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Born to the Blade: An Interview with Michael R. Underwood and Marie Brennan


Please welcome Michael R. Underwood and Marie Brennan to The Qwillery to answer some questions about Born to the Blade, a Serial Box series. The first episode, Arrivals, was published on April 18, 2018. The series is written by Marie Brennan, Cassandra Khaw, Malka Older, and Michael R. Underwood.



Born to the Blade: An Interview with Michael R. Underwood and Marie Brennan




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. How did the Born to the Blade serial come about?

Michael R. Underwood (MRU):  Born to the Blade started as a magic system I imagined over ten years ago. I wanted to have magic that felt embodied, that was the opposite of the D&D stereotype of the frail wizards that can’t lift a sword. In this world, magical talent isn’t heritable, but it is common enough that each nation has their own way of considering and utilizing people with the gift. Bladecraft, the magic of this world, uses edged metal for carving sigils to create magical effects. I first explored the world in a very pulpy sky pirate adventure (a trunk novel, never to be seen) that set up some of the political tensions we explored in Born to the Blade (Quloo’s aerstone shortage, Mertikan imperialism, Tsukisen’s isolationism).

When I found out about Serial Box, I got in touch and talked with co-founders Julian Yap and Molly Barton about what they were looking for, and developed several pitches. Born to the Blade, re-working a concept I had for an unfinished novel in the setting, was the one that most excited them, so we developed the world together toward the series order. And here we are, with the fabulous team of Malka Older, Cassandra Khaw, and myself weaving the tale for readers to enjoy.



TQWhat's Born to the Blade about? How many episodes will it be?

MRU:  Born to the Blade is an epic fantasy series of diplomacy, swordplay, and magic, focusing on duelist-diplomats from a variety of nations that work together in an analogue to the UN security council based in the neutral city of Twaa-Fei. It’s a story about people caught between personal loyalties and national loyalties, between friendship and duplicity, between ambition and compassion. Another way that I’ve been pitching it is like Avatar the Last Airbender meets The West Wing, with magic swordfights.

The first season is eleven episodes, and if we get renewed, I’d love to take the series forward with a total of three to five seasons. I have plans for a three-season version and a five-season version, so we’ll see where the winds of fate take us.



TQWhy is this story suited to the serial format?

MRU:  Born to the Blade was specifically built for the Serial Box format, drawing on drama series like Babylon 5 and Game of Thrones that unfold story bit by bit, balancing a cohesive story for each episode with the ongoing serial drama of character arcs and widescreen storytelling about war, diplomacy, and so on.



TQPlease tell us in general how the collaborative process works with each of you writing different episodes? Do each of you try to write in the same style for each episode?

MRU:  We kicked off the development process for season one with a weekend-long writers’ summit, where all four of us on the writers’ team talked about what we wanted the series to be, ideas about the world and characters, and once we had the world, characters, and their relationships more firmly established, we broke the story for season one, with character arcs, twists, mysteries, and so on. We broke the story within the episode structure, so that we already had a pretty clear sense of what major story beats went where in the season.

The actual collaboration process was not unlike a TV show, where each episode was assigned to one member of the writing team. For each episode, we developed a more detailed outline which the team discussed, then wrote the episode and shared with the team, arranged in phases (roughly act one, two, and three of the season). We all gave feedback on each episode, so while any given episode is entirely written by just one team member, every episode represents all of our ideas and creativity. We didn’t push ourselves to all write in identical prose styles, but as the team lead, I did take the lead in setting the tone and approach for the series in writing the pilot episode before any of the other episodes were written, helping us find the voice and approach for the series and characters (though as I said above, all of this represents everyone’s approach rather than just my own).



TQWhat do you like about writing a serial? Is writing episodes in a serial easier or harder than writing a novella?

MRU:  It’s been a great challenge to pack in as much story as possible to 10K word episodes (about 40 pages or an hour of audio). I’m definitely more used to novella and novel-length writing, so I have had to continually push myself to focus, to make every scene do double or triple duty, and to pack as much worldbuilding into other parts of the story as possible in order to keep the wordcount on target.
Working on Born to the Blade has definitely helped me become a stronger writer, and I have also set myself other challenges, like writing fight scenes that are exciting and easy to follow while also being emotionally resonant.



TQWhat is the easiest and hardest thing about writing a serial?

Marie Brennan (MB): It might seem counter-intuitive, but I feel like one of the easiest things was making sure every episode had something cool happening in it. An episode isn't the same thing as a chapter; if you think about a TV show and compare it to a novel, you'll generally see a different structure for how they're broken up. (Depending on the writer. Some novelists structure their books like TV shows.) Both approaches work, but once I got my brain into TV-style gear, it was pretty easy to think of each episode as having some kind of set-piece or ending punch, rather than building toward the ultimate end goal in a more gradual fashion.

The hardest thing was making we kept all the balls in the air. Most novels focus on only one or two protagonists, or if they have more, each one tends to get their own chapter. But because Serial Box's projects are structured more like TV series, we had to make sure the central characters were doing something significant in every episode, and the secondary characters weren't neglected for too long. It creates challenges for pacing both within an episode and across the whole season.



TQDo you have a favorite secondary character?

MB: Several! Our development process meant we spent a chunk of time considering each major secondary character directly, rather than focusing only on the main protagonists and positioning everyone else in relation to them. My answer changes from day to day; I wrote a piece for Mary Robinette Kowal's "My Favorite Bit" feature about Bellona Avitus, the junior warder for Mertika. But while she's one of my favorite bits of the story, I don't actually like her -- she's really not a good person.

So I'll choose Ueda no Takeshi, the Ikaran warder. I can't go into detail as to why without giving spoilers, but he's a "still waters run deep" kind of guy. And I like that he's a nerd: he studies the magical elements of his world, like the birthrights people acquire from being born on a particular island, and gets his strength from knowlege as much as his ability to hit people with a sword. (He's actually not all that great at hitting people with a sword.)



TQHave any of the characters in Born to the Blade been surprising?

MRU:  A lot, especially because I’ve had the fortune of witnessing how Malka, Marie, and Cassandra write the characters and take them in ways I didn’t expect. I think Bellona came to surprise all of us, as we dug in on what made her tick, how she tried to deal with Lavinia (her superior)’s domineering and demanding approach, as well as the ways that we showcased Bellona’s calculating but obvious social maneuvering through the baby shower and other efforts to make a grand gesture or big display.



TQWhat kinds of research have you done for Born to the Blade?

MRU:  A lot of the research that shows up in Born to the Blade was more a result of me and the other team members applying what we already knew, from martial arts (unarmed and swordplay) to the material and intangible culture of a variety of civilizations and peoples from around the world that we drew from to create the numerous nations of the sky. Marie did a bunch of extra work in developing a resource document for hairstyles and clothing notes for the different nations, condensing and clarifying the brainstorming that all four of us had done along the way.



TQAre social issues touched upon in Born to the Blade?

MRU:  The issues we touch on most directly are imperialism and colonialism, with Michiko as a subject of the Mertikan empire. But with Quloo we have a story that resonates with peak oil and/or climate change. Because it is a political and diplomatic series, social issues are never far from the surface, and I am especially happy with the ways that the team was always very conscious of the different levels that character actions and big moves in the story operated on, always boiling down to power – who has it, who uses it, for what purpose, and with what unintended effects.



TQAny hints to what is upcoming for Oda no Michiko and Kris Denn?

MRU:  Michiko, Kris, and Ojo are all in very different places at the end of the season than they were at the series’ start, with new perspectives, drastically different relationships, and new objectives emerging from the action and intrigue of the season. Born to the Blade is the most character-driven story I’ve worked on as a writer, which makes it very exciting, as I came out of the season with a clear sense of what each character wants based on the season’s events, and what they’re willing to do now to achieve those goals.

Just talking about it makes me want to dive back in and start writing season two. But that will have to wait to see how readers react and whether the series has earned enough support to get picked up (again, think TV series). So if you have already been reading and want to see more, make sure to spread the word and encourage friends to subscribe and read, too!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!





Born to the Blade is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Google Play, iBooks, Kobo and Serial Box.

The Episodes:

 1.  Arrivals by Michael R. Underwood
 2.  Fault Lines by Marie Brennan
 3.  Baby Shower by Cassandra Khaw
 4.  The Gauntlet by Michael R. Underwood
 5.  Trade Deal by Malka Older
 6.  Spiraling by Marie Brennan
 7.  Dreadnought by Cassandra Khaw
 8.  Refugees by Malka Older
 9.  Assassination by Malka Older
10. Shattered Blades by Marie Brennan
11. All the Nations of the Skies by Michael R. Underwood

Look for Born to the Blade: The Complete Season One on July 27th:

Born to the Blade: An Interview with Michael R. Underwood and Marie Brennan
For centuries the Warders' Circle on the neutral islands of Twaa-Fei has given the countries of the sky a way to avoid war, settling their disputes through formal, magical duels. But the Circle's ability to maintain peace is fading: the Mertikan Empire is preparing for conquest and the trade nation of Quloo is sinking, stripped of the aerstone that keeps both ships and island a-sky. When upstart Kris Denn tries to win their island a seat in the Warder’s Circle and colonial subject Oda no Michiko discovers that her conquered nation's past is not what she's been told, they upset the balance of power. The storm they bring will bind all the peoples of the sky together…or tear them apart.





The Authors

Marie BrennanWebsiteTwitter
Cassandra KhawFacebookTwitter
Malka OlderWebsiteTwitter
Michael R. UnderwoodWebsiteTwitter

Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!


Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus editions are available today from Serial Box!

In addition Serial Box is running a sale on these series' Season 1 - ReMade, Bookburners, and Tremontaine on sale (50% off) from Thursday, March 29, 2018 – Thursday, April 5, 2018!


Bookburners
The Complete Season 3
Serial Box, March 29, 2018
eBook, 477 pages

Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!
Magic is real, and hungry--trapped in ancient texts and artifacts. Only a few who discover it survive to fight back.

Join Detective Sal Brooks, newest recruit to a black-ops magic hunting team backed by the Vatican, as she travels the world to keep the supernatural in check. Just remember: watch your back and don't touch anything.

Fans of Supernatural, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Da Vinci Code will love this epic urban fantasy. Bookburners Season 3 is written by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Francis Slattery, Andrea Phillips, Mur Lafferty, and Amal El-Mohtar and presented by Serial Box Publishing.



Tremontaine
The Complete Season 3
Serial Box, March 29, 2018
eBook, 495 pages

Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!
Welcome to Tremontaine, where ambition, love affairs, and rivalries dance with deadly results. In this novel Ellen Kushner and a team of writers return readers to the world of scandal and swordplay introduced in her cult-classic novel Swordspoint. Readers familiar with the series will find a welcome homecoming while new fans will learn what makes Riverside a place they will want to visit again and again. Tremontaine follows Diane, Duchess Tremontaine, whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; Rafe Fenton, a handsome young scholar with more passion than sense; Ixkaab Balam, a tradeswoman from afar with skill for swords and secrets; and Micah, a gentle genius whose discoveries herald revolution. Sparks fly as these four lives intersect in a world where politics is everything, and outcasts are the tastemakers. Tread carefully, dear reader, and keep your wit as sharp as your steel.

Originally presented in serial form by Serial Box Publishing, Tremontaine is brought to you by Ellen Kushner, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, Paul Witcover, Tessa Gratton, and Karen Lord.



ReMade
The Complete Season 2
SerialBox, March 29, 2018
eBook, 452 pages

Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!
In one moment the lives of twenty-three teenagers are forever changed, and it's not just because they all happen to die. "ReMade" in a world they barely recognize--one with robots, space elevators, and unchecked jungle--they must work together to survive. They came from different places, backgrounds, and families, and now they might be the last people on earth. Lost meets The Maze Runner in this exciting adventure from Serial Box Publishing.

The remade teens forge forward in their future world—a smaller group, wiser but tougher. Just as they begin to think they understand their new circumstances, though, a reminder of past trauma makes them question everything they know, and sets them on a new course.

Team-written by some of today’s most exciting authors, ReMade is brought to you by Matthew Cody (Super), Andrea Phillips (Revision), Gwenda Bond (Girl on a Wire), Amy Rose Capetta (Entangled), and E. C. Myers (The Silence of Six).





On Sale

Bookburners
The Complete Season 1
Serial Box, January 24, 2017
eBook, 800 pages

Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!
Magic is real, and hungry. It’s trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, and only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor. She joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad—Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum—and together they stand between humanity and the magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.

Supernatural meets The Da Vinci Code in a fast-paced, kickass character driven novel chock-full of magic, mystery, and mayhem, written collaboratively by a team of some of the best writers working in fantasy.

Originally presented serially in 16 episodes, this omnibus collects all installments of Bookburners Season One into one edition.



Tremontaine
The Complete Season 1
Serial Box, May 2, 2017
eBook, 688 pages

Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!
Welcome to Tremontaine, the prequel to Ellen Kushner’s beloved Riverside series that began with Swordspoint! A Duchess whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; her husband’s dangerous affair with a handsome scholar; a foreigner in a playground of swordplay and secrets; and a mathematical genius on the brink of revolution—when long-buried lies threaten to come to light, betrayal and treachery know no bounds with stakes this high. Mind your manners and enjoy the chocolate in a dance of sparkling wit and political intrigue.

Originally presented serially in 13 episodes by Serial Box, this omnibus collects all installments of Tremontaine Season One into one edition.



ReMade
The Complete Season 1
SerialBox, April 25, 2017
eBook, 783 pages

Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!
In one moment the lives of twenty-three teenagers are forever changed, and it's not just because they all happen to die. "ReMade" in a world they barely recognize--one with robots, space elevators, and unchecked jungle--they must work together to survive. They came from different places, backgrounds, and families, and now they might be the last people on earth. Lostmeets The Maze Runner in this exciting adventure from Serial Box Publishing.

Team-written by some of today’s most exciting authors, ReMadeis brought to you by Matthew Cody (Super), Andrea Phillips (Revision), New York Times Bestseller Kiersten White (And I Darken), Gwenda Bond (Girl on a Wire), Carrie Harris (Bad Taste in Boys), and E. C. Myers (The Silence of Six).





And don't miss

Bookburners
The Complete Season 2
Serial Box, May 9, 2017
eBook, 734 pages

Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!
Magic is real, and hungry--trapped in ancient texts and artifacts. Only a few who discover it survive to fight back.

Join Detective Sal Brooks, newest recruit to a black-ops magic hunting team backed by the Vatican, as she travels the world to keep the supernatural in check. Just remember: watch your back and don't touch anything.

Fans of Supernatural, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Da Vinci Code will love this epic urban fantasy. Bookburners Season 2 is written by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Francis Slattery, Andrea Phillips, Mur Lafferty, and Amal El-Mohtar and presented by Serial Box Publishing.



Tremontaine
The Complete Season 2
Serial Box, May 2, 2017
eBook, 693 pages

Bookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!
Welcome to Tremontaine, where ambition, love affairs, and rivalries dance with deadly results. In this novel Ellen Kushner and a team of writers return readers to the world of scandal and swordplay introduced in her cult-classic novel Swordspoint. Readers familiar with the series will find a welcome homecoming while new fans will learn what makes Riverside a place they will want to visit again and again. Tremontaine follows Diane, Duchess Tremontaine, whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; Rafe Fenton, a handsome young scholar with more passion than sense; Ixkaab Balam, a tradeswoman from afar with skill for swords and secrets; and Micah, a gentle genius whose discoveries herald revolution. Sparks fly as these four lives intersect in a world where politics is everything, and outcasts are the tastemakers. Tread carefully, dear reader, and keep your wit as sharp as your steel.

Originally presented in serial form by Serial Box Publishing, Tremontaine is brought to you by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, Paul Witcover, Tessa Gratton, and Mary Anne Mohanraj.

Guest Blog by Cassandra Rose Clarke!


Please welcome Cassandra Rose Clarke to The Qwillery.




A few years ago I reread Stephen King’s The Stand. There is a character in that book who’s supposed to be from a small town a couple hundred miles outside of Houston. As I grew up in that area, I know it well. So imagine my surprise when the character’s hometown was routinely described as a desert, and the character is astonished at the bright green grass growing in the midwest.

Reader, east Texas is in a forest.

As much as I enjoy Stephen King’s writing, that one erroneous detail pulled me out of the story every time I saw it. I didn’t understand how King could get it so wrong. Houston is three hours from the Louisiana border! Would anyone claim that Louisiana is a desert? And yet the myth of Texas-as-desert—which stems from the landscape in West Texas, a ten-hour drive from Houston—overwhelmed the reality.

I’ve kept this incident in the back of my mind as I’ve worked through seasons one and two of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold. You see, Cold Witch takes place in Prague, Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, in 1970. I have never been to Prague, and I was born in 1983. Which means I had a potential Houston-is-a-desert situation on my hands.

Prague as a setting for our story makes a lot of sense. Historically, it was a sort of halfway point between the Soviet Union and the West, a place where spies and dignitaries from both sides of the Iron Curtain could mix, mingle, and generally get all up in each other’s business (sneakily, of course). Cold Witch is centered very much around the intersection of that division, with our Western hero and our Soviet heroine having to work as allies in the similarly-divided magical rift between Ice and Flame. So just as Prague was an important way station during the Cold War, we made it an equally important convergent point for our world of magic and sorcery.

Sadly, none of this solves the problem of me having never been to Prague. Personally, I would love to go to Prague. I adore traveling and I’ve always wanted to see Eastern Europe—but such as a trip is prohibitively expensive for me. I was unwilling to just make stuff up and hope for the best, and I certainly didn’t want to make any mistakes on the same level King’s insistence that Houston is in the desert. So what did I do?

First off, Cold Witch is a collaborative project, so while I’d never been to Prague, two of the other writers had. Besides that, our head writer, Lindsay Smith, studied Russia extensively in college—both the language, the history, and the culture. So I was able to pull from their knowledge as I worked through my episodes. Another thing that I found surprisingly useful was the simple fact of growing up where I did; the small towns dotting the central Texas landscape were settled in large part by Czech immigrants. Czech heritage festivals are a common occurrence around these parts, and kolaces of varying quality will show up in any locally-owned donut shop. Obviously, enjoying the fragments of Czech culture that have seeped into Texas culture are not remotely the same thing as actually visiting Prague, but they did serve as a thin connection to the world I was writing about.

But perhaps the most useful tool was a technological one: Google Street View. I honestly am not sure how writers managed without it (certainly, if Stephen King had been able to get his hands on Google Street View when he was writing The Stand, we wouldn’t have wound up with that Houston-has-no-trees situation). Google Maps in generally is pretty helpful, because it allows me to get a sense of the layout of the city and to pick out street names and important buildings. But Street View takes that a step further, since it means I can actually look at the city and navigate around it. Again, it’s not the same as visiting, but with just a few clicks of my mouse I’m able to get a visual feel of a place over five thousand miles away.

So that’s how I’ve managed to cobble together a sense of Prague for Cold Witch. I hope one day to travel there in person, walk across Charles Bridge, and find out if I did anything as embarrassing as turning a forest into a desert.




The Witch Who Came in From The Cold is the fantasy-espionage thriller from Serial Box. This serial is collaboratively written and available in text and audio via SerialBox.com, their iOS app, and all major eBook retailers. Lead by foreign-affairs expert Lindsay Smith (Sekret) and Urban Fantasy-pioneer Max Gladstone (Three Parts Dead), this season’s author team is rounded out by Cassandra Rose Clark (Our Lady of the Ice), Ian Tregillis (The Milkweed Triptych), and Nebula-nominated Fran Wilde (Updraft).
Welcome to Prague, 1970: the epicenter in a struggle of spies and sorcerers. The Witch Who Came In From The Cold follows agents on opposing sides of two struggles: the Cold War, and an ancient conflict between two occult secret societies: the Consortium of Ice and the Acolytes of Flame. A CIA and KGB agent will find their loyalties to country tested when they realize they must work together to prevent the destruction of the world at the hands of the Flame.
            Gabe Pritchard, grizzled CIA agent and proud American never believed in sorcery - until he walked into the wrong room in Cairo and ended up with a powerful magical Elemental living inside his head. Tanya Morozova, latest in a long line of Ice Witches, knew loyalty to the Consortium before she ever took up the KGB badge. Now they’re both stationed to Prague, a city built on powerful ley lines and thrumming with both political and magical tension.
            In Season One, a CIA extraction of a Soviet scientist ended in chaos when one of the American operatives betrayed the U.S. in order to deliver the magically-powerful scientist to the Flame. Tanya and Gabe worked together to foil the plot - but trust is hard to come by amongst spies and suspicion lingers throughout their agencies, both magical and national.
            In Season Two, Tanya and Gabe must deal with the fallout of their actions from Season One as each plays their own dangerous game to try to learn the secrets of the Flame without getting burned. Meanwhile a powerful sorcerer arrives in Prague to lead a ritual that could turn the tides of war...
This serial first premiered in 2016 and launches its second season on today, February 8! You can dive right into Season 1 Episode 1 for free right now - but anyone new to the snow and shadows will find more than enough context to enjoy the adventure from Season 2 on.




Intrigued? Hop over to SerialBox.com to learn more, start reading Season 1, or pre-order your pass to Season 2. From now through April, a new episode of this tale of spies and spells will drop every Wednesday.

Follow Serial Box on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to keep up to date on today's hottest serial fiction.

Interview with Lindsay Smith - The Witch Who Came in From the Cold


The Witch Who Came in from The Cold is launching on January 27th from Serial Box Publishing and is written by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick!


Interview with Lindsay Smith - The Witch Who Came in From the Cold



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

Lindsay:  I can’t think of a time I didn’t write! I think my first efforts were rubber stamp set-illustrated retellings of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I didn’t get serious about my writing until I entered the working world, however, and decided it was time to either make a go of it or forever consign writing to “hobby” status. Fortunately, it worked out!



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lindsay:  I’m a reformed (well, reforming) pantser who is now a plotter. I credit this serial project with helping convert me, actually. I love letting a story meander and grow itself organically, but it makes revising hell for me. I’d much rather get it right the first(ish) time, so outlining it is. Outlining also as the benefit of allowing me to draft much faster than I ever did before. It’s like it relieves my brain of the mental load of trying to remember where I’m going next, so I’m free to work quickly and more creatively on a sentence level.



TQYou are part of a quintet of authors writing the serial novel The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, which you developed with Max Gladstone. What is it like working collaboratively on the serial?

Lindsay:  It’s been a fantastic experience! There have been wonderful moments in the brainstorming process where we’ve all independently come to the same conclusion about a plot point without ever really communicating it, but also instances where one member of the team came up with something fantastic that none of the rest of us could have ever dreamed up.



TQTell us about The Witch Who Came in From the Cold?

LindsayWitch has a little bit of everything—espionage, betrayal, magic, politics, romance, and some really fantastic villains who are near and dear to my heart. It’s set in 1970 in newly-Sovietized Czechoslovakia, and Prague has become something of a no-man’s land for the Cold War struggle between East and West. We have CIA and KGB operatives running agents in the city, serving various political schemes.

That’s the surface layer. But beneath the spy games and shifting loyalties is a whole other matrix of magic users, some of which belong to the staid, orderly Consortium of Ice, and others who are Acolytes of Flame, who want to watch the world burn and for a new order to rise from its ashes. So you could have members of the Ice who are on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain trying to work together to stop the Flame.



TQWhat sort of research have you done for the serial?

Lindsay:  I read a lot about the Prague Spring, in which Czech students fought against Soviet occupation, and the subsequent quelling of those revolts. I gazed longingly at lots and lots of vintage photographs of Prague. I’ve already done extensive research on 1960s Russia for my previous books, Sekret and Skandal, but I reread a few favorites from the era, both fiction and non-fiction, to get back into the Russian voice.



TQGive us one or two favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Witch Who Came in From the Cold.

Lindsay:  “Sometimes, fear was a necessity. Fear got people to comply.”



TQWhat's next?

Lindsay:  Well, we have another season of Witch to get working on pretty soon! Outside of Serial Box, I have a short story in the forthcoming US history-based anthology A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers, and Other Bad-ass Girls, which goes on sale in March. My next novel from Macmillan Children’s, A Darkly Beating Heart, will be out in October, and it’s a YA angry bisexual Japanese timeslip revenge story.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Lindsay:  Thanks so much for having me!





The Witch Who Came in from the Cold
From the creators of some of today’s most ingenuitive fiction comes this online serial in 13 weekly episodes. Lead Writer Lindsay Smith (Sekret and Skandal) brings her experience writing on foreign affairs in DC to bear at the head of the writers’ room comprised of Ian Tregillis (the Milkweed Triptych), Cassandra Rose Clarke (Our Lady of the Ice), Max Gladstone (Bookburners and the Craft Sequence), and Michael Swanwick (Stations of the Tide).

While the world watches the bitter rivalry between East and West fester along the Iron Curtain, the Consortium of Ice and the Acolytes of Flame continue waging their ancient war of magic. Kept to the shadows, this secret contest crosses the lines of politics and the borders of nations with impunity – the intrigues of spies may know clear sides but the battles of witches spill out over all. Tanya Morozova is a KGB officer and the latest in a long line of Ice witches and sorcerers; Gabe Pritchard is a CIA officer and reluctant Ice recruit. Enemies at one turn, suspicious allies at the next, their relationship is as explosive as the Cold War itself.

Interview with Lindsay Smith - The Witch Who Came in From the Cold
Episode 1: “A Long Cold Winter”
When a young Czech student is stalked by an inhuman hunter, KGB agent and Ice operative Tanya Morozova must risk all to protect her, while CIA agent Gabe Pritchard learns that some horrors, once seen, can never be forgotten.


Note:  Check out the Cyrillic along the left side of the cover. It's a clue and there will be more clues on the upcoming covers - all by Mark Weaver.





Upcoming Episodes

Episode 2: “A Voice on the Radio”
Tanya and Nadia continue their pursuit of a young Host – drawing the attention of Flame and CIA agents. Gabe tries unsuccessfully to ignore the stirrings of magic around him.


Episode 3: “Double Blind”
A high-stakes cat-and-mouse game unfolds across the frozen streets of Prague as Tanya and Nadia employ spycraft and witchcraft alike to elude Flame agents - but Gabe is also on their tail.





About Lindsay

Interview with Lindsay Smith - The Witch Who Came in From the Cold
Lindsay Smith is the author of the YA historical thrillers Sekret and Skandal, YA fantasy Dreamstrider, and the lead writer for the forthcoming serialized story The Witch Who Came In from the Cold. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and dog, and writes on issues in international cybersecurity.







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Tremontaine by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant from Serial Box


I've had the pleasure of reading the first episode of Tremontaine which is written by Ellen Kushner - terrific writing, engaging characters and intrigues galore. Check out the first Episode on October 28th. This is terrific episodic fiction.




Tremontaine is the long awaited return to Ellen Kushner’s beloved Riverside series and the prequel to the cult-classic Swordspoint.



This “Fantasy of Manners” follows the lives and intrigues of four very different characters as they maneuver the cobblestone streets and glittering ballrooms of a city that never was. Nameless, but inspired by Elizabethan London, 18th century Paris, New York in the 1980s, the setting of Tremontaine comes alive behind the colorful figures of Micah the genius; Rafe Fenton, a man of many passions; the mysterious foreign swordswoman, Ixkaab Balam; and of course: Diane, Duchess Tremontaine, a character well-met in the original series, but whose history has remained a mystery until now.

When Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint was originally released in 1987, it quickly became a beacon of queer-friendly fantasy for a generation of LGBT readers, and all those interested in something a bit different from the status quo of knights, wizards, and heteronormative fiction. Tremontaine continues these themes and promises all the heat, romance, and wit fans have come to love.

The Tremontaine writers room brings together Swordspoint fanfiction authors and known super-fans of the original series handpicked by Ellen Kushner and Julian Yap of Serial Box. Ellen is the series creator and the team includes Alaya Dawn Johnson (The Summer Prince), Malinda Lo (Ash), Joel Derfner (Swish), Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant.

Tremontaine will be released as weekly episodes in digital and audio starting October 28th, 2015, via SerialBox.com, the Serial Box Publishing iOS app, and wherever ebooks and audiobooks are sold. Preorder at Serial Box, Amazon. Tremontaine will also be available at Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iTunes, and Kobo.




Episode 1: Arrivals

A new sun rises on the lives and fates of four players in this game of wit and intrigue.

Diane, Duchess Tremontaine, the crowning gem of her city’s high class, sits in her manor’s window on The Hill and looks over her domain with eyes that cut and a mind that schemes. From below, and far away from the glitz of wealth, a poor country farm girl named Micah looks only towards her family, the harvest, and the complex web of math that entrances her. At the Docks, Ixkaab Balam surveys that same city from the deck of her family’s merchant vessel and sees a land to manipulate for fortune and fun. And at the University, a passionate scholar named Rafe bristles at the classism that dictates his world and harbors revolution in his blood.




About Serial Box


Serial Box is a new publisher here to bring everything that’s awesome about TV (easily digestible episodes, team written, new content every week) to what was already cool about books (well-crafted stories, talented authors, enjoyable anywhere).











And for the curious

Swordspoint
Riverside 1
Spectra, Feb 04, 2003
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

The classic forerunner to The Fall of the Kings now with three bonus stories.
Hailed by critics as “a bravura performance” (Locus) and “witty, sharp-eyed, [and] full of interesting people” (Newsday), this classic melodrama of manners, filled with remarkable plot twists and unexpected humor, takes fantasy to an unprecedented level of elegant writing and scintillating wit. Award-winning author Ellen Kushner has created a world of unforgettable characters whose political ambitions, passionate love affairs, and age-old rivalries collide with deadly results.

Swordspoint
On the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless–until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye.

Born to the Blade: An Interview with Michael R. Underwood and Marie BrennanBookburners Season 3, Tremontaine Season 3, and ReMade Season 2 Omnibus Editions Available Now!Guest Blog by Cassandra Rose Clarke!Interview with Lindsay Smith - The Witch Who Came in From the ColdTremontaine by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant from Serial Box

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