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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with David Williams, author of When the English Fall


Please welcome David Williams to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. When the English Fall was published on July 11th by Algonquin Books.



Interview with David Williams, author of When the English Fall




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

David:  I think I first started writing fiction when I was in sixth grade. I'd always been a reader...voracious, bordering on pathological...but had up until that point been perfectly happy to just daydream my own stories. I wrote throughout high school, and in college, but with kids and life and the like, it just faded.

Which was not a good thing.

I restarted it for my own sanity, and after some fits and starts, really got going again by getting engaged with National Novel Writing Month. When the English Fall was my first NaNo effort, from back in November of 2013. Having the productivity tools and a supportive community of folks going through the same struggle to create has been great for me.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

David:  A hybrid. I do a very small amount of planning...character names and sketches of their personae, and a vague plot arc, plus a working title that gives me a hazy view of the Platonic Form of the project...and then go right on into it. I discover the characters as I write them. Getting too deep into backstory and culture-mapping would just drain me, and impede the central task of just freakin' telling the story already. And anyhoo, "just making [stuff] up as you go along" is one of the most entertaining parts of spinning a yarn. Must be my Irish blood.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

David:  Finding that perfect balance between discipline and the vagaries of my muse. Maintaining focus on a single concept long enough to complete a novel-length work ain't easy. Coffee seems to help. As does NaNoWriMo. That month set aside to fling oneself at an idea really makes a difference for me.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

David:  I have always been an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy, and as a little boy must have read through my parents copy of Ray Bradbury's R IS FOR ROCKET about a dozen times. As a pup, I read the usual stuff...C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, with a smattering of Moorcock in my teen years, and a few more Piers Anthony books than I'd like to admit. I loved Steven King, from that first picking up of the Dead Zone as a bookish sixth grader. Heck, I still do, because he's such a brilliant natural teller of stories. In high school, there was also Dostoevsky and Camus and Sartre, because damn, was I moody.

My tastes shifted a little in early adulthood, when I tended much more towards hard and/or speculative science fiction. Ursula K. Leguin, Vernor Vinge, Neal Stephenson, and...particularly...the late lamented Ian M. Banks. His Culture novels, and his evocation of alien and AI mindstates? Amazing. Banks sublimed too soon.

Mostly, I read as much as I can, and as widely. You never know through what agency the strange stirrings of inspiration will be planted. That, and I take walks. Nothing sets the mind a-wandering like a good ramble.



TQDescribe When the English Fall in 140 characters or less.

David:  It's #literary #postapocalyptic #Amish #fiction, with a wee touch of magical realism. #likeatweet



TQTell us something about When the English Fall that is not found in the book description.

David:  A significant and recurring theme in the book is the relationship between writing and memory. It touches on how the act of writing either helps us process and overcome trauma or...alternately...simply becomes another way to ruminate and generate anxiety. This isn't particularly Amish, nor is it post apocalyptic. But it's a theme in the book.



TQWhat inspired you to write When the English Fall? What appealed to you about writing a post-apocalyptic novel?

David:  I'd always found the Amish fascinating, ever since I studied their culture for my senior seminar in Religious Studies at UVA. I found myself out for a walk one lunchtime many years later, right after reading an online essay about the Carrington Event, the largest solar storm to hit the earth in modern history. As I contemplated the impact of such a storm and how it would devastate our tech-addicted culture, I suddenly thought, huh, how would that impact the Amish? And wouldn't that be a fun story to write? Then the title just popped into my head, and I knew I'd have to try to put it to paper someday. I sat on it for years...per above, the kids were young, and life was crazy...but it always seemed like a story I'd need to tell.

And apocalypses are, well, as a genre they are about the stripping away of pretense, and about how crisis obliterates the norms we create. That form of storytelling is a great way of cutting to what matters.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for When the English Fall?

David:  I'd visited Lancaster County and Lancaster itself, so I had a general feel for the place. Because living amongst the Amish wasn't an option...what with a job, a working wife, and kids...I read a whole bunch of stuff written either by the Amish or by sociologists/ethnographers who gave deeper insights into the dynamics of their culture. I also spent time studying the science of solar storms, particularly histories of the Carrington Event and the potential impact of coronal mass ejections. It's not perfect ethnography, nor is it the definitive scientific treatise on the subject. My goal, primarily, was to tell a tale.



TQ Please tell us about the cover for When the English Fall.

David:  That was really cool. The artist's name is David High. He's done a bunch of other great stuff, for authors like Joyce Carol Oates and the like. He also...totally at random...spent his summers growing up in Lancaster County, where his grandmother made scherenschnitte...a finely wrought German paper and scissor art that's common among Mennonite communities. From that personal history he created a traditional tree pattern...representing life and harvest...split asunder by a single bolt from above. It captures the theme and feel of the book perfectly. It's subtle and elegant, and I really, really like it, which I made a point of telling him.



TQIn When the English Fall who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

David:  Almost all of the characters fell into place, so it's hard to say which one was easiest. Far and away the hardest was Jacob, the narrator. As the whole book is single point of view, getting his voice to work was an immense challenge. I took my first stab at writing the book back in 2012, and it just fell flat. I'd read the writings of Amish folk, and in trying to write what I felt was an accurate voice, I found I had created a narrator who was too plain and laconic to be engaging. To my Englischer sensibility, at least. I had to bail, scrap about 10,000 hard fought words, and just start again. He took a while.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in When the English Fall?

David:  Storytelling is one of the best ways to explore challenging issues. And yes, there's a bunch of that in When the English Fall, most particularly the role of violence in human culture. Here, an intentionally and determinedly nonviolent community deals with apocalypse, only without the usual array of firearms and indulgent savagery. There are guns, of course, because the Amish own them for hunting and farm use. But what is done with those guns reflects their values, in a way that's very much not Walking Dead material.

It's also a meditation on compassion, integrity, and "separateness." If we isolate ourselves from others...those we disagree with, those we consider dangerous to our sense of ourselves...can we be truly said to be compassionate? How do we set boundaries, without compromising our essential goodness as persons?



TQWhich question about When the English Fall do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

David:  In the opening journal entry, Sadie (the prescient, disturbed daughter of the Amish narrator who forsees the apocalyptic event) is crying out in what her father assumes is gibberish. It's not.

I want someone to say, hey, isn't that Korean? And I would answer, yes, yes it is. She's crying out, "Please help me, O God please help me." In Korean.

It's an Easter egg, meant to send a little shiver up the spine of any Koreans or Korean-Americans reading it. Because they suddenly are given secret knowledge that there's something very weird going on.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from When the English Fall.

David:  I like this little snippet, as falling leaves speak of the dying English:

"The air filled with leaves, torn down from the trees by the thousands, and by the tens of thousands. Like rain, dancing down all around us, brown and brittle. They filled the air, hissing like dried cat bones through the sky."



TQWhat's next?

David:  An excellent question. I mean, in the nearly four years since I finished WHEN THE ENGLISH FALL, I've drafted three full novel-length manuscripts, all of which I can re-read without too much retching. There's FROM THE WATER, a telling of the rise of AI, spun through the lenses of the Exodus story..think extraterrestrial AIs as Hebrew midwives, protecting one of their own. There's THE DESTROYER OF THE GODS, a post-post-apocalyptic tale, about an event that brings down the machine intelligences that conquered humanity. And there's THE EVANGELIST, a story of an earnest rural evangelical who inadvertently becomes the point person in our first contact with pandimensional beings (think a beneficent spin on Lovecraft's Elder Things.)

Which one comes next? I've got no clue. Depends who's interested.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

David:  You're most welcome! It was a pleasure. Thanks for having me!





When the English Fall
Algonquin Books, July 11, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 256 pages

Interview with David Williams, author of When the English Fall
A riveting and unexpected novel that questions whether a peaceful and nonviolent community can survive when civilization falls apart.

When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. Once-bright skies are now dark. Planes have plummeted to the ground. The systems of modern life have crumbled. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the peaceable community.

Seen through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob as he tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive?

David Williams’s debut novel is a thoroughly engrossing look into the closed world of the Amish, as well as a thought-provoking examination of “civilization” and what remains if the center cannot hold.





About David

Interview with David Williams, author of When the English Fall
David Williams © Joseph LeBlanc
David Williams is a theologian and pastor in the Presbyterian Church and the author of The Believer’s Guide to the Multiverse, a theological exploration of Christian faith and the cosmos. His writing has appeared in Wired magazine, The Christian Century, and OMNI. A lifelong D.C. resident, he now lives in Annandale, Va., with his wife and children. David blogs at www.belovedspear.org.








Facebook  ~  Twitter @BelovedSpear




Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors


Here are some of the upcoming novels by formerly featured DAC Authors! The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.


Jordanna Max Brodsky (2016)

Winter of the Gods
Olympus Bound 2
Orbit, July 11, 2017
Trade Paperback, 512 pages
Hardcover and eBook, February 14, 2017

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
"A lively re-imagining of classical mythology with an engaging premise, a page-turning plot, and an eye for the arresting and uncanny in contemporary urban life."--Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches

Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself.

Winter in New York: snow falls, lights twinkle, and a very disgruntled Selene DiSilva prowls the streets, knowing that even if she doesn't look for trouble, it always finds her.

When a dead body is discovered sprawled atop Wall Street's iconic Charging Bull statue, it's up to Selene to hunt down the perpetrators. Her ancient skills make her the only one who can track a conspiracy that threatens the very existence of the gods, including Selene-once known as Artemis.

Winter of the Gods is the much-anticipated new novel from the author of The Immortals.



Olympus Bound
Olympus Bound 3
Orbit, February 13, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
The Immortals is a lively re-imagining of classical mythology with an engaging premise, a page-turning plot, and an eye for the arresting and uncanny in contemporary urban life." --Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches

Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself

Summer in New York: a golden hour on the city streets, but a dark time for Selene. She's lost her home and the man she loves.

A cult hungry for ancient power has kidnapped her father and targeted her friends. To save them, Selene must face the past she's been running from - a past that stretches back millennia, to when the faithful called her Huntress. Moon Goddess. Artemis.

With the pantheon at her side, Selene must journey back to the seat of her immortal power: from the streets of Rome and the temples of Athens -- to the heights of Mount Olympus itself.





Thoraiya Dyer (2017)

Crossroads of Canopy
Titan's Forest Trilogy 1
Tor Books, January 23, 2018
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 31, 2017

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
[Hardcover Cover]
The highly-anticipated fantasy debut from Aurealis and Ditmar Award-winning author Thoraiya Dyer, set in a giant mythical rainforest controlled by living gods

At the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy’s position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nation’s opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy’s splendor.

Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents’ plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she wishes to become Audblayin’s next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy's slaves.

When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory – at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance…or grant it by destroying the home she loves.

“I am majorly impressed with Thoraiya Dyer's Crossroads of Canopy. A unique, gorgeous, and dangerous world, a stubborn female hero, and a writer to watch!”—Tamora Pierce



Echoes of Understorey
Titan's Forest Trilogy 2
Tor Books, February 13, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
Return to the mythical rainforest ruled by reincarnated gods in the quest fantasy Echoes of Understorey, the heart-pounding sequel to Thoraiya Dyer's Crossroads of Canopy.

Great deeds are expected of Imeris.

Raised by accomplished warriors and skilled healers, and being the sister to a goddess, Imeris always felt pressured to be the best fighter in Understorey. Yet during a mission to capture the body-snatching sorceress Kirrik, Imeris fails disastrously. With death on her conscience and in hiding from her peers, Imeris climbs up to the sun-kissed world of Canopy to learn new ways to defeat Kirrik. What she doesn’t expect is to be recruited in a Hunt for the Ages, against a terrifying divine monster that will take all of her skills to stop.

"I am majorly impressed. A unique, gorgeous, and dangerous world!”—Tamora Pierce





Stephanie Knipper (2016)

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
Algonquin Books, August 15, 2017
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Hardcover and eBook, August 2, 2016

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
In the spirit of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers–and with a touch of the magical–The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a spellbinding debut about a wondrously gifted child and the family that she helps to heal.  

Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when growing up on their family’s Kentucky flower farm yet became distant as adults when Lily found herself unable to deal with the demands of Rose’s unusual daughter. But when Rose becomes ill, Lily is forced to return to the farm and to confront the fears that had driven her away.

Rose’s daughter, ten-year-old Antoinette, has a form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness–she can heal with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor’s tremors disappear, and even changes the course of nature on the flower farm.

Antoinette’s gift, though, comes at a price, since each healing puts her own life in jeopardy. As Rose–the center of her daughter’s life–struggles with her own failing health and Lily confronts her anguished past, the sisters, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.

Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be different, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

“This is the kind of book that invites you home, sits you down at the kitchen table, and feeds you something delicious and homemade. You will want to stay in this world where new relationships bloom out of broken ones, sisters find one another again, and miracles really do occur.” —Tiffany Baker





Review: Brightwood by Tania Unsworth


Brightwood
Author:  Tania Unsworth
Publisher:  Algonquin Young Readers, September 27, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages
List Price:  US$16.95 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9781616203306 (print); 9781616206598 (eBook)

Review: Brightwood by Tania Unsworth
In this spine-tingling tale where the line between imagination and madness is sometimes hard to find, a girl fights to save her home and her life from a mysterious stranger.

Daisy Fitzjohn knows there are two worlds: the outside world and the world of Brightwood Hall, her home—and the only place she’s ever been. Daisy and her mother have never needed a life beyond Brightwood Hall, with its labyrinth of rooms, many animals, and stores of supplies. Daisy has no computer or phone, but she has all the friends she could want, including a mischievous talking rat named Tar and a ghostly presence of a long-ago explorer who calls herself Frank.

When Daisy’s mother leaves one morning without saying goodbye, a strange visitor, James Gritting, arrives on the estate claiming to be a distant cousin. But as the days tick by and Daisy’s mother doesn’t return, Gritting becomes more and more menacing. He wants to claim Brightwood for himself, and Daisy soon realizes he will do anything to get it. With no one to help her but her imaginary friends, Daisy must use her wits and her courage to survive.

Tania Unsworth takes readers on a twisting, heart-pounding journey through dark corridors and wild, untamed gardens in this novel perfect for fans of Doll Bones and Coraline.



Tracey's / Trinitytwo's Point of View

Eleven year old Daisy loves Brightwood Hall. Although Daisy and her mother live there alone, Daisy has many unique friends that keep her company. For example, Tar, her pet rat, joins her for meals, and she enjoys feeding the birds and the rabbits that live in the overgrown lawn. The portraits of long deceased relatives speak to her, as do the stone lions guarding the gate of the crumbling estate. One morning, Daisy's mother leaves on an errand and simply doesn't return. Daisy is anxious and confused. They have no telephone and in all her eleven years, Daisy has never left Brightwood. Ever. When a strange man appears on the premises, Daisy must undertake a journey of self-discovery and introspection or she may lose everything she holds dear.

I didn't know what to expect from Brightwood. The book's beautiful cover made me think it would be somewhat whimsical and it is, right before it becomes scary. It has a Tim Burton-esque feel to it that is eerily appealing. Although the villain is motivated by a common theme, the presentation and the setting of this story make it unique and interesting. The events take place in the span of one week which ratchets up the tension masterfully. And Daisy is a great heroine; despite living an oddly sheltered life, she is able to problem solve and make deductions with only a little help from Tar and an unexpected spectral visitor. At the heart of the story, author Tania Unsworth tackles topics such as mental illness, grief, and depression, yet she also celebrates resiliency, determination and ingenuity. I would definitely recommend this YA book to tweens and young teens who enjoy a thrilling page-turner. Brightwood is a winner.

2016 DAC Cover Wars - August Winner


The winner of the August 2016 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper from Algonquin Books with 38% of all votes.

The Jacket Design is by Laura Klynstra and the Jacket Photograph is by Paul Knight / Trevillion Images.


The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
Algonquin Books, August 2, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

2016 DAC Cover Wars - August Winner
In the spirit of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers--and with a touch of the magical--The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a spellbinding debut about a wondrously gifted child and the family that she helps to heal.  

Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when growing up on their family’s Kentucky flower farm yet became distant as adults when Lily found herself unable to deal with the demands of Rose’s unusual daughter. But when Rose becomes ill, Lily is forced to return to the farm and to confront the fears that had driven her away.

Rose’s daughter, ten-year-old Antoinette, has a form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness--she can heal with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor’s tremors disappear, and even changes the course of nature on the flower farm.

Antoinette’s gift, though, comes at a price, since each healing puts her own life in jeopardy. As Rose--the center of her daughter’s life--struggles with her own failing health and Lily confronts her anguished past, the sisters, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.

Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be different, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

“This is the kind of book that invites you home, sits you down at the kitchen table, and feeds you something delicious and homemade. You will want to stay in this world where new relationships bloom out of broken ones, sisters find one another again, and miracles really do occur.” —Tiffany Baker




The Results

2016 DAC Cover Wars - August Winner




The August 2016 Debut Covers

2016 DAC Cover Wars - August Winner

Interview with Stephanie Knipper, author of The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin


Please welcome Stephanie Knipper to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin was published on August 2nd by Algonquin Books.



Interview with Stephanie Knipper, author of The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Stephanie:  Thank you! It’s a pleasure to be here.

I started writing when I was in third grade. A poet came to our school. She gave each of us journals and held “workshops” for several weeks. I loved it! I was already a big reader, but it wasn’t until meeting her that I realized someone had actually written all those books I loved. I still remember the wonder I felt when I realized that I could do that too.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Stephanie:  I’m definitely a panster! I’ve tried plotting but it just doesn’t work for me. Once I have the character(s) in mind and a bit of the story-line, I start writing. In general I only have the characters, a setting, and the vaguest notion of plot when I start writing.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Stephanie:  Well, I have six kids so finding the time to write while managing all of them is definitely the hardest thing! Other than that, the first draft always makes me want to pull my hair out. I’m always relieved when that first draft is finished, because that’s when I can really start to see the shape of the book.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Stephanie:  So many things. I’m inspired by great stories, genre doesn’t matter. If I fall in love with the characters, I’ll keep reading. Music inspires me. Often I’ll hear a song and it will trigger a story idea. I especially love American folk music. Patty Griffin is a particular favorite of mine right now. I also derive a great deal of inspiration from the land around me. I come from a long line of Kentucky farmers, and although as a society, we’ve become somewhat removed from the land, I always feel better with my hands in the dirt. But most of all, I’m driven to write because I’m a mother. I found my voice, and the issues that matter most to me after I had children. Several of my children have special needs. Through them, I’ve learned that although some of us might seem “different”, we’re more alike than we realize.



TQDescribe The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin in 140 characters or less.

Stephanie:  Estranged sisters reunite to care for a girl with both severe special needs and the ability to heal people.



TQTell us something about The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin that is not found in the book description.

Stephanie:  The book is as much a love song to the land of Kentucky as it is about the love of family.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin? What appeals to you about writing a contemporary novel "...with a touch of the magical..."?

StephanieThe Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin was inspired by two events in my life. The first was the birth of my son. My husband and I endured several years of infertility when I finally got pregnant without medical intervention. We were overjoyed, but our happiness was short-lived. I went into preterm labor, and our son was delivered 10 weeks early.

He was little but fine. I, however, wasn’t so lucky. I had developed peritonitis, a life-threatening abdominal infection. I was on life-support and spent six weeks in the hospital. I was later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. After I recovered, I started wondering what it would be like if my story hadn’t had a happy ending. What if instead of a manageable illness like Crohn’s, I was diagnosed with something fatal? What would it be like for a child to grow up knowing her birth had (indirectly) caused her mother’s death?

The story didn’t fully form though until a few years later. My husband and I decided we wanted more children, but given my history, pregnancy wasn’t an option for us. We decided to adopt from China. We were matched with a little girl who had a small heart condition that had been surgically corrected. We flew to China in December of 2005 and met our daughter, Grace.

When we got there, we realized that something was very wrong with Grace. Her needs were much more severe than had been stated. We were faced with the decision to either leave her in China where she would likely be labeled as unadoptable and left to die, or bring her home and face the unknown.

We brought her home. I secretly hoped that we would be that family you hear about where love magically makes everything better. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Grace was diagnosed with tuberculosis, fitted with ankle braces, started having seizures, and was diagnosed with severe developmental delays and autism.

It took a long time for me to adjust, and honestly I spent most of that first year with Grace in tears, overwhelmed by all of her needs. But gradually, life improved, and I started thinking about my story idea again. But this time I wondered, What if the child losing her mother was a child like Grace? How would a child with severe special needs cope with a sick mother? With that thought, the character of Antoinette was born, and the rest of the story fell into place.

Antoinette’s magical ability to heal didn’t come into play until later. One of the things that people with special needs face is a lack of control. My daughter Grace can’t control her own body. She can’t speak. She can’t use a fork or a spoon to feed herself. She’s twelve and still in diapers. Often, this lack of control over her life frustrates her.

Antoinette has similar challenges when it comes to controlling her body and speaking. I wanted to give her something that she had control over in her life. That’s where the healing ability came into play. Antoinette can’t say the words, “I love you, Mommy,” but she can express that love by attempting to heal her mother.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin?

Stephanie:  I was already a gardener when I started writing the book, but I wanted a deeper understanding of flower growing so I enrolled in a Master Gardener certification course through my county extension center. In addition, the character of Lily is fascinated by the Victorian language of flowers so I spent a lot of time researching meanings for various flowers. I also talked to several people dealing with physical and/or mental difficulties in order to accurately portray the characters of Antoinette and Lily.



TQIn The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Stephanie:  Antoinette was definitely the easiest. This might seems strange given her limitations, but she is modeled after my daughter, Grace, who is severely disabled. While writing Antoinette, I pictured my daughter, Grace, which made it easy for me to get into Antoinette’s mind.

Lily was probably the hardest character to write. She’s very analytical and has a strong aptitude for numbers—the exact opposite of me! In addition, when writing Lily, I had to tap into the pieces of my life that I wasn’t particularly proud of; for example, the fear and anxiety I felt when we discovered that our daughter Grace was disabled. To do Lily’s character justice, I had to wade into my darker emotions and that was uncomfortable at times.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin?

Stephanie:  I never consciously choose to include or exclude any issue when I’m writing. The characters dictate what shows up in the story. In this case, Antoinette is severely disabled, so the way she interacted with society and conversely, the way society interacted with her were issues that made their way into the story. In addition, the book is very much about what it feels like to be “different” which is something that I think a lot of people have felt. You don’t have to be disabled to be excluded, and I wanted very much to explore the pain caused by not fitting in.



TQWhich question about The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Stephanie:

Question: Are you Team Will or Team Seth?
Answer: I could never pick just one. I love them both!



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin.

Stephanie:  

         “You’re the only one who sees me. Not my messed-up family. Just me. Do you know what a gift that is? To be able to be myself around someone?”
         “Everyone’s life is hard in some way. Yours just happens to be easier to see than most.”



TQWhat's next?

Stephanie:  Right now I’m finishing up my second novel and starting to work on the third.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephanie:  Thank you for having me!






The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
Algonquin Books, August 2, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Stephanie Knipper, author of The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
In the spirit of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers--and with a touch of the magical--The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a spellbinding debut about a wondrously gifted child and the family that she helps to heal.  

Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when growing up on their family’s Kentucky flower farm yet became distant as adults when Lily found herself unable to deal with the demands of Rose’s unusual daughter. But when Rose becomes ill, Lily is forced to return to the farm and to confront the fears that had driven her away.

Rose’s daughter, ten-year-old Antoinette, has a form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness--she can heal with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor’s tremors disappear, and even changes the course of nature on the flower farm.

Antoinette’s gift, though, comes at a price, since each healing puts her own life in jeopardy. As Rose--the center of her daughter’s life--struggles with her own failing health and Lily confronts her anguished past, the sisters, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.

Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be different, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

“This is the kind of book that invites you home, sits you down at the kitchen table, and feeds you something delicious and homemade. You will want to stay in this world where new relationships bloom out of broken ones, sisters find one another again, and miracles really do occur.” —Tiffany Baker





About Stephanie

Interview with Stephanie Knipper, author of The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
Stephanie was born and raised in Kentucky, where her love of books began at a young age. Her mother fostered that love with weekly trips to the library. Though they struggled financially, Stephanie's mother always made sure she had books. At the same time, Stephanie's father began cultivating her love of the land. He taught her the best time to harvest blueberries and which plants tolerated the thick Kentucky soil.

Stephanie's twin loves of literature and land would shape her life. She went on to major in English at Northern Kentucky University (later earning her Master's degree in English from the same university), and she studied to become a Master Gardener.

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is Stephanie's debut novel. The title character, a young non-verbal girl, was inspired by Stephanie's daughter, Grace. Stephanie and her husband adopted Grace from China in 2005 unaware that she had several severe special needs.

Stephanie lives in Kentucky with her husband and six children, five of whom were adopted from China with various special needs. She is currently at work on her second novel.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @sknipper

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Peculiar Miracles of Antionette Martin by Stephanie Knipper


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Peculiar Miracles of Antionette Martin by Stephanie Knipper


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.


Stephanie Knipper

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
Algonquin Books, August 2, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Peculiar Miracles of Antionette Martin by Stephanie Knipper
In the spirit of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers--and with a touch of the magical--The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a spellbinding debut about a wondrously gifted child and the family that she helps to heal.  

Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when growing up on their family’s Kentucky flower farm yet became distant as adults when Lily found herself unable to deal with the demands of Rose’s unusual daughter. But when Rose becomes ill, Lily is forced to return to the farm and to confront the fears that had driven her away.

Rose’s daughter, ten-year-old Antoinette, has a form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness--she can heal with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor’s tremors disappear, and even changes the course of nature on the flower farm.

Antoinette’s gift, though, comes at a price, since each healing puts her own life in jeopardy. As Rose--the center of her daughter’s life--struggles with her own failing health and Lily confronts her anguished past, the sisters, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.

Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be different, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

“This is the kind of book that invites you home, sits you down at the kitchen table, and feeds you something delicious and homemade. You will want to stay in this world where new relationships bloom out of broken ones, sisters find one another again, and miracles really do occur.” —Tiffany Baker

Reviews: Jackaby and Beastly Bones by William Ritter


Jackaby
Author:  William Ritter
Series:  Jackaby 1
Publisher:  Algonquin Books, August 25, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback, 304 pages
     Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $16.95 (Hardcover); $9.95 (Trade Paperback);
     9781616204341 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781616203535 (Hardcover); 9781616205461 (Trade Paperback)
     $9.95 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Trade Paperback provided by the Publisher

Reviews:  Jackaby and Beastly Bones by William Ritter
Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain the foul deeds are the work of the kind of creature whose very existence the local authorities--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--seem adamant to deny.


Trinitytwo's Point of View

The year is 1892 and adventuresome Abigail Rook has recently arrived via merchant ship to the New England port town of New Fiddleham. Abigail has nowhere to stay, is short on funds, and desperately needs a job when she comes across an advertisement for an assistant in an investigative service paying $8.00 per week. Presenting herself at 926 Augur Lane, she soon learns that this is no ordinary detective agency. Instead, Abigail learns that her potential employer, R.F. Jackaby, specializes in the paranormal and has a gift for detecting supernatural beings. Abigail is skeptical but is determined to keep an open mind. She accompanies him to a murder scene where Jackaby senses the aura of the murderer, an unknown paranormal being of a highly malicious nature. Together, Jackaby and Abigail discover that the murderer is in fact a supernatural serial killer whose brutal spree is far from over.

Jackaby, a paranormal detective story by William Ritter, is an exciting romp through old New England seen through the eyes of the extremely likable Abigail Rook. Abigail's back story underscores her thirst for adventure and she is an excellent foil to the supernatural investigator's somewhat dubious methods of cracking a case. Jackaby is delightfully reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, and the fact that he specializes in the preternatural gives this series an exciting twist. Like Sherlock, Jackaby is brilliant but socially awkward and Abigail, who deduces mundane clues often beyond her employer's grasp, completes the puzzle as the perfect Watson.

Jackaby is satisfyingly unconventional and his eccentricities, such as sharing his home/office with both a beautiful ghost and a duck, who was once his assistant, add a flavor of the pleasantly unpredictable. His matter-of-fact introduction of various types of supernatural creatures to Abigail is entertaining and kept me amused and engaged.

I like everything about this YA novel. Abigail and Jackaby's search to track down a supernatural serial killer makes it a page-turner, and as the body count surged, so did my adrenaline. I highly recommend Jackaby; it's a winning combination of wit and whimsy with characters that are earnest and likable. It's filled with enough mayhem and mystery to leave its readers craving more.




Beastly Bones
Author:  William Ritter
Series:  Jackaby 2
Publisher:  Algonquin Books, September 22, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price: $17.95 (print); 17.95 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781616203542 (print); 9781616205539 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Reviews:  Jackaby and Beastly Bones by William Ritter
“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality . . .”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad’s Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

Beastly Bones, the second installment in the series, delivers the same quirky humor and unforgettable characters as Jackaby, the book the Chicago Tribune called “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”


Trinitytwo's Point of View

In Beastly Bones, the second installment in the Jackaby series, paranormal detective R.F. Jackaby and his young assistant Abigail Rook are sent on assignment to the rural town of Gad's Valley. A perfect set of dinosaur bones have been unearthed on Hugo Brisbee's farm, but on the heels of this momentous discovery comes a brazen theft and a baffling death by unnatural causes. Another body turns up in New Fiddleham with an identical cause of death. Due to the unusual circumstances, the acting Police Commissioner feels that only someone with Jackaby's unique skill set can solve the case. Shape-shifting police officer Charlie Cane, who has recently transferred to Gad's Valley, concurs with the Police Commissioner's assessment. Together, with Jackaby's friend Hank Hudson, a hunter of rare and extraordinary creatures, the trio must discover the secrets surrounding the Beastly Bones.

Not as strong or as fast-paced as its predecessor, William Ritter's second offering in the Jackaby series still delivers a fresh and exciting adventure. Ritter's portrayal of both his major and minor characters is flawless; it's the story itself that lacks the same bite. Part of the problem is the loose ends. For example, much time and effort is spent on 926 Augur Lane's resident ghost and questions about her mysterious past, but maddeningly no answers are provided, just the promise of some in the future.

Abigail's frustration at never being able to accompany her famous father on any of his archaeological digs was put to good use. She revels in the opportunity to work on an actual site, but the incessant bickering of the rival paleontologists and the tedious dig ended up weakening the story.

Beastly Bones is at its best when Jackaby and Abigail engage in their special brand of bantering. While their professional relationship is similar to Sherlock and Watson, Abigail's attention to detail complements Jackaby's brilliant deductions which puts them on a more even keel. Abigail possesses a vibrancy and enthusiasm lacking in Watson. The fact that she is not afraid to kick her employer in the shins if he needs it makes her even more likable.

Reading book one in this YA series is not a necessity, but I would definitely recommend it. Beastly Bones is a solid follow-up into William Ritter's humorous and horror-filled fantasy world. Reluctant readers rejoice, this series is a gem.

Interview with Gregory Sherl, author of The Future for Curious People - September 11, 2014


Please welcome Gregory Sherl to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Future for Curious People was published on September 2, 2014 by Algonquin Books.



Interview with Gregory Sherl, author of The Future for Curious People - September 11, 2014




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Gregory:  I began writing (with the realization that I was writing) when I was nineteen. I had dropped out of college and moved back home. My life was directionless. I got a job at Starbucks, which was terrible—I couldn’t handle the stress of making people’s drinks. I was always so worried about screwing up an order for a caramel macchiato or a latte, which often happened. (Pathetic, I know.) At the time I was searching—a theme that can be found through most of my writing—for anything. A purpose to go back to school; something to attach my name to. A couple months after dropping out of college, I visited my old high school English teacher. I asked her what I should do with my life. She said two words. She said, “Go write.”

I have ever since.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Gregory:  Is there something in between? I’ll call myself a desperate—if I’ve got an idea, all the better; if not, I’ll take whatever my mind will give me at the time.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How has being a poet influenced your prose writing?

Gregory:  The most challenging thing lately has been finding the time to write. When I was working on The Future for Curious People, all I had was time. But lately, I’m finding that I don’t have enough time. This is new for me (but then again, so is growing up).

I was focusing solely on poetry for about three years before diving into The Future for Curious People. I’m glad you asked me this question because I’ve thought about it a lot. I was a fiction writer before I was a poet, but devoting all of my writing to poetry for so long had a huge effect on my prose writing. For one, I had forgotten how to write a scene. I was used to writing a poem—a page or two in length that would be a singular self-contained piece of work. Scenes involved so much more. They involved scenes that led to other scenes that led to other scenes. They had to fit together, this puzzle of sorts. The upside of working solely on poetry before starting on the novel was that it allowed me to strengthen my voice, the language that went into my sentences, into my scenes. This translated into my prose.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Gregory:  Kanye West and Bob Hicok.



TQ:   Describe The Future For Curious People in 140 characters or less.

Gregory:  Where love dies and then is found and almost dies again. Also, bunnies, swim lessons on benches, and the Babymakers.

Or:

What Lloyd Dobler would read if he wasn’t too busy holding up a boombox.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Future For Curious People that is not in the book description.

Gregory:  Doing abstract art as a form of couple’s therapy is not a good way to fix a relationship.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Future For Curious People?

Gregory:  First, I should mention the collaboration process that went into writing The Future for Curious People. (There's an author's note in the back of the novel explaining this.) The original idea for The Future for Curious People came from Julianna Baggott—a bestselling novelist and poet who has published more books than I have fingers or toes. I met Julianna as an undergraduate at Florida State University. I took her fiction workshop and then I took her fiction workshop again and in these workshops is where I began developing as a writer. Julianna has been a mentor ever since.

At the time I started working on the novel, I was an Adjunct English Instructor at a community college by my parents' house. I had moved back home at twenty-seven, after dropping out of graduate school. (Insert more of that searching theme here.) When Julianna approached me about the book, it was one of those aha! moments. I was concerned about my own future, or lack of one. The struggles of the characters in the novel were the same struggles I was dealing with myself. I grew excited with possibilities. What if this was true? What if we really could see our futures? What if we knew we were destined to be alone? What if we knew if we’d ever find out what happiness was? What the hell is happiness? I had to be a part of it.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Future For Curious People?

Gregory:  There's a scene about halfway through the book where Godfrey wanders into a convenience store. He's looking to get drunk and bold, but he left his wallet at home and, because of circumstances, going home to retrieve his wallet just isn’t an option. But Godfrey finds thirteen dollars balled up in a pocket of his pants. The novel takes place during a Baltimore winter, so I decided he should be drinking whiskey, but I’m not a big drinker, and know very little about whiskey. What could Godfrey buy with thirteen dollars? Well, the Internet told me, a bottle of Evan Williams, which the Internet reassured me, cost a cool $11.99.



TQ:  In The Future For Curious People who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Gregory:  The easiest was probably Adam Greenberg, a patron of the library that Evelyn and Dot work at. An aficionado of sweater vests and maybe prescription glasses. I imagined what a love child of Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and my best friend, who the character is named after, would look like.

He would look a lot like Adam Greenberg.

The most difficult character had to be Evelyn Shriner. Before The Future for Curious People, I had never written in a woman’s voice. I was hesitant, and Evelyn’s chapters took much longer to write than Godfrey’s—the novel alternates points of view between the two characters—but the challenge was half the fun.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoliery lines from The Future For Curious People.

Gregory:  “Is anyone thinking about me right now? If not, do I exist just a little less?”



TQ:  What's next?

Gregory:  I just finished a new poetry manuscript, currently titled Is This Fire, and I've started work on my next prose project. I'm incredibly excited about both, and I hope they get the chance to crawl themselves into the world one day.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Gregory:  Thank you for letting me join you at The Qwillery!





The Future for Curious People
Algonquin Books, September 2, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Gregory Sherl, author of The Future for Curious People - September 11, 2014
“Comic and Exuberant . . . A fine and tender tale for anyone who has tried to let go of the past and envision the future while falling in love.” —Rhonda Riley, author of The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope

What if you could know your romantic future? What if an envisionist could enter the name of your prospective mate into a computer that would show you a film of your future life together?

In The Future for Curious People, a young librarian named Evelyn becomes obsessed with this new technology: she can’t stop visiting Dr. Chin’s office because she needs to know that she’ll meet someone and be happy one day. Godfrey, another client, ends up at the envisionist’s office only because his fiancée insisted they know their fate before taking the plunge. But when Godfrey meets Evelyn in the waiting room, true love may be right in front of them, but they are too preoccupied—and too burdened by their pasts—to recognize it.

This smart, fresh love story, with its quirky twists and turns, ponders life’s big questions—about happiness, fate, and our very existence—as it follows Evelyn and Godfrey’s quest for the elusive answers.

“A love story about love stories . . . The pages burst with laugh-out-loud scenes and crisply original set-ups. I loved it!” —Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine

“Somewhere between Jorge Luis Borge’s ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind you will find Gregory Sherl’s warm, intelligent debut novel.” —Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State

“Enormously appealing . . . Evelyn and Godfrey are two unforgettable characters you’ll root for and remember long after you’ve read the last page of this wildly  original, deeply moving novel.” —Mindy Friddle, author of Secret Keepers





About Gregory

Gregory Sherl's debut novel, The Future for Curious People, is out now from Algonquin Books. He is also the author of three collections of poetry, including The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail, shortlisted for the 2012 Believer Poetry Award. He can be found online at www.gregorysherl.net.


Interview with David Williams, author of When the English FallCovers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC AuthorsReview: Brightwood by Tania Unsworth2016 DAC Cover Wars - August WinnerInterview with Stephanie Knipper, author of The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Peculiar Miracles of Antionette Martin by Stephanie KnipperReviews:  Jackaby and Beastly Bones by William RitterInterview with Gregory Sherl, author of The Future for Curious People - September 11, 2014

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