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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: The Pariah (The Covenant of Steel 1) by Anthony Ryan

The Pariah
Author:  Anthony Ryan
Series:  The Covenant of Steel 1
Publisher:  Orbit, August 24, 2021
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 608 pages
List Price:  US$17.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780316430760 (print); 9780316430777 (eBook)

"A gritty, heart-pounding tale of betrayal and bloody vengeance. I loved every single word." —John Gwynne

The Pariah begins a new epic fantasy series of action, intrigue and magic from Anthony Ryan, a master storyteller who has taken the fantasy world by storm.

Born into the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the freedom of the woods and the comradeship of his fellow thieves. But an act of betrayal sets him on a new path – one of blood and vengeance, which eventually leads him to a soldier's life in the king's army.

Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as dark forces, both human and arcane, gather to oppose Evadine's rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?

"This makes a rich treat for George R.R. Martin fans." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

For more from Anthony Ryan, check out:

Raven's Shadow Trilogy
Blood Song
Tower Lord
Queen of Fire

Raven's Blade Duology
The Wolf's Call
The Black Song

The Draconis Memoria Trilogy
The Waking Fire
The Legion of Flame
The Empire of Ashes
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Trinitytwo's Review:

The Pariah, book one of New York Times best-selling author Anthony Ryan’s The Covenant of Steel trilogy, opens with murder. Alwyn, is smart, quick with a knife, adept at disguise and a shrewd judge of character. He is also a liar, a thief and the aforementioned murderer, making him a valuable asset to Deckin, the self-proclaimed ruler of the Shavine Marches. Alwyn and his companions carry out their mission with deadly efficiency, to reap the rewards of a royal convoy’s cargo. But Alwyn and his ilk are no ordinary brigands. Deckin’s target has a purpose other than ill-gotten gains; to intercept the royal courier. The messenger carries a missive for the King containing sensitive information about the Pretender’s War; information that Deckin desperately wants. This message tips the scales and events begin to unfold quickly, leading to a course of action that will shake Alwyn’s life to the core.

One of the things I love about The Pariah is how it surprised me. I tend to avoid reading books heavy in gratuitous violence, so the blasé killing in the first chapter rang a warning bell or two. However, I am a huge fan of Anthony Ryan so I kept reading. And I was not disappointed. Ryan is a master storyteller whose every detail is filled with intention. Before I knew it, I was well into the third chapter and couldn’t put the book down. To hell with responsibilities and work, I needed to keep reading!

The Pariah checks off all my fantasy reading requirements. Alwyn is a multi-faceted character that often surprised this reader (and himself) with his decisions. His motivations and his loyalties are complex, which leads him time after time into dangerous and desperate situations. Since Alwyn is always on the move, his roster of companions changes and yet Ryan does a great job of keeping the names and faces memorable. There is never a “who is that again?” moment for which I’m grateful.

Speaking of memorable characters, I really enjoyed the vague likenesses to historical or legendary figures in our own timeline. Take for instance, Lady Evadine Courlaine. This beautiful and courageous noblewoman/warrior inspires and encourages loyalty to which even Alwyn, bent on a road of vengeance, is not immune. Her eloquence and earnestness, coupled with her bravery on the battlefield conjured (for me) comparisons to Joan of Arc. Yet, Evadine is her own person. Tormented by visions of a demonic apocalypse, her insight allows her to see into other’s hearts and capture them. She shines as a commander, both considerate of her soldiers and unyielding in her quest to prevent the Second Scourge.

Another remarkable character is the self-proclaimed Outlaw King, Deckin Scarl. Although the common folk give Scarl a “rob from the rich and give to the poor” reputation, he and his band of outlaws are a far cry from being “merry men.” Scarl’s followers are brutal folk whose warped values and violent natures are kept in line only by Scarl’s iron leadership. Due to Ryan’s mastery of the written word, I can picture him down to his callused and massive hands.

I appreciate how Ryan maps out Albermaine through Alwyn’s travels. Through highly descriptive dialogue and first-person narrative, Ryan transports readers directly into the story. We meet Alwyn in the Shavine Marches and travel to Moss Mill in the northern part of the Shavine Forest. Through action-packed storytelling, we visit Castle Duhbos and spend time in the Pit Mines. As Alwyn navigates his way through betrayal, vengeance, intrigue and the ugliness of war, the reader learns key facts about Albermaine and the surrounding lands’ history and political systems, alleviating the need for tiresome exposition dumps.

Paradoxically, The Pariah is a welcome escape to a world riddled with war and violence. And although Alwyn is a murderer and a thief, his unique brand of loyalty and morality keep him likable. I am fascinated by the hints of the magical system that Ryan has sprinkled throughout the story and want more. Reading The Pariah filled me with adrenaline and excitement and I would highly recommend adding it to your TBR list.

Interview with Hannah Whitten, author of For the Wolf

Please welcome Hannah Whitten to The Qwillery as part of the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. For the Wolf is published on June 1, 2021 by Orbit.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Hannah a Happy Book Birthday!

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

Hannah:  I wrote a mystery about a horse thief in a composition notebook when I was ten—I was reading a LOT of The Saddle Club. After that, I attempted an epic that was basically self-insert Lord of the Rings fanfiction.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Hannah:  Mostly hybrid, though the more I write the more I find myself becoming a plotter. Generally, I'll write on an idea until my excitement runs out of steam or I'm not sure what to do next, then go back and plot the whole thing. I don't keep to super-rigid outlines, though, because leaving myself room for discovery is how I come up with a lot of my best stuff!

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Hannah:  Trying to make what ends up on the page look like what I see in my head.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Hannah:  Liminal spaces, nostalgia, autumn, sweeping violin music, and horror movies.

TQDescribe For the Wolf using only 5 words.

Hannah:  Aching, bittersweet, redemptive, cathartic, hopeful.

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

Hannah:  Red's cloak becomes an extremely significant plot point!

TQWhat inspired you to write For the Wolf? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Hannah:  I've always read and written fantasy mostly for an escape, but with WOLF, I knew I wanted to twist around a bunch of fairytales that have ham-fisted messages about "purity" and make them about choice and consent and agency instead.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for For the Wolf?

Hannah:  I read a LOT of fairytale retellings, especially The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter—I returned to that one often just to see how she'd taken the themes of the tales she was retelling and twisted them on their axes.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for For the Wolf.

Hannah:  The cover was designed by Lisa Marie Pompilio, and it's absolutely perfect. We wanted something that was simple but very textured, like an illustration from an old book of fairytales, and she did it wonderfully. The small dagger on the front is very significant, and so are the tree roots encroaching across the bottom of the entire jacket. I loved the art so much that I got the wolf figure from the spine and chapter headers tattooed!

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

Hannah:  The easiest was probably Eammon. I related to him a lot, and his personality came to me very easily. I also found it pretty simple to understand what he wanted, and how he would react to things. Neve was the hardest, weirdly for similar reasons. She's the character I relate to the most, and also the one who makes arguably the worst decisions throughout the book. Figuring out how to make her follow along with the plot I needed while also making her actions understandable—essentially, figuring out how to write her so she was justified—was difficult, but ultimately really rewarding.

TQDoes For the Wolf touch on any social issues?

Hannah:  Consent plays a huge role in the plot, and also personal agency in general, which I think is a social issue!

TQWhich question about For the Wolf do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Hannah:  Give us some non-book comp titles! What does For the Wolf feel like?

Dashboard Confessional's entire discography, the slant of light through the trees at sunset, the first bite of fall in the air, the little ache you feel driving through a place you used to live.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from For the Wolf.

Hannah:  "Hope, you know? It's like a boot that won't break in. Hurts to walk in it, hurts worse to stand still."

TQWhat's next?

Hannah:  FOR THE THRONE, the sequel to WOLF that follows Neve's story, comes out in June 2022! After that, I hope to have lots more books about angry girls making questionable decisions to share!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Hannah:  Thanks for having me!

For the Wolf
The Wilderwood 1
Orbit, June 1, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark, sweeping debut fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn't the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

“A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in epic fantasy”—Kirkus (starred review)

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose—to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he'll return the world's captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can't control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can't hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn't learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood—and her world—whole.

"A brilliant dark fantasy debut!" —Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Photo by Caleb Whitten

About Hannah

HANNAH WHITTEN has been writing to amuse herself since she could hold a pen, and sometime in high school, she figured out that what amused her might also amuse others. When she's not writing, she's reading, making music, or attempting to bake. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and children in a house ruled by a temperamental cat.

Website  ~  Twitter @hwhittenwrites

Interview with C. L. Clark, author of The Unbroken

Please welcome C. L. Clark to The Qwillery as part of the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Unbroken is published on March 23, 2021 by Orbit.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing C. L. a very Happy Book Birthday!

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

C.L.:  Hi! Thanks for having me! First thing I really remember writing is a horror story in third or fourth grade in the vein of R.L. Stein. I think. I used to tell ‘ghost’ stories to my cousins on the hour long drives to church every Sunday. Ironically, I’m a scaredy cat now.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

C.L.:  At this point in the game, a plotter. My first draft of The Unbroken was largely pantsed with some ideas for where I wanted to go, but that ended up with so many full revision drafts, trying desperately to figure out how to make the story work. In the middle of that process, though, I read a lot of craft books trying to find a way to make that process easier. One of them was Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and overall, I jived pretty well with that process and though I’ve adapted it to my own style, it’s a pretty intuitive way to plot at least the first outline. What happens after I start drafting, though...heh.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

C.L.:  Mm. Writing politics. Which, as you can imagine, makes writing military/political-fantasy a very particular challenge...let’s just say I question my life choices on a regular basis.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

C.L.:  Everything. Maybe that’s a copout, but it’s true. Music, especially folk songs. History. History or historical societies inspire me a lot--The Unbroken came from several different historical ideas, like the European powers and their colonization of Africa, the conscription of soldiers from the colonies to use in world wars and their treatment (as well as treatment of Black soldiers in the US), and the forced separation and re-education of indigenous and colonized children across the world. I suppose historical isn’t necessarily accurate; all of this is ongoing in some way or another.

TQDescribe The Unbroken using only 5 words.

C.L.:  Mmm, I think it’s summed up pretty well with the tagline on the cover (thanks, Angeline!): “Every empire deserves a revolution.”

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

C.L.:  The mother-daughter relationship is key. I love it.

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

C.L.:  History, as I mentioned above but specifically, this project came from three classes I was taking at the same time in university: post-colonial literary theory course, and Francophone African literature, as well as this independent research project I did on violent women in fantasy. The thing that appeals most to me is getting to do cool shit--but I’m also an academic, so I like being able to do cool shit like write about riding dragons while also grappling with the real world.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Unbroken?

C.L.:  Oh, man. A lot, though some of it was what I gathered incidentally from classes. In grad school, I added war literature to my post-colonial focus. More actively, I also took some intensive courses in Arabic in the US and Morocco and spent some time researching at l’Institut du Monde Arabe (the Institute of the Arab World) in Paris so that I better understood the colonial relationships past and present. Lots of primary and secondary sources in both places, as well as the friends I made in Morocco who talked about their experiences. This was already my area of academic focus, but traveling made things much more personal. There are a lot of commonalities in Black lives in the US and present/past colonized people all over the world.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Unbroken.

C.L.:  IT IS THE BEST!!! It’s a Tommy Arnold (you might know him from his Gideon and Harrow the Ninth covers), and was designed by Lauren Panepinto. We wanted play with the trope of the male protagonist on the front cover in power poses and thrones, but with a woman. So this is Touraine, standing amidst the pillars in the Grand Temple. I couldn’t possibly be more thrilled with how it turned out.

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

C.L.:  Touraine was the character whose voice was hardest to nail down, and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if I have yet. The Jackal, I think, was the easiest, though she didn’t show up until the last draft before querying. Once I did, though, everything about her was crystal clear--it unlocked a lot of the story.

TQDoes The Unbroken touch on any social issues?

C.L.:  Absolutely.

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

C.L.:  What are some books you think The Unbroken is in conversation with?

What I was directly thinking about while I was writing...The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson and The Thousand Names by Django Wexler and The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar. Baru, because I also wanted to think about what happens to the colonized kids raised within the system, and the Shadow Campaigns series by reversing the usual hero/villain role in conquest fantasies, and finally The Winged Histories because I wanted to show the different perspectives of women in war, those who choose violence, those who choose peace, those who choose poetry, those who heal (originally, Djasha was also a point of view character and I wanted the teacher, the politician, and the soldier).

Other (first in series) books to pair it with that came out recently: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine and Savage Legion by Matt Wallace.

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

C.L.:  Ohh...I think my favorite ones are all spoilery. Hm…oh, here’s a favorite:

“Balladaire was a land of gifts and punishment, honey and whips, devastating mercies.”

TQWhat's next?

C.L.:  Working on the second and third books of The Magic of the Lost trilogy mostly, but I’m also a guest editor for the upcoming We’re Here: Best of Queer Speculative Fiction 2020, which I’m editing with Charles Payseur. It’s coming from Neon Hemlock later this year. I’ll also have some short stories, essays, and a few virtual interviews over the next few months.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Unbroken
The Magic of the Lost 1
Orbit Books, March 23, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 544 pages
"A perfect military fantasy: brutal, complex, human and impossible to put down." – Tasha Suri, author of Empire of Sand

In an epic fantasy unlike any other, two women clash in a world full of rebellion, espionage, and military might on the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire.

Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet's edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren't for sale.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

About C. L. Clark

C.L. Clark graduated from Indiana University's creative writing MFA. She's been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she's not writing or working, she's learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, FIYAH, PodCastle and Uncanny. You can follow her on Twitter C_L_Clark.

Website  ~  Twitter C_L_Clark.

Interview with Essa Hansen, author of Nophek Gloss

Please welcome Essa Hansen to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Nophek Gloss is published on November 17, 2020 by Orbit.

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

Essa:  My mom recounts stories from before I can remember, but the first one I recall—maybe nine years old?—was a fantasy short story set around a large willow tree growing out of the middle of a pool of water, in a courtyard in the center of a castle. There was a young girl and a mystery and a magical pendant that had gotten lost—sounds quite standard!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Essa:  I’m a hybrid. I plot more now than I did when I was starting out, due to a better understanding of structure and pacing. I start with the big set piece scenes then begin to build connective tissue and logic, until I have a decent outline. As I get ideas or visions or snippets of dialogue, I’ll insert these in my outlined chapters, but when I get to drafting, I move linearly and discovery-write the scenes themselves. The moment-by moment flow, details, and dialogue are all new to me as I’m writing the scene.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Essa:  My main challenge is translating my imaginative concepts and visuals into narrative, description, and emotion that a reader can easily absorb. I’m neurodivergent and a synesthete, so the way I perceive and process the world is atypical, and the way my ideas come out on the page is deeply sensory and a bit convoluted, so I need to actively sculpt my prose and ideas into better clarity while not losing the evocative and wondrous aspects that readers find refreshing and unique.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Essa:  I absorb inspiration from all over; not just art and media, but my personal experiences and time spent in nature, as well as less commonly utilized fields such as very theoretical cosmology and quantum physics, pseudoscience, occult science, philosophy, and metaphysics. When I’m developing something new—like an alien, creature, environment, or technology—I tend to merge bits of inspiration into my original concept or take a piece as a starting place and extrapolate it in a new direction. Often my inspiration is simply brainstorming “what haven’t I seen before in the genre?”

TQDescribe Nophek Gloss using only 5 words.

Essa:  Oh, I’m bad at these so I’m going to steal from Alastair Reynolds’s blurb of the book: “Intricate, vivid, and psychedelic cosmos.”

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

Essa:  The book description actually doesn’t describe the bubble multiverse! A collection of spherical universes of varying sizes (fist-sized to galactic scale), all on the same timeline and stuck together like a vast foam, with dividing membranes that can be passed through easily. Each universe has a unique deviation in the laws of physics, meaning that material, biology, and technology is transformed as it passes from one universe to another.

TQWhat inspired you to write Nophek Gloss? What appeals to you about writing science fiction?

EssaNophek Gloss is a revenge story with a heart of personal growth and the navigation of complex morality. The protagonist’s journey to find belonging and roots is drawn from my own experiences as a neurodiverse and mixed-race person. Meanwhile the setting is inspired by the obscure sciences I love, and the immersive writing comes directly from my own sensory peculiarities and creative work in film.

In far-flung or secondary world science fiction, I love that we’re allowed to get away entirely from the familiarity of Earth both as a location and as the basis of our ideas. We get to overturn the concept of “normal” by showing other possibilities. At the same time, the stories remain very human, exploring humanity and being through entirely new contexts. There’s incredible power in that.

TQYou are a sound designer for science fiction and fantasy films. Do you hear your novels when writing?

Essa:  I definitely add a lot of sound and five-senses immersion in my novels. Through a combination of hypersensitivity and synesthesia (in which usually separate senses are cross-wired), I feel sounds in my body and as a sort of extended landscape of texture and density in space, of which my nervous system is taking part. It’s…tricky to describe. While writing, even if I’m not “hearing” the story in my mind, my unique experience with the sensory world comes out in my writing style and unusual word choices. Also, working in film sound makes me hyper aware of story elements like environmental atmosphere, the material quality of things, and their motion through space, which definitely influences how I describe action and setting.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Nophek Gloss?

Essa:  I drew on a lot of fields of study I had delved into for enjoyment in the past, such as Cymatics, fluid dynamics, string theory, vibratory physics, concepts of the basis of reality and consciousness, cognitive science, emergent structures, and artificial intelligence…to name a few. Of course, I also had to research basic space travel things like time dilation, FTL, types of stellar drives, and so on.

I often start with a visual or experiential idea first and then backpedal into the science to flesh out my concept. For instance, in Nophek Gloss there’s an alien species who I wanted to emote via chromatophores on their skin, like many cephalopods, so I turned from that concept to the actual science of how and why, and in what detail or words I could describe the effect without getting too technical.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Nophek Gloss.

Essa:  The cover illustration is by Mike Heath and the design by Lauren Panepinto. It depicts Caiden’s unique starship, the Azura, which holds a lot of secrets and continues to evolve as the books go on.

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

Essa:  I always have one character who springs off the page fully-formed and feels effortless to write. For this book that was En, the crew’s negotiator, gambler, trader, charmer, muscle, and general rogue with a questionable past. En is genderfluid, dangerous but gregarious and will defend loved ones in a heartbeat, and full of snarky dialogue that sparked onto the page—which surprised me because I thought I was poor at dialogue but En’s always comes through so easily.

The hardest character to write was the story’s central antagonist, but those details are too spoilery to say!

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

Essa:  Q: What “cutting room floor” scene do you miss?

A: I had a moment in the story where Caiden experiences music for the first time in his life. I loved both the wondrous emotion of that moment and the challenge of clearly describing music without using any instrumental terminology.

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

Essa:  Here’s a little excerpt:

Squeezing inside, he ran his fingers over a complex central engine bulk stretching the length of the room. He hadn’t seen such materials ever, even in the deepest sections of the aerators: some white and fleshy, glassy and scaled, coppery rings that bristled when his fingertips drew near. It looked like a hundred different animals stitched together on one set of bones.

“Maybe you’re alive. A huge creature wearing a hard shell.”

Ridiculous. Machines weren’t alive. But he smiled and swore that some of the materials he touched inside the machine were warm.

TQWhat's next?

Essa:  I’m working through revisions of the second book in The Graven trilogy, which releases in Fall 2021. In the meantime, I’ll be doing virtual discussions, panels, and interviews for the launch of Nophek Gloss in November—readers can catch up with me at those!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Nophek Gloss
The Graven 1
Orbit, November 17, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages
"A sucker punch to the senses...a killer story with real heart and soul."-Alastair Reynolds

When a young man's planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy debut -- perfect for fans of Revenger and Children of Time.

Caiden's planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans.

He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

About Essa

Essa Hansen grew up in the beautifully wild areas of California. She has ranched bison and sheep, trained horses, practiced Japanese swordsmanship, and is a licensed falconer. She attended the Vancouver Film School and works as a sound designer for Skywalker Sound where she’s worked on films such as Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnorok, and Avengers: Endgame. Essa now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter @EssaHansen

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors

Here are some of the upcoming November 2020 novels by formerly featured Debut Author Challenge (DAC) Authors! The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.

Matthew Ward (2020)

Legacy of Steel
The Legacy Trilogy 2
Orbit, November 3, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 768 pages
Warfare, myth and magic collide in Legacy of Steel, the spectacular sequel to Matthew Ward's acclaimed fantasy debut Legacy of Ash.

"Outstanding ... a ripping yarn that more than earns its length." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A year has passed since an unlikely alliance saved the Tressian Republic from fire and darkness, at great cost. Thousands perished, and Viktor Akadra -- the Republic's champion -- has disappeared.

While the ruling council struggles to mend old wounds, other factions sense opportunity. The insidious Parliament of Crows schemes in the shadows, while to the east the Hadari Emperor gathers his armies. As turmoil spreads across the Republic, its ripples are felt in the realms of the divine.

War is coming . . . and this time the gods themselves will take sides.

The Legacy Trilogy
Legacy of Ash
Legacy of Steel
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Tyler Whitesides (2018)

The Shattered Realm of Ardor Benn
Kingdom of Grit 2
Orbit, November 3, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 704 pages
"The enjoyable blend of intrigue, lighthearted escapades, and thrilling action brilliantly sets the stage for the series' conclusion. Readers will be thrilled." (Publishers Weekly)

The second in an action-packed epic fantasy series: In a world with dragon-fueled magic, master con artist Ardor Benn must infiltrate a centuries-old secret organization to find a missing royal heir.

Ardor Benn saved civilization from imminent destruction, but his efforts brought war to the kingdom. It is believed that the rightful rulers have all been assassinated. However, a young heir might have survived.

An ancient organization known as The Realm is behind the chaos, working from the shadows. Under the anonymity of masks, information is distributed sparingly.

Ard's been hired to infiltrate them, but he's got competition from an old friend. One who's set to prove she's better than the self-proclaimed "Ruse Artist Extraordinaire."

If Ard can't find the heir then his world may again approach ruin. Stopping the complete and utter collapse of civilization is quickly becoming Ard's specialty

Kingdom of Grit:
The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn
The Shattered Realm of Ardor Benn
The Last Lies of Ardor Benn
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Evan Winter (2019)

The Fires of Vengeance
The Burning 2
Orbit, November 10, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 528 pages
In order to reclaim her throne and save her people, an ousted queen must join forces with a young warrior in the second book of this"relentlessly gripping, brilliant" epic fantasy series from a breakout author (James Islington).

Tau and his Queen, desperate to delay the impending attack on the capital by the indigenous people of Xidda, craft a dangerous plan. If Tau succeeds, the Queen will have the time she needs to assemble her forces and launch an all out assault on her own capital city, where her sister is being propped up as the 'true' Queen of the Omehi.

If the city can be taken, if Tsiora can reclaim her throne, and if she can reunite her people then the Omehi have a chance to survive the onslaught.

The Burning
The Rage of Dragons
The Fires of Vengeance
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Interview with Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Daughter

Please welcome Andrea Stewart to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Bone Shard Daughter was published on September 8, 2020 by Orbit.

Interview with Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Daughter

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

Andrea:  The first fiction piece I remember writing was in response to a creative writing prompt in fifth grade. The prompt was to choose an item made of clay and to write about it coming to life. I wrote about the statue of a peregrine falcon coming to life and flying me away to a magical land where I got to meet other clay creatures that had come to life. My teacher loved it and encouraged me to continue writing, and that's how I started down this whole road! 
TQ:  Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid? 
Andrea:  I'm definitely a plotter. I like to have a road map of where I'm going, and it feels like I get there faster when I have one. I start with a pitch that outlines the main conflict, then I write a couple chapters to get a feel for the world and the voices, then I do a chapter-by-chapter outline. Once I have that nailed down to my satisfaction, I start drafting from beginning to end. That said, things often change a little while I write! 
TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? 
Andrea:  my writing. I really want people to feel like they have that sense of place when they're reading. The news, history, my personal experiences—all are things that end up coloring my work. 
TQ:  Describe The Bone Shard Daughter using only 5 words. 
Andrea:  Revolution, identity, magic, islands, and keys. 
TQ:  Tell us something about The Bone Shard Daughter that is not found in the book description. 
Andrea:  I know this has surprised some people, so even though the description focuses on Lin's point of view, there are actually several point-of-view characters in the book. It follows Lin, Jovis, Ranami and Phalue, and Sand. Each character has their part to play in the overall story. 
TQ:  What inspired you to write The Bone Shard Daughter? What appeals to you about writing Epic Fantasy? 
Andrea:  The seed of inspiration started for me at the San Antonio WorldCon, when I went to lunch at the food court with my friends. My friend Marina Lostetter (who has since had a SF trilogy out and has a fantasy trilogy from Tor on the way) nearly choked on a piece of bone in her lunch. It started me thinking about using shards of bone as a source of magic. Of course, the idea evolved and grew a lot from there, and I added a lot of elements I enjoy seeing in books. It stewed in my brain for a while as I was working on other things. Once the ideas felt ready to me, I sat down and wrote the book! 

There's a lot that appeals to me about writing epic fantasy. I love the high stakes of it all—the clash of power and influence, the magic, the world-changing revelations. The scope allows for grand storytelling as well as allowing you to tie events to smaller, more intimate moments. And there's that sense of wonder that always seems to accompany epic fantasy. You can transport a reader to an utterly strange and new landscape, plus give them a sense of sweeping history, all from the comfort of their couch. 
TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Bone Shard Daughter? 
Andrea:  I checked out a lot of books from the library and read a lot of Wikipedia articles. I don't take a lot of notes when I research. I'm generally not trying to capture a particular time period or a particular place, but reading about historical events and specific places does help me pick out threads and patterns of what I want to see in my world. I also like to read travel guides and sometimes to watch some travel videos. The little details are important to me, and just looking at the photos and the things in the background can sometimes provide me with inspiration on what things I should include when writing. 
TQ:  Please tell us about the cover for The Bone Shard Daughter.
Andrea:  The art was done by Sasha Vinogradova and the design by Lauren Panepinto. The cover is less a direct representation of a scene in the novel and more representative of the elements in the novel as a whole. I love it so much! It pulls together so many important elements—the city buildings, the waves, the ships, and the key. And if you look closely, you'll notice a little creature in the bow of the key... 
TQ:  In The Bone Shard Daughter who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? 
Andrea:  I think in some ways Jovis was the easiest to write. He's got my silly sense of humor, and often feels exasperated with himself—something I deeply relate to. He's a fair bit grumpier than I am, but I also found it fun to write in that aspect of his personality. Sand was probably the most difficult to write. She starts, in some ways, much like a blank slate. Her circumstances are the most mysterious of all the characters, and she's figuring out what they mean as the story progresses. It's difficult to write a character like that in an engaging way, I think!
TQ:  Does The Bone Shard Daughter touch on any social issues?
Andrea:  I definitely tried to touch on some social issues. Ranami and Phalue's storyline is centered around their differences of privilege—they both love one another but are coming from two very different places in society. If they can't find a way to bridge that gap between them, their relationship falls apart and their whole island suffers for it. Lin is the daughter of the Emperor, trying to reclaim her place as heir. Although she focuses on this, she eventually has to decide if she wants to be the sort of leader her father has been or if she wants to take a different, less oppressive path. And Jovis is on a personal mission, one that ends up clashing with the greater purpose of the brewing revolution. He has to decide how much responsibility he has to others and to society, and whether that takes precedence over his personal needs. 
TQ:  Which question about The Bone Shard Daughter do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it! 
Andrea:  “Did you think The Bone Shard Daughter would be published when you were writing it?” 
I did not! When it went out on submission, I immediately started working on a new, completely different book so I wouldn't feel as bad if no one wanted to buy it. I'd had two prior books go out on submission to publishers that didn't sell, so the realistic part of me thought I'd just keep on to the next thing—I hadn't the best track record! I did feel like it was the best thing I'd written so far, but I always felt that way. I do try to improve with each book. 
TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Bone Shard Daughter. 
Andrea:  I think my favorite is: "I was Lin. I was the Emperor's daughter. And I would show him that even broken daughters could wield power." It just marks a big turning point for her and ties back to the very beginning. 
TQ:  What's next?
Andrea:  Next up are the next two books in The Drowning Empire trilogy, probably a sci-fi with time bubbles I've been fiddling with, and more epic fantasy in strange new worlds! I've got so many ideas and so many places I want to show people! 
TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!
The Bone Shard Daughter
The Drowning Empire 1
Orbit, September 8, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Daughter
Introducing a major new voice in epic fantasy: in an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor, will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

About Andrea 

Interview with Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Daughter

Andrea Stewart is the daughter of immigrants, and was raised in a number of places across the United States. Her parents always emphasized science and education, so she spent her childhood immersed in Star Trek and odd-smelling library books. When her (admittedly ambitious) dreams of becoming a dragon slayer didn’t pan out, she instead turned to writing books. She now lives in sunny California, and in addition to writing, can be found herding cats, looking at birds, and falling down research rabbit holes. 

Website ~ Twitter @AndreaGStewart

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors

Here are some of the upcoming July 2020 works by formerly featured Debut Author Challenge (DAC) Authors! The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.

Ian Doescher (2013)

William Shakespeare's The Merry Rise of Skywalker
Star Wars Part the Ninth
Quirk Books, July 28, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 176 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors
Complete your collection of the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars® series and experience the blockbuster finale to the Star Wars® saga in a brand-new way, here reimagined as though it had been penned by the Bard of Avon.

As our story opens, a sea of troubles threatens the valiant Resistance, who are pursued by the sound and fury of the vile First Order. Can Rey, Poe, Finn, Rose, BB-8, Chewbacca, and their allies overcome such toil and trouble? Shall Kylo Ren be proven fortune’s fool or master of his fate? What will become of the House of Skywalker? And is all well that ends well?

Authentic meter, stage directions, reimagined movie scenes and dialogue, and hidden Easter eggs will entertain and impress fans of Star Wars® and Shakespeare alike. Every scene and character from the film appears in the book, along with twenty woodcut-style illustrations that depict an Elizabethan version of the Star Wars® galaxy.

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors
Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors
Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors
Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors

Michael R. Underwood (2012)

Annihilation Aria
The Space Operas 1
Parvus Press, July 21, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors
Max is cheery xeno-archeologist from Earth, stranded and trying to find a way home. Lahra is a stern warrior of a nearly extinct race searching for her people’s heir. Wheel is the couple’s cybernetic pilot running from her past and toward an unknown future.

On Wheel’s ship, the Kettle, the trio traverses the galaxy, dodging Imperial patrols and searching ancient ruins for anything they can sell. The crew of the Kettle are deeply in debt to their home base’s most powerful gangster, and she wants her money back.  

So when a dangerous, but promising job comes their way, Max, Lahra, and Wheel have little choice but to take it. However, the crew of the Kettle gets more than they bargained for when they find themselves in possession of a powerful artifact, one that puts them in the crosshairs of the Vsenk, the galaxy’s ruthless and oppressive imperial overlords. 

Max, Lahra, and Wheel are pulled into a web of galactic subterfuge, ancient alien weaponry, a secret resistance force, lost civilizations, and giant space turtles.  The Vsenk will stop at nothing to recover what the crew of the Kettle has found and Max’s brains, Lahra’s muscle, and Wheel’s skills may be all that stands between entire planets and annihilation.  

Can they evade space fascists, kick-start a rebellion, and save the galaxy all while they each try to find their own way home?

Alex White (2016)

The Worst of All Possible Worlds
The Salvagers 3
Orbit, July 28, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors
The rag-tag crew of the Capricious is hunting down rogue AI, ancient colony ships, and the biggest treasure the universe has ever seen in the final book of this pulse-pounding space adventure series for fans of Firefly and The Expanse.

The crew of the Capricious seems to leave a trail of devastation wherever they go. But with powerful enemies in pursuit and family and friends under attack planetside, there’s no time to worry about all that. Ensnared by the legend of Origin, humanity’s birthplace, and a long-dead form of magic, the Capricious takes off on a journey to find the first colony ship…and magic that could bring down gods.

Read the incredible space-fantasy series that V. E. Schwab calls “A total blast!”

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC AuthorsCovers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm

Please welcome Devin Madson to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. We Ride the Storm is published on June 23, 2020 by Orbit.

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

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm

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

Devin:  I wrote a story called The Little Sad Christmas Tree. I was six so I don’t recall writing it very clearly but my parents kept it and I still have it somewhere. It’s about a little pine tree that cries when its mother gets cut down and taken away and all the other trees laugh at him. He gets cut down too and taken to a shop to be sold but no one wants him, so he cries some more. He gets magically reunited with his mother at the end though. I don’t think I was trying to say anything particular with that, more I had only one page left.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Devin:  A bit of both. I almost completely pants most first books in a series because I’m too impatient to sit down and plan. And the only time I did, I ended up with a completely different book. With different themes, plot and a bunch of extra point of view characters. But when I get to later books in a series, I plan more and more to make sure I’m pulling all the threads together and will be able to finish the story in the right number of books. Really, I just go with whatever works best for a particular book, but the most I’ve ever planned is a couple of guiding paragraphs per chapter and some thoughts on arcs. That’s HARDCORE planning in Devinland.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Devin:  Action scenes! And for some reason I keep writing a lot of them. Because they have to be tense, they require very tight pacing and timing, balance and cadence, and can’t just be hammered out in a couple of minutes. At least not by me. The only thing more challenging, that you absolutely can’t lose your readers in by a misstep of word choice or pacing, is a sex scene, but I don’t write anywhere near as many of those. Structural edits also suck, because they are weeks of painstakingly ripping apart and rebuilding a manuscript and it is the most draining part of the job for me, mentally and emotionally.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Devin:  The things I have noticed as being influences (rather than the bazillion tiny things we passively observe and absorb in life) are generally not fantasy based, which I find interesting. Despite not writing romances, I have been heavily influenced by Georgette Heyer over the years. She was a master at character creation and evolution as well as subtle character-based and situational humour. I’ve also been influenced by all too many video games and history programs/podcasts. And Terry Pratchett.

TQDescribe We Ride the Storm using only 5 words.

Devin:  Shit keeps hitting the fan.

TQTell us something about We Ride the Storm that is not found in the book description.

Devin:  There is no black and white morality in this book. It’s all messy, right and wrong impossible to discern half the time, as people are forced to make decisions without knowing for sure what the outcome will be. Often they are making the best of two bad choices, which will have flow on effects into the decisions forced upon others. One thing I really wanted to achieve with this book is the idea that people and situations often aren’t neat and simple and clear cut. People are complicated. They are changeable. Contradictory. Emotional. I wanted to represent this in my fiction. Rather than creating ideals of people, I wanted to show them in all their messy glory as they struggle with their own paths and feelings and motivations (as well as one can in fiction, which is never allowed to be quite as messy and random as real life).

TQWhat inspired you to write We Ride the Storm? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Devin:  The biggest thing that appeals to me about writing fantasy (except for having to do less research because you can make things up) is that you can put people into situations that are impossible in our world and shake it up to see what would happen. The human psyche is an amazing thing, as are the connections and relationships we make with others. And they’re all so much more interesting and boundless in fantasy. As for We Ride the Storm, it’s the continuation of a generational story I started in my novella, In Shadows We Fall, and then on through The Vengeance Trilogy (also being re-released by Orbit, but you don’t have to read them first, they can be read in any order) so there wasn’t as much unique inspiration for this story. When I first started writing in this world, the story I wanted to tell informed much of the world building, but now the world and its history informs the stories I want to tell.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for We Ride the Storm?

Devin:  Because I don’t plan ahead most of the time, I tend to research on the fly when I need something (or I’m lazy and write and leave it for Future Devin like a jerk). These can be little things like how long it takes blood to congeal or sometimes bigger things about horses and castles.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for We Ride the Storm.

Devin:  Because We Ride the Storm was previously self-published, Orbit wanted to differentiate the new cover, so although it depicts horsemen riding into battle like the original, they commissioned black and white scratchboard art from Nico Delort. I loved the original too (by John Anthony Di Giovanni), as both are very striking in their different ways. The colour of the new one really gets across the mood and feel of the book though, I think they really nailed it.

TQIn We Ride the Storm who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Devin:  Cassandra is always the easiest character to write because I’m putting my dialled up to 11 snarky thought process and sense of humour on the page, filtered through her life experience and goals. Miko is the hardest, because she has a very complicated mix of ambition yet a desire to do what is right and good, of wanting to prove herself yet learn from those around her. She walks a fine balance in everything, even with having to be an accommodating leader and yet be fiercely determined, while at the same time she’s young and inexperienced in a lot of things.

TQDoes We Ride the Storm touch on any social issues?

Devin:  While it doesn’t specifically focus on any particular social issues, due to the journeys of certain characters the book touches on the struggles of women in a patriarchal society and some of the damage it does to the society as a whole, as well as the difficulties of a whole culture struggling to maintain itself while the world becomes more urbanized and technologically advanced around them. They are left having to ask ‘What makes us who we are?’ and trying to find an answer.

TQWhich question about We Ride the Storm do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Devin:  Let’s go with my favourite thing about it. I don’t do favourite characters in books (not in other peoples nor my own), I have favourite relationships. It can be a friendship, a parent/child relationship, a found family or a romantic relationship, it doesn’t matter, my favourite stuff is always the between people stuff. In this book it’s the relationship between Rah, one of the POV characters, and Gideon, leader of the Levanti exiles. They’re from the same herd so they have known each other all their lives, and while you only see some of it and get a little of their history in this first book, everything about the intensity and complications of it speaks to my soul on a deep level.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from We Ride the Storm.

Devin:  While I’m very proud of both my original opening line and the new one, the bits I like the most are the humorous character moments like this:

“What’s this?” She eyed the food like it was a dead animal.
“What does it look like?” I said, fingers hunting an elusive coin. “It’s flatbread. But that bit didn’t cook right through so it’s all yours.”

And that they let me get away with this:

“Now let’s keep moving before the sight of this damn place makes me piss myself.”
“As you wish, Your Whoreness.” He had taken a few steps but turned to look back over his shoulder. “Or should it be Your Assassinness? Whoresassin!”

TQWhat's next?

Devin:  I’m just putting the finishing touches on book 3 of The Reborn Empire series, after which I’ll be moving on to putting a cap on the series that has been quite the journey for me. I’m also hoping to find time to write a novella that’s been pecking away at my thoughts, the first thing I’ve written in more than a decade that isn’t set in this world of mine. And I’m very slowly working toward getting my audio drama, The 59 Bodies of Saki Laroth, produced and released.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Devin:  Thank you for having me!

We Ride the Storm
The Reborn Empire 1
Orbit, June 23, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm
In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s propulsive epic fantasy.

War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.

Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.

In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.

In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.

And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.

As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

The Reborn Empire
We Ride the Storm

For more from Devin Madson, check out:
The Vengeance Trilogy
The Blood of Whisperers
The Gods of Vice
The Grave at Storm's End

About Devin

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm
Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.

Website  ~  Twitter @DevinMadson

Interview with Matthew Ward, author of Legacy of Ash

Please welcome Matthew Ward to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Legacy of Ash is published on April 7, 2020 by Orbit.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Matthew a very Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Matthew Ward, author of Legacy of Ash

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

Matthew:  I used to scribble stories all the time at primary school, though I’ve no recollection of what went into them. The first real crack I remember taking at writing was a Babylon 5 novel, twenty-five or so years ago. It wouldn’t have worked out – and for all sorts of reasons, not least that I didn’t get very far. It’s long since been lost to hard drive crashes and the like.

Probably for the best.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Matthew:  It varies from book to book. I prefer making things up as I go – writing’s more fun when I’m discovering the story as if I’m reading it. But there are certain tales where things have to slot into place just so. Those end up with quite meticulous plans … character arcs, plot beats and the like nailed into place from the very beginning. That’s a lot more like actual work (yuck), but sometimes you gotta.

I’ll be interested to see which one readers think Legacy of Ash is.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Matthew:  I learnt long ago that I don’t have a lot of patience for heavy redrafting, so everything has to be ‘right’ before I move on – whether to the next sentence, paragraph, chapter or whatever – otherwise the knowledge that it isn’t overshadows everything I try to do afterwards. It makes some days a bit of a grind, and some chapters end up lingering for what seems like eternity. But the results speak for themselves … at least, I hope they do.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Matthew:  I love big, overarching stories, but conversely, light-touch continuity – the idea that you can be reading several separate (but complete) tales that build into something much larger without compromising either.

From that point of view, I discovered comics at just the right time to spark my interest – Babylon 5 was winding down, and there wasn’t really anything left on TV doing what it had done – and just the wrong time, because the trend of massively decompressed storytelling was getting underway.

I think that’s one of the reasons I love narratives with a huge weight of history behind them (Babylon 5, The Lord of the Rings). They create the illusion that the story you’re experiencing – even if you devour it front to back – is only part of a much larger tale whose outline you can just about glimpse, if you squint at it just right. I find that sense of depth fascinating – it’s when the world becomes a living, breathing thing.

TQDescribe Legacy of Ash using only 5 words.

Matthew:  Mistakes of old, come due. Or perhaps ‘Oh no, don’t do that!’

TQTell us something about Legacy of Ash that is not found in the book description.

Matthew:  This isn’t just a war of mortals. There are divine powers waiting in the wings, and sometimes a good deal closer. They’ve been forgotten in Tressia (the main setting for the book), or otherwise warped so much by ‘official’ history as to be unrecognisable, but they’re there, and they won’t be ignored.

TQWhat inspired you to write Legacy of Ash? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Matthew:  The story of Legacy of Ash (in fact, the whole Legacy trilogy) goes back some twenty-odd years, as do many of the characters – if in a very prototypical form – so initial inspirations are a bit hazy at this point.

I knew there was a great story waiting to be told, but I spent years dancing around actually getting started. It sounds pompous, but I’m not sure I was ready to tell the story – my writing just wasn’t there yet, and it was going to need to be if I were to do it justice. And then somewhere along the line, it just clicked, and now we’re here.

Fantasy’s a wonderful genre to write within, because it’s so flexible. You can ground yourself in reality as much (or as little) as you like, so long as you can carry the reader with you. It’s escapism at its finest.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Legacy of Ash?

Matthew:  Not much of any, if I’m honest. I have an obsession with real world adjacent names, so I spend a lot of time scratching at that aspect – Legacy has names inspired (or directly drawn from) Slavic, Celtic, British, Indian and Hebrew roots.

Otherwise? I started getting a bit obsessed about marching times/distances, but that was about as far as my research went.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Legacy of Ash.

Matthew:  The illustration’s by Larry Rostant; the design by Charlotte Stroomer. It’s a thing of beauty, and so wonderfully emblematic of the book. Right from the get-go, the narrative pivots around the prophecy of a phoenix – a leader who’ll bring freedom to the oppressed south – and fire is ever-present, both as a metaphor for rebirth, and of cleansing.

More than that, I probably shouldn’t say…

TQIn Legacy of Ash who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Matthew:  I’ve always loved secondary characters. Favourite character in Star Wars? Wedge Antilles. Favourite Ghostbuster? Winston Zeddemore. And so on, etc.

It’s a quirk that spills over into my writing, and I love every moment I spend with the supporting cast. Of these, Vladama Kurkas is probably the most straightforward, because he’s a straightforward soul – but he’s also smarter than he lets on, which gives him a wonderfully broad range to work with.

Josiri Trelan was probably the hardest. He’s a protagonist, which is already a black mark against him in my supporting character-loving soul, but also he has probably the biggest arc in the book. He’s never there as meat in the room. If he’s in the scene, he’s got to sing.

TQDoes Legacy of Ash touch on any social issues?

Matthew:  It’s fair to say there’s a theme of overcoming prejudice running through the book. Every character brings societal baggage to the table – how they react to that prejudice and (if they) overcome it is ultimately what defines them, as it does us all.

One of the greatest challenges we all face is accepting that what we consider ‘normal’ or ‘reasonable’ may not be when viewed from another’s perspective. How we move forward from that point has the power to change the world, if we let it.

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


Q: Are you Tressian or Hadari at heart?

A: Tricky one, because the two realms have a lot more in common than they first appear. But on balance, I’m probably Tressian, as I’m a little bit too attached to structure and protocol. I also look a lot better in shirt and cravat than silk robes too, so there’s that.

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

Matthew:  Let’s start with a bit of scene-setting, going back to the idea of story behind the story.

The mists of Krayna Dell defied the light of dawn. Revekah wasn’t surprised. It was often thus in the Forbidden Places, where old magic wore thin the walls between the living realm and Otherworld. For those who didn’t heed the priesthood’s warnings about such places, a thousand tales counselled caution. Spirits lurked within the mists, or so it was said. Spirits, and worse. Revekah had never seen such peril for herself – nor spoken to anyone who had – but the fear remained.
        Mists or no, the Forbidden Places were different. As if the turnings of the world held little influence on what passed within, or distant seasons lingered jealously beneath the boughs.

For an actual character quote, I’d go with “They mistake bigotry for the tinder of great days gone.” as it sums up so much of what the book’s about.

(I’ll leave it a surprise which character says it, and when.)

TQWhat's next?

Matthew:  Well, book two – Legacy of Steel – is currently in the ‘making it awesome’ phase (boring people call this ‘editing’), where my editor politely asks me to stop using the word ‘softly’ so much, and otherwise helps me see the forest again, and not the trees. That’s going to be hugely exciting to get capped off.

Meanwhile, I’m well underway with book three, which is even more exciting (a threequel beats a sequel, right?) So I’m still very much neck deep in Tressia.

After? Well, I have plans. I always have plans. There are more stories to tell in Aradane (the world of Legacy of Ash), so I’m hoping people want to read them. Other than that? Something to do with vampires, perhaps. Or maybe monsters in the London Underground.

Either way, it’ll be a fun ride.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Legacy of Ash
The Legacy Trilogy 1
Orbit, April 7, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 800 pages

Interview with Matthew Ward, author of Legacy of Ash
Legacy of Ash is an unmissable fantasy debut–an epic tale of intrigue and revolution, soldiers and assassins, ancient magic and the eternal clash of empires.

A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.

Ruling families — once protectors of justice and democracy — now plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives. Blinded by ambition, they remain heedless of the threat posed by the invading armies of the Hadari Empire.

Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise.

Viktor Akadra is the Republic’s champion. A warrior without equal, he hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic.

Josiri Trelan is Viktor’s sworn enemy. A political prisoner, he dreams of reigniting his mother’s failed rebellion.

And yet Calenne Trelan, Josiri’s sister, seeks only to break free of their tarnished legacy; to escape the expectation and prejudice that haunts the family name.

As war spreads across the Republic, these three must set aside their differences in order to save their home. Yet decades of bad blood are not easily set aside. And victory — if it comes at all — will demand a darker price than any of them could have imagined.

About Matthew

Interview with Matthew Ward, author of Legacy of Ash
Photo by Photo Nottingham
Matthew Ward is a fantasy author, cat-servant, and owner of more musical instruments than he can actually play. He’s afflicted with an obsession for old places — castles, historic cities, and the London Underground chief amongst them — and should probably cultivate more interests to help expand out his author biography. Ward lives near Nottingham with his wife and several cats.

Website  ~ Twitter @thetowerofstars

Facebook  ~  Pinterest

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

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