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Review: The Well by Catherine Chanter


The Well
AuthorCatherine Chanter
Publisher:  Atria Books, May 19, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $25.00 (print)
ISBN:  9781476772769 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Well by Catherine Chanter
From the winner of the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, a brilliantly haunting and suspenseful debut set in modern-day Britain where water is running out everywhere except at The Well—the farm of one seemingly ordinary family whose mysterious good fortune leads to suspicion, chaos, and ultimately a shocking act of violence.

Ruth Ardingly has just been released from prison to serve out a sentence of house arrest for arson and suspected murder at her farm, The Well. Beyond its borders, some people whisper she is a witch; others a messiah. For as soon as Ruth returns to The Well, rain begins to fall on the farm. And it has not rained anywhere else in the country in over three years.

Ruth and her husband Mark had moved years before from London to this ancient idyll in the hopes of starting their lives over. But then the drought began, and as the surrounding land dried up and died, and The Well grew lush and full of life, they came to see their fortune would come at a price. From the envy of their neighbors to the mandates of the government, from the fanaticism of a religious order called the Sisters of the Rose to the everyday difficulties of staying close as husband and wife, mother and child—all these forces led to a horrifying crime: the death of their seven-year-old grandson, drowned with cruel irony in one of the few ponds left in the countryside.

Now back at The Well, Ruth must piece together the tragedy that shattered her marriage, her family, and her dream. For she believes her grandson’s death was no accident, and that the murderer is among the people she trusted most. Alone except for her guards on a tiny green jewel in a world rapidly turning to dust, Ruth begins to confront her worst fears and learns what really happened in the dark heart of The Well.

A tour de force about ordinary people caught in the tide of an extraordinary situation, Catherine Chanter’s The Well is a haunting, beautifully written, and utterly believable novel that probes the fragility of our personal relationships and the mystical connection between people and the places they call home.



Deb's Review

Water impacts all of us on the most basic level. It sustains all life. It's used in manufacturing, transportation, and in the production of electricity among so many other things. If it stopped raining tomorrow and the reservoirs ran dry, how would it impact you? Life without water is scarcely life at all. Now imagine that you are the only one in the country with access to water. You and your property will thrive while all around you withers and dies. Welcome to The Well, where you will be envied and feared, hated and worshipped.

In Catherine Chanter's debut novel, The Well, Ruth Ardingly and her husband Mark leave London to escape a scandal that he cannot seem to shake. At the beginning of a dry spell, they purchase the titular farm in the English countryside for its remote location and postcard charm. They make new friends, entertain her daughter Angie and grandson Lucien, and make a go of Mark's dream of self-sufficient living. All is right in their lush corner of the world until the dry spell turns into a deadly drought, and the only place where rain continues to fall is at The Well. The Ardinglys' inexplicable good fortune attracts the attention of their envious neighbors, the press, a suspicious government, and an order of nuns, The Sisters of the Rose, who have a particular interest in the property, and in Ruth. With this powder keg of conflicting interests, something is bound to go wrong.

The story opens after everything has come crashing down, and Ruth is being transported from prison back to The Well. She is being placed under house arrest for arson and her involvement in an unspecified death. Allowed only the company of the three soldiers guarding her and an occasional visit from a local priest, she is truly isolated from the world. She passes her empty hours piecing together the events leading up to her arrest, hoping to solve the murder and finally find some semblance of peace.

It's difficult to tell if Ruth is an unreliable narrator and, by extension, the motives of those around her. She and Mark have weathered many hardships in their marriage and have stood together throughout, but after the London scandal can he really be trusted? Angie, a recovering addict, is frequently at odds with her mother and lives an unconventional life with a traveling group of friends who are also in recovery. Is she an appropriate influence on young Lucien, and should Ruth take a stand against this vagabond existence for her only grandchild? And while the Sisters of the Rose offer Ruth a sense of purpose and belonging, what do they really want?

Although The Well is a murder mystery, to simply categorize it that way is to do it an injustice. It is not an action packed story, but a beautifully written time-lapse view of the Ardinglys' days at The Well. Chanter has a lovely, ethereal style that suits the story, but might not be everyone's cup of tea. I would still recommend this book to anyone with a love of character-driven fiction. Ruth is authentically flawed and fascinating: all at once nurturing and uncertain, bright and naive, needy and headstrong, sympathetic and selfish. The hidden pieces of the story revealed in the last handful of chapters, and the consequences accepted by those still standing, left me unexpectedly teary-eyed.

I also want to make mention of the website, The Ardingly Well. Intended to be Ruth's blog to keep their London friends apprised of the goings-on at The Well, it is a nice companion piece to the book, but I was disappointed to find so few entries. I believe the site was only maintained until the UK release of the book in March.

The Well is the sort of book that can prompt a sort of empathetic self-examination of personal connections and priorities. Ruth's story will, I believe, stay with me for quite some time. This is truly an exceptional debut.

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015


Please welcome Douglas Nicholas to The Qwillery. Throne of Darkness, the 3rd novel in the Something Red series, will be published on March 31st by Atria/Emily Bestler Books.



Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015




TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Throne of Darkness is the 3rd novel in the Something Red series. Tell us something about Throne of Darkness that is not found in the book description. How far after The Wicked does Throne of Darkness take place?

Douglas:  Thanks for having me!

One thing that’s not mentioned in the book description is that we learn quite a bit more about Hob’s earliest memories. Throne of Darkness takes place about three years after the end of The Wicked; Hob is nearly 18 and Nemain is nearly 19 in this book.



TQ:  How does being a poet affect (or not) your novel writing?

Douglas:   I think it has a great deal to do with my prose “voice”; a tendency to vivid use of language, attention to the music in a phrase, and a search for the telling image—see the third example from the book, below. There’s also a slightly elevated, slightly formal tinge to the writing.



TQ:  How has your novel writing process changed over the course of the 3 novels in the Something Red series?

Douglas:  I don’t know that it has changed, much—I still need to have an idea of the arc of the story before I get started. In Something Red I stumbled upon a tripartite division of the book, with each part devoted to a different (and ultimately deceptive) refuge—The Monastery, The Inn, The Castle. I liked this three-part structure so much that I’ve decided to keep it for all four novels.



TQ:  Over the course of the 3 novels, Something Red (2012), The Wicked (2014) and Throne of Darkness (2015) which character has surprised you the most? Which character has changed the most?

Douglas:  I think that to some extent the character that surprised me the most was Milo the ox. Molly has named him “Milo” because somewhere in her travels she has heard or even read—she’s intellectually formidable, our Molly, and has a wide circle of friends, and knows a great many things—the story about Milo of Croton, who lifted a calf in his youth and, in a triumph of progressive resistance, became a strongman as the calf grows to a bull. (This won’t work in real life, folks, because calves grow up too fast, but the principle is sound.) Hob’s very fond of him, and calls him “Lambkin” when no one else is about, an affectionate nickname he only barely remembers from before his parents were killed.

I knew oxen were timid, at least relative to bulls, and I had Milo hide his face against Hob’s chest early in Something Red when the cry of the monster is heard in the forest. Later in the book I had Milo try to conceal himself from a fierce wild bull by putting his head behind Hob’s back, with the idea that “if I can’t see the bull, the bull can’t see me.” After the publication of the book a friend told me that she had visited a woman who kept two oxen, that the animals were very shy, and that one of them had hid his face behind his “mom.” I felt an affection toward this big, amiable, slothful, timid animal, and so I kept giving him more and more business to do, and people would write and say how much they loved this nonhuman and very peripheral character. That was surprising to me.

I think Hob has changed, and will change, the most. He’s a boy, after all, when the first book begins. Nemain is also growing up, but she is a year older than Hob, and has led a more varied existence, and is by training and heredity a priestess of the Mórrígan and a warrior queen in her own right, back in Erin, so she’s more grownup from the beginning. Hob is a teenager from a time before teenagers were a tribe unto themselves: you were a child, and you wanted to take your place in the adult world, and as soon as possible, you did so, imitating the adults, who knew more than you did. He’s a good person, but he’s not a goody-goody type—he’s just aware that those around him are excellent models, and he’s trying to learn from them; he’s down with the program.



TQ:  You’ve done extensive research for the prior 2 novels. What research did you do for Throne of Darkness?

Douglas:  I had to find out a lot about hyenas! There were other topics about which I needed to learn more than I knew at the outset. For example, the fascinating people who call themselves the Imazighen, or “the free and noble ones,” and whom others call Berbers, which comes ultimately from “barbarian,” and which they don’t like. (Compare the people whom the English call “Welsh”, which comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “foreigner, stranger, enemy”; the Welsh call themselves “Cymry,” the “fellow-men.”)

The hook that I started with is a story about King John told by Matthew Paris, a monk writing in the middle of the thirteenth century. He said—and it’s almost certainly a libel: the monks hated John for his financial pressures on the monasteries to support his mercenaries—at any rate, Paris wrote that King John sent an embassy to the Emir of Morocco, and offered to submit to him and to convert England to Islam, if the Emir would help him against his enemies. The emir refused, saying that if John would betray his religion he would betray the emir. I thought, What if the embassy, waiting to go home in defeat, were to encounter a Moroccan sorcerer who could help the king with his rebellious barons? I was aware of the pagan Berber resistance against the advance of Arab Islam in the seventh century, and I posited that there would be some holdout pagans, and even sorcerers. When I researched North African legends and found the bouda, blacksmiths who could change into hyenas—a variant is found as far south as Ethiopia—I was fascinated. The story grew from there.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Throne of Darkness.

Douglas:
They lay panting for a while, and then he rolled on his back and pulled her atop him, and contrived to cover her with his shirt, and held her for a while. He lay, utterly happy, looking up at the underside of the boards that were the floor of the hayloft: bits of hay poking down into the spaces between the planks; the square heads of hand-forged nails driven into a beam; a spider in its web, hanging motionless with a terrible stony patience.
* * *
The archway that led back into the corridor showed an impenetrable black. The ticking footsteps resumed, then paused. With hideous slowness, the misshapen mask of a hyena peered around the jamb of the arch. Black lips drew back from a jumble of huge teeth, and round mad eyes glared in at him. From the creature’s lips broke an eerie titter, followed by a bass snarl. A moment later it loped around the corner and sprang at him.
* * *
       From a chest in the far corner da Panzano withdrew a packet with the papal seal, and tendered it to Molly, who put it into a fold of her garments without looking at it.

     “You do not look?” asked da Panzano.

     “I will look later; if ’tis not what you promised, sure I’ll come to you again, my lad.”

      For something said so unemphatically, thought Hob, this managed to convey a sense of terrible menace: the creak of a longbow at full draw.


TQ:  Will we be seeing more of Molly, Jack Brown, Nemain, and Hob in the future?

Douglas:  There will be more, in the fourth volume, but I’d hate to see Something Red #37Hob and Nemain Go to Las Vegas. I’d like the series to end where, without my saying it, the reader knows that They Lived Happily Ever After.



TQ:  If a reader wanted more information about the historical period during which the novels are set, which books would you recommend?

Douglas:  W.L. Warren, King John; Frances and Joseph Gies, Life in a Medieval Village; Matthew Paris, The History of England; Elizabeth Hallam, The Plantagenet Chronicles.



TQ:  What’s next?

Douglas:  Next is the fourth and final book in the tetralogy, Three Queens in Erin, in which Molly will return to Ireland and take her revenge.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Douglas:  My pleasure entirely.





Throne of Darkness
Series:  Something Red 3
Publisher:  Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 31, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  $16.00 (print)
ISBN:  9781476755984 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones, this novel from acclaimed author Douglas Nicholas continues the gripping dark fantasy series that Kirkus Reviews describes as “a more profound Harry Potter for adults.”

It’s 1215 in northwest England—the eve of the signing of the Magna Carta—and mystical Irish queen Maeve and her unlikely band of warriors must protect the region from a chilling fate. Word of a threat reaches the Northern barons: King John has plotted to import an African sorcerer and his sinister clan of blacksmiths, whose unearthly powers may spell destruction for the entire kingdom. Along with her lover, Jack, her gifted niece, Nemain, and Nemain’s newlywed husband, Hob (whose hidden talents will soon be revealed), Maeve must overcome a supernatural threat unlike any she’s seen before.

With his characteristic blend of historical adventure and intoxicating mythological elements, Nicholas once again “goes for the throat…with brilliant writing and whip-smart plotting” (New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry). This is a richly woven tale that will leave you hungry for more.



Qwill's Thoughts

In Throne of Darkness Douglas Nicholas returns to the world of Molly, Nemain, Jack and Hob that he introduced us to in Something Red and continued in The Wicked. In Throne of Darkness King John I of England (of Magna Carta fame) is building a sinister army to defeat the Barons. Molly (Queen Maeve) is approached to counter King John's plans. She's not really asked this time but is coerced into her greatest challenge yet.

Molly and Nemain are Queens of clans from Ireland. Molly is in England building allies and biding her time until she can return to Ireland and she and Nemain can reclaim their thrones. And build allies she does. Throughout the 3 novels, Molly's and her group's adventures have been genuinely riveting and entertaining.

Molly is the leader. She is easy to love and admire. She's regal, intelligent, kind and a formidable practitioner of the (supernatural) Arts. She is also not someone to trifle with. Nemain is her granddaughter. I've watched Nemain grow up during the series. She is fierce, a skilled fighter and also a practitioner of the Arts she learned from Molly. Jack Brown is a former mercenary with a secret. He came to Molly for help and has never left. He is a huge man, skilled at war, but is also a gentle and kind soul. You do not, however, want to be on the wrong end of his battle axe. And Hob, now Nemain’s husband - I've also watched him grow up throughout the novels. In some ways Throne of Darkness is more his story. I finally understood Hob's potential and future in Throne of Darkness. He's become a brilliant fighter throughout the series. Hob is in for some big changes, some of which left me quite emotional.

Douglas Nicholas' writing is lyrical and elegant. He places you deeply into the era he is writing about. You can see the sunlight flickering through the trees and the dust lift off the road as the wagons go by. You can feel the joys and sorrows of the people. You can practically taste the food.

Nicholas imbues his Something Red series with the supernatural, which is really superbly done. He  is a master of placing his story and characters within the context of real events and making you believe in them, care about them and root for them.

Throne of Darkness is a wonderful novel, full of history, thrills, the supernatural, and deeply engaging characters. I absolutely love this series and highly recommend that you read each book in order.


Note: Nicholas provides a pronunciation guide, a Glossary of Irish Terms and a Glossary of Archaisms and Dialect Terms.





About Douglas

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
Photograph by Kelly Merchant
Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of four previous books, including Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife Theresa and Yorkshire terrier Tristan.




Website

Facebook

Twitter @DouglasScribes









Previously

Something Red
Something Red 1
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, June 18, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Published in Hardcover, September 18, 2012

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
In an intoxicating blend of fantasy and horror, acclaimed debut novel Something Red transports you to the harsh, unforgiving world of thirteenth-century England. An evil and age-old force stalks the countryside—who dares confront it?


The Demon
An eShort Story
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 18, 2014
eBook, 32 pages

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
Mixing history, fantasy, and legend, The Demon is an exclusive e-short story from acclaimed novelist Douglas Nicholas, perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

In England’s wild North Country, the men of Blanchefontaine, led by the castellan Sir Balthasar, must hunt an unearthly creature that stalks the nearby woods. But all is not as it seems…

Note that The Demon is presently free!


The Wicked
Something Red 2
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 25, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
A thrilling and intoxicating journey to a land of legend, where nothing is quite as it seems. . . .

Something evil has come to reside in a castle by the chill waters of the North Sea: men disappear and are found as horribly wizened corpses, knights ride out and return under an enchantment that dulls their minds. Both the townspeople and the court under Sir Odinell’s protection live in fear, terrorized by forces beyond human understanding. But rumors of a wise woman blessed with mysterious powers also swirl about the land. The call goes forth, and so it comes to be that young apprentice Hob and his adopted family—exiled Irish queen Molly, her granddaughter Nemain, and warrior Jack Brown—are pitted against a malevolent nobleman and his beautiful, wicked wife.

Richly set in the inns, courts, and countryside of thirteenth-century northwest England, The Wicked is a darkly spun masterpiece that will leave fans of epic fantasy thirsty for more.

Interview with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams - September 18, 2014


Please welcome Chloe Benjamin to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Anatomy of Dreams was published on September 16th by Atria Books.



Interview with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams - September 18, 2014




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

Chloe:  I'm one of those annoying people who's been writing as long as she (I) can remember. As for why, hmm--I think I've always had an overactive imagination and a ferocious appetite for knowledge, as well as more curiosity than is probably healthy, and in combination they've led me to reading and writing.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Chloe:  Is it embarrassing that I had to google "What is a pantser"? I'd say I'm a combination of both. I always have some idea of where the story is going; I tend to know the beginning and have a hazy idea of the end, as well as some twists and turns along the way. But I'm also a believer in the notion that writing a novel is like driving through a dark tunnel at night--you can only see as far as the headlights will show you, but you can make the whole trip that way. For me, plotting a book out entirely ahead of time would reduce the possibility of discovery and surprise, which are (for me, at least) the chief delights of writing a first draft.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Chloe:  Oh, there are so many things. I find revision really grueling. As I mentioned above, I really love the process of writing early drafts: there is so much to be uncovered, so much room to invent and play. Revisions are about taking that pulpy mass of invention and turning it into something with shape and cohesion--in other words, narrative and structural integrity. That process is absolutely necessary but it's simply less fun and less intuitive for me.



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

Chloe:  I tend to fall for authors who explore human relationships with insight and style. That's a really big umbrella, and I suppose it could cover all authors ever, but I'm thinking of people like Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore. I also love authors who push the limits of speculative or genre fiction, like Kazuo Ishiguro, Tana French, Judy Budnitz, Lev Grossman, Margaret Atwood, George Saunders and Philip Pullman.



TQ:  Describe The Anatomy of Dreams in 140 characters or less.

Chloe:  Couple pursues experimental dream research beneath a charismatic but ethically-questionable professor; trouble ensues.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Anatomy of Dreams that is not in the book description.

Chloe:  The book actually doesn't veer into sci-fi or even speculative fiction--it stays firmly in the realm of what's possible within our world, though I do think it nudges those boundaries.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Anatomy of Dreams? What is lucid dreaming?

Chloe:  I've always had very vivid dreams, and I find dreams in general so fascinating--they're such evidence of the human brain's tendency toward narrative. And because we have little control over that narrative--it's so subconscious--dreams can be very revealing.

Lucid dreaming is the act of knowing that you're dreaming while in the midst of a dream. The researchers in the novel think this presents an opportunity for patients with sleep disorders to regain some control: they reason that if disordered dreamers can become aware of their dreams while inside them, they'll be able to intervene in their own behavior and better process their subconscious fears and urges.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Anatomy of Dreams?

Chloe:  I did a few different layers of research. I wanted to be grounded in the history of dream theory, so I read Freud and Jung, whose ideas still influence the way we think about sleep and the subconscious. Then I read the work of current dream researchers, both those who work on sleep disorders and those who work on lucid dreaming--people like Rosalind Cartwright and Stephen Laberge. Finally, I researched the nuts and bolts of sleep studies: how to operate polysomnography equipment, for instance, as well as academic papers that explore methodology for lucidity studies.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Chloe:  What an interesting question! I'm going to be a cheater and say that Sylvie was both the easiest and the hardest to write: the easiest because her voice came to me immediately, and the hardest because it took a lot of finessing and revision to make sure that she didn't come off as too much of a wet blanket. That was a big part of what I hoped to convey with her character--that even someone who seems utterly practical and conventional can have many layers of weirdness--but in early drafts she was, in my agent's words, somewhat pathetic. In later drafts, I tried to bring out her voice and give her more agency.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Anatomy of Dreams.

Chloe:  Another great question! It's so easy, as an author, to focus on self-criticism and forget to highlight the things you're proud of. I've always liked these lines:

"I’d heard about the power of striped bass, how they grew as heavy as sixty pounds; mature, they had few enemies. But the one in Keller’s hands was docile, resigned. Its eyes--even larger than a human’s, the black irises pits in pools of yellow--stared out at the room with what seemed like attention, as if Keller were offering not death but a privilege. Here, he seemed to say, was life on land."



TQ:  What's next?

Chloe:  In addition to promotion for ANATOMY and a few short writing projects, I'm working on my next novel. I'm superstitious about sharing plot info, but I will say that I'm researching divination, vaudeville and sex work in 1980s San Francisco. My Google searches are getting pretty sketchy!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Chloe:  Thank you!





The Anatomy of Dreams
Atria Books, September 16, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams - September 18, 2014
Long-listed for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

“A sly, promising and ambitious debut.” —Publishers Weekly

“Chloe Benjamin is a great new talent.” —Lorrie Moore, author of Bark: Stories

It’s 1998, and Sylvie Patterson, a bookish student at a Northern California boarding school, falls in love with a spirited, elusive classmate named Gabe. Their headmaster, Dr. Adrian Keller, is a charismatic medical researcher who has staked his career on the therapeutic potential of lucid dreaming: By teaching his patients to become conscious during sleep, he helps them to relieve stress and heal from trauma. Over the next six years, Sylvie and Gabe become consumed by Keller’s work, following him from the redwood forests of Eureka, California, to the enchanting New England coast.

But when an opportunity brings the trio to the Midwest, Sylvie and Gabe stumble into a tangled relationship with their mysterious neighbors—and Sylvie begins to doubt the ethics of Keller’s research, recognizing the harm that can be wrought under the guise of progress. As she navigates the hazy, permeable boundaries between what is real and what isn’t, who can be trusted and who cannot, Sylvie also faces surprising developments in herself: an unexpected infatuation, growing paranoia, and a new sense of rebellion.

In stirring, elegant prose, Benjamin’s tale exposes the slippery nature of trust—and the immense power of our dreams.





About Chloe

Interview with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Anatomy of Dreams - September 18, 2014
Photograph © Nicholas Wilkes
Chloe Benjamin is a graduate of Vassar College and The University of Wisconsin-Madison MFA program. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, Pank, Whiskey Island, and The Washington Independent Review of Books. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.








Website  ~  Twitter @chloekbenjamin




2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Benjamin


2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Benjamin


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.


Chloe Benjamin

The Anatomy of Dreams
Atria Books, September 16, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook,  320 pages

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Benjamin
Long-listed for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

“A sly, promising and ambitious debut.” —Publishers Weekly

“Chloe Benjamin is a great new talent.” —Lorrie Moore, author of Bark: Stories

It’s 1998, and Sylvie Patterson, a bookish student at a Northern California boarding school, falls in love with a spirited, elusive classmate named Gabe. Their headmaster, Dr. Adrian Keller, is a charismatic medical researcher who has staked his career on the therapeutic potential of lucid dreaming: By teaching his patients to become conscious during sleep, he helps them to relieve stress and heal from trauma. Over the next six years, Sylvie and Gabe become consumed by Keller’s work, following him from the redwood forests of Eureka, California, to the enchanting New England coast.

But when an opportunity brings the trio to the Midwest, Sylvie and Gabe stumble into a tangled relationship with their mysterious neighbors—and Sylvie begins to doubt the ethics of Keller’s research, recognizing the harm that can be wrought under the guise of progress. As she navigates the hazy, permeable boundaries between what is real and what isn’t, who can be trusted and who cannot, Sylvie also faces surprising developments in herself: an unexpected infatuation, growing paranoia, and a new sense of rebellion.

In stirring, elegant prose, Benjamin’s tale exposes the slippery nature of trust—and the immense power of our dreams.




Interview with Ronlyn Domingue - April 18, 2014


Please welcome Ronlyn Domingue to The Qwillery. Ronlyn is the author of The Mercy of Thin Air, The Mapmaker's War and the upcoming The Chronicle of Secret Riven.



Interview with Ronlyn Domingue - April 18, 2014




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

Ronlyn:  Thanks for the invitation!

When I was in third grade, I had a marvelous teacher who noticed I was a precocious reader and that I finished my classwork quickly. Mrs. Allen allowed me a few hours each week to focus on activities that interested me, and I discovered one of the things I liked to do was write my own stories. And here we are, decades later, two books published already and two more on the way.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Ronlyn:  A plotter, sort of. I spend years in what I call a research and incubation phase before I actually start writing. During that time, I get pieces of the story—dialogue bits, image flashes, character impressions. At some point, I begin to see how these pieces can be organized into an arc from beginning to end. That’s when I create a storyboard or plot map, which I type up and tack on my corkboards.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ronlyn:  The blocks. Sometimes, the experience is like being in a pitch-dark room as I run my hands along the walls for a crack, and other times, it’s like a force weighing me down in one place. I cannot write my way out of these moments, which can last anywhere from days to months. Because I’m an intuitive writer—which is a receptive rather than an active mode—I can’t force a story to reveal itself. This comes in time. The blocks are periods when the story is sorting itself out in secret or when I’m simply not prepared to learn what it has to reveal. Even though I know what’s going on—this has happened with every book I’ve written—it’s still frustrating.



TQ:  Describe The Chronicle of Secret Riven (Keeper of Tales Trilogy 2) in 140 characters or less.

Ronlyn:  A strange girl struggles to accept her mysterious gifts and confront her destiny in THE MAPMAKER’S WAR’s epic sequel.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Chronicle of Secret Riven that is not in the book description.

Ronlyn:  Tidbit 1: You don’t have to read The Mapmaker’s War first to follow what’s happening. You can start with the second book.

Tidbit 2: The seed of this story came from a fairy tale I wrote in college about a girl who lived in a kingdom where women were forbidden to read.

Tidbit 3: I wrote this book by hand. With pencils.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

Ronlyn:  “To see is a trick of the mind, but to believe is a trick of the heart.”



TQ:  What would you say are the themes of The Chronicle of Secret Riven?

RonlynThe risk of authenticity—how does a person manage to be who she is when most people, even within her own family, don’t accept or understand her? Power over is another one—the power parents have over their children, that authority has over subordinates—both in overt and covert ways. Also, gender expectations—how the boundaries are rarely spoken about but are still clear and the consequences, and rewards, when they’re crossed.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Keeper of the Tales Trilogy so far?

Ronlyn:  At first, I was immersed in fairy tales, myths, and folklore—the motifs and themes that every human being connects to. I also read a lot about myths and tales, from scholars such as Joseph Campbell and Maria Tatar. Then I ended up in Jungian territory learning more about archetypes. While working on The Mapmaker’s War, I researched cartography to understand what Aoife, the narrator, might have experienced, and Neolithic communities, which mirror the Guardian settlements in that book. As for The Chronicle of Secret Riven, I’ve read about topics as diverse as alchemy, rare book collecting, and bees.



TQ:  In the first two novels (The Mapmaker's War and The Chronicle of Secret Riven) who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Ronlyn:  Oh wow. No one’s asked me this before. Although Leit, Aoife’s spouse in The Mapmaker’s War, has a traumatic past, he was the easiest because he was the most forthcoming about his own part of the story. He didn’t hide or obscure anything, a blessing and a curse. In The Chronicle of Secret Riven, Nikolas, the prince and Secret’s best friend, was easiest. He has a good heart and dry sense of humor, and he never gave me a lick of trouble. The hardest…honestly, Aoife and Secret. They are both highly intelligent, gifted people, and they are more complex than any other characters (or actual people) I’ve ever encountered.



TQ:  What's next?

Ronlyn:  The trilogy’s third book is in the works right now. The full draft is complete, but it needs to be significantly revised. My beasties have been full of surprises.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Ronlyn:  Many thanks for the opportunity to share my books with your readers!





The Chronicle of Secret Riven
Keeper of Tales Trilogy 2
Atria Books, May 20, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Ronlyn Domingue - April 18, 2014
An uncanny child born to brilliant parents, befriended by a prince, mentored by a wise woman, pursued by a powerful man, Secret Riven has no idea what destiny will demand of her or the courage she must have to confront it in the breathtakingly epic, genre-spanning sequel to The Mapmaker’s War.

One thousand years after a great conflict known as The Mapmaker’s War, a daughter is born to an ambitious historian and a gifted translator. Secret Riven doesn’t speak until her seventh year but can mysteriously communicate with plants and animals. Unsettled by visions and dreams since childhood, she tries to hide her strangeness, especially from her mercurial father and cold mother. Yet gentle, watchful Secret finds acceptance from Prince Nikolas, her best friend, and Old Woman, who lives in the distant woods.

When Secret is twelve, her mother receives an arcane manuscript to translate from an anonymous owner. Zavet suffers from nightmares and withdraws into herself. Secret sickens with a fever and awakens able to speak an ancient language, one her mother knows as well. Suddenly, Zavet dies. The manuscript is missing, but a cipher has been left for Secret to find.

Years later, Secret becomes a translator’s apprentice for Fewmany, an influential magnate, who has taken an interest in her for reasons she cannot discern. Before Secret learns why, Old Woman confronts Secret with the truth of her destiny—a choice she must make that is tied to an ancient past.

Overflowing with spellbinding storytelling, vivid characters, and set in a fascinating world, The Chronicle of Secret Riven explores the tension between love and hate, trust and betrayal, fate and free will.



The Mapmaker's War
Keeper of the Tales Trilogy 1
Atria Books, March 5, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 240 pages
Published originally in Hardcover, March 5, 2013

Interview with Ronlyn Domingue - April 18, 2014
In an ancient time, in a faraway land, a young woman named Aoife is allowed a rare apprenticeship to become her kingdom’s mapmaker, tasked with charting the entire domain. Traveling beyond its borders, she finds a secretive people who live in peace, among great wealth. They claim to protect a mythic treasure, one connected to the creation of the world. When Aoife reports their existence to her kingdom, the community is targeted as a threat. Aoife is exiled for treason and finds refuge among the very people who had been declared her enemy. With them, she begins a new life surrounded by kindness, equality, and cooperation. But within herself, Aoife has no peace. She cannot share the grief she feels for the home and children she left behind, nor can she bear the warrior scars of the man she comes to love. And when she gives birth to their gifted daughter, Aoife cannot avoid what the child forces her to confront about her past and its truth. On this most important of journeys, there is no map to guide her.





About Ronlyn

Interview with Ronlyn Domingue - April 18, 2014
© Susan Shacter
Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Mapmaker’s War and The Mercy of Thin Air, which was published in ten languages. She lives in Louisiana with her partner, Todd Bourque. Connect with her on RonlynDomingue.com, Facebook, and Twitter.








Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @RonlynDomingue





Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014


Please welcome Douglas Nicholas to The Qwillery. Douglas is the author of the fabulous Something Red series: Something Red (2012) and The Wicked which was published on March 25, 2014.



Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014




TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. The Wicked, the 2nd novel in your Something Red series, was just published on March 25, 2014. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Has this changed from when you wrote Book 1 to Book 2?

Douglas:  I write slowly, partly because I like to make sure that real-life details (as opposed to the fantasy elements) are correct, and partly because I care a great deal about the language, and want to get the prose just right, while a the same time telling a gripping story. I’d like people not to be able to put it down, to keep turning the pages, but then feel that they’d like to go back, sooner or later—or even immediately!—and reread it, just to savor the language. Some people have posted that they went back, two of them immediately, to read Something Red again; one person has read it three times since it came out in 2012.



TQ:  What do you wish you'd known about publishing when Something Red (Book 1) came out that you know now?

Douglas:  I’ve said it before: I was quite surprised at what a sweet bunch I have to deal with at Emily Bestler Books/Atria—not at all like the type of cold cutthroat corporation one sees portrayed, either for chills or for humor, in books and on TV. More like a group of chums.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Wicked that is not in the book description.

Douglas:  The villain, Sir Tarquin, is one of the most evil critters you never want to meet:
Sir Tarquin’s strong pale face was a mask of malignant hunger. Hob had seen a hawk standing with taloned foot on a mouse and tearing it with its hook-knife bill, and it was a model of sweetness beside this face, this expression, that might have been the portrait of Satan in a rage.
And his lady wife is not far behind:
Beside [Sir Tarquin]: Lady Rohese, a woman of smoldering beauty, a woman neither young nor much past youth, dark-haired, dark-eyed. Hob had just begun to think how beautiful she was when she looked at Molly’s table, and he thought to see an expression of the sourest evil, covered over with an attempt at neutral cordiality—an effect as of powdered sugar on a dish of spoiled meat.
Also in The Wicked, Jack acquires a very devoted dog, there’s a shipwreck, a storm, music, two “bar fights” of sorts, bandits, a giant (in the basketball-player sense) knight, a magic water-mirror spy device, a mano-a-mano sorcerous duel between Molly and Lady Rohese, a final conflict that involves swordplay and grim heavy sorcery, and a wedding between two of our favorite characters. That raven on the cover is not just decoration, either: it’s important.



TQ:  What research have you done for The Wicked?

Douglas:  I did a lot of research about the North Sea coast—its appearance, its flora, its fauna, and its history. For example, I needed fresh-plowed fields in August to foreshadow a later metaphor (I told you I work hard at the prose), so I had to find out what one might be planting so late in the summer (the flax and hemp were harvested in July, and then the turnips were planted in August).

As in Something Red, all the names are chosen from thirteenth-century tax rolls or court records. Jack’s dog, Sweetlove, has a name borne by at least three women in the thirteenth century who paid taxes or were involved in a legal dispute. Spellings varied a bit—one was “Sueteloue”—but in other words it’s a perfectly likely name. Another major character, Sir Odinell, is of the De Umfrevilles; he has a castle on the North Sea. There really was an Odinell de Umfreville, but he stayed in Normandy. Remember that at this time the Normans, who had come from France, often had property on both sides of the Channel—King John spent a lot of his time trying to hold on to the parts of France (Anjou, mostly) that were his by inheritance.

The North Sea, by the way, was called the German Sea by the English in the Middle Ages. The Dutch called it the North Sea, because it was north of the Netherlands, and this became the current name.

One noble whose name is not particularly Norman is Sir Tarquin—I chose his name to evoke the Etruscan kings of Rome, before Rome overthrew them and became a republic—Tarquin the Elder, and the last king of Rome, Tarquin the Proud. Why? Because at one point Molly realizes that Sir Tarquin is much older than he appears, and may have been around “for many a long, long year.” (No, he’s not the Devil himself. But he’s working on it.)

YouTube is good for taking virtual walks around Northumberland, and for learning how charcoal is made, including the curious one-legged stool the charcoal-burners employ, which found its way into the book. (If you’ve ever had spaghetti carbonara, that’s pasta “charcoal-burners’ style.”)



TQ:  What appeals to you about thirteenth century northwest England?

Douglas:  When I began Something Red, as a short story(!), I wanted it to end in an isolated, wintry mountain castle. If you want mountains in England, you have to be in the north, where the Pennines run from the Scottish border to about a third of the way down England. Northumberland today (it was bigger in the Middle Ages, and was called Northumbria) is still the most deserted area of England, and was even more so, of course, 800 years ago. The more I looked into the culture and dialect and history of Northern England, the more interesting it became. You say “northwest” England, but Something Red only starts there, and then our little family is trying to get over the central Pennine range to get to Durham and York, cities on the northeast coast. They’re stranded in the north-central castle, Blanchefontaine, and only get underway to the east coast at the end of the book. The Wicked takes place almost entirely on the northeast coast, by the “German Sea.”

I started the tale in 1995, then put it aside for a while. Sometime after that Susanna Clarke also made much of the North Country in her excellent Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but I’d already chosen the area for my story.

I discovered that there’s a sort of cultural unity between northern England and southern Scotland, with a lot of linguistic sharing of terms, etc. There are some Scottish villains in The Wicked (even though my half-Irish, half-Scottish mom was from Glasgow), because the Scots were such a formidable warlike people who presented Norman lords with a constant threat of raids, and when they’re bad, you have to take them seriously.




TQ:  In the series so far who is your favorite good 'guy', bad 'guy' or ethically ambiguous character?

Douglas:  We will meet an ethically ambiguous character in the third volume of this series, the papal operative Monsignor Bonacorso da Panzano, but most of the characters in the first two books fall into the good-guy bad-guy categories.

I find it hard to choose: I’m very fond of our four main characters. Nemain is the most prickly, and has not yet grown into the mature kindness of Molly. Sir Balthasar is interesting to me: he’s frightening even to the men he leads, and more so to his enemies, but he’s absolutely gentle with his wife, Dame Aline, a merry character who was also a pleasure to write. Others: the restless, hyperactive, dangerous Sir Jehan and his wife, the enigmatic Lady Isabeau.

I like a lot of the minor characters, some of whom only appear for a page or two: Hodard Squint, the lawman who warns Molly in Something Red, or the dog groom Herluin in The Wicked. The unnamed aged but strong winch-tender in SR, who tells what is essentially a complete murder ballad in one page of dialect (which I hope impatient readers will sound out and not skip). Also from SR, the atte Well twin daughters, Margery and Parnell, and Osbert atte Well himself. From TW: Erec the Irish wolfhound puppy. Rollo, another Irish wolfhound puppy. (There’s a strong canine thread in The Wicked.)



TQ:  Which character has surprised you the most?

Douglas:  They don’t surprise me: I don’t let them. “Stand there—no, a little to the left—and say your lines,” I tell them. “No, once more, and put a little feeling into it.” I have a story to tell; I can’t let them begin to sass me.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from The Wicked.

Douglas:  I’ll give you three sentences; two are just for context—the middle sentence is the one I’m fond of:

She watched the road where it curved out of sight. The sea grumbled; the moon burned along the ridges of the waves. Around the bend came a double column of Sir Tarquin’s bewitched knights.



TQ:  What's next?

Douglas:  Next year is the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. In volume three of this series, Molly will defeat an evil plot by King John to massacre the barons assembled for the signing, including her friends Sir Jehan, Sir Odinell, and Sir Balthasar.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.





The Wicked
Something Red 2
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 25, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014
A thrilling and intoxicating journey to a land of legend, where nothing is quite as it seems. . . .

Something evil has come to reside in a castle by the chill waters of the North Sea: men disappear and are found as horribly wizened corpses, knights ride out and return under an enchantment that dulls their minds. Both the townspeople and the court under Sir Odinell’s protection live in fear, terrorized by forces beyond human understanding. But rumors of a wise woman blessed with mysterious powers also swirl about the land. The call goes forth, and so it comes to be that young apprentice Hob and his adopted family—exiled Irish queen Molly, her granddaughter Nemain, and warrior Jack Brown—are pitted against a malevolent nobleman and his beautiful, wicked wife.

Richly set in the inns, courts, and countryside of thirteenth-century northwest England, The Wicked is a darkly spun masterpiece that will leave fans of epic fantasy thirsty for more.



The Demon
An eShort Story
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 18, 2014
eBook, 32 pages

Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014
Mixing history, fantasy, and legend, The Demon is an exclusive e-short story from acclaimed novelist Douglas Nicholas, perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

In England’s wild North Country, the men of Blanchefontaine, led by the castellan Sir Balthasar, must hunt an unearthly creature that stalks the nearby woods. But all is not as it seems…

Note that The Demon is presently free!



Something Red
Something Red 1
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, June 18, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Published in Hardcover, September 18, 2012

Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014
In an intoxicating blend of fantasy and horror, acclaimed debut novel Something Red transports you to the harsh, unforgiving world of thirteenth-century England. An evil and age-old force stalks the countryside—who dares confront it?





About Douglas

Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014
Photograph by Kelly Merchant
Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of four previous books, including Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife Theresa and Yorkshire terrier Tristan.



Website


Facebook

Twitter @DouglasScribes





2014 Debut Author Challenge - The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone by Will Storr



2014 Debut Author Challenge - The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone by Will Storr


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.



Will Storr

The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone
Atria Books/Marble Arch Press, March 11, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

2014 Debut Author Challenge - The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone by Will Storr
Killian Lone comes from a long line of gifted cooks, stretching back to the seven­teenth century, and yearns to become a famous chef himself. When he starts an apprenticeship under Max Mann, the most famous chef in London, he looks set to continue the family tradition. But the reality of kitchen life is brutal. Even his fellow apprentice, Kathryn, who shows Killian uncharacteristic kindness, can’t stop his being sucked into the vicious, debauched world of 1980s fine dining, and gradually he is forced to surrender his dream.

Then he discovers a dark family secret—the legacy of an ancestor who was burnt as a witch for creating food so delicious it was said to turn all who tasted it mad. Killian knows he can use this secret to achieve his ambitions and maybe, finally, to win Kathryn’s affections. But is he willing to pay the price?

This is Killian’s confession—a strange tragedy about love, ambition and incredible food . . .

Guest Blog by T. R. Williams, author of Journey into the Flame - February 17, 2014


Please welcome T. R. Williams to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Journey into the Flame (Rising World Trilogy 1) was published on January 7, 2014. You may read an interview with T.R. here.



Guest Blog by T. R. Williams, author of Journey into the Flame - February 17, 2014




2:00 am, when the big decisions are made

      When my wife and I decided to build our house, we had no idea how many decisions we’d have to make. We figured that our general contractor would take care of most everything and in a few short months we would be living happily ever after. Well, the happily-ever-after part came a year and a half later, only after what seemed like a million and one decisions. I had no idea that there’d be so many options when choosing a simple door. I also learned that the color white comes in 1,000 different shades – when did that happen? What is the difference between oxford white and white lace? I grew up thinking white was white and black was black.

      I found the same thing to be true when I wrote my first book, Journey Into the Flame – decisions, decisions, and more decisions. There were the big ones – what’s the story arc? who lives and who dies? who is going to do this or who is going to do that? Those were actually fairly straightforward and expected. The seemingly little ones were more tricky. The seemingly innocent decision of writing a fantasy set in the future, for instance? That created the added challenge of describing a world which hasn’t happened yet. And guess what? More decisions. Sure, people still drive cars and fly around in planes, but what type of fuel do they use? Do they still pump gas at Costco and get a discounted price because they have a membership card? Are there still security scanners at the airport? Do you have to still pay for your 2nd checked bag? What about medicine, how do people get treated for a migraine sixty years in the future? Is McDonald's still around? What about the famous McRib sandwich? And does a cup of coffee still cost a thousand dollars at Starbucks? Decisions, decisions, decisions. Oh, and then there are all the standard small choices. What color hair should this character have? what about their eyes? How tall is he? What type of clothes does she like to wear?

     Then, after getting all that figured out, comes the hardest challenge of them all: keeping track of everything. After I completed the draft of my first book, I think the main character Logan had three different hair styles. His backpack went from red to blue and then back to red, his eyes went from blue to green to brown. I know what you’re thinking – create a cheat sheet and write everything down. I did and I do. But when the words are flowing, searching through documents and notes to find particular details can be distracting. It’d be really cool if Microsoft Word came with an Auto-Correct-Fantasy-Novel-Fact-Checker. I’d definitely upgrade to that version.

     So what does all this have to do with 2:00am? Well that’s when most of my decisions, big and small, are made. Just about every night, around the same time at 2:00am, my eyes pop open with some element of the story-line bouncing around. I’d like to say I had just come out of a prophetic dream where the answer to some perplexing plot twist had been provided by ghost writers on the other side of the veil, but I can’t. My eyes pop open with the realization that a main character should be taller and that he should carry around a red backpack. Or a particular island in the South Pacific should not exist any longer because a large earthquake wiped it off the face of the earth.

     I’ve learned not to wait until I get to my desk later that morning to write that word, sentence, paragraph, page, or chapter; odds are that if I do, my logical mind will convince me that sinking an island is not such a good idea and it’ll be yet another plot point to have to keep track of.

     I know the witching hour is supposed to be filled with ghosts, goblins and spooks, but I have to say that when all is quiet and the world around is asleep, decisions seem easier to make. I wonder if building a house would have been better at 2:00am, I’m just not sure the neighbors would have liked that.





Journey into the Flame

Journey into the Flame
The Rising World Trilogy 1
Atria Books, January 7, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook,  448 pages

Guest Blog by T. R. Williams, author of Journey into the Flame - February 17, 2014
In 2027, the Great Disruption shook the world. An unexplained solar storm struck the earth, shifting it four degrees south on its axis. Everything went dark. Humanity was on the verge of despair. Then a man named Camden Ford discovered a set of ancient books called the Chronicles of Satraya.

Thirty years later, the world is a different place. Thanks to the teachings of the Chronicles, hope has been restored, cities rebuilt, technology advanced. The books also have a different owner: Logan Cutler, who inherited them when Camden mysteriously disappeared. But when Logan auctions off the books to pay his debts, they fall into the wrong hands. The Reges Hominum, a clandestine group that once ruled history from the shadows, is launching a worldwide conspiracy to regain control.

Soon Logan realizes he’s made a terrible mistake. With the help of special agent Valerie Perrot and the wisdom of the Chronicles as his guide, he embarks on an epic quest to get the books back before it’s too late.

Abounding with questions about humanity’s secret past and its unknown future, Journey into the Flame will not only take you to the start of an incredible new world, it will also take you deep into the greater mysteries of the self.





About T. R. Williams

T. R. Williams divides his time between Seattle and Chicago. He is a scholar of ancient texts and loves to ponder the mysteries of life.




Interview with Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly - February 11, 2014


Please welcome Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly to The Qwillery. Conquest, the first novel in their Chronicles of the Invaders series, is out today. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Jennifer and John a Happy Publication Day.



Interview with Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly - February 11, 2014




TQConquest is the first novel (out of many) that you have co-authored. How did your writing process change for Conquest?

John:  I'm not by nature a planner. I tend to know the beginning of a book, and then I work my way gradually in the general direction of the end. Obviously, though, that process doesn't work if you're collaborating, so I had to outline for the first time. Oh, and because I'd always worked alone in the past, I had to learn to concede points occasionally, and develop some diplomatic skills, which probably didn't hurt me to do.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jennifer:  Fear, and deadlines! Fear of deadlines! And starting: actually sitting down and starting to write is terrifying, as is forcing out that first line, which always seems tortured and overthought. After that it gets easier some days, but even when it doesn’t flow you still have to keep putting those words one after the other, even when they clang and clunk like deadweights. However, when you’re done there’s nothing like it.



TQ:  Which strengths did your co-author bring to the novel?

Jennifer:  John bought the vision, the staying-power, a wealth of experience, rigorous attention to detail and probability – I’d think up wondrous things and he’s go “not possible” – and mostly a vivid, dark, dream-filled imagination, tempered by science. He’s a force to be reckoned with…

John:  Jennie writes well about, and in the voice of, teenagers, so she gave them a depth and personality that I probably would not have, or at least would not have in the same way. She also has a good eye for detail, so she tends to spot errors and inconsistencies.



TQ:  Describe Conquest in 140 characters or less.

Jennifer:  It’s the story of the first female alien born on earth after the invasion…

JohnConquest tells of the first alien child to turn 16 after her people's invasion of earth, and of her discovery of the reality of that invasion.



TQ:  Tell us something about Conquest that is not in the book description.

Jennifer:  Oooh, spoilers. There’s a dog called Lex. The last time you see him will choke you up. If it doesn’t, you’re probably a cat person. Or dead.

John:  It's often very funny, I think. It's not completely dark, although it has some dark moments.



TQ:  What inspired you to write Conquest? Why Science Fiction?

Jennifer:  John had an idea about a story he wanted to write, and he felt he needed a female touch (that sounds bad!), because the main protagonist was a teenage alien girl. I think perhaps it’s a metaphor for his own teens…

We both enjoy science fiction, but I loathe the cliché that is the hammier, tri-boobed, Lycra-clad variety: it alienates many females. I wanted strong, adventurous, intrepid, imperfect but interesting females to take an active part in the action – much like the women in my own life. 
There is much out there that girls love about science fiction, yet when young women are sold scifi it’s usually packaged as less-threatening fantasy: just look at the wild success of the Hunger Games. But so much can be explored through the genre… it’s unfair that such a cool thing has become a boy thing. I hope we can help redress that.

John:  Well, the initial idea was mine. I have always loved science fiction, both in the form of classic novels (John Wyndham, H.G. Wells) and, more particularly, science fiction film. I wanted to write something that expressed my love of the genre, but with an awareness that the science fiction label is often off-putting to female readers. I wanted to redress that imbalance, perhaps.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Conquest?

John:  I'm curious about physics, and possible future developments in, for example, fuels and medicines, so some of that comes through in the book. Otherwise a lot of my research was trying to recall what it was like to be a teenager, and then realizing that I was still a bit of a teenager inside, which was helpful.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?

Jennifer:  I think I got Syl best of all, because I spent the most time with her, getting to know her, fleshing her out. She’s most like me, but she doesn’t really care if people like her, which isn’t like me at all. I admire the freedom that gives her. I admire her courage. I also enjoyed Fremd, and Just Joe, and “designing” Syrene.

The hardest was probably Gradus, because there’s a fear of turning a bad guy into pastiche.

Meia is my absolute favourite character, because you don’t know if you should love her or hate her, and her motives are so shadowed. I adore her intrigue. I rather like the baddy Vena too, and of course I love Syl and Ani, because I identify with them best of all.

John:   I enjoyed writing Meia because she has interesting layers, but I suppose there's a bit of me in all of the characters. I don't think you can create believable characters without finding a personal connection, even with the worst of them. Paul and Syl were relatively easy for me, Ani less so. I don't know why. I did get a kick out of writing the Sarith Entities, who are really quite awful, but most of the Illyri are very morally complex. We tried very hard to shy away from conventional bad guys. The Illyri, by and large, are just trying to make the best of a difficult situation, and any evil in them comes out of hurt, or selfishness, or simple expediency.



TQ:  What's next?

Jennifer:  We’re writing Empire, the next in the Chronicles of the Invaders trilogy

John:  Well, I have the new Charlie Parker book, The Wolf in Winter, coming out this year, but I'm currently working on Empire for a UK release date later this year.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

John:  My pleasure! Thanks for inviting us.





Conquest

Conquest
The Chronicles of the Invaders 1
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, February 11, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly - February 11, 2014
Earth is no longer ours. . . .

It is ruled by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilized, yet ruthless alien species. But humankind has not given up the fight, and Paul Kerr is one of a new generation of young Resistance leaders waging war on the invaders.

Syl Hellais is the first of the Illyri to be born on Earth. Trapped inside the walls of her father’s stronghold, hated by the humans, she longs to escape.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Syl’s life is about to change forever. She will become an outcast, an enemy of her people, for daring to save the life of one human: Paul Kerr. Only together do they have a chance of saving each other, and the planet they both call home.

For there is a greater darkness behind the Illyri conquest of Earth, and the real invasion has not yet even begun. . . .



About Jennifer
(text from The Chronicles of the Invaders website)

Interview with Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly - February 11, 2014
Photograph by Cameron Ridyard
JENNIFER RIDYARD spent a happy, sun-drenched childhood in the mining town of Benoni, South Africa, during the 1970s and 1980s—her only defense for this being ignorance.

On leaving school she embarked on a rocky career path including a short stint as a nurse, several waitressing jobs (the best was at an ice-cream parlor), a prolonged run as a bank clerk, and a span as a barmaid.

She worked as a check-out girl, conducted market research surveys, and was even a Sunday School teacher, albeit briefly.

Finally in 1994—the year of South Africa's first democratic election—Jennie became a cub reporter at a local newspaper. Her first job as a newshound was literally a wild goose chase, rushing to the scene when a rare waterfowl landed in someone's swimming pool. Unfortunately the bird left before she got there. She went on to become the lifestyle editor on a national daily newspaper.

In 2004 she moved to Ireland, but spends much time in South Africa.

She writes, reads, recycles, tries to paint, doesn't eat meat, loves cake, and enjoys long walks with the family pound puppies, Sasha and Coco.

Jennie has two children, Cameron and Alistair.

The Chronicles of the Invaders Website  ~  Twitter @JennieRidyard



About John
(text from The Chronicles of the Invaders website)

Interview with Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly - February 11, 2014
Photograph by Ivan Gimenez Costa
Ivan Gimenez Costa
Ivan Gimenez Costa
JOHN CONNOLLY grew up in Dublin, Ireland. Before he started to write books, he worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University.

John's first novel for young people, The Gates, was published in 2009, followed by a sequel, Hell's Bells/The Infernals, in 2011. The third Samuel Johnson novel, The Creeps, will be published in autumn 2013. He is best known to adult readers as the creator of detective Charlie Parker, who has appeared in eleven novels, beginning with Every Dead Thing (1999), and most recently The Wrath of Angels (2012). John is also the author of Bad Men (2003), The Book of Lost Things (2006), and a collection of short stories, Nocturnes (2004). He is the co-editor (with Declan Burke) of Books to Die For (2012), a prize-winning collection of essays from the world's top crime writers.

John hosts a weekly radio show, ABC to XTC, on Internet radio station RTE 2XM.

John lives in Ireland, but also spends time in Portland, Maine, where many of his novels are set.

You can read more about him on his author website.

The Chronicles of the Invaders Website  ~  Twitter @jconnollybooks  ~  Facebook



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