The Qwillery | category: Orbit


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

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

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, 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
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)

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,, 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.


“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
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