The Qwillery | category: Harper Voyager


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Jay Allan

Please welcome Jay Allan to The Qwillery. The Emperor's Fist was published on August 20, 2019 by Harper Voyager.

Interview with Jay Allan

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

Jay:  I could probably come up with vague recollections of various things that never amounted to anything, but the first book I finished was Marines, which started my career.

TQYou've written well over 2 dozen novels. How has your writing process changed over the years?

Jay:  I’d say two things have changed. First, I’m a lot more comfortable, and the words flow more easily than they used to. Second, I’ve tried to pay attention to comments and reviews. You write something, but of course, you’re trying to make it resonate with the reader. If there is too much repetition, for example, or not enough, reader comments are the best way to see that.

TQIf you could not write Military SF what else would you write?

Jay:  I’d probably be writing cyber-thrillers and the like. I was a big Tom Clancy fan, and I also like books that are right on the line between thriller and SF. Think the Andromeda Strain and the like.

TQDescribe your latest Far Stars novel, The Emperor's Fist, using only 5 words.

Jay:  Emperor’s coming, and he’s pissed!

TQTell us something about The Emperor's Fist that is not found in the book description.

Jay:  For those who’ve read the earlier books in the series, Blackhawk is somewhat of a tortured character. In The Emperor’s Fist, we see more about his past, and we see him dealing with his greatest struggle resulting from that.

TQDo you need to read the Far Stars novels in order?

Jay:  I don’t think so. If you read The Emperor’s Fist and like it, the previous trilogy is sort of a prequel to you, but I think the new book works well as a standalone, too.

TQWhat's next?

Jay:  Well, I like to think I’m not done with Blackhawk and the other from the Far Stars, but I don’t know when I’ll get back to them. I’m continuing to work on my Blood on the Stars series, with book 14 coming out in September. Next year, I’ve got two new things coming, one that is really special that I still can’t share yet, and the other is a series about an alien invasion of Earth and the resistance to it. I’ve been planning that for a while, and I’m excited to finally get it started.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Emperor's Fist
A Blackhawk Novel
Far Stars 4
Harper Voyager, August 20, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Jay Allan
In this thrilling new installment in the Far Stars saga, a reluctant hero with a bloody past must reunite with an old love to battle an evil emperor willing to destroy all their worlds if he cannot control them.

When the Far Stars came under imperial attack, Astra Lucerne—the daughter and successor of the Far Stars’ greatest conqueror—Marshal Augustin Lucerne—rallied her father’s confederation forces to defend their worlds. They were joined in the fight by former imperial general Arkarin Blackhawk, a warrior whose skills and brutality made him infamous, and who has, for two decades, sought the redemption he knows is unreachable.

Now, with the imperial foothold in the sector eliminated, the Far Stars is free and almost united. While Astra’s forces continue to depose local tyrants and warlords, Ark and his crew have slipped back into the shadows. Though his heart belongs to Astra, Ark cannot get too close. His imperial conditioning remains under control, but it is still volatile, and the temptation of power threatens to unleash the dark compulsions that made him the most merciless of the emperor’s servants. He cannot risk allowing Astra to see the darkness inside him.

But while the battle has been won, the war may not be over. A petty smuggler makes a discovery that can enable the emperor to strike back and crush the resistance—unless Ark and Astra join forces again to stop him.

Interview with Jay Allan
Far Stars 1
Interview with Jay Allan
Far Stars 2
Interview with Jay Allan
Far Stars 3

About Jay

Interview with Jay Allan
Jay Allan is a former investor and the author of the Crimson Worlds series and the Far Stars Confederation series. When not writing, he enjoys traveling, running, hiking, and reading. He loves hearing from readers and always answers emails. He currently lives in New York City.

Website  ~  Twitter @jayallanwrites

Interview with W.M. Akers, author of Westside

Please welcome W. M. Akers to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Westside was published on May 7, 2019 by Harper Voyager.

Interview with W.M. Akers, author of Westside

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

W. M.:  I wrote a twelve page “novel” when I was in sixth grade called, “The Story of Bowman,” which was a riff on the story of the boy who cried wolf. Basically, it was about the watchman for a village who keeps telling everyone that there are monsters in the forest. No one believes him, and then they all get eaten by monsters.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

W. M.:  Plot, plot, plot! I have two young children, which means that the time I have to write is very restricted. If I didn’t outline everything meticulously, I would never get anything done.

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

W. M.:  The hardest thing for me, aside from finding the time to get real work done, is maintaining interest in a project over the long period that it takes to finish something. No matter how much I wish I could get it done faster, writing a book takes months or years, and there are always going to be days when I’m just not feeling it. Those are the days that it really feels like work. Being a playwright helps with this problem, actually, because I find that shifting media makes it easier to keep interested in my various projects. Work on a play for a little while, and suddenly the novel seems fresh again.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

W. M.:  I take massive influence from the great prose stylists of the mid-Twentieth Century, with MFK Fisher being my particular favorite. Her sentences are as clear as spring water, and serve as a continual inspiration.

TQDescribe Westside using only 5 words.

W. M.:  Weird as hell 1921 mystery.

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

W. M.:  It has baseball in it! I’m a big baseball nerd—I even made a tabletop baseball game—and I couldn’t write a historical mystery without sneaking in as much baseball as my editor would allow.

TQWhat inspired you to write Westside? What appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy?

W. M.:  I’ve lived in New York since 2006, and from the first day I lived in the city, I found myself wondering what it was like before I got there. New York history is an exquisitely deep vein, and the more I learned about it, the more I found myself yearning for a version of the city that had existed long before I was born. Westside is my way of interrogating that nostalgic impulse. Why do we think old New York is so fascinating, and what ugliness existed there that we prefer not to think about?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Westside?

W. M.:  Old New Yorker essays were a great resource—I love you, Joseph Mitchell—and I leaned heavily on the frantic underworld histories of Herbert Asbury. But the New York Times archives were the most useful thing, as they provide a primary source window into how the period felt to the people who lived there. I had so much fun digging around the Times archives that I eventually turned that process into a newsletter all about weird stuff in the 1920s Times.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Westside.

W. M.:  The jacket was designed by Owen Corrigan, and it is gorgeous. Westside’s hero, Gilda Carr, is a detective of tiny mysteries, and the image shows the missing white glove that kickstarts her adventure. Inside it is a map showing the fence that divides my imaginary Manhattan, and some of the most important locations in the novel: Washington Square, the docks, and all the darkest alleys of the West Village.

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

W. M.:  I had a hell of a lot of fun writing Gilda Carr. Her voice came naturally to me, and whenever I sat down to work on the book after a long time away, I heard her speaking to me, impatient to start telling her story again.

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

W. M.:  What fictional location from the book would you most like to visit? The bazaar—the massive discount food market housed inside the ruins of old Penn Station, which was inspired by my beloved Park Slope Food Coop.

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

W. M.:  “Across the river, New Jersey twinkled stupidly.”

TQWhat's next?

W. M.:  I’m working on a new play, a new Deadball game, a new RPG and, most importantly, the sequel to Westside! Details to come later this year…

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

W. M.:  Thank you for having me. It was an absolute pleasure.

Harper Voyager, May 7, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with W.M. Akers, author of Westside
"Bracing, quite possibly hallucination-inducing, and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before…The illegitimate love child of Algernon Blackwood and Raymond Chandler.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Alienist meets The City & The City in this brilliant debut that mixes fantasy and mystery. Gilda Carr’s ‘tiny mysteries’ pack a giant punch." --David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of Murder As a Fine Art

New York is dying, and the one woman who can save it has smaller things on her mind.

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.

It’s 1921, and a thirteen-mile fence running the length of Broadway splits the island of Manhattan, separating the prosperous Eastside from the Westside—an overgrown wasteland whose hostility to modern technology gives it the flavor of old New York. Thousands have disappeared here, and the respectable have fled, leaving behind the killers, thieves, poets, painters, drunks, and those too poor or desperate to leave.

It is a hellish landscape, and Gilda Carr proudly calls it home.

Slightly built, but with a will of iron, Gilda follows in the footsteps of her late father, a police detective turned private eye. Unlike that larger-than-life man, Gilda solves tiny mysteries: the impossible puzzles that keep us awake at night; the small riddles that destroy us; the questions that spoil marriages, ruin friendships, and curdle joy. Those tiny cases distract her from her grief, and the one impossible question she knows she can’t answer: “How did my father die?”

Yet on Gilda’s Westside, tiny mysteries end in blood—even the case of a missing white leather glove. Mrs. Copeland, a well-to-do Eastside housewife, hires Gilda to find it before her irascible merchant husband learns it is gone. When Gilda witnesses Mr. Copeland’s murder at a Westside pier, she finds herself sinking into a mire of bootlegging, smuggling, corruption—and an evil too dark to face.

All she wants is to find one dainty ladies’ glove. She doesn’t want to know why this merchant was on the wrong side of town—or why he was murdered in cold blood. But as she begins to see the connection between his murder, her father’s death, and the darkness plaguing the Westside, she faces the hard truth: she must save her city or die with it.

Introducing a truly remarkable female detective, Westside is a mystery steeped in the supernatural and shot through with gunfights, rotgut whiskey, and sizzling Dixieland jazz. Full of dazzling color, delightful twists, and truly thrilling action, it announces the arrival of a wonderful new talent.

About W. M. Akers

Interview with W.M. Akers, author of Westside
W. M. Akers is an award-winning playwright, Narratively editor, and the creator of the bestselling game Deadball: Baseball With Dice. Westside is his debut novel. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Learn more about his work at

Twitter @ouijum  ~  Facebook

Interview with Caitlin Starling, author of The Luminous Dead

Please welcome Caitlin Starling to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Luminous Dead is published on April 2, 2019 by Harper Voyager.

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

Interview with Caitlin Starling, author of The Luminous Dead

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

Caitlin:  When I was eight years old, I wrote a several chapter (read: ten pages in very large font) Sailor Moon fanfic. I actually got to reread a copy a few years back, and my grammar was spot on!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Caitlin:  Hybrid, all the way. I tend to outline in very broad strokes, either before I start or sometime after the first chapter or two, once I have a sense of where things are going. I add to the outline as I go, usually just a few scenes ahead of where I’m writing, because I’ve found that I’m far more creative when I’m drafting than I am when I’m thinking about drafting. I set marks that I have to hit (X character needs to feel Y way by the time Z plot moment happens), and fill in the details organically.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Caitlin:  It’s incredibly humbling. Drafting is like trying to balance twenty spinning plates while also juggling chainsaws. There’s so much to keep track of, and so much I don’t know yet but that will inevitably shape the story. Not only that, but each project I work on requires that I learn more, try new things, get better at what I do. I can never write a project perfectly, let alone on the first draft, and I will always have things I wish I had done differently.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Caitlin:  I used to write a lot of fanfiction, where it’s not unusual to focus in with laser-like intensity on one or two characters, and to explore relationships from multiple angles as the focus of the story (without following the genre conventions of a romance novel).

TQDescribe The Luminous Dead using only 5 words.

Caitlin:  Angry, traumatized lesbians in caves.

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

Caitlin:  It is, in many ways, a love story. A dark love story that may not be for everybody, and a nontraditional one, but it’s there.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Luminous Dead? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

CaitlinThe Luminous Dead was inspired by an initial image - a woman, alone in a cave, listening to a woman she doesn’t trust. I’d been playing a lot of Zombies, Run, which I expect contributed. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship in video games between the player character and tutorial/handler/guide characters (Cortana in Halo, GLaDOS in Portal, Sam in the aforementioned Zombies, Run), and I’ve also always been drawn to small casts.

I write science fiction (really, all flavors of specfic) because it allows me to isolate certain elements of relationship dynamics and heighten them in interesting ways. You can’t have the relationship between Gyre and Em the way it is in The Luminous Dead without some significant tech advances. I also find it very freeing to not have to stick to reality. I can choose to diverge at any time if I think it will make the story stronger.

All that said, while The Luminous Dead is science fiction, the scenario and technology isn’t that difficult to believe, and it should also appeal to fans of general survival fiction ala 127 Hours or I Am Still Alive.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Luminous Dead?

Caitlin:  My biggest resource for designing the cave and the physical challenges Gyre faces is the book Beyond the Deep by Bill Stone, Barbara am Ende, and Monte Paulsen. Beyond the Deep covers in great detail Bill and Barbara’s expedition into Sistema Huautla, a very real, very deep, very terrifying cave. It covers gear, technique, landscape, and the psychological impacts of taking on an expedition of that scale.

Beyond cave research, I also paid attention to ongoing conversations on resource colonialism and exploitation, read up on gold rush town dynamics, and researched feeding tubes and colostomies. I also read In The Dust Of This Planet, which (among many other amazing points) has some fascinating theories about setting-as-monster in horror.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Luminous Dead.

Caitlin:  The cover for The Luminous Dead features art by Alejandro Colucci and art direction and design by Owen Corrigan. That hand probably belongs to our main character, Gyre… but perhaps not. ;) I absolutely adore it for its sense of space and isolation, as well as the lush, rough textures of the stone and the surrounding cave walls.

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

Caitlin:  I don’t have many choices here! But of the two characters in the book, Gyre was probably the easier, if only because I was able to spend so much time in her head. We never see Em’s inner workings, which means I had to do a lot of invisible work to make sure that what we do see is cohesive, even if Gyre can’t make sense of it immediately.

TQDoes The Luminous Dead touch on any social issues?

Caitlin:  It does touch (in a limited way) on some of the ways colonialism, forced settlement, and industrial resource extraction can damage community cohesion, as well as how poverty and lack of an extended family can shape decision-making.

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


The movie question- Who would you cast as Gyre? Em?

Going to have to go with Tessa Thompson as Gyre and Janelle Monáe as Em. A girl can dream!

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


          “Anything interesting happen while I was out?”

          “I made you a roast dinner,” Em deadpanned.

TQWhat's next?

Caitlin:  Nothing I can talk about in any detail, but I’m playing around with gothic horror on a few projects. More lies, more creepy locations, more isolation. Right up my alley, in other words!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Luminous Dead
Harper Voyager, April 2, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Caitlin Starling, author of The Luminous Dead
"This claustrophobic, horror-leaning tour de force is highly recommended for fans of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and Andy Weir’s The Martian." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

About Caitlin

Interview with Caitlin Starling, author of The Luminous Dead
© Beth Olson Creative 2017
Caitlin Starling is a writer of horror-tinged speculative fiction of all flavors. Her first novel, The Luminous Dead, comes out from HarperVoyager on April 2, 2019. It tells the story of a caver on a foreign planet who finds herself trapped, with only her wits and the unreliable voice on her radio to help her back to the surface. Caitlin also works in narrative design for interactive theater and games, and is always on the lookout for new ways to inflict insomnia. Find more of her work at and follow her at @see_starling on Twitter.

Interview with Jessie Mihalik, author of Polaris Rising

Please welcome Jessie Mihalik to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Polaris Rising was published on February 5, 2019 by Harper Voyager.

Interview with Jessie Mihalik, author of Polaris Rising

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

Jessie:  Thank you so much for having me! My brain is so bad at keeping track of firsts. I remember writing (and illustrating!) those little books in elementary school where the teacher would help the students bind them into hardback books. I have no idea what I wrote about, but I bet my mom still has it in a box somewhere!

I’ve always written stories, but the first thing I really remember being of any great length was the fanfiction I wrote in college. It’s still out there, but I’m not giving anyone any clues as to where or what because it was me as a baby writer, learning how plot and story and character all worked together while playing in someone else’s world.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jessie:  I’m a pantser who desperately wishes I was a plotter. I’m becoming more of a hybrid because deadlines mean I have to know where I’m going rather than wandering lost through the plot woods for months, but outlining is still my nemesis.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jessie:  Speed. I write very, very slowly. One thousand to fifteen hundred words is a good writing day for me. And I know you’re supposed to stay in your own lane, but when I see other authors cranking out three to five times that in a single day, it’s difficult not to feel like I’m doing it wrong. Still, I’ve made peace with my speed, mostly, and plodding along does eventually get me to the end. So, for all of you slow writers out there—I see you. Keep at it!

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jessie:  Like many (most? all?) writers, I’m influenced by the books I’ve read before. Some of my favorite authors like Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, and Ann Aguirre write kick-ass women. They inspired me to try my hand at writing my own heroine. And I’ve definitely been inspired by the huge number of romances I’ve read. I wanted that strong, building relationship for my main characters.

TQDescribe Polaris Rising using only 5 words.

Jessie:  Badass space princess adventure romance.

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

Jessie:  Ada doesn’t care much for her father, but she has an incredibly strong bond to her siblings. Her sisters helped her escape and stay ahead of her father’s security team and she would move mountains for them.

TQWhat inspired you to write Polaris Rising? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Jessie:  I had the opening scene of what would become Polaris Rising knocking around in my head for weeks while I was working on another project. Without knowing that, a friend suggested I try my hand at science fiction because she knew I am a huge geek and that my current project was going nowhere. It was serendipity, but it took me a few additional weeks of banging my head against the other project to recognize it.

I love writing science fiction and while the genre covers a huge spectrum, for me SF has always been about space and the distant future. I get to write about spaceships and different planets and all the fancy technology I wish we had today. And because I also write romance, I get to ground all of that cool stuff in a slowly building relationship.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Polaris Rising?

Jessie:  I did so much research and so little of it really appears in the book. I researched theoretical FTL drives, star naming schemes, distances between galaxies, and all of the reasons FTL drives break physics, relativity, and causality. Then I decided that I was going to write a space opera, not a hard science fiction book, and I would be intentionally a little hand-wavy about the technology because the details were bogging down the story. There is a nod to one of the theoretical FTL solutions in the book, though, but no spoilers.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Polaris Rising.

Jessie:  I love the cover! It was designed by Lex Maudlin and illustrated by Tony Mauro. It doesn’t depict a specific scene, but more of the feel of the novel. Ada knows her way around planets, spaceships, and blasters, and I think the cover perfectly conveys that.

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

Jessie:  Ada was the easiest character for me to write because she drove the story. She’s smart and competent, but asks for help when she needs it. She was such a fun character to write. Richard Rockhurst was the hardest to write because he is the villain in Polaris Rising, but he’s the hero in his own mind. He thinks he’s totally in the right, but we only see him from Ada’s perspective, so it was a delicate balance.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Polaris Rising.

Jessie:  Here are two of my favorite little snippets:

There are moments in your life when you absolutely know what you should do and then you absolutely choose to do something else entirely.

This was one of those moments.


Loch’s nose ghosted along my chin and down my neck. I stood stock-still as his breath heated my collarbone.

“You’re afraid, but you don’t let the fear rule you,” Loch rumbled against my skin. My belly did a little flip that had nothing to do with fear.

“You manipulate those around you to suit your will, but you risked being left behind to save a bunch of mercs and soldiers intent on capturing you. You’re a puzzle, Ada von Hasenberg.”

“If you’re done with the intimidation routine,” I said calmly while I trembled internally, “I’d like to get some sleep.”

TQWhat's next?

Jessie:  The next book in the series, Aurora Blazing, arrives this October, with the third book following next year. I’ll be at the Tucson Book Festival in the beginning of March, so come see me if you’re nearby!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jessie:  Thank you again for having me!

Polaris Rising
The Consortium Rebellion 1
Harper Voyager, February 5, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Jessie Mihalik, author of Polaris Rising
Polaris Rising is space opera at its best, intense and addictive, a story of honor, courage, betrayal, and love. Jessie Mihalik is  an author to watch.”--Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author

A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.

In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.

Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.

When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.

But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .

About Jessie

Interview with Jessie Mihalik, author of Polaris Rising
Photo 2018 by Dustin Mihalik
Jessie Mihalik has a degree in computer science and a love of all things geeky. A software engineer by trade, Jessie now writes full time from her home in Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing co-op video games with her husband, trying out new board games, or reading books pulled from her overflowing bookshelves. Polaris Rising is her debut novel.

Website  ~ Twitter @jessiemihalik  ~  Facebook

Interview with Eyal Kless, author of The Lost Puzzler

Please welcome Eyal Kless to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Lost Puzzler was published on January 8, 2019 by Harper Voyager.

Interview with Eyal Kless, author of The Lost Puzzler

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

Eyal:  I was eight or nine years old. I read an Israeli children book called Hasamba. It was about a group of heroic young boys and girls who helped saving our young country from the machinations of its cruel enemies. It was barely diluted propaganda novels (and in its way, very naïve) but I became so excited reading about those kids, I immediately began writing more adventures for them. I believe it is called “fan literature” today.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Eyal:  I am definitely a plotter wannabe, but truth to be told, I am a classic pantser. I learned to trust my instinct and write scenes and introductory chapters before I even know what the plot would be. When things begin to get clear I let the plot take me places. I took almost four years out of writing The Lost Puzzler because I was lacking a satisfactory ending. It came to me one day, out of nowhere, as I was walking down the street and I began jumping up and down with excitement…

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Eyal:  Writing scenery and interior design. I pretty much hate it. maybe it is the vocabulary that I lack (I am not a native speaker), the fact I usually rush through those descriptions when I read books myself or a philosophical view that the readers should only have an outline of the picture and draw the picture themselves (probably options 1+2 are correct).

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does music influence your writing?

Eyal:  That’s a big one. Almost everything and anything could influence on my writing. Film noire, an argument on the bus, a joke I overheard, I always think if I could use this material, mold it to my needs and add it to the novel.

As to music. The long answer could take me a thousand words and more. in short: I see a novel like a piece of music. Each story line and each of the characters is a “voice” in this symphony or opera. A lone voice might be beautiful by itself but dull. When adding more voices together, they create a harmony, and just like in music, their relationship, even if distinctly apart, is the essence of what we hear and read. The moments of discord should have a resolution and the timing of both discord and resolution is crucial to the overall pacing. I also feel that rhythm is important to me when writing words which are spoken by the characters and many times I click my fingers as I read aloud the dialogues.

TQDescribe The Lost Puzzler using only 5 words.

Eyal:  Dystopia. Technology. SuperTracks, Mutants. Mystery

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

Eyal:  I only found out about this when I was writing the sequel, Puzzler’s War, so even I was not aware that this was a “thing” in the Tarakan Chronicles: There is an undercurrent theme in The Lost Puzzler which is about love. Not romantic love between characters but love of a parent to his/her child. Usually we think about parental love as a good and pure thing, but it also might have a darker side. Ask any parent (or yourselves) what would they do for the safety of their child and the answer would most likely be “everything and anything”. This is a natural reaction of a loving parent, but it can also have bad consequences, as in the case of The Lost Puzzler.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Lost Puzzler? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Eyal:  The inspiration came from my mobile phone. It was old and “stupid” flip phone but I looked at it and realized that if I was stuck on a lonely island with my family and a flip phone, I could teach my kids to use the phone, and they could teach theirs too, but we would not be able to produce or even fix the phone ourselves. This made me think about our society and how much of the technology which surrounds us is now too sophisticated to create and maintain alone.

Science fiction is a true challenge to the imagination but also to logic. What would life be 200 years from now? What would be the challenges we, as a society, will still face? What would seem like “magic” to a 21st century person (think Star Trek’s teleportation device)? The challenge is to create empathy with characters and story lines based on foundations which are alien to the reader. For example: He might be part human part cyborg pilot of a sentient spaceship but he still farts in public like a juvenile college boy. That description created a reaction, positive or negative, and made the alien character relatable in 21st century terms.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Lost Puzzler?

Eyal:  Not really research in the classic sense of the word. I read a little about cloning and theories regarding mind copying. The rest I just invented.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Lost Puzzler.

Eyal:  I am so lucky to have two covers for The Lost Puzzler which portrays different elements of the novel. The US cover shows the desolation which is left after what is called “the Catastrophe”. Only the small silhouette of the City of Towers hints something was left after the devastation. When you look at it you might feel alone and lost in a lifeless environment. The UK cover depicts the mystery and fantastic elements of the The Lost Puzzler: A hooded figure dressed in dark clothes returns from a long voyage and is facing the swampy entrance of the City of Towers. The dissonance between the unkept vegetation and the modern looking, alien towers creates sublime tension. Something had happened and something is about to happen.

Before you ask: I love both covers and can never make up my mind which one I would have chosen if I had to pick only one.

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

Eyal:  I love all my characters but Galinak is just ‘the guy’ for me. He is tough and simple in his ways, funny and just the right side of the line differentiating between the ‘good guys’ and the bullies. In short, I guess is the kind of a super hero I would have liked to be under these circumstances.

The hardest to write was Rafik. I had to describe the world from the point of view of growing boy just reaching adolescent, whose entire life comes crushing down on him in one of the worst ways possible. I had to describe carefully how this character sees and reacts to technology which he is unfamiliar with, which would be different than an adult. Many of the editorial notes I received began with “Rafik would not…”

TQDoes The Lost Puzzler touch on any social issues?

Eyal:  Absolutely. You cannot ignore what had happened to the world and how the survivors had reacted to the new world around them. Why is it that the more we progress as a race the worst our planet is? And on a more personal dilemma: If you had the only one bottle of water, would you share it with others, give it to your family, drink from it yourself? What if you were the person who was standing next to the man with the bottle of water. Would you haggle, beg, steal, kill? These types of questions are the core of The Lost Puzzler.

TQWhich question about The Lost Puzzler do you wish someone would ask?

Eyal:  “When would they make a movie out of The Lost Puzzler 😊”

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


Galinak: “we could dance for a bit but I’ll only stop if you ask nicely”

Vincha: “I can cut your throat, or I can take out an eye”

And my personal favorite: “Perhaps the Catastrophe was meant to clean the slate and start humanity over, but we managed to screw up even our own destruction.”

TQWhat's next?

Eyal:  I am working on Puzzler’s War right now. It took me more than 20 years to finish The Lost Puzzler but the people in Harper Voyager told me they needed the sequel a little faster than that…

Hiding somewhere in my files is a novel even older than The Lost Puzzler. It is a story in a fantasy setting which deals with music and magic. It has been long forgotten but now I can hear it calling me back…

I am also toying with a fantasy adventure novel about a goblin private eye called Grooch, who ends up adventuring with a ninja Weresheep, a substance abuser imp, a feminist succubus and a pacifist fallen Paladin…

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Eyal:  It has been an absolute pleasure!

The Lost Puzzler
The Tarakan Chronicles 1
Harper Voyager, January 8, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Interview with Eyal Kless, author of The Lost Puzzler
A brilliantly written, page-turning, post-dystopian debut from Eyal Kless, about a society hoping to salvage the technology of a lost generation, a mysterious missing boy who can open doors no one else can, and a scribe who must piece together the past to determine humanity’s future.

More than a hundred years have passed since the Catastrophe brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Those who survived are changed. The Wildeners have reverted to the old ways—but with new Gods—while others place their faith in the technology that once powered their lost civilization.

In the mysterious City of Towers, the center of the destroyed Tarakan empire, a lowly scribe of the Guild of Historians is charged with a dangerous assignment. He must venture into the wilds beyond the glass and steel towers to discover the fate of a child who mysteriously disappeared more than a decade before. Born of a rare breed of marked people, the child, Rafik—known as “The Key”—was one of a special few with the power to restore this lost civilization to glory once again.

In a world riven by fear and violence, where tattooed mutants, manic truckers, warring guilds and greedy mercenaries battle for survival, this one boy may have singlehandedly destroyed humanity’s only chance for salvation—unless the scribe can figure out what happened to him.

About Eyal

Interview with Eyal Kless, author of The Lost Puzzler
Eyal Kless is a classical violinist who enjoys an international career both as a performer and a teacher. Born in Israel, Eyal has travelled the world extensively, living several years in Dublin, London, Manchester, and Vienna, before returning to Tel Aviv. His first novel, Rocca's Violin, was published in Hebrew in 2008 by Korim Publishers. Eyal currently teaches violin in the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, and performs with the Israel Haydn String Quartet, which he founded.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @eyalkless

Review: Slender Man by Anonymous

Slender Man
Author:  Anonymous
Publisher:  Harper Voyager, October 23, 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$15.99 (print); US$10.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780062641175 (print); 9780062641199 (eBook)

Review: Slender Man by Anonymous
One man’s search for the truth about one of the most intriguing urban legends ever—the modern bogeyman, Slender Man—leads him down a dark, dangerous path in this creepy supernatural fantasy that will make you question where the line between dark myth and terrifying reality begins.

Lauren Bailey has disappeared. As friends at her exclusive school speculate on what happened and the police search for answers, Matt Barker dreams of trees and a black sky . . . and something drawing closer.

Through fragments of journals, news stories, and online conversations, a figure begins to emerge—a tall, slender figure—and all divisions between fiction and delusion, between nightmare and reality, begin to fall.

Chilling, eerie, and addictively readable, Slender Man is a unique spine-tingling story and a brilliant and frightening look at one of the most fascinating—and diabolical—mythical figures in modern times.

Qwill's Thoughts

I've known about Creepypasta for a number of years because one of my teenagers told me about them. Here's a link to Creepypasta in Wikipedia: There's also a Creepypasta Wikia for those of you wanting to know more: The very simplistic definition is that they are scary modern urban myths and legends.

You may also have heard of the Creepypasta Slender Man in particular due to the trial of 2 girls who attempted to kill one of their friends because of Slender Man. You can find a lot about that case online and I will leave to you to look if you'd like. Which brings me to the book by Anonymous - Slender Man.

Through the use of diaries, text messages, WhatsApp transcripts, Reddit, records of police interviews and more, the author brings to life the story of Matt Barker. Matt is a Senior at a prestigious New York City private school. His parents are well off and they live in a condo with a view of Central Park. He's been having nightmares. His parents send him to a psychologist who suggests that he keep a journal which forms a large part of the novel.

Matt is not one of the popular kids at his high school. He does have some good friends though. He's known Lauren Bailey since they were little and while they are still close friends they keep it very quiet at their cliquey school. Lauren likes horror and Creepypasta and Matt is the only one she shares that with. One night Lauren disappears and Matt may be the only person who can figure out what has happened to her.

Slender Man is truly chilling. You feel the claustrophobia of events crashing down on Matt - is he awake or is this one of his nightmares? Does he really know what happened to Lauren? What is happening to him? What must he do and is he being manipulated? His sense of panic and building dread is palpable.

The author does a superb job of integrating different narrative forms to create a compelling and frightening story of a young man facing a horrifying legend. Read Slender Man with the lights on!

Interview with Michael Mammay, author of Planetside

Please welcome Michael Mammay to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Planetside is published on July 31st by Harper Voyager.

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

Interview with Michael Mammay, author of Planetside

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

Michael:  I wrote some in college. I had a couple of funny essays published in The Pointer, at West Point. While I’ve known that I wanted to write fiction since I was about 18 or 19, I never really started to do it seriously until much later in life.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Michael:  I definitely started out as a pantser, and probably still am, though I do plot certain elements. So maybe a hybrid? I tend to write to events. So I might pants the first act, but I have a pretty good idea what the end of that act looks like. Then I’ll write to the midpoint. So I kind of plot out what each quarter of the book looks like. But inside of scenes, I’m definitely a pantser. Half the time I get characters together, they do something I don’t plan for them to do. It keeps things interesting.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  Not immediately hating what I’ve written. It took me a long time to believe that Planetside is good. Even past the point where I knew it was going to be published, which is of course ridiculous. So when I write new stuff--and at the time I write it, it’s not as good--I hate it. Depending on the day, I either hate it a little, or I hate it a lot. I rely a lot on other people to help me know what is good and what needs work. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist, because I don’t obsess over it. It’s more like a thing where it only affects me when I think about it. But yeah, I’m highly critical of my own work.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Michael:  I read a lot. While I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy, I also teach literature, so I’m pretty well read in the classics, too. For Planetside, the two biggest influences weren’t sci-fi at all. The thing I was reading that got me to start writing Planetside was reading Gone Girl. I’d been writing third person, and was reading GG and it has this amazing first person voice that just punches you in the face from the first chapter. I knew immediately that that’s how I needed to write Planetside. I sat down that night and banged out a chapter which I sent to a few readers. That fast…just sent them a draft. Their reaction to it was all the motivation I needed. There’s also a lot of Heart of Darkness influence in it.

TQDescribe Planetside using only 5 words.

Michael:  NCIS in space combat zone

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

Michael:  It’s actually got some pretty funny parts. It’s not a comedy by any means, but Carl Butler, the main character, doesn’t take himself too seriously, even when the situation around him might be pretty dire. He can be a sarcastic bastard.

TQWhat inspired you to write Planetside? What appeals to you about writing Military SF?

Michael:  I did three year-long tours in Iraq, and another year in Afghanistan, so writing Military SF comes pretty natural to me because the characters are real. None of them are based on real people, but for people who have served in combat, they’re going to recognize a lot of these people. As far as the book itself, the ideas mostly came from my time in Afghanistan. I didn’t do a front line job there, so not the combat part of the book. More the politics and the command structure, and how those people work with each other (real life was nowhere near as dysfunctional as it is in the book!)

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Planetside?

Michael:  I spent a long time in the army. Seriously, I’m pretty light on the science in this book, so I didn’t do a ton of research. I did research stars, and what type would support life. Recently I went to a conference called Launchpad (sponsored by SFWA) and learned a ton of science stuff, so I think there will be more in later books.

TQHow does the military in Planetside differ (or not) from your own experiences with the U.S. Army?

Michael:  The thing that really comes from my time in the army is the relationships between the characters. That’s pretty real. Officers are in charge and enlisted follow orders from them, but it’s more subtle than that. There’s not an undying loyalty to a cause or unwavering support. They know who the boss is, and they treat him with respect, but it’s a two-way street. Good leaders also give respect, and the people they lead feel it, and do better because of it. The other thing that I think comes across, I hope, is I tried to write how it feels to be in a situation where bad things are happening. What it feels like when something explodes. In the combat scenes, I wanted to put the reader as close to it as I could.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Planetside.

Michael:  I love my cover. Sebastien Hue did the art, and I think it’s just beautiful. It kind of provides a big picture of the setting, though a part you never seen in the novel. Planetside is set on a space station orbiting a planet, with a war going on down below. The cover shows part of the station and a distant view of the planet, both of which, in the book, you see from closer up. Butler is inside the station and he’s down on the planet.

Only one side of the war has space technology, so if you’re on the station, you’re kind of away from the war zone. This leads to a situation where there are really two different war experiences…the support of the war, spaceside, and the shooting war, planetside. This isn’t unlike some of our current conflicts where some soldiers are in base camps and others are out on missions. That’s another aspect I wanted to capture, and I think from a larger perspective that’s something the cover shows.

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

Michael:  Butler was the easiest. He just spoke to me from day one. It’s his story, and he told it to me. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. The hardest, I think…there are two. I’m writing about Dr. Elliott in some detail for another site, so I’ll go with Lex Alenda here. Lex was hard to write because I didn’t know her role in the story when I wrote the first draft. First off, in the first draft, she was a man. When I changed her to a woman in a later draft, she got some life. She went from being just a character who Butler used to do basic errands to a three-dimensional person who had her own thoughts on things and played her own role in the greater story. She develops a lot throughout, and the relationship between her and Butler has a lot of depth. Trying to get their scene together at the end right was something I had to go back to several times…it was probably the hardest scene to get right.

TQDoes Planetside touch on any social issues?

Michael:  There are definitely some colonialism issues. Humans have basically taken over a planet with life on it because they want the resources. I don’t spend a ton of time with that, but it’s there, underlying everything. We’re not necessarily the good guys.

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

Michael:  Well my favorite question to answer is when people ask me how much of this is real, and happened to me while I was in the army. I get a real serious look on my face and say ‘All of it. It’s all true. I went to a distant planet and fought aliens.’ Seriously, though, there are a lot of twists in Planetside, so almost anything I say here is going to be a spoiler, and I don’t want to do that. I love talking about the book with people after they read it. There are always great questions.

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

Michael:  Oh man, that’s tough. I’ve been working on other books for so long now. Here’s one where Butler is describing what it feels like to come out of sedation after space travel:

I’m not sure what to compare it to, as it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done. I had one colleague compare it to finishing a twenty-kilometer run, combined with a hangover and vertigo.
   In other words, it sucks.

Another non-spoilery one that I really like is an interchange between Butler and a reporter named Karen Plazz, where she’s trying to get information from him and he’s being a bit of a dick, trying to avoid the questions. I really like these two characters together.

“So what can you tell me about the attack?” asked Plazz.
I shrugged. “Certainly nothing you don’t know.”
“But you’re in danger.”
I looked around suspiciously. “Am I?”
“You have three armed soldiers walking with you.”
I glanced over at my guards. “Yeah, but I don’t think they’re that dangerous.”
“You’re avoiding the question.”
“I really am.”

TQWhat's next?

Michael:  Planetside 2 (not it’s real name) is done and with my editor, and I expect that will come out next year. It’s the further adventures of Carl Butler, a couple years after the events of Planetside. I’m on a two book deal, so right now I’m working on a couple different projects that I want to write; developing the concepts, doing the research, and writing the pitches. Which will get written and when depends on a lot of different factors, but I’m excited about both of them.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Harper Voyager, July 31, 2018
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Michael Mammay, author of Planetside
--“PLANETSIDE is a smart and fast-paced blend of mystery and boots-in-the-dirt military SF that reads like a high-speed collision between Courage Under Fire and Heart of Darkness.” – Marko Kloos, bestselling author of the Frontline series

--“Not just for military SF fans—although military SF fans will love it—Planetside is an amazing debut novel, and I’m looking forward to what Mammay writes next.” – Tanya Huff, author of the Confederation and Peacekeeper series

--“A tough, authentic-feeling story that starts out fast and accelerates from there.” – Jack Campbell, author of Ascendant

--“Definitely the best military sci-fi debut I’ve come across in a while.” – Gavin Smith, author of Bastard Legion and Age of Scorpio

A seasoned military officer uncovers a deadly conspiracy on a distant, war-torn planet…

War heroes aren't usually called out of semi-retirement and sent to the far reaches of the galaxy for a routine investigation. So when Colonel Carl Butler answers the call from an old and powerful friend, he knows it's something big—and he's not being told the whole story. A high councilor's son has gone MIA out of Cappa Base, the space station orbiting a battle-ravaged planet. The young lieutenant had been wounded and evacuated—but there's no record of him having ever arrived at hospital command.

The colonel quickly finds Cappa Base to be a labyrinth of dead ends and sabotage: the hospital commander stonewalls him, the Special Ops leader won't come off the planet, witnesses go missing, radar data disappears, and that’s before he encounters the alien enemy. Butler has no choice but to drop down onto a hostile planet—because someone is using the war zone as a cover. The answers are there—Butler just has to make it back alive…

About Michael

Interview with Michael Mammay, author of Planetside
Photo by Lisa K. Davis
Michael Mammay is a retired army officer and a graduate of the United States Military Academy. He has a master’s degree in military history and is a veteran of Desert Storm, Somalia, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives with his family in Georgia.


Twitter @MichaelMammay

Interview with R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War

Please welcome R.F. Kuang to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Poppy War was published on May 1st by Harper Voyager.

Interview with R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War

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

R.F.:  I wrote a novel in fifth grade called Liberty or Death about the American Revolution. It was about a freedom fighter named Patrick Dawson whose best friend die sin the Boston Massacre, and it is really, really bad. There’s a scene where he takes this girl Hannah on a date, winks at her, and says something like “I don’t drink on dates.” The whole point of alcohol is drinking on dates.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

R.F.:  I used to be a pantser, realized that that does not work for trilogies or for long complicated military campaigns, and now I’m a hybrid. I only let myself writes scenes that I’m really feelin’, like emotionally, on a given day. So I always write the emotional “peaks” first–the cool scenes where things blow up and people die–and then try to make everything else fit around them. I write horrifically messy firsts drafts and it’s always a challenge making them internally coherent. But if I did it the other way, my prose would be lifeless.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

R.F.:  Balancing writing with schoolwork. I’m in the middle of finishing my senior thesis. There are not enough hours in the day. And it’s only going to get worse because I’m about to head off to grad school, so RIP my soul. Pray for me.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

R.F.:  Music! I write scenes by putting on songs and directing little music videos in my head. If I don’t know the right vibe for a scene I’ll play around with different songs until I start seeing the right images.

TQDescribe The Poppy War in 140 characters or less.

R.F.:  everything was good until the fire nation attacked. wait. we are the fire nation. where is drug man? Rin no. Rin YES!

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

R.F.:  The second half of the book gets really dark. Uncomfortable dark. You can find content warnings on my Goodreads review and just about every other SFF review site. Here they are just in case!
      -      Self-harm
      -      Genocide
      -      Graphic violence
      -      Rape/sexual assault
      -      Emotional and physical abuse
      -      Drug use
Please read with discretion.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Poppy War? What appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy?

R.F.:  The book is inspired by 20th century Chinese history, specifically the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanjing. This isn’t historical fantasy, it’s secondary world fantasy with historical roots.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Poppy War?

R.F.:  I researched it like I would an academic paper. I read a bunch of secondary source material on both the twentieth century and the Song Dynasty to form a framework for the plot. Then to make the world feel fully realized, I consulted primary source material, like military manuals. I got really excited about one text in particular: the Huolongjing, translated as the Fire Drake Manual, which is this amazing 14th century military treatise on all the different possible uses of gunpowder. Granted, that’s a few hundred years after the period that The Poppy War is purportedly set in, but this is fantasy. I’ll blur the lines if it means I get to give my characters fire lances.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Poppy War.

R.F.:  I’m so excited about the cover! The artist is a Taiwanese illustrator named who goes by JungShan, and she’s extraordinarily talented. I love her ink brush style so much. Here’s the link to her Deviantart!

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

R.F.:  Jiang was the easiest because he’s so much fun, and because I know things about him that you don’t so it’s always a game of how much I want to reveal. Altan was the hardest, because he’s modeled on an ex-boyfriend, so I kept wanting to punch him in the face. Fuck Altan.

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


Question: Which two characters do you ship hardest?
Answer: Jiang and Jun. No question.

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

R.F.:  I’ll give you two related quotes:

“You can’t kill me,” Altan hissed. “You love me.”
“I don’t love you,” Rin said. “And I can kill anything.”

TQWhat's next?

R.F.:  Next up is Untitled Book Two. And then Untitled Book Three! And then unnamed projects that haven’t sold because I haven’t written them! It’s all very mysterious.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

R.F.:  Thank you for having me!

The Poppy War
Harper Voyager, May 1, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 544 pages

Interview with R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War
A "Best of May" Science Fiction and Fantasy pick by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Audible, The Verge, SyFy Wire, and Kirkus

“I have no doubt this will end up being the best fantasy debut of the year [...] I have absolutely no doubt that [Kuang’s] name will be up there with the likes of Robin Hobb and N.K. Jemisin.” -- Booknest

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

About the Author

Interview with R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War
R.F. Kuang studies modern Chinese history. She has a BA from Georgetown University and is currently a graduate student in the United Kingdom on a Marshall Scholarship. The Poppy War is her debut novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @kuangrf  ~  Instagram

Interview with David Pedreira, author of Gunpowder Moon

Please welcome David Pedreira to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Gunpowder Moon was published on February 13th by Harper Voyager.

Interview with David Pedreira, author of Gunpowder Moon

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

David:  According to my mom, I wrote (and told) some tall tales when I was in the first or second grade, but I don’t remember them. My first complete short story was for a fiction writing class in college. It was a Hemingwayesque tale about a fisherman trying to find himself, and I’m pretty sure it was awful.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

David:  For Gunpowder Moon, more of a pantser. I never wrote an outline and most of the plotting was done in my head. But once you’re working with an agent and a publisher you almost have to become a plotter, as they like to see a synopsis or outline of your next book.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

David:  Just planting my backside in front of a computer and typing the first sentence. Once you put a few lines on the page things get easier.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

David:  Books, movies, and art from a lot of different genres—everything from Joseph Conrad to Joan Didion. Gunpowder Moon is a science fiction thriller, but it also has mystery and military elements to it, so I could point to a wide range of fiction and non-fiction influences: Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula Le Guin, Robert Heinlein, Agatha Christie, John Le Carre, Michael Herr, Ernie Pyle, Colleen McCullough, Sun Tzu, etc.

TQDescribe Gunpowder Moon in 140 characters or less.

David:  The first murder on the Moon will lead to the first war on the Moon if a haunted veteran and his crew of miners can’t unmask the killer.

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

David:  I tried to keep it grounded in the possible—or even the likely. I believe we’ll be mining the Moon in fifty years with tech that’s similar to what’s in the novel. And being a bit of a cynic, I’m convinced we’ll be fighting over resources in space, much like we’ve been fighting over resources on Earth since we started knapping stones.

TQWhat inspired you to write Gunpowder Moon? What appeals to you about writing Hard SF?

David:  The Moon itself. I’ve always been fascinated by it. It shapes our lives in so many ways. It churns our oceans, guides how we hunt and fish and plant, and affects the behavior of just about every animal on our planet. As for the second part of your question, I love all SF but have always been drawn to the stories that are rooted in science, starting with Jules Verne. I remember being blown away by the scientific detail in The Mysterious Island when I was in grade school.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Gunpowder Moon?

David:  A lot! I started by studying the lunar atlas. Then I dug into lunar geology and topography. I also had to research a ton of stuff like lunar transportation and habitation, helium-3 mining, 3D printing, cosmic and stellar radiation, Lagrange points, rail guns, electromagnetic pulse weapons, high energy lasers, microgravity, orbital velocities, phenomena such as moon fountains, space law, impact craters, and fusion reaction. And I read a good bit of the Apollo mission transcripts, which were fascinating.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Gunpowder Moon.

David:  I don’t know who the artist is—I just know they did a fantastic job. We had some back and forth about the finer details, but luckily my vision for the cover synched up with Harper Voyager’s. The cover does, at least symbolically, depict a major moment in the novel.

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

David:  I’d say the protagonist, Caden Dechert, was the easiest to write. He’s a middle-aged white guy and so am I. It’s easier to write what you know. And like me, he’s both a cynic and an idealist. Probably the hardest characters to write were Lane Briggs and Lin Tzu. Lane is the safety office on Sea of Serenity-1. I wanted her to be a badass, being she’s the only woman on a station full of alpha males, but I didn’t want her to be too grim. I consider her to be the moral center of the novel and I hope that comes through. Lin Tzu is Dechert’s Chinese counterpart on the Moon. He operates a mining station on the nearby Mare Imbrium. He was difficult to write even though he’s only in a scene or two. When I was abroad in college we spent a day with Chinese students at Peking University in Beijing. I tried to model Tzu after a student I became friends with. He was quiet, contemplative, witty, and cautious. I hope I pulled it off.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Gunpowder Moon?

David:  I focused more on the broader issue of human conflict in Gunpowder Moon, which is pretty weighty in itself. If there’s any social commentary in the novel, it’s probably just a reinforcement of the belief that people should be judged on their individual merit and not some prejudice that others have invented to bolster their own position in life.

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

David:   Could this really happen in the near future? The answer is yes!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Gunpowder Moon.


     1.  Caden Dechert arguing with Lin Tzu:
“The moon was supposed to be different, Lin. It was supposed to be demilitarized. It was supposed to be shared.”
     “Nothing so valuable ever is.”
     2. Jonathan Quarles as things are starting to get ugly on Luna:

        “So much for the Sea of Serenity. Can we call it the Sea of Impending Doom now?”

TQWhat's next?

David:  We’re talking to Harper Voyager about a second novel. Hopefully there will be more after that.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

David:  Thanks so much for having me.

Gunpowder Moon
Harper Voyager, February 13, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with David Pedreira, author of Gunpowder Moon
“Interesting quirks and divided loyalties flesh out this first novel in which sf and mystery intersect in a well-crafted plot...Pedreira’s science thriller powerfully highlights the human politics and economics from the seemingly desolate expanse of the moon. It will attract readers who enjoyed Andy Weir’s lunar crime caper Artemis.” -- Library Journal, starred review

A realistic and chilling vision of life on the Moon, where dust kills as easily as the vacuum of space…but murder is even quicker—a fast-paced, cinematic science fiction thriller, this debut novel combines the inventiveness of The Martian, the intrigue of The Expanse, and the thrills of Red Rising.

The Moon smells like gunpowder. Every lunar walker since Apollo 11 has noticed it: a burnt-metal scent that reminds them of war. Caden Dechert, the chief of the U.S. mining operation on the edge of the Sea of Serenity, thinks the smell is just a trick of the mind—a reminder of his harrowing days as a Marine in the war-torn Middle East back on Earth.

It’s 2072, and lunar helium-3 mining is powering the fusion reactors that are bringing Earth back from environmental disaster. But competing for the richest prize in the history of the world has destroyed the oldest rule in space: Safety for All. When a bomb kills one of Dechert’s diggers on Mare Serenitatis, the haunted veteran goes on the hunt to expose the culprit before more blood is spilled.

But as Dechert races to solve the first murder in the history of the Moon, he gets caught in the crosshairs of two global powers spoiling for a fight. Reluctant to be the match that lights this powder-keg, Dechert knows his life and those of his crew are meaningless to the politicians. Even worse, he knows the killer is still out there, hunting.

In his desperate attempts to save his crew and prevent the catastrophe he sees coming, the former Marine uncovers a dangerous conspiracy that, with one spark, can ignite a full lunar war, wipe out his team . . . and perhaps plunge the Earth back into darkness.

About David

Interview with David Pedreira, author of Gunpowder Moon
Photo by Lori Pedreira
A former reporter for newspapers including the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times, David Pedreira has won awards for his writing from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association, and the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He lives in Tampa, Florida.

Website  ~  Twitter @DavePedreira  ~  Facebook

Interview with Rati Mehrotra, author of Markswoman

Please welcome Rati Mehrotra to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Markswoman is published on January 23d by Harper Voyager.

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

Interview with Rati Mehrotra, author of Markswoman

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

Rati:  A poem titled “A Pea in the Sea”, written when I was five years old. It was full of pathos. I wish I still had it, I could do with a good laugh.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Rati:  A hybrid, I think. I’m a total pantser when it comes to short fiction. But if we’re talking books, then I need to know my ending. I may not know how to get there – which is why the middles are so scary – but I must know before I start how the book will end. Of course, a lot might change on the way. And I certainly don’t plan every chapter.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rati:  Getting the time to do it! As a working mom, it’s a bit of a struggle to find the right balance. I often write at night when everyone else is asleep.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Rati:  So many amazing writers. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and devoured every book I could get my hands on. My favorite writers include Ursula Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Neil Gaimam, Gene Wolfe, Patricia A. McKillip, Stephen King, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, and Jane Austen.

I have also been influenced by Indian mythology. I grew up hearing stories from the Indian epics, and they have seeped into my soul.

TQDescribe Markswoman in 140 characters or less.

Rati:  An order of magical-knife-wielding female assassins brings both peace and chaos to their post-apocalyptic world in a blend of science fiction and epic fantasy.

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

Rati:  ‘Asiana’ is a play on ‘Asia’ of course; the world of Markswoman is a fictional, post-apocalyptic version of the real Asia. But the word (pronounced Aashiyana) also means ‘home’ in Urdu and Hindi. Not just any home, but a safe, secure place of shelter. It is this sense of safety and security my protagonist longs for. As, perhaps, we all do.

TQWhat inspired you to write Markswoman? What appeals to you about writing Epic Fantasy?

RatiMarkswoman just demanded to be written. An image of Kyra came to me one day, and would not get go until I put pen to paper. The world itself is inspired by my fascination with mythology, especially stories of the Goddess Kali, and my interest in post-apocalyptic literature..

I love writing (and reading!) epic fantasy because I can thoroughly immerse myself in it. It is both the ultimate escape and a test of creativity – can I build a world a reader will believe in and fall into?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Markswoman?

Rati:  I read a lot about travel in the middles ages, the Silk Route, the geography and climate of Central Asia, and, of course, the myths of the Goddess Kali. It helps that I grew up reading such stories, and that I have spent time in both deserts and mountains in Asia.

I also researched daggers and martial arts. I’ve done both karate and Tai Chi, and that was really helpful in writing the fight scenes.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Markswoman.

Rati:  I love the cover of my book! It depicts a katari, a dagger forged from a rare alien metal that grants Markswomen powers of telepathy. I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting image to capture the heart of my story.

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

Rati:  The easiest character to write was Kyra, my protagonist. She came to me almost fully formed many years ago. She is far from perfect – she has a hot temper, and makes mistakes. But she’s loyal and tough, and loves her friends - qualities I admire.

The most difficult character to write was the villainous Tamsyn. She is far more complex than comes across on these pages, and some day I hope to share more of her story.

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


“Rati, how long did it take you to write and publish this book?”

“Eight years, my friend, eight years.”

I think many new writers don’t realize just how patient and persevering you have be, if you want to be traditionally published.

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

Rati:  Both from Shirin Mam!

“Let the past be what it is. Let the future bring what it will. Stay in the present. Be aware of yourself and who you are. It is all that matters.”

“May you walk on water and pass through fire. May the blood that you shed nourish the soil and the bodies you strike feed the crows. May the katari protect your flesh and Kali protect your soul. And when your work is done, may the Ones take you with them to the stars for the last journey of your life.”

TQWhat's next?

Rati:  The sequel to Markswoman, which is due for publication in January 2019. While I have a completed draft, I expect to work on revisions and edits for much of this year.

Next on my agenda is a project rather close to my heart: a middle grade secondary world fantasy novel which I drafted a few years ago. I need to revise it extensively before my agent can send it out on submission.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Rati:  Thanks for having me!

Asiana 1
Harper Voyager, January 23, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Rati Mehrotra, author of Markswoman
An order of magical-knife wielding female assassins brings both peace and chaos to their post-apocalyptic world in this bewitching blend of science fiction and epic fantasy—the first entry in a debut duology that displays the inventiveness of the works of Sarah Beth Durst and Marie Lu.

Kyra is the youngest Markswoman in the Order of Kali, a highly trained sisterhood of elite warriors armed with telepathic blades. Guided by a strict code of conduct, Kyra and the other Orders are sworn to protect the people of Asiana. But to be a Markswoman, an acolyte must repudiate her former life completely. Kyra has pledged to do so, yet she secretly harbors a fierce desire to avenge her dead family.

When Kyra’s beloved mentor dies in mysterious circumstances, and Tamsyn, the powerful, dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, assumes control of the Order, Kyra is forced on the run. Using one of the strange Transport Hubs that are remnants of Asiana’s long-lost past, she finds herself in the unforgiving wilderness of desert that is home to the Order of Khur, the only Order composed of men. Among them is Rustan, a young, disillusioned Marksman whom she soon befriends.

Kyra is certain that Tamsyn committed murder in a twisted bid for power, but she has no proof. And if she fails to find it, fails in her quest to keep her beloved Order from following Tamsyn down a dark path, it could spell the beginning of the end for Kyra—and for Asiana.

But what she doesn’t realize is that the line between justice and vengeance is razor thin . . . thin as the blade of a knife.

About Rati

Interview with Rati Mehrotra, author of Markswoman
Photo by Veronika Roux
Born and raised in India, Rati Mehrotra makes her home in Toronto, Canada, where she writes novels and short fiction and blogs at Markswoman is her debut novel. Find her on Twitter @Rati_Mehrotra.

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