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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with Brad Abraham, author of Magicians Impossible


Please welcome Brad Abraham to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Magicians Impossible is published on September 12th by Thomas Dunne Books.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Brad a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Brad Abraham, author of Magicians Impossible




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

Brad:  Thank-you for having me! I’ve been writing professionally for 18 years, first as a screenwriter and journalist, then as a comic book creator and (now) a novelist. Writing is something I kind of fell into, though not entirely by accident. Growing up I wanted to be a filmmaker – a movie director, specifically – and on graduating high school I went to film school to learn how to do just that. But over that program – 4 years - I found that the writing process was the part of filmmaking I loved the most; I enjoyed creating the world and populating it with interesting people much more than trying to execute it on screen. In my senior year I wrote and directed one film, but co-wrote several others, and found that experience a lot less nerve wracking than directing. Following film school, I decided I was going to focus on screenwriting as a profession, which was quite a struggle. It took about three years from graduation to “break in”. I’ve been successful at screenwriting, but I wanted to branch out into other areas of storytelling. I freelanced as a journalist, I created an acclaimed comic book series, and began to dip my toe into writing novels, where Magicians Impossible was born.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Brad:  I’m much more of a hybrid if I’m anything. I do outline everything before I write, and I spend a lot of time writing biographies of all my characters no matter how minor they may seem to be. I find outlining helps me “break the story” to use TV terms – to figure out what happens and to whom. But once I start drafting the story I’m prone to taking things in a different direction when the mood suits me. To me an outline is like your first draft of the story; if along the way I find a better way to get to the destination I have in mind, I’ll feel safe to divert off the path I’ve mapped and take a different route to get there. Magicians Impossible changed a fair bit between outline and finished draft, particularly the back half of the story, but to me that’s a natural part of the storytelling process. Any writer will tell you they could still go back and noodle with a book that’s already been published; you can come up with a great idea after you’ve finished your draft and will want to go back in and see how that will fit together. But in my outline I had my ending in mind before I started the writing, right down to the last sentence in the book. That remained constant; it was just the journey Jason Bishop took to get there that became a little more labyrinthine.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Brad:  Well, since becoming a father and juggling being a stay-at-home dad with being a work-from home writer, just finding time to write is the biggest challenge. I used to be able to devote a full working day to writing; now I have maybe half of that, as my day is occupied by dad stuff. That said, since becoming a father and having less time to write, I feel my writing has improved overall. I don’t have as much time to write so I make sure to maximize what time I do have. Because writing is my day job it helps to treat that like work. I focus on deadlines – personal or imposed – and I determine how many words a day I need to write to finish by that deadline. That’s basically it.



TQHow do writing films and TV series affect your novel writing?

Brad:  It’s certainly impacted how I write a novel, mostly in plotting and structuring. Film and TV writing is very structured, with three acts for film, five acts for TV. Having a solid background in structuring a story saved my life on many occasions, especially when writing Magicians Impossible and deciding I wanted to take the story in a different direction. Having a framework already in place meant I could see where the changes I wanted to make would impact the overall story, and adjust accordingly. If I’d just started writing without that roadmap I would have been lost, and the reader would have been just as lost. Film and TV, like publishing, is also very deadline-oriented, and I’ve never missed a deadline – even when I injured my back the month before Magicians was due I soldiered on, even when the pain became so unbearable I couldn’t sit at my desk for more than an hour!



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Brad:  Life. Travel. Experience. For me, getting away from my desk and experiencing life is the best tool you have as a writer. The globe-trotting aspects of Magicians Impossible are drawn largely from my own travels; the portions of the story that are set in Paris are directly influence by a trip I took there in 2011, from the Louvre right down to the location of a famous French film director’s grave. I also visited Stockholm, which has a minor role in the story, and Cold Spring New York, which is Jason’s hometown, is a couple hours from where I live. I visited that town some years ago and was captivated both by its beauty, but also by its history and its geography, particularly Storm King Mountain, which features in the story in a pretty big way. To me, travel is where I’m going to get ideas for stories I have yet to write. And it doesn’t have to be international travel either; even visiting a different part of your city or state can be enough to spark the idea.



TQDescribe Magicians Impossible in 140 characters or less.

Brad:  Jason Bishop learns his late father was a magic-wielding secret agent, and that those responsible for his father’s murder are now after him.



TQTell us something about Magicians Impossible that is not found in the book description.

BradMagicians Impossible is structured like a magic act, and is itself a puzzle-box of a story. The story you’re reading – and the one Jason is told – is not necessarily the truth. I’m a big fan of books that have a re-read value and aspired to that level. A second read of Magicians Impossible will be a much different experience than your first. A lot of people have told me they liked it on the first read but absolutely LOVED it on the second, where they could see how the pieces fit together.



TQWhat inspired you to write Magicians Impossible? What appeals to you about writing Contemporary Fantasy?

BradMagicians Impossible actually began its life as a bit of mangled syntax. I was trying to say “Mission Impossible” and it came out as “Magicians Impossible”. I thought it was a great title in search of a story, and it was a while before I latched onto one. Originally the magicians of the title were supposed to be stage magicians, acrobats, masters of disguise. It was my editor at St. Martins Press who thought “real” magic should be the element to tell the story – and he was right. To be honest when I sat down to write Magicians Impossible I wasn’t thinking of it as Contemporary Fantasy; I just wanted to tell a story. What appealed to me about working in that genre was the idea of a secret world running parallel with our own mundane world. That those witches and wizards and lands of magic I read about as a child still exist and still walk among us. We all could use a little fantasy and escape in our lives.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Magicians Impossible?

Brad:  I tried to avoid any similar stories – book, movies, TV – and just focus on telling my own. But what I did do was read a lot of folklore and mythology; particularly European and Middle-Eastern. For every page of my book there are probably ten pages of research, especially when we start getting into the origins of our rival magical clans The Invisible Hand and The Golden Dawn. I wanted everything magical in the book to have grounding in the folklore of our world, and didn’t want to be specifically tied to a Western or North American myth. An example of that would be the story within the story Allegra Sand tells Jason Bishop about an ancient chess game, which is inspired in part by a Middle Eastern fable. Another central idea – of the boundaries between the magical and mortal worlds – comes from a wide range of cultures, but the ones in Magicians I drew from Celtic legend. And the notion of Balance; what both sides of this conflict are seeking to either protect or undo is a very Eastern philosophy – think Yin and Yang. So there’s a real mix of real-world mythology and beliefs that serve as backdrop in the book.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Magicians Impossible.

Brad:  The cover is awesome. And what makes it awesome is it’s a great blend of iconic spy imagery like James Bond with the element of the fantastic of smoke and fire. I think that image paired with the book’s title basically tells you everything you need to know about the book without reading the jacket copy or plot synopsis. If the cover grabs you, the book will too.



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

Brad:  The easiest and most difficult characters to write were the father and the son respectively. Damon King, the magic-wielding secret agent was a blast to write because he’s at the peak of his powers, fast with the quip, and lethal with a deck of cards. He was just a fun character to write, despite being only a small part of the story. The flipside of that was Jason, who was much more difficult because his was the dominant POV, and the character who took us into this world. I had to do a lot of heavy lifting to make sure he felt like a real person. He’s very much me at a much younger age when I was still trying to get my act together. He also had to carry the story on his shoulders. The other characters in the story are all a lot flashier, but Jason needed to be grounded in our reality not theirs.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Magicians Impossible?

Brad:  On the surface social issues might not appear to be a big part of Magicians Impossible; I shied away from tackling specific real-world problems, but if you dig a little under the surface you will find them. The Invisible Hand and The Golden Dawn are both populated by a very diverse group of characters from all cultures and all walks of life. In fact Jason Bishop – American/Caucasian/Male – is the anomaly. There isn’t another character in the book aside from Damon, his father, who shares that background. To me the idea of these magic users being the rarest of a rare breed meant that had to be from places other than America. It made sense to me that they’d be a diverse bunch.



TQWhich question about Magicians Impossible do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Brad:  The question I have yet to be asked about Magicians Impossible is the one question seemingly every author is asked about their debut book; “how autobiographical is this novel?”

The answer: much more than I expected. To me the hallmark of good writing is authenticity; that you can tell when a writer has experienced the things they are putting their characters through. Magicians Impossible is most autobiographical as it pertains to Jason’s relationship with his family. I’m the child of divorce, and it wasn’t until very late in the game that I realized a lot of Jason’s baggage was my baggage; coming to terms with a divorce of sorts that happened decades before. Like Jason I too have found myself haunted by and obsessed with moments from my past. And also like Jason, I overcame those memories and moments and came to accept and embrace my place in the world. The journey Jason undertakes in is less about becoming a Mage as it is about becoming Jason Bishop – or at least the person he needs to become to survive in this strange new world.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Magicians Impossible.

Brad:

“The Invisible Hand is a secret society, comprised of individuals of great ability, skilled in the arts of espionage and wielding magic – real magic – as a weapon. Through deception we wage war, and with magic, we hope to win it.” – Carter Block

“First lesson, genius? Prophesies are bullshit; especially Great White Savior ones. Everybody comes to this place thinking they’re the next Mozart so you can imagine the disappointed look on their faces when they learn they’re Salieri at best.” – Allegra Sand



TQWhat's next?

Brad:  I’m about a third of the way through my next novel, which, like Magicians Impossible, is a bit of a genre mash up. I don’t want to go into too much detail because it’s still very much a work in progress, but it’s basically The Breakfast Club meets Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. It’s based both on my own teenage years, but also the books and movies and music I consumed at that age. Its scope is not as epic as Magicians, but it has a lot more moving parts, and I’m having an absolute blast writing it.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Brad:  Thanks for having me!





Magicians Impossible
Thomas Dunne Books, September 12, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Brad Abraham, author of Magicians Impossible
Magicians Impossible is a mind-bending page-turner! A brilliant and unique mash-up of spells, myth and mayhem, once it got its claws in me I couldn't put it down. Like a veteran stage magician, Brad Abraham has created a hip thriller that turns convention on its ear with misdirection and mayhem. A must read for enthusiasts of edgy and extreme fiction.” —Don Coscarelli, director of John Dies At The End

Twenty-something bartender Jason Bishop’s world is shattered when his estranged father commits suicide, but the greater shock comes when he learns his father was a secret agent in the employ of the Invisible Hand; an ancient society of spies wielding magic in a centuries-spanning war. Now the Golden Dawn—the shadowy cabal of witches and warlocks responsible for Daniel Bishop’s murder, and the death of Jason’s mother years beforehave Jason in their sights. His survival will depend on mastering his own dormant magic abilities; provided he makes it through the training.

From New York, to Paris, to worlds between worlds, Jason's journey through the realm of magic will be fraught with peril. But with enemies and allies on both sides of this war, whom can he trust? The Invisible Hand, who’ve been more of a family than his own family ever was? The Golden Dawn, who may know the secrets behind his mysterious lineage? For Jason Bishop, only one thing is for certain; the magic he has slowly been mastering is telling him not to trust anybody.





About Brad

Interview with Brad Abraham, author of Magicians Impossible
Courtesy of Brad Abraham
Brad Abraham is a writer whose previous work includes the feature films Fresh Meat and Stonehenge Apocalypse, as well as the TV miniseries Robocop Prime Directives. He is creator of the acclaimed comic book series Mixtape, has written for such publications as Dreamwatch, Starburst, and Fangoria, and was a long-time contributor to Rue Morgue Magazine. A native of Ottawa, Canada, he lives in NYC. Magicians Impossible is his first novel.







Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @NotBradAbraham


Interview with Isabelle Steiger, author of The Empire's Ghost


Please welcome Isabelle Steiger to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Empire's Ghost was published on May 16th by Thomas Dunne Books.



Interview with Isabelle Steiger, author of The Empire's Ghost




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

Isabelle:  I’ve wanted to write stories since I was five, so the writing itself was something of a foregone conclusion after that. I started actually writing, as opposed to simply daydreaming, when I was about eight, largely because I’d been given a really awesome notebook as a present. It was very big, and had lots of intriguing zippers and pockets.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Isabelle:  Definitely a hybrid. I describe my method as a game of connect the dots. In the beginning, before I actually write anything, I sort out in my mind that I want to start at point A and end at point Z, and that in between those two points I need to have points B, C, D and so on (where each point is either an essential plot event or a crucial bit of character development/interaction). I prefer to err on the side of having fewer of these points—I just limit them to those story beats I absolutely must have, no compromises. Then, when I start writing, the pantsing begins: I jump right into it, but now I only have to bushwhack my way from A to B, and then from B to C, rather than trying to make it all the way from A to Z with no preparation.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Isabelle:  Outlining! In fact, I cannot do it, which is a large part of how I arrived at the method in the previous question. If I made myself complete a detailed outline before I started writing a book, I’d still be working on that outline at this very moment.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Isabelle:  No doubt every story I’ve read or seen has influenced me in some way. History. Philosophy, political or not. Feelings I’ve wanted to capture or communicate. Seeing tropes I dislike repeated over and over again and wanting to prove there’s a different way to go. Moral conundrums I struggle with.



TQDescribe The Empire's Ghost in 140 characters or less.

Isabelle:  What is the world going to be like, and who gets to decide?



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

Isabelle:  When he read the official description, my dad was very disappointed that it contained absolutely no mention of his favorite character, Seren Almasy. In an attempt to partially make up for that, I will tell you that Seren Almasy hates lying, objects to the term assassin, and is always carrying at least one more knife than you think she is.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Empire's Ghost? What appeals to you about writing Epic Fantasy?

Isabelle:  Since I was very young, I’ve enjoyed making up worlds for my stories, with their own rules and histories. Epic fantasy lets you zoom in and out by turns: you can create a whole world, dream up all the ways its culture and politics shape the people who live there, and then you can turn it around and write about how this one individual will change the shape of the world.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Empire's Ghost?

Isabelle:  Because I didn’t want the world of the novel to emulate any specific historical period exactly, my research was less was use of x thing widespread in y time period? and more is widespread use of x thing possible, given y environmental and technological constraints? This research ranged from essential details (I studied a wide variety of swords in order to decide which ones were in use in my world, how common/rare they were, etc.) to more trivial ones (a careful reader will note that my royals use drinking glasses made out of actual glass, a detail chosen after my research on the subject). For an early scene in the novel’s sequel, I had to delve into the history of towels.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Empire's Ghost.

Isabelle:  Gorgeous, isn’t it? It was designed by Young Jin Lim, and I’m afraid I contributed very little in the way of assistance—some suggestions about the coloring, and that’s about it. Since I’m wary of spoilers, I’ll just say that the character it depicts is a key to one of the central mysteries of the series.



TQIn The Empire's Ghost who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Isabelle:  Seth was the easiest, by a long shot. I understood his voice immediately, and slipping into it was like a hand into a glove, every time. The hardest was probably Seren, whose depth and intensity of feeling are at odds with her ability to express or even admit to those feelings. I got stuck in the middle of many a scene, wondering, “How do I convey this more clearly while staying true to what the inside of this character’s head is like?”



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

Isabelle:  “Since you have so many point of view characters, have you included any unreliable narrators?”

In any given scene, you can always trust that I’m presenting you with the POV character’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions as they consciously understand them. So if you ever get an untruth in that area, it’ll be because the character is lying to themselves or refusing to accept something. Beyond that, a character’s deductions and opinions may be more or less reliable depending on the information available to them and their own particular biases. Gravis, for example, is a character with some very strong biases, and as a result his perspective is much less reliable on some subjects than on others. It’s been really fun for me to see which characters readers seem to trust most, especially in situations where two or more characters see the same person or issue very differently. I’d certainly never want you to assume that any character’s conclusions are always correct, no matter how perceptive they may seem to be.


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

Isabelle:  Another fun thing about using multiple POV characters is the chance to play around with a variety of voices and tones. I wanted to remind readers whenever possible that no part of the novel is truly “neutral”—everything you read is filtered through a specific and deliberate perspective. To demonstrate, here are the first paragraphs of the first scenes of two very different POV characters:

The snow was falling thick throughout Araveil, and for just a moment Shinsei let himself imagine that it was snowing everywhere, that the world was fully blanketed in white, stifled into perfect stillness. It would be beautiful, he thought—quiet and peaceful, untouched by grossness and irregularity. He would walk through the streets, and the falling snowflakes would erase his footsteps behind him, like a slow, bittersweet forgetting. That was what memory should always be like.

-

Roger talked a good game about adventure, once he was tucked into a barstool, a tankard of ale in front of him. But Roger wasn’t here now, to see how the pristine wilds of his tales were choked with blood-colored nettles and infuriatingly vibrant weeds, how pathless forests were more of an annoyance than a wonder when you actually had somewhere to go. Deinol stumbled onto a rosebush—no flowers, all thorns, naturally—and swore, longing for nothing so much as a return to the grimy back alleys he knew so well.



TQWhat's next?

Isabelle:  Finishing the sequel!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Isabelle:  Thank you for having me. These were good questions.





The Empire's Ghost
Thomas Dunne Books, May 16, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Isabelle Steiger, author of The Empire's Ghost
Isabelle Steiger has crafted a powerful and masterful debut with The Empire's Ghost, the first book in a haunting new epic fantasy series.

The empire of Elesthene once spanned a continent, but its rise heralded the death of magic. It tore itself apart from within, leaving behind a patchwork of kingdoms struggling to rebuild. But when a new dictator, the ambitious and enigmatic Imperator Elgar, seizes power in the old capital and seeks to recreate the lost empire anew, the other kingdoms have little hope of stopping him. Prince Kelken of Reglay finds himself at odds with his father at his country’s darkest hour; the marquise of Esthrades is unmatched in politics and strategy, but she sits at a staggering military disadvantage. And Issamira, the most powerful of the free countries, has shut itself off from the conflict, thrown into confusion by the disappearance of its crown prince and the ensuing struggle for succession.

Everything seems aligned in Elgar’s favor, but when he presses a band of insignificant but skilled alley-dwellers into his service for a mission of greatest secrecy, they find an unexpected opportunity to alter the balance of power in the war. Through their actions and those of the remaining royals, they may uncover not just a way to defeat Elgar, but also a deeper truth about their world’s lost history.





About Isabelle

Interview with Isabelle Steiger, author of The Empire's Ghost
Photo by Jonathan Grassi
ISABELLE STEIGER was born in the city and grew up in the woods. She received her first notebook when she was eight, and she’s been filling them up ever since. She lives in New York, though her erstwhile companion, a very moody gray cat, has since retired and moved to Florida. The Empire’s Ghost is her first novel.









Goodreads



Interview with Joseph Helmreich, author of The Return


Please welcome Joseph Helmreich to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Return was published on March 14th by Thomas Dunne Books.



Interview with Joseph Helmreich, author of The Return




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

Joseph:  As a child, I always loved writing my own books by hand, drawing the pictures and then stapling the pages together. When I got older, I was mainly interested in trying to write screenplays. Eventually, a psychologist and author named Paul Marcus approached me about co-authoring a book based on some of his cases and in working on that project, I realized just how much I loved writing prose.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Joseph:  I'd say for this project, I was more of a plotter because the structure of the story is a bit complicated and I needed everything to fit together. But there are writers I admire who dive into their projects with no idea where they're going and I think that's extremely exciting (if also terrifying) and I'd love to write something that way.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Joseph:  I think it's always a challenge to find the core or "soul" of your story and not let that slip away. Writing a novel can take a long time and it's important that you don't lose focus on what you're story is really about, though you don't want to be rigid, either. It's a delicate balance.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does being a musician influence or not your novel writing?

Joseph:  As with many writers, my writing is heavily influenced by whatever I've just read or am reading. But in the case of this novel, the music I was listening to also played a very big role. There was one Arcade Fire song called "Tunnels" that served as the backdrop to a scene in my mind and there was a Joseph Arthur song called "Wait For Your Lights" that impacted the plot and there were an Okkervil River record that helped me get to the heart of my story. Music can function for the writer a lot like a movie soundtrack or score functions for an audience, helping you feel the story on a deeper level. As for being a musician, I'm not sure it impacts my writing, but the creative process is definitely similar for both mediums.



TQDescribe The Return in 140 characters or less.

JosephThe Return is about a physicist who gets abducted by an alien ship during a live TV broadcast and then returns and denies it ever happened.



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

Joseph:  A big chunk of the book takes place in Alicante, Spain.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Return? Why blend Science Fiction and Thriller?

Joseph:  I was very intrigued by the idea of a public alien abduction that no one could deny and what that would mean for the world. In terms of combining sci and thriller, my creative impulses have always leaned towards sci fi and fantasy, but I love the pacing, plot twists and cliffhangers of thrillers and really wanted to replicate the feeling I get when I read those kinds of books.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Return?

Joseph:  My writing process for this book was very much a rejection of "write what you know" and I had to learn a lot of material (particularly about theoretical physics) from virtually scratch. The research process involved lots of articles, maps, academic papers and discussions with people far smarter and more knowledgeable than myself on everything from quantum mechanics to proper military terminology to when Texans say "y'all" and when they say "all y'all."



TQPlease tell us about The Return's cover.

Joseph:  The cover was designed by David Curtis and I think it's perfect for the story. As to whether the image depicted there relates literally to any particular event in the book, I think that's up for interpretation.



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

Joseph:  I think the character of Andrew Leland, the alien abductee, was both the easiest and hardest to write. Easy because his character goes through so many changes that he's not expected to come off as consistent. Hard because how do you make a character who changes so much still feel, on some level, like the same character?



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

Joseph:  When you're in the process of dreaming up a novel, do you find yourself walking around talking to yourself and humming the score to the movie playing in your head and generally causing other people to want to cross the street? Yes!



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

Joseph:

"If the conspiracy theorists are right and it never happened, then the day it didn't happen began innocently enough."

"'When faced with great and historic scientific challenges, there are always those who say it cannot be done. And when they say, 'We can't do it,' they're in at least one respect correct. When it finally happens, they will surely have had nothing to do with it.'"



TQWhat's next?

Joseph:  Right now, I'm working on a few novel and story ideas and also trying to adapt The Return as a screenplay.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Joseph:  Thank you!





The Return
Thomas Dunne Books, March 14, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 256 pages

Interview with Joseph Helmreich, author of The Return
During a live television broadcast on the night of a lunar eclipse, renowned astrophysicist Andrew Leland is suddenly lifted into the sky by a giant spacecraft and taken away for all to see. Six years later, he turns up, wandering in a South American desert, denying ever having been abducted and disappearing from the public eye.

Meanwhile, he inspires legions of cultish devotees, including a young physics graduate student named Shawn Ferris who is obsessed with finding out what really happened to him. When Shawn finally tracks Leland down, he discovers that he’s been on the run for years, continuously hunted by a secret organization that has pursued him across multiple continents, determined to force him into revealing what he knows.

Shawn soon joins Leland on the run. Though Leland is at first reluctant to reveal anything, Shawn will soon learn the truth about his abduction, the real reason for his return, and will find himself caught up in a global conspiracy that puts more than just one planet in danger.

Equal parts science-fiction and globe-hopping thriller, Joseph Helmreich's The Return will appeal to fans of both, and to anyone who has ever wondered... what’s out there?





About Joseph

Interview with Joseph Helmreich, author of The Return
JOSEPH HELMREICH, author of The Return, has contributed writing to Every Day Fiction and New York Press. He has worked on film and television projects, such as Garden State, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, and No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, before becoming a script-reader for The Weinstein Company. In addition to his writing, Helmreich is also a voice-over actor and member of alternative folk duo, Honeybrick. He lives in New York City and works in film distribution.

Tumblr  ~  Twitter @Josephhelmreich  ~  Facebook


2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award


The Winner of the 2016 Tiptree Award has been announced - Anna-Marie McLemore for her novel When the Moon Was Ours (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2016).

2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award
Longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
Stonewall Book Award Honor

“McLemore’s second novel is such a lush surprising fable, you half expect birds to fly out of the pages… McLemore uses the supernatural to remind us that the body’s need to speak its truth is primal and profound, and that the connection between two people is no more anyone’s business than why the dish ran away with the spoon.”
--Jeff Giles, New York Times Book Review

Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers was greeted with rave reviews, a YALSA Morris Award nomination, and spots on multiple “Best YA Novels” lists. Now, McLemore delivers a second stunning and utterly romantic novel, again tinged with magic.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Atmospheric, dynamic, and packed with gorgeous prose, When the Moon was Ours


The Tiptree Award Honor List

In addition to selecting the winners, the jury chooses a Tiptree Award Honor List. The Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list.
To see the excerpted and edited notes on each work by members of this year’s jury click here.

Eleanor Arnason, Hwarhath Stories:Transgressive Tales by Aliens (Aqueduct Press, 2016)

Mishell Baker, Borderline (Saga Press, 2016)

Nino Cipri, “Opals and Clay” (Podcastle, 2016)

Andrea Hairston, Will Do Magic for Small Change (Aqueduct Press, 2016)

Rachael K. Jones, “The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 2016)

Seanan McGuire, Every Heart a Doorway (Tor Books, 2916)

Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning (Tor Books, 2016)

Johanna Sinisalo, The Core of the Sun (Grove Press/Black Cat, 2016)

Nisi Shawl, Everfair (Tor Books, 2016)



In addition to the honor list, this year’s Tiptree Award jury also compiled a long list of twelve other works they found worthy of attention.
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor, 2016)

The Waterdancer’s World, L. Timmel Duchamp (Aqueduct Press, 2016)

Lily, Michael Thomas Ford (Lethe Press, 2016)

King of the Worlds, M. Thomas Gammarino (Chin Music Press, 2016)

Vesp: A History of Sapphic Scaphism,” Porpentine Charity Heartscape (Terraform, 2016 – an online interactive story),

Cantor for Pearls, M.C.A. Hogarth (De La Torre Books, 2016)

The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, 2016)

An Accident of Stars, Foz Meadows (Angry Robot, 2016)

Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, Sheree Renée Thomas (Aqueduct Press, 2016)

Suddenly Paris, Olga & Christopher Werby (CreateSpace, 2015)

The Arrival of Missives, Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories, 2015)

The Natural Way of Things, Charlotte Wood (Europa Editions 2016)



Anna-Marie McLemore, along with authors and works on the Honor List, will be celebrated during Memorial Day weekend at WisCon 41 in Madison, Wisconsin, May 26-29, 2017. She will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.

Each year, a panel of five jurors selects the Tiptree Award winner. The 2016 judges were Jeanne Gomoll (chair), Aimee Bahng, James Fox, Roxanne Samer, and Deb Taber.

Reading for 2017 will soon begin. The panel consists of Alexis Lothian (chair), E.J. Fischer, Kazue Harada, Cheryl Morgan, and Julia Starkey.

The Tiptree Award invites everyone to recommend works for the award. Please submit recommendations via our recommendation page. Full information on all the books mentioned above will be in the Tiptree Award database before the end of March 2017.

2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Return by Joseph Helmreich


2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Return by Joseph Helmreich


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



The Return
Thomas Dunne Books, March 14, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 256 pages

2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Return by Joseph Helmreich
During a live television broadcast on the night of a lunar eclipse, renowned astrophysicist Andrew Leland is suddenly lifted into the sky by a giant spacecraft and taken away for all to see. Six years later, he turns up, wandering in a South American desert, denying ever having been abducted and disappearing from the public eye.

Meanwhile, he inspires legions of cultish devotees, including a young physics graduate student named Shawn Ferris who is obsessed with finding out what really happened to him. When Shawn finally tracks Leland down, he discovers that he’s been on the run for years, continuously hunted by a secret organization that has pursued him across multiple continents, determined to force him into revealing what he knows.

Shawn soon joins Leland on the run. Though Leland is at first reluctant to reveal anything, Shawn will soon learn the truth about his abduction, the real reason for his return, and will find himself caught up in a global conspiracy that puts more than just one planet in danger.

Equal parts science-fiction and globe-hopping thriller, Joseph Helmreich's The Return will appeal to fans of both, and to anyone who has ever wondered... what’s out there?

Interview with Jay Hosking, author of Three Years with the Rat


Please welcome Jay Hosking to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge interviews! Three Years with the Rat is published on January 24th by Thomas Dunne Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Jay a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Jay Hosking, author of Three Years with the Rat




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

Jay:  Thanks for having me! I started writing in 2011, when I was working toward my PhD in neuroscience. Being in the lab all the time was making me into a crazy person. I had always been a voracious reader of fiction, and always wanted to write, so I snuck into a writing workshop at my university.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jay:  Both, but not at the same time. The Rat book has three years playing out at the same time, and thus required that the timeline was consistent and easy to understand, so plotting in advance was important. I had a spreadsheet that detailed what had to happen in each chapter of each year.

The new book I'm working on, however, requires a lot more "pantsing".



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jay:  Finding the time to do it.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jay:  Hoo boy. Just about everything! Other fiction, cities, nature, friends, loved ones, minutiae (like a scrap of paper on the ground) that get my mind spinning.



TQDescribe Three Years with the Rat in 140 characters or less.

Jay:  A young man's sister and friend go missing. The only clues: a box made of mirrors and a note that says, "This is the only way back for us."



TQTell us something about Three Years with the Rat that is not found in the book description.

Jay:  The Rat book is about what happens when the known brushes up against the unknown.



TQWhat inspired you to write Three Years with the Rat? How did your background in neuroscience influence the novel?

Jay:  I'm not sure what inspired me to write the Rat book. It started with the image of the box: wooden, big enough to fit a person but too small to stand up, covered with mirrors inside, reflections upon reflections to infinity. I thought about why someone would build that box, and I was sure it was a gift to someone lost, and a tool. And then the story unspooled from there.

As for my background in neuroscience, I'm not sure it directly influenced the novel. If anything, the Rat book deals with why we seek knowledge, the better and worse reasons to do science, rather than the science itself. The book was informed by the motivations of scientists and other knowledge-seekers, with a smattering of details from the lab/research life to add verisimilitude. Psychophysics (the field of science described in the book) certainly exists, but doesn't really resemble what I've written at all.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Three Years with the Rat?

Jay:  I kept three books on my desk as I wrote the Rat book: Flatland by E. A. Abbott, Nothing: A Very Short Introduction by Frank Close, and The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. Living in a multi-dimensional universe, defining nebulous concepts, and finding meaning in a purposeless existence: these were my research.



TQPlease tell us about Three Years with the Rat's cover?

Jay:  The cover is by C.S. Richardson, a Canadian gent who has made countless fantastic dust jackets (I'm fond of his cover for Sam Wiebe's Invisible Dead, how it works in different ways at different distances). One thing I like about the Rat book's cover is that it isn't too on the nose and doesn't depict anything from the novel. But its motif—the labyrinth—is a great metaphor for the journey of the main character in the book. Plus, lab rats and mazes, right?



TQIn Three Years with the Rat who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jay:  Buddy the rat was definitely the easiest character to write. I feel for that little guy. Hardest character to write was probably the narrator, who I wanted to play his cards pretty close to his chest (a la Raymond Chandler's Marlowe) but also be strongly emotionally invested in the journey.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Three Years with the Rat?

Jay:  The social issues in my book are relatively subtle, and they are included because they are a part of life. We all know people who have struggled, and to not include these struggles when they are so common would be willfully distorting reality for the purposes of personal bias. Put another way, writing an apolitical book is a political act. But like I said, the issues are not the story, and not particularly featured in the book.



TQWhich question about Three Years with the Rat do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Jay:  Great question! And because I've never been asked it, I've never thought about it. Let me think now... hmm.

Still thinking...



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Three Years with the Rat.

Jay

"I can collect all the data in the universe, but at some point I won't be able to comprehend how all the parts form a whole. My brain, my biology, limits my ability to understand... There are just some things that are outside of comprehension, even if we can quantify them. At some point, science becomes magic."



TQWhat's next?

Jay:  I'm currently finishing up another novel, tentatively called "Chimera", and publishing short stories in a few literary magazines; feel free to check out some of my short fiction here and here!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jay:  Thank you so much! It was really fun to be included. Please go read Three Years with the Rat!





Three Years with the Rat
Thomas Dunne Books, January 24, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

Interview with Jay Hosking, author of Three Years with the Rat
Three Years with the Rat is a mind-warping thriller that will make you question reality as you conceive of it. One of the most assured and haunting debuts I’ve read in recent memory.” —Blake Crouch, author of Dark Matter

After several years of drifting between school and go-nowhere jobs, a young man is drawn back into the big city of his youth. The magnet is his beloved older sister, Grace: always smart and charismatic even when she was rebelling, and always his hero. Now she is a promising graduate student in psychophysics and the center of a group of friends who take “Little Brother” into their fold, where he finds camaraderie, romance, and even a decent job.

But it soon becomes clear that things are not well with Grace. Always acerbic, she now veers into sudden rages that are increasingly directed at her adoring boyfriend, John, who is also her fellow researcher. When Grace disappears, and John shortly thereafter, the narrator makes an astonishing discovery in their apartment: a box big enough to crawl inside, a lab rat, and a note that says This is the only way back for us. Soon he embarks on a mission to discover the truth, a pursuit that forces him to question time and space itself, and ultimately toward a perilous confrontation at the very limits of imagination.

This kinetic novel catapults the classic noir plot of a woman gone missing into the twenty-first-century city, where so-called reality crashes into speculative science in a novel reminiscent of Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Jay Hosking's Three Years with the Rat is simultaneously a mind-twisting mystery that plays with the very nature of time and the story of a young man who must face the dangerously destructive forces we all carry within ourselves.





About Jay

Interview with Jay Hosking, author of Three Years with the Rat
Photo by Zoë Miles
Jay Hosking obtained his neuroscience Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia, teaching rats how to gamble and studying the neurobiological basis of choice. At the same time, he also completed a creative writing MFA. His short stories have appeared in The Walrus and Hazlitt, been long-listed for the CBC Canada Writes short story competition, and received an editor’s special mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, where he researches decision making and the human brain. He is the author of the novel Three Years with the Rat.


Website  ~  Twitter @DocHosking

2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking


2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking


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



Jay Hosking

Three Years with the Rat
Thomas Dunne Books, January 24, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages
Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Time Tracel

2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking
Three Years with the Rat is a mind-warping thriller that will make you question reality as you conceive of it. One of the most assured and haunting debuts I’ve read in recent memory.” —Blake Crouch, author of Dark Matter

After several years of drifting between school and go-nowhere jobs, a young man is drawn back into the big city of his youth. The magnet is his beloved older sister, Grace: always smart and charismatic even when she was rebelling, and always his hero. Now she is a promising graduate student in psychophysics and the center of a group of friends who take “Little Brother” into their fold, where he finds camaraderie, romance, and even a decent job.

But it soon becomes clear that things are not well with Grace. Always acerbic, she now veers into sudden rages that are increasingly directed at her adoring boyfriend, John, who is also her fellow researcher. When Grace disappears, and John shortly thereafter, the narrator makes an astonishing discovery in their apartment: a box big enough to crawl inside, a lab rat, and a note that says This is the only way back for us. Soon he embarks on a mission to discover the truth, a pursuit that forces him to question time and space itself, and ultimately toward a perilous confrontation at the very limits of imagination.

This kinetic novel catapults the classic noir plot of a woman gone missing into the twenty-first-century city, where so-called reality crashes into speculative science in a novel reminiscent of Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Jay Hosking's Three Years with the Rat is simultaneously a mind-twisting mystery that plays with the very nature of time and the story of a young man who must face the dangerously destructive forces we all carry within ourselves.

Interview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes


Please welcome Susan Bishop Crispell to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Secret Ingredient of Wishes was published on September 6th by Thomas Dunne Books.



Interview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes




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

Susan:  I started writing in the fall of 2000. (Wow that feels so long ago!) It was my sophomore year of college and when I was registering for classes the previous spring, I signed up for Intro to Fiction on a whim. I couldn’t get into any art classes because those suckers got filled up quickly, and fiction seemed like something I might enjoy for a semester. Or you know, my whole life. :)



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Susan:  I’m very much a plotter. Before I start a story, I have it all mapped out, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. That’s not to say that things don’t change along the way, because as the characters grow and do unexpected things, they change the plan. But then I re-plot, factoring in these new details and characters and tangents until the story feels right.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Susan:  For me, it’s finding time to write. I work full time and have to fit writing in around life in general. Some days my brain is tired and I just want to snuggle up and read or binge watch some TV. But if I don’t make time for writing, my stories won’t ever get told.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Susan:  My biggest influences come from magical stories, whether in book form à la Sarah Addison Allen’s gorgeous novels or television/movies like the movie Penelope or Bryan Fuller’s whimsical shows Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls. I love quirky towns and unforgettable characters and magic that feels real and of course a little romance. These are the things I enjoy reading and watching, which makes them exactly the things I want to write about too.



TQDescribe The Secret Ingredient of Wishes in 140 characters or less.

Susan:  Rachel Monroe's ability to make secrets come true has taken everything from her. But getting lost in Nowhere, NC just might lead her home.



TQTell us something about The Secret Ingredient of Wishes that is not found in the book description.

Susan:  When Rachel was young, she accidentally erased her little brother from existence with a wish. She’s the only one who remembers him and not matter how many times people told her she was crazy for believing in him, she never stopped hoping she could somehow wish him back.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Secret Ingredient of Wishes? What appeals to you about writing a contemporary novel that includes magic?

Susan:  I love the idea that the world is filled with magic. But for me, I’d rather it be whimsical and offbeat and life-changing but not necessarily world-changing. So instead of creating sweeping fantasy worlds, I like to keep things set in the real world (or fictional towns in the real world, anyway). That way my stories skirt the line between real life and fantasy and leave readers thinking what if that really could really happen?



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Secret Ingredient of Wishes? Do you have a favorite pie?

Susan:  Most of my research came in the form of pies. Not so much eating pies, but collecting recipes that sounded delicious and teaching myself to make crust from scratch and learning the best ways to peel peaches. I also researched organic soaps and lotions, etc. for the shop where Rachel ends up working. As for my favorite pie, it’s probably a peach raspberry pie. Though I make a blackberry sour cream pie that is a very close second.



TQIn The Secret Ingredient of Wishes who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Susan:  Catch, Rachel’s landlord and the town’s secret-keeper (via the pies she makes to bind the secrets from getting out) was the easiest. She’s sassy and cranky and likes to use nicknames for people when she’s annoyed. Her voice was loud in my head from day one, which made scenes with her so easy to write because I knew exactly who she was.

Rachel was probably the hardest. Her character changed a lot from the initial draft and learning how to really draw out who she was turned out to be a challenging and long process. It was worth of all the rewriting and deleted scenes and subplots that were dropped throughout my revisions because I finally figured her out.



TQWhich question about The Secret Ingredient of Wishes do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Susan:  I keep waiting for someone to ask me where Catch’s name comes from. And it hasn’t happened yet! So, I’ll tell you that I stole it from my great aunt. Her name is Catherine but everyone calls her Catch. When I was trying to find the name that fit my character, I knew I wanted something a little different. Then my aunt’s name popped into my head and I wasn’t able to shake it. Now I can’t imagine this character being called anything else.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Secret Ingredient of Wishes.

Susan:  Ooh, such a fun question. Here are two quotes (unrelated) quotes that I love:

“Well, Little-Miss-Doom-and-Gloom, too damn bad for you, ’cause I’m gonna do it anyway. And you’re gonna sit there with your mouth shut until I do.”

“Figured I should show you the difference so that next time I kiss you, you’ll know I mean it.”



TQWhat's next?

Susan:  My next novel, The Probability of Fate, comes out next fall. It’s set In Malarkey, North Carolina, a hole-in-the-wall town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, where residents rely on the magical chocolates at The Chocolate Cottage to get a glimpse of their futures. But life hasn’t turned out as planned for proprietor Penelope Dalton. Instead of living happily ever after, she’s raising her terminally ill daughter on her own, trying to pack a lifetime of experiences into Ella’s final six months. But when her ex comes back to town and Ella starts to play matchmaker, Penelope will learn that some fates are worth waiting for.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The Secret Ingredient of Wishes
Thomas Dunne Books, September 6, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes
26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good.

Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina—also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.

As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love—and her chance at happiness—all over again.





About Susan

Interview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes
Photo by Belinda Keller
Susan Bishop Crispell earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Born and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, she now lives twenty minutes from the beach in North Carolina with her husband and their literary-named cat. She is the author of THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES. As you might expect, she is very fond of pie. And she is always on the lookout for hints of magic in the real world.





Website  ~  Twitter @SBCrispell

Facebook  ~  Tumblr  ~  Pinterest



Interview with Curtis C. Chen, author of Waypoint Kangaroo


Please welcome Curtis C. Chen to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Waypoint Kangaroo is published on June 21st by Thomas Dunne Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Curtis a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Curtis C. Chen, author of Waypoint Kangaroo



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

CC:  Thanks—it’s great to be here! The first stories I remember trying to write were in grade school, because I was already an avid reader at that age and wanted to try my hand at creating these magical things called “books” that I enjoyed so much. Those first attempts weren’t very good, or original—hashtag low stakes plagiarism—but I kept at it over the years, and I got better.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

CC:  I’m a pantser who’s working on becoming more of a plotter. My current process involves pantsing a first draft—usually during NaNoWriMo—and then figuring out in rewrites what works and what doesn’t. (I talk more about this process in “The Page as Performance.”) I would definitely like to get better at being able to see the big picture ahead of time. I’m able to do this for short stories, but a novel is so much longer and more complex, I haven’t yet figured out a good way to keep it all in my head.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

CC:  Not getting distracted by related tasks that are part of the job, but not the actual work. It’s become more of a challenge this year, with my attention split between promoting Kangaroo book one and revising book two on deadline. In general, the two big things that help me the most are (1) blocking out a solid chunk of a few hours at a time for writing; and (2) getting out of the house and away from screaming cats who demand attention at inopportune times.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

CC:  Pretty much everything in my life, honestly, to some degree. A lot of different inputs go into my brain, and once all that stuff is in there, the subconscious stew can simmer for years or decades before something boils over into a coherent idea. But I do, at that point, have a choice of what to pursue as far as turning it into an actual story. If I’m not writing something in response to or in conversation with another piece, I’ll often try something new and different to challenge myself. I always want to be learning and growing as an artist.



TQYou're a former software engineer. How does this influence or not your fiction writing?

CC:  Well, there are at least three computer-related inside jokes in the book; I may run a contest later to see if anyone can identify all of them. :) But the main crossover from engineering to fiction writing was thinking of plot in terms of debugging—you can see a problem, but you’re not sure what’s causing it, and figuring that out and fixing it can be a pain in the neck. In Waypoint Kangaroo, the bad guys are basically cracking their way into a secure system, and the good guys are troubleshooting to find and contain those breaches. (And for the record, I wasn’t not influenced by 1995’s Hackers, the greatest movie ever made for certain values of “great.”)



TQDescribe Waypoint Kangaroo in 140 characters or less.

CC:  I literally did this for one of Dan Koboldt’s #SFFpit Twitter pitching contests! And I remain highly amused by my pitch:
“Where’s agent Kangaroo?”
“On vacation.”
“Seriously?”
“Yup. Space cruise to Mars.”
“That ship’s been hijacked!”
“Well, crap.”
@curtiscchen, 11 Jun 2014


TQTell us something about Waypoint Kangaroo that is not found in the book description.

CC:  The acknowledgements section is at the back of the book instead of the front. Did I just BLOW YOUR MIND? No? Okay. Moving on.



TQWhat inspired you to write Waypoint Kangaroo? What appealed to you about writing what your publisher calls an "...outer space thriller"?

CC:  I’ve always been interested in space adventures. Two of the first television shows I can remember watching—as an infant, from my crib—were Star Trek (TOS) and Space: 1999. (The third was Bewitched, which also influenced me very deeply.) I got into mysteries and thrillers later, mostly from reading novels by Ian Fleming, John le Carré, and Tom Clancy in high school, but also through seeing a student production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Each of those authors taught me something different about tension and suspense, and if I’m doing it right, it’s probably because they showed me how.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Waypoint Kangaroo?

CC:  Honestly, not very much. I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations for spaceflight distances and times, and very cursory web research on radiation poisoning, but I made up a lot of stuff. Like, a lot a lot. I’m a pretty lazy writer, and basically all I want to do is convince the reader that the fundamentals of a situation are plausible before I go and screw everything up to cause problems for my protagonists. Sorry not sorry!



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

CC:  In some ways, Kangaroo was the easiest to write; the entire novel is in first person from his point of view, so I had a lot of practice using his voice and being in his head. The hardest to write were the villains, because at first I didn’t want to engage with their motivations—I conceived of them as offscreen evildoers who didn’t deserve to argue their position to the reader. It took me a long time to get over this; for more on that, go read my guest post on John Wiswell’s The Bathroom Monologues.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Waypoint Kangaroo? 

CC:  I didn’t really highlight any specific social issues in WK (other than “murder is bad” I suppose—I hope that’s not a controversial stance), but I did make an effort to show that the people in this future setting are diverse in many ways, and everyone’s okay with it. I wanted this world to be actually post-racial, and for gender identity to be a non-issue. People are who they are. Everyone can love whoever they want. Love is love is love is love.



TQWhich question about Waypoint Kangaroo do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

CC:

Q: How tall is Kangaroo?
A: How tall are you? Yeah, about that height, sure, why not.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Waypoint Kangaroo.

CC:  It may only be funny to me, but this is by far my favorite dialogue from WK:
“Thank you . . . Xiao?” I’m not quite sure how to pronounce that name.
“Xiao,” he says.
“Xiao,” I do my best to repeat.
“Xiao.”
“Xiao?”
“Close enough, sir.” His expression tells me I should just drop it. “How may I help you?”
For more on why I think this is downright hilarious, see my guest post for Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit.



TQWhat's next?

CC:  I’m currently working with my editor on revisions to Kangaroo book two, and looking forward to getting back to writing some new short fiction later this year. I also help organize Puzzled Pint, a volunteer-driven monthly event that now happens in 34 locations around the world, and we’re working on a Star Trek themed set of puzzles for August to celebrate Trek’s 50th anniversary!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

CC:  Thank you very much for the invitation!





Waypoint Kangaroo
Kangaroo 1
Thomas Dunne Books, June 21, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Curtis C. Chen, author of Waypoint Kangaroo
Kangaroo isn’t your typical spy. Sure, he has extensive agency training, access to bleeding-edge technology, and a ready supply of clever (to him) quips and retorts. But what sets him apart is “the pocket.” It’s a portal that opens into an empty, seemingly infinite, parallel universe, and Kangaroo is the only person in the world who can use it. But he's pretty sure the agency only keeps him around to exploit his superpower.

After he bungles yet another mission, Kangaroo gets sent away on a mandatory “vacation:” an interplanetary cruise to Mars. While he tries to make the most of his exile, two passengers are found dead, and Kangaroo has to risk blowing his cover. It turns out he isn’t the only spy on the ship–and he’s just starting to unravel a massive conspiracy which threatens the entire Solar System.

Now, Kangaroo has to stop a disaster which would shatter the delicate peace that’s existed between Earth and Mars ever since the brutal Martian Independence War. A new interplanetary conflict would be devastating for both sides. Millions of lives are at stake.

Weren’t vacations supposed to be relaxing?

With Waypoint Kangaroo, Chen makes his debut with this outer space thriller. Chen has an extensive network of connections to prominent science fiction authors, and has studied under John Scalzi, James Patrick Kelly, and Ursula K. LeGuin.





About Curtis

Interview with Curtis C. Chen, author of Waypoint Kangaroo
Photo by Folly Blaine
Once a software engineer in Silicon Valley, CURTIS C. CHEN now writes speculative fiction and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. His debut novel WAYPOINT KANGAROO, a science fiction spy thriller, is forthcoming from Thomas Dunne Books on June 21st, 2016.

Curtis' short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, the Baen anthology MISSION: TOMORROW, and THE 2016 YOUNG EXPLORER'S ADVENTURE GUIDE. He is a graduate of the Clarion West and Viable Paradise writers' workshops.

You can find Curtis at Puzzled Pint Portland on the second Tuesday of every month. Visit him online at: http://curtiscchen.com.

Facebook  ~  Twitter @curtiscchen  ~  Waypoint Kangaroo Site

Interview with Claire Humphrey, author of Spells of Blood and Kin


Please welcome Claire Humphrey to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Spells of Blood and Kin is published on June 14th by Thomas Dunne Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Claire a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Claire Humphrey, author of Spells of Blood and Kin




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

Claire:  Thanks so much for having me! I feel like I was always writing. When I was tiny, before I knew the alphabet, I’d dictate stories to my mom. By the time I was in school I was making little books of folded paper stapled together; a whole bunch of them were about shipwrecks.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Claire:  Mostly a pantser—there’s something I find really compelling about feeling my way through a novel along with the protagonist. But in an effort to write faster now that I have deadlines to meet, I’ve started doing more outlining: nothing too detailed, but a quick three-act plan.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Claire:  Balancing my time. I have a busy day job, I travel a lot and I function best when I work out regularly. There are also a lot of tasks associated with professional writing, like edit notes, social media, interviews, planning events, which all take time. Sometimes if I prioritize all the most time-sensitive things I end up with no time left for the most creative, first-draft part of the work. I’m fighting that by scheduling in some retreats and binge-writing days into my year.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Claire:  Growing up in a house full of books, with an English teacher for a father, a mother who worked in publishing, and some other writers on both sides of the family, I had so much access to literature and so much encouragement to write. I was allowed to read almost anything I wanted, and of course the few things I wasn’t allowed to read, I got my hands on anyway. So I absorbed all kinds of things, from Ursula Le Guin to Gwendolyn MacEwen to Virginia Woolf to Susan Musgrave. One thing that I remember helping to crystallize my aspirations as a writer was the Black Water anthology, edited by Alberto Manguel: a wonderful collection of dark, fantastical, literary, surreal short fiction which my dad gave me for my birthday when I was a teenager.



TQDescribe Spells of Blood and Kin in 140 characters or less.

Claire:  Lissa inherits her grandmother’s magic and has to use it to keep immortal Maksim from killing himself or anyone else.



TQTell us something about Spells of Blood and Kin that is not found in the book description.

Claire:  Gus Hillyard doesn’t appear in the book description because she’s a secondary character—Maksim’s family, basically. But she has an important role to play, and she has lot of stories of her own; the first was one of my earliest published pieces, “Who In Mortal Chains”, which appeared in Strange Horizons. Gus has the same immortal nature as Maksim, and the same drive to violence, but she isn’t the same person; her coping strategies are different (and mainly consist of alcohol); she has more optimism, more love for the world, even though she rarely admits it. Gus is so much fun to write. You’ll see her again.



TQWhat inspired you to write Spells of Blood and Kin? What appeals to you about writing Dark Fantasy? What is "Dark" Fantasy?

Claire:  When I started writing Spells of Blood and Kin I was having a bad year and I wanted to write a light-hearted escapist urban fantasy, the kind where a woman meets a sexy supernatural guy and they fight crime together. But within the first few scenes it was clear to me that something sadder and darker was going on here and I wasn’t going to be able to escape it. I think what appeals to me about writing fantasy—and by default, dark fantasy, since mine is probably never going to turn out funny or light—is that fantasy elements make amazing mirrors for the real. You can see in the reflection things you missed in the original.

I don’t focus a lot on the distinctions people make around genres—dark fantasy vs urban fantasy vs paranormal, I don’t care. Readers can use those labels to help each other find great books. They can tell each other where my book fits—that part isn’t my job. I’m going to write the book I’m going to write; I wouldn’t be surprised if my next book is called horror and the one after that called CanLit.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Spells of Blood and Kin?

Claire:  The meat of this book is the relationships between the characters. Being part of a family, of a community, negotiating your way toward your needs and failing sometimes, that’s something we have to do in life no matter what, and trying to observe it while it happens is pretty important for me as a writer. The historical scenes required more literal research; I loved one book called The Soviet-Afghan War which was hugely detailed and informative and I read much more than I needed for those short scenes. I spent a lot of time with Russian folk tales, of course; I have a couple of books that I’ve had since childhood, with Ivan Bilibin illustrations, which helped me underpin the atmosphere and themes.



TQIn Spells of Blood and Kin who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Claire:  Lissa was actually the hardest. She’s shy, shut-in, overly entwined with her family, inexperienced socially; none of these are traits I share. She’s also powerful and has been raised as the heir apparent to an important social position. Her reactions to other people went through some changes in early drafts as I tried to figure out how confident she would be in some of the situations she faces.

The easiest was Nick, because I’ve dated him about ten times. Kidding aside, our culture is full of nuanced representations of guys like Nick, because we’re biased toward finding young men’s coming of age stories particularly important; there are a lot of great memoirs and novels that probably informed my characterization, although I couldn’t call out any one in particular.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Spells of Blood and Kin?

Claire:  I would say it isn’t really a choice—we’re always engaging with social issues. Trying not to engage is a choice that still has implications, often supporting the status quo. In writing Nick, especially, I wanted to face head-on the faultlines in his personality and the way he is tempted when he’s exposed to Maksim’s blood and its enhancement of strength, anger and violence. For Nick it’s like his quotient of toxic masculinity gets boosted. I tried to contrast him with Jonathan, who also has his share of problematic yet normalized young-dude behaviour, but Jonathan is growing up and trying to be a good man. Nick’s newfound power works as a metaphor for privilege in this scenario, I think—it makes it seductively easy for Nick to behave badly, but it doesn’t force him to. He chooses that on his own; he lets his worst self make the choice. We can’t choose what kind of power society confers on us, but we can choose to be careful with it, and to do our best to be kind.



TQWhich question about Spells of Blood and Kin do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Claire:  It’s a spoiler question, which is probably why no one has asked it yet. Maybe I’ll answer it sometime in the future when everyone has read the book…



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Spells of Blood and Kin.

Claire:  Maksim: “Part of me is not human, koldun’ia. And the other part is not good.”



TQWhat's next?

Claire:  I’m working on a book featuring Gus. It’s still too early to share much. I can tell you it has ghosts in it.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Claire:  Thank you for inviting me, and for the great questions!





Spells of Blood and Kin
   A Dark Fantasy Novel
Thomas Dunne Books, June 14, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Claire Humphrey, author of Spells of Blood and Kin
Where we love, we ruin…

Some families hand down wealth through generations; some hand down wisdom. Some families, whether they want to or not, hand down the secret burdens they carry and the dangerous debts they owe.

Lissa Nevsky's grandmother leaves her a big, empty house, and a legacy of magic: folk magic, old magic, brought with Baba when she fled the Gulag. In the wake of her passing, the Russian community of Toronto will depend on Lissa now, to give them their remedies and be their koldun'ia. But Lissa hasn't had time to learn everything Baba wanted to teach her—let alone the things Baba kept hidden.

Maksim Volkov's birth family is long dead, anything they bestowed on him long turned to dust. What Maksim carries now is a legacy of violence, and he does not have to die to pass it on. When Maksim feels his protective spell fail, he returns to the witch he rescued from the Gulag, only to find his spell has died along with the one who cast it. Without the spell, it is only a matter of time before Maksim's violent nature slips its leash and he infects someone else—if he hasn't done so already.

Nick Kaisaris is just a normal dude who likes to party. He doesn't worry about family drama. He doesn't have any secrets. All he wants is for things to stay like they are right now, tonight: Nick and his best buddy Jonathan, out on the town. Only Nick is on a collision course with Maksim Volkov, and what he takes away from this night is going to crack open Nick's nature until all of his worst self comes to light.

Lissa's legacy of magic might hold the key to Maksim's salvation, if she can unravel it in time. But it's a legacy that comes at a price. And Maksim might not want to be saved…





About Claire

Interview with Claire Humphrey, author of Spells of Blood and Kin
Photo © Bevin Reith
CLAIRE HUMPHREY is a national buyer for Indigo Books. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Crossed Genres, Fantasy Magazine, and Podcastle. Her short story ''Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot'' appeared in the Lambda Award-nominated collection Beyond Binary, and her short story "The Witch Of Tarup" was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Long Hidden. Spells of Blood and Kin is her first novel.

Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter @clairebmused


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