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


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Maria Vale, author of The Last Wolf

Please welcome Maria Vale to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Last Wolf was published on February 6th by Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Interview with Maria Vale, author of The Last Wolf

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

Maria:  First, thank you so much for having me and for everything you do to keep my bookshelves full and my wallet empty.

Unfortunately, I do remember the first piece I ever wrote. I think I was in fifth grade and it was about an archaeologist who falls in love with a mummy. I wanted to be an archaeologist until I realized that was actually afraid of digging into a dead person. Not opening the tomb, but like puncturing the body with a shovel. My pen name, btw, was Nina Van Tijr. Derived from Nineveh and Tyre. To say that I was a pedant doesn’t begin to cover it.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Maria:  Hybrid. I have a general direction and a few scenes worked out. The ending is usually pretty thorough, though, so I know what I’m aiming for. I can’t say that this is the best way. Other ways are no doubt smarter, but whenever I’ve tried to plan something out, it always gets ditched because, in the doing, it doesn’t feel organic. But I do like to know what the bigger questions are before I start. Like now in the third book, the emotional core is about moving forward from regret and loss about the difference between love and responsibility.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Maria:  Witty banter. Both the dialogue and the coming up of characters who one might realistically expect to say such dialogue. Then again, there are so many writers out there (Shelly Laurenston, Jennifer Crusie, Cassandra Clare, Lisa Kleypas, the list goes on) that do it so well.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Maria:  In no particular order: Margaret Atwood, Anne Rice, Maggie Stiefvater, Jeaniene Frost, Glen Duncan, Naomi Novick, N.K. Jemisin, Patrick Rothfuss, Holly Black, Poppy Z. Brite, Jacqueline Carey, Karen Marie Moning. How much room do you have?

TQDescribe The Last Wolf in 140 characters or less.

Maria:  The runt of an embattled pack finds she has to save the wolves she loves from the man she loves. A raw story of devotion and survival.

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

Maria:  Early on pups stay wild, they are never ‘in skin’. It’s only when they become juveniles in the dreaded Year of First Shoes that they learn how to walk on two legs and talk with words and eat with forks. Describing one of their early classes in Introduction to Human Behaviors was a lot of fun.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Last Wolf? What appeals to you about writing Paranormal Fantasy Romance?

Maria:  A bunch of questions gets a bunch of answers: I am deeply committed to conservation. I believe strongly that we evolved with this world and we change it at our peril. Wolves have a place, and I wanted to write something that made that point.

I love writing romance, because I’ve seen enough to believe in the worth of a happy ending. Also because when you write romance, just when an overarching plot might go soggy, you have burgeoning love to keep it strong.

I love paranormal because it gives you freedom. Any speculative fiction does. You can change the world to emphasize what you want. I also like the puzzle of it. If this is true in your world, then what? If wolves have to be wild for three days out of thirty, what does that mean for everything else?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Last Wolf?

Maria:  A half shelf of books about wolves. I already knew a fair amount about Anglo-Saxon mythology and law but I rehashed some of that. Endless grinding over Old English.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Last Wolf.

Maria:  I can’t tell you how much I loved this cover. Dawn Adams’ design was so sensitive, so beautiful. Tiberius has scars at his neck [no spoiler, it’s revealed in 2nd chapter], that I didn’t want to show, so she hid his neck in Silver’s face. But perhaps my favorite part is the subtle curve of Ti’s arms around the land, because while this is love story between two individuals, it is also about the love for the pack and for the land.

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

Maria:  Silver was the easiest. She went through a couple of revises, but once I’d gotten her character down, she came easily. The trickiest ones were Evie, the Alpha Mate, and Victor, the Deemer or thinker about Pack law. Both are relatively minor here, but as they become increasingly important to the series, I didn’t want to do anything here that would complicate my life later.

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


(TQ) So you’ve finished the trilogy, but is there any part of the story you wish you could have told?

Funny you should ask. I would have loved to write about the relationship between Ælfrida and Seolfer, the Great North’s first Alpha and her Deemer, the thinker about Pack law. About trying to rebuild in an unfamiliar world, with a hostile Pack. About trying to maintain what they love best, but also to mold it to a different time and place.

(TQ) So? Why not do it?

Sadly, what I do not know about Upstate New York in the 17th century could fill an ocean.

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

Maria:  The Pack regularly checks their borders to make sure that the signs are secure and legible and that trespassers have no excuse. Adult wolves take pups with them so that the next generation can be introduced to the farther reaches of their land.

        Here, Tiberius who refuses to change, is confronted with the wild joy of being a pup by Leelee.
   An ill-advised squirrel runs across the outer rim of the Stones, and Leelee turns quickly to run after it, the wind tickling her fur and the scent in her nose. I know that feeling of taking it all in—moldering pine needles, owl pellets, borer beetle, tree sap, two-year-old porcupine den, sassafras bush—until the scent of prey hits you right in the back of the throat and everything tenses and you chase, even if your tummy’s little and full and all you really want is for the thing, whatever it is, to escape so you don’t have to eat it, but still you can’t help but hunt.
   She peels off after her squirrel, looking behind to make sure we’re watching.
   The squirrel chitters at her from the safety of a maple. Ti stares, his hands fisted by his sides, as Leelee scampers and bounds and falls on her back and twists her little legs in the air, her belly dotted with leaf litter. A tiny furrow cuts through his usually impassive brow, and his mouth, while still tightly closed, turns down a little at the corners. His wild—that seductive scent of crushed bone and evergreen—radiates thicker now, and when I touch his arm, he jolts as if from a waking dream and blinks down at me, looking in this moment like a lost boy.

This is simply a short description of Silver running wild during the Iron Moon.
    Higher up, the snow churns around me and the downed leaves swirl behind me and I run with my whole legs, faster than snow or wind.
    Past the High Pines and the Krummholz, I keep going until I hit the incised rock of the peaks. Up here, the wind cuts through even the thickening undercoat, but the chill feels so good on my skin.
    Exposed and without much prey, the Pack doesn’t bother much with the peaks, but from here, the Homelands spread out soft and muted. Leaves look cottony; needles are frilled. In the overcast night, the dusky clouds of tomorrow’s snow settle in the valleys like gray ribbons.
    I throw back my head and howl.
    “I am.”
    From scattered hills and deep forests, wolves answer.
    “We are.”

TQWhat's next?

I have a couple of things already in the works—one a ya trilogy, one a standalone contemporary romance between a waitress and the Angel of Death.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

And thank you so much for having me, as you might guess, I’m a big fan of speculative fiction in all of its many forms.

The Last Wolf
The Legend of All Wolves 1
Sourcebooks Casablanca, February 6, 2018
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Maria Vale, author of The Last Wolf
For three days out of thirty, when the moon is full and her law is iron, the Great North Pack must be wild.

If she returns to her Pack, the stranger will die.
But if she stays…

Silver Nilsdottir is at the bottom of her Pack’s social order, with little chance for a decent mate and a better life. Until the day a stranger stumbles into their territory, wounded and beaten, and Silver decides to risk everything on Tiberius Leveraux. But Tiberius isn’t all he seems, and in the fragile balance of the Pack and wild, he may tip the destiny of all wolves…

About Maria

Interview with Maria Vale, author of The Last Wolf
Photo by Eva Qin
Maria Vale is a journalist who has worked for Publishers Weekly, Glamour magazine, Redbook, the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is a logophile and a bibliovore and a worrier about the world. Trained as a medievalist, she tries to shoehorn the language of Beowulf into things that don't really need it. She currently lives in New York with her husband, two sons and a long line of dead plants. No one will let her have a pet. Visit her at

Facebook  ~  Pinterest  ~  Instagram

Twitter @MariaValeAuthor

Interview with Sue Burke, author of Semiosis

Please welcome Sue Burke to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Semiosis is published on February 6th by Tor Books.

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

Interview with Sue Burke, author of Semiosis

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

Sue:  Thank you for inviting me. When I was in grade school, I decided I would write a novel. I never finished it, and as I recall it was a rather derivative ghost story, but I also never forgot the goal. I wanted to be a writer from the moment I knew what writing was — before I even learned to write. That’s why I eventually became a journalist. I got paid to write every day!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sue:  Hybrid. I start a piece knowing how it ends, but not always much more. Then I have to figure out the way to get there, creating the roadmap and landscape as I go along. When I finally arrive, I go back and try to plot the best route.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sue:  The initial composition. I don’t even start with first drafts. I write “zero” drafts, early versions that are all exploration and experiment to create that roadmap, with a few side trips that go nowhere in the process but that were necessary to take. These zero drafts don’t count, so they don’t merit a number, which encourages me to take chances and relax. Out of that glorious mess, I extract a first draft.

TQWhat did you find (other than length) to be the biggest difference in writing short stories versus writing a novel? How does being an editor impact your own writing?

Sue:  Novels can contain bigger, more complex ideas than short stories, the way the art for a mural can be more complex than the art for a postage stamp. I think that’s one way to evaluate an idea to decide if, say, your short story is really an epic trilogy: what would it look like as a painting? How big would that painting be?

Being an editor has given me more patience because I view writing as a process, not an end. Nothing starts out perfect — and anything can be improved. Again, to think of it as art, the elements of a piece often need to be rearranged and re-imagined before the final work can be completed. I’ve seen how many studies and sketches Pablo Picasso made before he painted Guernica. Even geniuses don’t expect to get it right the first time — and I can learn from how hard they work.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sue:  I started out as a journalist, which taught me to be aware of the reader and to write to achieve a purpose for the reader. It also gave me a chance to learn a lot about the world because I covered everything from school board meetings to llama ranches (I’ve been kissed on the cheek by a llama!) to murder trials. I discovered that no matter what I expect, reality holds surprises and demands an open mind.

As far as writing style, one sentence made a big difference. It’s from the book Un Pueblecito: Riofrío de Ávila by a Spanish writer named Azorín, considered a master stylist. I read it in Spanish class in college. It says (my translation): “It’s not enough to be understandable; it’s necessary to aspire to be unable to be misunderstood.” He goes on to suggest some ways to do that, such as treating things one after another in simple, logical, often chronological order. Clarity, Azorín thought, was “the only excusable affectation” in writing. I still have that book decades later.

TQDescribe Semiosis in 140 characters or less.

Sue:  Human colonists struggle to survive on an alien world, and they discover an unexpected dominant species anxiously awaiting them.

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

Sue:  The fippokats, a deceptively cute species suitable for pets, are based on my sister-in-law’s imaginary animal from childhood, which she graciously lent me to use and abuse. Thanks, Kathy!

TQWhat inspired you to write Semiosis? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction and in particular a novel about first contact with aliens?

Sue:  A long time ago, two of my houseplants attacked other plants, using them as things to climb on or to sink roots into and suck dry. After some research, I learned that plants are actually fierce: “at war with each other,” as one botanist put it. Science fiction gives me the chance to ask what if: what if plants were fierce — and intelligent? How could we encounter intelligent plants, and what could go wrong? How would it change us?

These kinds of questions illustrate what I see as the big difference between science fiction and “literary” fiction. All stories are about change, but where does the change come from? Literary fiction tends to focus on change arising from within individuals. Science fiction considers how changes in the material world affect individuals and societies, and those are the kinds of questions I’m more interested in. What if we’re not alone? What if we’re not the dominant species?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Semiosis?

Sue:  A lot. The plants in Semiosis don’t do anything Earth plants can’t — except think, which as far as we know now they don’t do. Botanists, foresters, and other people intimately involved with plants are continuously impressed by the abilities that plants have and how actively they’re involved with their surroundings. I have a shelf of books that I read and consulted.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Semiosis.

Sue:  The cover uses a photo by Nigel Cattlin and a design by Jamie Stafford-Hill. The tendril is of an Earth plant, a sundew, which is carnivorous. And hungry.

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

Sue:  The easiest was Lucille, who was loosely based on someone I know who has boundless energy, determination, and optimism. The hardest was Higgins because I cried when I wrote some of those scenes.

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

Sue:  The colonists must constantly cope with issues of good governance. My years covering government as a journalist convinced me of its importance. Who leads? How do leaders make decisions? Who has a voice in those decisions, and who is affected? How can leaders be held responsible for their decisions? I think what’s happening now in Washington, DC, shows how leadership has social consequences.

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

Sue:  Do I trust Stevland? No. I wish I did, but I don’t. He’s too desperate.

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


“... like the good times you can’t quite recall but surely they happened sometime, maybe tomorrow, you just have to wait and see.”

“We can begin with simple counting: 0, 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 100.”

TQWhat's next?

Sue:  I’ve written a sequel, and we’ll see if Tor is interested. In the mean time, I’m writing short stories, and translating Spanish science fiction authors into English. Most recently, Clarkesworld published my short story “Who Won the Battle of Arsia Mons?” in November 2017, and Asimov’s will publish “Life From the Sky” in May/June 2018. My translations include the anthology Spanish Women of Wonder, published by Palabaristas in 2017.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sue:  Thank you for having me!

Tor Books, February 6, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Sue Burke, author of Semiosis
Human survival hinges on an bizarre alliance in Semiosis, a character driven science fiction novel of first contact by debut author Sue Burke.

SyFy Wire—9 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels to Read in February
The Verge—18 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Read in February
Unbound Worlds—Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of February 2018
Kirkus—The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in February

Colonists from Earth wanted the perfect home, but they’ll have to survive on the one they found. They don’t realize another life form watches...and waits...

Only mutual communication can forge an alliance with the planet's sentient species and prove that humans are more than tools.

About Sue

Interview with Sue Burke, author of Semiosis
Jerry Finn
SUE BURKE spent many years working as a reporter and editor for a variety of newspapers and magazines. She is a Clarion workshop alumnus, and she has published more than 30 short stories. Burke also worked extensively as a literary translator, and while living in Madrid, Spain, she headed the long-running Madrid Writer’s Critique Group. Her translations include the fantasy novel Prodigies by Angélica Gorodischer, the bilingual science fiction anthology Castles in Spain / Castillos en el aire, and the script for the science fiction movie Mindgate.

Website  ~  Twitter @SueBurkeSpain

Interview with Andrew Valencia, author of Lord of California

Please welcome Andrew Valencia to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Lord of California was published on January 25th by Ig Publishing in digital format. The audio version of the novel is out today from Blackstone Audio. Lord of California will be available in Trade Paperback on February 27, 2018.

Interview with Andrew Valencia, author of Lord of California

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

Andrew:  While I can remember writing small sketches and stories as far back as elementary school, I can't recall the plot of any particular story from that early stage in my development. I believe they were mostly influenced by the stories and TV shows I was interested in at the time. A lot of cartoon and sci-fi stuff, written in pen on note tablets I would borrow from my parents or grandparents. More often than not, though, I expended these stories in my head before they ever found their way onto paper. Growing up in the country with a lot of open space between us and the neighbors provided the ideal space for letting my daydreams run wild.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Andrew:  Hybrid. I usually have a general sense of where I'd like to take an idea by the time I sit down to begin a draft, but the process of working through the story on paper forces me to fill out the skeleton of the piece in greater detail.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Andrew:  Revising sentences. Nabokov used to say his pencils outlasted his erasers. If I didn't use a word processor most of the time, I'd probably be right there with him.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Andrew:  There's a lot I could say to answer this question, but I'll limit myself to two influences—one from my own experience and one from literature. The first comes from having spent the better part of a decade living abroad, primarily in East Asia and Central America. The second influence is James Joyce, himself an expert at writing about the home of his youth while spending his adult years in exile.

TQDescribe Lord of California in 140 characters or less.

Andrew:  A speculative literary novel about a family struggling to survive in a future where America has collapsed and California is its own country.

TQTell us something about Lord of California that is not found in the book description.

Andrew:  I've never seen it as “dystopian” in the traditional sense. Many readers and critics will latch on to the dystopian label because such categories can be helpful in understanding how to view a new piece of work, especially from a debut author. But there are distinct ways in which I deviate from the type of storytelling found in the works of Orwell, Huxley, Atwood, etc. Nearly all dystopian novels from Zamyatin onward have directed some sort of warning to readers about the political situation of the present day. And while there are definitely elements of the story that speak to the nightmare of contemporary politics in the US, much of the novel is also focused on the rebuilding that inevitably occurs following a monumental breakdown or rift in society. Or a rift in a family.

TQWhat inspired you to write Lord of California? What appeals to you about writing Alternative History?

Andrew:  In the summer of 2015 I was in a precarious place, unsure of my future prospects. I was staying at my mother's house in the Central Valley and spending a lot of time revisiting people and places from before I left. One day I sat down and started working through a rough outline of the book Lord of California would eventually become. I didn't really think of it as “alternative history” as much as it was just the story I wanted to tell at that point in my life.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Lord of California?

Andrew:  I spent a lot of time reading and thinking about moments in history where a society falls apart and transforms into something else over the course of a few generations. It happens all the time and we never call it “dystopian” or “post-apocalyptic”. But if you were growing up in the 80s in the Soviet Union and within a few short years you had to endure food shortages, Chernobyl, and the collapse of the only political system you ever knew, wouldn't you think you were living through some sort of apocalypse?

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Lord of California.

Andrew:  I like the cover more and more as time goes on. So much of Central California looks like that, though it could just as easily be a depiction of any rural setting the world over.

TQIn Lord of California who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

The easiest was probably Ellie's character because from the start I had a very clear notion of who she was and what her voice would be like. By contrast, the hardest character was Elliot, Jr. because it took me a long time to nail down his voice and the nature of his character.

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


Q: Would you like to see California break off and start its own country?

A: Within a few years of independence, that country would have nothing in common with the California I know except for its name. So no, I wouldn't.

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

How do we even begin? How do we begin to build a home out of so many broken pieces?

I don't know. But we'll try our best.

That world you lost, the one that took my brother...I've tried to live up to all the good things you told me about it, and shut out the wicked things as you shut out your past. But I'm not a fresh start for anyone. I was never such pure clean clay.

TQWhat's next?

Andrew:  I'm working on revisions of a novel set in Panama during the aftermath of a tsunami.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Andrew:  Thank you for having me.

Lord of California
Ig Publishing, January 25, 2018
     eBook, 284 pages
Ig Publishing, February 27, 2018
     Trade Paperback, 284 pages

Interview with Andrew Valencia, author of Lord of California
“A remarkable debut. Valencia writes with a sinuous maturity, a boldness of vision far beyond his years. In Lord of California, this beyond-seeing is literal: wild, impressive, at times menacing invention about what a separatist California might look like begins to look downright prescient, and Valencia’s portraitist skill with his characters lifts them off the page, too.”―Ryan McIlvain, author of Elders

Set in a future where the United States has dissolved and California is its own independent republic, Lord of California follows the struggles of the Temple family as they work at running a farm on a nationalized land parcel in the central San Joaquin Valley. When the family patriarch, Elliot, dies, it’s revealed that he had been keeping five separate families, and in the aftermath of their discovery, his widows and children must come together to keep from losing all they have. But their livelihood is threatened when Elliot’s estranged son tries to blackmail them, unleashing a series of violent confrontations between different factions of the family.

A sparse family drama reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, combined with the intimate first-person narratives of Kazuo Ishiguro, Lord of California is a powerful debut novel.

About Andrew

Andrew Valencia was born in Fresno, California, and graduated with a BA in English from Stanford, where he was awarded a Levinthal Tutorial by the Creative Writing Program. He holds an MFA in fiction from the University of South Carolina. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Silk Road Review, the Ploughshares blog, Day One, The Southern Pacific Review, The Fat City Review, Crack the Spine, and other publications.

Twitter @AValenciaWrites

Interview with Rati Mehrotra, author of Markswoman

Please welcome Rati Mehrotra to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Markswoman is published on January 23d by Harper Voyager.

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

Interview with Rati Mehrotra, author of Markswoman

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

Rati:  A poem titled “A Pea in the Sea”, written when I was five years old. It was full of pathos. I wish I still had it, I could do with a good laugh.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Rati:  A hybrid, I think. I’m a total pantser when it comes to short fiction. But if we’re talking books, then I need to know my ending. I may not know how to get there – which is why the middles are so scary – but I must know before I start how the book will end. Of course, a lot might change on the way. And I certainly don’t plan every chapter.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rati:  Getting the time to do it! As a working mom, it’s a bit of a struggle to find the right balance. I often write at night when everyone else is asleep.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Rati:  So many amazing writers. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and devoured every book I could get my hands on. My favorite writers include Ursula Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Neil Gaimam, Gene Wolfe, Patricia A. McKillip, Stephen King, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, and Jane Austen.

I have also been influenced by Indian mythology. I grew up hearing stories from the Indian epics, and they have seeped into my soul.

TQDescribe Markswoman in 140 characters or less.

Rati:  An order of magical-knife-wielding female assassins brings both peace and chaos to their post-apocalyptic world in a blend of science fiction and epic fantasy.

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

Rati:  ‘Asiana’ is a play on ‘Asia’ of course; the world of Markswoman is a fictional, post-apocalyptic version of the real Asia. But the word (pronounced Aashiyana) also means ‘home’ in Urdu and Hindi. Not just any home, but a safe, secure place of shelter. It is this sense of safety and security my protagonist longs for. As, perhaps, we all do.

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

RatiMarkswoman just demanded to be written. An image of Kyra came to me one day, and would not get go until I put pen to paper. The world itself is inspired by my fascination with mythology, especially stories of the Goddess Kali, and my interest in post-apocalyptic literature..

I love writing (and reading!) epic fantasy because I can thoroughly immerse myself in it. It is both the ultimate escape and a test of creativity – can I build a world a reader will believe in and fall into?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Markswoman?

Rati:  I read a lot about travel in the middles ages, the Silk Route, the geography and climate of Central Asia, and, of course, the myths of the Goddess Kali. It helps that I grew up reading such stories, and that I have spent time in both deserts and mountains in Asia.

I also researched daggers and martial arts. I’ve done both karate and Tai Chi, and that was really helpful in writing the fight scenes.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Markswoman.

Rati:  I love the cover of my book! It depicts a katari, a dagger forged from a rare alien metal that grants Markswomen powers of telepathy. I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting image to capture the heart of my story.

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

Rati:  The easiest character to write was Kyra, my protagonist. She came to me almost fully formed many years ago. She is far from perfect – she has a hot temper, and makes mistakes. But she’s loyal and tough, and loves her friends - qualities I admire.

The most difficult character to write was the villainous Tamsyn. She is far more complex than comes across on these pages, and some day I hope to share more of her story.

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


“Rati, how long did it take you to write and publish this book?”

“Eight years, my friend, eight years.”

I think many new writers don’t realize just how patient and persevering you have be, if you want to be traditionally published.

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

Rati:  Both from Shirin Mam!

“Let the past be what it is. Let the future bring what it will. Stay in the present. Be aware of yourself and who you are. It is all that matters.”

“May you walk on water and pass through fire. May the blood that you shed nourish the soil and the bodies you strike feed the crows. May the katari protect your flesh and Kali protect your soul. And when your work is done, may the Ones take you with them to the stars for the last journey of your life.”

TQWhat's next?

Rati:  The sequel to Markswoman, which is due for publication in January 2019. While I have a completed draft, I expect to work on revisions and edits for much of this year.

Next on my agenda is a project rather close to my heart: a middle grade secondary world fantasy novel which I drafted a few years ago. I need to revise it extensively before my agent can send it out on submission.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Rati:  Thanks for having me!

Asiana 1
Harper Voyager, January 23, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Rati Mehrotra, author of Markswoman
An order of magical-knife wielding female assassins brings both peace and chaos to their post-apocalyptic world in this bewitching blend of science fiction and epic fantasy—the first entry in a debut duology that displays the inventiveness of the works of Sarah Beth Durst and Marie Lu.

Kyra is the youngest Markswoman in the Order of Kali, a highly trained sisterhood of elite warriors armed with telepathic blades. Guided by a strict code of conduct, Kyra and the other Orders are sworn to protect the people of Asiana. But to be a Markswoman, an acolyte must repudiate her former life completely. Kyra has pledged to do so, yet she secretly harbors a fierce desire to avenge her dead family.

When Kyra’s beloved mentor dies in mysterious circumstances, and Tamsyn, the powerful, dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, assumes control of the Order, Kyra is forced on the run. Using one of the strange Transport Hubs that are remnants of Asiana’s long-lost past, she finds herself in the unforgiving wilderness of desert that is home to the Order of Khur, the only Order composed of men. Among them is Rustan, a young, disillusioned Marksman whom she soon befriends.

Kyra is certain that Tamsyn committed murder in a twisted bid for power, but she has no proof. And if she fails to find it, fails in her quest to keep her beloved Order from following Tamsyn down a dark path, it could spell the beginning of the end for Kyra—and for Asiana.

But what she doesn’t realize is that the line between justice and vengeance is razor thin . . . thin as the blade of a knife.

About Rati

Interview with Rati Mehrotra, author of Markswoman
Photo by Veronika Roux
Born and raised in India, Rati Mehrotra makes her home in Toronto, Canada, where she writes novels and short fiction and blogs at Markswoman is her debut novel. Find her on Twitter @Rati_Mehrotra.

Interview with Tyrell Johnson, author of The Wolves of Winter

Please welcome Tyrell Johnson to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Wolves of Winter was published on January 2nd by Scribner.

Interview with Tyrell Johnson, author of The Wolves of Winter

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

Tyrell:  When I was in grade school, I wrote a five-page story about a farmer who loses his cow. In a twist no one saw coming, he finds the lost cow hiding at the top of a nearby tree.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Tyrell:  I’m probably something of a hybrid. I start with an idea, setting, or character; I’ll have vague notions of plot; and then I’ll move forward one sentence at a time. Every once in a while, I’ll write a rough outline of where I think things are headed, but it’s very vague, and I often don’t stick to it.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Tyrell:  Right now it’s probably staying focused. I have a lot of things going on at the moment that keep drawing my attention away from the page and my time to be creative.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Tyrell:  Everything from books I’ve read, to movies I’ve watched, to family and friends. These things blend together with my experience and personality and preferences and somehow inform my writing. That’s a very vague answer! Sorry.

TQDescribe The Wolves of Winter in 140 characters or less.

Tyrell:  A young woman surviving in a post-apocalyptic Yukon meets a stranger with secrets of the past that will change her life forever.

TQTell us something about The Wolves of Winter that is not found in the book description.

Tyrell:  There are 27 instances of the F word in the novel.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Wolves of Winter? What appeals to you about writing Post-Apocalyptic fiction?

Tyrell:  I knew I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel because I like the genre. I like the questions it poses about humanity and about what life would be like if we didn’t have the luxuries we have today. I was also a new father at the time and wanted to use that experience and those emotions in the novel, which is why the father/daughter relationship is so prevalent. And, finally, before any of this, I had been writing fiction primarily with male protagonists. However, many of my readers’ favorite characters were the females in my stories. So my wife very kindly urged me to go write a book with a female as the protagonist. I gave it a try.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Wolves of Winter?

Tyrell:  I did research on the flora and fauna of the Yukon and looked at a lot of maps. I also watched many YouTube videos on things like how to build an igloo and how to gut a deer. I didn’t want to just read about these things, I wanted to watch them being done so I could more accurately describe them. I don’t recommend, however, eating a turkey sandwich while watching a deer being field dressed.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Wolves of Winter?

Tyrell:  The cover was done in part by Pete Garceau and in part by HarperCollins Germany. We had the basic layout and background, but knew it still needed something to give it that edge. Then we saw the German cover of the novel, in which they use the figure of a woman in the place of the “I” in “Winter.” We thought it was a fantastic idea, inserted the woman into our own backdrop, and the cover was born. And no, it doesn’t depict any specific scene from the novel.

TQIn The Wolves of Winter who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Tyrell:  I suppose I might say my main character was both the easiest and the hardest. I’ve spent the most time in her head, so really, I feel like I know her best and could write her voice the easiest. However, she was also the hardest because I’m a man writing from a woman’s perspective, and so there were a lot of things that I was very consciously trying to get right.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Wolves of Winter?

Tyrell:  I didn’t intend to focus on any one social issue, however, I think there are issues that are sort of innate in the post-apocalyptic genre. It forces us to take a hard look at our ruling powers, at the environment, and at what we put value on in our lives. This is one of the reasons I like the genre: hopefully there’s a fascinating story with relatable characters, but there’s also that subtext (dare I call it a warning?) of society falling apart.

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

Tyrell:  Was the dog in the novel based off your own dog?

Yes! He’s the only character that is actually based off a character in real life. My dog is just as energetic, just as curious, just as happy, just as quasi-annoying as the dog, Wolf, in the book.

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

Tyrell:  I’ve always been a little partial to my first sentence: “The trap was empty and the snow was bloody, which meant one of three things.” I hope that this immediately makes readers want to read, at the very least, the next sentence.

TQWhat's next?

Tyrell:  I’m working on a book two, though I can’t make any promises that it’ll see the light of day.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tyrell:  Thanks so much for having me!

The Wolves of Winter
Scribner, January 2, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Tyrell Johnson, author of The Wolves of Winter
A captivating tale of humanity pushed beyond its breaking point, of family and bonds of love forged when everything is lost, and of a heroic young woman who crosses a frozen landscape to find her destiny. This debut novel is written in a post-apocalyptic tradition that spans The Hunger Games and Station Eleven but blazes its own distinctive path.

Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive in the endless white wilderness beyond the edges of a fallen world.

Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As the memories of her old life continue to haunt, she’s forced to forge ahead in the snow-drifted Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap and slaughter.

Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who brings with him dark secrets of the past and sets in motion a chain of events that will call Lynn to a role she never imagined.

Simultaneously a heartbreakingly sympathetic portrait of a young woman searching for the answer to who she is meant to be and a frightening vision of a merciless new world in which desperation rules, The Wolves of Winter is enveloping, propulsive, and poignant.

About Tyrell

Interview with Tyrell Johnson, author of The Wolves of Winter
© Josh Durias
Tyrell Johnson is a twenty-nine-year-old writer and editor who grew up in Bellingham, Washington. He received his MFA from the University of California, Riverside, where he studied fiction and poetry. An avid outdoorsman, he currently lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, northeast of Vancouver with his wife, two kids, and a Siberian husky. The Wolves of Winter is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @tjohnso14  ~  Facebook
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