The Qwillery | category: 2018 DAC | (page 5 of 10)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Jeremy Finley, author of The Darkest Time of Night

Please welcome Jeremy Finley to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Darkest Time of Night is published on June 26th by St. Martin's Press.

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

Interview with Jeremy Finley, author of The Darkest Time of Night

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

Jeremy:  The epic tale of my dog using GI Joe toys to rescue bunnies stuck in my family’s drainage ditch. In retrospect, it sounds like a bad drug trip.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jeremy:  Obsessive, diabolical plotter.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jeremy:  Remember the dog from the movie “UP?” Instead of “squirrel!” I sit at the blank page in front of me while my head whips around to “Baseball scores! Movie trailers! Unfolded laundry!”

TQYou are the chief investigative reporter for WSMV-TV. How does being an investigative reporter affect (or not) your fiction writing?

Jeremy:  The constant need to verify what I’m claiming. In investigative reporting, it’s best to always have hard, undisputable proof of corruption. So in my fiction writing, if I’m describing, let’s say, an ashtray from the 1970s, I have to make sure I have the details right, down to the reflective amber color and the smooth notches to rest the smokes. I imagine they looked incredible alongside green shag carpets.

TQDescribe The Darkest Time of Night in 140 characters or less.

Jeremy:  When a U.S. Senators’ grandson goes missing, the politician’s wife must return to her hidden, controversial research into vanished people to try and find him.

TQ Tell us something about The Darkest Time of Night that is not found in the book description.

Jeremy:  Beneath the suspense of trying to find a missing child, it is also a story of a marginalized grandmother who begins a journey to recapture the young woman she always intended to be.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Darkest Time of Night? What appealed to you about writing a thriller?

Jeremy:  The inspiration came from my mother-in-law’s startling admission that when she was young, she worked as a secretary in a university’s astronomy department for a professor who did UFO research. She used to take bizarre messages for him about mysterious sightings. I laid awake that night and thought that this could make a hell of a speculative thriller, which is, hands down, my favorite genre to read.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Darkest Time of Night?

Jeremy:  I spent a lot of time examining the research of organizations in the 1950s and 1960s that investigated UFOs. This was obviously before the Internet, and it’s fascinating how they were still able to gather accounts and data from all over the world. Also, they were undeterred despite the scrutiny and disbelief they faced.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Darkest Time of Night.

Jeremy:  The cover is exactly – and I mean exactly – what I pictured in my mind when I wrote the first draft of the novel. It perfectly captures the ominous woods where the mystery begins and – hopefully – makes potential readers wonder, “What is that faint light in the trees?”

TQIn The Darkest Time of Night who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jeremy:  The main character, Lynn, has a best friend by the name of Roxy Garth. I could write Roxy all day, because her endless sarcasm comes naturally to me. Writing from Lynn’s perspective was a challenge because, obviously, I am not a sixty-something woman. But I had two great ladies as grandmothers, and my mother and mother-in-law have given me great material to create strong heroines.

TQWhich question about The Darkest Time of Night do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Jeremy:  WasThe Darkest Time of Night your original title?

The answer is no, I had another title that I clung to like a child and his favorite blanket. But my brilliant publisher knew there was a better title out there, and after thirty or so failed suggestions on my part, it finally came to me. I’m so thrilled with the title now, and I will be forever grateful to the publisher for pushing me to strike the right tone.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Darkest Time of Night.

Jeremy:  “I wish I could go back to the beliefs I had before this, where the only purpose of the stars was to bring us light in the dark. Now I cannot look too long into the heavens for fear of what I might see.”

TQWhat's next?

Jeremy:  Just finished the sequel to The Darkest Time of Night. I hope you’ll enjoy the novel enough to want to find out what happens next, because the Roseworthy family has no idea what I have in store for them.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jeremy:  I so appreciate the opportunity!

The Darkest Time of Night
St. Martin's Press, June 26, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Jeremy Finley, author of The Darkest Time of Night
Investigative journalist for WSMV-TV in Nashville, Jeremy Finley's debut thriller explores what happens to people’s lives when our world intersects with the unexplainable.

"The lights took him."

When the seven-year-old grandson of U.S. Senator vanishes in the woods behind his home, the only witness is his older brother who whispers, “The lights took him,” and then never speaks again.

As the FBI and National Guard launch a massive search, the boys' grandmother Lynn Roseworth fears only she knows the truth. But coming forward would ruin her family and her husband’s political career.

In the late 1960s, before she became the quiet wife of a politician, Lynn was a secretary in the astronomy department at the University of Illinois. It was there where she began taking mysterious messages for one of the professors; messages from people desperate to find their missing loved ones who vanished into beams of light.

Determined to find her beloved grandson and expose the truth, she must return to the work she once abandoned to unravel the existence of a place long forgotten by the world. It is there, buried deep beneath the bitter snow and the absent memories of its inhabitants, where her grandson may finally be found.

But there are forces that wish to silence her. And Lynn will find how far they will go to stop her, and how the truth about her own forgotten childhood could reveal the greatest mystery of all time.

The Darkest Time of Night is a fast-paced debut full of suspense and government cover-ups, perfect for thriller and supernatural fans alike.

June 2018 SIBA Okra Selection

About Jeremy

Interview with Jeremy Finley, author of The Darkest Time of Night
Courtesy of the Author
JEREMY FINLEY is the chief investigative reporter for WSMV-TV, the NBC-affiliated station in Nashville. Jeremy Finley’s investigative reporting has resulted in some of the highest honors in journalism, including more than a dozen Emmys, Edward R. Murrow awards and a national certificate from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He lives with his wife and daughters in Nashville, TN. The Darkest Time of Night is his first novel.

Interview with Jonathan French, author of The Grey Bastards - And 2 Reviews

Please welcome Jonathan French to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Grey Bastards was published on June 19th by Crown.

Interview with Jonathan French, author of The Grey Bastards - And 2 Reviews

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

Jonathan:  Let's see...It was a fantasy story I wrote in 4th grade. I was living in England at the time and my teacher, Ms. Carlsen, was an amazing Dutch woman that read The Hobbit to her class every year as a tradition. I'd already read it, but I loved hearing her read it aloud because she had such love for the story. She encouraged me to read The Lord of the Rings, to draw scenes from the book, and to write my own fiction. I ended up writing this multi-chapter short story that was more akin to Dragonlance and the Golden Axe video game than to Tolkien. But she was still unbelievably supportive to the point that she had me read it aloud to the class, which was simultaneously awkward and exhilarating.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jonathan:  I'm a hybrid who leans heavily to the pantsing side.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jonathan:  Consistency. I don't defend my writing time very well. My son is 5 and the stuff he is doing is just so much more fun than staring at a screen and thumping at keys. I also hate trying to describe architecture. And physics.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jonathan:  Living abroad as a kid was a major influence. I was this 9-year-old from Tennessee that had recently discovered Dungeons & Dragons and comic books, and the next thing I know I'm living in a place where medieval castles and cathedrals can be visited after school. And it all compounded from there. The interests spread to military history, weapons/warfare, wargaming, art history, all while beginning to absorb book after book: Middle-earth, Prydain, Discworld, Redwall, Conan. Those trends have continued almost uninterrupted as I've gotten older, but have also been supplemented by new pursuits like fatherhood and an interest in wilderness survival.

TQDescribe The Grey Bastards in 140 characters or less.

Jonathan:  #TheGreyBastards is a raucous tale of half-orcs riding huge war pigs. It’s been hailed as one of the filthiest books ever written. It’s now available!

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

Jonathan:  Halflings in this world live underground, but instead of nice cozy hobbit-holes, they dwell in the ancient tomb of a fallen human god, sending out pilgrims to endlessly search the world for every last relic of the deity's time as a mortal warlord.

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

Jonathan:  My wife was the one that insisted I write the story as a novel. Originally, the story was a half-formed idea for a Dungeons & Dragons game. I had painted a bunch of cool half-orc models that I wanted to use for my next game and I always like to provide my players with an element that firmly connects their characters out of the gate. Sons of Anarchy gave me the notion of a mounted gang, so I figured on having that gang be “half-orcs only.” My wife suggested I use hogs instead of horses, though I was concerned it was a little too obvious. She also said, “Forget the game. Write the fucking book.” That pretty much set the tone for the entire thing!

Far as Epic Fantasy goes, it’s always called to me as a reader and I write what I want to read. The possibilities are endless and, for me, it only gets better when married to elements from our own world history. Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age as an alternate version of our own past, Tolkien's use of Anglo-Saxon folklore, even the original Old World of Warhammer, I find all of that to be such a wonderful gateway into learning about real world events. I would love for The Grey Bastards to spark some young reader's interest in medieval Spain. So many people find history to be dull, but fantasy can be the sugar that helps the medicine go down.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Grey Bastards?

Jonathan:  I did a massive amount of reading about Reconquista-era Spain. S.S. Wyatt's translation of Daily Life in Portugal in the Middle Ages by A. H. de Oliveira Marques was invaluable. I also had to do a fair amount of internet research about different species of swine in order to make the riding hogs believable.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Grey Bastards.

Jonathan:  The cover was designed by artist and photographer Larry Rostant, along with Little, Brown Book Group creative director Duncan Spilling. It depicts the POV protagonist, Jackal; a young, cunning half-orc rider and member of the Grey Bastards.

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

Jonathan:  Oats was probably the easiest. Mostly because he never gave me any problems. I always knew what he was going to say and how he was going to react. Plus, he’s both overestimated and underestimated at the same time; he’s pretty vulnerable despite his size and strength, and also far from stupid despite initial appearances. My inspiration for him was a mix of Jayne Cobb (from my favorite TV show Firefly) and the late, great MMA fighter Kimbo Slice, so I had a solid foundation to work with when writing him.

The most difficult to write was definitely Starling. I knew having a female character that was seemingly helpless through most of the book would cause trouble for some readers. But I was (and still am) playing a rather long game with her, so I kept the course despite second-guessing it on many, MANY occasions.

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

Jonathan:  It was never a conscious choice. I didn't have that moment where I thought: "I'm going to address X issue!" However, I don't see how they can be avoided in a believable world. They exist, period. Bigotry, racism, and sexism are certainly a part of real life, and I could not avoid their inclusion in a book about mixed-race characters living in a male-dominated society. As a pantser, the issues came to the page organically, so I was forced to face them down. Or rather, the characters were. I tried to keep my opinions out of it and not preach or come down on any side. The characters are flawed, but they are also products of their experiences and there were opportunities that allowed them to evolve. This shit is complicated and messy in real life, so I hope that's what came to the page.

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

Jonathan:  The question would be: Do you ever dream about The Grey Bastards being adapted into a tabletop wargame? And the answer is: Yes! Everyone raves about A Song of Ice & Fire getting an HBO show, but I think GRR Martin's real victory was getting a miniatures wargame. I daydream all the time about a gorgeous line of models: half-orc hog-riders, centaur marauders, orc raiders, noble and low-born cavaleros, Unyar scouts. I write up army lists for each of the hoofs and mull over a rules set for a game focused on mounted combat.

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

Jonathan:  Oh, these are always tricky because my memory is awful! Here goes:

1) Jackal likened religion to madness. He had heard that in the north, in the great cities of Hispartha, there were more temples than well-fed children, that a hundred faceless gods received the wealth of the nobles and the fearful pleas of the peasants. He found that difficult to imagine, but Delia, Ignacio, and others had assured him it was true. Thankfully, such belief was all but unknown in Ul-wundulas. Perhaps the badlands were gods-forsaken, but Jackal preferred to think that the Lots were home to those who had no need of invisible old men, dog-headed demons, and sour-faced crones. Here, faith was better placed in a strong mount, a loaded stockbow, and a few solid companions.


2) Roundth was standing in his stirrups, balanced perfectly, and windmilling his exposed cock around in one hand as he passed. The damn thing was as thick as a floppy tankard.

TQWhat's next?

Jonathan:  The sequel is next! More Bastards are coming in March 2019. Sex! Violence! Vulgarity! Half-orc! Hogs! For those that wish to return to The Lots, it'll be a fun ride!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jonathan:  Are you kidding? It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me!

The Grey Bastards
The Lot Lands 1
Crown, June 19, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Jonathan French, author of The Grey Bastards - And 2 Reviews
“A dirty, blood-soaked gem of a novel [that reads] like Mad Max set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. A fantasy masterwork.”Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Live in the saddle.

Die on the hog.

Call them outcasts, call them savages—they’ve been called worse, by their own mothers—but Jackal is proud to be a Grey Bastard.

He and his fellow half-orcs patrol the barren wastes of the Lot Lands, spilling their own damned blood to keep civilized folk safe. A rabble of hard-talking, hog-riding, whore-mongering brawlers they may be, but the Bastards are Jackal’s sworn brothers, fighting at his side in a land where there’s no room for softness.

And once Jackal’s in charge—as soon as he can unseat the Bastards’ tyrannical, seemingly unkillable founder—there’s a few things they’ll do different. Better.

Or at least, that’s the plan. Until the fallout from a deadly showdown makes Jackal start investigating the Lot Lands for himself. Soon, he’s wondering if his feelings have blinded him to ugly truths about this world, and the Bastards’ place in it.

In a quest for answers that takes him from decaying dungeons to the frontlines of an ancient feud, Jackal finds himself battling invading orcs, rampaging centaurs, and grubby human conspiracies alike—along with a host of dark magics so terrifying they’d give even the heartiest Bastard pause.

Finally, Jackal must ride to confront a threat that’s lain in wait for generations, even as he wonders whether the Bastards can—or should–survive.

Delivered with a generous wink to Sons of Anarchy, featuring sneaky-smart worldbuilding and gobs of fearsomely foul-mouthed charm, The Grey Bastards is a grimy, pulpy, masterpiece—and a raunchy, swaggering, cunningly clever adventure that’s like nothing you’ve read before.

About Jonathan
Interview with Jonathan French, author of The Grey Bastards - And 2 Reviews
Photo by Casey Gardner
JONATHAN FRENCH lives in Atlanta with his wife and son. He is a devoted reader of comic books, an expert thrower of oddly shaped dice, and a serial con attendee.

Website  ~  Twitter @JFrenchAuthor  ~  Facebook

Melanie's Thoughts (during the 2016 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off)

If you take the orcs, the elves and the dwarves from Middle Earth, mix in some rampaging centaurs with a big helping of not very nice humans, quite a bit of swearing and a multi-layered plot then you have The Grey Bastards. Set in the bleak landscape of ‘the Lotlands’ The Grey Bastards, an elite group of half orc militia. protect their community from almost everyone else. The hero of this tale is not a tall dark and handsome knight on a white charger but rather, a greyish green half orc named Jackal who thunders onto the battle field on enormous multi-tusked hog. That doesn’t make him any less heroic. When Jackal discovers that elvin women are being held captive by a sludge monster, that the leader of Bastards might be involved and there are more and more incursions of full blooded orcs killing his friends and community then Jackal decides to take a stand….and one he might not survive.

I tentatively started The Grey Bastards as I wasn’t completely sure I would like it. I am not normally a fan of this type of fantasy so when I found myself staring at the cover I decided to give it a go. I loved it. This isn’t a book if you are sensitive to blood, guts and swearing so be warned but the plot is soo engaging. Despite Jackal’s penchant for prostitutes, overuse of certain misogynistic words used by some presidents and the fact he had tusks, he was very much the traditional hero – tall, handsome, fights the good fight and protects the innocent.

French has crafted an ambitious but intricate plot. I never knew what was going to happen next or whether Jackal would live to tell the tale. This is a sign of a good book in my view. I could very easily recommend this as one of the best books of SPFBO 2016 and potentially one of my favourite books of this year.

Doreen's Thoughts (now)

When I first started reading The Grey Bastards, I knew it was an homage to the television show, “Sons of Anarchy,” but when discovering the names of the main characters, Jackal (Jax), Oats (Opie), and the Claymaster (Clay), I thought they were a little too close to the real thing. Then I discovered that these half-orcs rode hogs – real, animal hogs – and I almost gave up reading what I thought might be a spoof. I kept reading, and despite my misgivings, I started to get caught up in the story.

There is some tremendous world-building here. I loved the description of the kiln, their hideout, where the walls can be heated to kill any intruders. Then there was the Hogback, which is a ramp that can be raised and lowered to let the hogs and their riders out over the walls. There are the sludges, gelatinous creatures that can envelop and suck the life out of a creature, and the Rohks, flying predators who could carry a whole hog. The magic is different, created out of smoke and sparks.

Given the nature of the show, I expected the sex and violence to be more graphic than it is; however, many of the other descriptions are just as graphic and gross as can be.

Just as in “Sons of Anarchy,” this hoof (club) is being run by a corrupt tyrant whose time has come. Jackal has discovered that the Claymaster is making deals and paying for them using elves, a violation of the treaty they have which could lead to war. As he comes closer to taking over leadership of the Bastards, he discovers that perhaps they are not the fierce proctors of the Lot lands that they think they are; perhaps they are simply the dregs of humanity left to survive on scraps. Along with his backups, Fetching and Oats, and the wizard, Crafty, Jackal will find out about the Bastards and their place in the Lot Lands, even if it kills them all.

Interview with C.L. Polk, author of Witchmark

Please welcome C.L. Polk to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Witchmark was published on June 19th by

Interview with C.L. Polk, author of Witchmark

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

C.L.:  I remember a story I wrote in elementary school about a group of nine year old girls at a carnival who had to escape a haunted house ride that was honestly haunted by the family who had founded the carnival. I was nine, so I feel it was probably a good depiction of how nine-year-olds think of themselves when they're cast as heroes.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

C.L.:  Definitely a hybrid. I start off plotting, and then get to a point where I don't know what happens next...but instead of figuring it out, I just write until i get to the end of what I outlined and figure it out as I go.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

C.L.:  I think the biggest challenge is the battle with perfectionism. Every novelist writes through doubt, and you never really vanquish it. I think that's all right, because that doubt means you're striving beyond your comfort zone and taking a risk. That's what the process of any art is about, I believe.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

C.L.:  Everything does. What I read, what I watch, the world outside - anything that makes me interested or intrigued.

TQDescribe Witchmark in 140 characters or less.

C.L.:  While resisting his family's demands and his detective partner's charm, a doctor discovers the secret that cost his patient his life.

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

C.L.:  Miles is actually solving two mysteries at once. He's investigating a murder, but he's also deeply troubled by what his healing powers show him when he touches some of his patients at the hospital. But because he can't reveal his magic, he's trying to find a conventional way to "discover" it so he can alert his colleagues to the condition.

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

C.L.Witchmark was the product of about six months of simmering ideas about a character in a world rather than a bolt of inspiration. it's many small ideas braided together to make a story. I like to write fantasy because you can write about nearly anything you want and add magic, and that combination has always been irresistible to me.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Witchmark?

C.L.:  I had to research nearly everything in the book. I started with fashion, material culture, technology, and medical advances that happened on earth in the early 20th century. I looked up the history of skyscrapers. I read about the big cities of the period, mainly London, New York, and Chicago, with some looking into Toronto and Vancouver. I read about mythology, folklore, supernatural beings, and I mashed all that together to create the Amaranthines. I studied the weather, particular advances in forensic pathology, policing in the UK, Canada, and the United States. I think every page of the book has the product of research on it somewhere.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Witchmark.

C.L.:  The cover's amazing. It was designed by Will Staehle, and I think it captures the feel of the novel without being too revealing. It shows the most distinctive features of the city's worldbuilding - bicycles and apple trees fill the streets, and depicts the three central characters of the book.

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

C.L.:  The easiest was a very minor character in the story, one you don't meet until later, and only briefly. Alice sprang onto the page exactly as she was. The most difficult was probably Miles himself, because I had to do so much background writing to really understand him.

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

C.L.:  I didn't sit down and think "I will write a story about social issues." I knew that my outlook and politics would soak into every word, so I let that happen as it would. I wrote about social class and the geopolitics of cities and the effect war had on those who fought it, but I didn't start there. All art is deeply political. I couldn't have written this book, or any book, without making any sort of comment or opinion on political and social issues.

TQWhat's next?

C.L.:  What's next is the sequel to Witchmark. I'm working on it right now.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

C.L.:  Thank you! I'm glad to have a chance to talk about Witchmark with you and your readers.

Witchmark, June 19, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with C.L. Polk, author of Witchmark
C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.

One of Publishers Weekly's Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018!

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

About C.L. Polk

Interview with C.L. Polk, author of Witchmark
C. L. Polk wrote her first story in grade school and still hasn't learned any better. After spending years in strange occupations and wandering western Canada, she settled in southern Alberta with her rescue dog Otis. C. L. has had short stories published in Baen's UNIVERSE and contributes to the web serial Shadow Unit (, and spends too much time on twitter at @clpolk. Witchmark is her debut novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @clpolk

Interview with Todd McAulty, author of The Robots of Gotham

Please welcome Todd McAulty to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Robots of Gotham was published on June 19th by John Joseph Adams / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Interview with Todd McAulty, author of The Robots of Gotham

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

Todd:  Thanks, and it's great to be here!

I was into comics and science fiction at a pretty early age, and the first fiction piece I remember writing was a pretty funky mad scientist story. I borrowed my Dad's typewriter and pecked it out, one key at a time. I submitted it to a science fiction magazine at the age of 12, and I was bursting with pride and excitement just to be able to say I did that, let me tell you.

Surprisingly. I got back what seemed to me to be a thoughtful rejection. It meant so much to me to be treated seriously by a science fiction editor that I immediately set to work on another story.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Todd:  I admit, red faced and embarrassed, that I am a total pantser. I have no idea where my stories are going. I sit down in front of my computer and start typing, mostly to find out what happens.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Todd:  Getting started. I'm a procrastinator, Woowee, am I a procrastinator. The day I was supposed to start writing my next novel, I did six loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and vacuumed the whole house. I never wrote a word but, hey, my writing space sure was ordered and tidy.

Still, I do enjoy writing. I just have a hard time getting started. Once I get over that hump though, once I fall into the regular rhythm of 2-5 pages a day, it's the best feeling in the world.

You just need to exercise those writing muscles. Once you get them in shape, you can routinely accomplish things that seemed impossible when you were just getting started.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Todd:  Reading. Novels of course, but also short fiction. Read the magazines -- Clarkesworld, Asimov's, Lightspeed. There are writers doing things today that will blow your mind open. Clarkesworld has a marvelous podcast, read by the amazing Kate Baker, and I listen to it while riding the train home from Chicago in the evening. Yesterday I listened to Bogi Takács' “Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus,” about uplifted octopi on an alien planet. Great stuff!

If you're a writer looking to get inspired, novels are a fine choice. But I find that nothing really churns the mind like great short fiction. There's so much out there today, and so many ways to consume it. If you haven't tried, you're really missing out.

The other thing I read is newspapers. Real journalism, not just bloggers and Facebook. I think I'm the only person in my train compartment every morning that still carries a physical copy of The New York Times with me downtown. Pretty old school, I admit.

When I wrote the first draft of THE ROBOTS OF GOTHAM, it seemed flat and unrealistic until I realized I was missing a global perspective. I needed to tell the story of how the rise of independent machines had changed the entire world, not just the United States. That was a hugely positive change to the book, and I think it comes directly from exposure to so many in-depth resources on global affairs.

TQDescribe The Robots of Gotham in 140 characters or less.

Todd:  A Canadian businessman in an occupied Chicago uncovers a machine conspiracy to destroy all life and teams with humans and robots to stop it.

TQTell us something about The Robots of Gotham that is not found in the book description.

Todd:  I worked with the great folks at John Joseph Adams Books to craft what I thought was pretty serviceable jacket copy for the novel. But it wasn't until all those terrific blurbs from other writers starting coming in that I realized that there were much better ways to describe the book than just a straight-ahead plot synopsis.

C.S.E. Cooney, who'd just won a World Fantasy Award for her magical collection BONE SWANS, said something that really struck me. She said:

            "For all its breakneck world-building, constant questing, and relentless wheeling and dealing, The Robots of Gotham is deceptively deep-hearted: a novel about, of all things, friendship.”

It's interesting how the themes in your fiction aren't always clear to you until someone points them out. But she's absolutely right. THE ROBOTS OF GOTHAM is about a Canadian who gets dropped into a very ugly situation, an occupied Chicago hollowed out by a prolonged war against machines, and sets about indiscriminately making friendships. With Americans in his hotel, with foreigners who are part of the peacekeeping force, and with machines of all kinds, including some who are part of the occupying army. Those friendships become crucial when he stumbles on a machine conspiracy to destroy all life on the continent with a horrific plague.

Barry Simcoe and his new friends set out to stop it, and when they do they make two more startling discoveries: that the fabled American resistance is not nearly as extinct as everyone believes, and that there's a very big secret hidden behind the machine machinations in Chicago. A secret that America's machine conquerors are desperate to keep hidden.

If I had to describe the book today, I'd do it a little differently than I did when I wrote that jacket copy. I'd want to find a way to boil down what the book is all about. To say that the antidote to all this skullduggery and mistrust is friendship. The outsider Barry Simcoe is able to make friendships in a very dangerous place, with parties who are intensely hostile to each other, and those friendships spread.

Can something as simple as friendship successfully undermine a global conspiracy? Can man truly be friends with something as alien as a sentient machine? Those are the questions I had so much fun exploring in my novel.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Robots of Gotham? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Todd:  The Robots of Gotham is a standalone book, and it tells a complete tale, but it's also part of a series of stories that use the same setting. I was inspired to write it because of my love for the science fiction and fantasy series that have captivated me over the years, from The Lord of the Rings to Star Trek to Harry Potter.

Neil Gaiman once said he didn't truly understand serial fiction until he realized that the key is giving readers time to live with the characters between installments. That the magic of his Sandman comic wasn't always magnified by collecting the monthly issues into graphic novels so readers could digest them all at once. That good serial fiction has more impact when it has room to live, for readers to daydream and imagine their own stories between chapters. I think that's a powerful insight, and it's part of what fascinates me about writing a series.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Robots of Gotham? How much of the science in the novel is more fact than fiction?

Todd:  I work for a machine learning company in Chicago, and one of the great surprises of my life was how much the real world caught up with the world of 2083 Chicago I imagined, just in the three years between when I began writing the book and when it was published. The advances in machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence over the last three years alone have been staggering.

If I had it to do all over again, I might have moved my time line up by 30 years, to 2053. And even that might not be enough! We are plunging into a future world of robots and Thought Machines far faster than I had imagined. Much of what I conjectured in the book is fact already. That's both exciting and a little terrifying.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Robots of Gotham.

Todd:  I'd be delighted to! The cover was designed by Mark R. Robinson at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and it depicts a scene from the novel. It shows a massive fireball over Lake Michigan, a scant 15 miles offshore, created when an unknown group of machines create a controlled magma vent -- basically a volcano -- in the middle of the lake.

Why? That's just one of the mysteries Barry Simcoe is faced with when he arrives in the city, and sees this happening from his hotel room.

I'm absolutely thrilled with the cover. Covers are enormously important, and I think doubly so for debut authors. There's not a lot of reason for a casual browser to pick us up in the bookstore. If the cover doesn't catch your eye, we're sunk. And Mark's cover is certainly eye-catching!

TQIn The Robots of Gotham who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Todd:  That's easy. The easiest character to writer was the first robot introduced, Nineteen Black Winter, a diplomat from the robotic kingdom of Manhattan. He and Barry are both injured in the attack on their hotel in the first chapter. While Barry quickly recovers, Black Winter is dying, and no one can help him. Barry has to make a crucial decision about how much he's willing to risk to try and save a machine he just met a few hours ago.

Black Winter was easy to write because, like Barry, he's an outsider. He's just trying to make his way in a city that hates and mistrusts machines. He doesn't understand the politics any better than anyone else. But his connections and knowledge prove to be invaluable to the fledgling team when the crisis hits.

I think the hardest character to write was the villain, who's also a machine. I'll leave the rest of that question alone for now.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Robots of Gotham?

Todd:  I think social issues were unavoidable. Any time in history when a race has conquered and oppressed another, the consequences have been brutal and long-lasting. In this case the conquering race is machine, but I think the dynamics involved will be painfully familiar.

But I don't think that's the most interesting social theme in the book, at least not to me. The machines in The Robots of Gotham are gendered. There are male and female robots, and they are born with a powerful drive to reproduce. What does it mean to be part of a wholly new race that is discovering gender politics for the first time? If the ability to be transgender is part of your programming, does gender even exist?

These are very valid questions, some of which are already being asked today about people, of course. I find it fascinating to mirror that conversation in a different space, among machines, to see if we're comfortable with the same answers.

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

Todd:  When is it on sale?

June 19th! Here, let me write that down for you. Thanks for asking!

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

Thanks for the opportunity! Given the chance, I'd like to quote from one of my other favorite robot characters, Paul the Pirate, a Jamaican Thought Machine who blogs about politics. In Chapter Two he shares his thoughts on the origin of the war with America, and he's much more clear-eyed than others. Here's Paul. (Warning for language -- Paul is something of a potty-mouth.)
In April 2080, with American alliances in tatters, the fascist machine regimes of Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and Panama banded together to form the SCC—the San Cristobal Coalition. The SCC stoked the flames of suspicion against America, and powerful interests backed their accusations. Diplomatic solutions failed, and on October 20, 2080, the SCC invaded Manhattan.

I was on vacation in Mexico when it happened, and like the rest of the world, I watched the invasion of America in real time. No one had ever seen anything like the war machines that emerged out of the Atlantic to terrorize the financial capital of the world. Manhattan fell in less than twelve hours. The SCC spread rapidly across the Eastern seaboard, quickly retooling device factories in New York City to manufacture huge war machines. From there, the Robots of Gotham spilled across the eastern half of the United States, and it looked like nothing could stop them.

But damn, man. Somehow America _did_ stop them. They did it the old-fashioned way, with bloody sacrifice and sheer guts and willpower. And they did it with massive war machines of their own, operated by recklessly brave pilots. They did it in the fields of Iowa, and the streets of Atlanta, and the swamps of Louisiana, wherever the fuck those are. At horrific cost and with peerless determination, America fought the invaders to a standstill, until the Memphis Ceasefire in December 2082 finally brought the bloody war to an end.

TQWhat's next?

Todd:  I am hard at work on the second book with the same setting, THE GHOSTS OF NAVY PIER. And who knows, maybe some short stories.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Todd:  Thank you for having me!

The Robots of Gotham
John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 19, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 688 pages

Interview with Todd McAulty, author of The Robots of Gotham
A thrilling adventure in a world one step away from total subjugation by machines.

After long years of war, the United States has sued for peace, yielding to a brutal coalition of nations ruled by fascist machines. One quarter of the country is under foreign occupation. Manhattan has been annexed by a weird robot monarchy, and in Tennessee, a permanent peace is being delicately negotiated between the battered remnants of the U.S. government and an envoy of implacable machines.

Canadian businessman Barry Simcoe arrives in occupied Chicago days before his hotel is attacked by a rogue war machine. In the aftermath, he meets a dedicated Russian medic with the occupying army, and 19 Black Winter, a badly damaged robot. Together they stumble on a machine conspiracy to unleash a horrific plague—and learn that the fabled American resistance is not as extinct as everyone believes. Simcoe races against time to prevent the extermination of all life on the continent . . . and uncover a secret that America’s machine conquerors are desperate to keep hidden.

About Todd

Todd McAulty grew up in Nova Scotia. He was a manager at the start-up that created Internet Explorer, and currently works at a machine learning company in Chicago. This is his first novel.

Interview with Michael Rutger, author of The Anomaly

Please welcome Michael Rutger to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Anomaly is published on June 19th by Grand Central Publishing.

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

Interview with Michael Rutger, author of The Anomaly

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

Michael:  I moved around the world a lot when I was a young kid, because of my father’s job (he was an academic). My mother had taught me to read by the time I was four, partly as a way of keeping me occupied, I suspect — and so I always read a lot. When I was in my early teens I started writing a kids’ adventure story based on a series of books I’d read and re-read many times. I discovered that writing the beginning of a story is fun and pretty easy, but then it gets much harder. That hasn’t changed.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Michael:  A little of both. I have sketched out whole stories — though rarely — and I do plot sections sometimes. But usually I start off just with the underlying ideas, characters, and some sense of where I’m headed… and let it evolve from there. THE ANOMALY was a little different because it’s tightly structured in the second half, and so a natural-born hybrid had to tilt a little more toward plotter on this occasion.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about novel writing?

Michael:  Working out a compelling plot is always challenging, but the first hard thing is choosing what to write. Ideas come easily. The challenge is deciding which of them is worth the commitment of a year of your life, and which truly has the potential to expand from being a simple “What if?” or question mark in your head into something that will provide a strong enough scaffold for a narrative experience that will engage the reader throughout an entire book.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does writing for film affect (or not) your novel writing?

Michael:  Like all writers, I’m influenced by other writers. You start off trying to emulate the writers you enjoy — and trying to recreate the experience they give you in their books — even if only unconsciously. After a while you realize you’ve left that behind and are trying to find and then refine your own voice, your own take on the world and the stories to be found in it. Writing for film yields a helpfully different perspective on the process. In prose you can simply tell people things, in words. In movies and TV, it’s much better to show them. Bringing a little of that to novels, by presenting the reader with images and scenes and letting them do the work of interpreting what’s going on, and what it says about the characters, can make a book a more visceral and immersive experience.

TQDescribe The Anomaly in 140 characters or less.

Michael:  Can I go with the new 280 character limit?

“YouTube archeologist Nolan Moore and his team set out to retrace the steps of an explorer who claimed to discover a mysterious cavern in the Grand Canyon. For once, he may have actually found what he seeks… but also possibly the end of the world.”

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

Michael:  Every single thing that is presented as fact, is a fact. The history, the back story, the myths and legends… it’s all true. The fun for me, and the challenge, was taking all that true stuff and making something quite untrue out of it — while remaining credible.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Anomaly?

Michael:  I’ve been fascinated by unsolved mysteries and strange things about the world and pre-history my whole life. With THE ANOMALY, I felt that I’d finally found a way of taking that obsession into novel form. When I realized this, and the character of Nolan Moore appeared in my head, I knew I’d found what I’d wanted to write.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Anomaly?

Michael:  Quite by accident, I came upon the story of an explorer who claimed to have found something buried deep in the Grand Canyon. After that I nosed around, trying to find out anything that had been found to confirm it… and found nothing. So instead I researched local Native American myths, tied it with things I already knew about speculative areas in American history, and mixed it all together into something strange and different…

TQ Please tell us about the cover for The Anomaly.

Michael:  THE ANOMALY is about a very old mystery, buried deep in a cave system. The cover image captures that well… evoking the locale and the intrigue, without giving anything away.

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

Michael:  THE ANOMALY is told in a first person voice—Nolan Moore, the central character. He was the easiest character to write, because I really enjoy writing in the first person: it makes it feel as if you’re telling a story to someone sitting right there in front of you. That also made him the hardest person to write, however, because he has to convey a universe through his description of events and his internal dialog — evoking not only his own story and feelings, but those of all the other characters.

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


Question: I love THE ANOMALY, its characters and the way it prizes open the door on our understanding of the world, showing us some of the mysteries lurking underneath. Will there be any more like it???

Answer: Yes ;-)

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

Michael:  Hard for me to choose a favorite quote from my own writing, so instead I’ll give you the two epigraphs I used for the first part of the novel, which I think capture some of that the book is about…

It’s the loss of the Grail that sets us out
on the Quest, not the finding.
Martin Shaw
The Snowy Tower

5. The Lord saw that the wickedness
of man was great in the earth,
and that every intention of the thoughts
of his heart was only evil continually.
— Genesis,Chapter 6

TQWhat’s next?

Michael:  At the moment I’m halfway through a sequel to THE ANOMALY, and also working with a company in Hollywood who are aiming to bring THE ANOMALY to the big screen… fingers crossed.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michael:  A huge pleasure — thank you for having me!

The Anomaly
Grand Central Publishing, June 19, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Michael Rutger, author of The Anomaly
“A taut, take-no-prisoners thriller, lean and fast as an express train.”–Preston & Child, #1 New York Times bestselling authors

Not all secrets are meant to be found.

If Indiana Jones lived in the X-Files era, he might bear at least a passing resemblance to Nolan Moore — a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the “real” experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists.

Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways.

Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?

About Michael

Michael Rutger is a screenwriter whose work has been optioned by major Hollywood studios. He lives in California with his wife and son.

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts

Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2018 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on June 30, 2018, unless the vote is extended. If the vote is extended the ending date will be posted.

Vote for your favorite June 2018 Debut Cover! free polls

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover design by Brian Lemus
Cover image © Cultura Exclusive/Manuel Sulzer/Getty Images

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Jacket design © Leo Nickolls Design
Jacket photograph © All Canada Photos/Alamy Stock Photo

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover design by Adam Simpson

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover design by Cameron Cornelius

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover art by Mingchen Shen

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Jacket design by Duncan Spilling LBBG
Jacket photograph © Larry Rostant

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover design by Micaela Alcaino

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover art by Micah Epstein

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover design by Gregg Kulick
Cover image by Antarworks

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover design by Mark Robinson

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover art by Tommy Arnold

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover art by Jan Weßbecher

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June Debuts
Cover by Will Staehle

Review: Torn by Rowena Miller

Author:  Rowenna Miller
Series:  The Unraveled Kingdom 1
Publisher:  Orbit, March 20, 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
List Price:  US$15.99 (print);  US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:   9780316478625 (print); 9780316478618 (eBook)

Review: Torn by Rowena Miller
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.

Doreen’s Thoughts

Rowenna Miller does an excellent job portraying the balancing act that her protagonist, Sophie, performs between the haves and the have-nots. Seemingly based on the French Revolution, Torn focuses on a young dressmaker who also can cast spells into the clothing that she sews. As a shopkeeper, Sophie deals with the upper class and the aristocracy and employs two other shopgirls. However, her brother, Kristos, is one of the leaders of the growing disenfranchised who wish to overthrow a government that fosters such great inequities as currently exist between the rich and the poor.

Viewed as an artist for her charm skills, Sophie is invited by a member of the aristocracy to join an intellectual and artistic salon. Sophie is intrigued by the intelligent discourse and the artistic works they celebrate. She meets Theodor, who happens to be in line as an heir to the throne. She also learns more about the aristocratic world and why/how they happen to think, making her more convinced than ever to remain neutral.

To force Sophie to utilize her spell-casting skills on behalf of the revolution, the group kidnaps and threatens her brother’s life. She is forced to support a cause that she understands but does not embrace, twisting her gift to cast curses rather than positive spells. As revolutionary talk sparks into violence, Sophe is trapped with Theodor and her salon friends as the palace itself is attacked. She is forced once again to choose between continuing to help the revolutionaries or confessing to her new love and endangering her brother’s life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, especially the touch of magic added by the spell-casting through sewing. Miller does a terrific job of making each side in the conflict equally compelling and sympathetic, leading the reader to understand Sophie’s reluctance to take a position. The characters were well written, and the twist at the end is perfectly believable. Torn is a strong beginning to The Unraveled Kingdom Trilogy.

Interview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM

Please welcome Bethany C. Morrow to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. MEM was published on May 22, 2018 by The Unnamed Press.

Interview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM

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

Bethany:  The first thing I remember having written (versus literally remembering the writing of it) was what we'd call a piece of flash fiction in (I think) second grade, about a deer named Faline, which I thought was the most beautiful name ever and I have no memory of what the story was about but my teacher taped it to my desk for Back To School night, and I thought, "I've made it."

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Bethany:  I'm definitely a plotser. Typically I know the first line, the inciting incident, the first half of the first act, probably, and likely, the climax before I start writing. Once I get to the end of what I know - in a skeletal way, not a chapter-by-chapter plotted ahead of time way - then I stop, plot organically based on how the first act has developed, again in a skeletal way, and start from the beginning, reading and continuing drafting.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Bethany:  Getting over the hump and actually writing, lol. It's so lovely to have just written or to be energized to write... and then you actually have to do it. Repeatedly. And in particular once the third act starts, it's very much a feeling of, "Get this out of me!" Like labor. I'm so done at that point. Just want it to be OUT.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Bethany:  Music, music, music. I write with music, I muse to music, it's everything. It's the way I establish the tone of the story I want to write. I have to find the sound that captures what I'm trying to portray. James Horner, Thomas Newman, Hans Zimmer, Koda, playlists of ambient post-rock, chill-step, etc.

TQDescribe MEM in 140 characters or less.

Bethany:  In an alternate 1920s Montreal, scientists can extract memories. Elsie is one such Mem, but the first sentient of her kind. (I think the conflict is inherent in that description, so I just made the cut!)

TQWhat appeals to you about writing speculative fiction?

Bethany:  What I love about speculative fiction is how easily the truth about life comes through when you try to talk about worlds that aren't.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for MEM?

Bethany:  I spent a lot of time reading online, finding resources like the Art Deco Society of Montreal or the Quebec Family History Society, and then cross-referencing, studying pictures in online collections through museums and universities, always looking for a source that went into slightly more detail than the last one. What is infinitely frustrating about historical research - at least in my experience - is how readily available information seems once you've located it once. Like suddenly, that information is everywhere, despite how long it took you to find it.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for MEM.

Bethany:  Jaya Nicely is responsible for the cover, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I didn't see multiple concepts and choose between them, I saw the vault door (which is something I had on my pinterest board for the project, but had never imagined as the cover) and immediately it was haunting, sad, beautiful, everything that I felt set the perfect tone for beginning the story. She nailed it.

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

Bethany:  I think Elsie must've been the easiest character to write, because I was in her head. Nurse Ettie too, maybe, because she's almost like a non-Mem version of Elsie. The most difficult character to write was Dolores, firstly because I didn't originally know we'd spend time with her, and then because she wasn't ordinary, or the logical conclusion of everything we come to know about Sources, so it took a while to find her in a way that showed that individualness.

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

Bethany:  I wish people asked about the story of Dolores, the Source. But I won't answer it now.

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


"When I lost hope that she could live with the loss, I began to wonder whether she could forget, whether I could help her to."
   From there, I knew the rest. The wonderings of a brilliant man had already yielded so great a number of impossible feats, to the good of friends and strangers alike.

TQWhat's next?

Bethany:  Next is a young adult contemporary fantasy novel about literally magical Black girls, and the beauty and strength of their sisterhood.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Unnamed Press, May 22, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 192 pages

Interview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM
MEM is a rare novel, a small book carrying very big ideas, the kind of story that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

Set in the glittering art deco world of a century ago, MEM makes one slight alteration to history: a scientist in Montreal discovers a method allowing people to have their memories extracted from their minds, whole and complete.

The Mems exist as mirror-images of their source — zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept. And then there is Dolores Extract #1, the first Mem capable of creating her own memories. An ageless beauty shrouded in mystery, she is allowed to live on her own, and create her own existence, until one day she is summoned back to the Vault.

What happens next is a gorgeously rendered, heart-breaking novel in the vein of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Debut novelist Bethany Morrow has created an allegory for our own time, exploring profound questions of ownership, and how they relate to identity, memory and history, all in the shadows of Montreal’s now forgotten slave trade.

About Bethany

Interview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM
A California native, Bethany C. Morrow spent six years living in Montreal, Quebec. Her speculative literary fiction uses a focus on character and language to engage with, comment on and investigate worlds not unlike our own. MEM is her debut novel. She currently resides in upstate New York.

Website   ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @BCMorrow

Interview with K. D. Edwards, author of The Last Sun

Please welcome K. D. Edwards to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Last Sun is published on June 12th by Pyr.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing K. D. a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with K. D. Edwards, author of The Last Sun

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

K. D.:  What is the statute of limitations on copyright infringement….? Because when I was in elementary school, I wrote a barely-disguised rip-off of a THREE INVESTIGATORS novel that sent the kids back in time to the Middle Ages. And I am being very, very loose with the word “novel.”

I also wrote a scathing article about someone leaving loose caps on the coca-cola bottles in the family refrigerator, which, in a sense, was fiction, because IT WAS ME. IT WAS ALWAYS ME.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

K. D.:  You have no idea how much of a plotter I am. I am a ridiculously detailed outliner. I began HANGED MAN, the second novel in TAROT SEQUENCE, with a 43,000-word outline. I literally have outline notes, settings, random bits of dialog, and 1-liners for the entire series that tops off at nearly 300,000 words.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

K. D.:  Actually sitting down and putting the meat on the bones. Having such a detailed outline always makes me feel like I’m doing acrobatics way, way beyond my skill over a big, nice safety net – but finding the time to sit down and write after a long day’s work is always a challenge. I mean, at 5pm? There are books to be read….and video games to be played….and sofas. There are so many sofas in my life at 5pm on a week night. It takes real motivation to sit down in front of a computer again, and bring my story home.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

K. D.:  Different writers at different stages. There are so, so, so many writers I love now. But if I had to pick writers who -- or writing that -- helped define or evolve my style?
  • One Life to Live and General Hospital when I was a tween -- many, many years ago. Want to learn how to write dialog in massive volume? Watch a soap opera.
  • Twin Peaks, the original. Taught me to apply surreal, trippy edges to something as innocuous as a soap opera.
  • The Sandman, Preacher, and Hellblazer. The Sandman in particular. That’s when I really developed a love for deep, deep world building.
  • And the authors who changed my perspective…. Laurell Hamilton, Jim Butcher, JD Robb, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Charlie Huston, Richard Kadrey, Robbin Hobb, Perry Moore.

TQDescribe The Last Sun in 140 (OR SLIGHTLY MORE IF YOU’RE A CHEATER) characters or less.

K. D.:  A reimagining of Atlantis. Rune, a fallen prince, lives in a patchwork Gotham with his caustic bodyguard. An assignment will take him into the halls of power, closer than ever to the mystery of his past.

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

K. D.:  It’s imagined as a 9-part series. And when I say imagined, I mean obsessively plotted, right down to the very last scene.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Last Sun? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

K. D.:  I fell in love with the genre after gobbling up the Anita Blake Series, JD Robb’s In Death series, Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series, and the Sandman collected works. I love taking the world as we know it, and then stuffing the drawers and corners and attics with batshit crazy, surreal stuff.

TQAtlantis seemingly has been a source of fascination for centuries. What do you think are the reasons for Atlantis' enduring appeal?

K. D.:  I think ALL lost civilizations – real or otherwise – have enduring appeal. The unknown hits on all our adrenaline responses – it’s a source of entertainment, fear, mystery, fright, excitement. Lost civilizations are as wonderful and terrible as the spans & layers of your imagination.

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

K. D.:  Nothing for Atlantis. But the book is filled with abandoned human ruins and buildings that have been teleported from all across the world. I did an exhaustive amount of research on those buildings. Past that, there are a score of topics I researched in depth – fighting styles, mansion architecture, lesser-known monster mythologies. And it doesn’t even hold a candle to the research I’ve done for Novel #2. I’ve spent a year researching ghost ships and US battleships for THE HANGED MAN!

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Last Sun.

K. D.:  Oh God, what a wonderful, amazing experience it was. I was So. Damned. Scared. Out of every part of publishing, the only thing that really terrified me was: what is the cover sucked? What if the cover was a half-naked man, and I’d be embarrassed to read it on the subway? What if it was so bad I’d be ashamed to show my parents? But my editor, Rene Sears, hooked me up with Micah Epstein; and even more, she gave me the chance to write up my own summary of the novel, and details of the characters. I put in the work, drafted that document, and the result was…..I just can’t say enough about Micah. He literally created metaphors on his own that were perfect, like the broken Sun tarot card stained glass window. And he listened to what I said – he shows Rune’s leather jacket; and the sigils on Rune’s finger; and the necklace….. I was so freaking lucky to wind up with him. It doesn’t show any spoilers from the novel, but it captures the essence of Rune and Brand perfectly.

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

K. D.:  Brand. Definitely Brand. He’s my foul-mouthed avatar who will say exactly what needs to be said. He has the best 1-liners. I told you how I have hundreds of thousands of words of brainstorming notes for future novels? About 20% of all those notes are Brand 1-liners. The first two times that people quotes a line of my novel back to me, it was one of Brand’s most inventive swears. But in a larger sense, all of Brand’s best humor is tied up in his relationship with Rune – so any scene with the two of them is easy to write. They play off each other better than I could have ever expected.

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

K. D.:  I don’t really touch on real-world events, but Rune identifies as gay, and there is an enormous amount of queer representation in the novel. I don’t want THE LAST SUN – or the series as a whole – to be called “gay sci-fi.” I want it to be considered good, funny, enjoyable sci-fi with a protagonist who just happens to be gay. That’s my goal in all my writing. To have main characters that just happen to be gay, in novels that represent what I consider mainstream. I want gay and lesbian youth to see themselves in this novel.

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

K. D.:  Hmmm. Two things. One, you already asked. I love talking about outlining. I’m pretty proud of the work I’ve put into outlining this series. And two, since I know everything that’s going to happen, I’ll be curious if people ask about the many easter eggs I hide in the novel. Everything that the character Quinn says, in particular, is important. I’ve given hints to major story lines that happen throughout the entire series.

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

K. D.:  Oh man. Can I swear. You can black this part out if you need to.

The swear that people have quoted back to me, when Brand gets really upset in one scene, is: “Mother-fucking horsefire shit!” And I have no idea where that came from.

Other quotes are difficult, because they operate so well in the larger flow of scenes – especially the banter between Rune and Brand. I suppose I love when Brand makes fun of Rune. (Like when Rune tries to use Brand’s smart phone, and Brand finally snatches it away, saying, “It’s like watching Gilligan try to make a radio out of coconuts.” Or when Brand tries to cheer Rune up by offering to spar, and Rune says, “Sparring means something different to me that you. Sparring means getting hit in the face a lot.”)

TQWhat's next?

K. D.:  THE HANGED MAN! Book 2! It’s going very well….I can’t remember the last time a work-in-progress has gone so well. I’m barreling towards the deadline (and, if I was being honest, a mite past it), but it’s the best work I’ve ever done.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

K. D.:  Thank you for being one of my first interviewers! I am, sincerely, honored.

The Last Sun
The Tarot Sequence 1
Pyr, Jun 12, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with K. D. Edwards, author of The Last Sun
In this debut novel and series starter, the last member of a murdered House searches for a missing nobleman, and uncovers clues about his own tortured past.

Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Court, is hired to search for Lady Judgment's missing son, Addam, on New Atlantis, the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home.

With his companion and bodyguard, Brand, he questions Addam's relatives and business contacts through the highest ranks of the nobles of New Atlantis. But as they investigate, they uncover more than a missing man: a legendary creature connected to the secret of the massacre of Rune's Court. In looking for Addam, can Rune find the truth behind his family's death and the torments of his past?

About K. D.

K.D. Edwards lives and writes in North Carolina, but has spent time in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, New Hampshire, Montana, and Washington State. (Common theme until NC: Snow. So, so much snow.) Mercifully short careers in food service, interactive television, corporate banking, retail management, and bariatric furniture have led to a much less short career in higher education, currently for the University of North Carolina System.

Website  ~  Twitter @KDEdwards_NC

Interview with Amber Royer, author of Free Chocolate

Please welcome Amber Royer to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Free Chocolate was published on June 5th by Angry Robot.

Interview with Amber Royer, author of Free Chocolate

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

Amber:  Thanks for having me!

I’ve always been interested in writing and storytelling. You can probably thank my mom for that, because she made sure I was enrolled in the local library’s summer reading club from before I even started school. And my brother, who’s five years older, was into role playing games, so from pretty early on, if I wanted to get to hang out with him and his friends, imagination and storytelling ability were key.

I don’t remember it clearly, but apparently I wrote a story in first grade that my teacher, Mrs. Russel, thought was good enough that she told my mom to encourage me. I remember more in the fourth grade, when we did story assignments and my teacher pointed out that writers were real people, and it was something anyone could aspire to. (Author visits are important too, you guys – you never know who you’ll inspire to write!)

Ironically, the first thing I wrote where I can remember much about the plot was after I had had a fight with my brother, and I imagined a city where you were only allowed to have sisters (never having had a sister, eight-ish year old me had no idea that that wouldn’t have solved anything).

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Amber:  I like to think of myself as a recovered pantser turned mega-plotter. You should see the Wiki file I have built for the Chocoverse. I have entries for every alien planet I’m planning to mention for the entire series, and for every named character I’ve introduced. I have a lexicon for the language Brill speaks, and one for the Zantites. I have mocked-up charts for the relative locations of these planets in space, and maps of the ones I’m planning for Bo to visit.

I really believe that the more planning you do at the beginning, the less re-writing you’ll have to do overall. I’ve tried editing some of the manuscripts from when I was a complete discovery writer, and I find myself looking at strings of cool scenes that are each fine on their own, but don’t necessarily add up to a plot. And some of these manuscripts were things I’d re-envisioned two or three times. Understanding the mechanics behind what you’re building, structurally speaking, lets you engineer the story for maximum emotional impact.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Amber:  Finding the right place to begin a story has always been hardest for me. I usually start too far in and find myself referring to the most important events in the book as backstory. And then I wind up going back and writing the beginning, which is a blessing in a way, because by then I really know who my characters are, but sometimes I’ll overshoot the natural start point and wind up having to trash the “first” two or three chapters.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Amber:  Obviously, there are a ton of books that have influenced me, but can we talk for a minute about old movies? I’m talking black and white classics, where they couldn’t do much in the way of special effects, so it all came down to the acting and the dialogue. Some friends and I were talking about this recently, and I came to the conclusion that some of the stuff I stumbled on as a teenager/twenty-something with access to the classic movie channels helped shape (and perhaps warp) my sense of humor.

The Road Movies – I was re-watching one of these adventure stories with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby recently, and it struck me how similar the tone is to what I’ve been doing with Free Chocolate. One minute, Bing and Bob are arguing over something completely ridiculous (and it usually comes down to a joke about Bob’s nose or Bing’s ears) and the next, they’re in the middle of a fight for their lives. There’s tons of meta references (like the opening song to Road to Morocco, when they’re betting they’ll run into actress Dorothy Lamour -- because they always do, or when something they usually do to get out of a fight doesn’t work, and one of the guys guesses that the bad guy has seen the previous films) and over-the-top plot twists, but they commit to the formula, and so it works. Man. Come to think of it, can we just start calling Free Chocolate a Galactic Road Movie in Book Form?

The Thin Man – One trope I LOVE is socially mis-matched heroes and heroines who banter and face danger and acknowledge how being different from each other can cause conflict, but underneath it all really love and protect each other. You’ll see it pop up in a lot of my work, Free Chocolate included. To me, the original model for this is Nick and Nora Charles, the crime-fighting duo in The Thin Man movies. She’s a socialite and he’s a now-retired private detective. Nora married Nick because his work as a private detective made him exciting. He’s suddenly got money, but is now out of his element and bored without his previous justice-seeking purpose. So when the opportunity to solve a case together arises, we get to see the mechanics of their relationship and the “rightness” of them being together as a couple. While the specifics in the relationships in Free Chocolate are completely different, I hope you can see hints of this type/trope.

Arsenic and Old Lace – This was offbeat and quirky in its time period, but it has endured as a classic, and I think part of the reason for that is, even though it’s a comedy, it didn’t skimp on the development of the character relationships and backstory. A lot of the time, comedy equates to throw-away jokes and inconsistent worldbuilding, but when you enter the Brewster home, you really feel like Mortimer is coming home to a place he his highly ambivalent about. This is a comedy of a normal person surrounded by eccentrics, and it is because of how well he knows the eccentrics that allows us to get just a glimpse of the pain inside them before returning to the humorous tone. There’s some grim dark stuff here. Think about the scene where Mortimer’s brother remarks that their aunt Martha – who is standing right there – that she always wears high collars, “to hide the scar where Grandfather's acid burned you.” That could have been drawn out in a flashback with agonizing detail, or we could have been shown the scars, but Martha just subtly touches the collar, acknowledging her backstory, and we move on. There are a couple of grim things that happen in Free Chocolate as well, but I hope I’ve developed it well enough that you can just glimpse the edges of the darkness and bounce back to the comic tone.

TQDescribe Free Chocolate in 140 characters or less.

Amber:  Telenovela drama meets space opera stakes in an action-packed novel where the galaxy’s hungry for the one thing Earth won’t share: chocolate.

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

Amber:  When developing the alien races, I gave Brill’s people color changing eyes, but I didn’t want it to be just random or cosmetic. If I was going to include something like that because I was playing with a trope, it needed to be relevant to the plot, so when you see Brill with lavender eyes on the cover, it’s not just to match Bo’s dress. The chromashift reveals Brill’s emotions, so when they’re that color, it means he’s really happy. Or, if they’ve shifted through a certain shade of pink to get to the lavender, that he’s just told a huge lie. So when I first got to see the cover art, I took one look at him and thought, yep, liar!

This is why sunglasses are illegal on his planet. And why he’s one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written.

TQWhat inspired you to write Free Chocolate? What appeals to you about writing Space Opera?

Amber:  There are so many things that went into bringing this idea together, but one sparking point was an article I read years and years ago about the history of coffee. A summary of that article can be found in Free Chocolate – only I slide from true history (how the guy who smuggled coffee plants back to Europe nearly got thrown overboard when everyone found out he’d been sharing his limited water rations with a couple of specks of greenery) – into a huge what if (aliens landed and bought coffee plants on the internet, and now the best coffee is grown on the other side of the galaxy.)

Several people have asked why I didn’t write it as historical fiction, based on that true story. There are several reasons. First, while I’m playing with history and human nature, I don’t want to wind up judging history or specific historic people. I wasn’t there. I don’t know the complexities. I’m a history fan, not a historian. Second, that one account is just a jumping off point for the story I want to tell. Honestly, Free Chocolate is just the jumping off point for what I want to do with the Chocoverse. What’s happening on the space opera scale of it is complex and hidden (this is intended to be telenovela in book form, so expect dramatic confessions and secrets brought to light) and Bo’s assumptions about her world and her place in it will be tested at every turn. I needed it to be space opera to give me a big enough canvas to work with. Book two, Pure Chocolate, has already been completed, and I’ve just been discussing the cover art for that one with Angry Robot. I’m just hoping enough people like the universe I’ve created that I get to tell you guys the whole story!

In general, space opera has always appealed to me because I like stories with strong characters and actively arcing character relationships. I also like the fact that you can focus on the story over the science. As long as you establish something right from the beginning, people are a lot friendlier when you do handwavium (giving a weak reason why something works in your ‘verse when physics or biology would find it improbable in the real world) than they are with “hard” science fiction. There’s also a huge tradition to reference and build on.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Free Chocolate?

Amber:  Before I wrote Free Chocolate, I did a chocolate-related cookbook to sell at events we were doing for the local herb society. The cookbook is currently out of print (though we are toying with the idea of expanding and re-releasing it) but a lot of the research I did for that cross-applied. The idea for the cookbook was sparked when we were in the Dominican Republic and got to tour a Cacao Plantation and came home with gorgeous photos of cacao pods and trees, and I built on that to explore how chocolate was used in both sweet and savory recipes from around the world.

I did more research specifically for Free Chocolate on chocolate production equipment, and I found out the hard way that most craft chocolate makers consider their process a carefully guarded secret and do not take kindly to requests for tours. So we made a couple of attempts at doing bean-to-bar chocolate in our kitchen, and went to the Dallas Chocolate Festival (not that we wouldn’t have gone again anyway), where the people selling small-scale processing equipment were more than happy to answer our choco-questions.

Shout out to the Dallas Chocolate Festival, and chocolate festivals in general: They are a great resource for learning about all aspects of chocolate, from the botany to the industry. And the vendors all bring samples -- and are happy to tell you what makes their particular chocolate special.

What you can tell from all of this: I’m obviously a very visual hands-on learner, and sometimes I pick up ideas that take years to percolate into something usable. When I can’t actually be there to experience what something feels/smells/tastes like or fire up a burner to try re-creating something at home, I turn to video first.

Parts of Free Chocolate are set in Brazil, near Rio, and while I’ve been in the rainforest, I’ve never been in THAT rainforest, so I watched a lot of YouTube video on what it sounds like there, and which animals you’re actually likely to run into.

I also did a lot of internet searches and library research. There were tons of little things I wasn’t sure about. How does sand act in an earthquake? Are there natural sources for salt in the rainforest? What happens to the human body if it is rapidly depressurized in space? Why don’t artificial lungs currently exist? The list goes on . . .

At the same time, this is science fiction, with aliens from a variety of planets. So there’s quite a bit of tech, botany, language and such that I flat out made up.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Free Chocolate.

Amber:  The artist is Mingchen Shen. He is amazing! Angry Robot came up with the concept for the cover as a splash poster, like you would see for a new telenovela series coming out. So while it’s not a specific scene, it does give the flavor of the ‘verse. You have Bo and Brill, both looking thoughtful, and one of the Zantites looming over them. I love it! Brill looks just young enough and arrogant enough, and Bo looks perfectly paparazzi-princess glam.

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

Amber:  I’d have to say the easiest – and most fun -- was Chestla. She’s the RA at Bo’s cooking school – and an alpha predator on her home planet. Chestla’s the eternal optimist in Bo’s life, fierce and protective, and her outlook hasn’t been darkened by the tragic elements in her backstory. Her role in this first book was fairly straightforward, so she didn’t have a lot of complex moral decisions to struggle through. It was easy to figure out what she would do in any given situation, and her dialogue was a blast to write.

Frank was the hardest, and if I told you why . . . spoilers, darling, spoilers.

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

Amber:  Do you ever include “Easter Eggs” for your friends?

TOTALLY! I love that element of surprise and joy that comes when someone spots something in your work that is just for them. For instance, there’s a reptilian newscaster in Free Chocolate. He’s a minor character, and his name doesn’t really matter, so I named him after my nephew’s leopard gecko, Blizzard. It’s a minor thing, but it becomes a fun running gag. Throughout the series, you’ll catch glimpses of Blizzard and Feddoink in the Morning – because it’s always morning somewhere.

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

Amber:  When Brill (Bo’s boyfriend who happens to be from Krom, the planet that took samples of Earth’s resources at First Contact) first meets Frank (Mamá’s boyfriend, who apparently knew Bo’s deceased father), Frank implies that Krom as a species are untrustworthy. This is Brill, turning the tables while letting the reader in on a bit of worldbuilding, as he explains how the chromashift in his eyes works. Because Krom are nothing if not respectful, he’s using the term human rather than Earthling.
Those patterns are as important to Krom non-verbal communication as body language – and just as telling. Brill’s eyes right now are bright blue, tinged toward violet, showing he’s happy and a little amused as he says, “That’s a good question, Mr. Sawyer. Not many humans are that observant.” He leans forward and drops his voice, as though he’s sharing a particularly juicy secret. “We can lie, but it takes practice. The part of our brains that shunts chemicals to the iris is buried deep in the subconscious. You concentrate on an old memory until you believe that the memory – the lie – is more important than the present. Much the same way humans lie, I believe.”

TQYou are marooned on a distant planet, which types of chocolate would you want to have with you and why?

Amber:  That depends entirely on what you mean by marooned.

If you’re saying that my hypothetical spaceship’s been boarded by the more compassionate form of space pirate (you know – the ones who don’t just space everyone on board when they take a ship) and left somewhere without refrigeration, I’d want Mexican-style drinking chocolate (Abulita’s or Tazo) and Peanut M&Ms.

Chocolate in candy-bar form doesn’t do well with heat or moisture. Serious Eats says, “Chocolate keeps best between 65 and 70°F, away from direct sunlight, and protected from moisture.” This is because once chocolate melts, it loses its temper (that quality that allows it to snap when you break it) and becomes kind of bleh. This is one reason that, before electric refrigeration became common, most chocolate was produced in Europe, where the colder temperatures allowed for chocolate to be processed in ways that just didn’t make sense in the regions where the beans are grown. Before THAT, “eating” chocolate didn’t exist, because chocolate that’s been ground has a bit of grit to it.

Mexican-style chocolate disks (also known as stone-ground chocolate disks or tablets) are super-sturdy, don’t melt easily, are usually spiced with cinnamon -- and it doesn’t matter a whit if the ambient temperature gets a bit high, because they are meant to be dissolved into hot liquid and drunk. Which could go a long way towards making questionable water on an alien planet – which would need to be boiled anyway – more palatable.

M&Ms solve the melt problem differently. They just let it happen, and count on the candy coating to maintain the shape once the chocolate hardens again. In fact, they were designed as a non-meltable field ration during WWI. They also have a tradition in space, according to the Smithsonian Magazine:
“The most common form of chocolate flown today and throughout the 35-year history of the space shuttle program is M&Ms—or as NASA refers to them, “candy-coated chocolates”. Even now, M&Ms are part of the standard menu for astronauts serving stints aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Small volumes of the colorful candies are prepared in clear, nondescript packaging for each mission. . . . In many ways, M&Ms are the perfect space snack. They are bite-sized and, unlike other candies and foods, aren’t likely to crumble. “M&Ms are singular pieces that you can eat very easily, and you can eat multiples of them at one time. And because you’re not likely to bite one in half, you won’t make a mess,” Levasseur says.”
I’d choose the peanut ones if I was marooned without expectation of rescue, because that would offer a safe source of protein in a potentially hostile environment.

BUT if by marooned you mean that I’ve somehow fallen in with irresponsible friends who have ditched me without cash on a random planet, I’d want Ferrero Rocher. LOTS of Ferrero Rocher. The gold wrapping looks luxe, and in a number of real-world cultures both inside and outside the company’s native Europe, these candies have a reputation as a symbol of hospitality. It feels like that might translate, if I needed to show good intentions when say, begging for a ride, or explaining to the local authorities how I wound up on said planet in the first place. They’re also lightweight, individually wrapped and can be bought in their own crush-proof plastic cases. And if worst comes to worst, and I had to survive on them until I could figure out a better plan, the hazelnuts in the mix would at least be SOME protein.

I know none of the products I’ve described are the single-source craft chocolate bars you were probably expecting for an answer. I’ll tell you a secret. While I can chocolate-snob with the best of them (My husband and I attended a chocolate tasting recently where the presenters accidentally mixed up two of the samples, and we were like “there’s no way this is Amano, because this doesn’t match their flavor style” – and it wasn’t) and I LOVE a good single-source bar, I like certain grocery-store candy bars too (especially if they involve peanuts, hazelnuts or peanut butter.)

TQWhat's next?

AmberPure Chocolate will be coming May of next year. I had a ton of fun writing it, because it was a chance to crash all my favorite characters from Free Chocolate together in different ways, and move their arcs forward while giving them a chance to save the entire galaxy. You’ll get to visit several of the secondary characters’ home planets. If you like the first one, I think you’ll love Bo’s second adventure.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Amber:  Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed such thoughtful questions.


Free Chocolate
Chocoverse 1
Angry Robot, June 5, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Amber Royer, author of Free Chocolate
In the far future, chocolate is Earth’s sole unique product – and it’s one that everyone else in the galaxy would kill to get their hands, paws, and tentacles on

Latina culinary arts student, Bo Benitez, becomes a fugitive when she’s caught stealing a cacao pod from the heavily-defended plantations that keep chocolate, Earth’s sole valuable export, safe from a hungry galaxy. Forces arraying against her including her alien boyfriend and a reptilian cop. But when she escapes onto an unmarked starship things go from bad to worse: it belongs to the race famed throughout the galaxy for eating stowaways. Surrounded by dangerous yet hunky aliens, Bo starts to uncover clues that the threat to Earth may be bigger than she first thought.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Heiress Apparent | Sticky Fingers | Pod People | The Milky Way ]

About Amber

Interview with Amber Royer, author of Free Chocolate
Amber Royer teaches enrichment and continuing education creative writing classes for teens and adults. She spent five years as a youth librarian, where she organized teen writers’ groups and teen writing contests. In addition to two cookbooks co-authored with her husband, Amber has published a number of articles on gardening, crafting and cooking for print and on-line publications.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @amber_royer

Interview with Jeremy Finley, author of The Darkest Time of NightInterview with Jonathan French, author of The Grey Bastards - And 2 ReviewsInterview with C.L. Polk, author of WitchmarkInterview with Todd McAulty, author of The Robots of GothamInterview with Michael Rutger, author of The Anomaly2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June DebutsReview: Torn by Rowena MillerInterview with Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEMInterview with K. D. Edwards, author of The Last SunInterview with Amber Royer, author of Free Chocolate

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