The Qwillery | category: 2015 Debut Author Challenge | (page 3 of 18)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Matthew Kressel, author of King of Shards

Please welcome Matthew Kressel to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. King of Shards was published on October 13th by Arche Press.

Interview with Matthew Kressel, author of King of Shards

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

Matthew:  I've always lived in my head, making up stories for my own entertainment, even before I knew what I was doing. Eventually, after many delays, I took a class at the New School in Manhattan on writing Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. It was taught by the late Alice K. Turner, who introduced me to constructive critique. She connected me to the writers group Altered Fluid that I'm still a member of today.

TQAre you a plotter, pantser or hybrid?

Matthew:  Both methods work for me, depending on the project. I tend to overthink plots when I "pants" it, so I've found that plotting helps me reign in my tendency for too much complexity (I love detail). On the other hand, there is a wonderful sense of freedom when you are flying by the seat of your pants and not knowing if you will fly straight into a wall or into the clear blue sky. I usually have an ending in mind before I begin either way.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Matthew:  Mostly, it's a time thing. I freelance, so I'm used to jumping between projects, but certain writing projects like novels take a huge amount of directed focus. When I'm jumping between multiple tasks for work and personal life, I find that it's harder to return to that state of hyper focus the novel needs. Ultimately, it's about me setting aside time each day for just that one task.

TQYou are also an editor. How does this affect or not your own writing?

Matthew:  I used to edit a 'zine called Sybil's Garage from 2003 to 2010, but I don't edit anymore. Though I would like to edit one or more anthologies in the future, it's not part of my immediate goals. Editing allowed me to view the process from the other side of the transom. It became very clear to me that if you don't hold the editor's attention at every moment, she's going to pass on your story. If you have hundreds of stories to read per month, you are not going to wade through the slow parts of someone's story waiting for it to get good. So in my writing, having that in mind, I realize you have to hook the reader from the beginning and hold her attention throughout. It's harder, of course, but it's made me a better writer.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Matthew:  I started off as a kid reading the usual suspects. Asimov, Clarke, Niven, King, Lovecraft, Heinlein. Today some of my favorite authors are Jeffrey Ford, Kelly Link, Kim Stanley Robinson, Laird Barron, N.K. Jemisin, Mercurio D. Rivera. I love M.R. James and Poe and Shirley Jackson and....I could go on.

TQDescribe King of Shards in 140 characters or less.

Matthew:  An anonymous saint and a demon king join forces to save the cosmos from the legion of hell.

TQTell us something about King of Shards that is not found in the book description.

Matthew:  It is partly based on several esoteric Jewish myths, some of which I explore on my blog series 36 Days of Judaic Myth:

TQWhat inspired you to write King of Shards? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Matthew:  I love the myth of the Lamed Vav, which says that there are thirty six anonymous saints who sustain the world. If any one of them cease to be righteous, the world would be destroyed. They are so hidden and anonymous that you or I could be one and not know it. It says you never know if the person whom you meet is one of these saints, so you should treat all people as if they are one. And I thought to myself, somewhat insidiously, if they sustain the world, what would happen if someone killed them all? Eventually a plot arose in my mind of a horde of clever demons trying to kill the Lamed Vav in order to bring power and life to their long suffering world. That's how King of Shards was born.

What I love most about writing fantasy is the absolute freedom. In fantasy, you are not bound by ordinary rules of space and time, and thus anything is possible.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for King of Shards?

Matthew:  I researched heavily into various Judaic myths and folklore, and also into pre-Judaic Assyrian and Babylonian myths. A lot of these folktales and so-called apocryphal stories were appropriated from earlier cultures and religions and re-framed into the Judaic concept of reality. So you get cool things like the Babylonian night succubi "lilitu" becoming the terrifying Lilith, who later becomes a potent symbol of female independence and feminism. You get to learn that along with the Leviathan of the sea and the Behemoth of the land, there is the Ziz, an enormous bird whose wingspan goes from one end of the world to the other, and whose legs are so tall that if you dropped a hammer at their top, it would take seven years before it hit the ground. And I got to learn about the Shamir worm, which is a magical worm that can crack apart the hardest stone just by its mere touch and was used to construct the ancient Jerusalem Temple. And I read how King Solomon enslaved Ashmedai, the demon king, in order to find the location of the Shamir worm. There are so many wondrous treasures like these.

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

Matthew:  I found Ashmedai the most fun. His voice came naturally to me. He's angry because his creator destroyed his world and almost killed him too. But he survived -- by the skin of his teeth. And now he's angry and wants justice. He's so determined that he'll do anything to get his way, even if that means killing anyone who gets in his path. Righteous indignation is a powerful motivating force. Daniel, on the other hand, was the most difficult for me. He's a Lamed Vavnik -- a saint -- though he doesn't know it at first. By nature, he's humble and kind, a do-gooder. That doesn't exactly make for an exciting character, and so I needed to have him change his behavior throughout the story without sacrificing his core morality. I never wanted him to become truly evil, merely corrupted, so it was a fine line to toe.

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

Matthew:  Who is the cover artist? His work is amazing!

The cover artist is Leon Tukker. He's an art student from the Netherlands and his work is amazing. He's only just started with this stuff and he's clearly got talent. I think more people should be aware of him, and I expect you'll be seeing his stuff on more covers soon. Check out his portfolio at:

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from King of Shards.


Not where the hell, Daniel, the demon thought, but which one.

One city’s rubble is the next city’s foundation.

TQWhat's next?

Matthew:  So I have two stories coming out soon. "Demon in Aisle 6" about a high-school kid who sees a demon in his mega-store where he works, comes out in Nightmare Magazine in November. And "The Problem of Meat" about interdimensional beings that eat our emotions, is coming out in the reboot of Grendelsong at the end of October around Halloween. Other than that, I'll be working on the sequel to King of Shards.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Matthew:  Thank you so much for letting me participate!

King of Shards
The Worldmender Trilogy 1
Arche Press, October 13, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Matthew Kressel, author of King of Shards
Across the ineffable expanse of the Great Deep float billions of shattered universes: the Shards. Populated with vengeful demons and tormented humans, the Shards need Earth to survive just as plants need water. Earth itself is kept alive by thirty-six righteous people, thirty-six hidden saints known as the Lamed Vav. Kill but a few of the Lamed Vav and the Earth will shatter, and all the Shards that rely upon it will die in a horrible cataclysm.

When Daniel Fisher is abducted on his wedding day by the demon king, Ashmedai, he learns he is a Lamed Vav, one of the hidden righteous upholding the world. The demon Mashit has usurped the throne of demonkind from Ashmedai and has been systematically murdering the Lamed Vav. On a desert-covered Shard teeming with strange creatures, pursued by a fearsome demon army, Daniel and Ashmedai, saint and demon, must join forces to stop Mashit before she destroys all of existence. Daniel’s survival means he must ally with evil Ashmedai. Yet who but a saint—a Lamed Vav—can save the world?

About Matthew

Interview with Matthew Kressel, author of King of Shards
Photo by Christine Kressel
Matthew Kressel is a multiple Nebula Award-nominated writer and World Fantasy Award-nominated editor.

His novel, King of Shards, debuts October 13, 2015 from Arche Press, an imprint of Resurrection House.

His story “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” was a 2014 Nebula Award nominee for Best Short Story.

His story “The Sounds of Old Earth” was a 2013 Nebula Award nominee for Best Short Story. The story also made the 2013 Locus Recommended Reading List.

His short stories have or will appear in such publications as Lightspeed, Nightmare, Clarkesworld,, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Interzone, Electric Velocipede, Apex Magazine, and the anthologies Naked City, After,The People of the Book, and The Mammoth Book of Steampunk, as well as other markets.

In 2011 Matthew was nominated for World Fantasy Award in the category of Special Award, Non-Professional for his work editing Sybil’s Garage.

In 2003 he started the speculative fiction magazine Sybil’s Garageand the stories and poetry therein have received multiple honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. Under the rubric of Senses Five Press, Matthew published Paper Cities, which won the 2009 World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology.

Matthew co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction reading series at the famous KGB Bar alongside veteran speculative-fiction editor Ellen Datlow. The monthly series highlights luminaries and up-and-comers in speculative fiction.

Matthew has been a long-time member of Altered Fluid, a Manhattan-based writing group. He is also obsessed with the film Blade Runner.

When he’s not writing, Matthew designs websites, which he has done for Stanford University, Columbia University, the magazines Weird Tales, Fantasy, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, writers Genevieve Valentine, Nicholas Kaufmann, Chris Willrich, and many others. He has coded applications and websites for ADP, Alliance Bernstein, and Nikon, among others. He also administers office computer networks. If you’re interested in his IT services, you can check out his business website here.

WebsiteFacebook ~ Twitter @mattkressel ~ Google+ ~ Pinterest

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Grudging by Michelle Hauck

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Grudging by Michelle Hauck

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.

Michelle Hauck

Birth of Saints 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, November 17, 2015

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - Grudging by Michelle Hauck
A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power.  And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.

Interview with Adrian Barnes, author of Nod

Please welcome Adrian Barnes to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Nod was published on September 1st by Titan Books.

Interview with Adrian Barnes, author of Nod

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

Adrian:  When I was a kid, books made me feel alive--and amazed. Each new book was-and is--like that. I guess I sort of cried, ‘Me too! Me too!’ and so I did my best to join in!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Adrian:  A bit of both, I guess. I tend to have a master plan and character or two, but after that I keep adding ‘stuff’ to make the stories cooler, funnier, and weird. My idea has always been to create novels as jammed full of...stuff! This includes stories, philosophy, and description.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Adrian:  I love the thought before I write and I adore endless editing, so I suppose it’s the actual writing that gets in the way as a necessity between the two!

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Adrian:  Invariably I give credit to Lewis Carroll, a man who blew the entire world up for me...something for which I eternally adore and respect. His two Alice books are more real than the world we see around us.

I have also always loved Harlan Ellison, the SF man who also loved Alice and who also blew our visions of life apart, replacing it with something bigger and truer. He never tried to copy life as ‘real’. Rather he would take us take us beyond ‘normal’ to something much larger. When I was a teen I had read one of his stories but wanted more! He wasn’t in the library or books near me, so I took the bus downtown and searched the stores of old books for weeks. Eventually I found six or seven of his!

TQDescribe Nod.

Adrian:  Paul wakes up one morning only to discover that no one in the world has slept in the last 8 hours. Well, a few dozen people around the world had slept--and no one knows why they were left alone. That day the newspapers blabbed that science says that we all go insane after two weeks awake. And after four weeks, we’ll all die--or be killed. Theories spread like cancers as to what brought this to our world: disease, poison, drugs, aliens, and even God. And Paul? He watches it all happen and writes it down. A book he calls NOD.

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

Adrian:  Paul’s book, called NOD, is about the history of ancient words. The book is stolen by a local man, who sees it as a vision of the future and begins to start a new vision of life. All around Paul, a version of NOD begins to appear, even as the world begins to die.

TQWhat inspired you to write Nod? Did you set out to write a dystopian SF novel? Why apocalypse via sleep deprivation?

I suppose I find the world sort of crazy and doomed given the way we all act and I wanted to come up with a metaphor for what I see each day. We all act as though ‘life goes on’. But it just doesn’t. Not really. And we don’t want to face that. Why? Big stuff!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Nod?

Adrian:  I read up on the basic knowledge about human insomnia, of course. Sadly, there are some people who fail to sleep for two weeks and it’s horrible, but we study them and try to learn more about how our brains, under massive pain, cope. In fact, the ‘death at thirty days’ is a guess from doctors. No one has lived longer than two weeks. But in our crazy busy world, I’m sure we’ll get there one day...

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

Adrian:  The easiest character to write was Paul because, ahem, he’s a lot like me. He thinks and writes a lot! The worst? Paul’s partner, Tanya. I knew I would have to make her suffer and I felt guilty the whole time. The good news is, if I finish NOD 2...Tanya will get a second chance at life, despite her death.

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

Adrian:  Everyone asks me, ‘why couldn’t they sleep?’ and were sort of angry about that. I guess I wish someone would ask the questions ‘why can’t we sleep’ in a way. If that makes sense...

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Nod.

Adrian:  “She turned and walked out of the room. I watched her go with a miser’s attention. Each remembered detail of her face was precious to me.” These words, I suppose, apologize to Tanya in all her pain...

TQWhat's next?

Adrian:  Next for me is my new novel, Satan A La Mode, which comes out in December 2015. It’s my attempt to write a modern version of Alice in Wonderland: I aspire to create whimsy, seriousness, humour, poetry, politics, and so on. This new book is illustrated by the amazing artist Yuliya Kashapova. She is my partner on this project and has provided 75 pieces of art that go as far as, well, Alice in Wonderland.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Titan Books, September 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

Interview with Adrian Barnes, author of Nod
Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no-one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no-one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand can still sleep, and they've all shared the same golden dream. A handful of children still sleep as well, but what they're dreaming remains a mystery. After six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis will set in. After four weeks, the body will die. In the interim, panic ensues and a bizarre new world arises in which those previously on the fringes of society take the lead. One couple experience a lifetime in a week as he continues to sleep, she begins to disintegrate before him, and the new world swallows the old one whole...

Interview with Adrian Barnes, author of Nod
Adrian Barnes was born in Blackpool, England but moved to Canada in 1969. He teaches English at Selkirk College, British Columbia. He is married with two children. He received an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and Nod is his first published novel.


Interview with Sigal Samuel, author of The Mystics of Mile End

Please welcome Sigal Samuel to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Mystics of Mile End is published today by William Morrow. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Sigal a Happy Publication Day.

Interview with Sigal Samuel, author of The Mystics of Mile End

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

Sigal:  I started writing — mostly journals — when I was about 10 years old. It was how I made sense of the world then, and it still is. In my childhood bedroom, I have a whole bookshelf that’s entirely taken up with those journals.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sigal:  I’m definitely a plotter. I’ve lost track of how many outlines and beat sheets I made while writing The Mystics of Mile End. That said, the most enjoyable part of writing is when the story surprises you and takes control, and something comes out that’s beyond anything you could have planned for.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sigal:  When I decided to write The Mystics of Mile End from the perspectives of a little boy, a middle-aged professor, a female college student, and an old man, I thought the hardest part would be accessing an authentic voice for each. But no — the trickier thing was staying “in the zone” of any one voice long enough to finish writing that character’s section. For a while, I actually had to give up reading fiction that was written in a vastly different voice from the one I was trying to create.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Sigal:  I am influenced by contemporary Jewish magical realist writers like Etgar Keret and Jonathan Safran Foer, and by South American surrealists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges. Some of my favorite authors include Miranda July, for the sheer originality of her voice, and Zoe Whittall, who writes LGBT characters that are gritty, brave and believable.

TQDescribe The Mystics of Mile End in 140 characters or less.

Sigal:  A dysfunctional Jewish family in Montreal grows obsessed with climbing the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life — even though they don't believe in God.

TQTell us something about The Mystics of Mile End that is not found in the book description.

Sigal:  In the final version of the book, the story is told from four distinct perspectives. But in the first draft, it was all from one perspective — that of the daughter, Samara. Ultimately, I decided it would be much more interesting to tell this story from multiple vantage points, especially since there’s always more than one side to a story when you’re dealing with a family.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Mystics of Mile End? Why focus on the Kabbalah?

Sigal:  I grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community and, as a girl, wasn’t allowed to show an interest in the more mystical legends in the Jewish tradition. Luckily, I had a dad who was a professor of Jewish mysticism and was willing to share its secrets with me. His after-school Kabbalah classes started when I was 12 and continued around our dining room table throughout high school. Years later, those lessons inspired me to write The Mystics of Mile End.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Mystics of Mile End?

Sigal:  I brushed up on some of the mystical legends I’d learned as a kid, and turned to scholars like Aryeh Kaplan to deepen my knowledge of them. I also spent a lot of time walking around Mile End — the half-hipster, half-Hasidic neighborhood of Montreal where the story takes place — to capture the details of how people dress, talk and behave.

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

Sigal:  The easiest character to write was the family patriarch, David. That may seem odd since, on the surface, I don’t have much in common with this middle-aged, male, atheist professor. But I find it relatively easy to inhabit the mind of an adult like that.

The hardest character was 11-year-old Lev. Writing in a kid’s voice is tough because you have to remember that all kids, even precocious ones like Lev, are self-centered — they think the whole world revolves around them. I read Lev’s whole section out loud to myself to make sure every phrase sounded like something he would really say.

TQWhich question about The Mystics of Mile End do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Sigal:  What do you hope readers will take away from The Mystics of Mile End?

I think that some of us are so hungry for meaning that we get obsessed with certain ideas — often these are seductive religious or mystical ideas — and we forget that pursuing this obsession comes at a cost to the people around us. Without making any moral judgment about this, I wanted readers to consider the question: What’s the value of devoting yourself to some notion of holiness if it means leaving behind those who love you most?

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Mystics of Mile End.


“I may have been hearing God’s voice, but my interest remained at the level of the sublime, sky-scraping Tree of Life; I was not about to get down in the mud of thou-shalt-and-shalt-not Judaism.”

“Don’t see signs in everything. It makes it impossible to live.”

TQWhat’s next?

Sigal:  My children’s fantasy novel, Infinity Hotel, tells the story of Zeno, an eleven-year-old boy who discovers a hotel with an infinite number of rooms. This action-packed adventure challenges readers aged 9–12 to explore the deliciously mindboggling idea of infinity. I’m currently working on a second draft.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Mystics of Mile End
William Morrow Paperbacks, October 13, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Sigal Samuel, author of The Mystics of Mile End
Sigal Samuel’s debut novel, in the vein of Nicole Krauss’s bestselling The History of Love, is an imaginative story that delves into the heart of Jewish mysticism, faith, and family.

“This is not an ordinary tree I am making.

“This,” he said, “this is the Tree of Knowledge.”

In the half-Hasidic, half-hipster Montreal neighborhood of Mile End, eleven-year-old Lev Meyer is discovering that there may be a place for Judaism in his life. As he learns about science in his day school, Lev begins his own extracurricular study of the Bible’s Tree of Knowledge with neighbor Mr. Katz, who is building his own Tree out of trash. Meanwhile his sister Samara is secretly studying for her Bat Mitzvah with next-door neighbor and Holocaust survivor, Mr. Glassman. All the while his father, David, a professor of Jewish mysticism, is a non-believer.

When, years later, David has a heart attack, he begins to believe God is speaking to him. While having an affair with one of his students, he delves into the complexities of Kabbalah. Months later Samara, too, grows obsessed with the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life—hiding her interest from those who love her most–and is overcome with reaching the Tree’s highest heights. The neighbors of Mile End have been there all along, but only one of them can catch her when she falls.

About Sigal

Interview with Sigal Samuel, author of The Mystics of Mile End
Sigal Samuel is an award-winning fiction writer, journalist, essayist, and playwright. Currently a writer and editor for the Forward, she has also published work in the Daily Beast, the Rumpus, BuzzFeed, and the Walrus. Her six plays have been produced from Vancouver to New York.

Sigal earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Originally from Montreal, she now lives and writes in Brooklyn. The Mystics of Mile End is her first novel.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @SigalSamuel

Interview with Logan J. Hunder, author of Witches Be Crazy

Please welcome Logan J. Hunder to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Witches Be Crazy was published on July 14th by Night Shade Books.

Interview with Logan J. Hunder, author of Witches Be Crazy

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

Logan:  Thanks for figuratively having me!

I've always had a very active imagination. I think if my parents were to answer this question they would make claims about me writing stories all the way back in first or second grade when would scrawl semi-coherent blobs and call them illustrated novels. But personally I don't think I ever created anything that could be considered an actual story until I was about twelve or thirteen and in middle school. In lieu of playing sports or talking to girls, a couple friends and I would spend our lunch hours huddled in our classroom taking turns at putting out issues of our collaborative comic series: The Dunce Hat Warrior. An epic tale of a bumbling idiot that shot a lot of guns and put dunce caps on the heads of those he killed...for some sounded much better at the time. I was (am?) a strange kid.

Writing was always a creative outlet for me. Something I could do by myself for myself. The only real difference between now and then is some people seem genuinely interested in what I come up with. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Logan:  Up until this very moment I had never heard either of those terms before. Now that I am newly educated I can say with absolute certainty that I am a proud pantser, much as that makes me sound like a guy who habitually pulls people's pants down. There's something about spontaneity that really adds to humour—just watch Whose Line Is It Anyway? I've found I actually have a more difficult time writing out points in the story that I had already planned. The words just don't come as easy. Rather, when I have no concept of what should come next and just let myself go I find I can end up in some incredibly amusing places. It's almost like I experience the story the same way the reader does in those cases.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Logan:  Sometimes motivation can be an issue. Sometimes finding the right words can be an issue. Sometimes forcing myself to cut redundant things can be an issue. Sometimes unintended repetition can be an issue. One of the challenges I find myself facing is that of brevity. Polonius says it's the soul of wit, and wit is what I want, so often times I have to take a moment and ask myself if I'm rambling a bit too much. It's a challenge I often face in real life too.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Logan:  Well it goes without saying that the pioneers of the art, Terry Pratchett and Piers Anthony, have some level of influence over any of us who dare enter the hybrid realms of fantasy and making fun of things. And like virtually every other child born in the early 90s and thereafter, I was a huge Harry Potter fan growing up. However an author of whom I am a fan and probably derive influence from that one wouldn't expect would be Louis L'Amour. It's a fondness I've undoubtedly inherited from my dad, who named both me and my brother Nolan after members of the Sackett family. I still remember finding an old tattered copy of Ride the Dark Trail at an rundown book store. It split in half before I managed to finish reading it. Still sits on my shelf, though.

TQDescribe Witches Be Crazy in 140 characters or less.

Logan:  It's funny, punny, and worth your money! Witches has the action and humor you want in a big budget movie without the forced romance subplot.

That was exactly 140 characters. I'm proud of myself.

TQTell us something about Witches Be Crazy that is not found in the book description.

Logan:  Okay! So the blurb sets the scene, a goofy kingdom of scenic spots and nefarious plots. The reader is naturally expecting a story of an unlikely hero rising up to face larger than life scenarios and get repeatedly smacked across the face by circumstance, as is common in the classic quest. However what the back blurb fails to portray is the referential nature of the writing. Over the course of Witches Be Crazy I lovingly reference and pay homage to everything from Les Miserables to South Park to lyrics from one of my favorite Canadian Bands: Great Big Sea. I find inspiration from the strangest of things, and I love to incorporate it in my work. Many readers have commented on the pleasure they discern from picking out the countless Easter Eggs they come across. The best part is even if you're my mother and you don't notice ANY of them, it doesn't detract from the story itself at all.

TQWhat inspired you to write Witches Be Crazy? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy and humor?

Logan:  Fantasy has always been my favorite genre because it can be anything you want it to be. It is limited only by our own personal limitations as creative people. But even classic fantasy at its core is such a unique hybrid of drama and whimsy, fighting and fun, and the ability to incorporate it all under one cover without too many seams—if any at all. My nerdy proclivity for video games and D&D probably has had some hand in developing my tastes as well. As for writing humour, I've known for quite a long time that I have a degree of difficulty in taking things seriously—something that many of my college professors were not fans of. I still refuse to believe I'm the only person my forensic anthropology teacher had ever seen carry on a loud discussion about the merits of using a human femur as a mace. Though in retrospect I think she was just displeased I was brandishing an actual human femur at the time to illustrate my point.

That little story might seem tangential, but it was after college that I finally had reached my breaking point with writing serious things and wanted to take a foray into something offbeat. My original premise was "A few guys travel across the country to break into the castle and kill the princess rather than save her." From there I just "pants"d it, so to speak. It wasn't until I was over half way through that I even got the notion of trying to publish it.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Witches Be Crazy?

Logan:  In my writing I find myself researching some of the strangest things. For Dungar naturally I had to learn a little bit about the blacksmithing process. But as an unabashed teetotaler I also had to brush up on various kinds of alcohol, how coveted they were, what they were made of, and what assumptions can be made about the kind of person who enjoys them. For Rose I had to familiarize myself with a variety of science mumbo jumbo, but my brother is literally a rocket scientist so thankfully he could always be relied upon to help me out there. Fun fact: when I'm crediting the women of SRS for various inventions, all the inventions I list (except plumbing) actually were invented by women. In writing the sequel I actually found myself watching a half hour long Youtube video describing the intricacies of making stained glass windows... All just so I could make a joke.

The part in Witches about diamonds is probably what required the most research.

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

Logan:  While I don't personally see it, people who know me have said that Dungar is a lot like me. I suppose that's to be expected, him being my very first protagonist and all, but even if there are similarities I don't think they're so apparent that one could call this author-insert fiction. That being said, his lines and demeanour come pretty naturally; especially when often times there's the comically unreal Jimminy to act as a basis for comparison. But despite being a complete foil to Dungar, Jimminy was startlingly easy for me to write as well. Coming up with malapropisms and pithy remarks wasn't always a no-brainer, but his overall personality and outlook were very easy to draw character from.

If I were to pick a hardest character to write, it would probably be Gilly. I am a man which, by definition, means I'm not a woman. So just writing from a female perspective means I'm having to reach a bit. I'm forced to reach a little bit more when I'm writing a character that is deeply religious whilst I have no affiliations to the divine myself. And from there the only other thing that drives her is her love for her sister... Something I also lack. There's a bond between Rose and Gilly much greater than even what I delved into in the book, and it causes Gilly to have a distrust and perhaps even dislike for Dungar, a character that I just said is pretty me-ish. With Dungar I can draw on my values, with Jimminy I can draw on my humour, but with Gilly I'm basically writing a character that is nothing like me and probably would not care for me if she knew me.

TQWhich question about Witches Be Crazy do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Logan:  Oh how fun! It has to be related to Witches Be Crazy, so I guess "Can I buy you dinner?" is out. Alright, let’s try something like this:

"Hey Logan, nice hair, so I was wondering: In your last response, you compared Dungar to yourself but also claimed there were differences. If you could take one aspect of Dungar for yourself what would it be? And if you could give one aspect of yourself to him, what would it be?"

Well hey thanks for that incredibly thought provoking question, me. If I were to take an aspect of Dungar for myself it would probably be either his bravery or confidence. Granted there were times in the story that he lacked sureness in his actions, he never crumbled under pressure and he never froze when he needed to No matter what this foreign and bizarre world threw at him, he could always persevere and find a way to keep on keepin on.

But the very reason I would admire him comes with side effects. Dungar can be more tightly wound than a catapult. Sometimes you have to be able to not take yourself or anything else too seriously. Dungar is so quick to rush to anger and violence that it's a good thing he lives in fantasy land, because that sort of thing doesn't really fly in many other places. His proclivity for punching people, even if he managed to weather the societal ramifications, surely cannot be good for his health. Sooner or later you run into someone that can punch harder than you, and even if you don't, your heart is gonna hate you. I don't think blood pressure meds exist in Jenair, so for his own good I'd prescribe Dungar some Logan chill pills.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Witches Be Crazy.

Logan:  Alright it's kind of long, but easily one of my favourite quotes is from when they first meet the pirate captain: Nobeard

"We steal from the rich and give to the poor!" Nobeard repeated as he began to sway in rhythm with the music. "But we be more than your commoner altruistic outlaw! We are the very image of that which is not changeable, we are experts in every theft tactic that is stageable, we carry out our deeds to keep the wealth all rearrangeable, despite the occupational hazards being quite unassuageable!" He paused briefly yet again and turned back to Dungar. "Really what I'm trying to say here is that in matters profitable, cartable, and sinkable, I am the very model of a modern mighty liberal!"

Also one of the reviews on Goodreads listed this exchange as one of her favourite bits. To her it was a barometer of the books wackiness. (Names left out to keep it non-spoilery)

"Who is this guy?!"
"How are you alive?"
"How did you find us?"
"Where did you get that katana?"

"Why are you all standing around letting them have this conversation!?" [Villain] yelled.

TQWhat's next?

Logan:  Well, the first draft of the sequel has been completed. It's currently being shown around to all the important people who have a say in such things. From there I definitely plan on branching out away from Dungar and the crew, but always leaving it open for to return. He's a swell guy, but ideally I'd want to establish new characters and their own adventures, then after a while I could start mixing the old with the new. Have crossovers, if you will. Endless possibilities!

I've also mulled over the idea of adapting my old Dunce Hat Warrior comics into a novel of their own. I'd have to break it down into its most basic elements in order to filter out the taint of 12 year old me, but I think it would leave some interesting building blocks. That's nowhere on the horizon yet though.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Logan:  Hey! I told my people to tell your people I'm not answering questions about this!

Witches Be Crazy
A Tale That Happened Once Upon a Time in the Middle of Nowhere
Night Shade Books, July 14, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Logan J. Hunder, author of Witches Be Crazy
Real heroes never die. But they do get grouchy in middle age.

The beloved King Ik is dead, and there was barely time to check his pulse before the royal throne was supporting the suspiciously shapely backside of an impostor pretending to be Ik’s beautiful long-lost daughter. With the land’s heroic hunks busy drooling all over themselves, there’s only one man left who can save the kingdom of Jenair. His name is Dungar Loloth, a rural blacksmith turned innkeeper, a surly hermit and an all-around nobody oozing toward middle age, compensating for a lack of height, looks, charm, and tact with guts and an attitude.

Normally politics are the least of his concerns, but after everyone in the neighboring kingdom of Farrawee comes down with a severe case of being dead, Dungar learns that the masquerading princess not only is behind the carnage but also has similar plans for his own hometown. Together with an eccentric and arguably insane hobo named Jimminy, he journeys out into the world he’s so pointedly tried to avoid as the only hope of defeating the most powerful person in it. That is, if he can survive the pirates, cultists, radical Amazonians, and assorted other dangers lying in wait along the way.

Logan J. Hunder’s hilarious debut blows up the fantasy genre with its wry juxtaposition of the fantastic and the mundane, proving that the best and brightest heroes aren’t always the best for the job.

About Logan

Interview with Logan J. Hunder, author of Witches Be Crazy
Logan J. Hunder is a humanoid creature that sits around eating Cheetos and playing Minecraft, occasionally stopping to write something down. After graduating from college he embarked on a journey to tell fun fantasy stories laced with action, adventure, and stupid jokes. The first product of that journey is his debut novel, Witches Be Crazy, a whimsical and mischievous tale of courage, unconventional friendship, and persevering even when you're completely out of your depth. It may also involve killer fish, sexy princesses, and rocks getting punched in the face. It is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for the pure of heart.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @ljh_writerguy

Interview with Minerva Zimmerman, author of Take On Me

Please welcome Minerva Zimmerman to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Take On Me was published on October 6th by Fireside Fiction Company.

Interview with Minerva Zimmerman, author of Take On Me

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

Minerva:  I think Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary was a huge influence on my decision to become a writer at age 6. I hope some of my spelling has improved since then. I’ve dabbled in trying to talk myself out of becoming a writer ever since, but so far it hasn’t worked.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Minerva:  I am a pantser until about the two-thirds mark through a project, then I sit down and outline everything I’ve already written and everything I know needs to happen so I can get a better overview of things and start to see if stuff needs to be moved around. That way I can see if there’s a subplot that needs removing, or if I’ve got any holes that need filling. I did a project where I outlined the whole thing first and it took the joy of discovery out of the process of writing for me. I will say that the projects I’ve finished, I knew where I was going, so I’m not sure an outline is as important to me as just knowing a destination.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Minerva:  I think it depends on what I’m working on. I am not sure I’d answer this question twice the same way. Right now I think trying to live up to my own expectations for my writing is the hardest thing. A month ago I would have said doing copyedits. Launch week I’m sure I’ll say promotion.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Minerva:  I am a big mythology and fairy tale person. I also adore science and try to read a lot of interesting scientific discoveries. Strangely whenever anyone asks me about my influences I always think of authors I read when I was younger vs. anything more recent. Authors like: Edgar Eager, Alfred Sloat, E. Nesbit, Ellen Raskin, Madeleine L’engel, Susan Cooper, and Ursula K. LeGuin (Tehanu is probably the most influential book I’ve ever read. It takes a world you’re familiar with and turns it on its head by showing you a different POV with other internal information). My favorite authors are the ones that make me think, which is not the same as those whose work I’ve enjoyed the most. Right now I’m probably most obsessed with Terry Pratchett, because I came to his books late and now I’m torn between dissecting and re-reading all of them (as well as listening to all the audiobooks) to find every bit of gleanable craft… and slowly rationing them out and savoring them. So far I’ve stuck with the latter.

TQDescribe Take On Me in 140 characters or less.

Minerva:  Imagine if Joss Whedon rebooted Highlander but with vampires, set in 1986 Chicago.

TQTell us something about Take On Me that is not found in the book description.

Minerva:  I drank a lot of Tang and Vitamin Supplement Powder while writing this story. I tried to take up eating Grape Nuts too, but while I like them more than Hannah does, I just never learned to love them.

TQWhat inspired you to write Take On Me? Why vampires?

Minerva:  I wanted to write something that was enjoyable to write I knew I would finish, so I picked up a world I’d created in about 1998 but lacked the skill at the time to render it into publishable fiction. Vampires had always been one of the groups in that world and I ended up writing a scene between Alex and Hannah but decades in the future from the events in TAKE ON ME. It was just a fun little writing exercise because I was in a bad place with my writing at the time, and it happened that in this conversation they alluded to the events of how they’d originally met and what each did or did not remember about it. I just knew I had to write this story and that was the best jumping off point to bring readers into the world of The Shattered Ones.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Take On Me?

Minerva:  Alex has a tendency to flash back to events from his past that affect how he sees the events of the present time, so I had to do a lot of research to make sure those ring true and that all the medical things Alex does at that time are appropriate for what he knows at the time. It was actually hardest to find out what has changed in internal medicine since 1986 rather than the 1880s. The medical profession is kind of touchy about recently out of date medical procedures and information being easily available. I also had to do a lot of research into 1986 because even though I lived through the 80s my memory is a bit jumbled up as to what was from which year, so I had to verify a lot of stuff and I’m sure I got something wrong. The most difficult research for me, personally, was actually about Chicago as a setting. My publisher helped me consult with author Malon Edwards, who is from Chicago, to help me avoid getting things drastically wrong. I don’t think I got it perfect, but the information Malon gave me helped me drastically improve several scenes and firmly ground them in Chicago with details I never could have gotten on my own.

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

Minerva:  Alex is the easiest character for me to write, with Hannah a very close second. She’s a little more difficult because she’s a teenager and I have to switch over to that mindset. Alex is easy because (this is going to sound really weird) he’s very broken-in like a favorite pair of jeans. He’s just so settled in who he is without being closed off from everything that his actions and reactions are very grounded. Hannah is more reactionary. The hardest character to write is anything with is Hannah’s brother, Zachariah. His brain just creeps me out.

TQWhich question about Take On Me do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Minerva:  I wish someone would ask about the wider world in Take On Me. The world starts out very zoomed in on Alex and Hannah and as the story progresses over the next two books it zooms out to show more and more about the world. Hannah and Alex are uniquely suited characters to slowly unveil the world due to being on the periphery of different groups, families, and factions.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Take On Me.


She poked at the garlic bulb. “How do I get it open?”
He reached above his head, pulled down a small saucepan, and handed it to her without turning away from the beef. “Hit it.”
There was a very loud thunk behind Alex.
“Uhm, Alex?”
Alex slid the fry pan to the only empty burner and turned around. Hannah stood at arm’s length from the cutting board, the saucepan in her hand. Garlic skin clung to the bottom of the pan like the mangled wings of a crushed fly. The smell of raw garlic filled the kitchen from the obliterated smear splattered over the counter and part of the wall.
Alex covered his mouth in shock. “You killed it!”
“I… I…”
He doubled over in laughter and tears ran down his face.
“It’s not funny.”
Alex gasped for breath. “Headline…” He waved his hand in front of him. “Garlic Murdered — Vampires Suspected.”
A chuckle escaped before she could scowl it out of existence.

TQWhat's next?

Minerva:  Take On Me is the first of three books we’re rapid releasing. The second book, Cruel Summer comes out in December, with the third, Running Down a Dream in February. We’re hoping when all three books are out we can put out a print collection of the three together for people who aren’t as keen on ebooks. I have a lot more stories and characters in this world that I can write about in the future. I know there’s one story in particular my editor hopes to force me to write in the future. I’m not planning on The Shattered Ones being a 24 book read them all series. My hope is to do lots of one-shot stories and short series within the world.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Take On Me
The Shattered Ones 1
Fireside Fiction Company, October 6, 2015
eBook, 238 pages

Interview with Minerva Zimmerman, author of Take On Me
Take On Me is the first book in a new series called The Shattered Ones. Book 2, Cruel Summer, is out in December, and Book 3, Running Down a Dream, in February.

Turning someone you don’t know into a vampire probably violates the Hippocratic oath. But Alex wasn’t really thinking about that when he found a girl bleeding out in his shower.

Being turned into a vampire isn’t as cool as it sounds. Especially when all Hannah wanted to be was dead. She thought she had finally escaped her brother. Until she woke up. Alive? Undead? Whatever. And now Hannah is stuck with the uncoolest vampire in existence.

As Alex and Hannah feel each other out — breaking some bones along the way — Alex’s oldest friend comes looking for help, and Hannah’s brother comes looking for her. What none of them see are the forces pushing them all on a collision course.

About Minerva

Interview with Minerva Zimmerman, author of Take On Me
Minerva Zimmerman is a statistically chaotic neutral writer of tragically funny fiction. She lives in rural Oregon and works as a museum professional. She occasionally blogs at and spends too much time on Twitter @grumpymartian.

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: Conspiracy of Angels by Michelle Belanger

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: Conspiracy of Angels by Michelle Belanger

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.

Michelle Belanger

Conspiracy of Angels
Shadowside 1
Titan Books, October 27, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: Conspiracy of Angels by Michelle Belanger
When Zachary Westland regains consciousness on the winter shores of Lake Erie, his memories are gone. All he has are chaotic visions of violence and death… and a business card for Club Heaven. There Zack finds the six-foot-six transexual decimus known as Saliriel, and begins to learn what has happened.

Alarming details emerge, of angelic tribes trapped on Earth and struggling in the wake of the Blood Wars. Anakim, Nephilim, Gibburim, and Rephaim—there has been an uneasy peace for centuries, but the truce is at an end.

With the help of his “sibling” Remiel and Lilianna, the lady of beasts, Zack must stem the bloodshed before it cannot be stopped. Yet if he dies again, it may be for the final time.

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel Graynelore

Graynelore by Stephen Moore was published by Harper Voyager UK on August 13, 2015 and the cover won the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for August. Please welcome Stephen back to The Qwillery to tell us about his favorite bit of his debut adult novel.

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel Graynelore

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel GRAYNELORE

A few years ago I had a conversation with my mother about her historical family roots and she reminded me that I am, in fact, directly descended from notorious Sixteenth Century Border Reivers. Who? Family groups from the English/Scottish borders who saw robbery, rustling, kidnap, blackmail, blood-feud and murder as all part of their normal daily life. What author worth their salt wouldn’t want to write about that? I couldn’t resist, and after travelling a long and winding road of research and creative adventure I eventually arrived at my fantasy novel, GRAYNELORE. How might I best describe GRAYNELORE? If it’s an epic fantasy, it’s also a tale of divided loyalty. It’s a blood-soaked mystery, a grown-up faerie-tale and, in its own twisted way, a kind of love story.

Which begs a question: out of all those amazing possibilities, do I, the author, have a favourite bit, an extract from the book I love above all others?

And, after much thought, I realise that I do! It’s the very first scene I wrote when I began Graynelore. It came to me fully formed and almost word perfect first time. Believe me, an extremely unusual event for a writer who composes piecemeal and as inspiration hits; an author who can easily re-write a scene a dozen times or more in an attempt to get it just right. Originally this scene did not belong anywhere in particular, only eventually becoming the start of Chapter Six: The Killing Field, and pivotal to the plot.

Why do I love it? Well, it very much set the tone and nature of the story I went on to tell. Also, I’m a very visual author. I see the actions, the events and the landscapes of my tales clearly laid out before me. And I’m a lover of beautiful words. The way they read off the page; indeed, the way they visually appear in print. It’s all important, and not to be rushed! This particular scene begins with the description of a face, a beautiful, enticing, seductive image. However, as the scene unfolds, it quickly becomes apparent that all is not what it first appears to be...

Her eyes, they were a blue that startled, invited, demanded. They caught hold of me, drew me to her like a lover. Still wet, they glistened. Not with tears. Nor fear. There was no stain on her cheeks. Her white cheeks... White skin… She was a beauty yet. The wind was playing lightly across her face, moving a single frond of auburn hair. She had caught it upon her tongue at the edge of her mouth. Open mouth. Red mouth… Surely she was teasing me, smiling, whispering. No... yes.
         I tried to put Notyet’s face in the way of hers, only I could not seem to find it. Vague, hidden as if veiled, its image would not come to me.
         ‘Rogrig,’ she said.
         Did she really speak my name, then? No... yes. No. It was only the voice of the wind.
         ‘Rogrig… Rogrig...?’
         But this last was not a woman’s voice, nor the wind.
         ‘Watch this, Rogrig!’ It was a clumsy youth who had spoken: Edbur, my elder-cousin Wolfrid’s whelp, his laughing cry was thin with a disguised fear.
         Then there was violence, the sweet scent of fresh blood spilled, the kicking.
         I was suddenly released from my stupor and the woman’s spell was broken. Instinctively I gripped the hilt of my sword, but let it rest at my side. There was no threat here. I recognised the boy’s smell. Edbur, Edbur-the-Widdle… It was a fitting nick-name. He was old enough, and big enough to fight, but the whelp soiled himself at every skirmish. Still, there had been killings made here, and if wounded pride was the worst of his injuries he had served his surname, his grayne, better than many. The fortunes would soon forgive him for it. And if they did not, well, then I would forgive him in their stead.
         The boy’s swinging kick sent the severed head of the dead woman tumbling. Edbur-the-Widdle laughed outrageously as it thumped and thudded between grass and gulley, as it broke heavily upon stone, spilling teeth, spitting blood.
         Not a woman now.

Is the scene a little gory? Perhaps, but it’s also honest and even beautiful (I hope). And if it was to become important to the story, it was also pivotal in another way. You see, up until this point all of my books had been written for older children (and I’ve been a published author for almost twenty years!) With this one scene, I found myself standing at an unexpected crossroads. And I knew if I was going to write truthfully about Border Reivers it might well be a faerie tale, but it was not going to be a children’s story. And so it turned out. GRAYNELORE is my very first fantasy novel for adults.

Harper Voyager UK, August 13, 2015
eBook, 400 pages
(Debut - Adult)

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel Graynelore
Rodrig Wishard is a killer, a thief and a liar. He’s a fighting man who prefers to solve his problems with his sword.

In a world without government or law, where a man’s only loyalty is to his family and faerie tales are strictly for children, Rodrig Wishard is not happy to discover that he’s carrying faerie blood. Something his family neglected to tell him. Not only that but he’s started to see faeries for real.

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth.

About Stephen

My Favourite Extract: Stephen Moore talks about his novel Graynelore
Stephen Moore is the author of the fantasy novel, GRAYNELORE. (Published by HarperVoyager, 2015.)

A published author since the mid 1990's he’s also written several well received fantasy books for older children (ages 9-14yrs/YA) including, TOOTH AND CLAW, SPILLING THE MAGIC and FAY. (Published by, Crossroad Press.)

Stephen hails from the North of England; a beautiful land he loves to explore; full of ancient Roman history, medieval castles and remnants of the infamous Border Reivers.

Long ago, before he discovered the magic of storytelling, he was an exhibition designer and he has fond memories of working in the strange old world of museums. Sometimes he can still be found in auction houses pawing over old relics!

He loves art and books, old and new. He’s into rock music, movies, history and RPG video games! But mostly, he likes to write, where he gets to create his own worlds.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @SMoore_Author  ~  Goodreads

2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Winner

The winner of the September 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is The Machinery by Gerrard Cowan from Harper Voyager UK with 76 votes equaling 39% of all votes. The cover artist is Ben Gardiner.  You may read a guest post by Gerrard about The beginning, middle and end of planning a trilogy here and an interview here.

2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Winner

The Results

2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Winner

The September 2015 Debut Covers

2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Winner

Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue with voting on the October Debut covers starting on October 15, 2015.

Interview with C.A. Higgins, author of Lightless

Please welcome C.A. Higgins to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Lightless is published on September 29th by Del Rey.

Interview with C.A. Higgins, author of Lightless

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

CAH:  I’ve written, in some form or another, for as long as I can remember, but in college I started to write more seriously. Writing to complete something, rather than just for the fun of it, gave me a sense of purpose that I found (and still find) very satisfying.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

CAH:  I am such a plotter that friends who are also plotters look at me sideways and say, “Calm down with those outlines, Higgins.”

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

CAH:  The time I have in which to do it—or lack thereof. I work during the week, and if I tried to write after I got home from work, I would end up exhausted. So I write one day out of the weekend, all day, and I defend my time on that day ferociously. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t get anything done.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

CAH:  I love the 19th century. Dostoevsky is my favorite—the part of THE IDIOT that stretches from about the argument between Aglaia and Nastasya to the end of the novel is the most perfect hundred and fifty pages I’ve ever read. I am also a huge fan of Robin Hobb’s Farseer books.

TQDescribe Lightless in 140 characters or less.

CAH:  “The capture of a criminal on a spaceship has consequences that throw the ship, its crew, and their government into chaos.”

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

CAH:  The book jacket mentions Althea and Ivan, but there is another major character named Ida Stays. Ida is an interrogator, and as much an outsider to the Ananke as Ivan is. Ivan has information that she needs, and there’s very little she wouldn’t be willing to do to get it—including things that might put the Ananke at risk.

TQWhat inspired you to write Lightless? Is Lightless hard SF, Space Opera? Genre-wise how would you describe it?

CAHLightless is a space opera and a thriller. I was inspired to write it in a physics class where we were learning about thermodynamics. We were doing an exercise where we determined the equation of state of particles in a box and I, rather fancifully, imagined those particles as people. A group of people in an isolated container aren’t that much different from an ideal gas—put pressure on them, and things heat up. As for what “box” I would put the characters in, I envisioned this strange spaceship that has a very close relationship with the concept of entropy—and that became the Ananke.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Lightless?

CAH:  I was in college for physics at the time, which was pretty helpful for a science fiction novel, especially since I was concentrating in astronomy! I did take an elective on robotic motion to get a better sense of how the computer of the Ananke would relate to its physical surroundings (and struggled with the class—I am no Althea Bastet). Otherwise, I did a bit of research on some varied psychological topics that related to the characters in the novel. And one very memorable and somewhat traumatizing research session was focused on learning about how bodies decay in different environments, which has surely, surely put me on an FBI watch-list somewhere.

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

CAH:  Ivan was the easiest. I feel the closest connection to him, as troubling as that statement is, and so it was always easy to slip into his skin. Plus, he is the character who incites most of the action. Whenever I wrote a scene with Ivan in it, it never lacked for conflict.

The hardest character was Constance Harper. Like all the characters connected with Ivan’s past, certain truths about her had to be obscured—or at least, there had to be the appearance of obscurity—but Constance always wanted to be very clear and open and bold about herself and her character. Mattie, Milla, and Abigail all have more shadowy personas, but Constance is very inflexible.

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

CAH:  “How did your characters get their names?” I had fun naming them. For the crew of the Ananke: Ananke is the Greek goddess of compulsion. Althea’s name means “healing”, but she was also the mother of Meleager. Domitian is the name of a Roman emperor, and yet it translates to “tamed”. Ida is named after Mount Ida, the birthplace of Zeus. Gagnon means “guard dog”.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Lightless.

CAH:  There’s a character in the novel who speaks more poetically than the other characters do, and I’m very fond of a lot of her language. Unfortunately, everything she says is very spoilery! My favorite non-spoilery lines would have to be:

“She stood silently, ethereal wind stirring the wavelengths of her invented hair, the sightless eyes of the hologram watching Althea without a word.”


““How exciting,” he said, in a tone that contended with the sun side of Mercury for aridity.”

TQWhat's next?

CAH:  LIGHTLESS will have two sequels. The next one, called SUPERNOVA, picks up where things left off in the first book and follows some of the characters as they deal with the effects of the events in LIGHTLESS. It’s got a lot of action, and it was a very exciting book to write.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

CAH:  Thank you for having me!

Del Rey, September 29, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 304 Pages

Interview with C.A. Higgins, author of Lightless
With deeply moving human drama, nail-biting suspense—and bold speculation informed by a degree in physics—C. A. Higgins spins a riveting science fiction debut guaranteed to catapult readers beyond their expectations.

Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.

While one of the saboteurs remains at large somewhere on board, his captured partner—the enigmatic Ivan—may prove to be more dangerous. The perversely fascinating criminal whose silver tongue is his most effective weapon has long evaded the authorities’ most relentless surveillance—and kept the truth about his methods and motives well hidden.

As the ship’s systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate the prisoner’s layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of Ivan’s mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn’t kill her first.

About C.A. Higgins

Interview with C.A. Higgins, author of Lightless
© Lisa Verge-Higgins
C.A. HIGGINS or Caitlin Higgins, is a debut author who writes novels and short stories. She was a runner up in the 2013 Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing and has a B. A. in physics from Cornell University. Lightless is her first novel, written during her time as an undergrad at Cornell.

Website  ~ Twitter @C_A_Higgs

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