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Interview with John Fram, author of The Bright Lands


Please welcome John Fram to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Bright Lands is published on July 7, 2020 by Hanover Square Press.



Interview with John Fram, author of The Bright Lands




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

John:  I think I was five or six when I wrote a the start of a really morbid piece of Sherlock Holmes fan fiction involving a corpse being lobbed at the door of 221B Baker Street. I still want to know what happened to that body.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

John:  A hybrid, I think. I started with a lengthy outline but of course the demands of good dialogue and good characterization mean your story inevitably starts heading off in new directions.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

John:  Finding ways to afford all the free time it demands.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

John:  The Bible and Final Fantasy will teach you pretty much everything you need to know about metaphor and action and theme. The rest is just practice.



TQDescribe The Bright Lands using only 5 words.

John:  Young men with big secrets.



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

John:  It has a double-digit body count.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Bright Lands? Why write a supernatural thriller?

John:  I looked out the window and saw that the world had taken a hard turn into the horror genre. I'm just trying to keep up.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Bright Lands?

John:  I talked to lots of young high school football players on Instagram. Seeing what happens in this book, I have a feeling they don't want me to say another word about them.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Bright Lands.

John:  It's the best thing that's ever happened to me. Why look a gift horse in the mouth?



TQDoes The Bright Lands touch on any social issues?

John:  I'd say so. I'm tired of fiction that takes prisoners and I wrote The Bright Lands to be a brick through everyone's window. If someone doesn't walk away from it shaking, I feel like I've failed.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The Bright Lands
Hanover Square Press, July7, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with John Fram, author of The Bright Lands
A Library Journal Best Winter/Spring Debut 2020

“Marks the debut of an already accomplished novelist.” —John Banville

The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

Shocking, twisty and relentlessly suspenseful, John Fram’s debut is a heart-pounding story about old secrets, modern anxieties and the price young men pay for glory.




About John

Interview with John Fram, author of The Bright Lands
© Luke Fontana
John Fram was raised in Texas. A resident of New York, he has written for The Atlantic, Pacific Standard and elsewhere. This is his first novel.












Website  ~  Twitter @johnsfram  ~  Instagram



Interview with C. T. Rwizi, author of Scarlet Odyssey


Please welcome C. T. Rwizi to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Scarlet Odyssey was published on July 1, 2020 by 47North.



Interview with C. T. Rwizi, author of Scarlet Odyssey




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

C.T.:  The very first thing I wrote is not something I’d ever let anyone read. Ever. It was a cheesy, racy drama featuring cheating spouses, oversexed neighbors, soap opera style twists, fast cars and lots and lots of clichés. It was laughably bad. But I was trying to get the hang of writing at the time so I chose to do so in a way I’d find entertaining. Surprisingly, it worked. I was motivated to keep coming back to my crazy plot, and along the way I refined a writing process that works for me. I never got to finish the story though, since halfway through I decided to get more serious about my writing. I do return to it once in a while when I feel the need to laugh at my past self.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

C.T.:  Now there’s a fun word. Pantser. Pantster? Either way, I would say I am perhaps a tenth that. Mostly, I plot. I’ll have serious writers block if I sit in front of my computer and I don’t have a plan for where my chapter or scene begins and where it ends. Often, whenever I’m stuck, it’s because I haven’t planned things in enough detail.

What I usually do is create a skeleton of the whole book—i.e. beginning, middle and end—allowing for flexibility along the way. But I will plan each chapter in great detail before attempting to write it, and always with an awareness of what needs to happen next.

Sometimes, however, I’ll be in the middle of writing a scene and realize that it might work better if I deviated from the plan. When that happens, I stop writing, create a new plan to fit in this new idea, then continue. I almost never just write and see where things go.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

C.T.:  Editing a completed first draft can be fun and easy because most of the hard work has been done. The story’s broad strokes have been painted and the manuscript is no longer a nebulous idea in your head. It’s real, and you can see what needs to be improved, what should be removed, what’s missing, etc.

Getting to this point, however, is not easy. It requires endurance and motivation. You need to believe in your project enough to keep coming back to it. And that’s one of the most difficult things about writing: maintaining belief in your own work. Resisting the temptation to scrap it and start all over, or simply to give up. It can be difficult to keep going even when you’re not feeling confident, but that’s part of the process.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

C.T.:  The space operas of Alastair Reynolds and Peter Hamilton. I love books that impart a sense of awe at the size and age of the universe, works that deal with big ideas on a cosmic scale, and yet stay close to their characters. My work is not a space opera, but I vied to evoke the same sense of awe in my readers.



TQDescribe Scarlet Odyssey using only 5 words.

C.T.:  Bizarre. Mysterious. Magical. Chilling. Queer.



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

C.T.:  The world on which the story is based orbits a binary star—i.e., it has two suns: one yellow, one white. It also has a red moon, and a blue comet that shoots across the sky once every year.



TQWhat inspired you to write Scarlet Odyssey? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

C.T.:  I’d started a project based in a medieval European setting, but I was increasingly drawn to a supporting character from a southern continent, to the extent that I realized, based on the amount of time I was giving him, that I wanted him to be the star of the show, and to write about his society, which was more familiar to me than medieval Europe. Thus was born Scarlet Odyssey, a fantasy set in an African-inspired society.

As for what appeals to me about writing fantasy, I guess I blame my overactive imagination for seeking an outlet. I grew up reading Harry Potter like many other kids my age, though I craved to read similar works starring young black people like myself. But there weren’t many options at the time, so I was only stuck with what was available and my own imagination.

Things are beginning to change now, fortunately, with many writers of color being given the stage to write their own stories. Being a writer in the genre right now means I can be part of that change.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Scarlet Odyssey?

C.T.:  The starting point for many of the ideas I used was personal experience or knowledge I acquired by virtue of having grown up in southern Africa. The drystone architecture of my main character’s society, for example, was inspired by the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, which are not far from my grandfather’s farm in the Masvingo province of Zimbabwe, and which I have visited on many occasions. The bullfighting ritual featured early on in the book was inspired by a similar ritual performed by young men in Eswatini at the king’s royal kraal. The beasts that appear are inspired by several African mythologies, from the tikoloshe of South Africa and Swaziland to the ilomba of Zambia.

So I was going off on myths and cultures I was already familiar with, and that are regularly seen or practiced or discussed among southern Africans. I did have to take my knowledge a step further, however, and I did this by reading scholarly research into African myths as well as the histories of the ancient Shona, Zulu and Swazi peoples.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Scarlet Odyssey.

C.T.:  The cover was designed by Shasti O’Leary Soudant. It depicts a sunset in the savannahs, which definitely features in the novel as a significant portion of it takes place in grassy velds similar to what you would find in south and east Africa.



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

C.T.:  The main character, Salo, is an outcast due to his failure to conform to his society’s standards of masculinity, which are higher for him since he’s the chief’s firstborn son. Though he’s a very different person from me, I empathized with him greatly because I myself am familiar with the social pressures born of toxic masculinity—to be seen as the strong one even when you don’t feel strong, to avoid anything even remotely feminine lest people question your manhood or sexuality, to repress your emotions at all costs. My personal experiences were handy as I wrote Salo’s character.

Conversely, the hardest character to write was the Maidservant, mostly because she has to do some pretty terrible things even though she knows they are wrong. I’ll admit; it was hard to empathize with her at times.



TQDoes Scarlet Odyssey touch on any social issues?

C.T.:  My book explores the toxicity of strict gender norms and the struggle of those who fail to conform to them. It also touches on tribalism and xenophobia, attitudes that still plague many African societies.



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

C.T.:  How much fun did you have writing this book?

Honestly? Lots. There were times I’d spend whole weekends in front of my computer without noticing the passage of time. This book is why I’ll be writing for as long as I am physically able to do so.


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


C.T.:

“I’ve seen people in glistening cities do the most savage of things, and people in the heart of the hinterlands do the noblest. I don’t think civilization is a place or a culture or a level of technological development. I think it’s simply the recognition that all life is valuable and must be treated as such. Everything else follows from there.”



TQWhat's next?

C.T.Requiem Moon, the sequel to Scarlet Odyssey, will be coming out in the spring of 2021. It’s out with the copy editors so it’s very close to done. But that will not be the last you hear from me.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

C.T.:  It has been a pleasure.





Scarlet Odyssey
Scarlet Odyssey 1
47North, July 1, 2020
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 559 pages

Interview with C. T. Rwizi, author of Scarlet Odyssey
Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.

Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.

Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.

On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.





About C. T. Rwizi

Interview with C. T. Rwizi, author of Scarlet Odyssey
C. T. Rwizi was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in Swaziland, finished high school in Costa Rica and got a BA in government at Dartmouth College in the United States. He currently lives in South Africa with his family, and enjoys playing video games, taking long runs and spending way too much time lurking on Reddit. He is a self-professed lover of synthwave. Scarlet Odyssey is his debut novel.







Twitter @c_t_rwizi


2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts


2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts


There are 9 debut novels for July 2020.

Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.

The June debut authors and their novels are listed in alphabetical order by author (not book title or publication date). Take a good look at the covers. Voting for your favorite July cover for the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will take place starting on July 15, 2020.



Cherie Dimaline

Empire of Wild
William Morrow, July 28, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts
“Deftly written, gripping and informative. Empire of Wild is a rip-roaring read!”—Margaret Atwood, From Instagram

Empire of Wild is doing everything I love in a contemporary novel and more. It is tough, funny, beautiful, honest and propulsive—all the while telling a story that needs to be told by a person who needs to be telling it.”—Tommy Orange, author of There There

A bold and brilliant new indigenous voice in contemporary literature makes her American debut with this kinetic, imaginative, and sensuous fable inspired by the traditional Canadian Métis legend of the Rogarou—a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of native people’s communities.

Joan has been searching for her missing husband, Victor, for nearly a year—ever since that terrible night they’d had their first serious argument hours before he mysteriously vanished. Her Métis family has lived in their tightly knit rural community for generations, but no one keeps the old ways . . . until they have to. That moment has arrived for Joan.

One morning, grieving and severely hungover, Joan hears a shocking sound coming from inside a revival tent in a gritty Walmart parking lot. It is the unmistakable voice of Victor. Drawn inside, she sees him. He has the same face, the same eyes, the same hands, though his hair is much shorter and he's wearing a suit. But he doesn't seem to recognize Joan at all. He insists his name is Eugene Wolff, and that he is a reverend whose mission is to spread the word of Jesus and grow His flock. Yet Joan suspects there is something dark and terrifying within this charismatic preacher who professes to be a man of God . . . something old and very dangerous.

Joan turns to Ajean, an elderly foul-mouthed card shark who is one of the few among her community steeped in the traditions of her people and knowledgeable about their ancient enemies. With the help of the old Métis and her peculiar Johnny-Cash-loving, twelve-year-old nephew Zeus, Joan must find a way to uncover the truth and remind Reverend Wolff who he really is . . . if he really is. Her life, and those of everyone she loves, depends upon it.





Lindsay Ellis

Axiom's End
St. Martin's Press, July 21, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts
The alternate history first contact adventure Axiom's End is an extraordinary debut from Hugo finalist and video essayist Lindsay Ellis.

Truth is a human right.

It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.

Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.





John Fram

The Bright Lands
Hanover Square Press, July7, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts
A Library Journal Best Winter/Spring Debut 2020

“Marks the debut of an already accomplished novelist.” —John Banville
The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

Shocking, twisty and relentlessly suspenseful, John Fram’s debut is a heart-pounding story about old secrets, modern anxieties and the price young men pay for glory.





John Gastil

Gray Matters
Cosmic Egg Books, July 31, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 370 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts
Can the digital networks that record our footprints hold us steady when dementia threatens to push us off the path?

This question has real stakes for data analyst Charlie Sanders. His best hope for a father succumbing to Alzheimer’s comes from assistive technology that Charlie helps design for a scrappy startup. Despite early successes, Charlie has growing doubts about the motives of each of his colleagues - the eccentric CEO in Seattle, the call center guru in India, and the Trump-loving Aussie transplant who keeps the books. His worries grow when the company takes on a clandestine client who occupies the Oval Office. Will Charlie keep his father and his country on track, or turn a whole generation into glitches?





Alexis Henderson

The Year of the Witching
Ace, July 21, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts
A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.





Alex Landragin

Crossings
St. Martin's Press July 28, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts
"A sparkling debut. Landragin’s seductive literary romp shines as a celebration of the act of storytelling." Publishers Weekly

"Romance, mystery, history, and magical invention dance across centuries in an impressive debut novel."
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Deft writing seduces the reader in a complex tale of pursuit, denial, and retribution moving from past to future. Highly recommended."
Library Journal (Starred Review)

Alex Landragin's Crossings is an unforgettable and explosive genre-bending debut—a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.


On the brink of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript called Crossings. It has three narratives, each as unlikely as the next. And the narratives can be read one of two ways: either straight through or according to an alternate chapter sequence.

The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies. Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations.

With each new chapter, the stunning connections between these seemingly disparate people grow clearer and more extraordinary. Crossings is an unforgettable adventure full of love, longing and empathy.





John P. Murphy

Red Noise
Angry Robot, July 7, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts
Caught up in a space station turf war between gangs and corrupt law, a lone asteroid miner decides to take them all down.

When an asteroid miner comes to Station 35 looking to sell her cargo and get back to the solitude she craves, she gets swept up in a three-way standoff with gangs and crooked cops. Faced with either taking sides or cleaning out the Augean Stables, she breaks out the grenades…





C.T. Rwizi

Scarlet Odyssey
Scarlet Odyssey 1
47North, July 1, 2020
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 559 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts
Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.

Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.

Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.

On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.





Ryan Van Loan

The Sin in the Steel
The Fall of the Gods 1
Tor Books, July 21, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - July 2020 Debuts
Ryan Van Loan's The Sin in the Steel is a sparkling debut fantasy set in a diverse world, featuring dead gods, a pirate queen, shapeshifting mages, and a Sherlockian teenager determined to upend her society.

Heroes for hire. If you can pay.

Buc:
Brilliant street-rat
Her mind leaps from clues to conclusions in the blink of an eye.

Eld:
Ex-soldier
Buc’s partner-in-crime.

No. Not in crime—in crime-solving.

They’ve been hired for their biggest job yet—one that will set them up for a life of ease.

If they survive.

Buc and Eld are the first private detectives in a world where pirates roam the seas, mages speak to each other across oceans, mechanical devices change the tide of battle, and earthly wealth is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few.

It’s been weeks since ships last returned to the magnificent city of Servenza with bounty from the Shattered Coast. Disaster threatens not just the city’s trading companies but the empire itself. When Buc and Eld are hired to investigate, Buc swiftly discovers that the trade routes have become the domain of a sharp-eyed pirate queen who sinks all who defy her.

Now all Buc and Eld have to do is sink the Widowmaker's ship….

Unfortunately for Buc, the gods have other plans.

Unfortunately for the gods, so does Buc.

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm


Please welcome Devin Madson to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. We Ride the Storm is published on June 23, 2020 by Orbit.

Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Devin a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm




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

Devin:  I wrote a story called The Little Sad Christmas Tree. I was six so I don’t recall writing it very clearly but my parents kept it and I still have it somewhere. It’s about a little pine tree that cries when its mother gets cut down and taken away and all the other trees laugh at him. He gets cut down too and taken to a shop to be sold but no one wants him, so he cries some more. He gets magically reunited with his mother at the end though. I don’t think I was trying to say anything particular with that, more I had only one page left.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Devin:  A bit of both. I almost completely pants most first books in a series because I’m too impatient to sit down and plan. And the only time I did, I ended up with a completely different book. With different themes, plot and a bunch of extra point of view characters. But when I get to later books in a series, I plan more and more to make sure I’m pulling all the threads together and will be able to finish the story in the right number of books. Really, I just go with whatever works best for a particular book, but the most I’ve ever planned is a couple of guiding paragraphs per chapter and some thoughts on arcs. That’s HARDCORE planning in Devinland.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Devin:  Action scenes! And for some reason I keep writing a lot of them. Because they have to be tense, they require very tight pacing and timing, balance and cadence, and can’t just be hammered out in a couple of minutes. At least not by me. The only thing more challenging, that you absolutely can’t lose your readers in by a misstep of word choice or pacing, is a sex scene, but I don’t write anywhere near as many of those. Structural edits also suck, because they are weeks of painstakingly ripping apart and rebuilding a manuscript and it is the most draining part of the job for me, mentally and emotionally.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Devin:  The things I have noticed as being influences (rather than the bazillion tiny things we passively observe and absorb in life) are generally not fantasy based, which I find interesting. Despite not writing romances, I have been heavily influenced by Georgette Heyer over the years. She was a master at character creation and evolution as well as subtle character-based and situational humour. I’ve also been influenced by all too many video games and history programs/podcasts. And Terry Pratchett.



TQDescribe We Ride the Storm using only 5 words.

Devin:  Shit keeps hitting the fan.



TQTell us something about We Ride the Storm that is not found in the book description.

Devin:  There is no black and white morality in this book. It’s all messy, right and wrong impossible to discern half the time, as people are forced to make decisions without knowing for sure what the outcome will be. Often they are making the best of two bad choices, which will have flow on effects into the decisions forced upon others. One thing I really wanted to achieve with this book is the idea that people and situations often aren’t neat and simple and clear cut. People are complicated. They are changeable. Contradictory. Emotional. I wanted to represent this in my fiction. Rather than creating ideals of people, I wanted to show them in all their messy glory as they struggle with their own paths and feelings and motivations (as well as one can in fiction, which is never allowed to be quite as messy and random as real life).



TQWhat inspired you to write We Ride the Storm? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Devin:  The biggest thing that appeals to me about writing fantasy (except for having to do less research because you can make things up) is that you can put people into situations that are impossible in our world and shake it up to see what would happen. The human psyche is an amazing thing, as are the connections and relationships we make with others. And they’re all so much more interesting and boundless in fantasy. As for We Ride the Storm, it’s the continuation of a generational story I started in my novella, In Shadows We Fall, and then on through The Vengeance Trilogy (also being re-released by Orbit, but you don’t have to read them first, they can be read in any order) so there wasn’t as much unique inspiration for this story. When I first started writing in this world, the story I wanted to tell informed much of the world building, but now the world and its history informs the stories I want to tell.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for We Ride the Storm?

Devin:  Because I don’t plan ahead most of the time, I tend to research on the fly when I need something (or I’m lazy and write and leave it for Future Devin like a jerk). These can be little things like how long it takes blood to congeal or sometimes bigger things about horses and castles.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for We Ride the Storm.

Devin:  Because We Ride the Storm was previously self-published, Orbit wanted to differentiate the new cover, so although it depicts horsemen riding into battle like the original, they commissioned black and white scratchboard art from Nico Delort. I loved the original too (by John Anthony Di Giovanni), as both are very striking in their different ways. The colour of the new one really gets across the mood and feel of the book though, I think they really nailed it.



TQIn We Ride the Storm who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Devin:  Cassandra is always the easiest character to write because I’m putting my dialled up to 11 snarky thought process and sense of humour on the page, filtered through her life experience and goals. Miko is the hardest, because she has a very complicated mix of ambition yet a desire to do what is right and good, of wanting to prove herself yet learn from those around her. She walks a fine balance in everything, even with having to be an accommodating leader and yet be fiercely determined, while at the same time she’s young and inexperienced in a lot of things.



TQDoes We Ride the Storm touch on any social issues?

Devin:  While it doesn’t specifically focus on any particular social issues, due to the journeys of certain characters the book touches on the struggles of women in a patriarchal society and some of the damage it does to the society as a whole, as well as the difficulties of a whole culture struggling to maintain itself while the world becomes more urbanized and technologically advanced around them. They are left having to ask ‘What makes us who we are?’ and trying to find an answer.



TQWhich question about We Ride the Storm do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Devin:  Let’s go with my favourite thing about it. I don’t do favourite characters in books (not in other peoples nor my own), I have favourite relationships. It can be a friendship, a parent/child relationship, a found family or a romantic relationship, it doesn’t matter, my favourite stuff is always the between people stuff. In this book it’s the relationship between Rah, one of the POV characters, and Gideon, leader of the Levanti exiles. They’re from the same herd so they have known each other all their lives, and while you only see some of it and get a little of their history in this first book, everything about the intensity and complications of it speaks to my soul on a deep level.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from We Ride the Storm.

Devin:  While I’m very proud of both my original opening line and the new one, the bits I like the most are the humorous character moments like this:

“What’s this?” She eyed the food like it was a dead animal.
“What does it look like?” I said, fingers hunting an elusive coin. “It’s flatbread. But that bit didn’t cook right through so it’s all yours.”


And that they let me get away with this:

“Now let’s keep moving before the sight of this damn place makes me piss myself.”
“As you wish, Your Whoreness.” He had taken a few steps but turned to look back over his shoulder. “Or should it be Your Assassinness? Whoresassin!”



TQWhat's next?

Devin:  I’m just putting the finishing touches on book 3 of The Reborn Empire series, after which I’ll be moving on to putting a cap on the series that has been quite the journey for me. I’m also hoping to find time to write a novella that’s been pecking away at my thoughts, the first thing I’ve written in more than a decade that isn’t set in this world of mine. And I’m very slowly working toward getting my audio drama, The 59 Bodies of Saki Laroth, produced and released.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Devin:  Thank you for having me!





We Ride the Storm
The Reborn Empire 1
Orbit, June 23, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm
In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s propulsive epic fantasy.

War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.

Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.

In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.

In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.

And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.

As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.


The Reborn Empire
We Ride the Storm

For more from Devin Madson, check out:
The Vengeance Trilogy
The Blood of Whisperers
The Gods of Vice
The Grave at Storm's End





About Devin

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm
Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.




Website  ~  Twitter @DevinMadson

Interview with Doug Engstrom, author of Corporate Gunslinger


Please welcome Doug Engstrom to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Corporate Gunslinger is published on today, June 15th, by Harper Voyager.

Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Doug a Happy Book Birthday! And if you love the cover of Corporate Gunslinger vote for it in the Cover Wars here.



Interview with Doug Engstrom, author of Corporate Gunslinger




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

Doug:  When I was in about the fourth or fifth grade, I wrote a series of science fiction stories with my friends, in which we were all crew members on an “Intergalactic Cruiser.” Fortunately, I don’t remember much else about it.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Doug:  I think it’s a continuum rather than either/or, but I’m pretty far toward the plotter end of the spectrum. I start with a detailed scene-by-scene outline. However, I treat it like a project plan rather than a blueprint, which is to say that I will make changes — sometimes very large ones — as I write, and I use the outline to help me accommodate and integrate those changes. For example, if I move a scene that contains information used in later scenes, I can use the outline to see if I’m still giving this information at the right time, or if I need to find a different place to introduce it.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Doug:  Staying focused for long periods of time without an immediate, externally-enforceable deadline.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

DougCorporate Gunslinger was heavily influenced by David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years, which basically upended the way I look at society and economics; also Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, which got me to think about the stories we tell ourselves to justify our actions; and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, which gave me a lot of insight into cognitive errors. Farah Mendlesohn’s book, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, did a lot to make me conscious of how heavily I’m influenced by Heinlein, even though I’m mostly reacting against his politics.



TQDescribe Corporate Gunslinger using only 5 words.

Doug:  An actress becomes a gunfighter.



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

Doug:  Though it’s a very grim story, it has touches of humor—there are some hijinks in the midst of all the death and mayhem.



TQWhat inspired you to write Corporate Gunslinger?

Doug:  The book started out as one of a series of vignettes that purported to be an oral history of work in the mid-21st century, people talking about their jobs in the way they talked to Studs Terkel in Working. Except because it’s the mid-21st century, the jobs they’re describing are professions like “AI Wrangler” and “Theology Mixer.” Many of the vignettes directly or indirectly satirize trends in society, and “Corporate Gunfighter” was definitely one of those. The vignette format ultimately didn’t work out, but I liked the idea and the character, so I turned it into a longer format piece. Much longer, as it turned out.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Corporate Gunslinger?

Doug:  I did a lot of research on dueling codes and read accounts of duels, as well as a lot of reading on gunshot wounds and how firearms and bullets behave in different circumstances. Because I was writing women as main characters, I also spent a lot of time listening to women on panels at SF conventions and on social media as they talked about their expectations for female characters in the stories they read, and particularly the things that men tend to get wrong.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Corporate Gunslinger.

Doug:  Yeon Kim created an amazing cover. The bright orange background attracts attention, the gun lets you know “gunslinger” isn’t metaphorical, and the stylized female image wielding it lets you know the protagonist isn’t who you might expect. Though the elements are relatively simple, they have terrific impact.



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

Doug:  Kira, the main character, was the hardest to write. As both the main character and the only point of view character, she has to carry the book, so she required a lot more depth and complexity, and it took me a number of tries to get her right. There was also the continuing challenge of her making morally repugnant choices, but remaining likable enough and understandable enough that readers sympathize with her predicament and care about what happens to her.

Diana, Kira's trainer, was the easiest. She came together without a lot of effort, in part because I set her up as Kira’s polar opposite in terms of temperament. That gave me Diana's basic orientation, and once I figured out the backstory that produced that temperament, I didn’t have to think very hard about any given situation before I knew how she’d behave.



TQDoes Corporate Gunslinger touch on any social issues?

Doug:  The book is, among other things, a political satire, so social issues are everywhere. There’s the effect of debt on individuals, our tendency to allow horrific outcomes to occur if they’re the result of a person’s “choice,” and selling grossly inequitable situations with the language of fairness and opportunity — to say nothing of our collective willingness to accept routine violence and prioritize the interest of corporations over the needs of people.

The biggest thing, though, is the question of how and why people participate in oppressive systems, and Kira’s story is a "case in point” I want people to think about.



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

Doug

“Don’t think the pretty girl won’t kill you.” — Kira, speaking to an opponent before a duel.


“It’s not what you know that keeps alive, baby girl. It’s what you can remember at the right time.” — Diana to Kira, after a brutally difficult training session.



TQWhat's next?

Doug:  I’m working on several proposals. One is a thriller set in the same world as Corporate Gunslinger, about a tech support worker who finds someone is trying to get control of her companion AI, and is willing to kill her to do it. Another is an atompunk alternate history set in a version of the 1990’s that looks a lot like what we expected in 1970, except for the radical left-wing Christians taking over the asteroid belt. And finally, a fantasy about a seed company intern and an outcast fae getting caught up in a corrupt plot involving human executives and fae royalty.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Corporate Gunslinger
Harper Voyager, June 16, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Doug Engstrom, author of Corporate Gunslinger
Doug Engstrom imagines a future all too terrifying—and all too possible—in this eerie, dystopic speculative fiction debut about corporate greed, debt slavery, and gun violence that is as intense and dark as Stephen King’s The Long Walk.

Like many Americans in the middle of the 21st century, aspiring actress Kira Clark is in debt. She financed her drama education with loans secured by a “lifetime services contract.” If she defaults, her creditors will control every aspect of her life. Behind on her payments and facing foreclosure, Kira reluctantly accepts a large signing bonus to become a corporate gunfighter for TKC Insurance. After a year of training, she will take her place on the dueling fields that have become the final, lethal stop in the American legal system.

Putting her MFA in acting to work, Kira takes on the persona of a cold, intimidating gunslinger known as “Death’s Angel.” But just as she becomes the most feared gunfighter in TKC’s stable, she’s severely wounded during a duel on live video, shattering her aura of invincibility. A series of devastating setbacks follow, forcing Kira to face the truth about her life and what she’s become.

When the opportunity to fight another professional for a huge purse arises, Kira sees it as a chance to buy a new life . . . or die trying.

Structured around a chilling duel, Corporate Gunslinger is a modern satire that forces us to confront the growing inequalities in our society and our penchant for guns and bloodshed, as well as offering a visceral look at where we may be heading—far sooner than we know.





About Doug

Interview with Doug Engstrom, author of Corporate Gunslinger
Doug Engstrom has been a farmer's son, a US Air Force officer, a technical writer, a computer support specialist, and a business analyst, as well as being a writer of speculative fiction. He lives near Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Catherine Engstrom.











Website  ~  Twitter @engstrom_doug  ~  Facebook


2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June 2020 Debuts


2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June 2020 Debuts


Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2020 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on June 30, 2020, unless the vote is extended. If the vote is extended the ending date will be updated.

Vote for your favorite June 2020 Debut Cover!
 
pollcode.com free polls





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June 2020 Debuts
Cover Illustration © Richard Anderson





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June 2020 Debuts





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June 2020 Debuts
Cover design by Yeon Kim
Cover images © Amesto/Shutterstock;
© D.V.A./Shutterstock





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June 2020 Debuts
Illustration by Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme
Design by Jae Song





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June 2020 Debuts
Jacket design by Ploy Siripant
Jacket illustration by Beth Hoeckel
Jacket photograph © The Bert Stern Trust





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - June 2020 Debuts
Cover illustration by Nico Delort
Cover design by Lisa Marie Pompilio

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts


2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts


Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2020 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on May 31, 2020, unless the vote is extended. If the vote is extended the ending date will be updated.

Vote for your favorite May 2020 Debut Cover!
 
pollcode.com free polls




2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts
Jacket artwork by Travis Bedel (Bedelgeuse)
Jacket design by Zoe Norvell





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts
Jacket design by Elsie Lyons





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts
Jacket design by Jenny Carrow





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts
Cover art by Greg Ruth
Cover design by Adam Auerbach





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts
Cover by Eric Nyquist





2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2020 Debuts

Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing Thunder


Please welcome Alina Boyden to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Stealing Thunder is published on May 12, 2020 by Ace.

Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Alina a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing Thunder




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

Alina:  Wow, we're really going back to the beginning, huh? The first piece of fiction I actually remember sitting down at a computer and writing was a story in French when I was in third or fourth grade, having just spent the summer studying it. It has not survived the intervening centuries, and so I can't go back and look at how bad my French was at that age. The first piece I wrote of real fiction was when I was 18, I think, back in like maybe 2002, and it was a 300,000 word post-apocalyptic epic about the trials and tribulations of a small medieval city-state in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. I still have it, but can't wholeheartedly recommend it. Some authors can make 300,000 words seem to fly by, but 18-year-old me was not one of those people.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Alina:  I am 1000% pantser. I never outline. I do a lot of research and world-building ahead of time, and I generally know in my head more or less what the starting drama is, and more or less what the resolution is, and then I just let the characters work it out. Sometimes I honestly don't even know what the ending is when I start. In fact, when I started writing Stealing Thunder I didn't have the slightest clue what the plot was going to be. I just knew who Razia was and where she was, and what her situation was, and she took care of the rest.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Alina:  Editing. By far editing. I tend to be one of those people who writes one draft of a thing, and that's the finished product, more or less. That was the case with Stealing Thunder. However, while that's a very entertaining way to live your life, I don't think it's consistent enough for the fiction market, given how competitive it is. So, the sequel, for example, went through about a dozen "drafts." Though none of those drafts was a full draft. I tend to write myself into corners and then erase the path back to where it branched, and start over. So for the sequel to Stealing Thunder, which is around 124,000 words, I wrote something like 400 or 450,000 words. So, maybe instead of a plotter or a pantser I'm a pruner?



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Alina:  History is probably my biggest influence. I'm a history nut, and will happily spend hours and hours researching the history of just the most random things. I don't have a particular place or time that I'm more in love with than any other. They're all equally brilliant and fascinating. I think what I love about it is that you get to see people who are just like us living in a world vastly different from our own, and I think that dovetails brilliantly with fantasy and science fiction.



TQWhat is a cultural anthropologist and how does being one affect your writing?

Alina:  I'm a trained cultural anthropologist, but I don't really identify as one. I'm also a trained archaeologist, and a trained historian from an academic standpoint. We all have many facets to our identities, but if I'm anything professionally at this point, it's a writer. That being said, I think that cultural anthropology is a discipline that has at its founding core a very hopeful message for humanity, and one that is particularly valuable for fiction, as I've often heard fiction described as an exercise in empathy. Cultural anthropology was founded on the idea of empathy, and the idea that if you take the time to listen to other people and to live with other people, you can come to understand something about them. It was predicated, at least in the Boasian tradition, on the idea that no culture is superior to any other, that no people is hierarchically above any other, and that all cultural beliefs and practices are of equal value. Like many ideals, cultural anthropology's have rarely been achieved in actual practice, but I think it's a good message to take home nonetheless.



TQDescribe Stealing Thunder using only 5 words.

Alina:  Trans "Pretty Woman" with dragons.



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

Alina:  Page 1 has three trans women having a conversation not about cis people. I don't know if there's some equivalent of the Bechdel test for trans women, but if it exists, Stealing Thunder might be the only fantasy novel in the history of the world that passes it. And it does so on page 1.



TQWhat inspired you to write Stealing Thunder? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Alina:  I was inspired to write Stealing Thunder largely as a result of my experiences with South Asian trans women and their communities. They are some of the oldest communities in the world of trans people who are out and acknowledged by society. That blew my mind when I first encountered it, and it really changed my approach to writing trans girls in fiction in general, but fantasy in particular, because I was so tired of seeing LGBT representation where we're all unicorns who live alone and never encounter anyone like us. (And, like medieval unicorns we also usually die just before consummating our love).

Fantasy is my favorite genre because I get to write historical fiction, but I don't have to be slavish to the history, and if I want to have something different happen, or to have a weird pterano-bird-dragon that you can ride on, I can have that.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Stealing Thunder?

Alina:  Stealing Thunder didn't require much in the way of special research, because it was stuff I was already doing. At the time I wrote it, I was studying Urdu, reading the history of South Asia, having loads of conversations with South Asian trans women, and so it was something that I was very much already stewing in at the time. For the sequel, without giving anything away, I did delve very especially into certain regional histories and ethnographies, but for Stealing Thunder it sort of naturally followed what I was already doing.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Stealing Thunder.

Alina:  If you zoom in really close on the full-size digital image, the details on the columns on either side of Razia are amazing. Greg Ruth did a really wonderful job, and I am so happy that my first book has such cool cover art. Lots of authors aren't so lucky.



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

Alina:  The easiest characters for me are always the jerks, I think. I don't know what that says about me, but I find them to be really fun. I don't mean villains necessarily, but antagonists. So Sikander, Razia's father, Arjun's father, they're all really easy for me. Even Karim to an extent. But the hardest were Razia's sisters, Sakshi and Lakshmi. Lakshmi because she's a kid, and I was never a normal kid, so writing a normal kid is really hard for me. And Sakshi because she's the supportive one, the kind one, but I can't make her too one note, or she's just not a character. People like drama, they like tension, and so when you write characters who are adversarial, I think people tend to see them more vividly. So a supportive cast is tough to write without making them dull.



TQDoes Stealing Thunder touch on any social issues?

Alina:  I don't think Stealing Thunder so much touches on social issues as it does just take a flamethrower (or maybe a fire-breathing zahhak) to them. I think it's easy, if you live in a liberal bubble in the US, to forget that in most of the country trans people's rights are being eroded every day - especially trans childrens'. Just in the last three weeks we've seen bills preventing trans girls from playing sports and preventing all trans people from changing their birth certificates made law in Idaho, just to cite one example. At this very moment, the Supreme Court is waiting to rule on whether or not I can be fired from my job just for being transgender. If the case goes against us, Title VII will no longer apply to trans people anywhere in the US. So, while the climate is not nearly as bad as it was when I transitioned eighteen years ago, it is far from good, and to have a book put out by the biggest publisher in the world with a trans girl heroine is really making a statement.



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

Alina:  What does it mean to you to have an unapologetically positive story with a trans woman main character?

It means everything to me, and I hope it will come to mean something to those members of our community who read fantasy novels. Stealing Thunder counters so many negative messages for trans women in our country - that we're not pretty, that we're not desirable, that we're not worthy of love, that we're not heroic, that we're not noble, that we're sinful, that we're weak, that we're mentally incompetent, insane, deranged, perverse. I've been called every single one of those things in my life, and so has every other trans woman I've ever met. We've seen it in literature, on TV, in film, and acted out on the nightly news. I somewhat jokingly summarize Stealing Thunder as trans girl Pretty Woman in the Mughal Empire with dragons, but we didn't actually get Pretty Woman. We got the Crying Game, where we're portrayed by a cis man, and when our romantic interest finds out we're trans, he vomits and punches us in the face. And as horrible as that sounds, that was the most positive representation I saw of a trans woman in film in my youth. Normally we're creepy serial killers or confusing corpses for criminal investigators to figure out - if we're included at all. So, to finally get a chance to see a positive portrayal of a trans woman in my favorite literary genre is really a special experience, and I hope it's inspiring for other trans women who pick it up and read it.



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

Alina:

"How do you explain your soul to another person? How do you give them a glimpse of it?"

"As difficult as life could be here, at least my life was my own, and at least I was me."



TQWhat's next?

Alina:  Next for me is editing Stealing Thunder's sequel, which is slated to release in May 2021. I have a couple of other fun projects brewing that I can't really talk too much about yet, but mostly I'm just looking forward to seeing Stealing Thunder finally out in the world!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Alina:  Thank you so much for hosting me!





Stealing Thunder
Ace, May 12, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing Thunder
Protecting her identity means life or death in this immersive epic fantasy inspired by the Mughal Empire.  

In a different life, under a different name, Razia Khan was raised to be the Crown Prince of Nizam, the most powerful kingdom in Daryastan. Born with the soul of a woman, she ran away at a young age to escape her father’s hatred and live life true to herself.

Amongst the hijras of Bikampur, Razia finds sisterhood and discovers a new purpose in life. By day she’s one of her dera’s finest dancers, and by night its most profitable thief. But when her latest target leads her to cross paths with Arjun Agnivansha, Prince of Bikampur, it is she who has something stolen.

An immediate connection with the prince changes Razia’s life forever, and she finds herself embroiled in a dangerous political war. The stakes are greater than any heist she’s ever performed. When the battle brings her face to face with her father, Razia has the chance to reclaim everything she lost…and save her prince.





About Alina

Alina Boyden is a cultural anthropologist focused on organized communities of transgender women in Pakistan, known as khwaja siras, or more popularly as hijras, focusing on how they use their unique community organization to advance the fight for their rights at home and abroad–something which has inspired her, as a transgender woman, in her own battles for civil rights in the U.S. as she fought for transgender care in a major court case with the ACLU.

Website  ~  Twitter @AlinaBoyden

2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts


2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts


There are 8 debut novels for May 2020.

Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.

The May debut authors and their novels are listed in alphabetical order by author (not book title or publication date). Take a good look at the covers. Voting for your favorite May cover for the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will take place starting on May 15, 2020.



Alina Boyden

Stealing Thunder
Ace, May 12, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts
Protecting her identity means life or death in this immersive epic fantasy inspired by the Mughal Empire.  

In a different life, under a different name, Razia Khan was raised to be the Crown Prince of Nizam, the most powerful kingdom in Daryastan. Born with the soul of a woman, she ran away at a young age to escape her father’s hatred and live life true to herself.

Amongst the hijras of Bikampur, Razia finds sisterhood and discovers a new purpose in life. By day she’s one of her dera’s finest dancers, and by night its most profitable thief. But when her latest target leads her to cross paths with Arjun Agnivansha, Prince of Bikampur, it is she who has something stolen.

An immediate connection with the prince changes Razia’s life forever, and she finds herself embroiled in a dangerous political war. The stakes are greater than any heist she’s ever performed. When the battle brings her face to face with her father, Razia has the chance to reclaim everything she lost…and save her prince.





Nancy Wayson Dinan

Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here
Bloomsbury Publishing, May 19, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts
Set during the devastating Memorial Day floods in Texas, a surreal, empathetic novel for readers of Station Eleven and The Age of Miracles.

2015. 18-year-old Boyd Montgomery returns from her grandfather's wedding to find her friend Isaac missing. Drought-ravaged central Texas has been newly inundated with rain, and flash floods across the state have begun to sweep away people, cars, and entire houses as every river breaks its banks.

In the midst of the rising waters, Boyd sets out across the ravaged back country. She is determined to rescue her missing friend, and she's not alone in her quest: her neighbor, Carla, spots Boyd's boot prints leading away from the safety of home and follows in her path. Hours later, her mother returns to find Boyd missing, and she, too, joins the search.

Boyd, Carla, and Lucy Maud know the land well. They've lived in central Texas for their entire lives. But they have no way of knowing the fissure the storm has opened along the back roads, no way of knowing what has been erased-and what has resurfaced. As they each travel through the newly unfamiliar landscape, they discover the ghosts of Texas past and present.

Haunting and timely, Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here considers questions of history and empathy and brings a pre-apocalyptic landscape both foreign and familiar to shockingly vivid life.




Genevieve Hudson

Boys of Alabama
Liveright, May 19, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts
O, The Oprah Magazine • "31 LGBTQ Books That'll Change the Literary Landscape in 2020"
Lit Hub • "Most Anticipated Books by LGBTQ Authors For the First Half of 2020"
Ms. Magazine • "Reads for the Rest of Us: Feminist Books Coming Out in 2020"


“A gripping, uncanny, and queer exploration of being a boy in America, told with detail that dazzles and disturbs.” —Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir

In this bewitching debut novel, a sensitive teen, newly arrived in Alabama, falls in love, questions his faith, and navigates a strange power. While his German parents don’t know what to make of a South pining for the past, shy Max thrives in the thick heat. Taken in by the football team, he learns how to catch a spiraling ball, how to point a gun, and how to hide his innermost secrets.

Max already expects some of the raucous behavior of his new, American friends—like their insatiable hunger for the fried and cheesy, and their locker room talk about girls. But he doesn’t expect the comradery—or how quickly he would be welcomed into their world of basement beer drinking. In his new canvas pants and thickening muscles, Max feels like he’s “playing dress-up.” That is until he meets Pan, the school “witch,” in Physics class: “Pan in his all black. Pan with his goth choker and the gel that made his hair go straight up.” Suddenly, Max feels seen, and the pair embarks on a consuming relationship: Max tells Pan about his supernatural powers, and Pan tells Max about the snake poison initiations of the local church. The boys, however, aren’t sure whose past is darker, and what is more frightening—their true selves, or staying true in Alabama.

Writing in verdant and visceral prose that builds to a shocking conclusion, Genevieve Hudson “brilliantly reinvents the Southern Gothic, mapping queer love in a land where God, guns, and football are king” (Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks). Boys of Alabama becomes a nuanced portrait of masculinity, religion, immigration, and the adolescent pressures that require total conformity.





Ilze Hugo

The Down Days
Skybound Books, May 5, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts
In the aftermath of a deadly outbreak—reminiscent of the 1962 mass hysteria that was the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic—a city at the tip of Africa is losing its mind, with residents experiencing hallucinations, paranoia, and uncontrollable laughter. Is it simply another episode of mass hysteria, or something more sinister? In a quarantined city in which the inexplicable has already occurred, rumors, superstitions, and conspiracy theories abound.

During these strange days, Faith works as a fulltime corpse collector and a freelance “truthologist,” putting together disparate pieces of information to solve problems. But after Faith agrees to help an orphaned girl find her abducted baby brother, she begins to wonder if the boy is even real. Meanwhile, Sans, a dealer trading in stolen ponytails, is so distracted by a glimpse of his dream woman that he loses a bag of money he owes his gang partners—leaving him desperately searching for both and questioning his own sanity.

Over the course of a single week, the paths of Faith, Sans, and a cast of other hustlers—including a data dealer, a drug addict, a sin eater, and a hyena man—will cross and intertwine as they move about the city, looking for lost souls, uncertain absolution, and answers that may not exist.





Lisa King

Vanishing Hour
Story Plant, May 5, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts
Seventy-year-old Matthew Werner, who suffers from a debilitating case of Not Normal, doesn't know that nearly everyone on earth has died. He only knows that, out in the world, something terrible is happening – something he's not willing to discover. So he barricades himself inside and tries to stay ignorant. That is, until twelve-year-old Ruby Sterling shows up at his doorstep, all alone.

The two have little in common. Matthew is old, strange, grumbly, and concerned only with figuring out what happened to his wife, who went missing months earlier. Ruby is serious, curious, and worried about the fate of her father and whether the future even exists. Neither wants much to do with the other. Which is why, when Ruby hears a voice on the radio telling people to come to a place called the Horizon, she's determined to find it, even if Matthew isn't.

But outside, he's the least of her problems, and she's the least of his. To survive, they must count on the last thing either expected: each other.

And the Horizon? It could be anywhere.

Or nowhere at all.

Vanishing Hour is a work of apocalyptic fiction unlike any other. As much a story about the beginning of an unlikely friendship as it is about the end of the world, it resonates on both the personal and social levels. You're not likely to forget this one anytime soon.





Francesca Momplaisir

My Mother's House
Knopf, May 12, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts
“A shockingly original exploration of class, race, and systemic violence . . . This house, tainted by the human evil it contains, is reminiscent of the opening line of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. And, like Morrison, Momplaisir uses the tropes of fantasy to try to assert truths that ordinary language and realistic imagery cannot communicate . . . Momplaisir’s debut introduces her as an author to watch.” –Kirkus

 For fans of Edwidge Danticat, Mehsin Hamid, Kate Atkinson, and Jesmyn Ward: a literary thriller about the complex underbelly of the immigrant American dream and the dangerous ripple effect one person’s damages can have on the lives of others–told unexpectedly by a house that has held unspeakable horrors

When Lucien flees Haiti with his wife, Marie-Ange, and their three children to New York City’s South Ozone Park, he does so hoping for reinvention, wealth, and comfort. He buys a rundown house in a community that is quickly changing from an Italian enclave of mobsters to a haven for Haitian immigrants, and begins life anew. Lucien and Marie-Ange call their home La Kay–“my mother’s house”–and it becomes a place where their fellow immigrants can find peace, a good meal, and legal help. But as a severely emotionally damaged man emigrating from a country whose evils he knows to one whose evils he doesn’t, Lucien soon falls into his worst habits and impulses, with La Kay as the backdrop for his lasciviousness. What he can’t even begin to fathom is that the house is watching, passing judgment, and deciding to put an end to all the sins it has been made to hold. But only after it has set itself aflame will frightened whispers reveal Lucien’s ultimate evil.

At once an uncompromising look at the immigrant experience and an electrifying page-turner, My Mother’s House is a singular, unforgettable achievement.





Shubhangi Swarup

Latitudes of Longing
One World, May 19, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts
A sweeping, lyrical debut about the love and longing between humanity and the earth itself, by a major new literary talent from India

“Astonishing and completely original, Shubhangi Swarup’s magical novel will change the way you see people—and landscapes, forests, the oceans, snow deserts.”—Nilanjana S. Roy

A spellbinding work of literature, Latitudes of Longing follows the interconnected lives of characters searching for true intimacy. The novel sweeps across India, from an island, to a valley, a city, and a snow desert, to tell a love story of epic proportions. We follow a scientist who studies trees and a clairvoyant who speaks to them; a geologist working to end futile wars over a glacier; octogenarian lovers; a mother struggling to free her revolutionary son; a yeti who seeks human companionship; a turtle who transforms first into a boat and then a woman; and the ghost of an evaporated ocean as restless as the continents. Binding them all together is a vision of life as vast as the universe itself.

A young writer awarded one of the most prestigious prizes in India for this novel, Shubhangi Swarup is a storyteller of extraordinary talent and insight. Richly imaginative and wryly perceptive, Latitudes of Longing offers a soaring view of humanity: our beauty and ugliness, our capacity to harm and love one another, and our mysterious and sacred relationship with nature.

Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2020 • Winner of the Tata Literature Live! Award for Debut Fiction • Longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature • Shortlisted for the JCB Prize for Indian Literature





Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House
Custom House, May 12, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

2020 Debut Author Challenge - May Debuts
“Elisabeth Thomas had me mesmerized from the first page. Dreamy and brimming with dread, Catherine House will swallow you whole."  — Rory Power, New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls

A gothic-infused debut of literary suspense, set within a secluded, elite university and following a dangerously curious, rebellious undergraduate who uncovers a shocking secret about an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.

Trust us, you belong here.

Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines Murillo, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. Even the school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves within the formidable iron gates of Catherine. For Ines, it is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had. But the House’s strange protocols soon make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

Interview with Corry L. Lee, author of Weave the Lightning


Please welcome Corry L. Lee to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Weave the Lightning was published on April 7, 2020 by Solaris.



Interview with Corry L. Lee, author of Weave the Lightning




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

Corry:  I was in 5th grade. My “novel,” written on loose leaf notebook paper, was about a group of aliens called rock-moose (moose-like sentients with a symbiotic relationship to the rock-like creatures living on their long, shaggy fur). The water on the surface of the world turned solid during the day. An expedition from Earth had portal-ed in and was having trouble. It was a hybrid first-contact / survival story.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Corry:  Hybrid. I work out the way-points of my plot before I start writing - the ending, big events, that sort of thing - but my efforts to do more substantial outlines tend not to be very productive.

I do always write up a full outline once I finish a draft, as it helps me see the book from a different perspective when I’m pondering a revision. And I’ve started writing revision outlines (of the thing I’m revising toward) to try and iron out some of the bugs before doing all that re-writing.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Corry:  Despite outlining only rough way-points for a draft, I like having a plan. My subconscious, on the other hand, is more like a squirrel, darting off after shiny ideas. Often those ideas are in fact better than the plan, but I still get pissed when stomping through uncharted idea-underbrush. “But whyyyyy?” I moan to all who will listen. Though I often later admit that, yes, the squirrel was chasing a diamond and not a shiny bottlecap.

I might need to make peace with the squirrel.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Corry:  N.K. Jemisin, Ann Leckie, Yoon Ha Lee, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Ann Patchett, Tanya Huff.

Also, I was (okay, still am and always will be) a huge Babylon 5 fan.



TQDescribe Weave the Lightning using only 5 words.

Corry:  Russian-inspired. Storm magic. Travelling circus.



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

Corry:  It’s about hope, trust, and building a better world. I’m fundamentally an optimist, and it shows.



TQWhat inspired you to write Weave the Lightning? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Corry:  I wanted to develop a big, crunchy magic system that tied deeply into characters’ emotional space. I love magic that feels rich and organic, as complex as the people wielding it. I also love when technology develops alongside magic, when the world is constantly evolving with power dynamics shifting.



TQWhich period in Russian history was your inspiration for Weave the Lightning?

Corry:  It’s a mash-up. Technology is 1910s era, but Bourshkanya is a secondary world with Russian-flavored culture, heavily influenced by storm magic. A fascist regime has held control for the last 20-odd years, becoming increasingly repressive. In its historical underpinnings, it’s a bit Soviet, a bit pre-WWII Germany.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Weave the Lightning?

Corry:  I read and watched a lot of WWI, WWII, and Soviet-era books, films, and documentaries. Stand-outs are Lucie Aubrac’s memoir Outwitting the Gestapo and the Newberry nominated Breaking Stalin’s Nose. I chewed on discussions of fascism, like Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism, and tried to understand how growing up under an oppressive regime affected a nation’s youth.

I also read and watched lots of circus-related material, which was much more fun!



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Weave the Lightning.

Corry:  I love the cover! It’s hard to see its full beauty in photos because the lightning bolt is spot-varnished, which means that if you tip the book back and forth, the lightning seems to flash!

The high wire walker stepping across the lightning is Celka Prochazka, a young female resistance fighter whose family are “The Amazing Prochazkas,” a travelling circus’s top-billed act of high wire walkers - modelled lightly off the real-life Flying Wallendas.



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

Corry:  Celka was the easiest. She’s bold and enthusiastic. She’s struggling to understand her magic and determined to fight the regime. She begins with a very clear sense of “right” and “wrong,” which ends up being challenged in interesting ways in the book.

Gerrit was much harder. He’s the son of the fascist state’s Supreme-General. He was trained at a top military mage academy, and so spent his life steeped in the regime’s “might makes right.” But he’s a good person at heart, if horribly entitled. Walking the line between making Gerrit the person his father wants him to be - who he’s spent his life striving to become - and a sympathetic character we can root for was an interesting challenge.



TQDoes Weave the Lightning touch on any social issues?

Corry:  Fantasy is often laden with sexism, even if the protagonists are female and the magic doesn’t discriminate along gender lines. I wanted to develop a society with deep-seated gender equality, because I believe in the power of fiction to light the way to a better world.

So despite being set in a fascist state with 1910s-era technology, women and men aren’t pigeon-holed into gender roles, non-binary pronouns are unremarkable, and love is love.



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

Corry:  Are there any hidden gems or call-outs?

The minor character named Lucie is named after Lucie Aubrac, an amazing woman in the WWII French resistance who stood up to some nasty Gestapo monsters in Lyon. She fought, she loved, and she did much of it while pregnant. She’s a real-life badass, so I wanted to salute her.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Weave the Lightning.

Corry:

“Most people thought time marched at an unwavering pace, each second as long as the next. Those people had never walked the wire.”

~~~

“Why are you staring at me like I have a bayonet sticking out of my chest?” he asked.

She huffed a surprised laugh. “You’re serious?”

He looked down at his chest. “Not about the bayonet.”



TQWhat's next?

Corry:  I’m currently revising Weave the Lightning’s sequel, The Storm’s Betrayal (due out in 2021). I love how it has given me a chance to open up the world and dig into different aspects of the magic system. Also, a new character (I don’t want to spoiler who, because they’re in the first book) gets a POV... and it’s delightful.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Corry:  Thank you for having me!





Weave the Lightning
Solaris, April 7, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Corry L. Lee, author of Weave the Lightning
Russian-inspired epic of magical revolution & romance

Empire. Revolution. Magic.

Gerrit is the son of Bourshkanya’s Supreme-General. Despite his powerful storm-affinity and the State’s best training, he can’t control his magic. To escape the brutal consequences, he flees.

Celka is a travelling circus performer, hiding both her link to the underground and her storm-affinity from the prying eyes of the secret police. But Gerrit’s arrival threatens to expose everything: her magic, her family, and the people they protect.

The storms have returned, and everything will change.





About Corry

Interview with Corry L. Lee, author of Weave the Lightning
Corry L. Lee is a science fiction and fantasy author, Ph.D. physicist, award-winning science teacher, data geek, and mom. In Ph.D. research at Harvard, she shed light on the universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang. At a major tech company, she connected science to technology, improving the customer experience through online experimentation. She’s currently obsessed with cross-country skiing, yoga, and single origin coffee. A transplant to Seattle, Washington from sunny Colorado, she is learning to embrace rainy days. Learn more at corrylee.com


Twitter  @CorryLLee  ~  Facebook

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