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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with K. D. Edwards, author of The Last Sun


Please welcome K. D. Edwards to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Last Sun is published on June 12th by Pyr.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing K. D. a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with K. D. Edwards, author of The Last Sun




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

K. D.:  What is the statute of limitations on copyright infringement….? Because when I was in elementary school, I wrote a barely-disguised rip-off of a THREE INVESTIGATORS novel that sent the kids back in time to the Middle Ages. And I am being very, very loose with the word “novel.”

I also wrote a scathing article about someone leaving loose caps on the coca-cola bottles in the family refrigerator, which, in a sense, was fiction, because IT WAS ME. IT WAS ALWAYS ME.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

K. D.:  You have no idea how much of a plotter I am. I am a ridiculously detailed outliner. I began HANGED MAN, the second novel in TAROT SEQUENCE, with a 43,000-word outline. I literally have outline notes, settings, random bits of dialog, and 1-liners for the entire series that tops off at nearly 300,000 words.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

K. D.:  Actually sitting down and putting the meat on the bones. Having such a detailed outline always makes me feel like I’m doing acrobatics way, way beyond my skill over a big, nice safety net – but finding the time to sit down and write after a long day’s work is always a challenge. I mean, at 5pm? There are books to be read….and video games to be played….and sofas. There are so many sofas in my life at 5pm on a week night. It takes real motivation to sit down in front of a computer again, and bring my story home.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

K. D.:  Different writers at different stages. There are so, so, so many writers I love now. But if I had to pick writers who -- or writing that -- helped define or evolve my style?
  • One Life to Live and General Hospital when I was a tween -- many, many years ago. Want to learn how to write dialog in massive volume? Watch a soap opera.
  • Twin Peaks, the original. Taught me to apply surreal, trippy edges to something as innocuous as a soap opera.
  • The Sandman, Preacher, and Hellblazer. The Sandman in particular. That’s when I really developed a love for deep, deep world building.
  • And the authors who changed my perspective…. Laurell Hamilton, Jim Butcher, JD Robb, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Charlie Huston, Richard Kadrey, Robbin Hobb, Perry Moore.


TQDescribe The Last Sun in 140 (OR SLIGHTLY MORE IF YOU’RE A CHEATER) characters or less.

K. D.:  A reimagining of Atlantis. Rune, a fallen prince, lives in a patchwork Gotham with his caustic bodyguard. An assignment will take him into the halls of power, closer than ever to the mystery of his past.



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

K. D.:  It’s imagined as a 9-part series. And when I say imagined, I mean obsessively plotted, right down to the very last scene.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Last Sun? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

K. D.:  I fell in love with the genre after gobbling up the Anita Blake Series, JD Robb’s In Death series, Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series, and the Sandman collected works. I love taking the world as we know it, and then stuffing the drawers and corners and attics with batshit crazy, surreal stuff.



TQAtlantis seemingly has been a source of fascination for centuries. What do you think are the reasons for Atlantis' enduring appeal?

K. D.:  I think ALL lost civilizations – real or otherwise – have enduring appeal. The unknown hits on all our adrenaline responses – it’s a source of entertainment, fear, mystery, fright, excitement. Lost civilizations are as wonderful and terrible as the spans & layers of your imagination.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Last Sun?

K. D.:  Nothing for Atlantis. But the book is filled with abandoned human ruins and buildings that have been teleported from all across the world. I did an exhaustive amount of research on those buildings. Past that, there are a score of topics I researched in depth – fighting styles, mansion architecture, lesser-known monster mythologies. And it doesn’t even hold a candle to the research I’ve done for Novel #2. I’ve spent a year researching ghost ships and US battleships for THE HANGED MAN!



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Last Sun.

K. D.:  Oh God, what a wonderful, amazing experience it was. I was So. Damned. Scared. Out of every part of publishing, the only thing that really terrified me was: what is the cover sucked? What if the cover was a half-naked man, and I’d be embarrassed to read it on the subway? What if it was so bad I’d be ashamed to show my parents? But my editor, Rene Sears, hooked me up with Micah Epstein; and even more, she gave me the chance to write up my own summary of the novel, and details of the characters. I put in the work, drafted that document, and the result was…..I just can’t say enough about Micah. He literally created metaphors on his own that were perfect, like the broken Sun tarot card stained glass window. And he listened to what I said – he shows Rune’s leather jacket; and the sigils on Rune’s finger; and the necklace….. I was so freaking lucky to wind up with him. It doesn’t show any spoilers from the novel, but it captures the essence of Rune and Brand perfectly.



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

K. D.:  Brand. Definitely Brand. He’s my foul-mouthed avatar who will say exactly what needs to be said. He has the best 1-liners. I told you how I have hundreds of thousands of words of brainstorming notes for future novels? About 20% of all those notes are Brand 1-liners. The first two times that people quotes a line of my novel back to me, it was one of Brand’s most inventive swears. But in a larger sense, all of Brand’s best humor is tied up in his relationship with Rune – so any scene with the two of them is easy to write. They play off each other better than I could have ever expected.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Last Sun?

K. D.:  I don’t really touch on real-world events, but Rune identifies as gay, and there is an enormous amount of queer representation in the novel. I don’t want THE LAST SUN – or the series as a whole – to be called “gay sci-fi.” I want it to be considered good, funny, enjoyable sci-fi with a protagonist who just happens to be gay. That’s my goal in all my writing. To have main characters that just happen to be gay, in novels that represent what I consider mainstream. I want gay and lesbian youth to see themselves in this novel.



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

K. D.:  Hmmm. Two things. One, you already asked. I love talking about outlining. I’m pretty proud of the work I’ve put into outlining this series. And two, since I know everything that’s going to happen, I’ll be curious if people ask about the many easter eggs I hide in the novel. Everything that the character Quinn says, in particular, is important. I’ve given hints to major story lines that happen throughout the entire series.



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

K. D.:  Oh man. Can I swear. You can black this part out if you need to.

The swear that people have quoted back to me, when Brand gets really upset in one scene, is: “Mother-fucking horsefire shit!” And I have no idea where that came from.

Other quotes are difficult, because they operate so well in the larger flow of scenes – especially the banter between Rune and Brand. I suppose I love when Brand makes fun of Rune. (Like when Rune tries to use Brand’s smart phone, and Brand finally snatches it away, saying, “It’s like watching Gilligan try to make a radio out of coconuts.” Or when Brand tries to cheer Rune up by offering to spar, and Rune says, “Sparring means something different to me that you. Sparring means getting hit in the face a lot.”)



TQWhat's next?

K. D.:  THE HANGED MAN! Book 2! It’s going very well….I can’t remember the last time a work-in-progress has gone so well. I’m barreling towards the deadline (and, if I was being honest, a mite past it), but it’s the best work I’ve ever done.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

K. D.:  Thank you for being one of my first interviewers! I am, sincerely, honored.





The Last Sun
The Tarot Sequence 1
Pyr, Jun 12, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with K. D. Edwards, author of The Last Sun
In this debut novel and series starter, the last member of a murdered House searches for a missing nobleman, and uncovers clues about his own tortured past.

Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Court, is hired to search for Lady Judgment's missing son, Addam, on New Atlantis, the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home.

With his companion and bodyguard, Brand, he questions Addam's relatives and business contacts through the highest ranks of the nobles of New Atlantis. But as they investigate, they uncover more than a missing man: a legendary creature connected to the secret of the massacre of Rune's Court. In looking for Addam, can Rune find the truth behind his family's death and the torments of his past?





About K. D.

K.D. Edwards lives and writes in North Carolina, but has spent time in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, New Hampshire, Montana, and Washington State. (Common theme until NC: Snow. So, so much snow.) Mercifully short careers in food service, interactive television, corporate banking, retail management, and bariatric furniture have led to a much less short career in higher education, currently for the University of North Carolina System.

Website  ~  Twitter @KDEdwards_NC

Interview with Tracy Townsend, author of The Nine


Please welcome Tracy Townsend to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Nine is published on November 14th by Pyr.

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



Interview with Tracy Townsend, author of The Nine




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

Tracy:  Thanks for having me! I started writing when I was very young -- second or third grade -- and my earliest projects were all comics, mostly featuring talking animals in Sunday morning funnies-type situations. I read broadly, everything from Beverly Cleary to Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. By the time I was in middle school, I’d graduated into creating what folks today would call fan fic, though I don’t know that I knew the term or if it was really widely in use in the early 90s. My first major project was a James Bond fan fic novella written entirely in longhand in a spiral notebook that was supposed to have been for history notes. I wrote because I admired certain storytellers and I wanted to understand how they created these remarkable things I admired so much. I’d gone to writing workshops and been in writing clubs, but all but the best of those experiences felt like the blind leading the blind. The only way to figure out how the magic was done was to crawl up inside the stories and reverse engineer them myself, in my own way. I kept in the habit throughout high school, writing episodic series on demand for friends with really specific tastes, and writing short stories featuring characters my friends and I played in tabletop RPGs. I loved writing to my friends’ prompts best of all; it was this perfect gift for them I could create, something we shared together. It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized I really wanted to write professionally. Prior to meeting some really formative peers and instructors there, it had always just been something I was good at, but felt like a bit of an impostor actually doing.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Tracy:  Oh, I’m definitely a hybrid -- just one trouser leg on at any given time. I tend to start with a very vivid concept or character, and I start building up scenes and situations to explore it. I keep myself moving by jumping from each clearly visualized moment to the next. After I’ve built a good head of steam doing that, I step back to review what I’ve created and figure out what pulls it all together. What are the events I’m focused on, and how are plot beats coming into being? Do I have things in the right order? What’s the throughline? It’s during that pause, answering those questions, that I plot out the gaps in my narrative, and only then do I resume writing. The fact that I love writing in close third from multiple characters’ points of view means this kind of hop-around drafting process works when I’m getting a project off the ground. The downside is that knitting all the pieces together can be intensely surgical -- and sometimes leads to dead ends, scenes that end up on the proverbial cutting room floor. I admire writers with fast, efficient plotting and drafting processes, but I’ve never been able to create a project that interests me if I have to imagine the whole narrative from a cold start.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Tracy:  I work full time as a teacher at a public boarding school for gifted students. I know a lot of other writers who are also teachers and parents, too, of course, but the particular kind of school where I teach involves a level of hands-on stewardship of the students -- involvement in their clubs, their social events, their lives in the early and late hours of the work day -- that’s pretty atypical. Everyone struggles to achieve work-life balance. But in a lot of senses, my work is my life, and I tend to wear myself down serving both masters. I can’t stand disappointing people, so if something’s going to get short shrift when time and energy are at a premium, it will almost always be me.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Tracy:  I grew up reading comics (X-Men, Elfquest, Wolverine, Bone) and playing tabletop board games, so my whole youth revolved around variations on the “mismatched people bound by circumstance save the world” theme. I love that trope and there’s always some piece of it in anything I write. I love it because it’s much less about the “save the world” stuff and really more about a given story’s take on “found family.” I grew up far away from my nearest relatives, aside from my parents and brother, and so the “family” I turned to most often was the family of friends I collected, through school and writing and general geekdom. The way people who love each other because they chose each other bond, and how those bonds push and pull at them just as fiercely as blood-bonds, fascinates me because it’s so much a part of my lived experience. My husband teases me all the time about plot just being my excuse to get people in a room being emotional at each other. Really, he’s not wrong.



TQDescribe The Nine in 140 characters or less.

Tracy:  2 ret. mercs & a teen thief are nobody's 1st choice heroes, but when God's lab book is stolen, its 2nd best or seconds left 2 save humanity



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

Tracy:  I wrote The Nine to be a fantasy work that mashes up a lot of my favorite things -- political machinations, conspiracies, heists, found family, “mandatory unretirement,” steam- and clockpunk stylings, redemption arcs, interspecies conflict, gray morality. That’s far more than back cover copy alone could address, sure. But the thing I’m proudest of was Publishers Weekly’s review of The Nine’s “nearly flawless writing.” I about fell out of my chair in shock -- and relief that the effort had been recognized! I wanted to give my readers a feeling of prose-level care and craft that no back cover copy can effectively promise. I wanted to make a beautiful monster. It’s up to everyone else to decide if I succeeded.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Nine? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Tracy:  The idea for The Nine actually comes from Talmudic legend: the lamed wufniks, which Jorge Luis Borges writes about briefly in his Book of Imaginary Beings. Reading Borges piqued my interest and got me reading the Talmud and Kabbalah for details that eventually became important to the idea of the fate of mankind resting on the shoulders of a kind of “sample” population.

It’s only through a genre like fantasy that I could take my next thought -- that this seemed like a very strange cosmological variation on a scientific experiment -- and turn that into the premise of a novel. I love the slipperiness of fantasy, how it bends everyday logic and supplants it with its own sets of rules of conditions. It can be heroic, cautionary, escapist, political, pessimistic, or hopeful. I knew The Nine needed to be fantasy because I needed to bend and break a lot of rules and fuse together a lot of different visual and narrative styles to pull it off. But really, much more than it being the right tool for this particular story, it was the one I wanted most to explore and push into the shape I desired. They say you should write the book you wish was already out there for you to read. The Nine is the book I needed and wanted but never quite found.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Nine?

Tracy:  Oh, God, so much research. I researched autopsies and human anatomy. I researched Gothic architecture. I researched early photographic technologies, and deadly toxins, and period hats and footwear, guns and ammo, rappelling gear, and particle physics. And all of that was before my first round of revisions.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Nine.

Tracy:  Adam Doyle (whose amazing portfolio of work you can find here) was my cover artist, and I couldn’t be happier. I hope he does the art for the rest of the series. He’s done covers for Chuck Wendig and Maggie Stiefvater (which was great for my six degrees of publishing separation ego, let me tell you) and illustrations for Fantasy Flight Games. That last credit was hugely exciting for my friends and me, because we’ve played many of the games he’s contributed to. Adam starts with sketches and ultimately creates paintings which are later rendered into the cover images. That’s what gives The Nine’s cover that murky, swirling depth. If you look closely, there are a lot of smaller images buried in the background of the city behind the pictured characters -- gears and pipes and skulls, great atmospheric notes. Adam read the book in manuscript form and asked me for some additional information about the named character from it so he could refine his vision of individual figures. I’ve never asked him if he had a specific moment from the book in mind for the cover, but honestly, that’s because I feel I already know the answer, down to chapter and page. This “Avengers, assemble!” moment featuring Rowena, the Alchemist, and Anselm really helps focus the sprawling narrative around the characters whose actions will do the most to shape its outcome.



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

Tracy:  Often, my easiest character to write is Anselm. He’s easy because his way of seeing other people is so entirely alien to me. He’s a cynical, manipulative, self-assured egoist, smart and acid-tongued -- the sort of person you want on your side because it’s too dangerous having him against you. Writing characters less like me is easier than the ones more like me, because I think of it as deep character acting. (I worked in theater quite a bit years ago, and though I’m an indifferent actor, I’m a very good line coach, and in a lot of ways, that’s what writing a close POV really is -- line coaching yourself as author.) When the character itself chafes me, I’m more conscious of the need to stay in character, and that keeps me focused.

Haadiyaa Gammon, on the other hand, is very hard for me to write most days. I understand her completely, and even relate to the pressures she feels. That makes me work harder to ensure I’m examining her choices thoughtfully. She’s done things she regrets, but did them because she didn’t trust anyone else to do the right thing in her place. Gammon isn’t afraid of the sacrifices it takes to serve the pragmatic good or of being the bad guy for the right cause. I’ve been there, in my own way.



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

Tracy:  I don’t even think twice about “including social issues” in my writing because if I’m doing my job right, they’re already there. Part of the reason genre fiction is so powerful is that it defamiliarizes the conditions of our world, or extrapolates them through thought experiment, or supplants them with foreign elements, all with the hope of giving us insight into human nature. Authors and readers stare down a funhouse mirror of reality through so-called “escapist” fiction. Genre has always done this, to varying degrees. It’s just begun to do it more overtly in recent years, which is what makes it seem to some readers as if “social issues” are suddenly everywhere. They always were there. Now, authors are simply doing more to highlight them in their narratives.

As for this book, the world of The Nine is full of the problems caused by plutocracy, imperialism, xenophobia, and exceptionalist ideas of power and influence. Sometimes, these issues are present the way air in a room is. Other times, they’re spoken of directly. Since the crux of the plot is about mankind’s survival -- whether it can prove itself worthy of its place in existence -- I have to hold humanity accountable for what it’s done. That’s where the anxiety about our fate really lies. Are we worth it? Do we deserve this world? Is it too late to make good on the ills we’ve done, as individuals or as a people?



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

Tracy:  You know, nobody asks about character names, and I wish they would. There’s a specific story behind almost every one. I agonize over names. They do a lot to form a character, and often to Easter egg in details about who or what they really are. Probably the best name story of all is Rare’s.

Rare is an important secondary character in The Nine, and part of the web of happenstance and conspiracy that pulls the three main characters (Rowena, Anselm, and the Alchemist) together. I was listening to an excellent BBC radio drama production of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris at the time I was first drafting The Nine. There was a character whose name I kept hearing as “Rare.” (Important to remember here that the actors all had quite perfect English accents, and so the rhotic pronunciation was strongly in evidence throughout the recording.) I thought it was simply marvelous that this character -- a love interest central to the main character’s emotional trauma -- had such a lovely, unusual name. I also knew the character I was writing at the time was going to be at the center of a lot of bad emotional history for the main characters in The Nine. It was perfect, so like a good little magpie, I stole the name.

Much later, long after the first draft was complete, I was in a used bookshop and saw a copy of Solaris on the shelf. I grabbed it and started leafing through, only to discover that the character in question’s name was actually Rhea. The actors’ rhotic “r” following the “a” had totally thrown me. But by then, I was too attached to Rare being Rare to possibly rename her.



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

Tracy:  It’s up to readers to find where these moments come from. This first one is for the sheer pleasure of banter: “Turpitude is my problem, not degeneracy. A law-abiding life was out of the question from the start.”

This second comes from a moment a little further on: “He could feel his convictions yawning like an unknotted purse, dropping in bits and pieces from his mental vault.”



TQWhat's next?

Tracy:  It’s time for The Nine’s sequel! It has a working title and hopefully it doesn’t change along the way, but I’ll be keeping it secret for at least awhile longer. You can expect to hear more about the series and what’s in store for its characters soon. For now, suffice it to say the drama surrounding the missing book, the Ecclesiastical Commission, and the aigamuxa and lanyani species is far from resolved. Pursuing its loose ends will take the characters outside of Corma, the city setting for the first book, and into the rest of the world the so-called Grand Unity shaped.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tracy:  Thank you! I’d love to hear from your readers. Talk to me via email at tracy at tracytownsend dot net or on Twitter (@TheStorymatic).





The Nine
Thieves of Fate 1
Pyr, November 14, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Tracy Townsend, author of The Nine
A book that some would kill for…

Black market courier Rowena Downshire is doing everything she can to stay off the streets and earn enough to pay her mother’s way to freedom. But an urgent and unexpected delivery leads her face to face with a creature out of nightmares.

The Alchemist knows things few men have lived to tell about, but when a frightened and empty-handed courier shows up on his doorstep he knows better than to turn her away. What he discovers leads him to ask for help from the last man he wants to see—the former mercenary, Anselm Meteron.

Reverend Phillip Chalmers awakes in a cell, bloodied and bruised, facing a creature twice his size. Translating a stolen book that writes itself may be his only hope for survival; however, he soon learns the text may have been written by the Creator himself, tracking the nine human subjects of his Grand Experiment. In the wrong hands, it could mean the end of humanity.

This unlikely team must try to keep the book from those who would misuse it. But how can they be sure who the enemy is when they can barely trust each other? And what will happen to them when it reveals a secret no human was meant to know?





About Tracy

Interview with Tracy Townsend, author of The Nine
Photo by Jennifer Bronson
Debut author Tracy Townsend holds a master’s degree in writing and rhetoric from DePaul University and a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from DePauw University, a source of regular consternation when proofreading her credentials. She is chair of the English Department at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, an elite public boarding school, where she teaches creative writing and science fiction and fantasy literature. She has been a martial arts instructor, a stage combat and accent coach, and a short-order cook for houses full of tired gamers. Now she lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois with two bumptious hounds, two remarkable children, and one very patient husband. Her short story “Late Arrivals” was published by Luna Station Quarterly in March 2016.


Website  ~  Twitter @TheStorymatic  ~  Facebook



Interview with Paul Crilley and Review of Department Zero


Please welcome Paul Crilley to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge interviews for his adult debut, Department Zero.



Interview with Paul Crilley and Review of Department Zero




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

Paul:  When I first moved to South Africa I bought Life the Universe and Everything, and The Colour of Magic to read on the plane. Those were the first genre books I’d read, (even though I loved Star Wars and other SF movies.) I started reading more and more and when I was 14 realised writing was what I wanted to do. Cue lots of bad writing and terrible half-finished novels.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Paul:  Definitely hybrid. I start off a book with the best intentions. I’m going to have the whole thing plotted. I’m going to do all the work before I even type Chapter One. But it never works out that way. I manage to plot out the first 30k or so, get writing, and then… nothing. Well, not nothing, but this is where I have to see where the characters take me. I mean, I have a vague outline. I know the midpoint and where I need to be at the end. But everything after 30k is pantsing.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Paul:  Pausing. Giving my characters room to breathe and develop. It’s a weakness in my writing that I’m trying to fix. I always want to keep going forward. Onto the next big scene. But I need to slow down a bit, I think.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Paul:  My biggest influences are William Gibson, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Neil Gaiman. All those authors were read at a fundamental period in my writing development and I still feel their influence today.



TQDescribe Department Zero in 140 characters or less.

Paul:  God, you’re not asking much are you?

It’s a multiverse portal fantasy with Cthulhu mythology, buddy-cop interactions, a single dad trying to do right by his daughter, and it’s snarky.

Sorry. Didn’t quite make it to 140 characters. I think I’m 8 over.



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

Paul:  Here is a description I worked on when I was trying to boil the book down to a few paragraphs. (Not easy, I assure you.)

Harry Priest is down and out. He’s in “biohazard remediation”, which is a fancy way of saying he cleans up crime scenes for a living. He’s divorced, and the highlight of his day is when he gets to say goodnight and read a bedtime story to his daughter. (Over the phone.)

Harry and his partner Jorge stumble onto what they think is just another crime scene at an old motel in Santa Monica, and when Jorge steals some evidence form the scene, Harry finds himself chased down by Vervet monkeys with the faces of old men (that quote Shakespeare at him), spider monsters that eat your brain, various creatures from the Cthulhu mythology, and of course, the acolytes of the Old Ones.

All this brings him into contact with Havelock Graves of the Interstitial Crime Department, an agency that polices the multiverse. The ICD works the infinite number of realities from their base in Wonderland and when Graves offers Harry a job Harry accepts. (Well, he has to. He got fired from his old job.)

Unfortunately for Harry, Graves, as well as being arrogant, loud, and over the top, is also a big fat liar. The kind whose pants are on fire. His team was demoted to Department Zero after the incident at the motel, Department Zero being the lowest department in the entire ICD.) And what does Department Zero do? They clean up crime scenes. Of the supernatural kind.

Graves wants to use Harry as bait to draw out the people that got him demoted, and this brings them into contact with a cult that worships Cthulhu and wants to free him from his prison in the Dreamlands. Cue lots of bickering, travel to alternate realities, battles, incredibly strategic and fast retreats, the Spear of Destiny, Robert E Howard-type fantasy worlds, and more bickering.



TQDepartment Zero is your first Adult novel and a genre bender - Fantasy, SF, and Steampunk. How different is it to write a novel for adults? What appealed to you about mixing genres?

Paul:  I love writing for kids and adults. It sounds weird but there is a freedom to writing for kids. You can throw in more big ideas and concepts and they’ll accept them quicker than adults will. But I love writing for adults as well. It’s fun to deal with adult themes and get to swear a bit. Both are totally different and I’d do both forever if I could.

As to mixing genres, I wanted to write a funny book that had all of my favorites tropes. Banter between characters set in the modern world, secret societies, fantasy worlds, Victorian England, mad chases, Cthulhu mythology, and… I’m sure a few other genres I’m missing. I wanted to bring them all together into one book universe so I could play around with anything I wanted.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Department Zero?

Paul:  Lots of reading about the Cthulhu mythology, the types of monsters HP Lovecraft created, the themes he explored. I wouldn’t really call it research, though. It was great fun.



TQPlease tell us about Department Zero's cover.

Paul:  I absolutely love the cover. The artist is Patrick Arrasmith and apparently he does all his work on a scratchboard. The cover does feature some easter eggs from the book, as well as easter eggs from an earlier version of the story where things had to be changed for copyright reasons. So if anyone figures that out, they earn points.



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

Paul:  Havelock Graves is the easiest. He’s such an arrogant, self-righteous person, his dialogue pretty much writes itself. Harry was the hardest, because we’re in his head all the time, and I had to work in a lot of painful stuff about separation and divorce, stuff I was going through at the time. (Not too much, though. I still had to keep it fun, first and foremost.)



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

Paul:  A. I quite like the opening of a chapter when they go to an alternate London, where the War of the Worlds actually happened.

So here’s the thing. When I set off after the guy who stole the spear, I really didn’t expect to end the night chained to an altar in the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral while my blood is sucked from my body by a group of insane (and unfit) cultists frantically working foot pumps in an attempt to bring the rotting corpse of a Martian invader back to life.

But them’s the breaks, honey.

##

And the opening of the book:

The polite term for what I do for a living is “biohazard remediation”.

That’s what I say if anyone asks me at a dinner party. Not that I’m ever invited to dinner parties. (Megan got custody of all the friends in the divorce.) But it’s what I’d say if I was invited, and if someone was actually polite enough to approach through the chemical smell of industrial-strength cleaning products that clings to my body.

Another term for what I do is Crime and Trauma Scene Decontamination. Or CTSDecon, if you want to sound cool.

Which, basically, means that I clean up stiffs for a living.

All the stiffs. No prejudice in my line of work.

Murder? Check.

Suicide? Check.

Murder-suicide? Check.

Industrial accidents? Check.

Decomposition after unattended death? Check.

Infectious disease? Check.

Spontaneous human combustion? Check. (Not that I’ve ever had one of those, but I live in hope.)



TQWhat's next?

Paul:  I’m currently working on the sequel to Poison City, which is called Clockwork City. Poison City is out now and it’s the first in an urban fantasy series set in Durban, South Africa. It’s about Gideon “London” Tau, a man who works at the Delphic Division, a branch of the SA government that tackles supernatural crime.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Paul:  Thanks for having me.





Department Zero
Pyr, January 24, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 301 pages
(Adult Debut)

Interview with Paul Crilley and Review of Department Zero
THE END OF THE UNIVERSE IS ONLY A HOP, SKIP, AND SLIGHT STUMBLE-THROUGH-A-WORMHOLE AWAY

Harry Priest just wants to make sure his ex-wife doesn’t take away his visitation rights, and his dead-end job cleaning up crime scenes for the past ten years isn’t doing him any favors.

But when Harry attends what he thinks is a routine death, he stumbles onto a secret multiverse of alternate realities all reachable through universe-hopping gates. Policing these worlds is Havelock Graves, the Interstitial Crime Department’s top agent for ten years running (according to him).  When Harry accidentally messes with the ICD crime scene, Graves and his team are demoted as low as they can go: Department Zero. They’re recruiting Harry too—not because he charmed them, but because he just might hold the key to saving the universe . . . and getting their old jobs back.

To do this, Graves and his team set out to solve the crime that lost them their jobs. A crime that involves a cult planning to hunt down and steal the fabled Spear of Destiny in order to free the Great Old One Cthulhu from his endless sleep in the Dreamlands. (Because that’s another thing Harry soon finds out. Everything H. P. Lovecraft wrote is true. Like, everything.)

The team will have to fight its way through realities filled with Martian technology and evade mad priests (Harry’s favorite kind) in a realm of floating landmasses where magic really exists.

And Harry has to do it all in time to say good night to his daughter.



Qwill's Thoughts

Harry Priest, the main character in Paul Crilley's adult debut, is in a dead-end job as a crime scene cleaner. He's divorced and the highlight of his day is calling his daughter each night to read to her before she goes to sleep. His relationship with his ex-wife is strained. He's been a disappointment.

After being called to a crime scene site to clean up, Harry and his boss's son stumble upon something that they are not meant to see. Things go downhill from there or perhaps uphill depending on your point of view. Harry is recruited into the Interstitial Crime Department (ICD) by Havelock Graves. Graves is a larger than life self-aggrandizing agent who nevertheless gets things done. Harry thinks he will achieve his dream of fighting crime. He had wanted to be a policeman. Instead he's on crime scene clean up again with Graves and Ash (a team member of Grave's) in Department Zero, the most lowly department of the ICD.

Graves wants his old job back in the top echelon of the ICD having been demoted because of something that Harry did before he was in the ICD. This sets up a rollicking adventure for Harry and Graves as they travel the multiverses to save the everyone and everything.

Crilley does a wonderful job describing each of the multiverses and layering in much of the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. The inner workings of the ICD, how its agents travel between multiverses, and the multiverses themselves are well drawn. It's quite easy to picture each of the distinct places to which Harry and Graves travel.

There is a lot of humor in Department Zero - laugh out loud humor. Harry is wonderfully self-deprecating, funny and snarky. He seems to get himself into sticky situations with regularity. After all, he is new to the whole multiverse thing. Graves may be a buffoon at times but he is a fabulous agent. Harry and Graves make a very odd but wonderful team even though Harry wants to punch Graves with some regularity.

Crilley uses the Cthulhu Mythos to great effect in Department Zero. If you are a reader of Lovecraft you will recognize many of the Old Ones, references to the Dreamlands, and more. Crilley's take on how to wake Cthulhu and its consequences is fun and interesting. As a longtime fan of of the Cthulhu Mythos I really enjoyed that Department Zero is grounded in Lovecraft's mythology. And if you aren't familiar with Lovecraft's work (and those that wrote more in the Mythos), Crilley does a great job of explaining everything so you will not miss out at all.

Department Zero is not just fun, shooting strange beings and trying to save the world, it's also a personal journey for Harry. Being faced with death and destruction at every turn makes Harry think. He realizes things about his life, his former marriage, and who he wants to be during the course of the novel. He's really a good guy. While Graves is jaded by all he's seen, Harry is enthralled by the odd, the weird and the fantastic.

Department Zero is an exuberant ride through the multiverse. It's a spirited fantasy adventure with strange beings and worlds, nail-biting thrills and great humor.





About Paul

Paul Crilley is the author of The Osiris Curse and The Lazarus Machine. Born in Scotland in 1975, he moved to South Africa when he was eight years old. He was rather disappointed to find out that he would not, in fact, have elephants and lions strolling through his backyard. He now lives in a small village on the east coast of South Africa with his family. He writes fantasy, Young Adult, and Middle Grade books and also works in South African television. He spent a year as part of the writing team for the computer game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and also writes comics when he can get a chance.

Amazon Author Page  ~  Facebook  ~  Goodreads  ~ Twitter @paulcrilley

2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Department Zero by Paul Crilley


2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Department Zero by Paul Crilley


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2017 Debut Author Challenge.



Paul Crilley

Department Zero
Pyr, January 24, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 301 pages
Contemporary Fantasy, Science Fiction, Steampunk
(Adult Debut)

2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Department Zero by Paul Crilley
Atticus Graves just wants to make sure his ex-wife doesn’t take away his visitation rights.

But when Graves stumbles through a portal, he finds himself in a world full of monsters and angels. There are thousands of these doors, thousands of different worlds. And now that he’s seen them, Graves is recruited to Department Zero. Graves and his crew clean up any and all supernatural crime scenes.

A secret society of Nazis from another reality, the Cult of Azathoth, have come to our world looking for the Spear of Destiny to bring back Azathoth and the Great Old Ones—among them Cthulhu Himself—from their prison in a timeless dimension.

Graves and Department Zero must travel between realities to a Britain where it’s always 1899, where Queen Victoria has ruled for 101 years. Here they will fight Nazi cultists with royal connections, demon-spawn mafia beneath the sewers of New York, and infiltrate the infamous Wewelsburg Castle in Germany.

All in time to say goodnight to his daughter.

Interview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse


Please welcome Barbara Barnett to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Apothecary's Curse is published on October 11th by Pyr. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Barbara a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse




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

Barbara:  Thank you! I started writing when I was about ten years old. My mom loved writing poems, so I sort took up the pen and started writing. Hers rhymed, mine never did.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Barbara:  I was absolutely a pantser until this novel. I would get an idea and just start writing, knowing more or less what I wanted to explore. With this novel, I outlined the entire book before I started writing. I plunked the outline for each chapter just below the chapter heading in the manuscript to guide me through each chapter. But as I wrote, the story (and characters) sort of took over, as they are wont to do. And the final book is quite different than where it began. But all through the writing process, I kept going back to that outline every time I got stuck, and whether or not I adhered to it, it always reminded me of where I was going, if not how I was going to get there!



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Barbara:  The discipline of doing it every day, no matter how blocked I am, no matter how tired I am. I’m not one of those writers who sets a 2,000 word goal for every day (although I did with Apothecary) unless I’m on deadline. So, yeah, discipline is the most challenging thing. After that, probably leaving favorite, but unnecessary, scenes on the cutting room floor (as it were). The old “Killing your darlings” adage. It’s painful, and I never completely delete them, preferring, instead to keep them for the future (and another book).



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Barbara:  My writing has always been fueled by a lifelong curiosity about the world. I look at the stars and wonder about them; I hear the call of a bird and I have to know what kind it is. I think (I hope) my characters reflect that in one way or another. In Apothecary, Gaelan Erceldoune, who is more than four centuries old is still in awe of the stars and planets. There’s a scene in which he picks up a rock on the beach. He doesn’t simply look at it; he wonders what’s inside. Is it a geode? What kind? That’s my own curiosity talking—I’d do exactly the same thing!



TQYou've worked as a microbiologist and have a degree in Biology/Chemistry. How did this influence (or not) The Apothecary's Curse?

Barbara:  My undergraduate education and work in Biology and Chemistry influenced me quite a bit in writing The Apothecary’s Curse. The scientific core of the story also relies on our modern understanding of genetics and medicine, but also on our human propensity to label as magic or miracle things we do not yet understand. Is it magic or is it science? That is the question. And it’s a question that comes up several times in the novel. Again, my grounding in the sciences helped me both read technical papers on the relevant medical and biological principles and translate them into a fantasy story.



TQDescribe The Apothecary's Curse in 140 characters or less.

Barbara:  Between magic and science, history and mythology lies The Apothecary’s Curse-a tale of free, unintended consequences, and, ultimately, love.



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

Barbara:  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) plays a small but significant role in the story. And his fingerprints are everywhere!



TQWhat inspired you to write The Apothecary's Curse? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy (Urban and Historical)?

Barbara:  I’ve always been drawn to the ballads and legends of the British Isles, especially the supernatural ballads of fairy queens and elfin knights. The ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, who was, according to the legend, kidnapped by the Queen of Elfland and returned seven years later with the gift of prophecy and more, has always intrigued me. So I asked the question: “What if Thomas returned with something more than the gift of prophecy? What if he returned to Scotland with a mysterious, ancient book of healing? And what if that book, generations later was accidentally misused?” The answer to that question is the central story of The Apothecary’s Curse.

I love writing historical fantasy because it allows me to take real history (accurately told) and ask interesting “what ifs.” My favorite fantasy stories are always grounded in reality and history, science and the possible (no matter how improbable).



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Apothecary's Curse?

Barbara:  So much research!! To make the science work, I read extensively about the 2009 Nobel prize-winning work in genetics. I researched both Celtic and Greek mythology and a bit of astronomy to create some of the backstory for Gaelan. I also researched the history British medicine, especially as it relates to the practice of “gentlemen” physicians and apothecaries in Victorian England—especially to understand how Gaelan would be a qualified medical practitioner and to underpin the tension between Simon Bell and Gaelan in the Victorian sections of the novel. I researched the settings as well: from the Borders region of Scotland to Smithfield Market of 19th Century London to my own backyard of Chicago’s north shore. I also read a lot of history of the era surrounding Gaelan’s early life in late 16th Century Scotland under James VI. Oh! And lots and lots about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle way beyond his writing of the Holmes canon! That scratches the surface. In other words, a lot of research went into creating The Apothecary’s Curse and its world.



TQIn The Apothecary's Curse who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Barbara:  I think the easiest character for me was Gaelan. But he was also the hardest. Easy because I understood him—not because I am an immortal (!), but because he shares my curiosity about the world and everything in it. Also easy, because I gravitate toward melancholy, brooding heroes, so I adored writing the enigmatic, sometimes-misunderstood Gaelan Erceldoune. He (and Simon) were also difficult technically. They both exist both in the Victorian part of the story and the present-day story. I had to be constantly vigilant in the modern story about keeping their diction (especially in dialogue) 21st Century while keeping them in character.

So, that’s a bit of a cheat for an answer, so I’ll say that Anne Shawe was the hardest of my main characters to write. I wanted to avoid having her be too much “me”—a slightly naïve, enthusiastic, eager scientist. I also needed to make sure the incredible, but right-in-front-of-her-eyes nature of her situation didn’t make her come off as either too gullible or skeptical beyond belief (like Scully often was in The X-Files in the later years).



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Apothecary's Curse?

Barbara:  The Apothecary’s Curse definitely touches on social issues, especially the question of what happens when our knowledge and technology outstrip our wisdom to use it. I think that theme filter through all the characters both in the modern and Victorian stories. Each of the characters in The Apothecary’s Curse encounters dilemma in different ways during the course of the story. I think that that all good fiction should say something. Maybe the something is subtle and indirect; maybe it’s overt.



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

Barbara:  Where did you come up with the names “Gaelan Erceldoune” and “Simon Bell” (the two protagonists)?

Both of their names were chosen with a lot of thought. Both of their names speak to their families’ histories and then some (especially Gaelan). I took the name Gaelan from the ancient Roman-Empire physician-philosopher Galen of Pergamon. He was one of antiquity’s most influential men of science, especially in anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Gaelan’s last name Erceldoune connects him with his ancestor Thomas the Rhymer, whose full name was Lord Thomas Learmont de Ercildoune. The place Ercildoune (or as I spell it Erceldoune) is now the town of Earlston in the Borders region of Scotland.



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

Barbara
“He ignored the derision in Bell’s tone, sweeping past him as he brushed his shirtsleeve across the cover; a swirl of dust erupted between them. Then with a rag pulled from his trouser pocket, Gaelan burnished the cover with meticulous, minute strokes, revealing the engraved image of an intricate tree. Emerging from deep within the leather, its bare branches entwined and diverged into snakes, each consuming its own tail—an ouroboros. The snakes merged, transforming once again into an elaborate border of interconnected and twisted helices. Gaelan beheld the marvelous engraving, considering the complexity of its design.

The hawthorn: sigil of balance between life and death. A reminder that all medicines were a paradox, curative or poisonous and, as Gaelan well knew, too often producing unexpected consequences. And then there were the ouroboroses—they were alchemy’s symbol for the circularity of life: life from life, life from death, from death to living in an eternal chain. For what was the true nature of medicine’s practice? To lift the dying, to forestall death’s knock at the door, and recommence life. But Gaelan knew, more than most, that the ouroboros also signified life eternal . . . immortality, alchemy’s eternal quest.”


TQWhat's next?

Barbara:  Right now, I’m working on a second novel that takes us more deeply into Gaelan’s history. I also continue to contribute to Blogcritics Magazine, where I serve as executive editor and publisher.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The Apothecary's Curse
Pyr, October 11, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 340 pages

Interview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse
In Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder—only to find he cannot die. Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.

When modern-day pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?



Qwill's Thoughts

The Apothecary's Curse starts in Victorian London and introduces us to the main protagonists - Dr. Simon Bell and Gaelen Erceldoune.

In the novel Dr. Simon Bell is a member of the famous Bell family of doctors and brother to Dr. James Bell. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based some of Sherlock Holmes on the real Dr. James Bell.) Simon Bell is a well known doctor in his own right in the novel. He is deeply in love with his wife, Sophie, and would do anything to save her from the cancer that is killing her.

Gaelen Erceldoune is a well-known apothecary. He has set up his business in a poor section of London and does his best to help the people of his neighborhood. He has an immense collection of books on the healing arts and science. Gaelen also is in possession of a manuscript that has been passed down in his family. It contains many cures not available to the 'modern' medicine of the Victorian era. The manuscript's history is absolutely fascinating and becomes even more so in the latter sections of the novel.

Simon's and Gaelen's lives become inextricably linked when Gaelen, who has withdrawn from aiding doctors due to certain events in his life, agrees to help Simon and give him a cure for his wife. Things go wrong with the cure, though who is to blame is never 100% clear to either man, and Sophie dies. Simon becomes despondent and in a desperate attempt to end his own life and reunite with his wife takes the rest of the cure. He doesn't die... he is granted immortality. Gaelen loses his manuscript due to events beyond his control. He is wrongly accused of crimes and life becomes a hell for him.

The novel details the lives of the two men in both the Victorian and modern era. Simon has been keeping on eye on Gaelen over the years partially out of friendship and partially out of a desire to help Gaelen find his missing manuscript. Simon wants to die and only the manuscript holds the key to reversing his immortality. Events conspire against Gaelen and his miraculous abilities to heal become known. Enter both Anne Shawe, a geneticist, and an unethical pharmaceutical company that wants Gaelen for his unique physiology. Things come quickly to a head after Gaelen is exposed. The game is afoot!

The Apothecary's Curse is beautifully researched and there is a real sense of history and wonder throughout. Bell and Erceldoune are an odd couple linked in immortality and the things they have lost throughout the years. Both men are well-developed and their lives in both the modern and Victorian eras detailed. Barnett has created a captivating combination of Historical and Urban Fantasy, of science and the supernatural, and of loss and love in The Apothecary's Curse.





About Barbara

Interview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse
Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics Magazineand the author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. Barbara has won several awards for her writing, spanning from technical writing achievement to her writing on spirituality and religion. Barbara has a degree from the University of Illinois in biology/chemistry and has worked as a microbiologist. She is the current president of the Midwest Writers Association.





Website  ~  Twitter @B_Barnett  ~  Facebook


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett


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



Barbara Barnett

The Apothecary's Curse
Pyr, October 11, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 340 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett
In Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder—only to find he cannot die. Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.

When modern-day pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?

Interview with Laurence MacNaughton and Review of It Happened One Doomsday


Please welcome Laurence MacNaughton to The Qwillery. It Happened One Doomsday is published on July 12 by Pyr. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Laurence a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Laurence MacNaughton and Review of It Happened One Doomsday




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

Laurence:  As a kid, I had an old black typewriter, and maybe that was the catalyst. To a little kid, it seemed like a serious piece of machinery. Heavy as a bank safe. Silver-rimmed keys. A little bell that dinged at the end of each line. That sound encouraged me to just keep typing and typing.

I sold my first magazine article at age 19, and I've never stopped writing.



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

Laurence:  I'm naturally a pantser, which doesn’t always work out. I have a bookshelf full of unfinished manuscripts. I finally got tired of not knowing how to finish a book, so I set out to deeply study how plot structure really works. Not in theory, but in practice.

I talked to dozens of bestselling authors. I studied writing books going back a century, written by the great pulp writers who churned out dozens or hundreds of stories a year.

Then I put together the lessons I learned into a talk that I often give to aspiring writers. It’s called Instant Plot: How to Plan Your Novel the Easy Way. The ebook is coming out this summer, and I'll be giving away some free copies on my website at www.LaurenceMacNaughton.com.

After that, the next novel I wrote sold in a multi-book deal. So it really works.



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

Laurence:  Honestly, the hardest thing is time management. Right now, I have a folder packed with more than a hundred ideas for novels or short stories. But we only have 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week, and I can only write so fast. So the hardest part is deciding what I'm NOT going to write. At least not today.



TQ:  What has influenced / influences your writing?

Laurence:  I'll read anything in any genre, as long as it has capable female characters, exciting action, and preferably some supernatural elements.

I don't want to name any names, but I've read so many otherwise fantastic books that kind of marginalize the female characters. You’ll see the girlfriend character, the mom character, the daughter character – they’re all defined by how they relate to the male hero. Every time I see a story like that, I want to re-imagine it with more of a female cast.

The thing is, I don't want to go too far in the opposite direction, either. I shy away from the leather-clad, katana-wielding uber-woman with a vampire boyfriend.

The answer is somewhere in the middle. We just need more books with interesting, quirky, witty, sympathetic, complex female leads.

It's not like it's a political thing. That's just the sort of stories I like to read, and by extension that's what I like to write.



TQ:  Describe It Happened One Doomsday in 140 characters or less.

Laurence:  A nerdy crystal shop owner must discover her magic to break the curse on a hunky muscle-car mechanic before it causes a fiery doomsday.



TQ:  Tell us something about It Happened One Doomsday that is not found in the book description.

Laurence:  The book description doesn't really get into Dru's crystal magic. I wanted to create a school of magic that no one had ever seen in urban fantasy before, so I based it on real-life metaphysical beliefs in the properties of crystals.

Some people believe, for example, that quartz crystals can cleanse your soul. Or that amethyst protects you from psychic attack. Or that halite (rock salt) can dissolve patterns of negative energy.

So I thought, what if I take this up to a super-powered level? What if a crystal isn't just something that looks pretty, but something that you could actively use as a defense in battle or a weapon against demons, undead, and other forces of darkness?

The more I looked into it, the more exciting the possibilities became. These days, I've amassed a collection of crystals in my office, so I can look at them as I write about Dru wielding her crystal magic.



TQ:  What inspired you to write It Happened One Doomsday? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

Laurence:  All of the main characters in It Happened One Doomsday started out as supporting characters in other short stories. But people kept telling me, “You know, I keep thinking about Dru,” or “Whatever happened to Rane?” They wanted to see more of these fun characters.

So I brought all of them all together in one place, and eventually the book grew up around them. In a way, the characters in this book form a “greatest hits” cast. At first, I thought it was a crazy idea, because all of these characters are so radically different and off-beat.

But when you put them all together in one story, somehow it works, and the result is really exciting.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for It Happened One Doomsday?

Laurence:  I combed the shelves of plenty of lapidaries (rock shops), which are all over the place in Colorado. I also attended quite a few gem and mineral shows, and visited metaphysical shops to talk to people who really believe in crystal healing. It was an eye-opening experience.

I also drew on my own experience working in an antiquarian bookstore, where we had boxes full of ancient books that were strangely worthless, because no one wanted to buy them. Some of them were centuries old, some of them in Latin, some even handwritten with a quill pen.

Plus, somewhat randomly, I used to be a professional test driver. I tested dozens of prototype and experimental vehicles, sometimes in hairy conditions, so I had some real-life experience to draw on when writing the car chase scenes.

All of that came together nicely in this book to create something new and unique.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Laurence:  The easiest character was Dru. She's kind of awkward, yet super-smart, and she has a heart of gold. Her voice just sort of popped up in my brain from day one, and it felt completely authentic and relatable. I just had to trust my gut instinct and go with it.

Believe it or not, the hardest character for me to write was Greyson, the heroine’s love interest. You would think that he would be the easiest character to write, since (like me) he's a guy and he loves cars.

But I had a tricky time figuring out whether he has a secret dark side, or if he’s a good guy all the way to the core. And that uncertainty came through in the novel, which ultimately made it more complex and interesting.



TQ:  Why did you set the novel in Denver, Colorado?

Laurence:  Several reasons. First, you don't see a lot of urban fantasy set in Denver and the Rocky Mountains. And that's a shame, because the rich history of the area provides so many story opportunities. Deep forests. Gold mines. Treacherous mountain roads. Extreme weather. Ghost towns.

Also in Colorado, you can find a certain quality of Old West resourcefulness, toughness and independence. Those are qualities I tried to bring to life in the character of Greyson.

And at the same time, Denver can have a hip, progressive vibe with opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs and business owners, and that's one side of Dru. The other side of her is all of the rocks and crystals that surround her, and the Rocky Mountains make the perfect place to showcase that.



TQ:  Which question about It Happened One Doomsday do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Laurence:  Why do you write such funny books?

Because there isn't enough laughter in the world.

I mean that. I've written plenty of spooky, goosebump-raising stories, but my favorite thing to write is a story that will make you laugh out loud. Something that will leave you feeling positive and energized. Something fun.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from It Happened One Doomsday.

Laurence:  Here's a quick excerpt from the book:
Rane stepped up behind the snarling Greyson and expertly pinned his arms behind his back. A wild look filled his glowing red eyes, and his teeth started to grow into fangs.

His skin turned dark red and swelled with muscle. Horns grew from his forehead. His lips curled back and let out an anguished growl.

Rane struggled with him. “Dru, whatever you’re thinking? Think faster!”

Dru realized she might be able to soak up the potion using his shirt, if she could get it off him. Despite her fear, she stepped close and put both hands on the collar of Greyson’s T-shirt.

She yanked. The collar stretched out amazingly far, but didn’t rip.

Rane peeked over Greyson’s thrashing shoulder. “The hell are you doing?”

“Jeez, it’s like spandex or something.” Dru tugged on his collar, first one way, then the other. “This made more sense in my head.” With a final yank, she reached the breaking point, and was rewarded with the welcome sound of tearing fabric. His shirt tore off, leaving him bare-chested and glistening.

Rane peeked over Greyson’s shoulder again, one eyebrow quirked up. “Seriously?”


TQ:  What's next?

Laurence:  I'm writing the second book right now, and I'm so excited about where these characters are heading that I honestly feel like I can't write it fast enough.

It builds on so many mysteries from It Happened One Doomsday. It answers the burning question that absolutely everyone will be asking at the end of the first book. But that's just the beginning.

At the same time, the second book opens up Dru’s universe (or the “Druniverse” as I like to call it) in crazy new ways. New magic, new creatures, new challenges, and new secrets that will quite literally rock the world.

It's going to be crazy fun.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Laurence:  Thanks for having me here! One last thing: I'll be giving away some autographed copies of It Happened One Doomsday on my website, so I'm inviting everyone to sign up at www.LaurenceMacNaughton.com. Thank you!







It Happened One Doomsday
Pyr, July 12, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 280 pages

Interview with Laurence MacNaughton and Review of It Happened One Doomsday
Magic is real. Only a handful of natural-born sorcerers can wield its arcane power against demons, foul creatures, and the forces of darkness. These protectors of the powerless are descendants of an elite order. The best magic-users in the world.

Unfortunately, Dru isn’t one of them.

Sure, she’s got a smidge of magical potential. She can use crystals to see enchantments or brew up an occasional potion. And she can research practically anything in the library of dusty leather-bound tomes she keeps stacked in the back of her little store.

There, sandwiched between a pawn shop and a 24-hour liquor mart, she sells enough crystals, incense, and magic charms to scrape by. But everything changes the day a handsome mechanic pulls up in a possessed black muscle car, his eyes glowing red.

Just being near Greyson raises Dru’s magical powers to dizzying heights. But he’s been cursed to become a demonic creature that could bring about the end of the world.

There’s only one chance to break Greyson’s curse and save the world from a fiery Doomsday – and it’s about to fall into Dru’s magically inexperienced hands…



Qwill's Thoughts

Dru Jasper owns a crystal shop, The Crystal Connection, and uses her tiny bit of magic to help people. The orbit of her life includes Opal (her employee who often goes above and beyond in supporting Dru), Rane (a sorceress who comes to Dru for supplies and help and is Dru's self-styled best friend), and Nate (her dentist boyfriend). Everything changes for Dru when Greyson walks in the door of her shop. He's been cursed and Dru is determined to help him.

Dru initially has no idea what is happening to Greyson. Over the course of the novel everything becomes clear and with the magical boost she gets from Greyson, Dru may have a chance to save the world. Her extensive knowledge of crystals and her arcane library help, but Dru is also intelligent and does her research. She's torn between a life on the fringes of magic and having a more conventional life without magic. During the course of the novel she starts to confront this and figure out what she really wants in the magic world and her personal life. She's complex, intelligent, and conflicted.

Greyson is confused and very worried about what is happening to him. He's a really good guy facing something unspeakable. He's a magic non-believer who learns that he is wrong the hard way.  Rane is tough with a take no prisoners attitude, which is fortunately tempered by Dru. Opal is a loyal friend and employee who does not hesitate to question Dru's plans or actions when necessary.

With the help of Rane and Opal, Dru delves into ending Greyson's curse. It's a crazy roller coaster ride of non-stop action, demons and their demonic cars, and portents tempered by humor. The story moves along at an almost frenetic pace. It's exciting and fun. The characters are well-developed and easy to care about. The world-building is terrific (you'll learn a lot about crystals) with a well thought out, engaging and entertaining plot. The novel is the first of a series and ends with some issues not fully resolved, but that just gives the reader more to look forward to.

It Happened One Doomsday is a delight! It's a fabulous blend of humor, Urban Fantasy and biblical prophecy with a touch of romance. The end of the world shouldn't be this much fun!





About Laurence

Interview with Laurence MacNaughton and Review of It Happened One Doomsday
Laurence MacNaughton is a fantasy writer and the author of The Spider Thief and Conspiracy of Angels. Visit him online at www.laurencemacnaughton.com.









Google+  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter



Cover Reveal - It Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton


The final cover has been revealed for It Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton!


It Happened One Doomsday
Pyr, July 12, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 280 pages

Cover Reveal - It Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton
Magic is real. Only a handful of natural-born sorcerers can wield its arcane power against demons, foul creatures, and the forces of darkness. These protectors of the powerless are descendants of an elite order. The best magic-users in the world.

Unfortunately, Dru isn’t one of them.

Sure, she’s got a smidge of magical potential. She can use crystals to see enchantments or brew up an occasional potion. And she can research practically anything in the library of dusty leather-bound tomes she keeps stacked in the back of her little store.

There, sandwiched between a pawn shop and a 24-hour liquor mart, she sells enough crystals, incense, and magic charms to scrape by. But everything changes the day a handsome mechanic pulls up in a possessed black muscle car, his eyes glowing red.

Just being near Greyson raises Dru’s magical powers to dizzying heights. But he’s been cursed to become a demonic creature that could bring about the end of the world.

There’s only one chance to break Greyson’s curse and save the world from a fiery Doomsday – and it’s about to fall into Dru’s magically inexperienced hands…

Review: Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak


Black City Saint
Author:  Richard A. Knaak
Publisher:  Pyr, March 1, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 390 pages
List Price:  $18.00 (print); $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781633881365 (print); 9781633881372 (eBook)

Review: Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak
For more than sixteen hundred years, Nick Medea has followed and guarded the Gate that keeps the mortal realm and that of Feirie separate, seeking in vain absolution for the fatal errors he made when he slew the dragon. All that while, he has tried and failed to keep the woman he loves from dying over and over.

Yet in the fifty years since the Night the Dragon Breathed over the city of Chicago, the Gate has not only remained fixed, but open to the trespasses of the Wyld, the darkest of the Feiriefolk. Not only does that mean an evil resurrected from Nick’s own past, but the reincarnation of his lost Cleolinda, a reincarnation destined once more to die.

Nick must turn inward to that which he distrusts the most: the Dragon, the beast he slew when he was still only Saint George. He must turn to the monster residing in him, now a part of him…but ever seeking escape.

The gang war brewing between Prohibition bootleggers may be the least of his concerns. If Nick cannot prevent an old evil from opening the way between realms…then not only might Chicago face a fate worse than the Great Fire, but so will the rest of the mortal realm.



Trinitytwo's Point of View

The legend of Saint George and the dragon is true. Nick Medea is living proof.

Over 1,600 years ago, devout Nick, then known as Georgius, slew the dragon but with disastrous results. Unbeknownst to Nick, the dragon had been charged with a solemn duty; to guard the Gate to the realm of Feirie and keep a balance between the two worlds. Through a twist of fate, Nick also died, but rose from the dead an altered man. In fact, Nick and the dragon's aura merged, forging an uneasy alliance, with the mind of the dragon continuously struggling for control while providing Nick with its powers.

The ever shifting Gate has settled in prohibition-era Chicago, some fifty years after the Great Fire, amidst the backdrop of rival gangs and corrupt police. Together Nick and the dragon, continue to guard the Gate by tracking down and destroying any unwanted intruders from among the dangerous denizens of Feirie. Although he keeps a vigilant watch, shadow folk have begun to creep back into the human realm. Nick, with the help of shadow-piercing dragon sight and a magical sword given to him by the Lady of Feirie, rids homeowners of their lethal houseguests.

Nick, in his role of paranormal detective, receives a call for his special brand of assistance from executive Claryce Simone. He is devastated to learn that Claryce is the reincarnation of the woman he has loved over and over again through the centuries, but has never been able to save. Through his interactions with Claryce, Nick realizes that he is facing an extremely powerful foe and he, along with his supernatural companions, must prevent a diabolical creature of Feirie from opening the Gate once and for all.

Richard A Knaak's urban fantasy has a gritty, noir feel that sets a great tone for his story. His use of the many colloquialisms of the era, such as duck soup, copacetic, and the cat's meow, gives the setting an authentic feel.

Also inspiring is the pairing of Nick and the dragon. I love that Nick happens to be Saint George and that he and the dragon he slew must somehow coexist in Nick's body. The story is told from Nick's POV with some interesting jumps when the dragon takes control. There are some instances that really shine as the two struggle with the circumstances of their past and their very real trust issues.
Problematic is the fact that the story is told from Nick's POV, but I didn't feel there was any real character development. Although Nick is interesting, I found him to be neither likable or relatable; the fact that he was still holding a grudge about a betrayal that took place 1,600 years previously seemed excessive.

Most of the other characters in the story were one dimensional, especially Claryce, the strong-willed damsel in distress. The monotony of her inevitable refusal to listen to Nick's warnings and his constant struggle to keep her safe annoyed me. More exasperating was that her behavior seemed only to endear her to Nick, making him believe she was somehow superior to her predecessors. I felt her only raison d'être was to keep the action rolling at a steady pace and to provide Nick with a level of danger that wouldn't have occurred if she wasn't along for the ride.

Although the plot is intriguing, I felt the execution left something to be desired. I had a problem with the fact that Nick and his allies were constantly chasing bad guys from one part of town to another. It dragged out the action and served no real purpose.

The idea of Saint George working with the dragon to fight nefarious beings from the world of Feirie is a wonderful and original idea. The final showdown was exciting and Knaak's plot points did come together in a satisfying conclusion. Parts of Black City Saint were terrific but in the end, the lack of character development left me underwhelmed. Overall, Black City Saint will appeal to fans of paranormal noir who like their adventures action driven.

Interview with Rajan Khanna


Please welcome Rajan Khanna to The Qwillery. Rising Tide was published on October 6 by Pyr.


Interview with Rajan Khanna




TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Rising Tide (Falling Sky 2), was published on October 6th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Falling Sky (2014) to Rising Tide?

Rajan:  It definitely changed for this book. I wrote Falling Sky without much of a road map, essentially figuring out everything as I went. With Rising Tide, I knew the world and the characters so that was a big help. That gave me the freedom to focus on the plot and so for the first time, I outlined the novel first so that I would have an idea of what I was writing toward. That outline changed a bit as I wrote it, of course, but the process proved invaluable.



TQIn our previous interview I asked what is the most challenging thing about writing for you? You stated in part "Aside from never seeming to have enough time, I'd say it's sometimes seeing the ending to a work." Has this changed?

Rajan:  Somewhat. As I mentioned, because I outlined this novel, I knew what I was headed for. I knew what the climax of the book was going to be (mostly), so that proved to be a big help. But even with that outline, writing the ending still was a challenge. I think endings are important. I wanted it to be something that was big and climactic and still paid off what had come before. That being said, I'm sure the ending to this one will be divisive.



TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Falling Sky came out that you know now?

Rajan:  Everything, really. I was so new to the process, every step of it, that a lot of my time was spent in a state of generalized anxiety. I suppose in a small way it's like having a kid. For the first one, you don't know anything and you're looking at books and websites and asking your friends and really just scared about everything. But for a second one, you've been through it before and come out the other side. So you're not only better equipped, but you have less of that anxiety. Hopefully.



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

Rajan:  While all of the books in the series are associated with the element of Air, each of the three planned books has a secondary element association. Rising Tide's is water. This shows up in the form of a ship, an island, a naval base, and a particularly nasty scene with Ben, the main character. For those interested, the secondary element of Falling Sky was Earth and the third book will have a theme of Fire.



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

Rajan:  That's a great (and difficult) question. I think that at some point each of the characters has surprised me. Which is one of the things I love about writing, that feeling that these characters that you create can sometimes seem to have a life of their own. In this novel, though, I think Miranda surprised me the most. There's one moment in this novel that really hit that home. I won't spoil it but I'm hoping that the moment will surprise readers as well.



TQWhat appeals to you about writing novels in a post-apocalyptic setting?

Rajan:  There's a lot I like about writing in this kind of setting. There's this mix of the old and the new -- you can create your own original elements but also pick pieces of our current society (and previous ones) that excite or make the most sense. It's also (and I've said this before) nice to be able to write about people trying to fix things, trying to pull something alive and meaningful out of the bones of the world. Miranda is trying to cure the virus that created the apocalypse. Others are trying to rebuild civilization. Even the cynical Ben has come around to the importance of these efforts.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Rising Tide.

Rajan:  I've been extremely fortunate with the covers to the first two books. Early on in the process for Rising Tide my then editor, Lou Anders, suggested Chris McGrath and the cover he turned in is amazing. For Rising Tide, my current editor, Rene Sears, wanted to keep things the same but this time suggested having Miranda on the cover. She was very interested in making sure the portrayal was accurate and so we talked about Miranda's look and I searched for some photoreference. She was always meant to be of mixed heritage and I think Chris came up with something that works really well. It's Miranda in the post-apocalypse, essentially. And it's especially appropriate since she takes on a bigger role in this book.



TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Rising Tide.

Rajan

“Don’t get too comfortable in your new world just yet,” I say. “You’re not the first to think you’ve emerged from the Sick. Not the first to think you’ve evolved. I’m all for civilization, but it’s not made of bricks, it’s made of paper.”

“I like paper.”

“So does fire.”



TQWhat's next?

Rajan:  I've begun working on some other projects, but there will be one more volume in the series (at least for the time being). A trilogy is hardly original, but I envisioned having three novels to tell the stories of Ben and his friends and companions and finish that overall arc. So I will being working on that soon. Otherwise I have my usual slate of projects -- a YA book, a weird western, and a screenplay that I'm working on with my screenplay partner Devin Poore.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Rajan:  Thank you for having me back.





Rising Tide
Falling Sky 2
Pyr, October 6, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 260 pages
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath

Interview with Rajan Khanna
Ben Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.

Ben has his own airship, a family heirloom, and has signed up to help a group of scientists looking for a cure. But that's not as easy as it sounds, especially with a power-hungry air city looking to raid any nearby settlements. To make matters worse, his airship, the only home he's ever known, is stolen. Ben must try to survive on the ground while trying to get his ship back.

This brings him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. When events turn deadly, Ben must decide what really matters-whether to risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future or to truly remain on his own.




Previously

Falling Sky
Pyr, October 7, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 260 pages
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath

Interview with Rajan Khanna
Ben Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.

Ben has his own airship, a family heirloom, and has signed up to help a group of scientists looking for a cure. But that's not as easy as it sounds, especially with a power-hungry air city looking to raid any nearby settlements. To make matters worse, his airship, the only home he's ever known, is stolen. Ben must try to survive on the ground while trying to get his ship back.

This brings him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. When events turn deadly, Ben must decide what really matters-whether to risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future or to truly remain on his own.





About Rajan

Interview with Rajan Khanna
Photo by Ellen B. Wright
Rajan Khanna is a graduate of the 2008 Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of a New York-based writing group called Altered Fluid. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer magazine, GUD, and several anthologies, and has received Honorable Mention in the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror and the Year's Best Science Fiction. He writes for Tor.com and LitReactor.com and his podcast narrations have appeared on sites such as Wired.com, Lightspeed magazine, Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Rajan also writes about wine, beer, and spirits at FermentedAdventures.com. He currently lives in New York.



Website  ~  Twitter @rajanyk



Interview with K. D. Edwards, author of The Last SunInterview with Tracy Townsend, author of The NineInterview with Paul Crilley and Review of Department Zero2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Department Zero by Paul CrilleyInterview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara BarnettInterview with Laurence MacNaughton and Review of It Happened One DoomsdayCover Reveal - It Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughtonReview: Black City Saint by Richard A. KnaakInterview with Rajan Khanna

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