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Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage


Please welcome Vic James to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Gilded Cage is published on February 14th by Del Rey.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Vic a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage




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

Vic:  Thank you so much for inviting me in! I was a reader first. Every night my parents would check on me after lights-out and find me sound asleep with a book on my face where I’d not wanted to put it down! As for when I started to write, well, my mother just moved house and found a copy of a story I wrote age 7 that won a prize in a local library competition. It was about a statue of a dark ages king who comes to life and walks through the city centre, where he breaks into a cake shop and a bookshop – my 7-year-old’s priorities, right there! I write to tell the stories I wish had been written for me.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Vic:  A hybrid. Before I start I need to know my ending, and to have a few significant ‘waymarker’ events. Then I let my characters find their own route between them. I do write chronologically, and can’t imagine doing it any other way! I can never leave a tricky bit unresolved and simply move on. I stop where I am until I’ve got it right.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Vic:  I use multiple perspectives – three ‘leads’ and two other significant ones – and though they are each telling their own story, they are all part of the same, single narrative. Making sure that the reader can confidently fill in for themselves what one character might have been doing while we spend time hearing from another character is very important.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does being a TV director influence or not your novel writing?

Vic:  My works as a current affairs TV director is central to my writing. It’s given me insights into everything from the harsh realities of life at the bottom of our society today (when I made UK reports for Channel 4 News), to how sexual coercion is commonplace in politics (I made a report dubbed ‘Sexminster’), to how elites live and operate, as with a series on the modern global superrich. I couldn’t have written this book and expected it to be convincing without that experience.



TQDescribe Gilded Cage in 140 characters or less.

Vic:  In an alternate modern Britain, everyone must perform 10 years’ service to the ruling magical aristocracy. A brother & sister must survive – & make a different world.



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

Vic:  Ooooh. The history goes very deep. There is around 1,200 years of backstory to the world, which is drip-fed in small amounts through the books. I have all sorts of legends and short stories and origin myths and historical tales of derring-do locked up in my head. One theme of the series is the nature of history and who writes it, and these stories from the past become progressively more important as the series progresses.



TQWhat inspired you to write Gilded Cage?

Vic:  My day job is in TV. I was producing a BBC series titled The Superrich and Us, filming with billionaires, visiting their houses and exclusive events, like a supercar rally, at a time when there was a lot of talk about ‘the 1%’ and ‘the 99%’. And on my way to work one day, the idea just clicked in my head: What if the 1% didn’t only have unimaginable wealth – what if they also had magic?

In fact, isn’t extreme wealth, in our world, like a kind of magic? It lets these people do things the rest of us simply can’t. I wanted to explore how those people behave: do they do good, or bad? Do they want to change the world – or just enjoy their position of privilege in it?



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Gilded Cage?

Vic:  No especial research, because in a way I’ve been researching for it my whole life! The alternate Britain diverges 400 years ago, during the English Civil War, and I did a doctorate on that period. All of the bleak details about life during the slavedays were informed by my career as a news journalist reporting on UK social affairs. The grand houses I describe are inspired by stately homes owned by the National Trust which I’ve been visiting since childhood. After all, they do say ‘write what you know’!



TQPlease tell us about Gilded Cage's cover.

Vic:  I love both my UK and US covers, and I’ve just seen the French one, which has blown my tiny mind! Huge thanks to Jo Thompson (UK) and Dave Stevenson (US) for their wonderful work. All my publishers have seized on the theme of birds! That’s probably to be expected, with the title of this first book, but it’s also a reference to the dynamics of the world – the super-powered Equals, and everyone else. There’s a line where one of the characters enters Kyneston, the aristocratic estate, at night, and hears noises in the forest: “it seemed like everything here was busy hunting everything else: the animals with wings and claws going after the animals with neither.”



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

Vic:  Writing Gilded Cage brought an interesting insight: writing characters whose thought processes are a lot like yours (in my case, Silyen), or who are vastly different (eg. Gavar) are both fun and easy. The trickier ones are characters with whom you share qualities, but from whom you differ in important respects. So like Abi, I am bookish, academic and motivated; but she is more methodical, and far more trusting in system and order than I am. So with those characters, you have to watch those fault-lines carefully.



TQWhy have you chosen to include social issues in Gilded Cage?

Vic:  The book is social issues. They were its inspiration. These books could only have been written now, and I’m sure readers will spot plenty more current parallels in book 2, as well!



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

Vic:  Some readers have wondered why, given that you can choose when to start your ‘slavedays’, people don’t just put it off forever. In the book I mention that you have to start by age 55 (because otherwise you wouldn’t be much good if you were allocated heavy labour!) But there was a longer explanation that got cut in revisions. One important thing not mentioned in Gilded Cage is that if a parent dies with their days unserved, their child(ren) inherit that debt. This happened to Luke and Abi’s cousin Sean, whose father had a heart attack when Sean was 12. As an only child, Sean inherited the whole of his father’s debt, meaning he’ll have to serve a total of 20 years. (Multiple children would share the debt-days among them.) That’s a massive incentive for any parent to want to do their days while they’re still reasonably young and healthy – just as the Hadley parents do.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Gilded Cage.

Vic:  There are two that to me sum up the world of the books – I’ve even had them printed on t-shirts for when I do events!

One is Doc Jackson’s advice to Luke: “There’s no magic more powerful than the human spirit.”

The other is Gavar Jardine’s reflection on the power of his elite kind, the Equals, because magic is like money, “You didn’t need to ask to know who had lots of it.”



TQWhat's next?

Vic:  Right now I am working on book 3, Bright Ruin, which releases June 2018. (Book 2, Tarnished City, is out in seven months, in early September.) I’m also directing a major documentary for BBC1 on the first 100 days of the Trump administration. You’ll have to judge for yourself whether/how any of that feeds into the books! And I’m turning over ideas for my post-trilogy books. I have another alternate-now story, this one a standalone, that I desperately want to write!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Vic:  Thank you so much for having me, and for loving Gilded Cage!





Gilded Cage
Dark Gifts 1
Del Rey, February 14, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage
A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke

NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?


Read Melanie's review here.





About Vic

Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage
Photo by Jay Dacey
Vic James is a current-affairs TV director who loves stories in all their forms. Her programs for BBC1 have covered the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Britain’s EU referendum. She has twice judged The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. Gilded Cage is her first novel, and an early draft of it won a major online award from Wattpad for most-talked-about fantasy. She has lived in Rome and Tokyo, and currently lives in London.


Website  ~  Twitter @DrVictoriaJames  ~  Facebook





UK Edition

Gilded Cage
The Dark Gifts Trilogy 1
Pan, January 26, 2017
Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded Cage
A thrilling Orwellian vision of Britain, with a rebellious Hunger Games heart, Gilded Cage is the astonishing debut novel from Vic James, and the first title in her electrifying The Dark Gifts Trilogy.

A modern Britain
An age-old cruelty

Britain's magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years - and now it's the Hadleys' turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England's most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom - or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends' ideals might cost him everything.

Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James


Gilded Cage
Author:  Vic James
Series:  Dark Gifts 1
Publisher:  Del Rey, February 14, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages
List Price:  US$20.00 (print); US$10.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780425284155 (print); 9780425284131 (eBook)

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James
A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke

NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?



Melanie's Thoughts

Abi and Luke have their whole lives in front of them - Abi has been accepted into university to study medicine and the 16 year old Luke is looking forward to doing what most teenage boys do...have fun. This isn't on the cards when their parents make the big decision to leave their home, jobs, friends, family and most importantly their freedom in order to do their mandatory 10 years as slaves for the magically gifted aristocracy. When Luke is separated and sent to the brutal factory town of Millmoor it's clear that this was a decision that would irrevocably change the entire family's lives forever. Politics and revolution play hand in hand with magic and subjugation.

James sets her debut in a dystopian version of England where the ruling class are the Skilled with magical powers they barely ever have to use and the rest of humanity who give up ten years of their lives in slavery to the Equals. The majority of the story is told from four of the main characters POV including Abi and Luke where we learn what it is like to have everything you love stripped away from you by the ruling class. To avoid a totally one sided story chapters are also dedicated to two of the Equalis - Gavar and Bouda whose are both single mindedly selfish and cruel. The mystery of this story is not what happens to Abi and Luke but rather it's whether the extremely powerful Equal Silyen is working for good or evil. You are kept guessing all the way to the end (and I'm still not sure).

When I read the book summary I was convinced that this story was going to be right up my street - a bit of magic, a bit of mayhem and a fight against an evil aristocracy. While there was definitely a bit of magic the revolution aspects were pretty thin on the ground. I wouldn't say that Luke actually succeeded in proving that the power of the people was greater than the power of magic. I felt that Abi's almost instant infatuation with the Skillless aristocract Jenner was a bit trite and unbelievable. I am not sure, regardless of how handsome Jenner was, how you could fall so easily in love with someone who effectively owns you and your family for a decade. I thought that Silyen was the most interesting by far and he wasn't in it quite enough to keep my interest through the whole story.

While I think Gilded Cage was a good debut I wasn't blown away. The world building was very good but I found the characterisation a bit weak. My main criticism is that I just didn't care enough about any of the characters that I was worried about what could happen to them or angry when they did something evil. I believe that having a story told by 4-5 different POVs makes it more challenging to really draw in the reader so that they are truly invested in what they do and what happens to them. The story ended on quite the cliffhanger but I am undecided whether I want to know what happens next.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden


The Bear and the Nightingale
Author:  Katherine Arden
Publisher:  Del Rey, January 10, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$27.00 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101885932 (print); 9781101885949 (eBook)

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.



Melanie's Thoughts

Set in the remote forest of Russia, Katherine Arden begins her amazing debut featuring Vasilisa who is very different from her parents and siblings. Vasilisa can see the spirits who live in her home, stables and the forest. The same spirits who frighten her step mother and cast her in the role of the village witch. When a young priest is sent to the village, determined to purge the 'old ways' everything takes a turn for the worst.  Crops start to fail, villagers and their animals die in horrible ways and the dead come back to life but its not the pious who will save them. Vasilisa, with the help of the frost demon, is the only one who can save her family home.

The Bear and the Nightingale is truly a fantastic book. It is one of those books that you can't believe is a debut and can't put down. To echo the book summary it really reminded me of Naomi Novak's Uprooted. Both books are steeped in Russian folklore with enigmatic female leads. Arden paints a rich and colourful picture of Vasilisa's lonely upbringing as the child that caused her beloved mother's death. When her stepmother turns up on the scene Vasilisa's life turns into an almost 'cinderella before the ball' existence. I enjoyed how Arden uses the plot to explain the spread of Christianity during that time period in Russia and how people turned away from worshiping the pagan gods and spirits. My one small criticism is that Arden spent a little too long describing Vasilisa's early life as I believe she could have a successfully progressed the plot without so much exposition in that period of her life.

If you are looking for a book that draws you in from page one and you can't put down then I urge you to read The Bear and the Nightingale. Hats off to Arden for crafting an richly textured story in a wonderfully lush and equally stark setting. This story hearkens back to a traditional fairy tale and is so detailed you can almost feel the chill of every snowflake that falls on Vasilisa's shoulders. A joy to read, start to finish.

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig


Aftermath: Life Debt
Author:  Chuck Wendig
Series:  The Aftermath Trilogy 2
Publisher:  Del Rey, July 12, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages
List Price:  US$28.99 (print); US$14.99 (eBook)
ISBN9781101966938 (print); 9781101966945 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Set between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the never-before-told story that began with Star Wars: Aftermath continues in this thrilling novel, the second book of Chuck Wendig’s bestselling trilogy.

It is a dark time for the Empire. . . . 

The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee’s homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire’s remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a band of smugglers into an ambush—resulting in Chewie’s capture and Han’s disappearance.

Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward the Millennium Falcon’s last known location, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can’t anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them—or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.



Tracey/Trinitytwo's Point of View

Aftermath: Life Debt picks up shortly after the events of Aftermath. Norra Wexley's eclectic team has made a name for itself and works steadily for the New Republic. Their mission: capture and deliver important Imperials to Chandrila, where they will stand trial for their crimes against the galaxy. After returning from a particularly harrowing mission, Norra is approached by Princess Leia Organa who announces that her husband, Han Solo, is missing after a failed attempt to free Chewbacca from incarceration by the Empire. Although her request is not sanctioned by the leaders of the New Republic, Leia asks Norra and her team to find Han.

Life Debt screams into action almost immediately and its pace never lessens. Wendig hits his stride in this second installment and the choppiness I noted in book one of the trilogy has transitioned into a smooth ride through hyperspace. Although its storyline is complex, it's particularly well orchestrated. Each component fits together like an intricate puzzle that is extremely satisfying when completed.

I have grown quite fond of Norra Wexley and her diverse team of risk takers. Of note, Norra's son Temmin, whose chip on his shoulder was so large that he was often unlikeable in book one, has shown clear growth. His mixture of confusion, anger, and budding maturity are appropriate for a teenager. Norra has also grown more realistic. I empathize with her struggle to balance both her responsibilities as a single mom and her position in the New Republic. Jas Emari, the bounty hunter, Sinjir Rath Velus, the ex-Imperial, Jom Barell, formerly New Republic Spec-Forces and Mister Bones, Temmin's maniacal B1 Battle Droid, round out the team. Wendig allows each member to seamlessly get his, her, or its moment in the sun. In fact, Wendig does a fantastic job of keeping this large ensemble cast of characters three dimensional and hits every note with bittersweet accuracy.

Wendig provides insight into Grand Admiral Rae Sloane's motivation. Sloane's determination to champion the Empire's way of life and her desire to preserve its "order and stability" is key to the plot. Wendig humanizes her while also providing purpose and a plausibility that is often missing in antagonists that are simply greedy or hungry for power.

Aftermath tantalizes readers with glimpses of many favorites from the original Star Wars film trilogy: notably Han Solo and Chewbacca. Life Debt will assuredly thrill readers by continuing Han and Chewie's adventures after Return of the Jedi. As a diehard fan of the franchise, I enjoyed learning more about the complicated relationships between the princess, the scoundrel and the Wookie. Without any spoilerish details, there is one passage between Han and Chewie that brought tears to my eyes. Well done, Wendig!

Life Debt speaks of the injustices of inequality, slavery, prejudice and poverty in a galaxy far, far away, and yet it also served to remind me of the suffering in our world today. This is brilliant writing! I am truly impressed with the overall message Wendig sends out while at the same time entertaining readers with a rich, complex and riveting story set in the Star Wars universe. I thoroughly enjoyed book one, but book two is even better. Aftermath: Life Debt leaves me excited to get my hands on Book 3, Aftermath: Empire's End. I recommend if you haven't started this series, start reading now. This is definitely the Star Wars series you've been looking for!


Note: Aftermath: Life Debt is the second book in the Aftermath Trilogy following Aftermath (See Trinitytwo's Review here..  I recommend reading them in order, although the author does a great job of reintroducing characters and conflicts in book two.





Previously

Aftermath
The Aftermath Trilogy 1
Del Rey, March 29, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, September 4, 2015

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Aftermath [reveals] what happened after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi. It turns out, there’s more than just the Empire for the good guys to worry about.”—The Hollywood Reporter

As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance—now a fledgling New Republic—presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy’s scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy’s strength is unfolding. Out on a lone reconnaissance mission, pilot Wedge Antilles watches Imperial Star Destroyers gather like birds of prey circling for a kill, but he’s taken captive before he can report back to the New Republic leaders.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world—war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

Determined to preserve the Empire’s power, the surviving Imperial elite are converging on Akiva for a top-secret emergency summit—to consolidate their forces and rally for a counterstrike. But they haven’t reckoned on Norra and her newfound allies—her technical-genius son, a Zabrak bounty hunter, and a reprobate Imperial defector—who are prepared to do whatever they must to end the Empire’s oppressive reign once and for all.


See Trinitytwo's Review here.





Upcoming

Aftermath: Empire's End
The Aftermath Trilogy 3
Del Rey, February 21, 2017
Hardcover and ebook, 320 pages

Review: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
Following Star Wars: Aftermath and Star Wars: Life Debt, Chuck Wendig delivers the exhilarating conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy set in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

Interview with Indra Das, author of The Devourers


Please welcome Indra Das to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Devourers was published on July 12th by Del Rey.



Interview with Indra Das, author of The Devourers




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

Indra:  I started writing 'officially' (that is, outside of school creative writing classes) when I was around sixteen or seventeen years old. Ever since I was much younger than that, I'd been 'writing' novels in my head, often 'novelizing' scenes from my favourite movies or comic books into mental prose using language and turns of phrase cobbled from my favourite books. Soon enough, that turned into telling my own stories in my head. When I told my brother about this, he asked me why I didn't just try actually writing those stories down. We had a computer. We had MS Word. So I sat down one day and started writing what I thought would be the Indian version of The Lord of the Rings. I haven't stopped since (well, I stopped writing that novel; finished it, in fact. I haven't stopped writing, since)



TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Indra:  A bit of both, but definitely a pantser by majority. I rarely know where a story's going to go--in fact, I usually start with just an image or a scene, and see what happens from there.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Indra:  Any answer to this might sound trite, but: sitting down and putting down words. That really is the hardest part. There are broader anguishes to writing--the eternal Schrodinger's pain of waiting for acceptance/rejections, dealing with eternal rejections, the financial limitations of having a writing career, writer's envy at other people's success, writer's envy at other people's skill, cursed tax paperwork for freelance work/artists, etc. and on to infinity. But actually putting your butt down on a chair (or bed, or floor, or whatever) and starting to type out (or write, I tend to use computers) words to translate the astonishing beauty in your head into something that will inevitably not be as beautiful on a page; that takes tremendous will. It'll always be the most challenging part, for me. Starting on something new. It tears me apart every time.



TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing?

Indra:  Pretty much everything I've ever watched, read, seen, experienced, everyone I've met. This sounds dismissive of the question, but it's the truth. Even narrowing it down to art: I just love reading and watching and listening to stuff, and I could fill pages with my influences. But it was probably reading Roald Dahl as a child that led to me first thinking, ooh this is pure delight, I wish I could tell stories using words. Then as a pre-teen, I read Stephen King (my first 'adult' author, as far as I can remember, along with Terry Brooks and Michael Crichton) and I think that's when I thought: I want to be like this dude when I grow up. I remember looking at those old Stephen King covers with the simple line under the title; "Words are his power." The first time I saw that line on a cover, I thought the book it was on had some kind of superhero that used words to control people. I was quite young, after all. But when I understood it referred to King himself, I got chills. Yes, boy-me agreed. Words are his power. I wanted them to be my power too.

The Devourers doesn't have Too much Stephen King DNA in it, since a billion things have influenced me since, and different stories of mine have different cocktails of influences. But it's worth mentioning that the first King book I ever read (and owned) was the beautifully (and gorily) illustrated werewolf novella, Cycle of the Werewolf. Clearly that had some kind of impact, since my first published novel ended up having werewolves (of a sort) in it.



TQDescribe The Devourers in 140 characters or less.

Indra:  Immortal shapeshifters migrate from Europe to the Mughal Empire for new human prey, leaving echoes that resound into present-day India.



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

IndraThe Devourers is also a love story. Not a healthy love story, by any means, but it does have a love story in it. Two, in fact; one romantic, one platonic. Both are highly dysfunctional. Neither refers to Fenrir's pursuit of Cyrah, which is not a love story at all, but predation.

A little extra nugget: about 30% into the original draft, the shapeshifters in the novel were meant to be ambiguously supernatural. That is, they wouldn't show any real evidence of being able to actually shapeshift--they might have been an entirely delusional subculture. I changed that when I realized I wanted to write a novel that was actually fantastical, but that would have been another entirely different, and interesting, novel.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Devourers? What appeals to you about writing dark fantasy?

IndraThe Devourers can be traced back to various inspirational points, but the first chapter, which started out as a short story I wrote in college, was inspired by me being stoned at a baul mela (a music festival for a rural sect of bards in West Bengal called bauls) at night, protecting a kitten from encroaching stray dogs. I imagined what that might feel like if the dogs were monsters, like, say, werewolves. But then, this is India, so why werewolves, a European myth? Novel partially born, right there. The whole thing of a normal chap meeting an immortal person came out of my l fascination with immortal characters-- Gaiman's The Sandman with its immortal werewolves and various other never-dying characters, the MacLeods in Highlander, Woolf's Orlando, Dracula, etc.

I'm not particularly drawn to dark fantasy more than any other genre or sub-genre. In fact, I don't see The Devourers as being dark fantasy, more than it is mythic fantasy, or historical fantasy, or literary fantasy. I don't care much about genres in a creative sense--they're marketing tools. A good story is a good story. I love writing everything, and tend to mix up genres. I even write realist litfic, though none has been published so far (perhaps for the best?). Most of my published short fiction would normally be categorized as science-fiction.

I love writing non-realist fiction, though, because there are no limits to the ideas and worlds and notions and images and characters you can explore in it. As simple as that. You can write literally anything.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Devourers?

Indra:  A lot. It mostly involved borrowing and reading various books from the library, and googling a lot, and reading a lot of websites, and digging up academic historical essays. It would be quite boring to look at in a montage.



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

Indra:  Cyrah was the easiest to write, in a way, because she had such a determined voice, and I sympathized so much with her, unlike Fenrir, who is a monstrous shapeshifter equivalent of a Nice Guy (tm) and an MRA, and Alok, who is kind of a passive listener for most of the novel. Cyrah was refreshing to write, though I was wary of being ignorant and misrepresenting the experiences of those who've experienced sexual violence. Fenrir was the most difficult to push through, because he's a monster (uncommonly supernatural, but very commonly human), and staying in his head gets--skin-crawly. His over-rich style of prose can be fun to write, but with his dour and self-pitying outlook, it became like having a heavy meal every time I wrote a passage of his.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Devourers?

Indra:  I feel like any fiction is going to include social issues, because everything about humanity is structured around social issues, since we live in societies. Even a book that's consciously apolitical is being political in that choice (Does it centre around a white family of straight people that is seen as a perceived 'normal'? That's a political choice, for example). The Devourers deals with (among other things) violence, both sexual and otherwise, and how it relates to the way we construct gender and think about sex, as a species. It deals with these things not because I chose to write about them when I started out, but because that's where the story went.



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

Indra:  Please state for the record: does writing a novel with some werewolves in it make you a werewolf, as suggested by multiple people making the hilarious joke that I am a werewolf because I wrote a novel with some werewolves in it?

No. I see what you're doing there, but no. I am not a werewolf.



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

Indra:  Oh no, I hate flipping through my own book, I had to do it so many times while writing and editing it!

I'm going to cheat and give you the first two lines, which I now know by heart: "My part in this story began the winter before winters started getting warmer, on a full-moon night so bright you could see your own shadow on an unlit rooftop. It was under that moon--slightly smudged by December mist clinging to the streets of Kolkata--that I met a man who told me was a half werewolf. He said this to me as if it were no different from being half Bengali, half Punjabi, half Parsi."

Okay, that was three lines. I know the third pretty much by heart too. Just had to check the order of the ethnicities.



TQWhat's next?

Indra:  A second book, I would hope (I'm on it, I'm on it). Many short stories. More books. I don't like to delineate specific plans because I usually have multiple projects going that mutate and die and stagnate live and are unpredictable. I have a sci-fi story called 'The Worldless,' that I'm quite proud of, that will be published by Lightspeed Magazine sometime this year too.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Indra:  You're welcome! Thanks for asking me to join you!





The Devourers
Del Rey, July 12, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 360 pages

Interview with Indra Das, author of The Devourers
For readers of Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, China Miéville, and David Mitchell comes a striking debut novel by a storyteller of keen insight and captivating imagination.

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.





About Indra

Interview with Indra Das, author of The Devourers
INDRA DAS is an Octavia E. Butler Scholar and graduate of the 2012 Clarion West Writers Workshop. He completed his MFA at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he wore many hats, including freelance editor, writing tutor, occasional illustrator, environmental newswriter, and dog-hotel night-shift attendant. His short fiction has been published in many fiction magazines and anthologies. The Devourers is his first published novel. He divides his time between India and North America and is hard at work on his next novel.





Website  ~  Twitter @IndrapramitDas  ~  Tumblr

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Devourers by Indra Das


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Devourers by Indra Das


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


Indra Das

The Devourers
Del Rey, July 12, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 360 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Devourers by Indra Das
For readers of Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, China Miéville, and David Mitchell comes a striking debut novel by a storyteller of keen insight and captivating imagination.

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel


Sleeping Giants
Author:  Sylvan Neuvel
Series:  Themis Files 1
Publisher:  Del Rey, April 26, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  US$26.00 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101886694 (print);  9781101886700 (eBook)

Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?



Melanie's Thoughts

Young Rose Franklin didn't realise that riding her bicycle through the woods near her home would irrevocably change her life. One minute she is walking through the trees and the next she is lying at the bottom of a very large, very deep, square hole with walls that were intricately carved in a beautiful turquoise light. What is even more amazing is that Rose is lying on the palm of a giant metal hand. The plot advances almost 20 years in the future where Rose is now a successful physicist. From this point forward the story plays out in a series of interviews between the various characters and an unnamed interviewer.  One of the biggest mysteries of the story is the identity of the interviewer who remains unknown to both the reader and to characters themselves. The interviewer belongs to a wealthy and powerful secret organisation that want Rose to study the hand and find a way to uncover the rest of the pieces and assemble the 'giant'. The rest of the story involves the giant, Rose and her team. I don't want to tell you more than that as I don't want to let anything slip.

The construct of the plot is one of my favourite things about Sleeping Giants. I thought when I started it that I wouldn't enjoy reading a story that was comprised of transcripts of interviews but that wasn't the case. The format added to the tension and the suspense of the story. I also liked how Neuvel didn't reveal who the interviewer was or why they were so interested in Rose and the giant. The giant and what it really is and where it comes from are almost secondary to the interviewer and Rose's project team. Neuvel has managed to create characters who you are so invested in that you can't put the book down but yet, as the reader you are still only on the sidelines of the story, separated from the action by the transcripts. In my view this is innovation in story telling.

I first read Sleeping Giants eight months ago and it only took a few chapters for me to realise that it was going to be one of my favourite books of the year. Reading it again has made me realise that it likely one of my all time favourites. Not a mean feat and as a debut this an amazing accomplishment. I urge you to give Sleeping Giants a go and I dare you not to have it on your favourite reads of 2016.


Read an interview with Sylvain Neuvel here.

Interview with Sylvain Neuvel, author of Sleeping Giants


Please welcome Sylvain Neuvel to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Sleeping Giants will be published on April 26th by Del Rey.



Interview with Sylvain Neuvel, author of Sleeping Giants




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

Sylvain:  Ouch. I really don’t know when, and it was probably because I could. I remember writing little comic books and selling them to the neighbors for fifty cents so I could buy candy. I went on a radio show when I was ten after won a poetry contest in school and they asked me that same question. I had no idea then either. Writing is… well it’s there, it’s free. I could say something like “I’ll die if I don’t write” but the best thing about writing is that it will never be a problem. Well, you need a pen, but until the great pen shortage of 2028, I should be fine.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sylvain:  I’m either a rebel plotter or a chicken pantster. I start with the key moments of the book. For me, that’s usually three or four strong visuals more than actual plot points – wide shot of a little girl in a giant hand, that sort of thing. I structure the plot around those, break things down into scenes, and choose a point of view for each. There will be some holes here and there, some chapter descriptions will be just one word, maybe an emotion. Once I have enough to feel safe, I start writing. Parts of my plan will get upgraded with seat-of-the-pants technology, but the gist of it is still there in the end.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sylvain:  Time. For now, I have a day job, I also have a six-year-old boy. During the week, I get an hour or two of writing after he goes to bed. I try to work as much as I can on the weekends. I also try to spend quality time with the family, fix whatever needs fixing in our 125-year-old house, read a little. Every time I sit in front of the computer, there’s a lot of pressure to perform. I’m not complaining, I love what I do, but for now, time is the most challenging thing in my life.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sylvain:  So many things. Movies, books, lots of movies, science. Oh, and the space program. I grew up with Star Wars and Star Trek, Alien and Close Encounter of the Third Kind. Dune really blew my mind. I also read a lot of Tom Clancy and Le Carré when I was younger. Of all the books that left a mark, Les Liaisons dangereuses is probably my favorite. My generation was the first to have home computers and I was born a year after the start of the space shuttle program. I remember my elementary school teacher cancelling the class so we could watch news coverage of the Challenger accident. Now, I get email alerts when the ISS is visible from my house and we all watch it go by. I live in a time where the brightest spot in the night sky is something we made. How cool is that? So once in a while I look up and I wonder what else is out there. I’m nothing is not a product of my upbringing (That’s a Farscape quote, btw.)



TQYou have a Ph.D. in linguistics. Does this affect or not the way you use words in your writing?

Sylvain:  I’m not sure. It’s an interesting question. My dissertation is about a non-concatenative theory of morphology based on West Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) examples, so, obviously, I don’t get to apply that particular knowledge directly. But how much does understanding the mechanics of something affect how you use it? Does a mechanical engineer drive differently? I don’t know. I can tell you, for example, that some of the humor in conversations with the interviewer is based on him either failing to decode or purposely ignoring conversational implicatures. Would I have written things differently if I didn’t know that? No idea.



TQDescribe Sleeping Giants in 140 characters or less.

Sylvain:  A young girl falls into the palm of a giant metal hand. What is it? Who made it? This is a hunt for truth, power, and giant body parts.



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

Sylvain:  Everyone dies at the end. Kidding. Or am I? Seriously, the book asks some interesting philosophical and moral questions, but it’s also a lot of fun. There’s humor throughout and it’s riddled with pop culture references. Some are obvious, others will only be apparent to the hardcore fans of whatever I was paying homage to. I can’t wait to see how many will find them.



TQWhat inspired you to write Sleeping Giants? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Sylvain:  I love the science part in science fiction. It’s about what could be. A few years ago, researchers at MIT created a drug that identifies cells that have been infected by a virus, any virus, and destroys them to stop the infection. In theory, it could work against all viruses. That would have made great science fiction twenty years ago, now it’s just great science. I love that. I’m a geek. My son sleeps in a Raptor from BSG, and my laundry room is a spaceship in the making. I have a life-size Darth Vader in my office, more toys than I can count.

That’s sort of how Sleeping Giants came to be. I asked my son if he’d like me to make him a toy robot. He had way too many questions about it – Where is it from? Who made it? What does it do? – and I told him I’d have to think about it. Some time later, we were watching Goldorak (Grendizer in English, it’s a Japanese anime about a giant robot from outer space) and I started imagining what it would be like if we really found giant alien artifacts somewhere. That’s how it started.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Sleeping Giants?

Sylvain:  I did more research for that book than I did for my Ph.D. I love science, but Rose (the scientist in the book) knows a hell of a lot more than me. I do my best to keep up with her. I also knew nothing of the military world when I started this. I spent so much time looking at helicopter specs, explosive yields and close-up maps of Syria, I probably have a file with every government agency by now. I compared evidence on conspiracy sites to find the most likely location for a hidden base. I researched everything, from airport runways, to where you could smoke. I even read restaurant reviews to find out what’s good where the characters eat.



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Sylvain:  They’re all really fun to write. The interviewer is a bit tricky but he’s the one I look forward to the most. Kara is probably the easiest. She’s nothing like me, but she comes naturally, somehow. Rose is probably the hardest, just because she knows a lot of things I don’t. Every time she opens her mouth, I have to read a dozen science papers.



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

Sylvain:  Tough one. How about this? You mentioned how much research you did for Sleeping Giants. Is there something in the book that you know to be inaccurate?

Yes! And I’m happy that there is. Early in the book, Kara says: “The US military doesn’t allow women in combat or special operations.” It was true when I wrote it, and it’s still mostly true, but in 2013 Barack Obama asked the Pentagon to open all military jobs to women who meet the gender-neutral requirements for it, and that went into effect at the beginning of this year. That doesn’t mean women who want to serve in special ops aren’t in for some tough times. They are probably, for the most part, unwelcome, and I’m in awe at anyone able, or even willing to put up with what they’ll have to go through. Still, at least in theory, women can now be Marines, Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, whatever. In an ideal world, I’d rather see the military closed off to everyone because we don’t need it, but we don’t live in an ideal world, and I think the message this decision sends to our collective subconscious is more important than we might realize. Go Kara!



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Sleeping Giants.

Sylvain

"- I'm just saying, these things are buried in the dirt. The reason for that might be slightly less romantic than what we’re all hoping for… "

“- I believe the words he used to describe you were: obdurate, volatile, and irascible. He has quite the vocabulary.
- He plays a lot of Scrabble.”

- I am not a physicist, as you know, but . . .
- I don’t know anything about you.
- Well, now you know I am not a physicist.”



TQWhat's next?

Sylvain:  I’m editing book two of the Themis Files, tinkering with book three. I’m really excited about where this series is going. I have some crazy ideas I have absolutely no time to develop, so my collection of napkin notes is growing rapidly. Since I wrote Sleeping Giants because of my son, I also have this idea about an illustrated kid version in the back of my head. Someday, maybe. For now, I’m too busy counting the days until April 26.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sylvain:  Thank you for having me.





Sleeping Giants
Del Rey, April 26, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Sylvain Neuvel, author of Sleeping Giants
A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?





About Sylvain

Interview with Sylvain Neuvel, author of Sleeping Giants
Photo by James Andrew Rosen
Sylvain Neuvel dropped out of high school at age fifteen. Along the way, he has been a journalist, worked in soil decontamination, sold ice cream in California, and peddled furniture across Canada. He received a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Chicago. He taught linguistics in India and worked as a software engineer in Montreal. He is also a certified translator though he wishes he were an astronaut. He likes to tinker, dabbles in robotics, and is somewhat obsessed with Halloween. He absolutely loves toys; his girlfriend would have him believe that he has too many, so he writes about aliens and giant robots as a blatant excuse to build action figures (for his son, of course).



Website  ~  Twitter @neuvel




Interview with Alan Smale, author of the The Clash of Eagles Trilogy


Please welcome Alan Smale to The Qwillery. Eagle in Exile, the second novel in The Clash of Eagles Trilogy, was published on March 22nd by Del Rey.



Interview with Alan Smale, author of the The Clash of Eagles Trilogy




TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Eagle in Exile (The Clash of Eagles Trilogy 2), was published on March 22nd. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Clash of Eagles to Eagle in Exile?

Alan:  It’s changed a lot. Writing Clash of Eagles was quite a gentle, meandering process. I took my time with it and enjoyed playing with the story, feeling it out and figuring out where I wanted it to go, trying out ideas and discarding some, taking the strongest themes and reworking them. Then once I got an agent (the terrific Caitlin Blasdell from Liza Dawson Associates) and editor (the equally awesome Mike Braff at Penguin Random House) I worked on it some more to tighten it up and improve pacing, make character arcs more consistent, and so forth. And during all of this I was also planning out the future volumes in the series. Even before I started Eagle in Exile I had already done the major structural thinking for both the second and third books, but I had to write them to a deadline. So I was much more focused when I was writing Eagle in Exile. I did still sometimes career down blind alleys and produce large gobs of text that had to be discarded or reworked, but overall I was much sharper and better organized.

I’ve just finished the third book, Eagle and Empire, and that was different again: I wrote it more quickly and in a more assured way, because by now I know the characters inside and out and it often felt as if they were speaking for themselves. There were scenes in Books Two and Three that I’d been waiting years to write, and I loved getting to them at last.

Another, shorter answer is that I’m better at the craft now. I’m essentially the same writer, but these days there are things I handle automatically in my first draft that in the past I’d have only thought to fix in the edit.



TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Clash of Eagles came out that you know now?

Alan:  How supportive everyone was going to be. Before the launch of Clash I had a lot of fear. I really didn’t know what it was going to be like, but most everyone I came into contact with – editors, publicists, and especially readers – were helpful, friendly, interested. I guess they’re a self-selecting population, and I don’t tend to hear from the people who don’t care for my kind of fiction. I do get some critical emails from time to time, but even those are framed politely.

And other writers are awesome. I don’t know how it is in other genres, but in the science fiction and fantasy fields, authors are incredibly supportive. We’re collegial rather than competitive. We’re all in it together. Everyone celebrates everyone else’s successes, and that’s as true for the established authors who’ve been around forty years as it is for the new folks who are making their debuts. It’s a great community.



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

Alan:  I do think the cover copy is great on both Clash of Eagles and Eagle in Exile. I’ll confess that I didn’t know how Del Rey was going to pull it off, but they did. They get right to the core of the story and present it in the most exciting way possible, without being too spoilery.

What’s not so easy to do in cover copy is explore subtlety and nuance. Amidst all the battles and action and derring-do, my hero Gaius Marcellinus has to navigate his way through a series of tricky moral and emotional situations. He’s a Roman, and he’s sworn to never raise a sword against an army of Rome. He’s not a man to cast aside his heritage and his oaths just because he’s made some new allegiances. And yet, Rome will once again invade North America. How does Marcellinus deal with that? His whole life is a high-wire act, and the difficulties and uncertainties exist at the personal level with his friends – and enemies – in Cahokia as well as at the large-scale, world-spanning level described in the cover copy.



TQWhich character in the The Clash of Eagles Trilogy series (so far) surprised you the most and why? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Alan:  The biggest surprise was Enopay. When Marcellinus first arrives in Cahokia its paramount chief, Great Sun Man, assigns three children to learn his language. Children soak up languages more quickly than adults, so it’s a smart move on his part. But those children grew in ways I wasn’t quite expecting. By the second book, one of them has reached adulthood. By the final volume two are essentially adult and the third – Enopay – has become far more pivotal to the story than I thought he would. When I hear Tahtay, Kimimela, and Enopay in my head they each have very distinctive voices and attitudes, and they don’t necessarily get along well together. They’re solid and opinionated characters in their own right. But Enopay’s development, and his importance, were things that I didn’t quite see coming, even when I finished writing the first book.

I suppose Sintikala is the most difficult person to write. After Marcellinus she’s the most important character, but we’re in close point-of-view on Marcellinus throughout. We never see into Sintikala’s head. All we know about her is what Marcellinus knows, plus what we can intuit from her actions and words. There’s a lot going on that Marcellinus is oblivious to, but that the reader needs to be aware of. Sometimes Sintikala’s actions surprise Marcellinus, but they need to be believable to the reader. That can be tricky.



TQ:   The Clash of Eagles Trilogy series is Historical Fantasy and Alternative History. Why did you chose the Roman Empire as the historical basis for your trilogy?

Alan:  It was a very fast decision. As soon as I knew that I wanted to write about the great Mississippian city of Cahokia, I realized I needed an outsider to serve as the reader’s eyes and ears. I needed a culture clash to throw everything into sharp relief. And somehow it was apparent to me right away that the invading culture had to be Rome. A Roman invasion of North America would look very different to the Spanish, French, or British incursions we know from our own history, but would cast an interesting new light on them. Rome would be an imperial, annexing culture, but the process would be completely different. I knew that that “the Roman Empire invades North America” was the elevator pitch, and that I had to write it, even if nobody else ever read it. It was what I wanted to do. It was what I cared about.



TQ:   Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Eagle in Exile.

Alan:

Dark:
        [Sintikala] turned on him, eyes flaring. “Can I not? You do not remember what I told you? When my husband was killed, when he needed me most, I was not with him, I was not there. Today-now, once again I was in the wrong place. Not there. It is my life, to never be there. To fail. And then men die. Men die.”

Flippant:
        Hurit looked worried. “If he keeps wandering around by himself, a bear will eat him.”
“Eat Tahtay?” Dustu snorted. “Tahtay is so bitter that the bear would spit him right out again.”


        “Just because you argued with your girlfriend, there’s no need to fall on your sword.”

        “Please step back, [name]. I would not want you to slip and accidentally slay Gaius Marcellinus before he has run out of ways to entertain me.”



TQIf you could have dinner with three deceased historical figures who would they be and why?

Alan:  I’d be really interested to meet Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and Adolf Hitler, but I certainly wouldn’t want to eat a meal with them. There’s been so much written about each of those terrible historical figures that it’s impossible to envision the human being inside any more. I do wonder what they were like as people. I’d like to know whether they sound smart in conversation, whether they’d seem charismatic at all when removed from their time, or whether they’d just come off as dreadful, banal, hateful, manipulative, and small-minded. I feel that I might understand some of the pivot points of history better as a result.

But not for dinner. It would be a really terrible dinner, and I’d have to scrub my brain with bleach afterwards.

For dinner I’d probably go with the Emperor Augustus, Shakespeare, and Leonardo da Vinci, because it would be so much fun to explore their minds and hear their stories. It would have to be a very long Roman-style dinner with multiple courses, so Augustus would be in charge of the catering.

If you did give me a time machine, though, there would be lots of other dining possibilities, and I might have to think for longer. Aristotle. Alexander the Great. Elizabeth I. Cleopatra. Teddy Roosevelt. They’d all be fascinating dinner companions. It’s an almost impossible question.



TQWhat's next?

Alan:  A short answer for once: I don’t know! I’m sure there will be a series of edits on the third book, Eagle and Empire, and more publicity work for the trilogy as a whole. But I don’t have my next book project all outlined and researched and ready to jump into. I have ideas brewing, but they’ll take a while longer to come into focus.

I may work on shorter fiction for a while, exploring some of those brewing themes. And I’ll read. A lot. Over the last couple of years, the day job and the writing deadlines haven’t left a whole lot of time for reading fiction, so that’s the area I’ve been seriously neglecting. I have a huge pile of SF to read, some of it by friends of mine – and yes, it’s very cool to be able to say that! I’m looking forward to diving in.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Alan:  Thank you for having me!





Eagle in Exile
The Clash of Eagles Trilogy Book II
Del Rey, March 22, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 576 pages

Interview with Alan Smale, author of the The Clash of Eagles Trilogy
Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Steve Berry, Naomi Novik, and Harry Turtledove, Alan Smale’s gripping alternate history series imagines a world in which the Roman Empire has survived long enough to invade North America in 1218. Now the stunning story carries hero Gaius Marcellinus deeper into the culture of an extraordinary people—whose humanity, bravery, love, and ingenuity forever change his life and destiny.

In A.D. 1218, Praetor Gaius Marcellinus is ordered to conquer North America and turning it into a Roman province. But outside the walls of the great city of Cahokia, his legion is destroyed outright; Marcellinus is the only one spared. In the months and years that follow, Marcellinus comes to see North America as his home and the Cahokians as his kin. He vows to defend these proud people from any threat, Roman or native.

After successfully repelling an invasion by the fearsome Iroqua tribes, Marcellinus realizes that a weak and fractured North America won’t stand a chance against the returning Roman army. Worse, rival factions from within threaten to tear Cahokia apart just when it needs to be most united and strong. Marcellinus is determined to save the civilization that has come to mean more to him than the empire he once served. But to survive the swords of Roma, he first must avert another Iroqua attack and bring the Cahokia together. Only with the hearts and souls of a nation at his back can Marcellinus hope to know triumph.





Previously

Clash of Eagles
The Clash of Eagles Trilogy Book I
Del Rey, September 1, 2015
Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 17, 2015

Interview with Alan Smale, author of the The Clash of Eagles Trilogy
Perfect for fans of action-adventure and historical fiction—including novels by such authors as Bernard Cornwell, Steve Berry, Naomi Novik, and Harry Turtledove—this stunning work of alternate history imagines a world in which the Roman Empire has not fallen and the North American continent has just been discovered. In the year 1218 AD, transported by Norse longboats, a Roman legion crosses the great ocean, enters an endless wilderness, and faces a cataclysmic clash of worlds, cultures, and warriors.

Ever hungry for land and gold, the Emperor has sent Praetor Gaius Marcellinus and the 33rd Roman Legion into the newly discovered lands of North America. Marcellinus and his men expect easy victory over the native inhabitants, but on the shores of a vast river the Legion clashes with a unique civilization armed with weapons and strategies no Roman has ever imagined.

Forced to watch his vaunted force massacred by a surprisingly tenacious enemy, Marcellinus is spared by his captors and kept alive for his military knowledge. As he recovers and learns more about these proud people, he can’t help but be drawn into their society, forming an uneasy friendship with the denizens of the city-state of Cahokia. But threats—both Roman and Native—promise to assail his newfound kin, and Marcellinus will struggle to keep the peace while the rest of the continent surges toward certain conflict.





About Alan

Interview with Alan Smale, author of the The Clash of Eagles Trilogy
Alan Smale grew up in Yorkshire, England, and now lives in the Washington, D.C., area. By day he works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as a professional astronomer, studying black holes, neutron stars, and other bizarre celestial objects. However, too many family vacations at Hadrian’s Wall in his formative years plus a couple of degrees from Oxford took their toll, steering his writing toward alternate, secret, and generally twisted history. He has sold numerous short stories to magazines including Asimov’s and Realms of Fantasy, and he won the 2010 Sidewise Award for Best Short-Form Alternate History.




Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @AlanSmale

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel


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


Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants
Del Rey, April 26, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Interview with Vic James, author of Gilded CageReview: Gilded Cage by Vic JamesReview: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine ArdenReview: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck WendigInterview with Indra Das, author of The Devourers2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Devourers by Indra DasReview: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain NeuvelInterview with Sylvain Neuvel, author of Sleeping GiantsInterview with Alan Smale, author of the The Clash of Eagles Trilogy2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

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