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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Kathleen O'Neal Gear

Please welcome Kathleen O'Neal Gear to The Qwillery. The Ice Lion, the 1st novel in The Rewilding Reports, was published on June 15, 2021 by DAW.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. You have written more than 48 books. How has your writing process changed over the years and what is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Kathleen:  Writing styles definitely change throughout an author’s career. When I first started writing, I was in love with adjectives. It’s important, I think, to find the best single word to describe something. Adjectives get old really fast.

The most challenging thing I face is unconscious repetition. When I’m reading a draft manuscript, I notice that I apparently like beating my readers over the head with facts. Authors have to trust their readers: “They already know this. For goodness sake, don’t bore them.”

TQAre you a plotter, a pantzer or a hybrid?

Kathleen:  A pantzer. I love writing by the seat of my pants, living the story with the characters. Toward the end of the book, however, I make a list of the things that must happen, and the order they must happen, to bring the characters together. I guess that’s a rough outline, so maybe I’m actually a hybrid.

TQDescribe The Ice Lion using only 5 words.

Kathleen:  Teenagers. Abandoned. Glaciers. Giant lions.

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

Kathleen:  I’m an archaeologist. The book is a synthesis of past human behaviors projected into the future. We are an inventive species. We can--and will--use our knowledge to affect the climate. THE ICE LION asks a question: If we make a mistake, how can we possibly fix it?

The archaic humans and re-created Ice Age animals in the story were the ancient Jemen’s answer.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Ice Lion?

Kathleen:  Geo-engineering. There are a number of proposals for cooling the planet earth. They worry me.

TQThe Ice Lion is described as cli-fi. What is cli-fi and in your opinion why are we seeing more and more cli-fi novels/stories?

Kathleen:  Climate fiction (cli-fi) is an examination of human responses to climate change. Climate change is nothing new. Humans have been struggling to survive episodes of warming and cooling for millions of years, but we now have the technology to do something about it. That’s the scary part. Cli-fi is becoming more and more popular because we’re all worried. How much do you trust human judgment?

TQThe book description states that the Sealion People are Denisovans. Why did you choose Denisovans as the archaic humans for The Ice Lion? Are they the only archaic humans in the novel?

Kathleen:  There are three archaic species in the novel: Denisovans, Neandertals, and Homo erectus. I chose them for the same reason the ancient Jemen in the story did: These species survived in an Ice Age world, the Pleistocene, for hundreds of thousands of years before modern humans evolved. Despite the odds, one of them may just make it.

TQThe Ice Lion is the first novel in The Rewilding Reports. At this time how many novels do you have planned for the series?

Kathleen:  I finished Book 2, THE ICE GHOST, several months ago, and am working on Book 3, THE ICE ORPHAN. I don’t know how many books there will be—enough to finish the story!

TQWhat's next?

Kathleen:  For now, I’m delighted to be concentrating on the Rewilding Chronicles. There are always other stories flitting around in the back of my mind, but none have a stranglehold on my imagination. Yet. Maybe the story about the insane archaeologist abandoned on a distant world. Her excavation is very interesting…

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Kathleen:  It’s always a pleasure! Thank you.

The Ice Lion
The Rewilding Reports 1
Daw, June 15, 2021
Hardcover and ebook, 304 pages
This cli-fi novel from a notable archaeologist and anthropologist explores a frozen future where archaic species struggle to survive an apocalyptic Ice Age

One thousand years in the future, the zyme, a thick blanket of luminous green slime, covers the oceans. Glaciers three-miles-high rise over the continents. The old stories say that when the Jemen, godlike beings from the past, realized their efforts to halt global warming had gone terribly wrong, they made a desperate gamble to save life on earth and recreated species that had survived the worst of the earth’s Ice Ages.

Sixteen-summers-old Lynx and his best friend Quiller are members of the Sealion People—archaic humans known as Denisovans. They live in a world growing colder, a world filled with monstrous predators that hunt them for food. When they flee to a new land, they meet a strange old man who impossibly seems to be the last of the Jemen. He tells Lynx the only way he can save his world is by sacrificing himself to the last true god, a quantum computer named Quancee.
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About Kathleen

Kathleen O’Neal Gear is a New York Times-bestselling author and nationally award-winning archaeologist who has been honored by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the United States Congress. She is the author or co-author of 50 books and over 200 non-fiction articles. Her books have been translated into 29 languages. She lives in northern Wyoming with W. Michael Gear and a wily Shetland Sheep dog named Jake.

Website  ~  Twitter @GearBooks

Interview with Joshua Phillip Johnson, author of The Forever Sea

Please welcome Joshua Phillip Johnson to The Qwillery as part of the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Forever Sea was published on January 19, 2021 by DAW.

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

Joshua Phillip Johnson:  Thanks so much for having me here! I have very vivid memories of writing Pokemon fan fiction on the computer in my parents' room. I saved it on a floppy drive that I labelled "Stories of Fun Adventures," and I must have added to it every day for about 6 months. I eventually moved on to other things, but that was the start for me: imagining myself in a world with tiny monstrous friends going on fun adventures. I lost that floppy drive at some point, which is probably for the best.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

JJ:  I'm a pantser who is trying to be a plotter! I'm bad at outlining, but writing is so much easier for me when I take the time and slog through the plotting process before I draft.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

JJ:  All of it! Writing is really hard for me, but it's a challenge I really love. Most difficult, though, is probably pushing past my internal editor on a first draft.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

JJ:  Other books primarily, but also the environment, politics, conversations with friends and other writers, relationships with family, colleagues, and friends. I tend to think everything in a writer's world makes its way into their work in some form or another, but books and the environment are probably top of my list for conscious and intentional influences.

TQDescribe The Forever Sea using only 5 words.

JJ:  The uncut hair of graves.

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

JJ:  There's a frame narrative surrounding Kindred's story, one told by a mysterious character known only as the Storyteller. His parts are some of my favorite, so I won't spoil them!

TQWhat inspired you to write The Forever Sea? What appeals to you about writing fantasy?

JJ:  I live in a place that was once covered in tallgrass prairie, and there are still remnants of it around here. I was inspired by that (mostly) lost landscape. Fantasy is my favorite genre to read, and I love writing it, too! Maybe it seems naive or childish, but I'm so interested in stories about magic, in part because it's awesome, but also because it feels really relevant to our world today. My favorite band, Cloud Cult, has this great line in one of their songs: "Everything is magic 'til you think it's not." So much of the world feels that way to me, and so stories that find joy in magic--both literal and metaphorical--are still my favorite!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Forever Sea?

JJ: I'm lucky to teach at a university, so I spent time talking with and interviewing a colleague who studies the prairie. I also read books about prairie landscapes and had my copy of Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie at hand whenever I was writing. For the boat bits, I went sailing with friends of mine who have a small sailboat and spent a wonderful long afternoon at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. I'm sure I still got plenty of things wrong, and those mistakes are all mine.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Forever Sea.

JJ:  I was so fortunate to get two wonderful covers for the book.

1) The US cover is by the brilliant Marc Simonetti, and the jacket design is by Katie Anderson. The cover shows The Errant, a harvesting vessel that features prominently in the book, cutting across the Forever Sea, a fibrous spray of prairie plants filling the air around it. It's amazing and I love it.

2) The UK cover is by the amazing Julia Lloyd, and it depicts Kindred, the main character, standing in the Forever Sea, staring ahead at the ghostly image of a ship in the near distance. Much of the book pivots around Kindred's desire to know what's beyond the known parameters of the sea--what's beyond the horizon and what's below the surface, and it's so meaningful and cool to have a cover with her being in the Sea.

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

JJ:  Little Wing was maybe the easiest to write. She's the quartermaster/second in command aboard The Errant, and she's a character I love deeply. I'm not sure why, but her parts always came very naturally to me. Maybe because she's straightforward and focused in ways I only wish I could be. Anyway, I love her.

Hardest was Kindred, which is a problem since she's the main character! She can be quite internal and reactive (much like me), and I often found her at odds with a plot that was pushing forward. Writing her character may have been a bit of self help for me. :-)

TQDoes The Forever Sea touch on any social issues?

JJ:  Definitely! Environmentalism is always a social issue; people are disproportionately affected by scarcity and environmental problems based on race and class, and any climate solutions we come up with will need to seriously engage racial justice and social justice issues. I don't think that The Forever Sea is any sort of key text for these things, but they were all in my mind while writing.

The other is sexuality. Writing this book helped me come out as bisexual. This novel isn't about that process; Kindred is much more comfortable with her sexuality than I was while writing, and I'm still not in a place where I'm ready to talk much about it, but those ideas are certainly present.

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

JJ:  Hmm! What a great prompt! I'd love someone to ask "Which plant mentioned in the novel is your favorite?" And my answer would be prairie smoke! It's such a gentle, unassuming plant, and when it blooms, it lets loose these long, fuzzy hairs that catch and move in the wind like tendrils of smoke.

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

JJ:  The first is from Kindred's first time really experiencing the Forever Sea: "What had been before only an unremarkable throw of green, monotonous and monolithic, became more for Kindred. She saw the rise and wave of more big bluestem around her, and other plants too--each one articulating radical existences in the spaces between light and dark green, between yellow and gold, between stalk and stem.

"Every blade a doorway and every shadow an entrance to a life Kindred had never known but which called to her all the same."

The second is a riddle Kindred buys: "Little-light, fallen from above. Sun sight without eye. Young, I follow dawn. Old, I drop young."

TQWhat's next?

JJ:  I need to revise the sequel to The Forever Sea, but I've also started work on a new project. It's still too fresh to really talk about, but I can say it's a fantasy novel with a math-based magic system, weird death rituals, and dangerously different ideas about green energy.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

JJ:  Thanks so much for having me!

The Forever Sea
DAW, January 19, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages
The first book in a new environmental epic fantasy series set in a world where ships kept afloat by magical hearthfires sail an endless grass sea.

On the never-ending, miles-high expanse of prairie grasses known as the Forever Sea, Kindred Greyreach, hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard harvesting vessel The Errant, is just beginning to fit in with the crew of her new ship when she receives devastating news. Her grandmother—The Marchess, legendary captain and hearthfire keeper—has stepped from her vessel and disappeared into the sea.

But the note she leaves Kindred suggests this was not an act of suicide. Something waits in the depths, and the Marchess has set out to find it.

To follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kindred must embroil herself in conflicts bigger than she could imagine: a water war simmering below the surface of two cultures; the politics of a mythic pirate city floating beyond the edges of safe seas; battles against beasts of the deep, driven to the brink of madness; and the elusive promise of a world below the waves.

Kindred finds that she will sacrifice almost everything—ship, crew, and a life sailing in the sun—to discover the truth of the darkness that waits below the Forever Sea.

About Joshua Phillip Johnson

Joshua Phillip Johnson lives in a little green house on what used to be the prairie with his partner and their child. His work has appeared in Syntax & Salt, The Future Fire, and Metaphorosis Magazine, among others. He teaches at a small liberal arts university. The Forever Sea is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @JohnsonJoshuaP

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors

Here are some of the upcoming novels by formerly featured Debut Author Challenge (DAC) Authors. The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.

M. H. Boroson (2015)

The Girl with No Face
The Daoshi Chronicles 2
Talos, October 15, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 360 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
The adventures of Li-lin, a Daoist priestess with the unique ability to see the spirit world, continue in the thrilling follow-up to the critically-acclaimed historical urban fantasy The Girl with Ghost Eyes.

It’s the end of the Nineteenth Century. San Francisco’s cobblestone streets are haunted, but Chinatown has an unlikely protector in a young Daoist priestess named Li-lin. Using only her martial arts training, spiritual magic, a sword made from peachwood, and the walking, talking spirit of a human eye, Li-lin stands alone to defend her immigrant community from supernatural threats.

But when the body of a young girl is brought to the deadhouse Li-lin oversees for a local group of gangsters, she faces her most bewildering—and potentially dangerous—assignment yet. The nine-year-old has died from suffocation . . . specifically by flowers growing out of her nose and mouth. Li-lin suspects Gong Tau, a dirty and primitive form of dark magic. But who is behind the spell, and why, will take her on a perilous journey deep into a dangerous world of ghosts and spirits.

With hard historical realism and meticulously researched depictions of Chinese monsters and magic that have never been written about in the English language, The Girl with No Face draws from the action-packed cinema of Hong Kong to create a compelling and unforgettable tale of historical fantasy and Chinese lore.

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
Book 1

K. Eason (2016)

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse
The Thorne Chronicles 1
DAW, October 8, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
First in a duology that reimagines fairy tale tropes within a space opera—The Princess Bride meets Princess Leia.

Rory Thorne is a princess with thirteen fairy blessings, the most important of which is to see through flattery and platitudes. As the eldest daughter, she always imagined she’d inherit her father’s throne and govern the interplanetary Thorne Consortium.

Then her father is assassinated, her mother gives birth to a son, and Rory is betrothed to the prince of a distant world.

When Rory arrives in her new home, she uncovers a treacherous plot to unseat her newly betrothed and usurp his throne. An unscrupulous minister has conspired to name himself Regent to the minor (and somewhat foolish) prince. With only her wits and a small team of allies, Rory must outmaneuver the Regent and rescue the prince.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is a feminist reimagining of familiar fairytale tropes and a story of resistance and self-determination—how small acts of rebellion can lead a princess to not just save herself, but change the course of history.

C. L. Polk (2018)

The Kingston Cycle 2, February 11, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
After spinning an enthralling world in Witchmark, praised as a "can't-miss debut" by Booklist, and as "thoroughly charming and deftly paced" by the New York Times, C. L. Polk continues the story in Stormsong. Magical cabals, otherworldly avengers, and impossible love affairs conspire to create a book that refuses to be put down.

Dame Grace Hensley helped her brother Miles undo the atrocity that stained her nation, but now she has to deal with the consequences. With the power out in the dead of winter and an uncontrollable sequence of winter storms on the horizon, Aeland faces disaster. Grace has the vision to guide her parents to safety, but a hostile queen and a ring of rogue mages stand in the way of her plans. There's revolution in the air, and any spark could light the powder. What's worse, upstart photojournalist Avia Jessup draws ever closer to secrets that could topple the nation, and closer to Grace's heart.

Can Aeland be saved without bloodshed? Or will Kingston die in flames, and Grace along with it?

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors
Book 1

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore

Please welcome Stephen Blackmoore to The Qwillery. Fire Season, the 4th Eric Carter novel, was published on April 16, 2019 by DAW. 

I adore Eric Carter - he's snarky, reckless, a bit crazy, and my favorite anti-hero. I don't expect him to be the good guy though he often ends up that way by accident. He's really conflicted and flawed, which makes him more emotionally believable. Fire Season is the most intricate of the Eric Carter novels (so far). More is revealed about Eric's family and there are plenty of surprises. Blackmoore once again delivers a high-octane thrill ride of mayhem, magic and murder and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I highly recommend Fire Season and the Eric Carter series!

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Fire Season (Eric Carter 4), was published in April. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote City of the Lost (2012) to Fire Season?

Stephen:  I think so. It's gotten, I can't think of another word for it, sloppier. CITY OF THE LOST felt like I just threw it together. In fact I did just throw it together. I had no idea how it was going to go. Pantsed the whole thing.

But with DEAD THINGS I outlined. Not one or two pages, or notes in a whiteboard. No, I made a 30 page outline and whenever I shifted a direction, I would go back and shift the outline to see if the change was going to break the story.

Then I wrote a three pager for BROKEN SOULS and that was enough.

HUNGRY GHOSTS was a Notepad file with sentence fragments and a white board with half a dozen bullet points.

FIRE SEASON I didn't even have that much. I had a couple of ideas, a few bits of scenes and lines of dialog, kind of the direction I knew it was going to go, and that there was going to be a lot of fire in it.

The one I turned in a few months ago and the one I'm working on now are pretty much the same way, only less organized.

TQWhich character in the Eric Carter series (so far) surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Stephen:  For both of those questions, it's Santa Muerte. In HUNGRY GHOSTS Eric tries to kill the folk saint Santa Muerte, who's also the Aztec goddess of the dead, Mictecacihuatl, who he's had problems with since book one. He's doing this while trying to protect her avatar, a woman named Tabitha Cheung who he's come to have complicated feelings about.

Well, he fucks that up. And though Santa Muerte is destroyed, Tabitha goes along with her in a way that (SPOILER ALERT BUT MAYBE NOT REALLY) something new is created in her stead. It's an amalgam of Santa Muerte and Tabitha, which makes things even more complicated for Eric. The thing he despises and the person that maybe he has a thing for, and he really doesn't know what to do with it.

And honestly, neither does she.

TQDescribe Fire Season using only 5 words.

Stephen:  Angry gods necromancy big fire.

TQTell us something about Fire Season that is not in the book description.

Stephen:  I kill a lot more people in the book than I thought I was going to. Like a lot more. I really crank up the death count and the Holy Shit Did That Horrible Thing Just Happen up to eleven.

TQPlease tell us about Quetzalcoatl who appears to be after Eric Carter in Fire Season.

Stephen:  He's an asshole. He's betrayed the other Aztec gods (no one's quite sure why - but there's a bit of a resolution on that in FIRE SEASON) and helped the Spanish kill all but two of them, and in that final fight he was almost destroyed. He's weak, but he's still a god. He's driven, single-minded, and like everyone else has a hidden agenda.

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

Stephen:  "Can I give you a truckload of money to make this into a TV series?" The answer is, of course, "Yes."

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


"I tried idealism once. Gave me a rash."

"That's the problem with coke. It makes everything sound like a great idea. If at all possible, never make plans on coke."

TQWhat's next?

Stephen:  The next book in the series, GHOST MONEY, comes out in January. After that is BOTTLE DEMON, which I'm working on now. Besides that I've got another couple of things I'm working toward that may or may not pan out, so we'll see.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephen:  Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the book!

Fire Season
Eric Carter 4
DAW, April 16, 2019
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
The fourth book of this dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Los Angeles is burning.

During one of the hottest summers the city has ever seen, someone is murdering mages with fires that burn when they shouldn’t, that don’t stop when they should. Necromancer Eric Carter is being framed for the killings and hunted by his own people.

To Carter, everything points to the god Quetzalcoatl coming after him, after he defied the mad wind god in the Aztec land of the dead. But too many things aren’t adding up, and Carter knows there’s more going on.

If he doesn’t figure out what it is and put a stop to it fast, Quetzalcoatl won’t just kill him, he’ll burn the whole damn city down with him.


Dead Things
Eric Carter 1
DAW, February 3, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 256 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it’s a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He’s turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he’d never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister’s been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it’s the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who’s taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter’s going to find out who did it, and he’s going to make them pay.

As long as they don’t kill him first.

Broken Souls
Eric Carter 2
DAW, August 5, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Sister murdered, best friend dead, married to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte. Necromancer Eric Carter’s return to Los Angeles hasn’t gone well, and it’s about to get even worse.

His link to the Aztec death goddess is changing his powers, changing him, and he’s not sure how far it will go. He’s starting to question his own sanity, wonder if he’s losing his mind. No mean feat for a guy who talks to the dead on a regular basis.

While searching for a way to break Santa Muerte’s hold over him, Carter finds himself the target of a psychopath who can steal anyone’s form, powers, and memories. Identity theft is one thing, but this guy does it by killing his victims and wearing their skins like a suit. He can be anyone. He can be anywhere.

Now Carter has to change the game — go from hunted to hunter. All he has for help is a Skid Row bruja and a ghost who’s either his dead friend Alex or the manifestation of Carter’s own guilt-fueled psychotic break.

Everything is trying to kill him. Nothing is as it seems. If all his plans go perfectly, he might survive the week.

He’s hoping that’s a good thing.

Hungry Ghosts
Eric Carter 3
DAW, February 7, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer Eric Carter’s problems keep getting bigger. Bad enough he’s the unwilling husband to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte, but now her ex, the Aztec King of the dead, Mictlantecuhtli, has come back — and it turns out that Carter and he are swapping places. As Mictlantecuhtli breaks loose of his prison of jade, Carter is slowly turning to stone.

To make matters worse, both gods are trying to get Carter to assassinate the other. But only one of them can be telling him the truth and he can’t trust either one. Carter’s solution? Kill them both.

If he wants to get out of this situation with his soul intact, he’ll have to go to Mictlan, the Aztec land of the dead, and take down a couple of death gods while facing down the worst trials the place has to offer him: his own sins.

About Stephen

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore is a pulp writer of little to no renown who once thought lighting things on fire was one of the best things a kid could do with his time. Until he discovered that eyebrows don't grow back very quickly. He is the author of the urban fantasy novels CITY OF THE LOST, DEAD THINGS, BROKEN SOULS, HUNGRY GHOSTS, and FIRE SEASON. His short stories and poetry have appeared in Plots With Guns, Needle, Spinetingler, Thrilling Detective, Shots, Demolition, Clean Sheets , Flashing In The Gutters and a couple of anthologies with authors far better than he is. You can even stalk him on Twitter (@sblackmoore) or check out his website at

Interview with Dan Stout, author of Titanshade

Please welcome Dan Stout to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Titanshade was published on March 12, 2019 by DAW.

Interview with Dan Stout, author of Titanshade

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

Dan:  The very first thing I remember writing was an epic fantasy called Castle Doom. I think I was eight years old. It’s filled with sentences like, “And then he slew a peasant.”
Let’s just say I don’t think it’ll ever be published.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Dan:  I’d describe myself as a hybrid. My short stories are often pantsed, although I sometimes plot out longer pieces. Novel length work definitely involves plotting, but I prefer to use story structure as a diagnostic tool rather than a road map. I really do love the editing stage, and that’s partially because it’s when I get to break out the structural toys.

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

Dan:  The most difficult thing for me is the gap between starting and completing the first draft. I only get through that Initial first draft by lying to myself about how fast I can get it done and a stubborn refusal to give up.

I think my non-fiction work is a real help when it comes time to edit. It’s not that I’m less emotionally attached to my prose than other writers, but writing for a day job means that I don’t have the luxury of overthinking a problem. I jump in and start cutting and rewriting, because I know that if I don’t get it done, I’m not getting paid.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Dan:  Absolutely everything! I’m a big believer in the idea that all art and media is in dialogue with everything that came before. The great, gritty crime dramas of the 70s are certainly an influence, but so are the more recent fantasy mashups—everything from Fonda Lee’s JADE CITY to Marshall Ryan Maresca’s beautifully realized Maradaine novels.

TQDescribe Titanshade using only 5 words.

Dan:  Men in Black meets Chinatown.

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

Dan:  I think it has a lot of heart. The risk in writing a noir detective fantasy novel is that it could easily come across as especially bleak and nihilistic. If I did my job right, Carter’s worldview is that of a disappointed idealist, rather than a cynic who sees corruption as the natural state of the world.

TQWhat inspired you to write Titanshade? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

Dan:  I wrote the first chapter as part of an online flash fiction challenge. I had 90 minutes to come up with a story based on a prompt, and while I didn’t get a full story written out, I did at least get the rough outline for the book. That site was called Liberty Hall and although it’s sadly no longer around, at one point all kinds of great ideas were born there.

As far as the appeal of Urban Fantasy, the ability to use fantasy and science fictional imagery and tropes is a huge draw for me. I love finding ways to examine the many weird ways we interact with one another, and speculative fiction gives me a huge treasure trove of tools to highlight and distill all these human interactions. Plus, magic is awesome!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Titanshade?

Dan:  The advantage of doing a secondary fantasy world is that I can make my own rules and history. But that also carries the burden of making sure that everything hangs together on its own internal logic. I spent a lot of time tracking down original sources for descriptions of 70s era police procedures and arctic living. Again, I had the ability to pick and choose somewhat, because police training and technology varies wildly from one part of the world to another, so the Titanshade PD uses policies I’ve lifted from police forces. But with each element that gets described, that system becomes that much more set in stone.

And of course there’s a ton of research that doesn’t appear in the books. Things like how are building foundations and sewer lines dug when the life of the city could be threatened if a warming geo-vent is damaged? I’ve talked through things like that with architects and engineers, but unless it directly impacts the story, it’s never going to get more than a passing reference.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Titanshade.

Dan:  Collaborating on the cover was one of the real joys of seeing this book come to life! DAW is amazingly open to author input on the cover. They work with a ton of fantastic artists, but I thought Chris McGrath had the perfect eye for the gritty realism and elements of wonder that were needed to pull off this illustration.

The cover is a bit stylized, in that it doesn’t depict a specific scene, but man, does it ever capture the feel of the book! I thought Chris really hit it out of the park. It was so much fun collaborating on the cover, and we compared notes frequently to make sure we staying true to the book while also giving him room to flex his wings artistically.

Once Chris’s work was done, Katie Andersen and the team at DAW did a fantastic job of designing the jacket. The distressed cover, the title font, the slight tilt to the world… all of that came together in the final package. I love seeing art that hews close to the source material while still bringing the artist’s touch to the page, and I think we all worked together as a team to pull it off.

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

Dan:  For me, writing a 1st-person POV is all about finding the rhythm. Once I get into that voice, that character is pretty easy to write, as it just flows outward. So Carter was the easiest person to write.

The hardest would have to be one of the secondary characters, because their voice needs to come through as unique, and their actions reasonable, even when seen only through the filter of Carter’s observations. I have to stop and ask myself if their actions are honest more often. So I’ll say Ajax, since he shares so much time “on stage” with Carter.

TQDoes Titanshade touch on any social issues?

Dan:  Yeah, absolutely! The city of Titanshade is an oil boomtown whose wells are running dry. In addition, the world’s first industrial revolution was spurred by magic, until the source of manna was hunted to extinction. So the question of resource management and income inequality is an ever-present backdrop to the story.

I’m also very interested in how working class people are portrayed in fantasy and sci-fi. Sometimes it seems like speculative fiction has two categories of income: the ultra-rich and those with absolutely nothing. That ignores the huge swath of the population who are getting by, but with no safety net. To me, that’s the really interesting area to explore. The orphan living in squalor has nothing to lose by going off on a quest to save the world, but a single parent working two jobs to pay the rent just doesn’t have the time!

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

Dan:  Sure! I wish more people would ask how to get it from their library. I think that a lot of people are interested in a range of books, but aren’t able to purchase a copy at full retail price. But most libraries have a way for patrons to request a book, either for order or through inter-library loan. And that goes for almost any format—print, ebook, and audio.
Libraries are a way for readers to discover books and authors at no cost, while still supporting those authors and publishers. I was a library rat growing up, and I’m always happy to help people find out more about their local library system, and how to request a copy of their favorite book (mine or someone else’s!).

TQ:   Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Titanshade.

Dan:  One of my favorites is “Know the city and you’ll know the victims. Know the victims and you’ll know the killer.”

It’s not uncommon to see the victims in crime mysteries portrayed almost as props, while the hero and villain are fully fleshed out characters. I do my best to bring a sense of humanity to the victims of the crimes as well, to make them sympathetic, even if they weren’t likable people in life.

TQWhat's next?

Dan:  I am hard at work on the next book in the Carter Archives, trying to make it as multi-layered and mysterious as possible, while still keeping the sense of fun and adventure that fuels the first book. I can’t wait for it to be out in the world a year from now.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Dan:  Thank you! It’s so much fun to be here and talk about this crazy noir fantasy book!

The Carter Archives 1
DAW, March 12, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Dan Stout, author of Titanshade
This noir fantasy thriller from a debut author introduces the gritty town of Titanshade, where danger lurks around every corner.

Carter’s a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It’s also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city’s future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.

But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. The pressure’s never been higher to make a quick arrest, even as Carter’s investigation leads him into conflict with the city’s elite. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.

About Dan

Interview with Dan Stout, author of Titanshade
Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His prize-winning fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan's stories have appeared in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Nature, and Intergalactic Medicine Show. His debut novel Titanshade is a noir fantasy thriller available from DAW Books. To say hello, visit him at

Twitter @DanStout  ~  Facebook

Review: Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

Empire of Silence
Author:  Christopher Ruocchio
Series:  The Sun Eater 1
Publisher:  DAW, July 3, 2018
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 624 pages
List Price:  US$26.00 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  ISBN 9780756413002 (print); ISBN 9780756413026 (eBook

Review: Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

Melanie's Thoughts:

Hadrian had his life all mapped out. He wants to become a scholiast - one of the learned academics like his beloved teacher, Gibson. However his father, the Archon of Meidua, has other plans. His father is planning to send him to the Chantry where he will become just another soulless minion of the Empire, torturing the poor and defenseless. No one, not even Hadrian, could have anticipated the chain of events that unfold when he defies his father's wishes.

Stranded on a planet far away from home and the future that he sacrificed so much for. With no money, friends or family Hadrian does the only thing he knows - fight. All the years of training have paid off as Hadrian enters the gladiatorial arena. It's not long before he makes a name for himself beating gladiators with better weapons and armor soon becoming a hero of the arena. Once again, politics of the court take him farther away from the life he started to make for himself. He is now firmly on the path to become what the galaxy will remember him as  - the Sun Eater.

Empire of Silence is truly an epic. The story is told in the first person with Hadrian recounting the events that lead up to him becoming known as the world killer. The story starts at the very beginning, with his birth and ends with Hadrian leaving the planet that became his new home. A lot happens to Hadrian in the first few decades of his life and his fortunes change dramatically between the start and the end of book 1. Events before he leaves his home world are very traumatic for him but it seems that his life on the streets of Emesh are what define him as a person.

Ruocchio has an incredible imagination and the worlds that he has built for Hadrian are rich and full of detail. Despite the story only covering the first twenty something years of Hadrian's life a lot happens to him. I liked how the story was told from the first person and and that 30+ years were lost in Hadrian's life as he traveled across the galaxy after escaping his father but we don't find out why. The society, history and social structures are also very detailed, in fact, so detailed that Ruocchio provides us with one of the longest glossaries I have ever seen. Although I didn't find it until I had finished the book which is pretty easy to do when reading an eBook.

My one criticism with Empire of Silence is the pace. There is so much detail and so much dialogue that the story can actually drag in parts but then half a chapter later something would happen so that I could barely put the book down. If I had only two words to describe this book I would say that it is 'topsy turvy' because one minute I was bored stiff with all the detail and the next I was on the edge of my seat. Having said that this was a debut and it was very ambitious. I am very curious to find out what will happen next to Hadrian. I just really hope that Ruocchio evens out the pace and and doesn't unnecessarily drag out the story.

Note: I love the cover. It is one that I spent a lot of time staring at it. And it won the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for July!

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July Winner

Another epic voting battle took place for July and this time it was between Empire of Silence (DAW) and City of Lies (Tor Books).

The winner of the July 2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio with 35% of the votes. The cover art is by Sam Weber

Empire of Silence
Sun Eater 1
DAW, July 3, 2018
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 624 pages

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July Winner
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

The Results

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July Winner

The July 2018 Debuts

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July Winner

Interview with V. M. Escalada

Please welcome V. M. Escalada to The Qwillery. Gift of Griffins is published on August 7th by DAW.

Interview with V. M. Escalada

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

V. M.:  Great to be here, thanks for inviting me. I'd have to say I'm a hybrid. My academic training pushes me in the direction of outlines, but I only prepare one to be sure that I've got a viable story, that the idea works and has someplace to go. That isn't necessarily where it actually does go, of course.

TQTell us something about Gift of Griffins that is not found in the book description.

V. M.:  I see that nothing about Griffinhome is mentioned, so there's nothing about how the griffins' society works, and what Weimerk's place is in it. It does have an impact on the plot, though obviously I'm not going to tell you what that is.

TQWhat inspired you to write the Faraman Prophecy? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

V. M.:  I was a fan of those forensics shows that were all the rage for a while. Since my brain lives in a fantasy space, I thought, "what if psychics were used as crime scene investigators?" They could just walk into the crime scene, touch things, and know immediately what had happened. I figured out pretty quickly that the idea wouldn't make a story – at least not a crime-based story, since the psychics would just say "he did it" and the story would be over. So then I wondered, what if being a psychic was the problem? What if they were going about their lawful business when their country was invaded by people who thought Talents were witches that had to be destroyed?

I consider fantasy one of the oldest genres. The way we approach it today, we're able to put our characters into situations that stress them to the breaking point in a way that non-genre writing just can't do. And it also allows the writer to present a society or a world that is different from the world we live in – explore that world, examine it and, occasionally, compare it to the real world.

I've said this before, and I know I'll say it again: I believe that genre literature in general, and fantasy literature in particular is the only place where the protagonist can behave heroically, honourably, without being treated ironically.

It's the only genre where characters can to try to behave as their best selves.

TQWhy griffins?

V. M.:  Well, there are already an awful lot of dragons around, aren't there? Seriously, I liked the idea of griffins because they're dual-natured. Lions and eagles are both at the top of their food chains, top predators. I thought that would make an interesting character, particularly since we meet Weimerk as a hatchling.

TQPlease tell us about magic works in the Faraman Prophecy world.

V. M.:  I like magic to be personal, not dependent on artifacts that anyone can use. So in both books of The Faraman Prophecy, magical abilities are something that people are born with, and trained to use. Like other natural abilities, singing, dancing, cooking etc. some are better at it than others.

TQIn Gift of Griffins who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Which character has surprised you?

V. M.:  Probably the easiest character to write was Ennick. He doesn't have a huge role in terms of lines, but in his way he's extremely important. He's unique in his motives and outlook, which made him easy to understand, at least for me, some of the other characters seem to have a bit of difficulty.

The hardest character was Weimerk, the griffin. It's always a challenge when you're creating a non-human consciousness. Why would they think the same way we do?

I'd have to say the character than surprised me is Wynn Martan. She became a bit of a Mercutio-like character in that she often steals the scenes she's in. She's a redhead, and it turned out that she has the true ginger attitude.

TQDoes Gift of Griffins touch on any social issues?

V. M.:  In many ways I'm looking at the issue of racial/social biases and prejudices from a number of angles. The Faraman Polity is fairly gender-equal, with a slight bias toward women. So you'll find that ranking military officers, nobles, landowners, and even the Luqs, are very likely to be women. The Faramans themselves don't find anything unusual in this, but the Halians are a totally different matter. Not only are they male-centric, but they believe Talents are abominations that must be destroyed. However, it's not just gender equally that gets explored. Biases pop up between the different types of magic-users, and even within the same groups.

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

V. M.:  Most of my favourite lines concern Weimerk the griffin. Here are a few:

Most of my favourite lines concern Weimerk the griffin. Here are a few:

"The griffin showed you?" The woman's tone softened and became kinder. Clearly she thought Ker was mentally defective . . . "And what griffin would that be, my dear?"
Ker pointed upward. "This one."

He might have been half lion and half eagle, but he seemed to have the stomach of both.
<<I am still growing.>> Somehow his thoughts conveyed a clear feeling of offense.
<<You are not.>>

<<You're late.>>
<<I am not. I am always here when I arrive, and never a moment later.>>

TQWhat's next?

V. M.:  I had a couple of ideas for more stories in the Faraman universe, but I couldn't choose between them. So, I'm working on a totally different book, where the "magic" and the physical world are linked. The magicians themselves don't understand as much about their magic as they think they do. I'm still working out the kinks, but it looks promising so far.

Still, I'd love to visit Kerida and Tel and Weimerk again someday. And Wynn. I can see her getting into a lot of trouble.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

V. M.:  You're very welcome. I've enjoyed myself.

Gift of Griffins
Faraman Prophecy 2
DAW, August 7, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with V. M. Escalada
The second book in the Faraman Prophecy epic fantasy series returns to a world of military might and magical Talents as Kerida Nast continues the quest to save her nation.

Kerida Nast and her companions have succeeded in finding Jerek Brightwing, the new Luqs of Farama, and uniting him with a part of his Battle Wings, but not all their problems have been solved. Farama is still in the hands of the Halian invaders and their Shekayrin, and it’s going to take magical as well as military strength to overcome them.

Unexpected help comes from Bakura, the Princess Imperial of the Halians, whose Gifts have been suppressed.  As the Voice of her brother the Sky Emperor she has some political power over the Halian military, and she will use it to aid the Faramans, if Kerida can free her from what she sees as a prison. But whether Kerida can help the princess remains to be seen. If she succeeds, Bakura may prove their salvation. But should Kerida fail, all may be lost….


Halls of Law
Faraman Prophecy 1
DAW, August 7, 2018
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, August 1, 2017

Interview with V. M. Escalada
Now in paperback, the first book in the Faraman Prophecy epic fantasy series introduces a world of military might and magical Talents on the brink of destruction–and two unlikely heroes may be its only saviors.

Seventeen-year-old Kerida Nast has always wanted a career in the military, just like the rest of her family. So when her Talent is discovered, and she knows she’ll have to spend the rest of her life as a psychic for the Halls of Law, Ker isn’t happy about it. Anyone entering the Halls must give up all personal connection with the outside world, losing their family and friends permanently.

But just as Kerida is beginning to reconcile herself to her new role, the Faraman Polity is invaded by strangers from Halia, who begin a systematic campaign of destruction against the Halls, killing every last Talent they can find.

Kerida manages to escape, falling in with Tel Cursar, a young soldier fleeing the battle, which saw the deaths of the royal family. Having no obvious heir to the throne, no new ruler to rally behind, the military leaders will be divided, unable to act quickly enough to save the empire. And with the Halls being burned to the ground, and the Talents slaughtered, the Rule of Law will be shattered.

About V. M. Escalada

Interview with V. M. Escalada
Photo: © Jessica Kennedy
V. M. Escalada lives in a nineteenth-century limestone farmhouse in southeastern Ontario with her husband. Born in Canada, her cultural background is half Spanish and half Polish, which makes it interesting at meal times. Her most unusual job was translating letters between lovers, one of whom spoke only English, the other only Spanish.

Twitter @VioletteMalan

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence

Please welcome Christopher Ruocchio to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Empire of Silence was published on July 3rd by DAW.

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence

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

Christopher:  Thank you for inviting me! It’s hard to say exactly. I began writing in second grade. My friends and I would play make believe on the playground (it started out with them all playing as Dragonball Z characters with myself as Batman—I wasn’t allowed to watch DBZ, you see). It fell to me to catalog the events of the week, and as my friends discovered football and social skills, I just kept writing. I think the first thing I ever finished was what amounted to a handwritten piece of The Legend of Zelda fanfiction with the serial numbers filed off. I did finish a novel in about the ninth grade, but being wise for a high schooler, I put it in a box in my attic and have not thought of it since.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Christopher:  A hybrid, certainly, but with more plotter than pantser. That said, Empire of Silence’s development was far more organic than its sequel. I was working on “a book” since I was about eight, and so I had all the time in the world to make things right. That book eventually became Empire, but not without about fourteen years of false starts and mistakes. For the sequel—which I have finished—I composed about 60 pages of outline, which I then proceeded to only look at with one eye. Artists must have a plan, in my opinion, and a structure, but they should always keep one eye open to inspiration, and some of the best moments in both Empire and its sequel came to me in the heat of the moment.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Christopher:  Sitting still! I tend to find excuses to stand up and move about or to get distracted cleaning my room, but I bought a standing desk recently and that’s helped curb the worst of my meandering. I’m also not very keen on the revision part of the process. Writing new material is easy, but to go back through and pull out pieces and to try and look at plot threads or character arcs distributed through the book sometimes feels like playing four-dimensional chess. That being said, Hemingway was dead on (I believe it was Hemingway) when he said that all writing is rewriting. Onerous a task though it may be, revision is the most crucial part of this enterprise, and editors are unsung heroes (or heroines, as is more often the case)!

TQYou are the Assistant Editor at Baen Books. How does being an Editor affect (or not) your own writing?

Christopher:  The most prominent effect my job’s had on my writing is on my writing time. When I wrote Empire, I was a waiter and a college student, which is a much more forgiving schedule for someone trying to write a book than any 9-5 office job. I wake up at about 6 AM each morning to write before work, and then again after. Those are long days (though much shorter days than those of factory workers, so I remain very grateful—both to my employer and the factory workers). Most of the other effects of my work with Baen have been procedural. I know how the book-publishing process works, and so I’ve been spared the plague of doubts and questions that seem to afflict many newer writers. It’s taught me the importance of being on time, and of clear and quick responses to emails (both as a writer and editor). I think I’m learning to be a better client in relation to my agents and publishers, and a better publishing employee relative to the authors I’ve had the privilege of working with.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Christopher:  Gosh, what hasn’t! The book’s been compared to Dune and The Name of the Wind, which was surreal hearing someone else say out loud. Frank Herbert certainly has been a large influence on me, and I wanted the book to start someplace familiar. The Name of the Wind comparison has more to do with the fact that they’re both first person narratives, though while I do enjoy Mr. Rothfuss’s work—he’s one of the finest prose stylists working today—his work wasn’t a factor in my choice of narrative-style. I was practically born a Star Wars fan, one of the last to experience the franchise before the prequels swept in. Stargate and the Alien films are also perennial favorites—though I never cared much for Star Trek, I will confess. Tolkien was and is absolutely foundational for me, as he was for so many. There has never been a finer writer in all of genre fiction. Being a child of the 1990s, I was also very much influenced by anime/manga. Cowboy Bebop is an all-time favorite, and Akira and Ghost in the Shell have played a role as well (though more in informing Empire of Silence’s sequel than Empire itself). I’m also a great fan of Kentaro Miura’s Berserk, which I’m rather afraid may not bode well for the well-being of my characters. Video games also played a role. Tales of Symphonia was nearly as foundational for me as some of the books I read, if not more so, as were games like Baten Kaitos and Lost Odyssey. In addition to that, I’m an ardent fan of classic literature: Elizabethan drama/poetry, the Romantics, and even Greek theater. History as well. People are quick to note the Roman influences on my worldbuilding, but there are echoes of Byzantine, Spanish, and British Imperial history in this book, as well as some Qing Dynasty China. And lastly, I was raised Roman Catholic—and while my feelings about theology are conflicted enough to fill an entire book—it would be a mistake to imagine that upbringing had no impact on my thinking.

TQDescribe Empire of Silence using only 5 words.

Christopher:  “A love-letter to classic SF.”

(Hyphenated words count as one, right?)

TQTell us something about Empire of Silence that is not found in the book description.

Christopher:  I think it’s quite funny some of them time. Make no mistake: it’s quite a serious book, but there’s enough social comedy elements in places to relieve that. Hadrian is extremely grandiose and formal, and the rest of the cast constantly needles him for it—as does Hadrian himself. I also think it has a lot of heart to it. You can lose sight of that focusing on all the larger-than-life galactic politics and the like, but I consider myself a very character-centric writer and Hadrian’s relationships with the rest of the cast—warts and all, Hadrian is far from perfect—are what I think holds the story together.

TQWhat inspired you to write Empire of Silence? What appeals to you about genre blending - Space Opera and Epic Fantasy?

Christopher:  I’ve always wanted to write. As I say, since I was eight-years-old to be a novelist has been the sum of my professional ambition. Empire simply grew up with me. There was no apple falling out of the tree moment: I just wanted to write a heroic adventure story like I enjoyed when I was a kid, but one that paid homage to the more “complex” stories I’d grown to love as a teenager. As to genre blending, I don’t think I ever thought about it. Fandom’s obsession with genre reminds me of metalheads’ insistence on their love for hyper-specific, micro-genres. The distinction between black metal and power metal, for instance, is totally opaque and arcane to outsiders, and is thereby meaningless. (It’s also so obscure that people don’t want to get into it). Genre fiction is going that way. Some readers will only read epic fantasy, but not urban fantasy, for example. On principle. My question is: How long before realize we’re on our way to creating as many genres as there are writers and give up the whole system? Stepping down off my soapbox, I had a story I wanted to tell, and that story had both fantasy and space opera elements. I thought, “Hey, it’s worked before!” and went about writing it. I hope that fans of both space opera and epic fantasy will find something to love about it!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Empire of Silence?

Christopher:  I haven’t done much by way of formal research. The truth is, I’m constantly reading something or watching something else, and if you’ll forgive me for boasting, I have an excellent memory for facts, such that I can retain at least the gist (but very often the precise wording and even the tone) of anything I hear after just one exposure. I’m very taken with all the lectures and podcast interviews available now with all sorts of experts on subjects from psychology to biology to ancient history. One has to be careful to vet one’s sources, of course, but it’s not uncommon I’ll get through two or three lectures a day as I drive and make dinner and so on. There’s a Greek Orthodox icon carver called Jonathan Pageau I’ve watched a lot of recently, for example, he discusses literary and visual symbolism in the early Christian tradition and how ideas embedded in these ancient icons still persist in popular culture today (he once compared Shrek to The Bacchae by Euripides. Yes, really). I tend to float from topic to topic as it catches my interest. I never know what might be of use and how. There’s a great channel called Invicta which covers Roman military history in exquisite detail. We live in an age of unprecedented access to educational material for even the most idiosyncratic interests, and I mean to take full advantage of the opportunity!

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Empire of Silence.

Christopher:  The US cover was done by the immensely talented Sam Weber, who did the art for the Dune Folio Edition, as well as Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and the tenth anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind. I’ve adored his work for years and feel very fortunate to have gotten to work with him. It doesn’t so much depict a moment in the novel as it does evoke the world and feel of the text. It shows my hero, Hadrian, in sort of a lordly, formal set of armor. Mr. Weber balanced the futuristic nature of the setting with the historical influences my worldbuilding draws from Imperial Rome and Victorian Britain. He’s depicted against the dark of space, with two moons to help signify that this is science fiction we’re dealing with (and because the planet Emesh, where most of the book takes place, has two moons). He stands with his sword towards the ground—an unknown hand clutching the blade, looking up as if for some word. We were slightly inspired Pollice Verso, the famous Gerome painting of the gladiator looking up at Caesar’s box for the order to spare or kill his beaten opponent.

TQIn Empire of Silence who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Christopher:  Hadrian has been easiest, far and away. Since he is our narrator, I spend more time in his head than any other character and am more familiar with him the rest of the cast. I’ve also got more space in the text to flesh him out than any other character. The most difficult character by far was Valka Onderra, a xeno-archaeologist who disagrees with Hadrian’s world view at practically every given opportunity. The two have a very antagonistic relationship in the book, which is complicated by Hadrian’s trying very hard to stay on her good side, so every scene she’s in becomes a complex mire of negotiating complex emotions and verbal combat. I think the end result was worth the headache, however. Several early readers seem to really like her!

TQWhich question about Empire of Silence do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

ChristopherIt seems like a lot of your writing relies on reusing old ideas/tropes. Why the homages? Shouldn’t SF/F always be something new?

This thread’s come up in a few of the early reviews, and it’s been bothering me because, yes, I do lay on the homages very heavy at the beginning of this novel. As I say, I wanted the book to start out somewhere familiar, to give audiences a window into the kind of story I’m telling, if only to give them a false sense of security because the book will take us somewhere quite different than the beginning might lead one to suspect. If you look at the great successes in recent years, especially in the film industry, say, none of those things are original. Nonetheless, the industry so often gets fixated on writers who are going to “smash” tropes or “break” a genre. I’ve yet to see one really succeed. For me, doing something different in this day and age means less experimentation, and more focus on telling a story as well as I can. Scotch tobacco ice cream may appeal to foodies, but the average person with a sweet tooth would still rather have vanilla or mint chocolate. And that’s not to say I’m not experimenting, but if you’re going to blend genres the way I am, you need those classic ingredients or the fact this is a blend might go unnoticed.

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

Christopher:  I’ll pick two at random:

“We live in stories, and in stories, we are subject to phenomena beyond the mechanisms of space and time. Fear and love, death and wrath and wisdom—these are as much parts of our universe as light and gravity. The ancients called them gods, for we are their creatures, shaped by their winds.”

“But there are other powers that move our world, powers greater than man. Powers that, like time and tide, wait for none. Even Emperors, like starlight, bend to the blackest forces of natural law.”

TQWhat's next?

Christopher:  I’ve just finished the sequel to Empire of Silence—well, the first draft of it, anyway—and have turned that in to my editor. I’m starting work outlining book 3, which I plan to have done by the time revision notes for book 2 come in. Hadrian and his story will be with me for a few years yet! In addition to that, I’ve just finished compiling stories for a reprint anthology called Space Pioneers with Baen’s Editor Emeritus, Hank Davis. It’s just what the name says on the tin: a collection of older stories about people braving the environs of space. We’ve got stories by Niven and Pournelle, Sturgeon and Heinlein and so on. Hank has an archival memory of everything in SF up until the ‘80s, and there are some real gems in this anthology. I’m also working on an original story/novelette to include in the book as well! That’ll be along in December!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Christopher:  It’s been a pleasure! Thank you!

Empire of Silence
The Sun Eater 1
DAW, July 3, 2018
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 624 pages

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

About Christopher

Interview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence
Photo © Paul Ruocchio
Christopher Ruocchio is the author of The Sun Eater, a space opera fantasy series from DAW Books, as well as the Assistant Editor at Baen Books, where he co-edited the military SF anthology Star Destroyers, as well as the upcoming Space Pioneers, a collection of Golden Age reprints showcasing tales of human exploration. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision-making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Christopher has been writing since he was eight years old and sold his first book —Empire of Silence— at twenty-two. The Sun Eater series in available from Gollancz in the UK, and has been translated into French and German.

Christopher lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he spends most of his time hunched over a keyboard writing. He may be found on both Facebook and Twitter at @TheRuocchio.

Twitter @TheRuocchio ~ Facebook

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Winner

The winner of the April 2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris from DAW with 42% of the votes. Cover is by Tran Nguyen.

From Unseen Fire
Aven Cycle 1
DAW, April 17, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Winner
From Unseen Fire is the first novel in the Aven Cycle, a historical fantasy set in an alternate Rome, by debut author Cass Morris

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people—if only she can find the courage to try.

Her siblings—a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition in the province of Iberia—will be her allies as she builds a place for herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?

The Results
2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Winner

The April 2018 Debuts
2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Winner
Interview with Kathleen O'Neal GearInterview with Joshua Phillip Johnson, author of The Forever SeaCovers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC AuthorsInterview with Stephen BlackmooreInterview with Dan Stout, author of TitanshadeReview: Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July WinnerInterview with V. M. EscaladaInterview with Christopher Ruocchio, author of Empire of Silence2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Winner

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