased, and ended up reading it out to the class. As someone who’d not done very well at school up until that point, it was a big moment for me, and pretty much the day I decided I wanted to be a writer.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Leo:  I’m a big plotter. I know exactly what the end of my story is going to be, and have a very clear idea of where I’m going when I sit down to write every day. But very often when I get where I planned to, I realise that there was a better route there, or another twist, or an idea I hadn’t thought of, and go back and change it. I’m not sure I’d ever have been able to write before word-processors. Apart from the fact I’m dyspraxic (so nobody could read it) my whole style is based on quick progress, and then painstaking revision!

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Leo:  Trying to muster the energy for it. I get very emotionally involved in my writing. When I can’t do that (most days, realistically) it doesn’t feel good. That’s been a big part of the transition from writing as an amateur, to writing for a contract. As an amateur, I only needed to do it when I was really compelled to. Doing it on demand requires producing the words even when you don’t want to, and I always have a suspicion that they’re less good.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does having a degree in Biological Anthropology influence your writing?

Leo:  My main literary influences are historical fiction, like Bernard Cornwell and Hillary Mantel. I love their ability to submerge you in an alternate world you can feel and smell, and very much wanted that for The Wolf. Philip Pullman is also a literary touchstone – I love his work, especially his characters.

Biological Anthropology was another huge inspiration. The book features several different kinds of human, and I leant quite heavily on analogous species like the Neanderthals in trying to imagine how they might have behaved differently from us. For example, it’s been thought for ages (incorrectly, in my view) that Neanderthals had an inferior ability to understand symbols. I gave that to the Anakim because it had some interesting consequences. It would mean that they’d be unlikely to develop writing, and their art would be very different (if not non-existent). And the consequences of that might make for quite a unique society.

TQDescribe The Wolf in 140 characters or less.

Leo:  Several species of human have survived the Ice Age, and coexist in an uneasy peace, shattered by an ambitious upstart.

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

Leo:  The protagonist, Roper, is inspired by the explorer Ernest Shackleton. His right-hand man, Gray, is inspired by another explorer named Bill Wilson.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Wolf? What appeals to you about writing Epic Fantasy?

Leo:  I really loved my studies in biological anthropology, and the thought of all these alien cultures which once coexisted. I very much wanted to explore what that might have been like, and there were a lot of themes I wanted to look at too. What it means to be human, the importance of identity, self-transcendence, leadership, responsibility and what pressure does to people and groups.

In general, I think about things in quite broad terms, and am most interested in the consequences for a society, rather than an individual. Change to a society creates all kinds of ripples and unforeseen consequences, and epic fantasy lets me play with those big themes.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Wolf?

Leo:  My biggest piece of research was probably related to names. I hate making up names, and also think it can make a story pretty impenetrable if you fill it with completely made-up words. I also wasn’t writing a full fantasy – I think of it more as an alternate history. Lots of the names therefore come from real places or cultures in our world, but an earlier or slightly different version of them, because the survival of the Anakim has modified the way history played out. Some kingdoms which were lost ended up surviving, or fracturing or unifying differently to the timeline we inhabit.

Otherwise, I was already quite well versed on the broad points of human species and the Ice Age from my degree. I’ve also been working on this series for so long, that I’ve picked up bits and pieces of history (largely from a lot of wonderfully-researched historical fiction) and integrated them along the way.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Wolf.

Leo:  Isn’t it wonderful? It’s the work of Patrick Insole and Lee Gibbons. It’s a splendidly striking image, and depicts the Silver Wolf’s Head, which is the banner of our protagonist, Roper. I particularly like it because the Anakim have a very abstract attitude to art, and I think it captures some of that.

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

Leo:  The easiest character to write is a sprinter named Pryce. He lives entirely in the moment and couldn’t care less about the opinions of others. His behavior is quite close to how my worst instincts tempt me to act, so he came very naturally!

The hardest is probably a queen called Aramilla. She is very subtle and manipulative, and I have to put a lot of thought into her lines to avoid making them too obvious and caricatured. Genuinely manipulative people can be very skillful and that’s a hard thing to replicate.

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

LeoWhy does the map of Albion look so different to modern Britain? Well thank you for asking… The entire book starts from the premise that the climate stayed a bit cooler after the last Ice Age. This meant sea-levels didn’t rise to the same extent, and created favourable conditions for multiple species of human to survive the Ice Age, and also a lot of fun Ice Age megafauna. The different outline of Albion is because the lower sea levels reveal more of the coastline, and the likes of Doggerland (Yawland in the book) are still exposed. I did so much research for this, I just had to tell somebody!

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

Leo:  I like this one, which is a description of how it felt for one of the main characters to visit the land of the Anakim, beyond the river Abus:

‘I cannot rest from that place. It is haunting me. Since I came back, I have felt like I am in a dream. It is as though I am living in a faint reflection of the world beyond the Abus. Everything is so soft, so easy. So flat. Up there, I felt awake for the first time in my life. Every tree; every hill and stream and word and footstep seemed more significant. I have to go back.’

TQWhat's next?

Leo:  I’ve just finished the first draft of the sequel to The Wolf. I’m going to Greenland to get some fairly serious distance from the manuscript, which I hope we’ll have ready for this time next year.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Leo:  My pleasure, thanks so much for having me!

The Wolf
Under the Northern Sky 1
Orbit, April 3, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook,400 pages

Interview with Leo Carew, author of The Wolf
Violence and death come to the land under the Northern Sky when two fierce races break their age-old fragile peace and start an all-out war in this thrilling and savagely visceral epic fantasy.

Ready or not, Roper has been thrust into a position of leadership that he's woefully ill prepared for. Now, a massive army approaches from the south, old allies turn against him, and new rivals seek to undermine his rule. Facing attack from within and without, Roper must forge reckless alliances, no matter the cost, to save his kingdom.

Bellamus is a brash but capable southern general, a commoner with the rare honor of having the discreet support of the Queen. Rising quickly from the minor ranks he was born into, Bellamus leads the march on the North. Victory means glory, power, and the favor of the king, but defeat promises much worse than disgrace.

A tale of war, rivalry, and honor, The Wolf creates a world that is both familiar and uncanny - one where the fiercest enemies are always closer than they seem.

Under the Northern Sky
The Wolf

About Leo

Leo Carew is a 26-year-old Cambridge graduate of Biological Anthropology, currently studying medicine. Apart from writing, his real passion is exploration, which led him to spend a year living in a tent in the High Arctic, where he trained and worked as an Arctic guide. The Wolf is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @leocarew1

Interview with Julia Whicker, author of Wonderblood

Please welcome Julia Whicker to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Wonderblood is published on April 3rd by St. Martin's Press.

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

Interview with Julia Whicker, author of Wonderblood

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

Julia:  I wrote my first short story when I was eleven. My father gave me his old laptop that weighed 10 pounds (it must have been one of the first laptops ever), and I wrote a story about a crystal dome and a beautiful girl. I don't really remember the plot except that it had to do with Atlantis, singing fountains and magical stones. So, pretty much something I'd still write.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Julia:  Definitely a plotter. One of my editors for Wonderblood said he'd never seen such detailed chapter summaries.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Julia:  Sitting down to actually write. I love reading, researching, thinking about writing, and plotting my stories, and I even love writing when I'm actually doing it, but settling into that moment when the words are flowing is difficult for me. I always think I need to read something else or let my story gestate just a bit longer before putting it on the page, but taking the plunge is usually worth it.

TQHow does writing poetry affect (or not) your prose writing?

Julia:  I've always been drawn to challenging prose in my reading life, and have felt that my natural talents (if I have any) run toward the crafting of specific sentences (over, say, characterization or plot, even though I try so hard).

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Julia:  I'm not actually a regular reader of fantasy fiction -- I read a lot of nonfiction books about strange occurrences and anomalous happenings (such as the collected works of Charles Fort), and I feel these greatly influence my interest in the surreal. I've also been influenced by great writers of historical fiction, like Barry Unsworth, John Banville, and especially Jane Smiley's The Greenlanders, which in my opinion is an overlooked masterpiece. Her ability to capture the daily concerns and lives of people who lived six hundred years ago, rendering their worldview as understandably foreign yet simultaneously relatable to the modern reader, is a true wonder, and inspired a lot of my thinking about how the characters in Wonderblood might exist in their future world.

TQDescribe Wonderblood in 140 characters or less.

Julia:  When a girl is captured by a self-styled prophet & warlord, she is thrust into his violent plan. A post-apocalyptic fantasy about religious war & perverse faith.

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

Julia:  In my mind, Wonderblood was always a book about faith more than anything else. What it means to lack faith, to have it, to have it and lose it or to lose it and regain it. All those iterations are endlessly fascinating to me, so much that what the characters actually believe in (or don't believe in) is less interesting to me than what it feels like to explore the nooks and crannies of faith itself. That's why I have some characters who believe in science, some in magic, some who don't know what to believe and some who discover they should have believed in themselves from the very beginning.

TQWhat inspired you to write Wonderblood? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction and in particular a dystopian novel?

Julia:  I think I write fantasy/sci-fi because it's the best vehicle for synthesizing my interests. I love the weird, the strange, the wondrous, and creating a world that doesn't exist is the best way (for me) to explore those ideas. I chose to write a dystopian novel because I've always loved a good apocalyptic disaster, and I had the thought that I should write a book with a double apocalypse. That's why Wonderblood takes place after the world has been destroyed (by the Disease), and before it might be destroyed again (by the lights in the sky). If I write more in the series, which I hope to, readers will get to see the second apocalypse!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Wonderblood?

Julia:  Quite a lot. I began by researching prion diseases which contaminate the earth for many many years, I read a lot about Kepler the Renaissance astronomer (and astrologer!) as an inspiration for John the Astronomer, I read about Thelema, a system of magic developed by Aleister Crowley in the early 20th century, about the L.A. magician and rocket scientist Jack Parsons, who supposedly summoned an elemental to become his wife, I read about Tycho Brahe's (another Renaissance astronomer) star-gazing castle, John Dee and his assistant Edward Kelley (more Elizabethan scientist/magicians) and much more. Wonderblood represents a period of time I spent researching the conjunction of science and magic in late 1500s/early 1600s Europe.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Wonderblood.

Julia:  I love the cover! It depicts Aurora, the girl, with her head full of the cosmos, which is beautiful to me because I wanted the cover to convey a sense of utter wonder about the heavens. The religion of the characters is centered on the possibility of salvation descending from space, and I think the cover demonstrates this, as well as asking us to consider the magnitude of our potential aloneness.

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

Julia:  The easiest character to write was John, because he is the most like me. He struggles constantly with his own self-worth, and feels a burning desire to feel faith of some kind but cannot muster it. The hardest character was certainly Mr. Capulatio -- I needed him to be seductive, compelling, obviously monstrous without being a monster, per se, because I did not want to make him a villain in the sense that he is only bad. I wanted readers to eventually come to feel that he has been deluded and misled by his religion, but also that this should not "let him off the hook," so to speak, for his terrible deeds. He is a complicated character!

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

Julia:  I chose to include the very difficult subjects of implied rape and the abduction of a minor because, as a feminist, I feel that these issues have certainly not been adequately tackled in our current circumstances. Historically (and -- realistically -- in a future dystopian society, as well as in many societies in our world today) young girls are the most marginalized of people, often completely powerless to control their destinies. This is inextricably bound up with others' designs on their sexuality. In Wonderblood, Aurora begins as a helpless captive of her insane brother, is abducted by another powerful man and comes to understand her own power beyond her sexuality: her power as a human being to potentially save other human beings from death. I deeply wanted to write her as a savior, and not because of any "purity" or "impurity" (arbitrarily assigned by those with sexual designs on her) but because of her implicit kindness, empathy, and wisdom.

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

Julia:  Why does the future in Wonderblood (it's set 1000 years in the future) look more like the Renaissance?

After thinking long and hard about what a depopulated, destabilized future U.S. might look like, I kept returning to several key themes: religion, violence, and environmental contamination. I am not a scientist, but I've always been interested in medicine and disease, so after killing off most of the country via disease and rendering much of the land unsuitable for habitation, I wondered what would be left. Fear, mostly! How do we tackle fear in this country? Often through religion, for better or worse. I've long been intrigued by the pre-modern melding of science and magic, a blend that actually makes a lot of sense in a predominantly religious society. If our world ended and the survivors developed a new religion around the world-ending (which they probably would, in my mind) I felt that there would be necessarily tension between religion and science -- this formed the central thesis of Wonderblood.

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


"At last they made their camp outside the Cape compound's walls. Mr. Capulatio's carnival was already the mightiest in the land and functioned with a frightening efficiency. His men could raise it entirely in under nine hours. His own giant tent was so large it contained his wagon wholly; he and [Aurora] used the wagon as their bedchamber. Outside, men laid planks for walkways, the merchants and charm-makers pitched their booths, and just as soon as they finished tying down the last tent pegs Mr. Capulatio's new, great flag was hoisted over the encampment. This was a flag of conquering, he mused to her as he watched it unfurl. His chest rose and fell as they stood together in the tent's doorway. They looked out upon the carnival, and farther away they could see the metal spires of the castle beginning to whirl the morning light back to them and all around the land was low and flat, and the air heavy, and beyond that began the pink-blue crescent the sea." -Aurora's impression of Mr. Capulatio's camp at Cape Canaveral.

"There came over him the undeniable impression that all reason was leaking from the world, that he was a faucet, that through his miscalculations all things would slowly but surely upend themselves. What could these lights be, if not the shuttles? It seemed fitting that after decades of failure, John, who had his whole life long desired truth and order, should now be reliant upon a con-man who may well have real visions. Why shouldn't the truth, when it finally came to John Sousa, be revealed by a liar?" -John the Astronomer

TQWhat's next?

Julia:  I hope to write two more books set in the world of Wonderblood, ultimately taking readers to the Mystagogue in Kansas. In addition, I'm currently writing a fantasy novel set in colonial America, just after the Revolutionary War, which deals with evil rocks, Washington DC, virulent rabies and cities of blood.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Julia:  Thank you so much for having me! What fun it was to answer these questions!

St. Martin's Press, April 3, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Julia Whicker, author of Wonderblood
Set 500 years in the future, a mad cow-like disease called “Bent Head” has killed off most of the U.S. population. Those remaining turn to magic and sacrifice to cleanse the Earth.

Wonderblood is Julia Whicker's fascinating literary debut, set in a barren United States, an apocalyptic wasteland where warring factions compete for control of the land in strange and dangerous carnivals. A mad cow-like disease called "Bent Head" has killed off millions. Those who remain worship the ruins of NASA's space shuttles, and Cape Canaveral is their Mecca. Medicine and science have been rejected in favor of magic, prophecy, and blood sacrifice.

When traveling marauders led by the bloodthirsty Mr. Capulatio invade her camp, a young girl named Aurora is taken captive as his bride and forced to join his band on their journey to Cape Canaveral. As war nears, she must decide if she is willing to become her captor's queen. But then other queens emerge, some grotesque and others aggrieved, and not all are pleased with the girl's ascent. Politics and survival are at the centre of this ravishing novel.

About Julia

Interview with Julia Whicker, author of Wonderblood
Photo by John Eicher
Julia Whicker received her MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop in 2006, where she won both the prestigious Capote Fellowship and the Teaching-Writing Fellowship. She’s had her poetry published in the Iowa Review, Word Riot, and The Millions, among others, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A version of the first chapter of Wonderblood was published in the literary journal, Unstuck.

Website  ~ Tumblr

Interview with Rowenna Miller, author of Torn

Please welcome Rowenna Miller to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Torn was published on March 20th by Orbit.

Interview with Rowenna Miller, author of Torn

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

Rowenna:  I was probably about four or five and couldn’t actually write on my own yet, so I dictated a story to my mom and then illustrated it. I think it was about ponies. I’m sorry, Mom.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Rowenna:  Somewhere in between. I know where the story is heading, the basic plot points, and, probably most importantly for me, the major conflicts, themes, and character developments. I usually write a couple of guiding documents for myself—a short summary (like a book jacket blurb) that distills the main arc of the novel (who wants what, what’s in their way, what complicates their plans) and a longer synopsis that hits the major plot points and how the characters intersect and develop. If I can write both of those, I know I have a dynamic and productive enough idea that there’s a book there, but I’m pretty open to surprises.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rowenna:  Right now, just carving out enough time! I have two small children and, just in case anyone hasn’t told you, kids keep you kinda busy, especially when one is a baby. I don’t say “finding time,” because if you wait to find it, you never will, but scheduling enough time while still staying flexible and able to drop everything for a writing sprint if I do happen to discover a free half hour is a challenge. At the same time, writing is my happy place, so it’s worth it.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Rowenna:  As a kid, I read a ton—the Prydain Chronicles, Tamora Pierce, The Chronicles of Narnia—but I also explored a lot. I was lucky to grow up in the country with trees and hills and permissive parents who didn’t limit my exploration of our little slice of forest…or the neighbors’. I also was (and remain) fascinated by history, and love digging into the history of more ordinary people—women’s history, the lives of marginalized people, military history (not the generals or the campaigns but the average soldier). Between being encouraged to explore and then exploring history with the eye of a bibliophile—there are stories everywhere, and that is probably the strongest guide in my writing.

TQDescribe Torn in 140 characters or less.

Rowenna:  As revolution threatens her city, a magic-wielding seamstress must choose between family and ambition.

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

Rowenna:  Sophie has a lot to lose, as revolution threatens her business just as it’s begun to take off. As the story opens, she develops a professional relationship that grows into friendship with a very influential noble, who (along with giving her business some nice commissions) invites her to take part in her exclusive salon. The concept of a gathering place to discuss ideas was based on the historical practice from the Enlightenment. It’s like book club on steroids meets those late night talks in your college dorm’s common room, and the most interesting part (to me) is that the development of salons in eighteenth century France was heavily influenced by women, who hosted and guided conversation at these gatherings.

TQYou've created an innovative magic system. Please tell us about it.

Rowenna:  The magical system in Torn is not widely practiced in the culture it occupies, and what’s more, isn’t widely respected, partially because, in the nation Sophie lives, it’s a practice imported by immigrants. In it, practitioners can imbue physical items with charms for good fortune (or, as Sophie is adamant about avoiding, curses for bad luck). However, it’s not terribly powerful magic as practiced by most casters, and it’s considered by the majority of the people to be a superstition. (It’s very loosely inspired by ancient Roman curse tablets.)

TQWhat inspired you to write Torn? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Rowenna:  I am a historical costumer and living history nerd, and was researching late eighteenth century jackets called “caraco.” It’s a really interesting time, sartorially speaking, and we have many fashion plates and extant garments that survive to study and learn from. As I was digging into a set of fashion plates, I realized that they were produced in the years leading up to and during the French Revolution—and found myself wondering, if a seamstress could influence the outcome of major world events, how would she? I think that’s what appeals to me about writing fantasy—that “what if?” question, and the ability to think about the “real world” through a different lens.

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

Rowenna:  Sophie and Kristos (sister and brother), especially the two of them together, were probably the easiest to write. Creating their characters and their interpersonal conflict happened in tandem and developed very organically. Quite a few central character traits emerged and were refined by writing their arguments! Oddly, one of the hardest things for me with this project was managing the “background characters”—the other charmcasters Sophie knows, her shop assistants, the nobles she meets. Secondary and tertiary characters are important, and it was important to me that they feel like real people, which is difficult to do when they only appear for short sections of text!

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

Rowenna:  The major conflict in the novel is a proletariat revolt, so social issues were a given! The system that Kristos and his peers are fighting against is clearly unjust, placing economic and legal power solely in the hands of the nobility. However, it was important to me to write a story with more nuance than the good guys fighting the evil empire. The nobles aren’t entirely blind to their privileged place in the system, but many honestly believe that they are using their wealth and power to benefit everyone. Even Sophie benefits from this system in many ways. The concept of “good” people still benefiting from and contributing to an unjust system felt very relevant to me right now. It’s uncomfortable, but I wanted to write something a little uncomfortable.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Torn.

Rowenna:  I was totally surprised and blown away by the cover! The artists at Orbit created a gorgeous and evocative image—a silhouette in sewing needles that suggests mounting danger. Love it.

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

Rowenna:  Though “historical accuracy” in sewing arts is central to the book, are there inaccuracies?

YES! There are several small liberties taken, particularly that styles of gowns overlap one anther here in ways they didn’t historically, at least not fashionably so. The biggest deliberate inaccuracy for me was that I didn’t want this world to have a whaling industry. Whalebone (baleen) was widely used to build corsets in the eighteenth century (and whale oil and ambergris were major commodities, too), but hey, it’s my world, I got to create it, and whaling just makes me sad, so nope. So any place whalebone might be used, I imagined a lightweight metal (not accurate) substitute. This barely shows up in the text—a court gown is described as having metal in the foundation garments—but it was important to me.

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


“There was a feeling, too, that welled within me when the process was working just right. A kind of deep-seated happiness, simple but complete, like the feeling that came with seeing a baby laugh or smelling fresh-baked apple pie or hearing soft rainfall on the roof. And though I was tired—and hungry—after working on a charm for a few hours, I was calmly content.”

“A single crow worries no one, but a flock can strip a field. Revolution must take wing under an entire flock, not one or two voices alone.”

TQWhat's next?

Rowenna:  I’m hard at work on Torn’s sequel! More political intrigue, charmed silk, and difficult decisions on the way!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Rowenna:  Thanks so much for having me!

The Unraveled Kingdom 1
Orbit, March 20, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with Rowenna Miller, author of Torn
TORN is the first book in an enchanting debut fantasy series featuring a seamstress who stitches magic into clothing, and the mounting political uprising that forces her to choose between her family and her ambitions, for fans of The Queen of the Tearling.

In a time of revolution, everyone must take a side.

Sophie, a dressmaker and charm caster, has lifted her family out of poverty with a hard-won reputation for beautiful ball gowns and discreetly embroidered spells. A commission from the royal family could secure her future — and thrust her into a dangerous new world.

Revolution is brewing. As Sophie’s brother, Kristos, rises to prominence in the growing anti-monarchist movement, it is only a matter of time before their fortunes collide.

When the unrest erupts into violence, she and Kristos are drawn into a deadly magical plot. Sophie is torn — between her family and her future.

About Rowenna

Interview with Rowenna Miller, author of Torn
Photo by Heidi Hauck
Rowenna Miller grew up in a log cabin in Indiana and still lives in the Midwest with her husband and daughter, where she teaches English composition, trespasses while hiking, and spends too much time researching and recreating historical textiles.

Website  ~  Twitter @RowennaM

Interview with Jamey Bradbury, author of The Wild Inside

Please welcome Jamey Bradbury to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Wild Inside is published on March 20th by William Morrow.

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

Interview with Jamey Bradbury, author of The Wild Inside

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

Jamey:  I was writing before I actually put pen to paper. I used to make up plays and force my younger brother and cousins to act them out. But the first time I remember plotting out a story and putting it on paper was in the first grade, around age six or seven. I wrote and illustrated a story about a boy who moved to a new town and couldn’t make friends at school, but did manage to make friends with a monster, instead.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jamey:  Total by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. I find if I plot things out too far in advance, the idea becomes stale to me—I don’t wind up surprising myself, or letting the characters surprise me.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jamey:  The first draft. I’m never happier than when I’m rewriting—which may account for my writing process, which consists of drafting until I run out of ideas or run up against a plot problem; then I circle back around and rewrite everything I’ve got, hoping the momentum will push me through whatever I was struggling with. I hate bumping around in the dark with no light, wondering where I am and what’s going to happen next—and that’s what a first draft feels like. But it’s worth it to get to the good stuff, i.e., the revision.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jamey:  Alaska’s a big influence on my writing. Not just the landscape, which is pretty inspirational, but also its emptiness and distance. Alaska is such a large state, with so much space that’s only trees and wildlife and mountains. You feel the distance between people, between towns, between the state itself and the rest of the country. It’s like the physical manifestation of the psychic distance between people—the difficulty we have in truly knowing another person, which is what a lot of my writing ends up being about.

TQDescribe The Wild Inside in 140 characters or less.

Jamey:  Stubborn, feral Alaskan girl hunts animals, maybe stabs a guy, and hates being grounded. Finds people irritating, but likes dogs.

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

Jamey:  Since Tracy and her dad are mushers, they have about forty dogs they raise, train, and take care of. A lot of the dogs are named after dogs I know personally. For instance, Zip and Stella, in real life, are a Jack Russell terrier and a labradoodle I used to dog sit for. Homer and Canyon are actually two yellow labs that belong to some friends who took me sailing one time. The other dogs in the book have theme names, just like a lot of litters that belong to actual mushers—like the “words that convey movement” litter (Fly, Chug, Pogo).

TQWhat inspired you to write The Wild Inside? What appeals to you about writing a psychological thriller?

JameyThe Wild Inside started as an attempt to write a horror novel because that’s what I love to read—especially horror that’s mashed up with what critics might deem “literary” fiction. I like books that seem steeped in reality until the surreal or weird or terrifying creeps in. In a lot of ways, if The Wild Inside is a horror novel, Tracy ends up being the monster of her own story. I think that’s what ultimately turned the story into something that’s more akin to a psychological thriller—if you’re inside the “monster’s” head, privy to her struggle with being monstrous, you end up gaining a better understanding of the scary thing, which hopefully sparks a little empathy, in this case.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Wild Inside?

Jamey:  I’ve only been dog sledding once, and that was a short excursion with some mushers I visited when I first moved to Alaska as an AmeriCorps volunteer. So for the mushing aspects of the book, I read a good bit: books like Yukon Alone by John Balzar and Winterdance by Gary Paulson; the article “Out in the Great Alone” by Brian Phillips was helpful, too. Twitter has become a surprisingly helpful research tool, allowing me to follow mushers like Blair Braverman and Dallas Seavy. For animal and hunting and trapping information, I relied upon the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s very user-friendly website.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Wild Inside.

Jamey:  The cover of The Wild Inside was inspired by a poster for the 2017 movie It Comes at Night, which also depicts a dog, seen from behind as it gazes into the terrifying, endless night. I saw the poster and thought, “That’s my cover,” so I sent it to my editor, and the talented folks at William Morrow—including jacket designer Mumtaz Mustafa—took that bit of inspiration and made something I’m totally in love with. At the heart of this book lies the protagonist’s true love—dog sledding—so a dog made sense. But the way the dog seems poised, ears up, watchful, taking in the falling snow and whatever else might be out there—I feel like it captures the tension at the heart of the novel—the draw of wildness pushing against the need for home and family.

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

Jamey:  Tracy was the easiest. After writing and rewriting so much, I felt I knew her inside and out—her stubbornness and secretiveness, her desire to do good by her family, her simultaneous need to be her own person and live by her own rules. I grew to understand her reasons behind every action, even the truly terrible ones, even as I disapproved of the things she thought she had to do.

Tracy’s mother, Hannah, was the toughest to write, mostly because we only see her in flashback and through Tracy’s admittedly often unreliable filter. Even though Tracy is the one interpreting her mother’s actions and personality for the reader, as the writer I had to know Hannah better than her daughter did—to understand her motivations and her love and fear of her own daughter.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Wild Inside?

Jamey:  I knew early on that Jesse needed a secret—something that would pique Tracy’s curiosity and, eventually, draw the two of them together, based on their shared need to hide in plain sight. When I realized what Jesse’s secret was, I also realized that—because of Tracy’s unique ability to know other people—it was an opportunity to skip over all the questions (and doubts and suspicion) some people may have when someone reveals something like sexual preference or gender identity. With her ability to “know” a person so completely, Tracy wouldn’t have doubts or suspicion; she would accept a person for who they are, which I found refreshing.

It’s important to me to write about folks we don’t always see represented in popular culture (although, happily, representation seems to be growing and changing). It’s true that when you can see yourself in the media you consume, you can also see possibility, and perhaps understand yourself and others better. As an asexual person, for a long time I thought I was some kind of crazy anomaly; who talks about being asexual, unless you happen to be a plant? It wasn’t until I started to see asexual people represented in film and television that I realized I wasn’t alone.

I also think it’s important to tell stories about all kinds of people that aren’t just the story about their “otherness.” Not every story about a gay person has to be about their coming out. Not every story about a person of color needs to be an object lesson. I want to see stories that are just stories, that happen to have gay or trans people or people of color as their protagonists and supporting characters.

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

Jamey:  Maybe, “Where can I find the Peter Kleinhaus book Tracy loves so much?” Which is a trick question, because you can’t: I made up How I Am Undone by Peter Kleinhaus—and frankly, writing the excerpts from that was a heck of a lot easier than writing The Wild Inside. Probably because I could just write the pretty parts and not worry about making the plot make sense. But who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll tell Peter Kleinhaus’s whole story, too.

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

Jamey:  “There are books out there that when you read them, you wonder how some stranger could know exactly what’s in your own mind.” I like that because it’s how I feel when I read a really great book. And because, like Tracy, sometimes I wish other people were as easy to get to know as a really great book.

One more: “There is satisfaction in running fast…My mind travels somewhere else, and I become only breath and bone and muscle. The feeling is serene and focused, powerful and energized, all at the same time.” Because that’s exactly how I feel on the rare occasion I manage to hit a meditative state when I’m out running

TQWhat's next?

Jamey:  I’m working through the first draft of my second novel, which is inspired by two things: the Winchester Mystery House and Homer, Alaska, which is a small coastal town in the southeast part of the state. There’s a spit down in Homer which features the longest road into ocean waters in the world. In my book, at the end of this road, a woman has built a massive house with doors in every surface—large doors, tiny doors, doors within doors, doors in ceilings, doors in floors. Every door she opens gives her access to a different point in her own life—and, possibly, to points in alternate versions of her life. It’s a book about memory, time travel, history, dementia, and family.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Wild Inside
William Morrow, March 20, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Jamey Bradbury, author of The Wild Inside
"The Wild Inside is an unusual love story and a creepy horror novel — think of the Brontë sisters and Stephen King." —John Irving

A promising talent makes her electrifying debut with this unforgettable novel, set in the Alaskan wilderness, that is a fusion of psychological thriller and coming-of-age tale in the vein of Jennifer McMahon, Chris Bohjalian, and Mary Kubica.

A natural born trapper and hunter raised in the Alaskan wilderness, Tracy Petrikoff spends her days tracking animals and running with her dogs in the remote forests surrounding her family’s home. Though she feels safe in this untamed land, Tracy still follows her late mother’s rules: Never Lose Sight of the House. Never Come Home with Dirty Hands. And, above all else, Never Make a Person Bleed.

But these precautions aren’t enough to protect Tracy when a stranger attacks her in the woods and knocks her unconscious. The next day, she glimpses an eerily familiar man emerge from the tree line, gravely injured from a vicious knife wound—a wound from a hunting knife similar to the one she carries in her pocket. Was this the man who attacked her and did she almost kill him? With her memories of the events jumbled, Tracy can’t be sure.

Helping her father cope with her mother’s death and prepare for the approaching Iditarod, she doesn’t have time to think about what she may have done. Then a mysterious wanderer appears, looking for a job. Tracy senses that Jesse Goodwin is hiding something, but she can’t warn her father without explaining about the attack—or why she’s kept it to herself.

It soon becomes clear that something dangerous is going on . . . the way Jesse has wormed his way into the family . . . the threatening face of the stranger in a crowd . . . the boot-prints she finds at the forest’s edge.

Her family is in trouble. Will uncovering the truth protect them—or is the threat closer than Tracy suspects?

About Jamey

Interview with Jamey Bradbury, author of The Wild Inside
Photo by Brooke Taylor
Born in Illinois, Jamey Bradbury has lived in Alaska for fifteen years, leaving only briefly to earn her MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Winner of an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters, she has published fiction in Black Warrior Review, Sou’wester, and Zone 3, and she has written for the Anchorage Daily News,, and storySouth. Jamey lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @JameyBradbury

Interview with Nick Clark Windo, author of The Feed

Please welcome Nick Clark Windo to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Feed was published on March 13th by William Morrow.

In addition, Amazon and Liberty Global have announced that they have ordered a ten-episode adaption of The Feed from The Walking Dead executive producer Channing Powell and British producer Studio Lambert.

Congratulation to Nick on both the publication of The Feed and the upcoming TV adaption!

Interview with Nick Clark Windo, author of The Feed

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

Nick Clark Windo:  Thank you very much – it’s lovely to be here.

I can’t remember much about them, but I remember writing short stories at school as part of English class. There was one in particular written when I must have been seven or so, and some kids had discovered a portal to another world that was ruled by an evil goblin. They swore to defeat this evil goblin and then, when they got home, the evil goblin came to their house to try to kill them, but they dodged him and he burned to death on a heated towel rail. The teacher wrote in the margin ‘How did the goblin know where they live?’ I don’t think this was the only flaw in the story, but it got me thinking about plotting.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

NCW:  I love the term ‘pantser’! For The Feed I was a hybrid. I knew quite a lot about the novel – the midpoint, for example, and the last line – so I had a very good idea where the characters needed to go emotionally, and that worked as a compass point for pantsing their ways there. I like getting lost in a world, and there are certainly lots of things in the novel that wouldn’t have been there if I’d sat down and planned it all. At the same time, I reckon I could have shaved about five drafts off the process if I’d planned a little more.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

NCW:  At the moment, finding the time. Who knew that babies warp time like black holes do? It’s really quite distracting. That aside, it’s re-reading with an eye to delete as much as possible; trying to have no more words than is necessary. Because reading your own work like that requires your brain to be operating on many different levels simultaneously it’s draining: it’s not just about the words that are in front of you, it’s how they relate to all the other words in the book. It requires stamina. It’s very easy to realise you’ve read ten pages and not deleted anything, and it’s very unlikely that there’s nothing delete-worthy in ten pages.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

NCW:  I’ve always read irrespective of genre. In fact, I find pigeon holing books can be quite detrimental – I don’t think it’s necessarily good for them or for our imaginations. Same with TV and film, too: as a viewer, I’m happy to swallow anything – as long as nothing ‘catches’ me. Reading or viewing (and I hope this doesn’t sound too weird) I’m looking for a smooth experience: an overwritten sentence, a jarring edit, an intrusive soundtrack, a character whose actions are driven by plot necessity rather than their established ‘reality’…all of these things catch like a splinter on a piece of furniture and bring you out of the story. I’m very magpie-ish when I’m writing. Books, films, TV, music, overheard conversations, it all gets filtered and what feels interesting gets jotted down in the notebook and then, hopefully, worked and smoothed into place in the story.

TQDescribe The Feed in 140 characters or less.

NCWThe Feed is about two parents searching for their abducted daughter in an era when technology has collapsed.

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

NCW:  It’s not all doom and gloom! I actually think that a post-apocalyptic world could be very beautiful. There’s loads of nature, for example. Granted, it’s dangerous, but it’s beautiful too. And there’s something very beautiful about the relationships that need to develop across the story – people go on some big emotional journeys, and I think there’s a lot of hope therein, and some lovely moments between people.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Feed? What appeals to you about writing an SF thriller and in particular, a post-apocalyptic thriller?

NCW:  I’d had the idea for the ‘Taken’ a while ago, and how terrifying that would be: people being ‘taken’ in their sleep. They’d look like themselves, they’d sound like themselves…but they wouldn’t be. But I wasn’t sure about the world at that time, but a year or so later I had some Twitter-induced insomnia. I was basically checking it up until the second before I went to sleep and the rhythm of the technology – refresh, refresh, refresh – infected the speed of my dreams. There was one night where I was trapped in my sleep, refreshing my dreams all night. It was exhausting. So the next morning, I knew the world I wanted to investigate: one where technology is part of us, where we’re directly linked to each other. So, yes, it is a bit of a sci-fi concept in that this technology doesn’t exist. But it only doesn’t exist quite yet. To explore this aspect of our society I had to image how the way we’re currently living might look in a few years’ time – and that happened to be a post-apocalyptic world. My next book’s not post-apocalyptic.

TQDo you use social media?

NCW:  Yes, though with added caution now! I love Twitter. But I can feel it fusing my thoughts. So I try to be strict with myself: no emails or Twitter after 7pm or before breakfast. Or at weekends. So if anything urgent happens outside those times, or if the apocalypse hits, please phone me!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Feed?

NCW:  Two different types. The first was extrapolating my experience of technology and translating that into the Feed world. The Feed is the Internet directly to our brains: immediate access to unlimited knowledge and instant communication. It's not a paradigm shift from how we live now, but it’s an extreme version. So a lot of my research was sensing out how I feel about technology and how technology makes me feel (which is both very good and very bad – for me, it's all about whether I control it or it’s controlling me). The second was reading a lot around it, especially around neurology and technology. There’s a fantastic book called The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, for example, about how tech is physically rewiring our brains. Absolutely fascinating stuff. And I was really keen to give a balanced view of technology. Obviously, the book has to be dramatic, so things have to go wrong, but there are huge advantages to technological development. It just depends on how we use it.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Feed.

NCW:  Well, first of all, I love it! And I love the interior design and the font, too. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given what I said earlier about reading irrespective of genre and not always liking books being pigeon holed, I’m also really happy that the cover doesn’t scream ‘Sci-fi’. Just to be clear – I love sci-fi. But the sci-fi element of The Feed is actually relatively small – there’s a lot of other stuff going on. So I love the simple and nature of the cover art: it’s there for interpretation. And the colours! The colours are great.

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

NCW:  The easiest was the Pharmacist, in that he was very clear to me from the start. He’s a dangerous person. What delighted me was when it became clear that his mania and his desire to hurt people comes from how badly he’s been hurt in the past. He’s damaged and wants to damage in return. So I ended up feeling pretty sympathetic towards him.

The hardest was probably Tom. Given that Tom and Kate are our heroes, I wanted them to be sympathetic. I wanted them to be good people, so that the readers would back them and care about them. But I realised a few drafts in that Tom was just so anodyne. Furthermore, that portraying people behaving nicely is really un-dramatic. Further to that, the world of The Feed is not friendly, it's not fair; it's a place where there’s not necessarily a ‘right’ decision. And I’d argue that Tom does some cowardly things and makes bad decisions. So that was a bit heart breaking, putting these nice people in very tough situations.

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

NCW:  They’re there at the core of the story: it’s about our relationship with technology, and how technology is slowly (yet in plain sight) changing not just our relationships with each other, but what it means to be human at all.

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

NCW:  Will there be a sequel? Well, I know what would happen in it if there were one; two, in fact. It’s a big world with more to explore, and some things in the first book not being quite what they seem.

TQWhat's next?

NCW:  Well I’m writing my next novel. It’s different from The Feed in that it’s not set in a post-apocalyptic world, but it has flavours that people will recognise. It will also, hopefully, appeal to people who like films – so there’s a broad target audience, for you! There’s also the TV adaptation of The Feed, which is due to start shooting soon. Casting for that is happening at the moment. It’s very exciting.

TQCongratulations for The Feed TV show! Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

NCW:  Thank you very much! It’s been a pleasure to be here.

The Feed
William Morrow, March 13, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Nick Clark Windo, author of The Feed
Set in a post-apocalyptic world as unique and vividly imagined as those of Station Eleven and The Girl with All the Gifts, a startling and timely debut that explores what it is to be human and what it truly means to be connected in the digital age.


The Feed is accessible everywhere, by everyone, at any time. It instantaneously links us to all information and global events as they break. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it; it is the essential tool everyone relies on to know and understand the thoughts and feelings of partners, parents, friends, children, colleagues, bosses, employees . . . in fact, of anyone and everyone else in the world.

Tom and Kate use the Feed, but Tom has resisted its addiction, which makes him suspect to his family. After all, his father created it. But that opposition to constant connection serves Tom and Kate well when the Feed collapses after a horrific tragedy shatters the world as they know it.

The Feed’s collapse, taking modern society with it, leaves people scavenging to survive. Finding food is truly a matter of life and death. Minor ailments, previously treatable, now kill. And while the collapse has demolished the trappings of the modern world, it has also eroded trust. In a world where survival of the fittest is a way of life, there is no one to depend upon except yourself . . . and maybe even that is no longer true.

Tom and Kate have managed to protect themselves and their family. But then their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing. Who has taken her? How do you begin to look for someone in a world without technology? And what happens when you can no longer even be certain that the people you love are really who they claim to be?

About Nick

Interview with Nick Clark Windo, author of The Feed
Photo © James Eckersley
NICK CLARK WINDO was a student on the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. He studied English Literature at Cambridge and acting at RADA, and he now works as a film producer and communications coach. Inspired by his realisation that people are becoming increasingly disconnected from one another, and questions about identity and memory, The Feed is his first thriller. He lives in London with his wife.

Twitter @nickhdclark

Interview with Michael David Ares, author of Dayfall

Please welcome David Michael Ares to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Dayfall is published on March 13th by Tor Books.

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

Interview with Michael David Ares, author of Dayfall

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

Michael:  An old west story called “Harvey Jones, Thief” at age 6. It included some “illustrations” (if you can call them that) that were little more than stick figures.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Michael:  Definitely a plotter. “Winging it” scares me.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  The (usually) low amount of income, which causes other difficulties like motivation and making time to write.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Michael:  All the great books and movies I’ve scanned into my nearly photographic memory over the years since I was a child, and the better parts of the bad ones.

TQDescribe Dayfall in 140 characters or less.

Michael:  Inspired in part by Isaac Asimov’s classic story Nightfall, Dayfall is a neo-noir Training Day with a touch of Philip K. Dick.

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

Michael:  It features a plethora of really cool Manhattan locations, most of which are real places. Those settings and the dark/light/ultraviolet visual themes would make for a great-looking movie.

TQWhat inspired you to write Dayfall? What appealed to you about writing an SF / neo-noir thriller?

Michael:  I love classic noir, especially the Philip Marlowe novels by Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, etc.). But as much as I love re-reading them, they can’t be re-written, so “neo-noir” is the way to go for authors like me. And since I also love science fiction with a psychological bent, like the early works of Alfred Bester and Philip K. Dick, those kinds of elements were a perfect way for me to add the “neo” to my noir.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Dayfall?

Michael:  I did a lot of scientific reading to find out what would happen to Manhattan (and other Northern Hemisphere cities) if there was a nuclear conflagration between Pakistan and India , and I combed the Big Apple to find those really cool locations I mentioned.

TQWhy did you set the novel in Manhattan?

Michael:  Because it has those really cool locations, like the Flatiron Building that houses the Macmillan/Tor offices! Also, New York is a great place to start a series, and in my near-future world it is the first major city (before London, Paris, Berlin, and Moscow) where the Dayfall occurs.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Dayfall.

Michael:  I love the cover, and I’m proud to say that I’m the one who came up with the idea to use an image of the Manhattan Solstice (or “Manhattanhenge,” as it’s often called). That‘s already such an amazing visual phenomenon, and in the world of the novel it takes on the additional qualities of mystery (what’s gonna happen?) and menace (will it be really bad?).

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

Michael:  The easiest was Jon Phillips, the main protagonist, because he’s young and idealistic enough to be rather single-minded in his goals and motivations (at least in the first half of the story). The hardest was Jon’s enigmatic partner Frank Halladay, because it was a challenge to depict him as “rude, crude, and socially unacceptable” without making him too unlikeable or telegraphing which side he’s really on.

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

Michael:  I didn’t intentionally include social issues—I just wanted to tell a good story—but they are a part of life, so they have a way of cropping up. Some have said that the wealthy industrialist Gareth Render, who wants to run the city, is reminiscent of Donald Trump. That was actually not intentional on my part, but in hindsight there are definitely some similarities between the two. And I think the primary sociological/political lesson illustrated in the novel is: “Don’t put your trust in princes,” because they’ll always let you down.

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

Michael:  Are the movie rights available? The answer is yes, and it would translate to the screen very well!

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

Michael:  “In an eerie twist of fate, the 9/11 memorial had been prophetic as well as commemorative, because its inverse fountains conjured images of the buildings descending into a watery grave.” “Love is blind, Detective Phillips, and sex makes you stupid…there’s a reason for those clichés.”

TQWhat's next?

Michael:  I’m hoping to put out a series of sequels to Dayfall that will be set in London, Paris, Berlin, and Moscow as the sunlight returns to those cities for the first time, and explore some of the interesting themes that were introduced in the first novel. Then I’d like to publish another series of novels set in the not-so-near future (about 50 years from now) and a third series set in the more distant future, all of which will have connections to one another in an epic literary world called the Exos Universe.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michael:  Thank you!

Tor Books, March 13, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Interview with Michael David Ares, author of Dayfall

In the near future, patches of the northern hemisphere have been shrouded in years of darkness from a nuclear winter, and the water level has risen in the North Atlantic. The island of Manhattan has lost its outer edges to flooding and is now ringed by a large seawall.

The darkness and isolation have allowed crime and sin to thrive in the never-ending shadows of the once great city, and when the sun finally begins to reappear, everything gets worse. A serial killer cuts a bloody swath across the city during the initial periods of daylight, and a violent panic sweeps through crowds on the streets. The Manhattan police, riddled with corruption and apathy, are at a loss.

That's when the Mayor recruits Jon Phillips, a small-town Pennsylvania cop who had just single-handedly stopped a high-profile serial killer in his own area, and flies him into the insanity of this new New York City. The young detective is partnered with a shady older cop and begins to investigate the crimes amidst the vagaries of a twenty-four hour nightlife he has never experienced before. Soon realizing that he was chosen for reasons other than what he was told, Jon is left with no one to trust and forced to go on the run in the dark streets, and below them in the maze of the underground. Against all odds he still hopes that he can save his own life, the woman of his dreams, and maybe even the whole city before the arrival of the mysterious and dreaded event that has come to be known as…. DAYFALL.

About Michael

Interview with Michael David Ares, author of Dayfall
Photo by Jonathan Hart Photography
MICHAEL DAVID ARES is an entrepreneur and educator who has started four community service businesses while writing and editing books for other people on the side. He is now a full-time author, and lives with his family in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Michael is the author of Dayfall.


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