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2019 Debut Author Challenge - December Debuts


2019 Debut Author Challenge - December Debuts


There is 1 debut novel for December.

Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.



A. R. Moxon

The Revisionaries
Melville House, December 3, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 608 pages

2019 Debut Author Challenge - December Debuts
All is not boding well for Father Julius. . .

A street preacher decked out in denim robes and running shoes, a phony holy man for a misfit urban parish, Julius is a source of inspiration for a community that knows nothing of his scandalous origins.

But when a nearby mental hospital releases its patients to run amok in his neighborhood, his trusted if bedraggled flock turns expectantly to Julius to find out what’s going on. Amid the descending chaos, Julius encounters a hospital escapee who babbles prophecies of doom, and the growing palpable sense of impending danger intensifies. . . as does the feeling that everyone may be relying on a fake preacher just a little too much.

Still, fake or no, Julius decides he must confront the forces that threaten his congregation—including the peculiar followers of a religious cult, the mysterious men and women dressed all in red seen fleetingly amid the bedlam, and an enigmatic smoking figure who seems to know what’s going to happen just before it does.

The Revisionaries is, in the end, a wildly imaginative, masterfully rendered, and suspenseful tale of one man trying to differentiate between reality and fantasy in order to find the source of his faith. It will summon to mind the bold outlandishness stylishness of Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood, and Alan Moore—while being unlike anything that’s come before.

Interview with Caitriona Lally, author of Eggshells


Please welcome Caitriona Lally to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Eggshells was published on March 14th by Melville House.



Interview with Caitriona Lally, author of Eggshells




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

Caitriona:  Like most writers, I spent a lot of my childhood reading and making up extremely derivative stories in copybooks, based very closely on what I had just written. The words “THE END” written in bubble writing would make up a large proportion of the story. Then I fell out of the habit as I grew into the teenage years, and it wasn’t until my early 30s that I did an evening class in creative writing, which got me back into inventing stuff. I realised I found the short story form difficult so I decide to try my hand at writing a novel. And that’s when Eggshells came about.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Caitriona:  I’m a pantser. Not by choice, I just struggle with plotting. Any time I’ve tried to plan which way the story will go, the character seems to take on a life of its own as I get further into the story, and pushes the plot in a different direction. Eggshells is more character-driven than plot-driven, so I just followed the character’s adventures and wanderings around Dublin.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Caitriona:  Probably finding the time to write, or more accurately, forcing myself to make the time to write. Eggshells was my first novel and I squeezed in the writing of it around a full-time job. Now I’m working early mornings and I find that doing interviews and other writing work with tighter deadlines tend to take precedence over the main work of writing my second novel. When you’re tired, you tend to prioritise work with immediate deadlines, so motivation to put the novel-writing first is my biggest challenge.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Caitriona:  My childhood and adult reading. My interest in fairytales and mythology comes through in my book. And my obsession with maps – walking and mapping my character’s routes around Dublin came from my love of maps. I struggle to understand maps in a practical way, but I love looking at them as imaginative works.



TQDescribe Eggshells in 140 characters or less.

Caitriona:  Misfit Vivian, who believes she’s a changeling, walks Dublin’s streets looking for a portal to another world where she thinks she’ll belong



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

Caitriona:  I had never had anything published before I wrote Eggshells, so it felt like a leap in the dark. I had tried – and failed – to get short stories, essays, articles published, and had nothing but rejection so I decided to write something longer that would feel like an achievement in itself, even if it never got published. So eventually seeing my name on the cover of a book was extremely exciting!



TQWhat inspired you to write Eggshells? What appealed to you about writing a genre bending novel?

Caitriona:  I didn’t set out to write a genre-bending novel; in fact I didn’t realise that Eggshells could be called that until I read your question! I didn’t think about genres when I started writing, I just followed the voice of Vivian and concocted adventures and walks and plans for her as I went along. I had been made redundant from my job during the recession in Ireland, and spent a year job-hunting and walking aimlessly around the city – and Vivian came from this time, this sense of not belonging, of seeking something that was difficult to find: in my case a job, in her case a portal to another world.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Eggshells?

Caitriona:  Vivian walks pre-planned routes around Dublin to magical-sounding places in an attempt to find a portal to the otherworld. I scoured atlas indexes and maps of the city to source fairytale-like places. Then I walked all her walks around the city and took notes of buildings and street signs with letters missing (which Vivian believes could form patterns or codes which would lead her to another world). Then when I got home, I plotted the routes of my walks on an old map to see what kind of shape I walked – exactly what Vivian does.



TQPlease tell us about Eggshells' cover.

Caitriona:  The background is a map of Dublin, which I’m thrilled with – I love maps and I think it helps to put Vivian’s walks in context, for readers outside of Dublin. In the centre is an image of Lemonfish, a slightly poorly goldfish missing a few scales that Vivian adopts. And in the centre of Lemonfish is a liquorice allsort, the pink toilet roll (Vivian has a bit of a sweet tooth).



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

Caitriona:  I’m going to say Vivian for both, if that doesn’t count as cheating . . Vivian was in some ways easy to write because her personality and her unorthodox way of viewing the world helped to drive the story on. Her strange reactions to normal situations was the driving force of the novel. But she was also difficult to write because of the intensity of inhabiting her mind. She doesn’t have “normal” social interactions with people, she doesn’t do usual things like exercise or meeting friends for a drink or go to work, and so without such common social interactions, she was a very intense character to write.



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

Caitriona:  I didn’t deal directly with social issues because I hate being preached to in fiction, but I think the theme of not belonging, loneliness, how society treats misfits has crept into the novel through how Vivian is viewed by other people. I suppose being unemployed, I was feeling left out of a society that seemed to value work and money above all else, and Vivian embodies this lack of conforming too. It was something that was on my mind and I haven’t made any major points or come to any conclusions, but not belonging is a theme that runs through Eggshells.



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

Caitriona:  Why isn’t there a description of Vivian’s appearance in the book?

I deliberately avoided describing Vivian’s physical appearance because I got fed up of reading about beautiful women’s reflections in mirrors, or as described by others. I wanted readers to imagine for themselves what she looks like. Vivian has covered all the mirrors in the house, and the books is seen through her eyes, so there isn’t an opportunity for a description of her to creep in.



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

Caitriona:

“I wake on a damp pillow; my dreams must have leaked.”

“I don’t know how a pouch of sweets differs from a bag, but I suspect there are kangaroos involved.”



TQWhat's next?

Caitriona:  I’ve a very rough first draft of my second novel just about finished and am trying to edit that now and put some kind of structure on it. It will take another few months before it can be shown to anybody. This one is set in Germany and I have two narrators which is a nice change after the intensity of living in Vivian’s head.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Caitriona:  Thank you for having me, nice questions! Slán agus beannacht.





Eggshells
Melville House, March 14, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages

Interview with Caitriona Lally, author of Eggshells
Vivian doesn’t feel like she fits in — and never has. As a child, she was so whimsical that her parents told her she was “left by fairies.” Now, living alone in Dublin, the neighbors treat her like she’s crazy, her older sister condescends to her, social workers seem to have registered her as troubled, and she hasn’t a friend in the world.

So, she decides it’s time to change her life: She begins by advertising for a friend. Not just any friend. She wants one named Penelope.

Meanwhile, she roams the city, mapping out a new neighborhood every day, seeking her escape route to a better world, the other world her parents told her she came from.

And then one day someone named Penelope answers her ad for a friend. And from that moment on, Vivian’s life begins to change.

Debut author Caitriona Lally offers readers an exhilaratingly fresh take on the Irish love for lyricism, humor, and inventive wordplay in a book that is, in itself, deeply charming, and deeply moving.





About Caitriona

Interview with Caitriona Lally, author of Eggshells
CAITRIONA LALLY studied English Literature in Trinity College Dublin.  She has had a colorful employment history, working as an abstract writer and a copywriter, as well as a home helper in New York and an English teacher in Japan. She has traveled extensively around Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South America.  Caitriona was shortlisted for “Newcomer of the Year” in the Irish Book Awards in 2015.







Twitter @CaitrionaLally


Interview with Michelle Pretorius, author of The Monster's Daughter


Please welcome Michelle Pretorius to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Monster's Daughter will be published on July 19th by Melville House.



Interview with Michelle Pretorius, author of The Monster's Daughter




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

Michelle:  I started writing later in my life. I needed a change of direction, but didn’t quite know what to do, so I took a writing class and loved it. I always loved school so I decided to apply to an MFA program and got in. I realized that I had always had these story ideas, but didn’t know how to craft them into a novel. I guess that’s the value of formal writing training to me – it taught me to recognize good story ideas, and how to use them.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Michelle:  Definitely a pantser. I like to go on a journey with my characters, throw them in a situation, and see what happens. Writing a novel takes a long time, and new events and experiences are constantly influencing the way I think about the plot and characters. I had a vague idea where I wanted the novel to end when I started writing it, but no idea how I would get there. I sometimes had nightmares about tying up all the narrative threads I had introduced. I ended up changing major plot points several time along the way as I discovered new things in my research. Many times meeting a new person, or a small incident observed on the street, would change the way I saw a character or plot point in the novel. You always have to leave yourself open to the possibility of change while writing. I admire people who can plot out a whole novel before writing it, but for me it would dull the excitement of discovery.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michelle:  To recognize that it is work, hard work, and that inspiration is a very small part of the process. To sit down every day, get rid of all the doubts and excuses, and put words to paper, no matter what, is always a challenge. I have to have a routine. I also have to remind the little perfectionist on my shoulder that this first draft doesn’t matter. That I can rework it and change it before anyone sees it. It’s always easier to make a draft better once you have something to work with, but getting that first draft out is a difficult process. Writing is about making decisions, decisions about your characters, setting, plot, etc. and you have to get rid of the notion that there is only one right answer and that you cannot go back and change it. I cut or rewrote almost as many pages as have remained in the final draft of The Monster’s Daughter, and it was sometimes tough to let them go, but I have to admit that the book is definitely better without them.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Michelle:  I try to read a lot and about a variety of subjects. I obviously love reading fiction, especially crime novels, but I’m also very interested in science and history. I love it when seemingly disparate elements converge in a novel and the expectation of genre lines gets blurred. Place is also a strong factor. I didn’t really have a clear sense of the story I wanted to tell until I visited friends who live in the mountains on a very isolated farm in South Africa. All of a sudden I could see this germ of an idea that I’d been carrying around for a while take root in this environment.



TQDescribe The Monster's Daughter in 140 characters or less.

Michelle:  Constable Alet Berg discovers a burned body on an isolated South African farm and discovers how her own past is connected to the murder.



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

Michelle:  History shapes our lives, the way we exist in the present, and interact with the people around us, whether we realize it or not. The Monster’s Daughter takes its characters, and us as readers, on a journey to discover that past, so that we may understand how we are connected to it in the present.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Monster's Daughter?

Michelle:  I grew up in apartheid-era South Africa which meant that the government controlled information in the media and censored all reading materials and information. History lessons in school were skewed towards the religious justification of white rule. Once I left South Africa, I realized that I didn’t know very much about my country’s real history. I started doing a lot of reading on the subject, and the more I read, the more upset and ashamed I became. I wanted to tell the story, not as a history lesson about people in power, but as a piece of fiction from the perspective of the people who lived under apartheid, both black and white. Fiction has the ability to create empathy because it puts you in the head of another person. I wanted to use this powerful tool as a way of exploring the past with my reader, a way of understanding the people of the country’s beliefs, motivations, experiences, and suffering.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Monster's Daughter?

Michelle:  I did a lot of reading! Many books on the subject were out of print, so I owe a great debt to libraries for finding them for me. I went to South Africa to experience specific places and the people of the areas I was writing about, and to find other sources that were only available in Afrikaans and therefore impossible to find in the US. I also watched many documentaries about the country, both historical and investigative. Apart from the history, I had to research genetics, medical technology, vigilantism, necklacings, burn pathology, interrogational torture techniques, aging, crime, camphor poisoning, and host of other things that would probably make strangers looking at my browsing history very suspicious.



TQIn The Monster's Daughter who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Michelle:  Alet and Mathebe were both easy to write. Once I had a clear idea of who they were, they just took over. I believe that all characters are rooted in the personality and views of the author, there’s no getting away from it. Even though the two of them seem very different, they have a lot in common as well. When I have difficulty writing a character, I know it’s because I am only thinking about their function in the story, and haven’t envisioned them as real people yet. In the beginning of writing the novel, I had some trouble writing the black characters, not because I didn’t think of them as real people, but because I desperately wanted to get it right and do them justice. The fear of getting it wrong almost crippled my writing. I had to remember that, even in a world where difference is constantly being put under a microscope, people are a lot more alike than different.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Monster's Daughter?

Michelle:  It is impossible to write honestly about South Africa without including the issue of racism and the aftermath of colonization. They are pervasive elements in the country’s history and part of the root cause of its current social problems. I wanted to understand why and how apartheid happened, and also what its legacy is for the people of the country. South Africa is a great setting for a crime novel, but I wanted the solving of that crime to be a vehicle for addressing the larger picture of what is happening in the country, and to some extent in the world at large.



TQWhich question about The Monster's Daughter do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Michelle:  Why I chose to include a science fiction aspect in the novel.

As I mentioned, I’m fascinated by science, especially genetics. I’m a big science fiction fan, although I tend to gravitate towards “mundane” sci-fi. I like the idea of speculative fiction that can, by some strange twist of circumstances, or further research and understanding, become reality. To discuss the issue of apartheid and race, I wanted to have characters that could bear witness to the century unfolding, that were present as history made its twists and turns. To bring the issue of race into the fold, I wanted them to actually be superior humans, whereas the white South Africans only believed themselves to be. And so, Tessa and Benjamin were born, not through the specific intent of a mad doctor, but because of a strange confluence of events that were beyond human control.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Monster's Daughter.

Michelle:  “Johannesburg hazed like a gray dream in the late afternoon, a smoky mirage. Around Tessa, lines of color divided the masses of people trying to eat, breathe, and live, going home to separate areas. Would it fall one day, this city of Gomorrah? Would she alone be standing at the end, eternally a child, and know the truth about misery and the consequences of hate? See the result of their toils, of their poverty, of their greed, while they lived only for what today offered? The loneliness of that future ripped at her.”



TQWhat's next?

Michelle:  I’m busy researching and writing a second novel, a sequel if you will. The Monster’s Daughter dealt with over a hundred years of history, primarily investigating the how and why of apartheid. For the second novel, I’d like to focus on what happened post-apartheid. The New South Africa showed so much promise in 1994, but twenty-two years later, the same social inequalities are still present in the country, along with increasing violent criminality. I think the why and how of that is worth exploring further.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michelle:  Thank you so much for having me!





The Monster's Daughter
Melville House, July 19, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages

Interview with Michelle Pretorius, author of The Monster's Daughter
Somewhere on the South African veld, 1901: At the height of the Boer War, a doctor at a British concentration camp conducts a series of grim experiments on Boer prisoners. His work ends in chaos, but two children survive: a boy named Benjamin and a girl named Tessa . . .

One hundred years later, a disgraced young police constable is reassigned to the sleepy South African town of Unie, where she makes a terrifying discovery: the body of a young woman, burned beyond recognition.

The crime soon leads her into her country’s violent past—a past that includes her father, a high-ranking police official under the apartheid regime, and the children left behind in that long-ago concentration camp.

Michelle Pretorius’s epic debut weaves present and past together into a hugely suspenseful, masterfully plotted thriller. With an explosive conclusion, The Monster’s Daughter marks the emergence of a thrilling new writer.





About Michelle

Interview with Michelle Pretorius, author of The Monster's Daughter
MICHELLE PRETORIUS was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. She has written for Bookslut, Word Riot, and the Copperfield Review, among other publications. She received an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago and is currently a PhD student at Ohio University.

Website  ~  Facebook
Twitter @MLPretorius  ~  Instagram


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Monster's Daughter by Michelle Pretorius


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Monster's Daughter by Michelle Pretorius


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


Michelle Pretorius

The Monster's Daughter
Melville House, July 19, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Monster's Daughter by Michelle Pretorius
Somewhere on the South African veld, 1901: At the height of the Boer War, a doctor at a British concentration camp conducts a series of grim experiments on Boer prisoners. His work ends in chaos, but two children survive: a boy named Benjamin and a girl named Tessa . . .

One hundred years later, a disgraced young police constable is reassigned to the sleepy South African town of Unie, where she makes a terrifying discovery: the body of a young woman, burned beyond recognition.

The crime soon leads her into her country’s violent past—a past that includes her father, a high-ranking police official under the apartheid regime, and the children left behind in that long-ago concentration camp.

Michelle Pretorius’s epic debut weaves present and past together into a hugely suspenseful, masterfully plotted thriller. With an explosive conclusion, The Monster’s Daughter marks the emergence of a thrilling new writer.

Interview with Martin Seay, author of The Mirror Thief


Please welcome Martin Seay to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Mirror Thief was published on May 10th by Melville House.



Interview with Martin Seay, author of The Mirror Thief




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

Martin:  Thanks! I have gradually come to realize that my impulse to write comes mostly from the satisfaction of getting something exactly right. In most undertakings—creative and otherwise—we have to accommodate the limitations of our materials and circumstances, but since writing gives us all of language to work with, as well as the freedom to decide for ourselves what “exactly right” looks like, it’s an area where this kind of exactitude seems, or feels, possible.

So that’s probably why. As to when, I’ve written stuff for as long (or longer) than I can remember. I wrote a few things that would probably qualify as functional short stories when I was in high school and college, and I started getting serious about it—taking classes, reading clinically and rigorously, writing stuff meant to be read by people I don’t personally know—in about 2000. My first published story came out in Gargoyle in 2003.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Martin:  A plotter, but I’m not fundamentalist about it. I once heard the novelist Kathryn Davis say something smart about doing research that I will now attempt to paraphrase and probably get wrong: She said that she does research whenever she gets stuck, but then stops doing research as soon as she’s not stuck anymore. (The general idea is that it’s way easier to just keep researching than it is to get back to writing, and that you’ll probably make the best and most crucial discoveries about your story by writing it, not by reading.) I think a similar principle probably applies to outlining plot: I want to know where I’m going, but I also want the story to feel like a trip, not like a map.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Martin:  Finding time! My process tends to be very revision-intensive—I’ll go over and over a particular chapter to polish it before I move on to the next one—and that means my progress is often painfully slow. While I was writing The Mirror Thief I kept a quote from Moby-Dick taped to my monitor: “God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught—nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!”



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

MartinAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy was the first novel by a living writer I read that made me aware of what novels are still able to do, in terms of their capacity to deal with big metaphysical questions while still telling a fun story. I read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye around the same time, and it taught me a lot about how to write characters with complex pasts and distinctive points of view. The aforementioned Moby-Dick dramatically elevated my standards for what qualifies as fearless and ambitious. A couple of nonfiction selections: Lipstick Traces—Greil Marcus’s book about the Sex Pistols and the hidden radical tradition that includes them—opened a bunch of doors for me. The art critic Rosalind E. Krauss’s book The Optical Unconscious helped me think in new ways about the act of seeing, which is not an easy thing to do.

In the portion of my life where I interact with people face-to-face, not through books, I have been influenced by a number of teachers and friends who are also writers. I should make special mention of the novelist Jane Alison, my thesis advisor in grad school, who masterfully articulated the value of fiction as a way of modeling sympathetic understanding of people who are unlike us, and who also taught me a ton about what it means to be an honest and responsible storyteller. (I also can’t overstate the value of the example of her own writing, which is uniformly excellent and which I highly recommend.)

This is going to be the part of the interview where people go “aww,” but I am honestly most inspired by my spouse, the writer Kathleen Rooney, who during the time I have been working on The Mirror Thief has 1) changed the lives of dozens of college students, 2) started a successful publishing venture (Rose Metal Press) and a successful typewriter-poetry collective (Poems While You Wait), and 3) written eleven books and chapbooks of poetry, fiction, memoir, and criticism, each of which is brilliant and quite unlike its siblings. (She has also recently coedited the first English-language edition of the selected writings of the Belgian painter and philosopher René Magritte, coming out later this year, and written her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press in January of 2017.) She’s a great writer and a great literary citizen, in addition to being a real treat to be married to.



TQDescribe The Mirror Thief in 140 characters or less.

Martin:  Las Vegas 2003, Los Angeles 1958, Venice 1592. Soldiers, gamblers, thieves, poets, alchemists, spies. LET US NOW CONSIDER THE MIRROR.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Mirror Thief? Why did you set the core of the novel in Venice, Italy?

Martin:  Venice came first, actually. I had visited it a few years prior to starting the novel and thought it was cool. While I was there, it felt like something I would eventually try to write about.

It’s hard to say why, exactly. One of the things that most struck me about it is the degree to which it’s a purely constructed environment: the vast majority of its structures aren’t built on islands, but on wood pilings pounded into shallow areas of the lagoon. The city is literally built on the water, and took its shape based less on geography than on the stubborn will of its residents.

This creation from nothing seemed to make it analogous (to an even greater extent than other cities are) to a work of art, and especially to a work of literature, which is made from nothing but language, and which is also shaped collaboratively by its writer and those who choose to inhabit it.

The Russian critic Viktor Shklovsky—who I think was pretty sharp—wrote that art functions by “making objects ‘unfamiliar,’ making forms difficult, increasing the difficulty and length of perception, because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.” Venice works a similar trick on us due to the strangeness of its form: where many old European cities are walled fortresses, it’s infinitely permeable; where they’re straight-lined and right-angled, it’s curved. It seems to have been constructed according to a highly idiosyncratic but internally consistent logic that can’t help but suggest a dream. It practically writes about itself.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Mirror Thief?

MartinExtensive research! The novel is set in Las Vegas in 2003, in Los Angeles in 1958, and in the city-state of Venice in 1592; although I had been to all three cities prior to starting the book, I wasn’t able to visit them while I was writing it. Consequently I learned almost everything I needed to know from books, films, paintings, and (of course) the internet. Topics of inquiry included the United States Marine Corps, blackjack card-counting, casino administration and security, the hermetic–cabalist intellectual tradition in early-modern Europe, the Beat movement in Southern California, English-language poetry pre- and post-Pound, mid-twentieth-century esoteric religious practices, pinball machines, Mutoscope films, alchemy, glassmaking, mirrormaking, printing, and a whole bunch of cultural, political, military, scientific, and art history.

That said, I didn’t become an expert on anything while writing the book. Researching a novel is very different from academic research; I didn’t need to achieve any kind of mastery. (And per Kathryn Davis’s point quoted above, that level of rigor would probably have killed the book: I never would have finished it.) What I’m looking for when I research are perfect little tip-of-the-iceberg details that will engage readers’ imaginations and enlist them to help fill in information that isn’t actually on the page. (The other side of that coin is all the reading that I did just to avoid messing stuff up: putting in a detail that rings false or is just plain wrong, that undercuts my authority and knocks readers out of the story.)



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

Martin:  Of the three main characters, the easiest to write was probably Stanley Glass, the teenage con-man and petty criminal whom the 1958 Los Angeles sections focus on. This is simply because Stanley is even less given to introspection than the other two main characters are. All I had to do, pretty much, was keep him moving with his eyes open.

The hardest to write was Vettor Crivano, the physician, alchemist, and spy who’s the main character of the Venice 1592 sections. This is partly because he’s the most complex of the three—he has the broadest education, the most elaborate backstory, the most secrets—but mostly because it was very hard to write the consciousness of someone who’s supposed to have lived four centuries ago: I needed these sections to be strange enough to feel authentic, but not so strange as to be incomprehensible.

(Some people will try to tell you that the essential nature of human beings hasn’t really changed since the Stone Age; I can see no evidence that that’s the case. On the contrary, it seems to me that human nature has fundamentally changed just since the iPhone went on the market.)



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

Martin:  Although The Mirror Thief is largely set in—and, to my way of thinking, is entirely about—Venice, the word “Venice” never appears in the book.



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

Martin:  I included a lot of social issues—along with a lot of politics; I’m not sure where to draw the line between the two—as part of the book’s background noise, and I hope that readers will recognize that content as very important to me, even when the main characters aren’t paying much attention to it (which they’re generally not). It seems to me that such material is most effective in fiction when it’s presented deliberately but obliquely—worked into descriptions and dialogue in passing, for example—and not laid out as a thesis. People are prepared to disagree with explicit arguments, but they can be genuinely jolted when they encounter an assumption about a world that conflicts with their own; that’s how I’ve tried to proceed. (To be more specific in terms of social issues, I don’t think the book makes a big deal out of the fact that it contains characters who are African-American, Jewish, Muslim, gay, etc., who are living with disability and/or posttraumatic stress, and who are struggling against conventional assumptions about gender roles . . . but none of this stuff is in the book by accident, either.)

I’m not sure I believe that there is any such a thing as a book that doesn’t include social or political issues. I think books that purport not to do so are probably just conservative. At best.



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

Martin:

Q: Why don’t you use quotation marks?

A: Great question! Glad you asked! Strictly speaking, I do use quotation marks; I just don’t use them to tag speech. (They show up around song titles, for instance.) The short answer was that I wanted the narration to be continuous: to feel as if it includes a bunch of voices, but also to suggest that all the voices you hear might really be one voice—the way that, say, a mirror looks like it contains a bunch of discrete objects when in fact it’s just a single reflective surface—which in turn might prompt the reader to think about who (or what) that one voice might belong to. Anyway, it was a choice. Some authors just don’t use quotation marks on principle, but I’m not one of those authors.



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

Martin:  My favorite sentence in the book (from Page 19) is:

“Stretch limousines idle at curbside, sly and circumspect, while the sidewalk procession slides backlit across their mute black windshields.”

Thanks for indulging me!



TQWhat's next?

Martin:  Honestly, I’m still a little up in the air on that myself. I have maybe three or four ideas that could turn into novels, but I’ll need to spend some time with them before I’ll know what’s likely to take off. Until then, I have a few criticism projects that I plan to play with, and I’m also looking forward to working through a stack of books I picked up during my recent book tour that refreshingly have nothing to do with anything I’m working on.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Martin:  Thanks for including me in the Debut Author Challenge!





The Mirror Thief
Melville House, May 10, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages

Interview with Martin Seay, author of The Mirror Thief
A globetrotting, time-bending, wildly entertaining literary tour de force in the tradition of Cloud Atlas.

The Mirror Thief is a dazzling combination of a genre-hopping adventure, a fast-paced mystery, and literary verve. Set in three cities in three eras, The Mirror Thief calls to mind David Mitchell and Umberto Eco in its serendipitous mix of entertainment and literary mastery.

The core story is set in Venice in the sixteenth century, when the famed makers of Venetian glass were perfecting one of the old world’s most wondrous inventions: the mirror. An object of glittering yet fearful fascination — was it reflecting simple reality, or something more spiritually revealing? — the Venetian mirrors were state of the art technology, and subject to industrial espionage by desirous sultans and royals world-wide. But for any of the development team to leave the island was a crime punishable by death. One man, however — a world-weary war hero with nothing to lose — has a scheme he thinks will allow him to outwit the city’s terrifying enforcers of the edict, the ominous Council of Ten …

Meanwhile, in two other iterations of Venice — Venice Beach, California, circa 1958, and the Venice casino in Las Vegas, circa today — two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans to get away with a secret …
.
All three stories will weave together into a spell-binding tour-de-force that is impossible to put down — an old-fashioned, stay-up-all-night novel that, in the end, returns the reader to a stunning conclusion in the original Venice … and the bedazzled sense of having read a truly original and thrilling work of literary art.





About Martin

MARTIN SEAY is the executive secretary of the Village of Wheeling, Illinois. This is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @MartinSeay


2016 Debut Author Challenge - The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay


2016 Debut Author Challenge - The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay


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


Martin Seay

The Mirror Thief
Melville House, May 10, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge - The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay
A globetrotting, time-bending, wildly entertaining literary tour de force in the tradition of Cloud Atlas.

The Mirror Thief is a dazzling combination of a genre-hopping adventure, a fast-paced mystery, and literary verve. Set in three cities in three eras, The Mirror Thief calls to mind David Mitchell and Umberto Eco in its serendipitous mix of entertainment and literary mastery.

The core story is set in Venice in the sixteenth century, when the famed makers of Venetian glass were perfecting one of the old world’s most wondrous inventions: the mirror. An object of glittering yet fearful fascination — was it reflecting simple reality, or something more spiritually revealing? — the Venetian mirrors were state of the art technology, and subject to industrial espionage by desirous sultans and royals world-wide. But for any of the development team to leave the island was a crime punishable by death. One man, however — a world-weary war hero with nothing to lose — has a scheme he thinks will allow him to outwit the city’s terrifying enforcers of the edict, the ominous Council of Ten …

Meanwhile, in two other iterations of Venice — Venice Beach, California, circa 1958, and the Venice casino in Las Vegas, circa today — two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans to get away with a secret …
.
All three stories will weave together into a spell-binding tour-de-force that is impossible to put down — an old-fashioned, stay-up-all-night novel that, in the end, returns the reader to a stunning conclusion in the original Venice … and the bedazzled sense of having read a truly original and thrilling work of literary art.

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Weirdness by Jeremy P. Bushnell



2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Weirdness by Jeremy P. Bushnell


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



Jeremy P. Bushnell

The Weirdness
Melville House, March 4, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Weirdness by Jeremy P. Bushnell
With the literary muscle of Victor LaValle’s Big Machine and the outlandish humor of Kevin Smith’s Dogma, this debut reveals the dark underbelly of the NY literary scene.

What do you do when you wake up hung over and late for work only to find a stranger on your couch? And what if that stranger turns out to be an Adversarial Manifestation who has already brewed you a fresh cup of fair-trade coffee? If you’re Billy Ridgeway, you take the coffee.

“This is some kind of make-a-deal-with-the-Devil type shit,” he says. Lucifer explains that Billy must steal the Neko of Infinite Equilibrium, a cat-shaped statue with magical powers, before the most powerful warlock in the eastern United States can upset the balance of the universe. In exchange, Billy’s novel will be published for a five-figure advance.

Traffic may be in the way of Billy’s getaway car, he may lose his job at the Greek deli, his girlfriend may break up with him, and it’s likely he’ll have to battle his greatest literary rival with his fists… but one way or another, he is determined to become a published author and save the universe.

Along the way, Billy learns about courage, friendship, and love, while considering some important questions: Why do people have pets? Who would store seafood in a warehouse in Chelsea? And where do those bananas in bodegas come from, anyway?


Interview with Rachel Cantor, author of A Highly Unlikely Scenario or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World - January 18, 2014


Please welcome Rachel Cantor to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. A Highly Unlikely Scenario or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World was published on January 14, 2014.



Interview with Rachel Cantor, author of  A Highly Unlikely Scenario or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World - January 18, 2014




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

Rachel:  Thank you so much, Sally! I started writing in elementary school, when the sainted Miss Benny plucked a few of us out of our third grade classroom to join her fourth grade creative writing class. My first published work was a Valentine’s poem I wrote that year which appeared in my local newspaper. I won’t say it was a straight line from third grade to publication of my debut novel, but writing is the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Rachel:  I love that word—pantser! I’m something of both. I see my (approximate) destination; in A Highly Unlikely Scenario, the destination (spoiler alert!) was the world saved from certain destruction! I also see an overall structure that helps me get to that destination; in A Highly Unlikely Scenario, I envisioned a three-part structure in which Leonard, my bashful protagonist, makes his way first into the world and then into history. Then I wrote through that structure toward that approximate destination. But I don’t know in advance how I’m going to get there. I plot no more than a few pages ahead and rarely know what’s at the end of each sentence. You have to leave room for the unexpected!



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

Rachel:  The most challenging thing about writing for me is dealing with distraction. I don’t just mean the Internet, though that’s possibly the worst of it, but even daily minutia: the phone ringing, the postman arriving, the question of what I’ll cook for dinner. This is why I do my best work at artists’ colonies, where beautiful people take care of our everyday needs, and we’re released to only live in our imaginations. I’ve been blessed to attend a number of them; this book was in large part drafted at the Millay Colony and the Hall Farm Center, which is sadly defunct. But otherwise I write at home, in private—never in public. I can’t know when my writing is going to make me laugh, or cry!



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

Rachel:  I read widely and voraciously—literary fiction, speculative fiction/sci fi, mysteries, history. I love long novels and short stories, and I also find inspiration in museums, concerts, films, my friends, walking around a city ... I recently wrote a quick list on Facebook of ten books I couldn’t get out of my mind when I read them—the kind of list you’re not supposed to overthink, noting only the first names that come to mind—and it turns out all were books I’d read before the age of 25: the Narnia series, Jane Eyre, Dante, Italo Calvino, Charlotte’s Web, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Borges. Somehow I forgot Harriet the Spy!



TQ:  Describe A Highly Unlikely Scenario in 140 characters or less.

Rachel:  It’s a literary romp in which one Neetsa Pizza employee discovers that you can’t save the world with pizza coupons.



TQ:  Tell us something about A Highly Unlikely Scenario that is not in the book description.

Rachel:  I love this question! The book is about all of the above, but it’s also about family—about love, guilt, and sacrifice, and also the intergenerational transmission of knowledge, caring, and values. Specifically, it’s about Leonard’s older sister Carol, a neo-Maoist masquerading as a Jacobite, who gave up a music career to care for Leonard; Leonard’s precocious, comic-book-writing, seven-year-old nephew, Felix, who too often is dumped by classmates onto the Municipal Compost Heap; his beloved Sally, a warrior-librarian on a mission to read unreadable manuscripts; and his grandfather, who came from the Old Country and died when Leonard was fifteen, but who’s still a strong presence in Leonard’s memory.



TQ:  What inspired you to write A Highly Unlikely Scenario? Why did you choose to write genre bending SciFi adventure? Do you want to write in any other genres or sub-genres?

Rachel:  I grew up in Italy and have always been fascinated by medieval history—its art, architecture, literature, religious movements, and so on. Many of the people Leonard encounters hail from that time, and then, of course, in the final third of the book, Leonard travels to thirteenth-century Rome to retrieve his nephew Felix and, incidentally, to save the world. Writing about these real people was enormous fun for me, as was trying to reconstruct what Rome was like during that time (what did the fish market look like? what might a person have seen crossing the Tiber?). I’m also interested in ideologies, and how they affect our behavior, for better or worse; in this book, religious and political philosophies we consider extinct still thrive (Whigs, for example, and Heraclitans). I’m not good with labels, but only something like sci fi (fantasy? speculative fiction?) could accommodate this much suspension of disbelief, this much imagination. But I see myself mostly as a literary writer; my next novel (due out in January 2015) is a more straightforward literary novel. After that? Who knows!



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for A Highly Unlikely Scenario?

Rachel:  I did an enormous amount of research for this book: I read Marco Polo’s Travels, as well as critical writings about his achievements; I looked at ancient maps and medieval engravings; I read about Pythagoreans and medieval mystics and Roman architecture and Jewish life in the Middle Ages and pilgrims’ clothing and the list goes on and on! I’ve created a Goodreads bookshelf of some of the sources that were most important to the writing of this novel. I always do about six times more research than I need—this is the case even with the short stories I’ve written. For me, it’s part of the fun of writing!



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

Rachel:  To be truthful, none of the characters in this book was difficult to write: they all felt familiar from the start and I had enormous sympathy for them—all, of course, except the villain Ugolino de Barbarubeis, who chases Leonard around Rome, hoping to hurt him with a brank or a scramasax. He is the only unambiguously bad guy. My favorite good guy is probably Leonard’s grandfather, who doesn’t actually appear in the book, but who ate herring, pored over ancient tomes, and told the young Leonard crazy stories he couldn’t understand. Most of the characters are ethically ambiguous, though: most have made mistakes or have acted thoughtlessly or selfishly at one point, usually hurting someone dear to them as a result. Carol abandons her son to Leonard’s care so she can pursue her revolutionary aims; Leonard’s love interest Sally tries to use Leonard to get information she thinks she needs; Leonard himself was unkind to his grandfather and blind to his sister’s sacrifice. I have a special fondness, though, for Bobolo Savelli, the man who runs the pilgrims’ hostel in Rome. He’s not a bad sort, though he may overcharge Leonard and Sally for the privilege of eating his pottage and sleeping in his flea-ridden bed, but he can’t resist charging admission to see one of the marvels Leonard has brought with him to the thirteenth century, which sends Leonard and Sally fleeing from the Inquisition!



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from A Highly Unlikely Scenario.

Rachel:  “Boychik, the old man said. You’re a good egg. I need you to listen good.” To understand what that means, you have to read the book!



TQ:  What's next?

Rachel:  I’ll be reading from A Highly Unlikely Scenario on the East Coast, West Coast, and some places in between this year (for dates, folks can refer to my brand new, sparkly website: rachelcantor.com), and working with my publisher to edit the next novel (Door Number Two). But I have a residency planned at an artists’ colony later this year where I hope to write new work. Wish me luck!



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Rachel:  Thank you, Sally! This was terrific fun!





A Highly Unlikely Scenario

A Highly Unlikely Scenario or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World
Melville House, January 14, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 256 pages

Interview with Rachel Cantor, author of  A Highly Unlikely Scenario or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World - January 18, 2014
In the not-too-distant future, competing giant fast food factions rule the world. Leonard works for Neetsa Pizza, the Pythagorean pizza chain, in a lonely but highly surveilled home office, answering calls on his complaints hotline. It’s a boring job, but he likes it—there’s a set answer for every scenario, and he never has to leave the house. Except then he starts getting calls from Marco, who claims to be a thirteenth-century explorer just returned from Cathay. And what do you say to a caller like that? Plus, Neetsa Pizza doesn’t like it when you go off script.

Meanwhile, Leonard’s sister keeps disappearing on secret missions with her “book club,” leaving him to take care of his nephew, which means Leonard has to go outside. And outside is where the trouble starts.

A dazzling debut novel wherein medieval Kabbalists, rare book librarians, and Latter-Day Baconians skirmish for control over secret mystical knowledge, and one Neetsa Pizza employee discovers that you can’t save the world with pizza coupons.





About Rachel

Interview with Rachel Cantor, author of  A Highly Unlikely Scenario or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World - January 18, 2014
Photo by Marianne Barcellona
Rachel Cantor was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in Rome. She worked for jazz festivals in France and food festivals in Australia before getting degrees in international development and fiction writing. Her short stories have appeared in The Paris Review, One Story, Kenyon Review, Fence, and other publications. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and elsewhere, and has been a scholar at the Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and Wesleyan Writing Conferences. She lives in Brooklyn.


Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Tumblr 
Twitter @rachelcantor  ~  Goodreads





2019 Debut Author Challenge - December DebutsInterview with Caitriona Lally, author of EggshellsInterview with Michelle Pretorius, author of The Monster's Daughter2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Monster's Daughter by Michelle PretoriusInterview with Martin Seay, author of The Mirror Thief2016 Debut Author Challenge - The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Weirdness by Jeremy P. BushnellInterview with Rachel Cantor, author of  A Highly Unlikely Scenario or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World - January 18, 2014

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