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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with K. S. Villoso, author of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro


Please welcome K. S. Villoso to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is published on February 18, 2020 by Orbit.



Interview with K. S. Villoso, author of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro




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

K. S.:  This was back in 1st grade and was a short, incoherent story that was a mish-mash of genres and just about everything I was into at the time. I think the main character was a dog…



TQ Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

K. S.:  I’m essentially whatever is convenient at the time. I outline before I start writing. The first draft will look nothing like the outline. Sometimes I will re-outline partway through the novel, scrap that draft, and start again. Sometimes I will follow the outline perfectly for three chapters and then realize I have a gap towards the next plot point… in which case I will pants my way through. Unfortunately, I may not even reach that next plot point and everything will change based on that part that I pantsed.

It’s a sort of perfect, contained chaos. I have a hard time trying to make it make sense to others, but it always makes sense to me…



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

K. S.:  It’s hard to keep focus when I have so many things I want to explore all at once. That means my first drafts are often very messy, and each subsequent draft is a matter of keeping some ideas and throwing the rest out. I also get bored easily—I can’t just write stories that go from point A to B…so I like creating puzzles out of my work and then sitting down and trying to work it out through the process of writing. This means every single one of my manuscripts require a lot of work from my end just to sort my thoughts and the story out.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

K. S.:  I’ve probably mentioned author influences in other interviews elsewhere, so I’m going to talk a bit more about genre… particularly, the horror influence in my work. Along with epic fantasy, I truly enjoy horror, and I probably have seen more horror movies than anything else combined. I love the psychological aspect of it, of using fear and very high tension as tools in storytelling, and of figuratively—maybe literally—using “ghosts” to deepen character conflicts. People have mentioned how my plots are anxiety or stress-inducing, and that’s mostly this influence coming into play—I like focusing on character dilemmas first and then slowly, very slowly, revealing the plot one puzzle piece after another…all after the external conflicts have reared their ugly (again, very often literally) heads.



TQDescribe The Wolf of Oren-Yaro using only 5 words.

K. S.:  Intense sword-wielding Bitch Queen…



TQTell us something about The Wolf of Oren-Yaro that is not found in the book description.

K. S.:  There are heists! (See answer to Question No. 12).



TQWhat inspired you to write The Wolf of Oren-Yaro? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

K. S.The Wolf of Oren-yaro was my take on the classic hero’s journey/chosen one story…from the point-of-view of a woman who is both a wife and a mother. One who, incidentally, is also the daughter of a man many people consider the villain. The situation is rife with challenges that made it very interesting for me to explore.

Writing fantasy is great because it allows you to use worldbuilding as an added tool to carry the story through. By that I mean you can basically make things up to drive home the point, or create an elaborate metaphor—you can adjust the environment, or alter history and time itself to explore a certain theme. So you can create a really powerful story that can go beyond plot or character.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro?

K. S.:  I draw from my culture and upbringing for a lot of the worldbuilding; it’s not so much learning about things from the outside, but bringing out what I know from the inside, and then trying to make sense of it on the proverbial paper. So there is no specific “research”—there is however a lot of introspection, a lot of discussion over topics and issues that would lead me to look up certain facts to support or disprove an argument.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.

K. S.:  I am one of the blessed, lucky few who got a cover depicting not just Queen Talyien’s image, but Talyien as a character and person. You can get a sense both of her determination and her challenges from one look at the cover. In the cover, she is also carrying her father’s kampilan. It doesn’t actually show up until Book 3, but the symbolism is there as Talyien really is carrying the burdens her father—a dark figure in history—has left her.



TQIn The Wolf of Oren-Yaro who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

K. S.:  The easiest character is probably…and obviously…Khine. I think it’s because I share the same background as him, coming from the lower rungs of society while for the longest time brushing elbows with people who have it better. And while I’ve thankfully never had to resort to becoming a thief, I may have once or twice schemed myself out of messes. Khine goes with the flow while actively strategizing his next move; this is the easiest kind of character for me to write because it is very, very close to how I’d do things myself.

Talyien, on the other hand…while her voice came rushing to me like a wave, she also possessed an intensity that kept me on my toes. Half the time I have this perfect plot point set up and she’s like “No.” So now I have to go rushing after her to try and fish her out of whatever situation she’s in. That impulsive, hotheaded nature made it difficult to follow the original outline, as she lands herself in trouble one after another and I had to find a way to get her out of it while maintaining the story’s momentum.



TQDoes The Wolf of Oren-Yaro touch on any social issues?

K. S.:  If readers want to read it as nothing more than an action-adventure fantasy story, they are welcome to do so. It’s written to entertain, it has a plot, it has great character interactions and some pretty cool fight scenes. There is absolutely no obligation to see it beyond that.

If readers want to stop for a moment and look beyond that outer layer, though, there’s quite a bit—not so much that they’re added in, but because these issues are an integral part of the characters, especially Queen Talyien’s, and the world they find themselves in. The challenges a woman faces that perhaps a man in her position wouldn’t have to worry about, for instance; power and the many ways it can corrupt, social inequalities, the effect of political struggles on the common people.



TQWhich question about The Wolf of Oren-Yaro do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

K. S.:  “So Kay, I noticed you put a particular importance on heists in this book…is that just random or is this epic fantasy also a heist novel in disguise?”

“Why, thank you for noticing that, Kay. The introduction of the con-artist and thief, Khine Lamang, is a marker, a foreshadowing of what’s about to come. This series, after all, is about tricks and schemes, about believing one thing when really it’s about something else. We get more heists as the series progresses, culminating to that one, final trick…”

“No spoilers.”

“I can’t spoil you, you already know how it ends!”

“So let me just chime in with your readers: YOU’RE A MONSTER, HOW COULD YOU, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF.”

“Somebody take this doppelganger away.”



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.

K. S.:  Here’s two of them:

There are people who find themselves in a precarious situation, believe
themselves betrayed, and will do nothing but run their tongues ragged in
criticizing the world for not helping them better. Like wailing dogs in the rain,
they strain against their leashes instead of turning to gnaw their bonds to
freedom, or sit on their piss and wait for pity.


Betrayal has a funny way of turning your world upside down. As familiar as I
had already been with it by that point, it still amazed me how far I could
stretch that moment of denial. The thought of what had been—of what could
yet be—persisted. Perhaps it is not the same for most people. Perhaps, when
you love less, it is easier not to let the emptiness become a cavern from which
you can no longer see the sun.


TQWhat's next?

K. S.:  Well, we’re going to hit the ground running with this series. The sequel, THE IKESSAR FALCON, is out on September 29, 2020. It’s a chonky book, so those hesitant to give THE WOLF OF OREN-YARO a try because it’s a new series will have plenty to keep themselves busy until Book 3…which is out in the first half of next year.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
Chronicles of the Bitch Queen 1
Orbit, February 18, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Interview with K. S. Villoso, author of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
A queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. A debut epic fantasy from an exciting new voice.

“They called me the Bitch Queen, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and exiled my king the night before they crowned me.”

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves, which nearly tore her nation apart. But her arranged marriage with the son of a rival clan should herald peaceful days to come.

However, her husband’s sudden departure before their reign begins puts a quick end to those dreams, and the kingdom is fractured beyond repair.

Years later, Talyien receives a message, one that will send her across the sea. What’s meant to be an effort at reconciling the past becomes an assassination attempt. Stranded in a land she doesn’t know, with no idea whom she can trust, Talyien will have to embrace her namesake.

A wolf of Oren-yaro is not tamed.





About K.S. Villoso

Interview with K. S. Villoso, author of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
Photo by Mikhail Villoso
K.S. Villoso writes speculative fiction with a focus on deeply personal themes and character-driven narratives. Much of her work is inspired by her childhood in the slums of Taguig, Philippines. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her husband, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.











Website  ~  Twitter @k_villoso


2020 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced


The six works nominated for the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award have been anounced by the judges of the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, along with the Philip K. Dick Trust.
  • The Outside by Ada Hoffmann (Angry Robot)
  • Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O'Keefe (Orbit)
  • All Worlds Are Real: Short Fictions by Susan Palwick (Fairwood Press)
  • Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories by Sarah Pinsker (Small Beer Press)
  • The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson (Orbit)
  • The Little Animals by Sarah Tolmie (Aqueduct Press)
First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 10, 2020 at Norwescon 43 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport, SeaTac, Washington.

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States during the previous calendar year. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the Northwest Science Fiction Society. Last year’s winner was THEORY OF BASTARDS by Audrey Schulman (Europa Editions) with a special citation to 84K by Claire North (Orbit). The 2019 judges are Thomas A. Easton, Karen Heuler, Mur Lafferty, Patricia MacEwen (chair), and James Sallis.





Ada Hoffman

The Outside
Angry Robot Books, June 11, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

2020 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced
Humanity’s super-intelligent AI Gods brutally punish breaches in reality, as one young scientist discovers, in this intense and brilliant space opera.

Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive that could change the future of humanity. But when she activates it, reality warps, destroying the space station and everyone aboard. The AI Gods who rule the galaxy declare her work heretical, and Yasira is abducted by their agents. Instead of simply executing her, they offer mercy – if she’ll help them hunt down a bigger target: her own mysterious, vanished mentor. With her homeworld’s fate in the balance, Yasira must choose who to trust: the gods and their ruthless post-human angels, or the rebel scientist whose unorthodox mathematics could turn her world inside out.

File Under: Science Fiction [ False Gods | Angel Inside | Autistic in Space | Here be Monsters ]





Megan E. O'Keefe

Velocity Weapon
The Protectorate 1
Orbit, June 11, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

2020 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced
Dazzling space battles, intergalactic politics, and rogue AI collide in Velocity Weapon, the first book in this epic space opera by award-winning author Megan O’Keefe.

Sanda and Biran Greeve were siblings destined for greatness. A high-flying sergeant, Sanda has the skills to take down any enemy combatant. Biran is a savvy politician who aims to use his new political position to prevent conflict from escalating to total destruction.

However, on a routine maneuver, Sanda loses consciousness when her gunship is blown out of the sky. Instead of finding herself in friendly hands, she awakens 230 years later on a deserted enemy warship controlled by an AI who calls himself Bero. The war is lost. The star system is dead. Ada Prime and its rival Icarion have wiped each other from the universe.

Now, separated by time and space, Sanda and Biran must fight to put things right.

“Meticulously plotted, edge-of-your-seat space opera with a soul.” —Kirkus


The Protectorate
Velocity Weapon





Susan Palwick

All Worlds are Real: Short Fictions
Fairwood Press, November 5, 2019
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 322 pages

2020 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced
Beautifully crafted, unfailingly strange, and always moving, Susan Palwick's stories shift effortlessly between fantasy and science fiction, magical realism and horror. Here you will encounter aliens, ghosts, and robots, along with a colorful assortment of eccentric  and vulnerable humans. You will see souls trapped in lucite, witness the operations of a magical measuring tape, and watch the oldest woman on a generation ship bequeath a precious Terran relic to a young friend. Collecting tales published in markets such as Tor.com, Asimov's, F&SF, and Lightspeed, All Worlds are Real also includes three new pieces exclusive to this volume.





Sarah Pinsker

Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories
Small Beer Press, March 19, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages

2020 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea is one of the most anticipated sf&f collections of recent years. Pinsker has shot like a star across the firmament with stories multiply nominated for awards as well as Sturgeon and Nebula award wins.

The baker’s dozen stories gathered here (including a new, previously unpublished story) turn readers into travelers to the past, the future, and explorers of the weirder points of the present. The journey is the thing as Pinsker weaves music, memory, technology, history, mystery, love, loss, and even multiple selves on generation ships and cruise ships, on highways and high seas, in murder houses and treehouses. They feature runaways, fiddle-playing astronauts, and retired time travelers; they are weird, wired, hopeful, haunting, and deeply human. They are often described as beautiful but Pinsker also knows that the heart wants what the heart wants and that is not always right, or easy.





Tade Thompson

The Rosewater Redemption
The Wormwood Trilogy 3
Orbit, October 15, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

2020 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced
The Rosewater Redemption concludes the award-winning, cutting edge Wormwood trilogy, set in Nigeria, by one of science fiction’s most engaging new voices.

Life in the newly independent city-state of Rosewater isn’t everything its citizens were expecting.

The Mayor finds that debts incurred during the insurrection are coming back to haunt him. Nigeria isn’t willing to let Rosewater go without a fight. And the city’s alien inhabitants are threatening mass murder for their own sinister ends…

Operating across spacetime, the xenosphere, and international borders, it is up to a small group of hackers and criminals to prevent the extra-terrestrial advance. The fugitive known as Bicycle Girl, Kaaro, and his former handler Femi may be humanity’s last line of defense.

Tade Thompson’s innovative, genre-bending, Afrofuturist series, the Wormwood Trilogy, is perfect for fans of Jeff Vandermeer, N. K. Jemisin, William Gibson, and Ann Leckie.

The Wormwood Trilogy
Rosewater
The Rosewater Insurrection
The Rosewater Redemption





Sarah Tolmie

The Little Animals
Aqueduct Press, May 1, 2019
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 384 pages

2020 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced
Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, a quiet linen draper in Delft, has discovered a new world: the world of the little animals, or animalcules, that he sees through his simple microscopes. These tiny creatures are everywhere, even inside us. But who will believe him? Not his wife, not his neighbors, not his fellow merchants—only his friend Reinier De Graaf, a medical doctor. Then he meets an itinerant goose girl at the market who lives surrounded by tiny, invisible voices. Are these the animalcules also? Leeuwenhoek and the girl form a curious alliance, and gradually the lives of the little animals infiltrate everything around them: Leeuwenhoek’s cloth business, the art of his friend Johannes Vermeer, the nascent sex trade, and people’s religious certainties. But Leeuwenhoek also needs to cement his reputation as a natural philosopher, and for that he needs the Royal Society of London—a daunting challenge, indeed, for a Dutch draper who can't communicate in Latin.

Interview with Kacen Callender, author of Queen of the Conquered


Please welcome Kacen Callendar to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Queen of the Conquered, their adult debut, was published on November 12, 2019 by Orbit.



Interview with Kacen Callender, author of Queen of the Conquered




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

Kacen:  Thank you! The first piece I remember writing was actually fanfiction when I was maybe about ten or eleven years old. It was for an anime called Card Captor Sakura, and I wrote an “alternate universe” fic based on The King and I. It was just as ridiculous as it sounds. As for original fiction, though, I was probably about sixteen and tried to write a fantasy novel about a girl who’d been raised on an island inhabited by only women. I still have pieces of the first draft somewhere on my laptop.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Kacen:  I’m definitely a hybrid. I tend to write out a pretty loose, basic outline based on the beats from Save the Cat, and allow pantsing in between points, which could influence the outline and the direction of the story in ways I don’t always expect. There are also a lot of times when I don’t know the outline yet, so I pants until I get a better sense of the story, before writing out the beats.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Kacen:  The most challenging thing right now is getting voices of critique and criticism out of my head and allowing myself to write the story I want to write, and continuing to believe in myself as an author. It can be very easy to persuade myself to give up on first drafts, and I have to work hard to force myself to keep going.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Kacen:  Definitely other books and authors, movies and TV shows, and real-world events and society. For Queen of the Conquered, I was specifically influenced by the history of the Caribbean and novels like The Book of Night Women by Marlon James, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, and Octavia Butler.



TQDescribe Queen of the Conquered using only 5 words.

Kacen:  Brutal, unforgiving, lush, methodical, vengeful.



TQTell us something about Queen of the Conquered that is not found in the book description.

KacenQueen of the Conquered feels like a blend of historical fantasy and classic mysteries, and is often described as a cross between Shakespeare and Agatha Christie.



TQWhat inspired you to write Queen of the Conquered? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Kacen:  A number of things inspired me: the history of the Caribbean and the knowledge that Black people had once owned slaves were the initial spark of the idea years ago, but the story continued to develop and form in my mind as I experienced situations where I was an oppressed person with privilege, helping me to think more about Sigourney Rose’s character. I love writing SFF because these stories allow us to write metaphors and parallels to our real world that can help us writers and readers see our own world even more clearly.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Queen of the Conquered?

Kacen:  Most of the research was based in the language of the Fjern, or the colonizers of Queen of the Conquered. The setting is based on my own home islands of the US Virgin Islands. Before being bought by the United States, the USVI had been a part of the Danish West Indies. Because of that, a lot of the language in the novel is Danish. For example, “Fjern” means foreign, and “kraft,” or the magical ability throughout the book, translates to power—both magically and systematically.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Queen of the Conquered.

Kacen:  The cover was designed by Lisa Marie Pompilio, and I really lucked out—I think the cover is absolutely gorgeous. It depicts Sigourney with tropical flowers and a snake, which is a running theme throughout the book. My favorite part of the cover, though, is that it looks even more amazing beside the cover of the sequel, King of the Rising, which depicts Løren, a significant character in Queen of the Conquered and the main character in the second book.



TQIn Queen of the Conquered who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Kacen:  The easiest character was Sigourney, because even if it was difficult to put myself into her head and imagine being a horrible human being committing atrocities, a lot of her character was also based on something I’ve experienced a lot in my life as a person who is both oppressed and discriminated against, and someone who has experienced privilege, and been in situations where the two intersect. It did take vulnerability, but because I understand this experience so deeply, it was easy to draw from. The most difficult character would be all of the Fjern and kongelig on the island. I had to put myself into the minds of colonizers and enslavers and make themselves seem viably acceptance and redeemable to themselves so that they’d feel realistic, but I did not want to seem like I was attempting to make them morally ambiguous or relatable characters—I had to show that the narrative and I as an author understand that they are unforgiveable characters.



TQ:  Which question about Queen of the Conquered do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Kacen:  I wish someone would ask whether the spirits throughout Queen of the Conquered are real. The spirits aren’t real in the sense that this is a book, and it’s fiction, but I enjoy playing with the concept of reality and fantasy. For a lot of cultures and people, myself included, spirits are very much so real and revered, so while some readers might consider the spirits and ancestors in the world of Queen of the Conquered and King of the Rising as a part of the fantasy world, for me, they’re as real as the islands themselves.



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

Kacen:  Storms and the constantly encroaching tide are both metaphors throughout the book, so I’ll go with this atmospheric line from the beginning of chapter nine:

The sky, normally so blue, turns gray—and by the end of the morning, the trade-winds breeze turns to a wind that lashes rain upon the islands, blackened storm clouds rolling over the hills and waves crashing into the cliffs of Hans Lollik Helle.



TQWhat's next?

Kacen:  I have three books coming out next year: first is the middle-grade King and the Dragonflies, out on February 4th. Next is the young-adult Felix Ever After, out on May 20th. And, finally, the sequel to Queen of the Conquered, King of the Rising, should be out in December of next year.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Kacen:  Thanks so much for having me!





Queen of the Conquered
Islands of Blood and Storm 2
Orbit, November 12, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Kacen Callender, author of Queen of the Conquered
An ambitious young woman with the power to control minds seeks vengeance against the royals who murdered her family, in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression.

Sigourney Rose is the only surviving daughter of a noble lineage on the islands of Hans Lollik. When she was a child, her family was murdered by the islands’ colonizers, who have massacred and enslaved generations of her people — and now, Sigourney is ready to exact her revenge.

When the childless king of the islands declares that he will choose his successor from amongst eligible noble families, Sigourney uses her ability to read and control minds to manipulate her way onto the royal island and into the ranks of the ruling colonizers. But when she arrives, prepared to fight for control of all the islands, Sigourney finds herself the target of a dangerous, unknown magic.

Someone is killing off the ruling families to clear a path to the throne. As the bodies pile up and all eyes regard her with suspicion, Sigourney must find allies among her prey and the murderer among her peers… lest she become the next victim.

Queen of the Conquered reckons with the many layers of power and privilege in a lush fantasy world — perfect for readers of S. A. Chakraborty, Ken Liu, and Tasha Suri.





About Kacen

Kacen Callender was born two days after a hurricane and was first brought home to a house without its roof. After spending their first eighteen years on St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, Kacen studied Japanese, Fine Arts, and Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received their MFA from the New School. Kacen is the author of the middle grade novel Hurricane Child and the young adult novel This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story.

Website  ~  Twitter @kacencallender

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors


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


K. A. Doore (2019)

The Impossible Contract
Chronicles of Ghadid 2
Tor Books, November 12, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

The Impossible Contract is the second book in K. A. Doore's high fantasy adventure series the Chronicles of Ghadid, where a determined assassin travels to the heart of the Empire in pursuit of a powerful mark, for fans of Robin Hobb, Sarah J. Maas, and S. A. Chakraborty

An assassin’s reputation can mean life or death.

This holds especially true for Thana Basbowen, daughter of the legendary Serpent, who rules over Ghadid’s secret clan of assassins. When a top-tier contract drops in her lap — death orders against foreign ambassador Heru Sametket — Thana seizes the opportunity.

Yet she may be in over her head. Heru wields blasphemous powers against his enemies, and Thana isn’t the only person after his life: even the undead pursue him, leaving behind a trail of horror. Her mission leads her on a journey to the heart of a power-hungry empire, where dangers lurk around every corner. Her only ally is Mo, a determined healer set to protect Ghadid any way she can.

As further occult secrets are unleashed, however, the aftermath of this impossible contract may be more than anyone can handle.

The Chronicles of Ghadid
#1: The Perfect Assassin
#2: The Impossible Contract
#3: The Unconquered City


Book 1





Mark Lawrence (2011)

Dispel Illusion
Impossible Times 3
47North, December 31, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 238 pages

Sometimes being wrong is the right answer.

Nick Hayes’s genius is in wringing out the universe’s secrets. It’s a talent that’s allowed him to carve paths through time. But the worst part is that he knows how his story will end. He’s seen it with his own eyes. And every year that passes, every breakthrough he makes, brings him a step closer. Mia’s accident is waiting for them both in 2011. If it happens then he’s out of choices.

Then a chance 1992 discovery reveals that this seeker of truth has been lying to himself. But why? It’s a question that haunts him for years. A straw he clings to as his long-awaited fate draws near.
Time travel turns out not to be the biggest problem Nick has to work on. He needs to find out how he can stay on his path but change the destination. Failure has never been an option, and neither has survival. But Nick’s hoping to roll the dice one more time. And this new truth begins with a lie.


Book 1
Book 2





Kristyn Merbeth (2016)

Fortuna
The Nova Vita Protocol 1
Orbit, November 5th 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook 560 pages

Fortuna launches a new space opera trilogy that will hook you from the first crash landing.

Scorpia Kaiser has always stood in Corvus’s shadow until the day her older brother abandons their family to participate in a profitless war. However, becoming the heir to her mother’s smuggling operation is not an easy transition for the always rebellious, usually reckless, and occasionally drunk pilot of the Fortuna, an aging cargo ship and the only home Scorpia has ever known.

But when a deal turns deadly and Corvus returns from the war, Scorpia’s plans to take over the family business are interrupted, and the Kaiser siblings are forced to make a choice: take responsibility for their family’s involvement in a devastating massacre or lay low and hope it blows over.

Too bad Scorpia was never any good at staying out of a fight.

Perfect for fans of Becky Chambers and Catherynne M. Valente, Fortuna introduces a dazzling new voice in science fiction.

Interview with Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January


Please welcome Alix E. Harrow to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Ten Thousand Doors of January was published on September 10, 2019 by Redhook.



Interview with Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January




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

Alix:  My mom had an MS DOS game where you could write and illustrate picture books (if anyone played this and remembers what it was called, @ me on Twitter, Google has failed me). When I was five or six I wrote a story about a little girl whose wicked mother tried to make her eat poison bread. It was titled, “The Poison Bread.” I peaked early.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Alix:  Like most writers, I’m actually a cobbled-together mess of strategies and schemes, most of which collapse at the first sign of any actual writing. I employ elaborate outlines, but I’ve recently admitted to myself that those outlines are almost always lies. They serve more as a very, very rough first draft than as a map.

In conclusion, I would like to phone a friend.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Alix:  The crushing terror that each decent idea I have—each decent sentence I write—is the last one. That there is a finite number of good words assigned to each person and I used all mine up being funny on the groupchat with my brothers or sending overwrought emails to my college friends.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Alix:  Not be glib, but the answer is literally everything. Twitter threads and podcasts and talking about Twitter-threads and podcasts with my husband; good music and bad music and in-between music I can perfectly tune out to think about other things; paperback romances and my kid’s picture books and Spiderverse. Someone mentioned that my book reminded them of the movie The Journey of Natty Gann, and I realized in a single blinding flash that Natty Gann is a girl-and-her-dog-questing-across-historical-America-to-find-her-father story that deeply informed The Ten Thousand Doors.



TQDescribe The Ten Thousand Doors of January using only 5 words.

Alix:  Girl finds door; adventures ensue.



TQTell us something about The Ten Thousand Doors of January that is not found in the book description.

Alix:  There are a lot of footnotes, y’all. Like, from the book-flap you might go in thinking this is a fast-paced YA adventure full of hijinks and possibly sword-play, but I just want you to know that it shares more DNA with Jonathan Strange than with, say, Six of Crows.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Ten Thousand Doors of January?

Alix:  I started with a childhood love of portal fantasies and a lonely kid’s longing to find a door on the back acres of her Kentucky hayfield, and then waded into postcolonial theory. In grad school I studied race and empire in turn of the century British children’s literature, which meant I reevaluated a lot of my formative books and started to wonder what it would look like if I turned a portal fantasy inside out and backwards, and made it about homegoing rather than conquering some mythical, foreign land.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Ten Thousand Doors of January? Why did you set the novel in the early 1900s?

Alix:  I’d argue the six years I spent getting an undergrad and then a graduate degree in history were the bulk of my research, although no number of degrees is going to fill in all the practical, mundane details you need to write a novel (like: where were the rural train stations located in 1911? How much was a laundry-worker paid per hour?). And no number of degrees is going to really, genuinely illuminate the lived experiences of people of color in the American past—that required a lot of extracurricular reading of memoirs and letters from women in similar circumstances to January.

And I chose the turn of the twentieth century because it was in many ways the peak of global imperialism. Because every empire believed in that moment their horizons would stretch on forever, that their suns would never set. One of the conceits in the book is that Doors introduce change and upheaval, and are the natural enemies of the status quo; I wanted to choose a historical moment where that effect was palpable.


TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

Alix:  The Orbit/Redhook team very generously asked if I had any particular cover ideas, early on. I sent them a very excitable list of possibilities, which they wisely and humanely disposed of, before sending me Lisa Marie Pompilio’s brilliant cover. There wasn’t any back and forth or nit-picking or adjusting, because it was perfect and everyone knew it. She hadn’t captured anything actually, specifically from the story, but she’d captured the feeling—wonder and mystery and things waiting just out of sight.



TQIn The Ten Thousand Doors of January who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Alix:  Every character was difficult to write, because characterization is the thing I’m worst at. It comes to me slowly, rising to the surface through a dozen drafts. (But the actual answer is: Adelaide was the easiest because she’s based on my own mom, and Samuel was the hardest because he’s based on my husband and therefore almost too good to be true).



TQDoes The Ten Thousand Doors of January touch on any social issues?

Alix:  I would argue that every novel--and every book, and every grocery list, probably--touches on social issues. Many people have said it better than me, but essentially: all stories are political, it’s just that some of their politics are so near the status-quo that some of us don’t notice them.

In conclusion: hell yes it touches on social issues.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

Alix:  Weirdly, the line that’s stuck with me as the most practical and useful is: “Hearts aren’t chessboards and they don’t play by the rules.”



TQWhat's next?

Alix:  My next project is another standalone historical fantasy! This one is pitched as “suffragists, but witches,” set around the early American women’s movement except instead of fighting for the vote, they’re fighting for the return of women’s magic. It’s still in hideous, shambling draft-form right now, but it’s getting there!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Alix:  Thanks so much for having me! It’s been a pleasure.





The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Redhook, September 10, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.





About Alix

Interview with Alix E. Harrow, author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Alix E. Harrow is a part-time historian with a full-time desk job, a lot of opinions, and excessive library fines. Her short fiction has appeared in Shimmer, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Apex, and other venues. She and her husband live in Kentucky under the cheerful tyranny of their kids and pets. Find her at @AlixEHarrow on Twitter


Website  ~  Twitter @AlixEHarrow

Interview with Evan Winter, author of The Rage of Dragons


Please welcome Evan Winter to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Rage of Dragons was published on July 16, 2019 by Orbit.



Interview with Evan Winter, author of The Rage of Dragons




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

Evan:  Thanks very much to The Qwillery for having me today, it’s good to be here! And, the first fiction piece I can remember writing was the opening to what I think was a portal Epic Fantasy (hero from our world enters a world of magic). I started it on my parent’s typewriter and got about ten pages in before I ran out of steam.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Evan:  I’m a heavy plotter and can’t really start my draft until I know every character, chapter, and scene that’s going to go into the book. By the end of my plotting process I usually have a 100-page document that I’ve broken down into scenes. My notes for each scene sit to the left of my drafting window so I can follow along when I’m writing.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Evan:  I think it’s writing every day. I know I can go faster than my current pace and I know that I’ll run out of lifetime before I run out of stories. So, I want to write more without rushing the work and I think a good way of achieving that is to write every day. Since high school, I knew I wanted my work to be interwoven with my life because I’ve always felt that life can be broken into three relatively equal pieces - sleep, work, play - and I didn’t want to spend one-third of my time on Earth doing something I didn’t like. To avoid that, I’ve tried very hard to make a living doing things that come from a sense of who I am as a person. It’s rarely been easy and there were many years where I exchanged portions of my life for nothing more than a paycheck but, with writing, I’ve found what I was searching for and don’t want to waste a moment of it.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Evan:  I’m heavily influenced by life in general, my experiences specifically, the news of the day, as well as recent and not so recent history. I have to mention the books I read too, which are primarily SFF novels. They define the parameters of what I understand to be compelling writing. Finally, I write about the things that intrigue me and I aim to ground those things in topics and themes that feel important to me. My ultimate goal, when writing, is to tell a story that, were I to come to it as a reader, I would absolutely love it and think it held truth and value.



TQDescribe The Rage of Dragons using only 5 words.

Evan:  We make our own monsters.



TQTell us something about The Rage of Dragons that is not found in the book description.

Evan:  The Rage of Dragons took about 9 months to outline, draft, edit, and publish.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Rage of Dragons? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Evan:  I wrote The Rage of Dragons because it is exactly and perfectly the type of story I would have been overjoyed to find in a book store. I wrote it because when I was growing up it didn’t exist. I couldn’t have found an Epic Fantasy with swords and sorcery or swords and sandals with a Black protagonist in a place that felt like Africa. I wrote it and I write Fantasy because I believe SFF is one of the greatest places to tell stories that can explore, consider, and evaluate the human condition from enough of a remove to have the inquiry be taken as a genuine attempt to better understand and appreciate one another and our place in the universe. I think the questions we ask in SFF are important and I think the journeys we take in asking those questions are just as important.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Rage of Dragons?

Evan:  I primarily researched African architecture and weapons and went from memory for the landscape, because I wanted to present a vision of an African-esque world that was similar to the way I experienced central Africa as a child. For the story, I actually read through several psychology texts on obsession and peak performance in athletes. It was important for me to have a decent handle on the type of person/people who can outperform even other elites.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Rage of Dragons.

Evan:  The cover’s art is by the incomparable Karla Ortiz (Instagram: @kortizart) and the design is by Orbit’s creative genius, Lauren Panepinto (Twitter: @Planetpinto). The cover was well researched by Ortiz and Panepinto and the shield, the weapons, everything takes some influence from Africa.



TQIn The Rage of Dragons who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Evan:  Tau, the protagonist, was both the easiest and hardest depending on the scene and moment. The Rage of Dragons is seen primarily from his point of view and that means I spend so much time with him that I get a real sense for who he is. It also means that I run into problems when Tau fights back against what the plot is pushing for. I know him well enough to know that I have to go back into my outline and make adjustments when he’s resisting the direction I was initially intending to take. So, the closeness makes him easier to write, but it also means I can’t push him around very much.



TQDoes The Rage of Dragons touch on any social issues?

Evan:  It’s my belief that creative works almost always comment on social issues and the longer the work or the more that is asked of the audience in order to experience the work, the more likely it is that the work touches on social issues. Given that belief, I think that whenever you hear someone say, “I don’t want politics in my Science Fiction or Fantasy,” the feelings underpinning that attitude come from a preference to have their Science Fiction and Fantasy fall in line with their currently held positions in politics and social issues. So, yes, The Rage of Dragons touches on many social issues. Some of them I’m aware of and actively discussing, but there are probably many more that I’m exploring unconsciously.



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

Evan:  What is one thing that would make you think the book was truly a success?

In my eyes, the book would truly be an undeniable success if it reached and affected people who don’t often see themselves or their cultures centered in their favorite genres. It would be an undeniable success if some of those people were then encouraged to go on and create worlds and stories of their own. I believe we’re all better off if more people get the chance to tell the stories that are in their hearts.



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

Evan:

“I’m not asking you to win. That’s not solely in your control,” Aren said. “I’m asking that you fight to win. Anything less is the acceptance of loss and an admission that you deserve it.”

“The wars you’ll wage aren’t decided when you fight them. They’re decided before that by the extent of your efforts and the substance of your sacrifices. They’re decided by the choices you make every single day. So ask yourself: How powerful do I choose to be?”



TQWhat's next?

Evan:  I’m really looking forward to doing a lot more reading. Writing book two and working hard to get it done has meant less time to read and I miss that. So, I can’t wait to get caught up on a lot of the awesome that has come out this year.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Evan:  Thank you very much for having me. It was a pleasure to be here. And, may your next reads be some of your very best ones!





The Rage of Dragons
The Burning 1
Orbit, July 16, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 544 pages

Interview with Evan Winter, author of The Rage of Dragons
Game of Thrones meets Gladiator in this debut epic fantasy about a world caught in an eternal war, and the young man who will become his people’s only hope for survival.

The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable fight for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.

Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war.

Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance.

Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger. Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him.

The Rage of Dragons launches a stunning and powerful debut epic fantasy series that readers are already calling “the best fantasy book in years.”


The Burning
The Rage of Dragons





About Evan

Born in England to South American parents, Evan Winter was raised in Africa near the historical territory of his Xhosa ancestors. Evan has always loved fantasy novels, but when his son was born, he realized that there weren’t many epic fantasy novels featuring characters who looked like him. So, before he ran out of time, he started writing them.


Website  ~ Twitter @EvanWinter  ~  Facebook

The 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award - Winner


The 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award - Winner

Rosewater by Tade Thompson is the winner of the 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award. The novel is published by Orbit in the UK and Orbit in the US.
The annual Arthur C. Clarke Award is given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year.


Rosewater
The Wormwood Trilogy 1
Orbit, September 18, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

The 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award - Winner
Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the start of an award-winning, cutting edge trilogy set in Nigeria, by one of science fiction’s most engaging new voices.

*Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel, winner
*Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, finalist

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again — but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

The Wormwood Trilogy
Rosewater
The Rosewater Insurrection
The Rosewater Redemption


The 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award - Winner
Book 2
March 12,2019
The 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award - Winner
Book 3
October 15, 2019

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors


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



Sebastien de Castell (2014)

Crownbreaker
Spellslinger 6
Orbit, December 10, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
A failed mage learns that just because he’s not the chosen one it doesn’t mean he can’t be a hero in the sixth and final book of the adventure fantasy series that started with Spellslinger.


Spellslinger Series
Spellslinger
Shadowblack
Charmcaster
Soulbinder
Queenslayer
Crownbreaker

For more from Sebastien de Castell, check out:

The Greatcoats Quartet
Traitor’s Blade
Saint’s Blood
Knight’s Shadow
Tyrant’s Throne


Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
Spellslinger 1
Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
Spellslinger 2
Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
Spellslinger 3
Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
Spellslinger 4
Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
Spellslinger 5





Linnea Hartsuyker (2017)

The Sea Queen
The Golden Wolf Saga 2
Harper Paperbacks, June 25, 2019
Trade Paperback, 480 pages
Hardcover and eBook, August 14, 2018

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
An exhilarating Viking saga filled with the rich history, romantic adventure and political intrigue that have made Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, as well as Phillippa Gregory’s historical fiction and Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology popular bestsellers. 

Six years after The Half-Drowned King, Ragnvald Eysteinsson is now king of Sogn, but fighting battles for King Harald keeps him away from home, as he confronts treachery and navigates a political landscape that grows more dangerous the higher he rises.

Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild has found the freedom and adventure she craves at the side of the rebel explorer Solvi Hunthiofsson, though not without a cost. She longs for a home where her quiet son can grow strong, and a place where she can put down roots, even as Solvi’s ambition draws him back to Norway’s battles again and keeps her divided from her brother.

As a growing rebellion unites King Harald’s enemies, Ragnvald suspects that some Norse nobles are not loyal to Harald’s dream of a unified Norway. He sets a plan in motion to defeat all of his enemies, and bring his sister back to his side, while Svanhild finds herself with no easy decisions, and no choices that will leave her truly free. Their actions will hold irrevocable repercussions for the fates of those they love and for Norway itself.

The Sea Queen returns to the fjords and halls of Viking-Age Scandinavia, a world of violence and prophecy, where honor is challenged by shifting alliances, and vengeance is always a threat to peace.



The Golden Wolf
The Golden Wolf Saga 3
Harper, August 13, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
The fates of Ragnvald and his sister Svanhild unfold to their stunning conclusion in this riveting final volume in The Golden Wolf Saga, a trilogy that conjures the ancient world with the gripping detail, thrilling action, and vivid historical elements of Game of Thrones and Outlander.

Ragnvald has long held to his vision of King Harald as a golden wolf who will bring peace to Norway as its conqueror—even though he knows that Harald’s success will eventually mean his own doom. He is grateful to have his beloved sister, the fierce and independent Svanhild, once more at his side to help keep their kingdom secure. Free from the evil husband who used her, she is now one of Harald’s many wives.

While Svanhold is happy to be reunited with her beloved brother, and enjoys more freedom than ever before, she is restless and lonely. When an old enemy of Ragnvald’s kidnaps his niece, Freydis, his sister follows the daughter she has neglected to Iceland, where an old love awaits. This strange new land offers a life far different from what each has left behind, as well as unexpected challenges and choices.

Ragnvald, too, must contend with change. His sons—the gifted Einar, the princely Ivar, and the adventurous Rolli—are no longer children. Harald’s heirs have also grown up. Stepping back from his duties as king, he watches as his sons pursue their own ambitions. But Norway may no longer be large enough for so many would-be kings.

Now in their twilight years, these venerable men whose lives have been shaped by war must face another battle that awaits. A growing rebellion pits Ragnvald and his sons against enemies old and new, and a looming tragedy threatens to divide the hardened warrior from Harald and all who care for him. Across the sea, Svanhild, too, wrestles with a painful decision, risking the dissolution of her fragile new family as she desperately tries to save it.

Yet as old heroes fall, new heroes arise. For years, Ragnvald and Svanhild pursued the destinies bestowed by their ancient gods. Though the journey has cost them much, their sacrifices and dreams will be honored by the generations that follow, beginning with Freydis and Einar. Emerging from their parents’ long shadows, they have begun to carry on the family’s legacy while pursuing their own glorious fates.

This compelling conclusion to the Golden Wolf trilogy recreates Viking-age Scandinavia in all its danger, passion, power, and glory—a world of brutality and myth, loyalty and betrayal, where shifting alliances and vengeance can build kingdoms . . . and can tear them down.


Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
The Golden Wolf Saga 1





Keith Thomas (2018)

Dahlia Black
Atria/Leopoldo & Co., August 13, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors
For fans of World War Z and the Southern Reach Trilogy, a suspenseful oral history commemorating the five-year anniversary of the Pulse—the alien code that hacked the DNA of Earth’s population—and the response team who faced the world-changing phenomenon.

Voyager 1 was a message in a bottle. Our way of letting the galaxy know we existed. That we were out here if anyone wanted to find us.

Over the next forty years, the probe flew past Jupiter and Saturn before it drifted into the void, swallowed up by a silent universe. Or so we thought…

Truth is, our message didn’t go unheard.

Discovered by Dr. Dahlia Black, the mysterious Pulse was sent by a highly intelligent intergalactic species that called themselves the Ascendants. It soon becomes clear this alien race isn’t just interested in communication—they are capable of rewriting human DNA, in an astonishing process they call the Elevation.

Five years after the Pulse, acclaimed journalist Keith Thomas sets out to make sense of the event that altered the world. Thomas travels across the country to interview members of the task force who grappled to decode the Pulse and later disseminated its exact nature to worried citizens. He interviews the astronomers who initially doubted Black’s discovery of the Pulse—an error that critics say led to the world’s quick demise. Thomas also hears from witnesses of the Elevation and people whose loved ones vanished in the Finality, an event that, to this day, continues to puzzle Pulse researchers, even though theories abound about the Ascendants’ motivation.

Including never-before-published transcripts from task force meetings, diary entries from Black, and candid interviews with Ballard, Thomas also shows in Dahlia Black how a select few led their country in its darkest hours, toward a new level of humanity.

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January Winner


The winner of the January 2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan from Orbit with 63% of the votes. The cover art is by Richard Anderson.


The Gutter Prayer
The Black Iron Legacy 1
Orbit, January 22, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 560 pages

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January Winner
A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy.

Enter a city of saints and thieves . . .

The city of Guerdon stands eternal. A refuge from the war that rages beyond its borders. But in the ancient tunnels deep beneath its streets, a malevolent power has begun to stir.

The fate of the city rests in the hands of three thieves. They alone stand against the coming darkness. As conspiracies unfold and secrets are revealed, their friendship will be tested to the limit. If they fail, all will be lost, and the streets of Guerdon will run with blood.

The Gutter Prayer is an epic tale of sorcerers and thieves, treachery and revenge, from a remarkable new voice in fantasy.





The Results

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January Winner





The January 2019 Debuts

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January Winner

Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy


Please welcome Anna Smith Spark to The Qwillery. The Tower of Living and Dying, Empires of Dust 2, was published on August 7th by Orbit.



Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy




TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Tower of Living and Dying (Empire of Dust 2), was published on August 7th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Court of Broken Knives (Empire of Dust 1) to now?

Anna:  Thank you so much for having me back!

Good question. The writing process for the two books was totally different. They were both incredibly interesting to write in very different ways.

The Court of Broken Knives was written in a mad blast over a year, with no thought of publication at all. It wasn’t even written as a novel, in fact – I sat down one day after not having written fiction for well over ten years, started writing and things came unstoppably vomited out. Men in a desert, heat, violence: I had no idea what was happening, who these people were, where they were, why. Then next thing I knew a dragon had turned up. It really wasn’t until I’d written maybe 50,000 words that I had any idea that I was writing a fantasy novel; I finally worked out what the book was about clearly in my mind, uh, when I came to edit it for final publication. It was a journey of discovery for me, a world to explore and a group of people revealing more of themselves as I travelled with them.

The Tower of Living and Dying was written after I had an agent and a book deal. So I was writing ‘book two of a big new fantasy trilogy’ with a plot synopsis I vaguely needed to follow, characters I knew inside out (virtually literally, in some cases), a world who’s geography I could follow on a beautiful map. There were far more limitations in some ways, I’d be cursing Sophie my amazing map artist for putting a river just here rather than a smidge more over there, suddenly things like a character’s family background, life goals, chances of surviving the next twenty pages with a head and at least one working limb, were rather more fixed. And I had my editors’ voices whispering in my ears: ‘that’s not a commercial move to do that’, ‘that’s not persuasive motivation’, ‘no no no no no we’ve literally just discussed this as a problem in book one’.

But – the confidence! The joyous pleasure of feeling ‘I’m a writer! A writer! Me! So ... I can write!’ After a lifetime of not having much confidence in myself, mental health problems, a depressing day job stretching on into eternity as my one purpose in life, suddenly I was a writer with people saying very nice things about my writing. The confidence to really explore how far I can go with it, push my prose to the limits. I knew I could do it. The Tower of Living and Dying was a sculpture in a block of marble, in there waiting for me to hack it out. Perhaps it wasn’t as exhilarating as a whole as writing The Court of Broken Knives, finding out that I could write every day as I wrote. Certainly it was more exhausting. But it felt more stable. In the end I think it produced a stronger result.

Book three, however, is bloody killing me. The one thing about the kind of reviews I’m getting is the amount of pressure they pile on for book three.

What’s that sound I can hear? Is it your heart bleeding for me as you read this? Please don’t feel you need to cry for me either, it’s getting your computer all wet. But you have no idea how tough it is. It’s right up there with ‘I’m struggling to find ways to spend my money’, ‘the thing about being this beautiful is how difficult it is to get my PhD supervisor to take me seriously’ and ‘I have a metabolic condition where I lose more weight the more chocolate I eat’ as a tragic but often misunderstood life problem. It’s hard but I’m heroically trying to cope.

Seriously, I am humbled and awed and wonderstruck by the response to The Court of Broken Knives and The Tower of Living and Dying. It’s difficult to put into words how it feels when I get a good review, how grateful I am when people say they’ve bought my book. I regularly cry when I hear from people who enjoyed it, then phone my dad to tell him and he cries too. But the pressure I feel not to disappoint people is pretty intense now. Book three is the end of the story, the summation of the ideas I’ve explored in the first two books, the culmination of my and my readers’ hopes, potentially the last book of mine people buy and the last book I write for HarperVoyager and Orbit. So … no pressure there.



TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when The Court of Broken Knives came out that you know now?

Anna:  Hmmm… I know a lot about the publishing industry anyway, to be honest, my father is a writer and small-press publisher, as are many of his friends, I have several old family friends who work in publishing, journalism, arts administration and so on. Also I did a PhD, so the process of structural editing, the polite comment that asks you to entirely recast the structure of the book, was nothing new to me. I rather enjoy being edited, actually, it’s familiar, and nice to have someone telling you what to write for a bit. Also if everyone hates that bit I can feel vindicated at my editor.



TQDescribe The Tower of Living and Dying using only 5 words.

Anna:  War sorrow landscapes beauty death.



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

Anna:  Another good question. One I think about a lot.

Marith is always the hardest character to write because he is both the depths of my soul and the one great love of my life. He gets out of control and has to be reined in to make him readable, I have to check myself to try to understand him in the way we have to try to understand ourselves sometimes. It can feel very raw writing something that intensely about parts of myself and feelings I’ve had. He is toxic and vile, I’ve fallen into the fucked up romantic trap so many times myself and it’s important to make clear that he’s poison. But the lure of what he offers, him as something attractive despite or because of it, a leader, a dreamer, why people might follow him … that has to be important too. So many times, over and over, people have followed to the bitter end. Some blithely, some pitifully, some out of their own evil, some horribly aware of how fucked up it is. Trying to embody any of that in a character is emotionally draining.

I have to rein him in for other reasons too, reminding myself I’m writing grimdark fantasy not, uh, the other kind of fantasy. Although several people have said they’d love to read some of the other kind of fantasy about him and Carin, so…

Raeta was one of those delightful surprise characters that hit you from nowhere, more like the experience of writing The Court of Broken Knives had been. She really came out of nowhere at me, and I fell deeply in love with her. She was originally introduced as a very minor cameo role for a friend of mine in Broken Knives and blossomed from there.

Also, the increasing depth of heart and humanity I find in Bil Emmereth as she opens herself up to me as Orhan more is delighting me.



TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Tower of Living and Dying.

Anna:

Out of the chaos an army forming, eight thousand men armed and ready, horses, ships, supplies. Tearing its way to life like a child birthing. Coalescing like bronze in the forge.


We worship the sky and the trees and the earth and the sea and the rocks we walk on. We dream of light and shadows and the glory of something far greater, the old wild powers of the world. Gods and demons parading. The secret things we cannot see that fly somewhere far beyond our human eyes.


Salt-soaked pitch-soaked well-seasoned damp wood is … astonishing when it explodes.



TQThe Empires of Dust series is grimdark fantasy. Are there any other genres / subgenres in which you'd like to write? If not, why not?

Anna:  At the moment, I can’t see myself writing anything other than high fantasy in one form or another. I love reading and writing fantasy, writing wonders and magic and epic war is so much damned fun. And there’s so much of Irlast I still need to explore.

There’s a lot of the stupid snobbery around ‘literary writing’ doesn’t apply in the same way it does in fantasy. It makes me so incredibly angry that literary fantasy is dismissed as a non-sequitur. Literary science fiction is a given, as is literary historical fiction. But literary fantasy is ignored. In as much as I have any goal in my writing now beyond writing for the joy of it, I want to treat the rarefied path of literary fantasy and see just how far I can take it. Explore the horrors of the human soul, the heights of love, the depths of grief, the riches of mundane life, push the language of modernism and archaicism, play delicious language games … with magic swords and chainmail bikinis and dragons.



TQWhat is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?

Anna:  My father has a postcard on his desk that says ‘You must write as if your life depended on it’. I grew up looking at it. All it really means, in the end, is WRITE. Don’t wait for the right time and place, or think you’re not good enough. Don’t write for others. Don’t think about ‘will this sell? Is this good?’. Just write without restrictions on yourself.



TQWhat advice would you give to a debut author?

Anna:  Honestly? You’re nothing special. You’ve written one book. Unless you’re J K Rowling or E L James, your life is not going to be forever changed. All that’s changed is that you’ve got the pressure of having a deadline for your next book.

Even more honestly? You’re really nothing special. No matter how many books you go on to write. If I ever find myself approaching book bloggers and review sites like this one with anything other than humility awe and gratitude, if I ever stop pinching myself in wonder every time anyone asks me what I do and I can say ‘author’, if I ever stop feeling like I’m going to weep for joy when someone says they liked my book, I need to stop writing for publication immediately.



TQWhat's next?

Anna:  Killing myself wrestling book three into submission. It’s either the book or me. Indeed, by the time this is published, it may well have been me. Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant. Then …. who knows? I would love to write more novels set in Irlast, exploring other voices and perspectives on things. There’s a whole world there to explore, the landscapes, the people; Irlast is ultimately a map of my subconscious so I don’t see myself abandoning it any time soon. I’ve written several short stories set in Irlast, for the forthcoming Rogues, Legends III and Unbound II anthologies. Beyond that, it’s with the gods. I’ve been pouring libations to Apollo and Calliope daily.


TQThank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.





The Tower of Living and Dying
Empires of Dust 2
Orbit, July 24, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy
A powerhouse story of bloodshed, ambition, and fate, The Tower of Living and Dying is a continuation of Anna Smith Spark’s brilliant Empires of Dust trilogy, which began with The Court of Broken Knives.

Marith has been a sellsword, a prince, a murderer, a demon, and dead. But something keeps bringing him back to life, and now there is nothing stopping him from taking back the throne that is rightfully his.

Thalia, the former high priestess, remains Marith’s only tenuous grasp to whatever goodness he has left. His left hand and his last source of light, Thalia still believes that the power that lies within him can be used for better ends. But as more forces gather beneath Marith’s banner, she can feel her influence slipping.

Read the second book in this “gritty and glorious!” (Miles Cameron) epic fantasy series reminiscent of Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence where the exiled son of a king fights to reclaim his throne no matter the cost.

Empires of Dust
The Court of Broken Knives
The Tower of Living and Dying





Previously

The Court of Broken Knives
Empires of Dust 1
Orbit, August 15, 2017
    Trade Paperback, 512 pages
Orbit, June 27, 2017
    eBook, 512 pages

Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy
Perfect for fans of Mark Lawrence and R Scott Bakker, The Court of Broken Knives is the explosive debut by one of grimdark fantasy’s most exciting new voices.

Shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel
Shortlisted for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award


It is the richest empire the world has ever known, and it is also doomed–but only one man can see it.

Haunted by prophetic dreams, Orhan has hired a company of soldiers to cross the desert to reach the capital city. Once they enter the palace, they have one mission: kill the emperor, then all those who remain. Only from the ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Though he is young, ambitious, and impossibly charming, something dark hides in Marith’s past–and in his blood.

Dive into this new fantasy series for readers looking for epic battle scenes, gritty heroes, and blood-soaked revenge.





About Anna

Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy
Anna Smith Spark is the author of the critically acclaimed grimdark epic fantast trilogy Empires of Dust. The David Gemmell Awards shortlisted The Court of Broken Knives is out now with HarperVoyager/Orbit; The Tower of Living and Dying will be published August 2018.

Anna lives in London, UK. She loves grimdark and epic fantasy and historical military fiction. Anna has a BA in Classics, an MA in history and a PhD in English Literature. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website www.greatworks.org. Previous jobs include petty bureaucrat, English teacher and fetish model.

Anna’s favourite authors and key influences are R. Scott Bakker, Steve Erikson, M. John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Stewart and Mary Renault.  She spent several years as an obsessive D&D player. She can often be spotted at sff conventions wearing very unusual shoes.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @queenofgrimdark
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