The Qwillery | category: 2019 DAC Interview | (page 3 of 5)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Sarah Gailey, author of Magic for Liars

Please welcome Sarah Gailey to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Magic for Liars is published on June 4, 2019 by Tor Books.

Interview with Sarah Gailey, author of Magic for Liars

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

Sarah:  The very first piece of fiction I ever wrote was a short story for a Young Authors contest at my elementary school. I was in first grade, and I wrote a story about a guy named Bob who saved the Queen of England from being killed by a wave of acid. I was really into the idea of being the queen of something at the time, because I figured being a queen was a lot like being the president, but with more gold and access to cool frogs.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sarah:  For long fiction, I’m a hardcore plotter. I have lengthy spreadsheets that help me keep track of story beats. For short fiction, I’m a little more of a pantser — I have an idea of where I want the story to go, and I let it happen however it wants to happen.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sarah:  I struggle a lot with remembering to describe what people look like. I think part of that is because I have such a hard time remembering faces — I generally remember a person by their mannerisms, or their sense of humor. So when I’m trying to tell a reader what a character looks like, I tend to talk about things like their walk and their neck and their perfume, and then my poor editor has to remind me that people also have faces.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sarah:  This might sound silly, but my writing is heavily influenced by television. I pay close attention to the way TV writers structure narrative beats, plot development, and character arcs. Bringing those elements into my writing helps me craft stories that readers can stay invested in. I also pull a lot from contemporary horror, a genre that I think is exquisite at establishing stakes and then raising them higher and higher. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention some of my biggest narrative influences: Mario Puzo, Erin Morgenstern, and of course, Clive Barker.

TQDescribe Magic for Liars using only 5 words.

Sarah:  Angst-Ridden Magical School Noir.

TQTell us something about Magic for Liars that is not found in the book description.

Sarah:  There’s a significant focus in the book on consent and bodily autonomy. A lot of magical narratives ignore a person’s right to decide what happens to their body, and I think that’s worth exploring. For instance, the leg-locker spell in HARRY POTTER — a spell that locks the victim’s legs straight and together, so they can’t walk. This spell is treated as mild, nonthreatening, and relatively harmless (if inconvenient). In practice, though, a spell like this would be viscerally harmful. It’s a spell that immobilizes and pronates a person without their consent. In much of MAGIC FOR LIARS, I explore the consequences of such casual disregard for bodily autonomy.

TQWhat inspired you to write Magic for Liars?

Sarah:  A challenge: my agent, DongWon Song, said ‘I bet you can’t do it.’ (He is very artful, and often tricks me into doing hard things using this method.)

TQWhat appealed to you about combining Contemporary Fantasy with Noir?

Sarah:  I think there’s an angle on the magical school narrative that can be very bright and optimistic. This is understandable — adding magic to a standard school narrative is, in many ways, an attempt to make the idea of adolescence more bearable. That said, there is a dark underbelly to every story, Noir tends to be very interested in exploring the different ways people can hurt each other, and I was captured by the idea of exploring the way magic might change the harm we inflict upon each other.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Magic for Liars?

Sarah:  I spent a lot of time talking to a doctor who performs abortions. I could not have written this book without the information she gave me about different types of abortions and abortion ethics. Her insights were absolutely crucial. I also did a lot of reading about the practice of private investigation, and the ethics of investigating crimes committed by minors.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Magic for Liars.

Sarah:  The cover art for this book is by Will Staehl, who is absolutely brilliant. The central graphic references the disorienting perspective of the book, and the unreliability of the narrative. Nothing in this book is what it first appears to be, and the truth is never simple. Between the optical-illusion-style graphic and the vibrating colors that outline it, Staehl managed to capture that feeling beautifully.

TQIn Magic for Liars who was the easiest character to write and why?

Sarah:  I had a great time writing Rahul Chaudhary, the Physical Magic teacher at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. He is Ivy Gamble’s window into the world of the faculty at the school, and also becomes a romantic interest. Writing him was easy, because his character is fundamentally good-hearted (unlike most of the characters in the book). Being able to write someone who is doing his best to do good in the world was incredibly refreshing.

TQDoes Magic for Liars touch on any social issues?

Sarah:  Absolutely. MAGIC FOR LIARS touches on classism, especially in academia; it also looks at consent and reproductive rights. Teens in this book deal with healthy and unhealthy perspectives on sex and sexuality. The protagonist struggles with alcoholism and isolation, both of which point toward her struggles with mental health. There are several queer characters in the book as well.

TQWhich question about Magic for Liars do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Sarah:  I wish someone would ask me about the differences between the first draft and the final draft, because answering that question gives me the chance to gas up my brilliant editor, Miriam Weinberg. She took this book further than I ever thought it would be able to go. In the first draft of MAGIC FOR LIARS, I held back, fearful of what would happen if I made any character suffer too much. Miriam stripped away the safety nets I’d set up for the reader, and the result is a book that feels infinitely less tentative.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Magic for Liars.


“I couldn’t tell if I’d been there for happy hour before, or if I’d just been to a thousand places exactly like it. Places like that were springing up around Oakland by the score back then, every one a marker of the way the city was changing. It felt all-at-once, even though it had been brewing for years. Decades. Across the bay, San Francisco bled money like an unzipped artery. Those who had been privileged enough to have their buckets out to catch the spray drove back over the water to Oakland — from The City to the Town. The bumped aside people who had been living in these neighborhoods for generations, and they tore down storefronts, and they built brunch pubs with wood reclaimed from the houses they were remodeling.”

TQWhat's next?

Sarah:  I have a book-heavy 2020, with my first YA book, a new novella, and a second as-yet-unannounced-novel, which I can't wait to tell people more about.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sarah:  Thank you so much for having me!

Magic for Liars
Tor Books, June 4, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Sarah Gailey, author of Magic for Liars
Sharp, mainstream fantasy meets compelling thrills of investigative noir in Magic for Liars, a fantasy debut by rising star Sarah Gailey.

Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it.

Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life – or at least, she’s perfectly fine.

She doesn't in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.

Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.

“An unmissable debut.”—Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire

About Sarah

Interview with Sarah Gailey, author of Magic for Liars
©Allan Amato 2019.
Hugo award winner Sarah Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Their nonfiction has been published by Mashable and the Boston Globe, and they are a regular contributor for and Barnes & Noble. Their most recent fiction credits include Fireside Fiction,, and The Atlantic. Their debut novella, River of Teeth, was published in 2017 via and was a 2018 Hugo and Nebula award finalist. Their adult novel debut, Magic For Liars, will be published by Tor Books in June 2019. Their Young Adult novel debut, When We Were Magic, will be published by Simon Pulse in Spring 2020. You can find links to their work at; find them on social media @gaileyfrey.

Interview with W.M. Akers, author of Westside

Please welcome W. M. Akers to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Westside was published on May 7, 2019 by Harper Voyager.

Interview with W.M. Akers, author of Westside

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

W. M.:  I wrote a twelve page “novel” when I was in sixth grade called, “The Story of Bowman,” which was a riff on the story of the boy who cried wolf. Basically, it was about the watchman for a village who keeps telling everyone that there are monsters in the forest. No one believes him, and then they all get eaten by monsters.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

W. M.:  Plot, plot, plot! I have two young children, which means that the time I have to write is very restricted. If I didn’t outline everything meticulously, I would never get anything done.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a playwright affect (or not) your novel writing?

W. M.:  The hardest thing for me, aside from finding the time to get real work done, is maintaining interest in a project over the long period that it takes to finish something. No matter how much I wish I could get it done faster, writing a book takes months or years, and there are always going to be days when I’m just not feeling it. Those are the days that it really feels like work. Being a playwright helps with this problem, actually, because I find that shifting media makes it easier to keep interested in my various projects. Work on a play for a little while, and suddenly the novel seems fresh again.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

W. M.:  I take massive influence from the great prose stylists of the mid-Twentieth Century, with MFK Fisher being my particular favorite. Her sentences are as clear as spring water, and serve as a continual inspiration.

TQDescribe Westside using only 5 words.

W. M.:  Weird as hell 1921 mystery.

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

W. M.:  It has baseball in it! I’m a big baseball nerd—I even made a tabletop baseball game—and I couldn’t write a historical mystery without sneaking in as much baseball as my editor would allow.

TQWhat inspired you to write Westside? What appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy?

W. M.:  I’ve lived in New York since 2006, and from the first day I lived in the city, I found myself wondering what it was like before I got there. New York history is an exquisitely deep vein, and the more I learned about it, the more I found myself yearning for a version of the city that had existed long before I was born. Westside is my way of interrogating that nostalgic impulse. Why do we think old New York is so fascinating, and what ugliness existed there that we prefer not to think about?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Westside?

W. M.:  Old New Yorker essays were a great resource—I love you, Joseph Mitchell—and I leaned heavily on the frantic underworld histories of Herbert Asbury. But the New York Times archives were the most useful thing, as they provide a primary source window into how the period felt to the people who lived there. I had so much fun digging around the Times archives that I eventually turned that process into a newsletter all about weird stuff in the 1920s Times.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Westside.

W. M.:  The jacket was designed by Owen Corrigan, and it is gorgeous. Westside’s hero, Gilda Carr, is a detective of tiny mysteries, and the image shows the missing white glove that kickstarts her adventure. Inside it is a map showing the fence that divides my imaginary Manhattan, and some of the most important locations in the novel: Washington Square, the docks, and all the darkest alleys of the West Village.

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

W. M.:  I had a hell of a lot of fun writing Gilda Carr. Her voice came naturally to me, and whenever I sat down to work on the book after a long time away, I heard her speaking to me, impatient to start telling her story again.

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

W. M.:  What fictional location from the book would you most like to visit? The bazaar—the massive discount food market housed inside the ruins of old Penn Station, which was inspired by my beloved Park Slope Food Coop.

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

W. M.:  “Across the river, New Jersey twinkled stupidly.”

TQWhat's next?

W. M.:  I’m working on a new play, a new Deadball game, a new RPG and, most importantly, the sequel to Westside! Details to come later this year…

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

W. M.:  Thank you for having me. It was an absolute pleasure.

Harper Voyager, May 7, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with W.M. Akers, author of Westside
"Bracing, quite possibly hallucination-inducing, and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before…The illegitimate love child of Algernon Blackwood and Raymond Chandler.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Alienist meets The City & The City in this brilliant debut that mixes fantasy and mystery. Gilda Carr’s ‘tiny mysteries’ pack a giant punch." --David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of Murder As a Fine Art

New York is dying, and the one woman who can save it has smaller things on her mind.

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.

It’s 1921, and a thirteen-mile fence running the length of Broadway splits the island of Manhattan, separating the prosperous Eastside from the Westside—an overgrown wasteland whose hostility to modern technology gives it the flavor of old New York. Thousands have disappeared here, and the respectable have fled, leaving behind the killers, thieves, poets, painters, drunks, and those too poor or desperate to leave.

It is a hellish landscape, and Gilda Carr proudly calls it home.

Slightly built, but with a will of iron, Gilda follows in the footsteps of her late father, a police detective turned private eye. Unlike that larger-than-life man, Gilda solves tiny mysteries: the impossible puzzles that keep us awake at night; the small riddles that destroy us; the questions that spoil marriages, ruin friendships, and curdle joy. Those tiny cases distract her from her grief, and the one impossible question she knows she can’t answer: “How did my father die?”

Yet on Gilda’s Westside, tiny mysteries end in blood—even the case of a missing white leather glove. Mrs. Copeland, a well-to-do Eastside housewife, hires Gilda to find it before her irascible merchant husband learns it is gone. When Gilda witnesses Mr. Copeland’s murder at a Westside pier, she finds herself sinking into a mire of bootlegging, smuggling, corruption—and an evil too dark to face.

All she wants is to find one dainty ladies’ glove. She doesn’t want to know why this merchant was on the wrong side of town—or why he was murdered in cold blood. But as she begins to see the connection between his murder, her father’s death, and the darkness plaguing the Westside, she faces the hard truth: she must save her city or die with it.

Introducing a truly remarkable female detective, Westside is a mystery steeped in the supernatural and shot through with gunfights, rotgut whiskey, and sizzling Dixieland jazz. Full of dazzling color, delightful twists, and truly thrilling action, it announces the arrival of a wonderful new talent.

About W. M. Akers

Interview with W.M. Akers, author of Westside
W. M. Akers is an award-winning playwright, Narratively editor, and the creator of the bestselling game Deadball: Baseball With Dice. Westside is his debut novel. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Learn more about his work at

Twitter @ouijum  ~  Facebook

Interview with Daniel Findlay, author of Year of the Orphan

Please welcome Daniel Findlay to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Year of the Orphan is published on May 21, 2019 by Arcade Publishing.

Interview with Daniel Findlay, author of Year of the Orphan

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

Daniel:  The first fiction I remember writing was at the age of about six. I would 'borrow' characters from authors like Enid Blyton and cast them in my own stories - it was my first foray into storytelling (and fanfic!)

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Daniel:  A little of both. I have an idea of where I might like the story to end up but I let the characters show me how to get there. It's usually a surprise when I sit down to write and I try my best not to stifle their impulses. I also think about key scenes that give me a particular feeling (that I want to share or evoke) and then try to create interesting build ups to those moments.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Daniel:  Finding time is the neat answer to this question, as I juggle a full time job with my writing. The real and more complex answer is finding the discipline to continue working when there may not be much joy in it sometimes. I can count on one hand the writing sessions that felt successful this year but I have written something almost every single day.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Daniel:  I'm greatly influenced by other writers and readers, as well as film and music. I wrote Year of the Orphan listening to a lot of hip hop, and edited it to a very particular playlist of Australian music. Books like Riddley Walker and The Road both played a big part in my writing, as well as Australian classics like Obernewtyn and On The Beach.

TQDescribe Year of the Orphan using only 5 words.

Daniel:  Australian, apocalyptic, grim, badass, hopeful.

TQTell us something about Year of the Orphan that is not found in the book description.

Daniel:  More than a little of it is based on documented historical fact!

TQWhat inspired you to write Year of the Orphan? What appeals to you about writing dystopian fiction?

Daniel:  I was inspired by both historical events that occurred in Australia and also by a deep love of dystopian, post apocalyptic and speculative fiction. For me, exploring Australia's real history of nuclear testing through the lens of an apocalyptic novel was a way of sharing that real past with people who may not have otherwise known about it.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Year of the Orphan?

Daniel:  Before writing the novel I spent nearly a year reading everything I could find in the genre, particularly American classics that came out throughout the great fear of nuclear war from around 1950 through to the fall of the Soviet Union. Books like Alas, Babylon, After the Fall and A Canticle for Leibowitz, as well as more contemporary work. I was particularly interested in a the flavour of that early post-apocalyptic fiction when nuclear war was the big fear because it tied in strongly with Year of the Orphan.

After I had completed the first draft I also visited the ground zero of several of Australia's nuclear test sites. These secret places saw the detonation of nuclear bombs that in some cases were far bigger than Hiroshima and their existence in Australia is even to this day, largely forgotten. They are incredibly eerie and haunted places.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Year of the Orphan.

Daniel:  This cover was influenced by both the film Mad Max and the tones of an Australian artist named Sidney Nolan who is most famous for painting pictures of one of our most notorious criminals (and folk heroes) Ned Kelly.

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

Daniel:  The Orphan was by far the easiest character to write because her perspective and experience is so clearly defined by what has happened to her. She knows quite clearly how she feels and will react in most situations so her responses are fun to write, and hopefully consistent. The most difficult character is one I can't share too much about without spoiling the story but suffice to say, their complexity and not being quite what they seem made them incredibly rewarding and challenging to write.

TQDoes Year of the Orphan touch on any social issues?

Daniel:  Year of the Orphan is first and foremost intended to be a great piece of fiction. It's unavoidable though that when it takes real history as a jumping off point that there will be threads of real social issues woven into the story. When nuclear weapons were tested in Australia both Indigenous Australians and our Army/Navy/Air Force servicemen and women suffered greatly through both ignorance and being deliberately being placed in harms way. I often hope that reading Year of the Orphan sparks an interest in the real-life events that inspired it.

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

Daniel:  Well, to continue a theme - I wish someone would ask, how much of it really happened? The answer is, quite a lot! I feel there are many parallels and points of comparison that can be drawn between nuclear testing in the United States and Australia and I'm hoping that some American readers kindle an interest in this fascinating, frightening and often forgotten chapter of our shared history.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Year of the Orphan.

Daniel:  I'll always have a soft spot for the opening line; "There were a heat." For a long time it has been drummed into me the importance of a strong opening line and that one actually has a double meaning for me as it describes the opening scene but it also is the way you might describe a nuclear blast in it's first stages. It also gives you a faint hint that the language used in this book might be a little interesting.

Another line is "The ground sumetimes wept the blud of those Block had sent down". It's referring to how feared and dangerous one of my favourite characters is and I like the idea of using red earth to show how just how bloody things might get.

TQWhat's next?

Daniel:  I'm about to visit the United States to hopefully see my book on shelves and I'm busily working on a follow up to Year of the Orphan. I''m very excited to think about such an Australian story reaching American readers and really hoping they enjoy the adventure!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Year of the Orphan
Arcade Publishing, May 21, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Interview with Daniel Findlay, author of Year of the Orphan
The Road meets Mad Max in this stunning debut with a gutsy, charismatic young female protagonist—for fans of Station 11, The Passage, and Riddley Walker.

In a post-apocalyptic future where survivors scavenge in the harsh Australian Outback for spoils from a buried civilization, a girl races across the desert, holding her treasures close, pursued by the Reckoner.

Riding her sand ship, living rough in the blasted landscape whose taint she carries in her blood, she scouts the broken infrastructure and trades her scraps at the only known settlement, a ramshackle fortress of greed, corruption, and disease known as the System. It is an outpost whose sole purpose is survival—refuge from the hulking, eyeless things they call Ghosts and other creatures that hunt beyond the fortress walls.

Sold as a child, then raised hard in the System, the Orphan has a mission. She carries secrets about the destruction that brought the world to its knees. And she's about to discover that the past still holds power over the present. Given an impossible choice, will the Orphan save the only home she knows or see it returned to dust? Both paths lead to blood, but whose will be spilled?

With propulsive pacing, a rich, broken language all its own, and a protagonist whose grit and charisma are matched by a relentless drive to know, The Year of the Orphan is a thriller of the future you won’t want to put down.

About Daniel

Interview with Daniel Findlay, author of Year of the Orphan
Photo © Michelle Tan
Dan Findlay is the author of Year of the Orphan. Dan is a historian by training and a writer for kids by trade. Dan has over ten years' experience editing Australia’s leading youth magazines. He also has over a decade of freelance experience as a writer and photographer for Rolling Stone as well as contributing the odd music story to the Sydney Morning Herald and writing for a wide variety of other pop culture titles.


Interview with Simeon Mills, author of The Obsoletes

Please welcome Simeon Mills to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Obsoletes was published on May 14, 2019 by Skybound Books.

Interview with Simeon Mills, author of The Obsoletes

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

Simeon:  In fourth grade I had to write a story with illustrations, and I must have spent 90% of the time creating the “weapons chart,” the “armor diagram,” and the “map.” I know my character had loose spikes he could toss at the enemy as he made his escape. An axe. Probably a magic glove for punching things. Definitely a grappling hook.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Simeon:  I’m a plotter who is open to being a pantser when the situation is right—but otherwise planning ahead is an incredibly enjoyable part of my process. It starts by talking hikes on a Spokane mountainside with my notebook, jotting down ideas. At home, my office has huge bulletin boards I use to create plot diagrams and character sketches. Whether I’m starting a new project or attacking a novel revision, I build in days, probably weeks, for these pre-writing activities. However, once the writing begins, anything goes. I love the unexpected nature of seeing characters interact on the page. A scene might end entirely differently than I had planned—and that’s awesome. It’s when the characters start overriding my initial decisions that I feel I’ve nailed their perspectives.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Simeon:  I wrote The Obsoletes in the morning hours before heading off to my day job as a middle school English teacher. Having to rip myself away from the writing just when it was getting good, when my brain was swimming in coffee—when I was writing by the seat of my pants—was challenging in the moment, but probably beneficial to the overall draft. As Hemingway said, “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck.” Still, such intense morning writing sessions often left me drained and crabby for the school day—and if there are two things a middle school teacher needs, it’s energy and patience.

TQ:  What has influenced / influences your writing?

Simeon:  My wife is the novelist Sharma Shields. We met 17 years ago in the Montana MFA fiction program. We were both writing mostly realistic fiction then, and neither of us had yet published a short story. Slowly we began to experiment in magical realism, sci fi, modern-day mythology, and speculative fiction—and haven’t looked back. We are each other’s first readers. We balance taking care of the kids with giving the other time to write. Occasionally we play the role of literary therapist, having coffee in bed together on weekend mornings, talking through a problem of story. I can’t imagine the writing life without her.

TQDescribe The Obsoletes using only 5 words.

Simeon:  Growing up robot in 1991.

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

Simeon:  Magic Johnson, the former Laker, is an influential character in the book—at least in the central processor of our protagonist, Darryl. If you were a basketball-obsessed, teenage robot in 1991, Magic would be a major influence on your life too.

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

Simeon:  The choice to make the protagonists robots was a test of my own empathy. Could I see a robot as a person, the same as every human in my life? Rather than eventually arrive at an answer, The Obsoletes starts with one: Yes, Darryl Livery is a person. From the first page, he has a personality, faults, and desires. The only thing separating Darryl from the humans around him is the physiology of his body and the dangerous assumptions others make about him. When I started writing, I had assumptions too. But almost immediately Darryl and his brother Kanga took the reins of their voices, forcing me to rethink my own definition of personhood.

Science fiction is most appealing to me when it complicates our recognizable world. It makes us more curious, perceptive, skeptical of our assumptions. It can make us terrified of the hidden potential in everyday objects. Sci fi works best when 95% of what’s happening—especially a character’s emotions and reactions—is familiar.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Obsoletes?

Simeon:  I bought a subscription to and paged through every issue of the Lansing State Journal (the daily newspaper where I grew up, which would have also served the novel’s fictional town of Hectorville) from November 1991 through February 1992. It was important that the book reflect the local (and national, to a lesser extent) values and anxieties of this time and place. Memory provides many strong details, but there is nothing like the urgency of a front-page headline to reorient you with a moment, or reading about the major concerts coming to town, artists you’ve long forgotten.

I did almost no research on the viability of my robots. I wanted them to be casual and accepting of their bodies and minds (central processors), not to be amazed with their own functionality. Well, other than the ways that every teenager is amazed with their changing body. The how of the boys’ technology is explained in simple terms early in the novel. Beyond that, they don’t dwell on their own bodies. . . until they are forced to.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Obsoletes.

Simeon:  I love this cover! Will Staehle crushed it. I was a huge admirer of his work before, but what he created here surpassed my highest expectations. The 8-bit characters call to mind the technology in the early nineties. The slashes through the two characters, revealing them as robots, is an elegant communication of hidden identity and its inherent danger. I don’t know how many hours I’ve stared at the cover now, but I still find myself studying the “non-robots,” wondering what’s hiding behind those nondescript faces.

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

Simeon:  Darryl Livery, the narrator, was the easiest character to write. When I knew for certain that he was both a robot and a person—that emotionally and psychologically he was just like me—his voice took off. His desires were clear from the beginning, as was his practical view of the world. I started writing him as a version of my young self, but he quickly became more complex than that. When his parents disappear, Darryl has to be a “mother” to his twin brother. He fits that role naturally.

The hardest character to write was Brooke Noon, Darryl’s love interest—but one with a complicated story of her own. Brooke was still developing her personality, still surprising me, long after Darryl and Kanga were fully formed on the page. She was strange from the beginning, and, being a middle school teacher, I have a lengthy catalog of strange with which to build a character like Brooke. But climbing inside the head of a volatile teenager is a delicate matter. Whatever “small” thing sets them off, these kids’ emotions are deep and unironic. Brooke is uncompromising, unapologetic, unpredictable. Darryl is fascinated by her—and terrified of her. I am too.

TQDoes The Obsoletes touch on any social issues?

Simeon:  The robots in The Obsoletes are not an allegory for a specific group of real-world people, but the hatred and xenophobia they experience, and the secrecy they are forced to maintain, very much exists in our society. I am eager to hear the connections readers make.

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

Simeon:  You dedicated the book to your brother. Does your relationship with your brother inform the relationship between Darryl and Kanga?

Definitely. But it’s not as simple and one of us being Darryl, the other being Kanga. I think there’s a bit of each of us in both characters. I’m thankful that, as kids, neither of us had to take on a parental role, as Darryl does. We could just be brothers. But to love someone that much is also to have an exaggerated power to hurt them. As the older one, I regret the careless ways I acted toward my brother at times, especially when we were Darryl and Kanga’s age. Still, it was around that time I realized he was the one person I couldn’t fathom losing in the world—even more so than losing our parents. When I once heard that a bully at our school pulled a knife on him, I wanted to murder that kid. A part of me still does.

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


“What did human kids think about all day? What thoughts breezed through those bloody, carefree brains, instead of the millions of tiny calculations I performed pretending to be something I wasn’t? When people were just themselves, what was left to think about?”

The Obsoletes, page 26

TQWhat's next?

Simeon:  Although publishing a book is a life-long dream come true—thank you, Skybound Books!—I am SO looking forward to jumping back into the creative process: on the hiking trails with my notebook and then in my basement office. I am a cartoonist as well, and I haven’t decided if the next book will be a graphic or a prose novel—there's one of each swirling around in my mind. I know I won’t feel quite whole again until I’m lost in one of the above.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Obsoletes
Skybound Books, May 14, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Simeon Mills, author of The Obsoletes
The Obsoletes is a thought-provoking coming-of-age novel about two human-like teen robots navigating high school, basketball, and potentially life-threatening consequences if their true origins are discovered by the inhabitants of their intolerant 1980s Michigan hometown.

Fraternal twin brothers Darryl and Kanga are just like any other teenagers trying to make it through high school. They have to deal with peer pressure, awkwardness, and family drama. But there’s one closely guarded secret that sets them apart: they are robots. So long as they keep their heads down, their robophobic neighbors won’t discover the truth about them and they just might make it through to graduation.

But when Kanga becomes the star of the basketball team, there’s more at stake than typical sibling rivalry. Darryl—the worrywart of the pair—now has to work a million times harder to keep them both out of the spotlight. Though they look, sound, and act perfectly human, if anyone in their small, depressed Michigan town were to find out what they truly are, they’d likely be disassembled by an angry mob in the middle of their school gym.

Heartwarming and thrilling, Simeon Mills’s charming debut novel is a funny, poignant look at brotherhood, xenophobia, and the limits of one’s programming.

About Simeon

Interview with Simeon Mills, author of The Obsoletes
Photograph © Rajah Bose, 2018
Simeon Mills is a writer, cartoonist, and teacher. His debut prose novel The Obsoletes was recently published by Skybound Books. His graphic novel Butcher Paper received a 2012 Artist Trust grant and is currently available from Scablands Books. Chapters of Butcher Paper have appeared in The Florida Review, RiverLit, Rock & Sling, The Pinch Journal, and Okey-Panky. He majored in architecture at Columbia University and received his MFA in fiction from the University of Montana. Mills teaches drawing at Eastern Washington University and middle school English in Spokane, Washington, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Website  ~  Twitter @simsammills

Interview with Henry Thomas, author of The Window and the Mirror

Please welcome Henry Thomas to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Window and the Mirror is published on May 14, 2019 by Rare Bird Books.

Interview with Henry Thomas, author of The Window and the Mirror

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

Henry Thomas:  When I was a boy I wrote a story about a kid who could fly by controlling the wind.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

HT:  I’m unsure what a pantser is, should I know this? I plot quite a bit, my ideas generally take time to gestate.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

HT:  Eating and sleeping.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

HT:  I always liked Cormac McCarthy’s writing. I like his dialogue a lot. I enjoy reading a lot of genres, but fantasy was always something that captured my imagination and as a boy I read many fantasy novels. Lloyd Alexander, Ursula Le Guin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, I read all of their books growing up.

TQDescribe The Window and the Mirror using only 5 words.

HT:  Off to see the Wizard.

TQTell us something about The Window and the Mirror that is not found in the book description.

HT:  There are giant rats and blue skinned reptilian creatures called Kuilbolts that prey upon humans in Oesteria.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Window and the Mirror? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

HT:  I am a fan of fantasy, and as a fan I wanted to write an archetypical high fantasy story with a few twists.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Window and the Mirror?

HT:  A misspent youth of AD&D, horses, Classical Fencing/Stage Combat, traveling as a member of a Medieval Bagpipe trio, a brief stint in a 15th century Burgundian reenactment company, more bagpipes, Jousting in full harness and skill at arms on horseback, four years as a student at a German Longsword and Medieval Martial Arts Academy, and four years as an instructor of the Longsword and a few other things at a Medieval Martial Arts non profit club called ‘Kron Martial Arts Los Angeles’ which I co-founded with three of my fellows.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Window and the Mirror.

HT:  The cover was created by the good folks at Rare Bird, and it cleverly depicts a view one of the characters has through a round window and in the case of the cover that window becomes an ‘O’ for Oesteria.

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

HT:  The easiest for me was the young soldier Joth. In many ways he is witnessing new things all the time so always keeping him in that perspective is fun as a writer because you can describe it precisely as you discover it.

The hardest character to write was Uhlmet, because it is hard to think like him for too long before one wishes to bathe and hear relaxing music.

TQDoes The Window and the Mirror touch on any social issues?

HT:  It touches on many social issues between the Dawn Tribe and Oesteria, and Norandia even. It also involves the Kuilbolts and the Guatha Flin. Similarities between our world and that of Oesteria would only present themselves in a satirical nature if at all.

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

HT:  Will we ever hear from Mage Alchemist Norden’s clerk? Yes, but not in this book.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Window and the Mirror.

HT:  “Stay atop your drinking, lads. Don’t none of you let your grief cloud your judgement.”

TQWhat's next?

HT:  I am recording the audiobook, and I am also working on the second book in the series to follow up The Window and the Mirror.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

HT:  Thank you for having me!

The Window and the Mirror
Oesteria and the War of Goblinkind 1
Rare Bird Books, May 14, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Henry Thomas, author of The Window and the Mirror
A captured soldier must escort a mysterious girl to a distant city to broker peace between two peoples poised on the brink of war. Left to die in a deep chasm, his commander stumbles on to a dark and powerful secret: how to harness the energy of men’s souls and bend them to his will. Is this the secret that Goblinkind has been hiding from the race of men? That all the shiny trinkets of the fabled Goblincrafters are powered by the trapped souls of humans? For Mage Imperator Rhael Lord Uhlmet, the lure of such power is irresistible, even if he must start a war to attain it.

About Henry

Interview with Henry Thomas, author of The Window and the Mirror
Henry Thomas grew up in Texas and has worked as an actor professionally for most of his life. He has also worked as a musician and a sword fighting instructor. This is his first novel.

Interview with Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings

Please welcome Melanie Golding to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Little Darlings is published on April 30, 2019 by Crooked Lane Books.

Interview with Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings

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

Melanie:  When I was about six I wrote a story at school, a kind of ‘what I did on my holidays’ that included some extremely fictional aspects. My teachers were concerned at what they saw were lies, but I stuck to my story, which included a magic house and a short superman flight from the top of a hill. I thought that because no one could prove none of that stuff happened, then it had. I certainly felt like it had, and that seemed enough.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Melanie:  Hybrid

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Melanie:  First drafts are a slog. I like the redrafting phase

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Melanie:  All of my reading. Like many writers I read widely and constantly.

TQDescribe Little Darlings using only 5 words.

Melanie:  I shall quote others here:

Deep; Dark; Utterly addictive; Haunting

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

Melanie:  Patrick is based on a real person, whose name I shall never reveal. He is so arrogant that there is no way he would ever guess what I've done, so I'm safe.

TQWhat inspired you to write Little Darlings?

Melanie:  I was reading my folk tale collections, when I developed a theory about one of the stories. I saw that it would have functioned as an explanation for postpartum psychosis in pre-medical times. I also saw that it could be taken at face value, and I was really interested in exploring the possibilities of that

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Little Darlings?

Melanie:  I did a few research trips to the Peak District - I used to live in Sheffield but it was fun to revisit those places. I gave birth, twice. Also I read many folktales and novels based on folklore

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Little Darlings.

Melanie:  The cover depicts the roots of a tree that have grown under water. Bodies of water are important in the novel, especially what lies beneath the surface.

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

Melanie:  Lauren and Patrick were easy to write, because they were extremely real to me. I had to get to know Jo and Amy, but by the end of the process they were writing themselves.

TQDoes Little Darlings touch on any social issues?

Melanie:  Only the fact that the post-birth experience still seems to be taboo. Nobody wants to talk about how frightening having a baby can be. The book kind of confronts that head on.

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


          Q: Is the story partly an allegory for the current unaddressed epidemic of postnatal depression among new mothers?
          A: Yes

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


“It felt dangerous, that feeling, something she couldn't control, that got bigger even as she tried to banish it, to tell herself that these were the feelings that hurt you eventually, that destroyed lives, that needed to be ignored. She'd followed her heart once, when she was too young to know how completely a heart could be shattered.”

“Was this the love, this fear of them dying?”

TQWhat's next?

Melanie:  The next book also has a folktale at its heart, and a cast of brave women and men who are faced with difficulties to overcome. It also features DS Joanna Harper.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Little Darlings
Crooked Lane Books, April 30, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and Aimee Molloy’s The Perfect Mother.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley—to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.
Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking—and rechecking—your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

About Melanie

Interview with Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings
Photo by Michele Calverley
Melanie Golding is a graduate of the MA in creative writing program at Bath Spa University, with distinction. She has been employed in many occupations including farm hand, factory worker, childminder and music teacher. Throughout all this, because and in spite of it, there was always the writing. In recent years she has won and been shortlisted in several local and national short story competitions. Little Darlings is her first novel, and has been optioned for screen by Free Range Films, the team behind the adaptation of My Cousin Rachel.

Website  ~  Twitter @mk_golding  ~  Facebook

Interview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily Eternal

Please welcome M.G. Wheaton to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Emily Eternal is published on April 23, 2019 by Grand Central

Interview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily Eternal

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

M.G.:  I was in kindergarten and wrote this series of stories about rats in France who had to flee to Morocco due to these monstrous invaders. The rats trained hard then crossed the sea and battled them back. The main rat was named Pepe le Chat (Pepe the Cat). I have no idea why I wrote it except that it was heavily illustrated, and I really liked drawing rats at the time. My mother didn’t tell me until much later in life as she thought it’d go to my head, but my parents were actually called in for a school conference over the stories as my teachers were worried about what I’d been reading at home.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

M.G.:  A slight hybrid? I research whatever I’m interested in sometimes for years. When I know it’s a story, I’ll sit down and write a couple of full-length drafts to see if it holds water then go back to outline and start over completely. I think there’s the impulse when you’re starting out writing to emulate the process of successful authors but for me, one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is what process works best for me even if it takes twice the time as someone else or is ridiculously inefficient.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a screenwriter affect (or not) your novel writing?

M.G.:  The biggest challenge for me has always been to be certain what makes perfect sense in my head ends up on the page. One reason I have to write draft after draft is because I realize how much I missed or glossed over the first couple of times through. What also helps this is to have a wide number of readers who know your style and can look at drafts at different points in your process. As for screenwriting, it gets you in the habit of writing a lot of dialogue and getting in and out of scenes, something working in video games and comics forces you to do as well. But in all three media, you’re also creating something of a blueprint to be handed off to someone else responsible for the visual that’s placed in front of someone. When I started out in books, I felt freed from that. I’m in charge, now! So, I’d write and write and write, banging out bloated and unreadable 125,000-word drafts. It was like, “Because you’ve switched format you’re going to forget about viewer/player/reader experience?” I’m sure I’ve ported over several other bad habits I’ll be weeding out for some time to come!

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

M.G.:  I read a lot and I see mountains of theater, so books and plays/musicals the most, I think? I enjoy rich character pieces with sci-fi elements like Jennifer Haley’s play, “The Nether,” or the way the future affects the most marginalized of people in Warren Ellis’s old comic book series, “Transmetropolitan.” When I read something with a large cast of beautifully realized characters, recently books like Rachel Kushner’s “The Mars Room,” Joseph Cassera’s “House of Impossible Beauties,” or Tim Murphy’s “Christodora,” it gives me something to aim at. Also, Hideo Yokoyama. His “Six Four” and “Seventeen” are these beautiful studies in how people are with each other from clumsy to aggressive to cold to inarticulate. All things that make me want to be a better writer.

TQDescribe Emily Eternal using only 5 words.


Oh no!
But yay, Emily!

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

M.G.:  Part of aging is about discovering the limitations of your body, the loss of short-term memory, the aging and breakdown of cells, the depletion of finite resources. Part of Emily is a fantasy about what if that didn’t have to be true?

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

M. G.:  My grandfather worked in a factory his whole life building first propeller planes during World War II then passenger jets in the eighties. While a lot is written about the development of planes is how they were designed to be faster or reach higher altitudes when just as much thought went into the safety of pilots. It’s so difficult to preserve a human body in a hostile environment which is just about anywhere not on land in a temperate environment. Everything else becomes a hostile environment for most humans very quickly except through intensive, sometimes lifelong conditioning. And like my answer to the question above, I always wondered – what if that wasn’t the case? What if we solved that and humans could exist in any environment?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Emily Eternal?

M.G.:  I spend a lot of time reading articles in the science and medical fields always thinking, “what if?” after reading about this development or that, so much of it comes from that kind of research. The only real on-site work I did involved a trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida where I took the tours, looked at all the launch pads and how integrated Space X and Boeing are into NASA down there. As far as genetics go, I researched a bit on the ocean-based Sama-Bajau people whose genes have evolved in several ways to allow them to not only live on water but also under it for much longer than, say, you or me.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Emily Eternal.

M.G.:  I love the cover. It was made by a London-based artist, Natalie Chen ( who does a lot of covers for Hodder & Stoughton. Grand Central had been working on other covers but when they saw Ms. Chen’s work, they adapted it instead as they were as impressed as we all were. It doesn’t depict anything directly from the novel but brings together many ideas – the coming together of many to create one, a person among the cosmos, and the seeming eternity of space.

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

M.G.:  Perhaps a spoiler, but the easiest character to write is Emily’s predecessor, Emily-2. If Emily is evolved to have a sort of moral compass that forces her to consider several different angles, the decisions made by Emily-2 are very binary, very yes or no. She has a task and she must complete it. Nuance isn’t important. Only quantifiable success. The hardest is probably Emily herself because she is constantly striving to be better and thoughtful in all things. I am not always such a person, so had to always imagine what that experience of life would be like.

TQDoes Emily Eternal touch on any social issues?

M.G.:  It does. Right now, whether it’s something one chooses to acknowledge or not, mankind is entering a precarious moment due to climate change and the impact that will have on the world’s peoples. I read recently that 1 in 110 people, 68.5 million or about .8 % of the world’s population has been displaced, the highest number in human history. These are people forcibly made refugees due to war and famine. That number is going to increase exponentially over the next half century. Those of means have made it clear that they intend to hold onto power whatever the consequences, likely leaving those without resources to fend for themselves. Emily attempts to make the point that, as a species, we need one another. Though it may sound like a cliché, “diversity is our strength” is scientifically dead on. We have evolved to where we are now. We can only guess at what effect a large-scale population die-off will have on our species.

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

M.G.:  Could the sun really die in 5,000 years? No idea! But maybe? What’s nuts about science is how quickly things change or evolve. I’ve only recently come to learn about the sociology of science – the study of how the social behavior of scientists – and seen how some ill-tested theories are pushed forward as “fact” due to herd mentality while others fall away or are suppressed by those within the field. Science is always seen as so iron-clad, so much the last word. But like it or not, there’s in-fighting within science, jealousy, and bitter competition. It wasn’t that long ago that much of what we agree on as “fact” was considered heretical, even by some who knew better. I often wonder which things we take for granted today in our day to day understanding of the natural world will be laughed at a couple hundred years from now.

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

M.G.:  Okay, so three hours, 150 miles, and 8.4 gallons of fuel later, this hubristic, not-so-super-computer, not-so-wonder-woman is still coming up dry on the plan front.

(This was how I felt flipping through the book looking for something non-spoilery?)

TQWhat's next?

M.G.:  After “Emily” sold, I started a horror thing, another science fiction thing, and a historical science fiction thing. The first two are both about to go to my agent as they’re pretty much done. I did two drafts of the historical one in order to write an outline so I could start over and will be doing another two months of so of research before hopping into another draft of that.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Emily Eternal
Grand Central, April 23, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily Eternal
Meet Emily, “the best AI character since HAL 9000″ (Blake Crouch). She can solve advanced mathematical problems, unlock the mind’s deepest secrets, but unfortunately, even she can’t restart the sun.

Emily is an artificial consciousness, designed in a lab to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die 5 billion years before scientists agreed it was supposed to.

Her beloved human race is screwed, and so is Emily. That is, until she finds a potential answer buried deep in the human genome that may save them all. But not everyone is convinced Emily has the best solution–or the best intentions. Before her theory can be tested, the lab is brutally attacked, and Emily’s servers are taken hostage.

Narrowly escaping, Emily is forced to go on the run with two human companions–college student Jason and small-town Sheriff, Mayra. As the sun’s death draws near, Emily and her friends must race against time to save humanity. Soon it becomes clear not just the species is at stake, but also that which makes us most human.

About M.G.

Interview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily Eternal
Before turning to novels, M.G. Wheaton wrote movies, comic books, and video games as well as for several movie magazines. He was born in Texas but now lives in Los Angeles.

Website  ~  Twitter

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler

Please welcome Martine Fournier Watson to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Dream Peddler was published on April 9, 2019 by Penguin Books.

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler

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

Martine:  I love this question, because I remember it so distinctly! I wrote my very first short story when I was in first grade, which is funny because I had only just learned to read and write earlier that year. Our teacher posted a list of title ideas for stories we might like to write. It wasn’t part of our curriculum, just suggestions she thought could inspire us, and I decided to write the story called The Magic Mittens. As my first literary effort, it was only about fifteen sentences long, or two double-spaced wide-ruled pages in my big round beginner printing, but it was also my first literary moment—I was named Author of the Month in our elementary school and asked to read my story aloud at one of our weekly assemblies. I was very proud!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Martine:  Pantser all the way. I’ve now written two books this way, and I can’t imagine trying to plot things first. What I love most about writing a novel is the process of discovery. Not knowing exactly what the characters will do or where it’s going to go fuels my writing in a way that I can’t imagine giving up by plotting first.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Martine:  It’s definitely the editing. When I’m drafting, I just let myself go. I’m often aware that something isn’t good enough (or downright terrible), and I’ll just leave myself little notes about fixing things as I go so I can maintain momentum. When it’s time to go back in for editing, the very idea of momentum goes out the window. Because of my quick drafting, I’ve usually left myself quite a mess to deal with, and it’s just incredibly slow and painstaking. I do enjoy it once I’m in it, but it’s a methodical, deliberate kind of work, so different from the feeling of flying I can get during the draft process. I actually dread it so much that I find myself procrastinating to avoid opening my document. I get nervous butterflies in my stomach when I contemplate going into my book to tackle that job, and even after all these years I haven’t been able to shake that—I just have to overcome it and dive in.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Martine:  Apart from authors I love, I think what influences me most is the fact that I’m such a visual person. I’m always describing the world of my characters, especially the natural world, and I’m always trying to come up with a new way to capture the things I see around me with language. I’ve been doing that since my early teens, and earning a BFA in drawing and painting further cemented that way of thinking in my brain. I look first. Hearing, smelling, tasting and touching are all secondary. I pay attention to that when I’m editing—otherwise I’m afraid I’d be neglecting the other senses completely.

TQDescribe The Dream Peddler using only 5 words.

Martine:  Buying dreams leads to trouble.

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

Martine:  Despite its title, only four dreams in this book are described in any detail, and only two of those are actually concocted by the dream peddler.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Dream Peddler?

Martine:  I grew up on the stories of L. M. Montgomery, and have read and reread the adventures of her beloved Anne of Green Gables many times. But one of Montgomery’s lesser-known heroines, Emily of New Moon, was really my favorite. So I hope dear old Lucy Maude will forgive me for stealing her idea.

Emily has plans to be a writer, and in the third installment of Montgomery’s trilogy, reference is made to Emily’s very first novel, a book called A Seller of Dreams. However, this book is never published. After a few rejections, Emily gives the book to a trusted friend to read, and because he is jealous of the book, he tells her it’s not good enough. Heartbroken, Emily burns it.

For some reason, this destroyed book haunted my imagination. The reader is never given any insight as to what it may have been about, except that it was some kind of contemporary fairytale. It was a book I always wanted to write myself, if only to satisfy my own curiosity about what shape such a story might take.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Dream Peddler?

Martine:  The research was basically in two parts. The book takes place in a small farming town in the early years of the twentieth century, so I needed to make sure I knew a fair bit about the seasons of farming, what the characters would have been planting and harvesting at what times. I had a general idea of this, but I used Days on The Family Farm by Carrie A. Meyer as a reference to make sure I had the details right.

The other research I did surrounded the history of dreams, including how our attitude toward them has changed over time, and how they’re used and interpreted in the King James Bible upon which my townspeople would have based their faith. I learned a lot from Robert L. Van de Castle’s Our Dreaming Mind, which covers everything from consulting oracles about dreams in ancient times, all the way up to experiments with dreaming conducted in modern laboratory settings. I won’t go into details, but it was interesting to discover that some of the liberties I believed I was taking with the way dreams work are actually quite plausible.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Dream Peddler.

Martine:  In my book, the dream peddler mixes dreams together like a liquid medicine or tincture and gives them to the buyer in a small glass vial stoppered with cork. The cover of the book is really about capturing that—a large bottle superimposed over a landscape that represents the unnamed farming town. The title and my name appear on the bottle like a label, and the gradation of pink to dark purple used for the liquid recall two different dreams described in the book: a pink dream about love, and an inky-dark nightmare. Through the very top of the bottle, the dream peddler’s silhouette is walking. I love how he appears to be striding, one hand in his pocket, right over the surface of the liquid, as if walking on water. The whole thing so perfectly evokes his ambiguous role as conman/magic healer.

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

Martine:  The hardest was definitely the dream peddler himself, Robert Owens. He is necessarily mysterious, and yet I had to give the reader enough of his thoughts and feelings to keep them engaged and interested in him. This turned out to be a really tough fine line to walk—I knew him so well, but most of his backstory is only revealed near the end of the book, and I could only hint at it. My editor definitely had to prod me to let the reader into his mind a little more as his relationships with the townspeople evolved. There was only so much one could glean from my subtle clues!

For some reason, I almost always find children easier to write than adults. I think this is just because children are so open. They often haven’t learned to hide the things that make them unique or that could draw negative attention, and bringing that out when I write about them is so much fun. It’s easier to make them interesting as characters. In The Dream Peddler, this character was eight-year-old Ali McBryde, youngest customer of the dream peddler. Ali’s smarts and precociousness were a pleasure to write, and he has a decidedly immoral streak that I enjoyed.

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

Martine:  No one has ever asked me if I had to make any major revisions to the plot for my agent or editor in order to get the book to publication, and I’ve always wanted to talk a little about that, because I did. Asking a writer to make a significant change that doesn’t resonate with them puts them at a serious crossroads—they have to decide if it’s worth making the change, rather than just walking away. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel as if it’s in our hands. Fairly early on in my querying days for this book, I had some interest from an agent, but she wanted me to completely refocus the book in a way that just didn’t feel right. I gave it serious consideration, but I couldn’t do what she wanted, and we parted ways. More than another year went by before I had an offer, but I never regretted that decision.

When my editor asked me to make a major change, though, the situation was quite different. I was no longer being asked by an agent who might not even offer me representation, and there was a book deal in place, money on the table. It had taken me a long time to get there, and I knew there might not be another shot.

It wasn’t so much that making the change felt fundamentally wrong, as it had in the earlier scenario, but that making it would require a lot of tricky maneuvering in order to shuffle the book’s plot without destroying any of the parts that were important to me. I knew if I could accomplish that, it wouldn’t feel as if I had lost anything, but I really sweated some bullets until I finally had solution. I’d been sifting through ideas for days, when I was drifting off to sleep one night and—in that totally cliché scenario—I suddenly sat up in bed, quite certain that I had the answer. I grabbed a notebook and wrote an outline of the changes. The story held.

I always wanted to share that experience because revamping a book, or even a smaller part of a book, can be truly daunting, but coming out on the other side is a really important milestone for a writer. It’s an amazing mental exercise, and even though I never really thought it was necessary, I’m a better writer for having done it.

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


“She knew he was awake, and she could hear the movement overhead as he rolled one way and then the other. He was like the dream in the sleeping mind of the house.”

“He had tried to sculpt a permanence where there was none, and she realized, in fact, this was her own definition of love.”

TQWhat's next?

Martine:  I’ve been working on a second book for a number of years now, and I recently completed a few rounds of revisions on it and sent it off to my agent. It’s quite different from The Dream Peddler, centering on a friendship between two eighth-graders growing up in the 1980’s. Both have family troubles, yet for most of the book they don’t realize how intimately they’re connected. I’d describe it as a literary coming-of-age story—hopefully the world can still use a few more of those!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Martine:  It’s my great pleasure. Thanks so much for having me!

The Dream Peddler
Penguin Books, April 9, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler
“Astonishing . . . Explores the vast underground legacy of our own desires. This is the must-read book of the year.” —Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder

A page-turning debut novel about a traveling salesman and the small town he changes forever, both a thoughtful mediation on grief and a magical exploration of our innermost desires

The dream peddler came to town at the white end of winter, before the thaw . . .

Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.

Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.

Gorgeously told through the eyes of Evie, Robert, and a broad cast of fully realized characters, The Dream Peddler is an imaginative, moving novel of overcoming loss and reckoning with the longings we keep secret.

About Martine

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler
Photo © Mark Bradford
Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @MFournierWatson

Interview with Kris Waldherr, author of The Lost History of Dreams

Please welcome Kris Waldherr to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Lost History of Dreams is published on April 9, 2019 by Atria Books.

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

Kris Waldherr:  Thank you for having me! As far as first fiction, I seem to remember writing a mystery inspired by Nancy Drew when I was in third grade. I was uncertain how to begin a story beyond “Once upon a time.” I’d like to think my writing has evolved since then.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

KW:  I’m a hybrid—a plantser, if you will. (Is that even a word?) When I begin a book, I often start out pantsing, or writing in an intuitive fashion; once I reach a certain length, I go back and plot in earnest. I initially write in a nonlinear manner, where I often draft scenes out of order. Later, I move these sections around like puzzle pieces using Scrivener. However, once I get into the plotting stage of writing, I make bookmaps, diagrams of character and plot arcs, and detailed timelines. I’m a big fan of making timeline spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel. My timeline for Lost History was over six feet long—it spread across most of the wall above my work table!

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

KW:  That I write novels slowly. I need to know as much as I can about what I’m writing before I really go in deep: historical research, character arcs, narrative structure. Though I can write a first draft fairly quickly, that draft is only the starting point. I often revise for what feels like dozens of times before I’m satisfied. Accordingly, Lost History took me about three years from start to finish, though I worked on other projects during this time. I’m hoping my future novels won’t take as long, now that I better understand my process. Luckily my nonfiction books go much faster—I was able to write Doomed Queens and Bad Princess in a matter of months.

TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing?

KW:  I’m like a magpie in that my writing is influenced by everything: art, travel, books, music, films. For example, in The Lost History of Dreams a character’s piano playing was inspired by a Beethoven sonata that reminded me of her bittersweet past. A scene where two characters fall in love was sparked by my viewing a painting of migrating pigeons at the Smithsonian. I also adore research, which definitely inspires my plots and characters. Of this, travel is an essential component—I just wish I could spend more time doing it!

As far as authors, the books of Diane Setterfield definitely influenced the story-within-a-story narrative structure of The Lost History of Dreams—her ability to spin a tale is astonishing. I’m also inspired by the ability of Sarah Waters to reveal character in unexpected ways. She’s such a masterful writer!

TQDescribe The Lost History of Dreams using only 5 words.

KW:  Post-mortem photography meets Orpheus myth. (Do hyphenated words count as one? Hope so!)

TQTell us something about The Lost History of Dreams that is not found in the book description.

KW:  That there’s humor in it—it’s not all shadows and secrets. After all, you need to have light amid the darkness. One of my favorite scenes involved a tour of Hugh de Bonne’s study. (The character of Hugh was very loosely based on the poet Byron.) I used the scene to reveal all the ridiculous rumors being spewed about Hugh’s life, as well as the over-the-top behavior of his fans, who call themselves Seekers of the Lost Dream. At one point a fan faints; another comments that Hugh’s study “smells as it always does—of lemon oil and genius.”

TQWhat inspired you to write The Lost History of Dreams? What appealed to you about writing a gothic mystery?

KW:  Interestingly, I initially didn’t consider The Lost History of Dreams a gothic mystery as much as a tale of lost love akin to Wuthering Heights and A.S. Byatt’s Possession. Lost History is also a novel that’s very much about the power of story-telling; to quote Hamilton, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” Additionally, my novel was structured after the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, which is one of my favorite stories of all time. The mystery angle developed while I wrote—the better I got to know my characters, the more secrets they revealed.

However, my initial inspiration for my novel was a dream I had of a man and woman dressed in mid-Victorian clothing. In my dream, they paced back and forth in a rather shabby room lit by only a fireplace as they argued over an inheritance. When I woke up, I had no idea what the dream was about—it was like being dropped into another time and place—but I wrote it down and placed it in my “inspiration” file, where I save ideas and notes for possible books. (Again, I’m like a magpie!) Later, this dream became the first scene I wrote in Lost History, when Robert meets Isabelle and argues with her over Hugh de Bonne’s will.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Lost History of Dreams?

KW:  A lot! In terms of travel, I took two trips to England to visit the various locations where my novel takes place—Shropshire, London, Herne Bay—and another trip to Paris and Sèvres. A final research trip took me to Rochester, where I visited the George Eastman Museum, the world’s oldest photography museum. I also amassed a small library of books about 19th century photography, stained glass, Victorian England, the Romantic poets and more. One of my favorite acquisitions is a replica of Louis Daguerre’s original manual for aspiring daguerreotypists.

TQDo you have any favorite Gothic novels?

KW:  Ah, so many! I love the over-the-top romanticism and emotional intensity of the Gothic novel, which speaks to my sensibilities. The irony is I’m an even-keeled person who hates confrontation and drama; clearly I take it out on the page.

Jane Eyre is perhaps my favorite novel—I think of it as a feminist ur-text actually. More recently, I adored Sarah Perry’s Melmoth, which I consider a masterpiece. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a huge Sarah Waters fan; her novel Fingersmith has one of the most perfect endings ever. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I was addicted to Victoria Holt novels such as The Mistress of Mellyn as well as Daphne du Maurier.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Lost History of Dreams.

KW:  The book cover was created by Jarrod Taylor, the gifted designer behind the gorgeous covers of Go Set a Watchman, Beautiful Ruins, Hillbilly Elegy and other bestsellers. The Lost History of Dreams cover features a Victorian era photograph of a silhouetted woman wearing a Lover’s Eye pendant, which features as a plot point. The silhouetted woman represents Sida, Robert’s wife, who first appears in Lost History cloaked in shadows. Jarrod’s design is so evocative and mysterious, and definitely lets the reader know what sort of reading experience to expect.

Here’s a crazy story about the cover: Jarrod is also married to my literary agent, but it’s a complete coincidence he was hired to design The Lost History of Dreams. My agent was shocked when she discovered he’d been assigned my book. I only found out Jarrod was the designer after I was sent the design and said I loved it.

TQIn The Lost History of Dreams who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

KW:  Grace, the opportunistic maid, was the easiest to write. She was intended as comic relief to all the gothic goings on, and is rather blunt and flirty. Grace also offers a more modern sensibility, which stands in for the reader’s point of view. For example, when Robert first tells Grace he photographs corpses, she asks, “Why on earth would you do that?” In contrast, everyone else in my novel is rather matter of fact about post-mortem photography, which is how it would have been in 1850 England. As far as hardest character to write, that would be Robert’s wife Sida. You’ll need to read Lost History to find out why.

TQWhich question about The Lost History of Dreams do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

KW:  A question about the history of stained glass after the French Revolution. When I was researching Lost History, I was fascinated to learn there was a boom in stained glass production during that period because so many church windows had been destroyed during the Revolution. At one point all of Notre-Dame’s existing stained glass was replaced with clear glass, and the cathedral used for food storage. Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame helped revive interest in the cathedral and its eventual restoration.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Lost History of Dreams.

KW:  Here’s two favorite quotes:

“He’d said, ‘How can there be so much beauty in this world amid so much sorrow?’ The only solution was to create more beauty.”

“Their estrangement had happened as many do, wrought from good intentions and solidified by discomfort.”

TQWhat's next?

KW:  I’ll be on book tour for The Lost History of Dreams through the end of June—all of my events are listed here. In terms of writing, I’m currently revising a middle grade novel set in contemporary Brooklyn; I spilled out a speedy first draft during National Novel Writing Month after finishing Lost History. I also have two historical novels underway, one set in 1888 London and the second in the late 18th century. Both manuscripts are gothic-influenced. As for which novel will be published next, I have no idea—I suppose whichever is finished first!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

KW:  Thank you so much for having me. Loved your questions!

The Lost History of Dreams
Atria Books, April 9, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.

All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave.

Kris Waldherr effortlessly spins a sweeping and atmospheric gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death.

About Kris

Photo © Robert Presutti
Kris Waldherr is an award-winning author, illustrator, and designer. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, and her fiction has been awarded with fellowships by the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts and a reading grant by Poets & Writers. Kris Waldherr works and lives in Brooklyn in a Victorian-era house with her husband, the anthropologist-curator Thomas Ross Miller, and their young daughter.

Website  ~  Twitter @kriswaldherr  ~  Facebook

Interview with Sarah Blake, author of Naamah

Please welcome Sarah Blake to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Naamah will be published on April 9, 2019 by Riverhead Books.

Interview with Sarah Blake, author of Naamah

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

Sarah:  My parents got me a portable word-processing keyboard when I was in middle school and I wrote a long story about a woman named Nerine and there were cliffs involved.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sarah:  I'm a pantser. Though with retelling the story of Noah's ark, I guess I was slightly hybrid for this book.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a poet affect (or not) your prose writing?

Sarah:  I find it extremely frustrating that I can't sit down and read an entire draft of a novel in one sitting so that I can revise it knowing I've addressed everything that I wanted to.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sarah:  Poetry. Short stories. Television. Movies. Novels. The children's books I read with my son.

TQDescribe Naamah using only 5 words.

Sarah:  Woman Can/Can't Save Everyone

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

Sarah:  In the form of an Egyptian vulture, the Metatron is trying to reach Naamah in her dreams.

TQWhat inspired you to write Naamah? What appealed to you about retelling the story of The Great Flood?

Sarah:  I was rereading Genesis for another writing project, and it struck me that Noah's family was on the ark for over a year, uncertain of what the world would be like after the death of everyone they knew. I thought of Naamah stuck on that ark, having to hold it together, for herself and for her family. I needed to know how she would get through that.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Naamah?

Sarah:  I researched a lot about animals. And I loved looking at art inspired by the story of the ark. But I was mostly interested in Naamah's interior life.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Naamah.

Sarah:  There are many tigers in the story, and I think they've taken on greater meaning because of the tiger's appearance on the cover, but I won't spoil anything for you!

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

Sarah:  Naamah was the easiest to write because she was the first one on the ark that I understood. Her sons and daughters-in-law were the most difficult to write because there were so many of them and I wanted them all to come to life even while the book was centered around Naamah.

TQDoes Naamah touch on any social issues?

Sarah:  Feminism.

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

Sarah:  What emotion is most important for you to impart to your reader? Joy.

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

Sarah:  Perhaps in another place, she could look upon her body and know what new thing she is becoming.

TQWhat's next?

Sarah:  A novel set in the future!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sarah:  Thank you!

Riverhead Books, April 9, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Sarah Blake, author of Naamah
“A dreamy and transgressive feminist retelling of the Great Flood from the perspective of Noah’s wife as she wrestles with the mysterious metaphysics of womanhood at the end of the world.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

With the coming of the Great Flood–the mother of all disasters–only one family was spared, drifting on an endless sea, waiting for the waters to subside. We know the story of Noah, moved by divine vision to launch their escape. Now, in a work of astounding invention, acclaimed writer Sarah Blake reclaims the story of his wife, Naamah, the matriarch who kept them alive. Here is the woman torn between faith and fury, lending her strength to her sons and their wives, caring for an unruly menagerie of restless creatures, silently mourning the lover she left behind. Here is the woman escaping into the unreceded waters, where a seductive angel tempts her to join a strange and haunted world. Here is the woman tormented by dreams and questions of her own–questions of service and self-determination, of history and memory, of the kindness or cruelty of fate.

In fresh and modern language, Blake revisits the story of the Ark that rescued life on earth, and rediscovers the agonizing burdens endured by the woman at the heart of the story. Naamah is a parable for our time: a provocative fable of body, spirit, and resilience.

About Sarah

Interview with Sarah Blake, author of Naamah
Photo: © Nina Subin
Sarah Blake is the recipient of a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her writing has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Threepenny Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She lives near Philadelphia, PA.

Website ~ Twitter @blakesarah ~ Instagram

Interview with Sarah Gailey, author of Magic for LiarsInterview with W.M. Akers, author of WestsideInterview with Daniel Findlay, author of Year of the OrphanInterview with Simeon Mills, author of The ObsoletesInterview with Henry Thomas, author of The Window and the MirrorInterview with Melanie Golding, author of Little DarlingsInterview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily EternalInterview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream PeddlerInterview with Kris Waldherr, author of The Lost History of DreamsInterview with Sarah Blake, author of Naamah

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