The Qwillery | category: 2019 Debut Author Challenge | (page 2 of 6)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Please welcome Alix E. Harrow to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Ten Thousand Doors of January was published on September 10, 2019 by Redhook.

Interview with Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January

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

Alix:  My mom had an MS DOS game where you could write and illustrate picture books (if anyone played this and remembers what it was called, @ me on Twitter, Google has failed me). When I was five or six I wrote a story about a little girl whose wicked mother tried to make her eat poison bread. It was titled, “The Poison Bread.” I peaked early.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Alix:  Like most writers, I’m actually a cobbled-together mess of strategies and schemes, most of which collapse at the first sign of any actual writing. I employ elaborate outlines, but I’ve recently admitted to myself that those outlines are almost always lies. They serve more as a very, very rough first draft than as a map.

In conclusion, I would like to phone a friend.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Alix:  The crushing terror that each decent idea I have—each decent sentence I write—is the last one. That there is a finite number of good words assigned to each person and I used all mine up being funny on the groupchat with my brothers or sending overwrought emails to my college friends.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Alix:  Not be glib, but the answer is literally everything. Twitter threads and podcasts and talking about Twitter-threads and podcasts with my husband; good music and bad music and in-between music I can perfectly tune out to think about other things; paperback romances and my kid’s picture books and Spiderverse. Someone mentioned that my book reminded them of the movie The Journey of Natty Gann, and I realized in a single blinding flash that Natty Gann is a girl-and-her-dog-questing-across-historical-America-to-find-her-father story that deeply informed The Ten Thousand Doors.

TQDescribe The Ten Thousand Doors of January using only 5 words.

Alix:  Girl finds door; adventures ensue.

TQTell us something about The Ten Thousand Doors of January that is not found in the book description.

Alix:  There are a lot of footnotes, y’all. Like, from the book-flap you might go in thinking this is a fast-paced YA adventure full of hijinks and possibly sword-play, but I just want you to know that it shares more DNA with Jonathan Strange than with, say, Six of Crows.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Ten Thousand Doors of January?

Alix:  I started with a childhood love of portal fantasies and a lonely kid’s longing to find a door on the back acres of her Kentucky hayfield, and then waded into postcolonial theory. In grad school I studied race and empire in turn of the century British children’s literature, which meant I reevaluated a lot of my formative books and started to wonder what it would look like if I turned a portal fantasy inside out and backwards, and made it about homegoing rather than conquering some mythical, foreign land.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Ten Thousand Doors of January? Why did you set the novel in the early 1900s?

Alix:  I’d argue the six years I spent getting an undergrad and then a graduate degree in history were the bulk of my research, although no number of degrees is going to fill in all the practical, mundane details you need to write a novel (like: where were the rural train stations located in 1911? How much was a laundry-worker paid per hour?). And no number of degrees is going to really, genuinely illuminate the lived experiences of people of color in the American past—that required a lot of extracurricular reading of memoirs and letters from women in similar circumstances to January.

And I chose the turn of the twentieth century because it was in many ways the peak of global imperialism. Because every empire believed in that moment their horizons would stretch on forever, that their suns would never set. One of the conceits in the book is that Doors introduce change and upheaval, and are the natural enemies of the status quo; I wanted to choose a historical moment where that effect was palpable.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

Alix:  The Orbit/Redhook team very generously asked if I had any particular cover ideas, early on. I sent them a very excitable list of possibilities, which they wisely and humanely disposed of, before sending me Lisa Marie Pompilio’s brilliant cover. There wasn’t any back and forth or nit-picking or adjusting, because it was perfect and everyone knew it. She hadn’t captured anything actually, specifically from the story, but she’d captured the feeling—wonder and mystery and things waiting just out of sight.

TQIn The Ten Thousand Doors of January who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Alix:  Every character was difficult to write, because characterization is the thing I’m worst at. It comes to me slowly, rising to the surface through a dozen drafts. (But the actual answer is: Adelaide was the easiest because she’s based on my own mom, and Samuel was the hardest because he’s based on my husband and therefore almost too good to be true).

TQDoes The Ten Thousand Doors of January touch on any social issues?

Alix:  I would argue that every novel--and every book, and every grocery list, probably--touches on social issues. Many people have said it better than me, but essentially: all stories are political, it’s just that some of their politics are so near the status-quo that some of us don’t notice them.

In conclusion: hell yes it touches on social issues.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

Alix:  Weirdly, the line that’s stuck with me as the most practical and useful is: “Hearts aren’t chessboards and they don’t play by the rules.”

TQWhat's next?

Alix:  My next project is another standalone historical fantasy! This one is pitched as “suffragists, but witches,” set around the early American women’s movement except instead of fighting for the vote, they’re fighting for the return of women’s magic. It’s still in hideous, shambling draft-form right now, but it’s getting there!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Alix:  Thanks so much for having me! It’s been a pleasure.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Redhook, September 10, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

About Alix

Interview with Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Alix E. Harrow is a part-time historian with a full-time desk job, a lot of opinions, and excessive library fines. Her short fiction has appeared in Shimmer, Strange Horizons,, Apex, and other venues. She and her husband live in Kentucky under the cheerful tyranny of their kids and pets. Find her at @AlixEHarrow on Twitter

Website  ~  Twitter @AlixEHarrow

Interview with Sarah Pinsker, author of A Song For A New Day

Please welcome Sarah Pinsker to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. A Song for a New Day was published on September 10, 2019 by Berkley.

Interview with Sarah Pinsker, author of A Song For A New Day

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

Sarah:  I wrote horse stories starting when I was around eight. I think some of them were just rewrites of books I'd liked. The kind of thing where there's a scruffy-looking horse about to go to auction, and the girl buys the horse for one dollar more than the meat buyers, and the horse turns out to be super fancy once he's healed/groomed/trained. I think my first genre story had to do with an open-mic singer taking bids on his soul from god and the devil. On brand.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sarah:  I would normally say I'm an unrepentant pantser, but I had to turn in an outline for the novel I'm currently working on, and I have to admit it was a surprisingly fun and interesting process. It let me ask a lot of questions of the book early on that would normally have taken me a while to reach through trial and error and discovery. So...still a pantser, but with a new appreciation for the other modes? Does that make me a hybrid? My rebel spirit is still in pantsing.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sarah:  These days it's a physical/mental thing. My usual writing spaces aren't feeling comfortable right now. I think maybe I need a standing desk. Once I'm writing I'm good, but getting to the point of sitting down and focusing is taking me more time than it used to, and staying seated is taking more discipline than it used to. We also adopted a new dog recently, and he's very good at convincing me I'd rather be playing with him.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sarah:  What doesn't influence my writing? I guess I write a lot of stories rooted in place. I love traveling and I've been a lot of places. I love the challenge of trying to get at the heart of a place. Music. New technologies and my own paranoia about them. Dreams. Misread road signs, strange coincidences...

TQDescribe A Song For A New Day using only 5 words.

Sarah:  Live music. Found family. Connection.

TQTell us something about A Song For A New Day that is not found in the book description.

Sarah:  The description makes the black and white/good and bad distinction between the Before and After periods the book describes, which makes it seem like the former was fine, and after is dystopic. The book has more shades of gray. I tried to acknowledge that the world we live in now, ostensibly the Before, is already dystopic for some people. There are aspects of the After that are better, or different in a not-entirely-bad way. Even characters who disapprove of the corporate shenanigans acknowledge some positive results of the changes. I find those shades far more interesting to write than a simple everything's-not-awesome dystopia.

TQWhat inspired you to write A Song For A New Day? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction and in particular a dystopian novel?

SarahA Song For A New Day takes place in the same world as one of my previous stories, "Our Lady of the Open Road." I realized I had more to say about this world, and that there was more to explore than the slice of future tour life that story showed. There are so many interesting future music technologies, both for listening and for live music, but we're also living in a time where people have more and more distractions at home. Everything competes with the bands who are out there playing small clubs every night. I wanted to explore all sides of that question, and look at a future where some people might have even more reason to stay home, and some people might fight it.

I love science fiction for the expanded palette it provides. I like the "what ifs" and Theodore Sturgeon's "ask the next question." Many aspects of this novel reflect today's hopes and fears, but it's easier to look at those from a slight distance. It's an exaggeration of one possible path. This story takes place in a very near future, but you still need those world building tools to get there.

I didn't actually put the dystopia label on it myself, though in retrospect it obviously is one. In my head, it's just an exploration of a possible future.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for A Song For A New Day?

Sarah:  This book took less research than a lot of short stories. The music stuff was stuff I knew. A little about VR and AR, I guess? I had to double check how long some of the distances between cities would take if highways weren't options for your rebel human-driven van.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for A Song For A New Day.

Sarah:  The cover was done by Jason Booher. I don't know who the photo captures. It reminds me of a couple of singers, but I don't know if it is actually any of them. It's not meant to represent a particular character. I had asked for a cover that looked like a DIY rock show poster, and this is exactly that.

TQIn A Song For A New Day who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Sarah:  I wrote about Luce previously in a story called "Our Lady of the Open Road," and part of why I returned to her was that her voice was so easy to slip into. She voices a lot of my own concerns. Rosemary was a little more challenging. Fun, also; there's an interesting challenge in trying to see the whole world through the eyes of someone who has never been anywhere or done anything. Rosemary consistently surprised me in her reactions to things. She made me look for the positives in the so-called dystopia I'd created, since it was the only world she'd ever known, and she didn't mind it all that much. Finding the positives was itself more difficult than the bad-made-worse parts.

TQDoes A Song For A New Day touch on any social issues?

Sarah:  Lots! The big ones involve the trauma that we're all living right now. Guns and the constant threat of violence. Our societal willingness to trade freedom for safety instead of addressing the root problem. School inequities. Prisons. Corporations. Data privacy.

I wanted to make this future one where, even though it's dystopic in many ways, some of our current problems have been addressed and have become non-issues. Accessibility in devices and the physical world. Asking before hugging people. Pronoun pins. It's not a perfect world – racism and homophobia still exist – but in the context of the spaces these characters inhabit, they've sought places where people would be striving to both see those situations and improve upon them. I wanted to normalize seeing differences and acknowledging them and then moving on from there to form community. I love, love, love writing queer characters and just letting them exist in community with each other. As in real life, we find each other, and support each other. I think letting multiple queer characters exist in a novel where queerness isn't the point is still a statement of its own, and I can't wait until it's not.

TQWhich question about A Song For A New Day do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: "Beyond the novelette 'Our Lady of the Open Road,' have you written or do you plan to write anything else about these characters?"

I adore standalone novels, and this is meant to be a standalone as far as these main characters are concerned, but I've written stories about some of the peripheral characters. There's an inventor/musician named Katja in the book who was the protagonist of my story "A Song Transmuted," which appeared in the Cyber World anthology and was reprinted in Sunspot Jungle and the upcoming A Punk Rock Future anthology. My story in the Apex Do Not Go Quietly anthology has a cameo from another character, Joni, as a kid.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from A Song For A New Day.


"There were, to my knowledge, one hundred and seventy-two ways to wreck a hotel room."

"Fear is a virus. Music is a virus, and a vaccine, and a cure."

TQWhat's next?

Sarah:  I'm working on another near-future novel right now, set in a different near future. There's a dark fantasy novelette called "Two Truths and a Lie" that'll be on, but I think that might not show up until next year. And I have a dozen short stories I'm dying to finish and send out into the world.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

A Song for a New Day
Berkley, September 10, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Sarah Pinsker, author of A Song For A New Day
In this captivating science fiction novel from an award-winning author, public gatherings are illegal making concerts impossible, except for those willing to break the law for the love of music, and for one chance at human connection.

In the Before, when the government didn’t prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce’s connection to the world–her music, her purpose–is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law.

Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery–no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she’ll have to do something she’s never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won’t be enough.

About Sarah

Interview with Sarah Pinsker, author of A Song For A New Day
Photo © Emily Osborne
Sarah Pinsker‘s Nebula and Sturgeon Award-winning short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, F&SF, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, as well as numerous other magazines, anthologies, year’s bests, podcasts, and translation markets. She is also a singer/songwriter who has toured nationally behind three albums on various independent labels. Her first collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea, was released in early 2019 by Small Beer Press. This is her first novel. She lives with her wife in Baltimore, Maryland.

Website  ~  Twitter @SarahPinsker

Interview with Shaun Hamill, author of A Cosmology of Monsters

Please welcome Shaun Hamill to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. A Cosmology of Monsters is published on September 17, 2019 by Pantheon.

Interview with Shaun Hamill, author of A Cosmology of Monsters

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

Shaun:  The first piece of fiction I remember was a story I wrote for “Young Author’s Day” at my school in 4th grade. I’m pretty sure it was a straight rip-off of the first Star Wars movie and the X-Men cartoon version of Days of Future Past. It had Sentinels and a Death Star. My teacher liked it, though, and so did my classmates. I’ve been chasing that approval-high ever since.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Shaun:  I’m a hybrid. I’ve tried both methods “pure” and neither quite works for me. If I plot too much, the story can get stale and boring, but if I don’t plot at all, I write myself into a corner. I like to plot a little ahead and leave plenty of blank space ahead of me so I can surprise myself (and hopefully, by extension, my reader).

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Does living " the dark woods of Alabama..." affect (or not) your writing?

Shaun:  The most challenging thing about writing is coming up with a project that marries an interesting plot to a strong emotional hook. I’ve come up with lots of great ideas for stories, but haven’t been able to write them because I had trouble caring about the characters. If I’m not invested in the people, the best high concept in the world won’t save me.

          Living in the dark woods of Alabama has been good for my writing, I think. I grew up in a big suburb, nothing but concrete as far as I could see, and Alabama has a lot of unspoiled nature. It’s a haunted place, quiet and foggy, full of decaying houses and abandoned gas stations on winding roads. It’s the perfect place for dark daydreaming.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Shaun:  My earliest influences were movies. For a long time I thought I wanted to be a filmmaker, and I spent most of high school writing screenplays. I think that cinematic mindset shows in my fiction. I’m a scene-focused writer and I’m still learning character interiority and how to summarize big swatches of time.

          I was always a reader, as well. I read a lot of Stephen King and Anne Rice and John Irving as a kid, and I think their influence is all over A Cosmology of Monsters too.

          The other big influence on my writing was a great creative writing teacher at the University of Texas at Arlington—her name is Laura Kopchick, and she still teaches there. She was the first person to take my writing ambition seriously, and she mentored me even after I graduated from college. Everything she told me to read, I read. She taught me how to pay attention to language and character, and to move beyond simple twist-ending plots and easy clichés into murkier, more interesting narrative territory. I’m still trying to impress her whenever I write something.

TQDescribe A Cosmology of Monsters using only 5 words.

Shaun:  A literary horror family saga.

TQTell us something about A Cosmology of Monsters that is not found in the book description.

ShaunA Cosmology of Monsters is secretly a bunch of love stories disguised as a horror novel.

TQWhat inspired you to write A Cosmology of Monsters? What appeals to you about writing Horror / Dark Fantasy?

Shaun:  I’d always wanted to write a book about a family running a business, and I went to a lot of haunted houses in my 20s. At some point the two ideas melded. I was curious—what sort of people run a haunted house? What’s it like to take your lunch break while your customers are screaming themselves silly a few feet down the hall? What’s it like to dress as a monster for weeks, months, or years on end? It felt like a perfect backdrop for a troubled family.

          As to your second question, I’ve been thinking a lot about the appeal of horror and dark fantasy lately. I’ve always been drawn to both, but not for gore, or even terror. What I love about the genres is the sense of dark wonder they can provide—a glimpse beyond the veil at things unknown and unguessed. Strange things at the corners of our reality, waiting to step in. I get the same feeling when I drive down a twisting Alabama road at night, with no illumination but the moon and my headlights. Shadows flicker in the woods to my left and right, and I know it’s probably just a trick of the light, but maybe … maybe not.

          This sense of mystery is my favorite feeling in fiction and in life.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for A Cosmology of Monsters?

Shaun:  On the literature side, I read all of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, and any scholarship/criticism of his work that I could find. I also read some surveys of the history of horror fiction, re-read my favorite Stephen King novels, and dipped my toes into other horror writers—Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Ligotti, Shirley Jackson, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, etc.—to try and round out my understanding of the tradition I was writing in.

          For the haunted house stuff, some of it is adapted from real life. I did theater in high school, so I was familiar with the process of putting together an amateur production—sets, makeup, lines to memorize, etc. All of that translated easily enough to the haunted house milieu. I also got to tour a closed haunted house while I was working on a short film a few years ago, and seeing the place with all the lights on made a lasting impression (and was another inspiration for the book).

          In addition to my personal experience, I watched every documentary about haunted house attractions that I could find. I solicited stories from friends, googled how-to articles, watched web series, listened to podcasts, and trolled Internet forums. Basically I used every resource I could think of!

TQPlease tell us about the cover for A Cosmology of Monsters.

The cover illustration is by Na Kim, and the jacket was designed by Kelly Blair. It was their first pass at the cover for the book, and everyone on the Cosmology publishing team loved it so much that we never tried another. To stay spoiler-free, I’ll just say I think it’s an image that sums up the themes of the book very nicely.

TQIn A Cosmology of Monsters who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Shaun:  Noah’s sister Eunice was the easiest to write. I never had trouble locating her emotional state in a scene, or knowing what she was going to say. She was a gentle presence, easy to spend time with. Margaret, Noah’s mother, was the hardest, because she has the longest, most complex arc in the book. Without giving too much away, the book features some big jumps in time, and Margaret’s state of mind was always the toughest to locate each time I started a new section. It was also a tricky balancing act, because I wanted her to be sympathetic but also cold and pragmatic.

TQDoes A Cosmology of Monsters touch on any social issues?

Shaun:  Yes. It deals with religion, sexuality, and gender power dynamics, among other things.

TQWhich question about A Cosmology of Monsters do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


          Q: Will you write a sequel?

          A: Yes! If the book does well and somebody lets me! I think there’s at least one or two more stories to tell in this world if people want them.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from A Cosmology of Monsters.

Shaun:  I really love the opening, and that’s about as non-spoilery as it gets!
          I started collecting my older sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was ten years old. I still keep them all in my bottom desk drawer, held together with a black binder clip. They were among the only things I was allowed to bring with me, and I’ve read through them often the last few months, searching for comfort, wisdom, or even just a hint that I’ve made the right choices for all of us.
          Eunice eventually discovered that I was saving her missives and began addressing them to me. In one of my favorites, she writes, “Noah, there is no such thing as a happy ending. There are only good stopping places.”
          My family is spectacularly bad at endings. We never handle them with grace. But we’re not great with beginnings, either. For example, I didn’t know the first quarter of this story until recently, and spent the better part of my youth and young adulthood lingering like Jervas Dudley around the sealed tombs of our family’s history. It’s exactly that sort of heartache I want to prevent for you, whoever you are. For that to happen, I have to start at the outermost edges of the shadow over my family, with my mother, tall, fair-skinned and redheaded Margaret Byrne, in the fall of 1968.

TQWhat's next?

Shaun:  I’m working on a new novel right now. I don’t want to say too much because I’m superstitious, but I will say I’m excited about the project. It’s more ambitious than Cosmology, but still in the dark fantasy genre. I hope I’ll be able to finish and share it sooner rather than later!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Shaun:  Thanks so much for having me! I hope you and your readers will check out A Cosmology of Monsters and let me know what you think! I’m in all the usual places—FB, Instagram, Twitter, etc.—and I’d love to hear from you (as long as you’re nice)!

A Cosmology of Monsters
Pantheon, September 17, 2019
Hardcover and ebook, 336 pages

Interview with Shaun Hamill, author of A Cosmology of Monsters
“If John Irving ever wrote a horror novel, it would be something like this. I loved it.” —Stephen King

Noah Turner see monsters.

His father saw them—and built a shrine to them with The Wandering Dark, an immersive horror experience that the whole family operates.

His practical mother has caught glimpses of terrors but refuses to believe—too focused on keeping the family from falling apart.

And his eldest sister, the dramatic and vulnerable Sydney, won’t admit to seeing anything but the beckoning glow of the spotlight . . . until it swallows her up.

Noah Turner sees monsters. But, unlike his family, Noah chooses to let them in . . .

About Shaun

Interview with Shaun Hamill, author of A Cosmology of Monsters
Photo © Rebekah H. Hamill
A native of Arlington, Texas, SHAUN HAMILL holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in the dark woods of Alabama with his wife, his in-laws, and his dog. A Cosmology of Monsters is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @shaunhamill  ~  Facebook

Interview with Kassandra Montag, author of After the Flood

Please welcome Kassandra Montag to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. After the Flood was published on September 3, 2019 by William Morrow.

Interview with Kassandra Montag, author of After the Flood

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Kassandra:  I’m a hybrid. I start as a pantser—I write snippets of scene and dialogue and take notes until I have enough rough material to start evaluating everything. I need to have a strong narrator’s voice, main characters, a solid premise, and a rough idea of the various plot points. Then I look at what I have and outline. Afterwards, I write a full draft, often deviating from the outline and making substantial changes as I go.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Kassandra:  Trusting the process can be difficult if it’s been a long, hard writing day. But really, translating what is in my imagination and making it real for the reader remains the most challenging—and most rewarding part about writing.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Kassandra:  A variety of influences all came to bear on this novel: Viking sagas, early American Western adventure tales, environmental documentaries, contemporary post-apocalyptic storytelling, and my personal experience of motherhood. Other influences include the post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels The Road and The Handmaid’s Tale. A nature/animal documentary called The Last Lions also shaped my desire to write a tale that felt both epic and personal at the same time.

TQDescribe After the Flood using only 5 words.

Kassandra:  Adventure, Courage, Hope, Survival, Love

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

Kassandra:  I’ll go a step further and share something that was in my notes for After the Flood, but I didn’t have room to include in detail in the novel. In the beginning the book briefly summarizes how countries and governments collapsed during the flood. The thing I didn’t have room for was describing my vision of a Second Civil War in the U.S.—this time a war of the coasts at war with the middle of the country. I imagined that as the coasts lost all their major cities, they depended more and more on resources in the middle of the country. Immigration and resource scarcity placed pressure on regions that already harbored resentment and a urban/rural divide, resulting in a brief Second Civil War.

TQWhat inspired you to write After the Flood?

Kassandra:  It came from the confluence of a dream, an image, and a line in my journal. The dream was of a wave of water coming across the prairie, all the way from the oceans, a flood that spanned the whole continent. After having this dream, I saw the image of a mother on a boat in a future flooded world, sailing with one daughter, but separated from her other daughter. Years before I had the flood dream, I had another image that kept recurring in my mind’s eye and that I detailed in my journal: “A group of people huddle around a campfire, struggling to survive and looking for a safe haven.” These two storylines, of a mother separated from her daughter in a flood, and a group of people trying to survive, began to brush up against each other, suggesting possibilities.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for After the Flood?

Kassandra:  My research included: accounts of the Bajau people who partially live on the water in Southeast Asia, stories from ancient seafaring tribes such as the Vikings, and contemporary guide books on survival techniques such as building fires, fishing, etc.
In imagining the flood itself I was inspired by scientific research, namely an article in the New Scientist about how three times the Earth’s water was stored under the Earth’s crust in hydrate form. So I imagined what it would be like if that trapped water could somehow be released to the Earth’s surface in liquid form, exploding up from the depths.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for After the Flood.

Kassandra:  The cover for After the Flood is an abstracted picture of the sky and sea. It has glorious colors and in the image you cannot see the horizon—the sea and sky blend together. The novel depicts a world in which the horizon has moved dramatically and I loved how the designer captured this sense of sky and sea merging in a way that is both beautiful and dramatic.

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

Kassandra:  Pearl was the easiest character to write, perhaps because she is a child and does not have ulterior motives the way other characters do. She is more purely herself, less torn by the demands of survival. Also, because she was born in this flooded environment, she seems to deal with it in a more natural way than some of the other characters. The hardest character to write was Jacob because I had trouble getting into his head and understanding his motivations for abandoning part of his family.

TQDoes After the Flood touch on any social issues?

Kassandra:  Yes, it touches on wealth distribution, climate change, immigration, colonialization, and nation building.

TQWhich question about After the Flood do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Kassandra:  What is a central theme of After the Flood?

After the Flood is partly about the role selfishness and selflessness play in the fight for survival. I was interested in how the survival instinct can be inherently selfish in a dangerous world without enough resources and if there are ways to transcend that. I was also curious about the way that survival can be seen as selfless—an act of love through carrying on.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from After the Flood.


“Children think we make them, but we don’t. They exist somewhere else, before us, before time. They come into the world and make us. They make us by breaking us first.”

“But other times, when everything was so dark out on the sea that I felt already erased, it seemed like a kindness that life before the floods had gone on for as long as it did. Like a miracle without a name.”

“I don’t know how to talk to Pearl about what lay beneath us. Farms that fed the nation. Small houses built on quiet residential streets for the post-World War II baby boom. Moments of history between walls. The whole story of how we moved through time, marking the earth with our needs.”

TQWhat's next?

Kassandra:  I’m currently working on my next novel, a gothic murder mystery.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Kassandra:  Thank you!!

After the Flood
William Morrow, September 3, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Kassandra Montag, author of After the Flood
An inventive and riveting epic saga, After the Flood signals the arrival of an extraordinary new talent.

A little more than a century from now, our world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, rising floodwaters have obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland, leaving nothing but an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.

Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting dry land only to trade for supplies and information in the few remaining outposts of civilization. For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her oldest daughter, Row, who was stolen by her father after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska. Then, in a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment near the Artic Circle. Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas, hoping against hope that Row will still be there.

On their journey, Myra and Pearl join forces with a larger ship and Myra finds herself bonding with her fellow seekers who hope to build a safe haven together in this dangerous new world. But secrets, lust, and betrayals threaten their dream, and after their fortunes take a shocking—and bloody—turn, Myra can no longer ignore the question of whether saving Row is worth endangering Pearl and her fellow travelers.

A compulsively readable novel of dark despair and soaring hope, After the Flood is a magnificent, action packed, and sometimes frightening odyssey laced with wonder—an affecting and wholly original saga both redemptive and astonishing.

About Kassandra

Interview with Kassandra Montag, author of After the Flood
Photo by Nancy Kohler
Kassandra Montag is a poet and novelist. Her work has appeared in Mystery Weekly Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, and Prairie Schooner, among other literary journals. She has won the Plainsongs Award, New Year's Poet Award, and 1877 Award.

Website  ~  Facebook

Interview with Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga, authors of The Resurrectionist of Caliga

Please welcome Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Resurrectionist of Caligo was published on September 10, 2019 by Angry Robot.

Interview with Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga, authors of The Resurrectionist of Caliga

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

Wendy:  At some point in second grade, I made the leap from “plagiarizing” Misty of Chincoteague to creating an original popup book about a dinosaur with a time machine who befriends a petite dino-fairy…and I can’t say my stylistic tendencies have significantly changed much since then.

Alicia:  Everything I wrote before a certain age is a foggy blank, so all that remains is my high fantasy novel that I started in high school. There was amnesia! There were dark family secrets! And characters introduced only to be killed a few chapters later! It goes without saying it was epic in length.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Wendy:  I am an incorrigible pantser and chaos fairy. Left to my own devices, once I find a character voice that intrigues me, I will chase them around and make them increasingly miserable because their tears bring me great joy.

Alicia:  I’m a pantser who aspires to be a plotter until I actually sit down and start typing and suddenly nothing goes the way I planned in my head.

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

Wendy:  Figuring out the lines of demarcation—what’s mine, what’s yours, and in what circumstances may we cross that line? With one exception, all the characters fall into either a “Wendy” or “Alicia” bucket—this determined who had the final say on that character’s voice, motivation etc. While we (usually) drafted our respective POV character’s chapters, we also heavily edited in one another’s sections to ensure the cross-over character voices and overall tone stayed consistent throughout.

Alicia:  Giving up full creative control. It’s something that’s very easy to take for granted, but it’s definitely the most challenging aspect of working together. We have different likes and dislikes, different writing habits, and different ways of attacking the work. So when we set about discovering characters and setting, we constantly need to open ourselves to what the other person wants to bring to the table regardless of whether or not it’s an aspect we naturally would have included on our own.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Wendy:  I have a soft spot for dark, offbeat, obscure lit, especially if it challenges me emotionally, and I do my best to learn from eclectic reading. Writing is how I’ve dealt with past trauma in my life, and so I tend to reach for the biggest, scariest, emotions I can, then inundate my characters with everything I can throw at them. They do the work for me. I find myself writing a lot about death—it’s cathartic.

Alicia:  My influences tend to be mercurial, and they’re never limited to one medium. For instance, this week, I’m absolutely in love with Isak Danielson’s song Power, TwoSetViolin YouTube videos, re-watching episodes of Justified, and reading about the history of safecracking. And all of that is getting baked into what I’m writing at the moment, whether through mood, inspiration, or as research.

TQDescribe The Resurrectionist of Caligo using only 5 words.

Wendy:  magic is fake, hail science! (don’t mind me, I’m just trolling my co-author. #TeamScience)

Alicia:  (I see how it is… #RealMagic) mysterious happenings and unrequited angst

TQTell us something about The Resurrectionist of Caligo that is not found in the book description.

Wendy:  Books are frequently discussed according to their central romantic relationships, but what about other key relationships? One of my personal favorites is Roger’s friendship with a ferocious graveyard-haunting wild child.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Resurrectionist of Caligo?

Wendy:  It all started as a “for fun” writing exercise. Alicia emailed me a letter that began “Dear Snotsniffer” (uh…it’s still in the final draft) and that set the tone for our character’s snarky exchanges around which the entire book is built on. She let me pick the setting (gothic Victorian cemeteries!) and is still regretting that decision.

Alicia:  On a very basic level, I just wanted to try a fun letter exchange writing exercise and somehow managed to convince Wendy to participate as the other half. I actually didn’t go into the project with very many expectations of what it would be.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Resurrectionist of Caligo?

Wendy:  I am fascinated by morbid history, and this book provided ample excuses for procrastination—err, research. I read 200-year-old (digital) copies of The Lancet medical journal to learn bloodletting techniques, collected necropolis photographs, perused poems written to commemorate hangings. In an emergency, I could probably extricate a corpse from a coffin using an old Scottish method…

Alicia:  I wanted the magic to have its root in aquatic life, so I spent a good deal of time exploring different sea creatures—from jellyfish to squids to the mighty pistol shrimp—and their various underwater traits. I also read up on how to address royalty in letters and greetings and how pet names were created within royal families. And then there was the concertina… Despite very few scenes making it through the editing process with the princess actually playing the instrument, I myself watched endless videos and listened to several performances in an attempt to get a feel for how one would play the instrument. I even contemplated buying my own concertina at one point, but fortunately reason prevailed, as I’m sure I’d be even worse at learning the thing than Sibylla is in the book.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Resurrectionist of Caligo.

Wendy:  Our amazing cover artist John Coulthart ( couldn’t have designed a more fitting cover. It features our leads, Sibylla and Roger, who are aptly facing away from each other (they’ve had a falling out from the start). Sibylla has a hand raised, and her ink-magic flows in ribbons around the border. Meanwhile, “Man of Science” Roger holds a skull and stares down his biggest fear. My favorite detail is the central anatomical heart, which I think sums up their strained relationship perfectly.

Alicia:  And if you want to know more, check out this post where the artist specifically discusses the challenge of creating our particular cover:

TQIn The Resurrectionist of Caligo who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Wendy:  Ada the ferocious waif was pretty easy—I subverted the sweet Cosette type and channeled Maddie Ziegler from the Sia music videos. Roger was more challenging in his complexity. Male protagonists in SFF often exude power, logic, and/or sexual appeal. Roger gets the short end of the stick in every department except the soft heart he shields behind a defensive, snarky voice. Since he’s more flawed cinnamon bun than action hero, I couldn’t let him bust heads to solve his problems (and he has many).

Alicia:  For me, the easiest was Harrod, Roger’s naval captain older brother. He’s a straightforward individual and has very defined ways of behaving with the other characters in the book. I didn’t really feel like any character was hard to write so much as almost every character had a challenging rewrite moment/scene. Rewrites tend to require the extras: extra explanations, extra understanding, extra delivery of head canon, which makes them trickier.

TQDoes The Resurrectionist of Caligo touch on any social issues?

Wendy:  Class differences play a big role in the book. Near the bottom of the social hierarchy, Roger has pride but virtually no power, so he rages ineffectually against the system while trying (and failing) to live his life outside it.

Alicia:  There’s a lot of exploration of position and how that position can vary in different contexts. Sibylla, as a princess, has a great deal of power over the vast majority of society in the book, however, within her own family, she has very little freedom or ability to exercise her own will.

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

Alicia:  What’s up with Sibylla’s parents? So glad you asked… It was very important to me when writing Sibylla that she not be the orphaned princess who tragically lost her parents or the horribly mistreated princess suffering under the weight of her nefarious, overbearing parent(s) who wants to take over the world. In many ways, Sibylla’s parents are lovingly absentee, and Sibylla absolutely adores them. Her mother in particular is pragmatic and warm. She genuinely wants her daughter to find happiness but also understands the confines of her royal position. Her advice in the book is easily one of my favorite aspects of a character.

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


“‘Those class differences you harp upon ain’t real!’ Roger shouted. ‘No human is better than another. I’ve cut up enough of ‘em, and we all look more or less the same on the inside. We all rot when we’re dead. A smart man may have a small brain or the other way ‘round. Royals claim their faerie magic, but it’s all smoke and mirrors.’”


“Whether she liked it or not, Roger had turned into one of the most ostentatious writers she’d ever had the displeasure to come across, as in love with his own words as he was with his transgressions.”

TQWhat's next?

Wendy:  Right now I’m working on an odd little story about a put-upon astronaut being stalked by an otherworldly cat, and hopefully I can stick the landing. It’s hard for me to talk about works in progress because they often turn into completely different things by the time—or if—they make it out into the world.

Alicia:  All the things, no seriously… all the things. I keep bouncing around between several projects I equally love. Who will win in the end? Only time will decide.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Resurrectionist of Caligo
Angry Robot, September 10, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 360 pages

Interview with Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga, authors of The Resurrectionist of Caliga
With a murderer on the loose, it’s up to an enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess to save the city, in this wonderfully inventive Victorian-tinged fantasy noir.

“Man of Science” Roger Weathersby scrapes out a risky living digging up corpses for medical schools. When he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers, he’s forced to trust in the superstitions he’s always rejected: his former friend, princess Sibylla, offers to commute Roger’s execution in a blood magic ritual which will bind him to her forever. With little choice, he finds himself indentured to Sibylla and propelled into an investigation. There’s a murderer loose in the city of Caligo, and the duo must navigate science and sorcery, palace intrigue and dank boneyards to catch the butcher before the killings tear their whole country apart.

File Under: Fantasy [ Straybound | Royal Magic | A Good Hanging | Secret Sister ]

About the Authors

Interview with Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga, authors of The Resurrectionist of Caliga
Wendy Trimboli grew up in England, Germany and the United States, and learned to speak two languages well enough that most people can understand her. Determined to ignore her preference for liberal arts, she attended the US Air Force Academy then worked as an intelligence officer, which was less exciting than it sounds. These days she has a creative writing MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and lives in Colorado with her family, border collie, and far too many books.

Twitter @Bookish_Wendy

Interview with Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga, authors of The Resurrectionist of Caliga
Alicia Zaloga grew up in Virginia Beach not liking the beach, and now moves every few years, sometimes to places near beaches. She has a writing degree from Columbia College Chicago, and when she’s not dealing with life’s chores, she collects hobbies: plucking the E string on the bass, producing an alarming number of artistic doodles, and French beading floral bouquets.

Twitter @alicia_zaloga

Interview with Tyler Hayes, author of The Imaginary Corpse

Please welcome Tyler Hayes to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Imaginary Corpse is published on September 10, 2019 by Angry Robot.

Interview with Tyler Hayes, author of The Imaginary Corpse

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

Tyler:  When I was ten years old, I wrote a two-page piece of Anne of Green Gables fan fiction about Anne visiting my fifth grade classroom. I think it was a writing prompt, but I don’t remember for sure; I do remember the piece implied I had a crush on Anne and I wound up writing in permanent marker on the paper that I refused to read it aloud in class.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Tyler:  Plotter with pantser tendencies. I world-build and outline meticulously but I find myself skidding and drifting all over the place once I get down to the actual prose. I find I don’t really know a character or a scene until I sit down to write it, and sometimes I discover I’ve thrown a monkey wrench into my own plan.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Tyler:  The doubt. Art is very personal and very subjective, and I have an anxiety disorder for added neurochemical fun. I have some days where doing the work is a struggle just because my own brain is telling me that I’m not good enough, that there’s something wrong with the work I’m not seeing. For reasons I’m sure will always be a mystery, it seems to happen most frequently during revisions.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Tyler:  The fiction I read, of course, but also the fiction I watch and the fiction I play. I’m an avid video gamer (mostly Steam with an odd dash of old X-Box and SNES games) and player of tabletop RPGs, and both of those have leaked into my work. My experiences in therapy for anxiety and PTSD and my ongoing time as a part of social justice circles have also left their marks.

If I were to analyze my literary DNA, I’d point to Mike Carey, Raymond Chandler, Neil Gaiman, Tim Powers, and Noelle Stevenson for prose and comics; from TV, Steven Universe; from film, Wes Anderson, Pixar, and Guillermo del Toro; and from video games, Chrono Trigger, EarthBound, Sam and Max Hit the Road, and Silent Hill. I’d give a lot of credit to the narrative beats used in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign and the melancholy world-building of the tabletop RPG Changeling: the Dreaming, too.

TQDescribe The Imaginary Corpse using only 5 words.

Tyler:  Trauma, murder, comfort, healing, imagination. Or “Imaginary stuffed dinosaur fights crime.”

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

Tyler:  For all that it does carry a lot of noir sensibilities, The Imaginary Corpse absolutely rejects the cynicism of noir in favor of hope and empathy. That was a deliberate choice on my part.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Imaginary Corpse?

TylerThe Imaginary Corpse is a stone soup put together out of childhood memories of a game of Let’s Pretend, my experiences working on my own mental health and helping friends deal with theirs, my love of noir style, my desire to tell a story about imagination, and my desire to tell a story about trauma.

TQWhy a triceratops?

Tyler:  Tippy is based on my own childhood stuffed animal, Tippy, who is a plush yellow triceratops. I figured, what better imaginary character to put in the driver’s seat of the narrative than one who had kind of been loved Real already?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Imaginary Corpse?

Tyler:  A lot of my research came in the form of reading fiction, especially the work of Raymond Chandler, whom I’d always love but hadn’t come back to in a few years. I wanted to make sure I was doing an homage to his wit without just copying his voice or compromising my own. I also did a lot of informal research into trauma, anxiety, healing from abuse, and similar topics.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Imaginary Corpse.

Tyler:  The artist is Francesca Corsini. It depicts a character from the novel in the form of Tippy, but otherwise it is very much an abstract representation of what’s inside -- that particular scene doesn’t occur anywhere. But Corsini’s drawing of him really tells you a lot about who he is: you see he’s a detective in the way he dresses, and his missing eye both clues you in that he’s a stuffed animal and hints at the damage done to him and the other Ideas living in the Stillreal. The clenched fist gives you a sense of human connection, a rooting in the real world, but it’s also off to the side, not the primary focus, just like the Realworld in the narrative. The skewed view of the buildings in the background gets you ready for the dreamlike and weird qualities of the book’s voice, and the colors reference both Fritz Lang’s movie posters and Frank Miller’s Sin City artwork, which help give you some genre and tonal hints.

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

Tyler:  Tippy is the easiest character to write of any character I have ever written. The way he thinks and talks just flows out of me like it was always there. It isn’t even because he sounds exactly like me -- he’s someone separate, but he’s close to my heart.

The hardest character to write was Big Business. I can picture his personality and demeanor just fine, but his way of speaking in business buzzwords was very hard for me, as someone who has only minimal experience with that kind of environment. He required a lot of research and revision.

TQDoes The Imaginary Corpse touch on any social issues?

TylerThe Imaginary Corpse is, on one level, about mental health, so it very much touches on the ways in which people get traumatized and abuse, and the ways in which we can help and hinder each other in our separate journeys to get better. It’s also in a lot of ways a response to today’s political climate, though early drafts started before the absolute horror show that was 2016. I needed to write a world where being kind was the answer, so I could try to remember it’s the answer here.

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


Q: If The Imaginary Corpse weren’t a book, what form of entertainment would it be?

A: An adventure game in the vein of The Longest Journey or Thimbleweed Park. The bizarre logic, the disparate settings, the mystery thread, it all feels like it’d play naturally as a series of puzzles with some solid graphics work and voice-acting. Plus a video game would be a great place to capture all the different aesthetics of all the various Ideas.

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


“Big Business flashes his real smile – the big, terrifying one. It fills the entire bottom of his face, his cheeks folding up into a flying V to accommodate all those professionally polished teeth. I’ve seen that smile on one other being in my entire memory. It was a T-rex.”

“The entrance is a single black door with a bouncer in front of it, a pile of muscles shoved into a coat. She looks at me with eyes just begging for a good fight, quickly decides I’m not going to give it to her, and goes back to glowering at the world like it owes her money. I keep my quip to myself, and head inside.”

TQWhat's next?

Tyler:  Next up, I’m working on a possible sequel for The Imaginary Corpse. I’m also working on a contemporary fantasy we’ve been pitching as Lucha Underground meets Winter Tide, and I have a love letter to Dungeons & Dragons on deck for whenever I get the time for it.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tyler:  Thank you so much for having me!

The Imaginary Corpse
Angry Robot, September 10, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Tyler Hayes, author of The Imaginary Corpse
A dinosaur detective in the land of unwanted ideas battles trauma, anxiety, and the first serial killer of imaginary friends.

Most ideas fade away when we’re done with them. Some we love enough to become Real. But what about the ones we love, and walk away from?

Tippy the triceratops was once a little girl’s imaginary friend, a dinosaur detective who could help her make sense of the world. But when her father died, Tippy fell into the Stillreal, the underbelly of the Imagination, where discarded ideas go when they’re too Real to disappear. Now, he passes time doing detective work for other unwanted ideas – until Tippy runs into the Man in the Coat, a nightmare monster who can do the impossible: kill an idea permanently. Now Tippy must overcome his own trauma and solve the case, before there’s nothing left but imaginary corpses.

File Under: Fantasy [ Fuzzy Fiends | Death to Imagination | Hardboiled but Sweet | Not Barney ]

About Tyler

Interview with Tyler Hayes, author of The Imaginary Corpse
Tyler Hayes is a science fiction and fantasy writer from Northern California. He writes stories he hopes will show people that not only are we not alone in this terrifying world, but we might just make things better. His fiction has appeared online and in print in anthologies from Alliteration InkGraveside Tales, and AetherwatchThe Imaginary Corpse is Tyler’s debut novel.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @the_real_tyler

Interview with Grant Price, author of By the Feet of Men

Please welcome Grant Price to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. By the Feet of Men was published on September 1, 2019 by Cosmic Egg Books.

Interview with Grant Price, author of By the Feet of Men

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

Grant:  I’m not sure, but for a long time my brother and I owned a whole book of short stories that we’d written when we were younger. They were terrible. I shredded the book one year because they were too embarrassing to read.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Grant:  I outline every chapter to make sure I know what general direction I’m going in, but after the characters come to life, they kind of take over. It’s easier that way; it’s their world and their voice and I can’t make them do things they don’t want to do. I just try to make sure they don’t stray too far from what I originally intended – unless the new direction is awesome.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Grant:  If we’re not including the voice in the back of my head that’s always whispering ‘you’re not good enough’, then I would nominate ‘time’ as the greatest challenge. First you have to find it, then you have to use it and finally you have to appreciate it. All three aspects are difficult.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Grant:  Music influences me. When I was planning the novel, I listened to a lot of artists whose music you could imagine soundtracking the post-apocalypse. Eerie, paranoid stuff like Boards of Canada, Tangerine Dream, Aphex Twin, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Global Communication. It helped me to storyboard the different scenes and see what should be happening (especially after listening to Tomorrow’s Harvest on repeat).

TQDescribe By the Feet of Men using only 5 words.

Grant:  These trucks go to eleven.

TQTell us something about By the Feet of Men that is not found in the book description.

Grant:  There’s a pinch of spirituality in there. I’m not a proponent of organised religion, but I do believe in the soul (Albert Hofmann’s greatest invention will do that for you). Our spiritual connection with nature and other people – something I think we’ve largely sacrificed in pursuit of technological progress and private comfort – is critical to our ongoing ability to persevere and flourish as a species. I wanted to include some of those ideas in the novel to balance out the grim realism, which is why Ghazi is there as Cassady’s foil. He understands that there’s more to existence than the grind, and he tries to make the characters around him see it, too.

TQWhat inspired you to write By the Feet of Men? What appeals to you about writing dystopian SF?

Grant:  Two movies inspired me: William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977) and the movie it was based on, The Wages of Fear (1953) by Henri-Georges Clouzot. Both films tell the tale of four men tasked with delivering unstable nitroglycerine through mountains somewhere in South America and the reaction each one has when confronted by his own mortality. I took the basic plot and married it to my number one fear – the climate crisis – to create my own story. As a genre, dystopian fiction appeals to me because it allows you to comment on something that doesn’t work in today’s society without having to be quite so on the nose about it. If you set it 50 years into the future, you can make the message entertaining for the reader. There’s also less chance that you’ll start proselytising because you’re too busy building your world and then exploring what it has to offer.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for By the Feet of Men?

Grant:  Because writing isn’t hard enough anyway, I decided to write a book about truck drivers when I don’t drive. That meant the first thing I had to do was watch endless videos of people driving trucks to get an idea of the movements and habits for my drivers. I had to spend a long time looking up how electric motors work, what kind of things can break down, what noises they make, how easy it is to charge them, what the near future holds for electric drives, and so on. I spent days reading about radical ‘solutions’ to the climate crisis that are about as insane as Ozymandias’s plan to secure world peace in Watchmen. I also scoured a bunch of survival websites to see what we’ll most likely be eating when the links in the global food chain break. Turns out it’s nothing/each other.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for By the Feet of Men.

Grant:  One strange question people kept asking me after the book was accepted for publication was: “Do you get to design the cover?” The answer is no. First off, I’m not a graphic designer. Second, imagine the headaches that would cause if every author got to add their two cents. It’d end up looking like The Homer. It was designed in house at JHP. I have to say that I have never loved it. It’s sterile in its simplicity, although I suppose it reflects the brutal nature of the world that the characters inhabit. In any case, they were going for Cormac McCarthy but it looks like a poster for a B movie.

TQIn By the Feet of Men who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Grant:  Ghazi was the easiest to write, because I based him on an Afghan friend of mine who speaks as Ghazi does in the book, and this friend has been an inspiration to me for the past few years. The most difficult was probably the Japanese driver, Tagawa. I only added him in because I was learning to speak Japanese at the time and I went to Japan a couple of times and became a little obsessive. The problem was that I couldn’t get into his head and I couldn’t see him like I could the others. I eventually envisioned him as having the same kind of personality as Lee Byung-Hun’s protagonist in A Bittersweet Life (2005) and he came to life after that.

TQDoes By the Feet of Men touch on any social issues?

Grant:  It’s a book-length examination of current responses to the climate crisis and what it means to be human in a world that we’ve become detached from. In the book, this detachment comes from the fact that the landscape is barren and inhospitable because of our failure to act. But you can also see this detachment now in how we communicate with one another and interact with the world. By and large, we don’t respect each other and we have no tangible connection to nature. Everything is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. We’re creating a spiritually barren landscape for ourselves now, and once that process is complete, we’ll be resigned to catastrophic climate change because we simply won’t care enough to do anything about it.

TQWhich question about By the Feet of Men do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Grant:  I honestly can’t think of one. If there was something about the content that I was desperately waiting for someone to notice, then that would mean the writing wasn’t good enough to make my intentions clear. If it’s a question about something else, I guess I’ll just be pleasantly surprised when the question does come.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from By the Feet of Men.

Grant:  I do like “If you grew up in the Wild West, it ain’t wild. It’s home”. I bet it’s been written a hundred times before, but it came to me fully formed when I was staring out the window looking at some birds, so I wanted to put it in. I’m also pretty taken with “They were married to the highway and the system they’d created and so they simply waited, contending with the heat and the flies and the monotony and the sudden violence, until death came for them.” At a stretch, you might just be able to apply it to our current approach to the climate crisis.

TQWhat's next?

Grant:  I’m cautiously optimistic about my next novel, which is called Mekong Lights. I’m just finishing up the second draft and I love how it’s nothing like By the Feet of Men, both in terms of plot or writing style. We’ll see.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

By the Feet of Men
Cosmic Egg Books, September 1, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 344 pages

Interview with Grant Price, author of By the Feet of Men
WANTED: Men and women willing to drive through the valley of the shadow of death.

The world’s population has been decimated by the Change, a chain reaction of events triggered by global warming. In Europe, governments have fallen, cities have crumbled and the wheels of production have ground to a halt. The Alps region, containing most of the continent’s remaining fresh water, has become a closed state with heavily fortified borders. Survivors cling on by trading through the Runners, truck drivers who deliver cargo and take a percentage.

Amid the ruins of central Germany, two Runners, Cassady and Ghazi, are called on to deliver medical supplies to a research base deep in the Italian desert, where scientists claim to be building a machine that could reverse the effects of the Change. Joining the pair are a ragtag collection of drivers, all of whom have something to prove. Standing in their way are starving nomads, crumbling cities, hostile weather and a rogue state hell-bent on the convoy's destruction. And there's another problem: Cassady is close to losing his nerve.

About Grant

Interview with Grant Price, author of By the Feet of Men
Grant Price (b. 1987) is a British-German author currently living in Berlin, Germany. After spending too many years translating and writing copy, he started writing fiction full time in 2015. His dystopian cli-fi novel, By the Feet of Men, is due to be published by Cosmic Egg Books in September 2019. His work has appeared in The Daily Telegraph and a number of magazines and journals.

Website  ~  Twitter @MekongLights

Interview with Keren Landsman, author of The Heart of the Circle

Please welcome Keren Landsman to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Heart of the Circle was published on August 13, 2019 by Angry Robot.

Interview with Keren Landsman, author of The Heart of the Circle

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

Keren:  I've been writing since I learned how, but I think my first try at writing something that I meant to publish was a trilogy about a 16 years old girl (guess how old I was then...?) whose brain was transplanted into a robot's body, and was sent back in time to fight criminals. It was awesome, and I had planned to do a trilogy, but sadly quit after 20 pages... I still love that story since it was the first time I tried writing "for real".

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Keren:  I think everyone is a hybrid of sorts. I'm mostly a discovery writer, and I almost always start writing with just a sense of the main character and the world it lives in. It causes me to get stuck a lot of times, and I throw away tons of pixels, but it's the price you pay when you don't plan.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Keren:  The writing itself! I love it when it's easy, but usually finding the correct phrase or the perfect word can take hours and even days. Putting the words, one after the other, is agonising for me. I hate editing too. The story is done, the pain is over, but then I have to dig into it again and correct everything I missed. I prefer the planning (which I rarely do) and the talking about how awesome the story is going to be (before I actually write it).

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Keren:  The world. My family. Great books and short stories that I had the immense pleasure to read. Terrible books and short stories that taught me how not to write. Talking with writers. Talking with non writers. Working as a physician in a free STD clinic. Working as an epidemiologist in the ministry of health. Talking online with vaccine-hesitant parents. Reading the news. Talking to people with different life experience than mine. But mostly, editing. I was extremely lucky to work with great editors throughout the years who helped me to shape my writing and taught me how to better utilise my tools.

TQDescribe The Heart of the Circle using only 5 words.


Out. For. A. Circle.
(An edited Buffy quote)

TQTell us something about The Heart of the Circle that is not found in the book description.

Keren:  It originally started as a short story. I aimed for a 15000 word story about am equal rights movement and magic. But the characters were so much fun, and I just couldn't stop wondering what will happen next, that I just continued writing.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Heart of the Circle? What appeals to you about writing Contemporary / Urban Fantasy?

Keren:  I love urban fantasy and have done ever since I first read Narnia. The idea that magic can exist so close to me, and that I just need the find the right key to unlock it, is astounding. The reason The Heart of the Circle is set in Tel Aviv is because I wanted magic near me. I wanted my world, my everyday life in a book, and I wanted a sweet, funny, light story to be set in that location. Well, I got 50% of my plan. That's better than most writing plans I have!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Heart of the Circle?

Keren:  Aside from the obvious - talking with psychologists to better understand empathy and psychopathy in real world, police officers to make sure the police work sections would be reliable, a few historians to find how to place alternative history in a real Israel, digging for hours in Reddit/drugs to better describe some of Reed's experiences, and loads of motorcycle forums and articles for the shortest description in the world regarding the bike mentioned ("Green"). My favorite two researches were talking for hours with my dad, who is a firearms specialist, to describe the gun that is used in one scene.

TQ:   Please tell us about the cover for The Heart of the Circle?

Keren:  There are two covers - the Israeli one was designed by Imri Zertal and it shows a circle of women. It is a very calm cover which emphasizes the community sense of the book. The English cover was designed by Francesca Corsini, and it shows a graffiti-like resistance poster, which is inspired by the underground feeling in it. I love how two people saw two completely different interpretations to the same book. It's amazing.

TQIn The Heart of the Circle who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Keren:  The easiest were Reed's parents. Since they are very similar to my own, I just used my love for my parents and mixed it with all the little fights, the pettiness and the resentment that arises in many child-parent relationships. The hardest to write was Oleander. In the original draft he was a minor character, a woman, and was mainly for comic relief. Only in later rewrites did he switch sex, gender, earned a bigger role, and started influencing major parts of the plot. It was hard writing him since he is one of the characters farthest away from my and my experiences.

TQDoes The Heart of the Circle touch on any social issues?

Keren:  Yes and no. There are a few social issues that are dealt with in the book. I tried to touch on human rights, LGBTQ rights, marginalized population, and the importance of different support systems. However, I don't define those as "issues" necessarily. I believe they should be a part of everyday life. I think people should treat everyone with respect and support, without discrimination.

TQWhich question about The Heart of the Circle do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Keren:  I would love to be asked how essential the fantastic element is to the story.
I think it is. I couldn't have told the same story the way I wanted it without Reed's empathy, Daphne's visions etc. Even though a lot of things are similar between our world and theirs, which sometimes might cause the illusion that the fantastic element is not needed, I couldn't have made the story work without magic. And fire bolts.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Heart of the Circle.


“How did I feel when I found out Reed was an empath? I felt like a six-year old who made his baby brother want to disappear.”

TQWhat's next?

Keren:  I'm currently working on a few short stories with long-overdue deadlines. After I'm done with those, my eldest reminded me that I promised him and his sister to write a book with them as heroes in a post apocalyptic world, and now I MUST write that. After that... we'll see.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Keren:  Thank you for having me :)

The Heart of the Circle
Angry Robot, August 13, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Keren Landsman, author of The Heart of the Circle
Sorcerers fight for the right to exist and fall in love, in this extraordinary alternate world fantasy thriller by award-winning Israeli author Keren Landsman.

Throughout human history there have always been sorcerers, once idolised and now exploited for their powers. In Israel, the Sons of Simeon, a group of religious extremists, persecute sorcerers while the government turns a blind eye. After a march for equal rights ends in brutal murder, empath, moodifier and reluctant waiter Reed becomes the next target. While his sorcerous and normie friends seek out his future killers, Reed complicates everything by falling hopelessly in love. As the battle for survival grows ever more personal, can Reed protect himself and his friends as the Sons of Simeon close in around them?

File Under: Fantasy [ Love Squared | Stuck in the Margins | Emotional Injection | Fight the Power ]

About Keren

Interview with Keren Landsman, author of The Heart of the Circle
KEREN LANDSMAN is a mother, a writer, a medical doctor who specializes in Epidemiology and Public health, and a blogger. She is one of the founders of Mida’at, an NGO dedicated to promoting public health in Israel. She works in the Levinski clinic in Tel Aviv. She has won the Geffen Award three times, most recently for the short story collection Broken Skies.

Website  ~  Twitter @smallweed

Interview with Eugen Bacon, author of Claiming T-Mo

Please welcome Eugen Bacon to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Claiming T-Mo is published on August 13, 2019 by Meerkat Press.

Interview with Eugen Bacon, author of Claiming T-Mo

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

Eugen:  Aha, let’s talk about English composition, as in elementary school subject… I was the teacher’s nightmare, or bliss. Such vivid imagination from what an early age—one couldn’t tell where reality closed, and fiction opened.

But my first published piece was ‘Morning Dew’, and I have a certificate from the Writers Bureau to show for it! I later republished the short story as ‘The Writer’—it is a cathartic piece that is also autoethnographic, fictionalised. It was also my first earnings as a writer.

Interview with Eugen Bacon, author of Claiming T-Mo

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Eugen:  So pantser. When I write short stories, my writing is a search, a journey, a coming through… I often start with a skeleton, a general idea, and the writing shapes itself. Characters tell their story and the story’s ending astonishes me.

But the hybrid birthed itself with Claiming T-Mo and other longer works—I had to find structure for the outcomes I sought, for example in my book Writing Speculative Fiction (2019) by Macmillan International.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does your background in computer science affect (or not) your fiction writing?

Eugen:  Time—there are never enough hours in a day, this is my biggest writing challenge. But I’ve learnt to steal hours, to write under pressure. I’d likely be taken aback, utterly stupefied by time if I had plenty of it to borrow!

My background in computer science complements my writing. I’d like to think the scientist in me is learning passion, aesthetics, vision and creativity from the artist. And the artist in me is learning structure, curiosity, attention to detail and organised scepticism from the scientist.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Eugen:  Toni Morrison. Ray Bradbury. Michael Ondaatje. Peter Temple. Authors as mentors who seduce me, magnetise me in the boldness of their writing that pays attention to mood, prose, characterisation—writing that listens to the playfulness of language.

TQDescribe Claiming T-Mo using only 5 words.

Eugen:  Him, her: mother, wife, daughter.

TQTell us something about Claiming T-Mo that is not found in the book description.

Eugen:  The novel was first named Outbreeds to introduce characters within the context of ‘being different’, a breed of others with an anti-hero. It nearly became A Puzzle-Piece Woman.

TQWhat inspired you to write Claiming T-Mo?

Eugen:  It was the creative artefact of my PhD in writing, where I approached the study with two research questions linked to ‘writing different’:
Can a writer of short fiction productively apply a model of stories-within-a-story to build a novel; and if so, what techniques or experiences are transferable from one form to the other?

Does literary writing contribute to the quality of works in science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction?
In Claiming T-Mo I created purposeful adaptations, embedded vignettes layered, and amounting to a cohesive novel that is almost like a story circle. It flows smoothly from one point to another, each story part bearing a concealed self-sufficiency interlinked and layered into a composite. And I bet you won’t notice.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Claiming T-Mo?

Eugen:  I paid attention to speculative fiction comprised of embedded stories carefully placed within the novel, stories continued rather than expanded. I wrote story by story, creating in a discipline already familiar, while layering the novel with characters, timelines, motifs and interplay—a sum of the parts.

I researched story cycles—how texts are held together by arrangement, thematic ties or a collective protagonist (for example Silhouette). I borrowed from the concept of the ‘rhizome’ that philosopher Gilles Deleuze and his collaborator psychoanalyst Felix Guattari produced in A Thousand Plateaus (1987)—where a rhizome ‘has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo’. I also found fascination in art as language—playfulness in the language of writing.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Claiming T-Mo.

Eugen:  Remember Him, her: mother, wife, daughter? There, no spoilers. Micaela Dawn (@DawnMicaela on Twitter) is phenomenal in her illustration and conceptual art. And Meerkat Press is simply awesome! What a mesmeric cover from my simplistic idea: An ancient world picturing three women and a man. Staring at the horizon.

TQIn Claiming T-Mo who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Eugen:  Silhouette was a breeze—her psycho-spiritual journey to find healing from deep wounding in the hands of significant males in her life. She remains the character who haunts other characters across the story, the omniscient narrator from whose eyes we see.

Odysseus was a tough nut to crack. Read the novel, you’ll see why.

TQDoes Claiming T-Mo touch on any social issues?

EugenClaiming T-Mo addresses themes around the challenges and possibilities of being different, a scrutiny of embodiment, the nature of being, the ‘self’ and ‘other’ and dichotomy.

TQWhich question about Claiming T-Mo do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Q. Is there a sequel?

A. No. (I think the story is complete within itself.)

Q. How do you pronounce Myra?

A. My (as in ‘my name is…) Rah (as in ‘ra-ra-rasputin’)

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Claiming T-Mo.

T-Mo happened exactly one week after the puzzle-piece woman with fifty-cent eyes. —in Salem’s story

It started with a name. And ended in a swim. —in Myra’s story

TQWhat's next?

Eugen:  A few works in the pipeline, including:
  • a collection of short speculative fiction by Meerkat Press (2020)
  • a literary dark fantasy that is also a mystery / adventure, set in Australia
  • a speculative prose poetry collaboration with an amazing award-winning poet and translator, A/Prof. Dominique Hecq, who was also my PhD supervisor.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Claiming T-Mo
Meerkat Press, August 13, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 260 pages

Interview with Eugen Bacon, author of Claiming T-Mo
In this lush interplanetary tale, Novic is an immortal Sayneth priest who flouts the conventions of a matriarchal society by choosing a name for his child. This act initiates chaos that splits the boy in two, unleashing a Jekyll-and-Hyde child upon the universe. Named T-Mo by his mother and Odysseus by his father, the story spans the boy’s lifetime — from his early years with his mother Silhouette on planet Grovea to his travels to Earth where he meets and marries Salem, and together they bear a hybrid named Myra. The story unfolds through the eyes of these three distinctive women: Silhouette, Salem and Myra. As they confront their fears and navigate the treacherous paths to love and accept T-Mo/Odysseus and themselves, the darkness in Odysseus urges them to unbearable choices that threaten their very existence.

About Eugen

Interview with Eugen Bacon, author of Claiming T-Mo
Eugen Bacon is a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. She has published over 100 short stories and articles, together with anthologies. Her stories have won, been shortlisted and commended in international awards, including the Bridport Prize, L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, Copyright Agency Prize and Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Awards. Her creative work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, including Award Winning Australian Writing, AntipodeanSF, Andromeda, Aurealis, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and through Routledge in New Writing. Creative nonfiction book – Palgrave MacMillan (2019)

Website  ~  Twitter @EugenBacon

Interview with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow Kingdom

Please welcome Kira Jane Buxton to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Hollow Kingdom is published on August 6, 2019 by Grand Central Publishing.

Interview with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow Kingdom

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

Kira:  Thank you so much for having me! As a child, the very first short story I ever wrote was about an overweight dragon. I may have peaked too soon.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Kira:  I’m definitely a hybrid of the two—a plotser or a panter maybe. I tend to try to adhere to a basic plot outline, but then veer off to uncharted territory and follow characters I didn’t give permission to take over the page. One of the main characters from Hollow Kingdom—Big Jim—was actually supposed to be a little boy, but he just burst onto the first page in all his gutsy glory and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Writers only think they’re in charge of a story.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Kira:  It’s usually being patient enough to hone in on the idea before starting to write. I also tend to get in my own way. When I relax and have fun with it all, I tend to do my best writing. The other most challenging thing about writing is stopping. I live to write, but am starting to become a bit comma shaped. Thankfully, Ewok (my dog, a Brussels griffon) reminds me to get up and go for regular walks.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Kira:  I love to spend time outside each day. Here in Seattle, we’re so fortunate to live amongst some very beautiful trees—fir, cedar, pine, birch, alder. Trees, like books, change brain chemistry, and I feel it’s a privilege to be near them. I have befriended two wild crows who visit me every day, and also spend time with a feisty charm of hummingbirds. Time in nature or reading about nature tends to spark that creative light for me.

TQDescribe Hollow Kingdom using only 5 words.

Kira:  Crude crow must save world

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

Kira:  The main narrator is a crow named Shit Turd (S.T. the crowtagonist), so we have his bird’s eye view of what’s happening to humanity, but there are also interstitial chapters from various animals around the world. I wanted to explore the minds of animals, but also to have a global view of what the apocalypse might look like. I grew up in Asia and the Middle East, so my wanting to explore more of the world in my writing was probably inevitable.

TQWhat inspired you to write Hollow Kingdom?

Kira:  I adore crows and had wanted to write about them for a long time without knowing how. I was driving when I finally got the idea. “What if a crow is telling the story of what happened to our species? What if a crow is talking about our extinction?” I’ve always loved animals, humor, and been an advocate for conservation, so I’d say Hollow Kingdom is the conflation of my passions.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Hollow Kingdom?

Kira:  I loved researching animal and tree facts for Hollow Kingdom. I read so many delicious non-fiction books about the natural world, from Peter Wohlleben’s The Secret Live of Trees, to Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of An Octopus, David George Haskell’s The Songs of Trees, The Wisdom of Wolves by Jamie and Jim Dutcher, Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds, the list goes on. What I found that anything I fabricated or embellished wasn’t half as fascinating and exciting as what’s happening all around us in nature.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Hollow Kingdom.

Kira:  Jarrod Taylor did the gorgeous cover art for Hollow Kingdom. He absolutely nailed it. The periphery of the jacket has a nod to the Himalayan blackberry takeover, and the Seattle skyline features prominently underneath S.T. the crow. One of my favorite things is the purple markings on S.T. that represent rain falling down onto the Space Needle and the skyline. Dennis the bloodhound is on the spine of the novel, which is perfect. Also, I am utterly obsessed with cephalopods, and on the back of the jacket is the most beautiful rendering of one. It would make a beautiful tattoo.

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

Kira:  One of the easiest characters to write was S.T., the crow. Perhaps because it took me so long to figure out what shape this book would take, and perhaps because I spend a lot of time with crows and get to enjoy their varied personalities and many antics. My female crow friend inspired a lot of S.T.’s behavior and character. The hardest was trying to write from the perspective of a hummingbird. I sat for ages trying to “hear” a voice, which ended up being a Highland cow (again, I’m not in control very often).

TQDoes Hollow Kingdom touch on any social issues?

Kira:  At its heart, Hollow Kingdom is an environmental parable and my love letter to the natural world. My hope is that readers remember to look up and enjoy the sky and listen to what the birds are saying. To notice that everything around us is communicating. I know there have been periods of my life where I’ve been so busy, I’ve forgotten to engage with nature, and I don’t want that to happen again. I hope that as a species, we can reconnect with the natural world and remember that we share our home with many incredible creatures.

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

Kira:  Oooh! I love this! “Are the animals based on the real personalities of animals you know?” Many of them are. Genghis Cat is based upon one of my own cats. Others are based on animals I’ve had encounters with either at my first job (I was a volunteer at a zoo as a child when I lived in Indonesia) or at some point in my life. To quote a line from the book, “Life isn’t the same once you know just how deeply a tree feels.” I think that applies to close encounters with all living things. My life has been touched and changed for the better by the wonderful creatures I’ve met.

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


“The trees hum and sing to one another, breathing love and story. They cannot run.”

“You can fuck off now. I have nothing more to say to you.” (Genghis Cat speaking the language of felines everywhere)

TQWhat's next?

Kira:  I think our vociferous little crow still has more to say! I love exploring the minds of animals, so I hope I get to stay in this world a little longer.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Kira:  Thank you so much for having me and for these wonderfully refreshing questions!

Hollow Kingdom
Grand Central Publishing, August 6, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow Kingdom
One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

Then Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn’t quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies–from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis–fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.

Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.

About Kira

Interview with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow Kingdom
Kira Jane Buxton’s writing has appeared in the New York Times,, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Huffington Post, and more. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle, Washington, home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, and a husband.

Website  ~  Twitter @KiraJaneWrites  ~  Facebook
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