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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 Debuts

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 Debuts

There are 7 debut novels for May.

Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.

The May debut authors and their novels are listed in alphabetical order by author (not book title or publication date). Take a good look at the covers. Voting for your favorite May cover for the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will take place starting on May 15, 2019.

W.M. Akers

Harper Voyager, May 7, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 Debuts
"Bracing, quite possibly hallucination-inducing, and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before…The illegitimate love child of Algernon Blackwood and Raymond Chandler.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Alienist meets The City & The City in this brilliant debut that mixes fantasy and mystery. Gilda Carr’s ‘tiny mysteries’ pack a giant punch." --David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of Murder As a Fine Art

New York is dying, and the one woman who can save it has smaller things on her mind.

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.

It’s 1921, and a thirteen-mile fence running the length of Broadway splits the island of Manhattan, separating the prosperous Eastside from the Westside—an overgrown wasteland whose hostility to modern technology gives it the flavor of old New York. Thousands have disappeared here, and the respectable have fled, leaving behind the killers, thieves, poets, painters, drunks, and those too poor or desperate to leave.

It is a hellish landscape, and Gilda Carr proudly calls it home.

Slightly built, but with a will of iron, Gilda follows in the footsteps of her late father, a police detective turned private eye. Unlike that larger-than-life man, Gilda solves tiny mysteries: the impossible puzzles that keep us awake at night; the small riddles that destroy us; the questions that spoil marriages, ruin friendships, and curdle joy. Those tiny cases distract her from her grief, and the one impossible question she knows she can’t answer: “How did my father die?”

Yet on Gilda’s Westside, tiny mysteries end in blood—even the case of a missing white leather glove. Mrs. Copeland, a well-to-do Eastside housewife, hires Gilda to find it before her irascible merchant husband learns it is gone. When Gilda witnesses Mr. Copeland’s murder at a Westside pier, she finds herself sinking into a mire of bootlegging, smuggling, corruption—and an evil too dark to face.

All she wants is to find one dainty ladies’ glove. She doesn’t want to know why this merchant was on the wrong side of town—or why he was murdered in cold blood. But as she begins to see the connection between his murder, her father’s death, and the darkness plaguing the Westside, she faces the hard truth: she must save her city or die with it.

Introducing a truly remarkable female detective, Westside is a mystery steeped in the supernatural and shot through with gunfights, rotgut whiskey, and sizzling Dixieland jazz. Full of dazzling color, delightful twists, and truly thrilling action, it announces the arrival of a wonderful new talent.

Daniel Findlay

Year of the Orphan
Arcade, May 21, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 Debuts
The Road meets Mad Max in this stunning debut with a gutsy, charismatic young female protagonist—for fans of Station 11, The Passage, and Riddley Walker.

In a post-apocalyptic future where survivors scavenge in the harsh Australian Outback for spoils from a buried civilization, a girl races across the desert, holding her treasures close, pursued by the Reckoner.

Riding her sand ship, living rough in the blasted landscape whose taint she carries in her blood, she scouts the broken infrastructure and trades her scraps at the only known settlement, a ramshackle fortress of greed, corruption, and disease known as the System. It is an outpost whose sole purpose is survival—refuge from the hulking, eyeless things they call Ghosts and other creatures that hunt beyond the fortress walls.

Sold as a child, then raised hard in the System, the Orphan has a mission. She carries secrets about the destruction that brought the world to its knees. And she's about to discover that the past still holds power over the present. Given an impossible choice, will the Orphan save the only home she knows or see it returned to dust? Both paths lead to blood, but whose will be spilled?

With propulsive pacing, a rich, broken language all its own, and a protagonist whose grit and charisma are matched by a relentless drive to know, The Year of the Orphan is a thriller of the future you won’t want to put down.

Fernando A. Flores

Tears of the Trufflepig
MCD x FSG Originals
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 Debuts
One of Lit Hub and The Millions's Most Anticipated Books of 2019 and one of Buzzfeed and's Books to Read This Spring

“Funny, futuristic, phenomenal, Fernando A. Flores is from another galaxy. Fasten your seat belt. You are in for a stupendous ride.” ―Sandra Cisneros

A parallel universe. South Texas. Narcotics are legal and there’s a new contraband on the market: ancient Olmec artifacts, shrunken indigenous heads, and filtered animals—species of animals brought back from extinction to clothe, feed, and generally amuse the very wealthy. Esteban Bellacosa has lived in the border town of MacArthur long enough to know to keep quiet and avoid the dangerous syndicates who make their money through trafficking.

But his simple life starts to get complicated when the swashbuckling investigative journalist Paco Herbert invites him to come to an illegal underground dinner serving filtered animals. Bellacosa soon finds himself in the middle of an increasingly perilous, surreal, psychedelic journey, where he encounters legends of the long-disappeared Aranaña Indian tribe and their object of worship: the mysterious Trufflepig, said to possess strange powers.

Written with infectious verve, bold imagination, and oddball humor, Fernando A. Flores’s debut novel, Tears of the Trufflepig, is an absurdist take on life along the border, an ode to the myths of Mexican culture, a dire warning against the one percent’s determination to dictate society’s decline, and a nuanced investigation of loss. It’s also the perfect introduction for Flores: a wonderfully weird, staggeringly smart new voice in American fiction, and a mythmaker of the highest order.

Simeon Mills

The Obsoletes
Gallery Books, May 14, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 Debuts
The Obsoletes is a thought-provoking coming-of-age novel about two human-like teen robots navigating high school, basketball, and potentially life-threatening consequences if their true origins are discovered by the inhabitants of their intolerant 1980s Michigan hometown.

Fraternal twin brothers Darryl and Kanga are just like any other teenagers trying to make it through high school. They have to deal with peer pressure, awkwardness, and family drama. But there’s one closely guarded secret that sets them apart: they are robots. So long as they keep their heads down, their robophobic neighbors won’t discover the truth about them and they just might make it through to graduation.

But when Kanga becomes the star of the basketball team, there’s more at stake than typical sibling rivalry. Darryl—the worrywart of the pair—now has to work a million times harder to keep them both out of the spotlight. Though they look, sound, and act perfectly human, if anyone in their small, depressed Michigan town were to find out what they truly are, they’d likely be disassembled by an angry mob in the middle of their school gym.

Heartwarming and thrilling, Simeon Mills’s charming debut novel is a funny, poignant look at brotherhood, xenophobia, and the limits of one’s programming.

S. D. Nicholson

Mischief and Mayhem
Faerlands Chronicles 1
Koehler Books, May 24, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback, 238 pages

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 Debuts
After lying dormant for centuries, a dark presence awakes and invades the realm of the Faers. While malicious forces quietly stir in the southern nation of the Meadows, Ophelia Maplewood, along with her companions from the Woodland Scouts, finds an unexpected human, new strength, and allies in the north. Will their journey bring balance to the homeland and prevent chaos from spreading to the other realms? Only time will tell. Part One of the Faerlands Chronicles.

Domenica Ruta

Last Day
Spiegal & Grau, May 28, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 Debuts
The fates of a cast of seemingly unconnected people converge during the celebration of an ancient holiday in a thought-provoking debut that brings to mind such novels as Station Eleven and The Age of Miracles.

In Domenica Ruta’s profoundly original novel, the end of the world comes once a year. Every May 28, humanity gathers to anticipate the planet’s demise—and to celebrate as if the day is truly its last.

On this holiday, three intersecting sets of characters embark on a possibly last-chance quest for redemption. In Boston, bookish wunderkind Sarah is looking for love and maybe a cosmic reversal from the much older Kurt, a tattoo artist she met at last year’s Last Day BBQ—but he’s still trying to make amends to the family he destroyed long ago. Dysfunctional Karen keeps getting into trouble, especially when the voices she’s been hearing coax her to abandon everything to search for her long-lost adoptive brother; her friend Rosette has left the Jehovah’s Witnesses to follow a new pastor at the Last Kingdom on Earth, where she brings Karen on this fateful day. Meanwhile, above them all, three astronauts on the International Space Station, Bear, an American; Russian Svec; and billionaire Japanese space tourist Yui, contemplate their lives as well as their precious Earth from afar.

With sparkling wit, verbal ingenuity, and wild imagination, Ruta has created an alternate world in which an ancient holiday brings into stark reflection our deepest dreams, desires, hopes, and fears. In this tour-de-force debut novel she has written a dazzling, haunting love letter to humanity and to our planet.

Henry Thomas

The Window and the Mirror
Oesteria and the War of Goblinkind 1
Rare Bird Books, May 14, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 Debuts
A captured soldier must escort a mysterious girl to a distant city to broker peace between two peoples poised on the brink of war. Left to die in a deep chasm, his commander stumbles on to a dark and powerful secret: how to harness the energy of men’s souls and bend them to his will. Is this the secret that Goblinkind has been hiding from the race of men? That all the shiny trinkets of the fabled Goblincrafters are powered by the trapped souls of humans? For Mage Imperator Rhael Lord Uhlmet, the lure of such power is irresistible, even if he must start a war to attain it.

Interview with Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings

Please welcome Melanie Golding to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Little Darlings is published on April 30, 2019 by Crooked Lane Books.

Interview with Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings

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

Melanie:  When I was about six I wrote a story at school, a kind of ‘what I did on my holidays’ that included some extremely fictional aspects. My teachers were concerned at what they saw were lies, but I stuck to my story, which included a magic house and a short superman flight from the top of a hill. I thought that because no one could prove none of that stuff happened, then it had. I certainly felt like it had, and that seemed enough.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Melanie:  Hybrid

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Melanie:  First drafts are a slog. I like the redrafting phase

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Melanie:  All of my reading. Like many writers I read widely and constantly.

TQDescribe Little Darlings using only 5 words.

Melanie:  I shall quote others here:

Deep; Dark; Utterly addictive; Haunting

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

Melanie:  Patrick is based on a real person, whose name I shall never reveal. He is so arrogant that there is no way he would ever guess what I've done, so I'm safe.

TQWhat inspired you to write Little Darlings?

Melanie:  I was reading my folk tale collections, when I developed a theory about one of the stories. I saw that it would have functioned as an explanation for postpartum psychosis in pre-medical times. I also saw that it could be taken at face value, and I was really interested in exploring the possibilities of that

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Little Darlings?

Melanie:  I did a few research trips to the Peak District - I used to live in Sheffield but it was fun to revisit those places. I gave birth, twice. Also I read many folktales and novels based on folklore

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Little Darlings.

Melanie:  The cover depicts the roots of a tree that have grown under water. Bodies of water are important in the novel, especially what lies beneath the surface.

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

Melanie:  Lauren and Patrick were easy to write, because they were extremely real to me. I had to get to know Jo and Amy, but by the end of the process they were writing themselves.

TQDoes Little Darlings touch on any social issues?

Melanie:  Only the fact that the post-birth experience still seems to be taboo. Nobody wants to talk about how frightening having a baby can be. The book kind of confronts that head on.

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


          Q: Is the story partly an allegory for the current unaddressed epidemic of postnatal depression among new mothers?
          A: Yes

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Little Darlings.


“It felt dangerous, that feeling, something she couldn't control, that got bigger even as she tried to banish it, to tell herself that these were the feelings that hurt you eventually, that destroyed lives, that needed to be ignored. She'd followed her heart once, when she was too young to know how completely a heart could be shattered.”

“Was this the love, this fear of them dying?”

TQWhat's next?

Melanie:  The next book also has a folktale at its heart, and a cast of brave women and men who are faced with difficulties to overcome. It also features DS Joanna Harper.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Little Darlings
Crooked Lane Books, April 30, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and Aimee Molloy’s The Perfect Mother.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley—to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.
Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking—and rechecking—your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

About Melanie

Interview with Melanie Golding, author of Little Darlings
Photo by Michele Calverley
Melanie Golding is a graduate of the MA in creative writing program at Bath Spa University, with distinction. She has been employed in many occupations including farm hand, factory worker, childminder and music teacher. Throughout all this, because and in spite of it, there was always the writing. In recent years she has won and been shortlisted in several local and national short story competitions. Little Darlings is her first novel, and has been optioned for screen by Free Range Films, the team behind the adaptation of My Cousin Rachel.

Website  ~  Twitter @mk_golding  ~  Facebook

Interview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily Eternal

Please welcome M.G. Wheaton to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Emily Eternal is published on April 23, 2019 by Grand Central

Interview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily Eternal

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

M.G.:  I was in kindergarten and wrote this series of stories about rats in France who had to flee to Morocco due to these monstrous invaders. The rats trained hard then crossed the sea and battled them back. The main rat was named Pepe le Chat (Pepe the Cat). I have no idea why I wrote it except that it was heavily illustrated, and I really liked drawing rats at the time. My mother didn’t tell me until much later in life as she thought it’d go to my head, but my parents were actually called in for a school conference over the stories as my teachers were worried about what I’d been reading at home.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

M.G.:  A slight hybrid? I research whatever I’m interested in sometimes for years. When I know it’s a story, I’ll sit down and write a couple of full-length drafts to see if it holds water then go back to outline and start over completely. I think there’s the impulse when you’re starting out writing to emulate the process of successful authors but for me, one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is what process works best for me even if it takes twice the time as someone else or is ridiculously inefficient.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a screenwriter affect (or not) your novel writing?

M.G.:  The biggest challenge for me has always been to be certain what makes perfect sense in my head ends up on the page. One reason I have to write draft after draft is because I realize how much I missed or glossed over the first couple of times through. What also helps this is to have a wide number of readers who know your style and can look at drafts at different points in your process. As for screenwriting, it gets you in the habit of writing a lot of dialogue and getting in and out of scenes, something working in video games and comics forces you to do as well. But in all three media, you’re also creating something of a blueprint to be handed off to someone else responsible for the visual that’s placed in front of someone. When I started out in books, I felt freed from that. I’m in charge, now! So, I’d write and write and write, banging out bloated and unreadable 125,000-word drafts. It was like, “Because you’ve switched format you’re going to forget about viewer/player/reader experience?” I’m sure I’ve ported over several other bad habits I’ll be weeding out for some time to come!

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

M.G.:  I read a lot and I see mountains of theater, so books and plays/musicals the most, I think? I enjoy rich character pieces with sci-fi elements like Jennifer Haley’s play, “The Nether,” or the way the future affects the most marginalized of people in Warren Ellis’s old comic book series, “Transmetropolitan.” When I read something with a large cast of beautifully realized characters, recently books like Rachel Kushner’s “The Mars Room,” Joseph Cassera’s “House of Impossible Beauties,” or Tim Murphy’s “Christodora,” it gives me something to aim at. Also, Hideo Yokoyama. His “Six Four” and “Seventeen” are these beautiful studies in how people are with each other from clumsy to aggressive to cold to inarticulate. All things that make me want to be a better writer.

TQDescribe Emily Eternal using only 5 words.


Oh no!
But yay, Emily!

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

M.G.:  Part of aging is about discovering the limitations of your body, the loss of short-term memory, the aging and breakdown of cells, the depletion of finite resources. Part of Emily is a fantasy about what if that didn’t have to be true?

TQWhat inspired you to write Emily Eternal? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

M. G.:  My grandfather worked in a factory his whole life building first propeller planes during World War II then passenger jets in the eighties. While a lot is written about the development of planes is how they were designed to be faster or reach higher altitudes when just as much thought went into the safety of pilots. It’s so difficult to preserve a human body in a hostile environment which is just about anywhere not on land in a temperate environment. Everything else becomes a hostile environment for most humans very quickly except through intensive, sometimes lifelong conditioning. And like my answer to the question above, I always wondered – what if that wasn’t the case? What if we solved that and humans could exist in any environment?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Emily Eternal?

M.G.:  I spend a lot of time reading articles in the science and medical fields always thinking, “what if?” after reading about this development or that, so much of it comes from that kind of research. The only real on-site work I did involved a trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida where I took the tours, looked at all the launch pads and how integrated Space X and Boeing are into NASA down there. As far as genetics go, I researched a bit on the ocean-based Sama-Bajau people whose genes have evolved in several ways to allow them to not only live on water but also under it for much longer than, say, you or me.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Emily Eternal.

M.G.:  I love the cover. It was made by a London-based artist, Natalie Chen ( who does a lot of covers for Hodder & Stoughton. Grand Central had been working on other covers but when they saw Ms. Chen’s work, they adapted it instead as they were as impressed as we all were. It doesn’t depict anything directly from the novel but brings together many ideas – the coming together of many to create one, a person among the cosmos, and the seeming eternity of space.

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

M.G.:  Perhaps a spoiler, but the easiest character to write is Emily’s predecessor, Emily-2. If Emily is evolved to have a sort of moral compass that forces her to consider several different angles, the decisions made by Emily-2 are very binary, very yes or no. She has a task and she must complete it. Nuance isn’t important. Only quantifiable success. The hardest is probably Emily herself because she is constantly striving to be better and thoughtful in all things. I am not always such a person, so had to always imagine what that experience of life would be like.

TQDoes Emily Eternal touch on any social issues?

M.G.:  It does. Right now, whether it’s something one chooses to acknowledge or not, mankind is entering a precarious moment due to climate change and the impact that will have on the world’s peoples. I read recently that 1 in 110 people, 68.5 million or about .8 % of the world’s population has been displaced, the highest number in human history. These are people forcibly made refugees due to war and famine. That number is going to increase exponentially over the next half century. Those of means have made it clear that they intend to hold onto power whatever the consequences, likely leaving those without resources to fend for themselves. Emily attempts to make the point that, as a species, we need one another. Though it may sound like a cliché, “diversity is our strength” is scientifically dead on. We have evolved to where we are now. We can only guess at what effect a large-scale population die-off will have on our species.

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

M.G.:  Could the sun really die in 5,000 years? No idea! But maybe? What’s nuts about science is how quickly things change or evolve. I’ve only recently come to learn about the sociology of science – the study of how the social behavior of scientists – and seen how some ill-tested theories are pushed forward as “fact” due to herd mentality while others fall away or are suppressed by those within the field. Science is always seen as so iron-clad, so much the last word. But like it or not, there’s in-fighting within science, jealousy, and bitter competition. It wasn’t that long ago that much of what we agree on as “fact” was considered heretical, even by some who knew better. I often wonder which things we take for granted today in our day to day understanding of the natural world will be laughed at a couple hundred years from now.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Emily Eternal.

M.G.:  Okay, so three hours, 150 miles, and 8.4 gallons of fuel later, this hubristic, not-so-super-computer, not-so-wonder-woman is still coming up dry on the plan front.

(This was how I felt flipping through the book looking for something non-spoilery?)

TQWhat's next?

M.G.:  After “Emily” sold, I started a horror thing, another science fiction thing, and a historical science fiction thing. The first two are both about to go to my agent as they’re pretty much done. I did two drafts of the historical one in order to write an outline so I could start over and will be doing another two months of so of research before hopping into another draft of that.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Emily Eternal
Grand Central, April 23, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily Eternal
Meet Emily, “the best AI character since HAL 9000″ (Blake Crouch). She can solve advanced mathematical problems, unlock the mind’s deepest secrets, but unfortunately, even she can’t restart the sun.

Emily is an artificial consciousness, designed in a lab to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die 5 billion years before scientists agreed it was supposed to.

Her beloved human race is screwed, and so is Emily. That is, until she finds a potential answer buried deep in the human genome that may save them all. But not everyone is convinced Emily has the best solution–or the best intentions. Before her theory can be tested, the lab is brutally attacked, and Emily’s servers are taken hostage.

Narrowly escaping, Emily is forced to go on the run with two human companions–college student Jason and small-town Sheriff, Mayra. As the sun’s death draws near, Emily and her friends must race against time to save humanity. Soon it becomes clear not just the species is at stake, but also that which makes us most human.

About M.G.

Interview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily Eternal
Before turning to novels, M.G. Wheaton wrote movies, comic books, and video games as well as for several movie magazines. He was born in Texas but now lives in Los Angeles.

Website  ~  Twitter

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts

Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2019 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on May 10, 2019, unless the vote is extended. If the vote is extended the ending date will be updated.

Vote for your favorite April 2019 Debut Cover! free polls

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts
Cover design: Colin Webber
Cover images: (man and bottle) CSA Images / Getty Images;
(clouds, top) (detail) John Lavery, Christie's Imagaes / 
Bridgeman Images; (farm, bottom) Edward Hopper, c. 1930.
James Goodman Gallery, New York, USA / Bridgeman

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts
Cover design: Natalie Chen

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts
Jacket art by Kekai Kotaki.
Jacket design by Adam Auerbach.

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts
Cover design by Melanie Sun

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts
Cover design: Jarrod Taylor

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts
Cover design by Owen Corrigan.
Cover illustration by Alejandro Colucci.

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts
Jacket design: Stephen Brayda & Grace Han
Jacket art: Detail from Circe, 1885 (oil on canvas) by John
Collier (1850-1934) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's
Images / Bridgeman Images

2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April Debuts
Cover art by Victor Mosquera

Interview with Kate Mascarenhas, author of The Psychology of Time Travel

Please welcome Kate Mascarenhas to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Psychology of Time Travel was published on February 12, 2019 by Crooked Lane Books.

Interview with Kate Mascarenhas, author of The Psychology of Time Travel

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

Kate:  I remember stapling together my own books about ponies when I was a little girl.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Kate:  Pantser, at least for the first draft. Usually when I start I have a few characters in mind, and a predicament that they’re in, but I work out everything else as I go.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Kate:  Sending it out into the world. I enjoy all stages of researching and drafting and editing. But once it’s published, it belongs to everybody else.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Kate:  In general, my favourite writers—Shirley Jackson; Muriel Spark; Josephine Hart. For this book specifically, I’d add Doctor Who, the books of Diana Wynne Jones, and the movie Peggy Sue Got married.

TQDescribe The Psychology of Time Travel using only 5 words.

Kate:  Queer, time-travelling murder mystery.

TQ:   What inspired you to write The Psychology of Time Travel? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Kate:  I’d been reading about the involvement of psychologists in recruiting astronauts, and wondered what qualities they’d be looking for if time travel had been invented in the sixties instead of the space race. My academic background is in psychology, and science fiction is a great genre for exploring psychological questions.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Psychology of Time Travel?

Kate:  Mainly desk-based research; I read lots of physics papers to develop my world-building rules, particularly the work of a physicist called Igor Novikov. I also spent time reading old psychiatric manuals to understand how mental health categories have changed over time.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Psychology of Time Travel.

Kate:  One of the time travellers in the story modifies an embroidery sampler to include both her birth, and death dates. The designer Helen Crawford-White used that concept to create a cover based on embroidery art.

TQIn The Psychology of Time Travel who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Kate:  Grace was the easiest—she grew up near my own home town so I had a very intuitive sense of her background. She’s quite eccentric, and that can be fun to write. Margaret, who assumes leadership of the time travellers, was probably the character who went through most rewrites. It took a while to pin down her motivation.

TQDoes The Psychology of Time Travel touch on any social issues?

Kate:  Yes – the stigmatisation of people with psychiatric diagnoses is an important issue in the novel.

TQWhich question about The Psychology of Time Travel do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Kate:  Timelines are fixed in the novel—it’s impossible to change the past or the future. I’d quite like someone to ask me if the characters have free will. The answer is, they might do—but they don’t feel like they do. I really wanted to explore the impact that has on the characters’ outlook.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Psychology of Time Travel.

Kate:  Time travellers have their own slang, collected in a small phrase book. “Many of the words describe living a life out of sequence. To live an incident you’ve already read about is called completion. Returning to an incident you’ve already experienced is called echoing. Feeling angry with someone for things they won’t do wrong for years is called zeitigzorn.”

TQWhat's next?

Kate:  I’m currently working with my UK editor on my next novel, The Thief on the Winged Horse, which is about the theft of a doll with magical properties. It’s set in Oxford, England in the present day.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Psychology of Time Travel
Crooked Lane Books, February 12, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Kate Mascarenhas, author of The Psychology of Time Travel
In 1967, four female scientists worked together to build the world’s first time machine. But just as they are about to debut their creation, one of them suffers a breakdown, putting the whole project—and future of time travel—in jeopardy. To protect their invention, one member is exiled from the team—erasing her contributions from history.

Fifty years later, time travel is a big business. Twenty-something Ruby Rebello knows her beloved grandmother, Granny Bee, was one of the pioneers, though no one will tell her more. But when Bee receives a mysterious newspaper clipping from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified woman, Ruby becomes obsessed: could it be Bee? Who would want her dead? And most importantly of all: can her murder be stopped?

Traversing the decades and told from alternating perspectives, The Psychology of Time Travel introduces a fabulous new voice in fiction and a new must-read for fans of speculative fiction and women’s fiction alike.

About Kate

Interview with Kate Mascarenhas, author of The Psychology of Time Travel
Photo by Matt Murtagh
Kate Mascarenhas is a half-Irish, half-Seychellois midlander. Since 2017, Kate has been a chartered psychologist. Before that she worked as a copywriter, a dollhouse maker, and a bookbinder. She lives with her husband in a small terraced house which she is slowly filling with Sindy dolls.

Website  ~  Twitter @KatemMascarenhas

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler

Please welcome Martine Fournier Watson to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Dream Peddler was published on April 9, 2019 by Penguin Books.

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler

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

Martine:  I love this question, because I remember it so distinctly! I wrote my very first short story when I was in first grade, which is funny because I had only just learned to read and write earlier that year. Our teacher posted a list of title ideas for stories we might like to write. It wasn’t part of our curriculum, just suggestions she thought could inspire us, and I decided to write the story called The Magic Mittens. As my first literary effort, it was only about fifteen sentences long, or two double-spaced wide-ruled pages in my big round beginner printing, but it was also my first literary moment—I was named Author of the Month in our elementary school and asked to read my story aloud at one of our weekly assemblies. I was very proud!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Martine:  Pantser all the way. I’ve now written two books this way, and I can’t imagine trying to plot things first. What I love most about writing a novel is the process of discovery. Not knowing exactly what the characters will do or where it’s going to go fuels my writing in a way that I can’t imagine giving up by plotting first.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Martine:  It’s definitely the editing. When I’m drafting, I just let myself go. I’m often aware that something isn’t good enough (or downright terrible), and I’ll just leave myself little notes about fixing things as I go so I can maintain momentum. When it’s time to go back in for editing, the very idea of momentum goes out the window. Because of my quick drafting, I’ve usually left myself quite a mess to deal with, and it’s just incredibly slow and painstaking. I do enjoy it once I’m in it, but it’s a methodical, deliberate kind of work, so different from the feeling of flying I can get during the draft process. I actually dread it so much that I find myself procrastinating to avoid opening my document. I get nervous butterflies in my stomach when I contemplate going into my book to tackle that job, and even after all these years I haven’t been able to shake that—I just have to overcome it and dive in.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Martine:  Apart from authors I love, I think what influences me most is the fact that I’m such a visual person. I’m always describing the world of my characters, especially the natural world, and I’m always trying to come up with a new way to capture the things I see around me with language. I’ve been doing that since my early teens, and earning a BFA in drawing and painting further cemented that way of thinking in my brain. I look first. Hearing, smelling, tasting and touching are all secondary. I pay attention to that when I’m editing—otherwise I’m afraid I’d be neglecting the other senses completely.

TQDescribe The Dream Peddler using only 5 words.

Martine:  Buying dreams leads to trouble.

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

Martine:  Despite its title, only four dreams in this book are described in any detail, and only two of those are actually concocted by the dream peddler.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Dream Peddler?

Martine:  I grew up on the stories of L. M. Montgomery, and have read and reread the adventures of her beloved Anne of Green Gables many times. But one of Montgomery’s lesser-known heroines, Emily of New Moon, was really my favorite. So I hope dear old Lucy Maude will forgive me for stealing her idea.

Emily has plans to be a writer, and in the third installment of Montgomery’s trilogy, reference is made to Emily’s very first novel, a book called A Seller of Dreams. However, this book is never published. After a few rejections, Emily gives the book to a trusted friend to read, and because he is jealous of the book, he tells her it’s not good enough. Heartbroken, Emily burns it.

For some reason, this destroyed book haunted my imagination. The reader is never given any insight as to what it may have been about, except that it was some kind of contemporary fairytale. It was a book I always wanted to write myself, if only to satisfy my own curiosity about what shape such a story might take.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Dream Peddler?

Martine:  The research was basically in two parts. The book takes place in a small farming town in the early years of the twentieth century, so I needed to make sure I knew a fair bit about the seasons of farming, what the characters would have been planting and harvesting at what times. I had a general idea of this, but I used Days on The Family Farm by Carrie A. Meyer as a reference to make sure I had the details right.

The other research I did surrounded the history of dreams, including how our attitude toward them has changed over time, and how they’re used and interpreted in the King James Bible upon which my townspeople would have based their faith. I learned a lot from Robert L. Van de Castle’s Our Dreaming Mind, which covers everything from consulting oracles about dreams in ancient times, all the way up to experiments with dreaming conducted in modern laboratory settings. I won’t go into details, but it was interesting to discover that some of the liberties I believed I was taking with the way dreams work are actually quite plausible.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Dream Peddler.

Martine:  In my book, the dream peddler mixes dreams together like a liquid medicine or tincture and gives them to the buyer in a small glass vial stoppered with cork. The cover of the book is really about capturing that—a large bottle superimposed over a landscape that represents the unnamed farming town. The title and my name appear on the bottle like a label, and the gradation of pink to dark purple used for the liquid recall two different dreams described in the book: a pink dream about love, and an inky-dark nightmare. Through the very top of the bottle, the dream peddler’s silhouette is walking. I love how he appears to be striding, one hand in his pocket, right over the surface of the liquid, as if walking on water. The whole thing so perfectly evokes his ambiguous role as conman/magic healer.

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

Martine:  The hardest was definitely the dream peddler himself, Robert Owens. He is necessarily mysterious, and yet I had to give the reader enough of his thoughts and feelings to keep them engaged and interested in him. This turned out to be a really tough fine line to walk—I knew him so well, but most of his backstory is only revealed near the end of the book, and I could only hint at it. My editor definitely had to prod me to let the reader into his mind a little more as his relationships with the townspeople evolved. There was only so much one could glean from my subtle clues!

For some reason, I almost always find children easier to write than adults. I think this is just because children are so open. They often haven’t learned to hide the things that make them unique or that could draw negative attention, and bringing that out when I write about them is so much fun. It’s easier to make them interesting as characters. In The Dream Peddler, this character was eight-year-old Ali McBryde, youngest customer of the dream peddler. Ali’s smarts and precociousness were a pleasure to write, and he has a decidedly immoral streak that I enjoyed.

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

Martine:  No one has ever asked me if I had to make any major revisions to the plot for my agent or editor in order to get the book to publication, and I’ve always wanted to talk a little about that, because I did. Asking a writer to make a significant change that doesn’t resonate with them puts them at a serious crossroads—they have to decide if it’s worth making the change, rather than just walking away. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel as if it’s in our hands. Fairly early on in my querying days for this book, I had some interest from an agent, but she wanted me to completely refocus the book in a way that just didn’t feel right. I gave it serious consideration, but I couldn’t do what she wanted, and we parted ways. More than another year went by before I had an offer, but I never regretted that decision.

When my editor asked me to make a major change, though, the situation was quite different. I was no longer being asked by an agent who might not even offer me representation, and there was a book deal in place, money on the table. It had taken me a long time to get there, and I knew there might not be another shot.

It wasn’t so much that making the change felt fundamentally wrong, as it had in the earlier scenario, but that making it would require a lot of tricky maneuvering in order to shuffle the book’s plot without destroying any of the parts that were important to me. I knew if I could accomplish that, it wouldn’t feel as if I had lost anything, but I really sweated some bullets until I finally had solution. I’d been sifting through ideas for days, when I was drifting off to sleep one night and—in that totally cliché scenario—I suddenly sat up in bed, quite certain that I had the answer. I grabbed a notebook and wrote an outline of the changes. The story held.

I always wanted to share that experience because revamping a book, or even a smaller part of a book, can be truly daunting, but coming out on the other side is a really important milestone for a writer. It’s an amazing mental exercise, and even though I never really thought it was necessary, I’m a better writer for having done it.

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


“She knew he was awake, and she could hear the movement overhead as he rolled one way and then the other. He was like the dream in the sleeping mind of the house.”

“He had tried to sculpt a permanence where there was none, and she realized, in fact, this was her own definition of love.”

TQWhat's next?

Martine:  I’ve been working on a second book for a number of years now, and I recently completed a few rounds of revisions on it and sent it off to my agent. It’s quite different from The Dream Peddler, centering on a friendship between two eighth-graders growing up in the 1980’s. Both have family troubles, yet for most of the book they don’t realize how intimately they’re connected. I’d describe it as a literary coming-of-age story—hopefully the world can still use a few more of those!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Martine:  It’s my great pleasure. Thanks so much for having me!

The Dream Peddler
Penguin Books, April 9, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler
“Astonishing . . . Explores the vast underground legacy of our own desires. This is the must-read book of the year.” —Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder

A page-turning debut novel about a traveling salesman and the small town he changes forever, both a thoughtful mediation on grief and a magical exploration of our innermost desires

The dream peddler came to town at the white end of winter, before the thaw . . .

Traveling salesmen like Robert Owens have passed through Evie Dawson’s town before, but none of them offered anything like what he has to sell: dreams, made to order, with satisfaction guaranteed.

Soon after he arrives, the community is shocked by the disappearance of Evie’s young son. The townspeople, shaken by the Dawson family’s tragedy and captivated by Robert’s subversive magic, begin to experiment with his dreams. And Evie, devastated by grief, turns to Robert for a comfort only he can sell her. But the dream peddler’s wares awaken in his customers their most carefully buried desires, and despite all his good intentions, some of them will lead to disaster.

Gorgeously told through the eyes of Evie, Robert, and a broad cast of fully realized characters, The Dream Peddler is an imaginative, moving novel of overcoming loss and reckoning with the longings we keep secret.

About Martine

Interview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream Peddler
Photo © Mark Bradford
Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @MFournierWatson

Interview with Kris Waldherr, author of The Lost History of Dreams

Please welcome Kris Waldherr to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Lost History of Dreams is published on April 9, 2019 by Atria Books.

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

Kris Waldherr:  Thank you for having me! As far as first fiction, I seem to remember writing a mystery inspired by Nancy Drew when I was in third grade. I was uncertain how to begin a story beyond “Once upon a time.” I’d like to think my writing has evolved since then.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

KW:  I’m a hybrid—a plantser, if you will. (Is that even a word?) When I begin a book, I often start out pantsing, or writing in an intuitive fashion; once I reach a certain length, I go back and plot in earnest. I initially write in a nonlinear manner, where I often draft scenes out of order. Later, I move these sections around like puzzle pieces using Scrivener. However, once I get into the plotting stage of writing, I make bookmaps, diagrams of character and plot arcs, and detailed timelines. I’m a big fan of making timeline spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel. My timeline for Lost History was over six feet long—it spread across most of the wall above my work table!

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

KW:  That I write novels slowly. I need to know as much as I can about what I’m writing before I really go in deep: historical research, character arcs, narrative structure. Though I can write a first draft fairly quickly, that draft is only the starting point. I often revise for what feels like dozens of times before I’m satisfied. Accordingly, Lost History took me about three years from start to finish, though I worked on other projects during this time. I’m hoping my future novels won’t take as long, now that I better understand my process. Luckily my nonfiction books go much faster—I was able to write Doomed Queens and Bad Princess in a matter of months.

TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing?

KW:  I’m like a magpie in that my writing is influenced by everything: art, travel, books, music, films. For example, in The Lost History of Dreams a character’s piano playing was inspired by a Beethoven sonata that reminded me of her bittersweet past. A scene where two characters fall in love was sparked by my viewing a painting of migrating pigeons at the Smithsonian. I also adore research, which definitely inspires my plots and characters. Of this, travel is an essential component—I just wish I could spend more time doing it!

As far as authors, the books of Diane Setterfield definitely influenced the story-within-a-story narrative structure of The Lost History of Dreams—her ability to spin a tale is astonishing. I’m also inspired by the ability of Sarah Waters to reveal character in unexpected ways. She’s such a masterful writer!

TQDescribe The Lost History of Dreams using only 5 words.

KW:  Post-mortem photography meets Orpheus myth. (Do hyphenated words count as one? Hope so!)

TQTell us something about The Lost History of Dreams that is not found in the book description.

KW:  That there’s humor in it—it’s not all shadows and secrets. After all, you need to have light amid the darkness. One of my favorite scenes involved a tour of Hugh de Bonne’s study. (The character of Hugh was very loosely based on the poet Byron.) I used the scene to reveal all the ridiculous rumors being spewed about Hugh’s life, as well as the over-the-top behavior of his fans, who call themselves Seekers of the Lost Dream. At one point a fan faints; another comments that Hugh’s study “smells as it always does—of lemon oil and genius.”

TQWhat inspired you to write The Lost History of Dreams? What appealed to you about writing a gothic mystery?

KW:  Interestingly, I initially didn’t consider The Lost History of Dreams a gothic mystery as much as a tale of lost love akin to Wuthering Heights and A.S. Byatt’s Possession. Lost History is also a novel that’s very much about the power of story-telling; to quote Hamilton, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” Additionally, my novel was structured after the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, which is one of my favorite stories of all time. The mystery angle developed while I wrote—the better I got to know my characters, the more secrets they revealed.

However, my initial inspiration for my novel was a dream I had of a man and woman dressed in mid-Victorian clothing. In my dream, they paced back and forth in a rather shabby room lit by only a fireplace as they argued over an inheritance. When I woke up, I had no idea what the dream was about—it was like being dropped into another time and place—but I wrote it down and placed it in my “inspiration” file, where I save ideas and notes for possible books. (Again, I’m like a magpie!) Later, this dream became the first scene I wrote in Lost History, when Robert meets Isabelle and argues with her over Hugh de Bonne’s will.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Lost History of Dreams?

KW:  A lot! In terms of travel, I took two trips to England to visit the various locations where my novel takes place—Shropshire, London, Herne Bay—and another trip to Paris and Sèvres. A final research trip took me to Rochester, where I visited the George Eastman Museum, the world’s oldest photography museum. I also amassed a small library of books about 19th century photography, stained glass, Victorian England, the Romantic poets and more. One of my favorite acquisitions is a replica of Louis Daguerre’s original manual for aspiring daguerreotypists.

TQDo you have any favorite Gothic novels?

KW:  Ah, so many! I love the over-the-top romanticism and emotional intensity of the Gothic novel, which speaks to my sensibilities. The irony is I’m an even-keeled person who hates confrontation and drama; clearly I take it out on the page.

Jane Eyre is perhaps my favorite novel—I think of it as a feminist ur-text actually. More recently, I adored Sarah Perry’s Melmoth, which I consider a masterpiece. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a huge Sarah Waters fan; her novel Fingersmith has one of the most perfect endings ever. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I was addicted to Victoria Holt novels such as The Mistress of Mellyn as well as Daphne du Maurier.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Lost History of Dreams.

KW:  The book cover was created by Jarrod Taylor, the gifted designer behind the gorgeous covers of Go Set a Watchman, Beautiful Ruins, Hillbilly Elegy and other bestsellers. The Lost History of Dreams cover features a Victorian era photograph of a silhouetted woman wearing a Lover’s Eye pendant, which features as a plot point. The silhouetted woman represents Sida, Robert’s wife, who first appears in Lost History cloaked in shadows. Jarrod’s design is so evocative and mysterious, and definitely lets the reader know what sort of reading experience to expect.

Here’s a crazy story about the cover: Jarrod is also married to my literary agent, but it’s a complete coincidence he was hired to design The Lost History of Dreams. My agent was shocked when she discovered he’d been assigned my book. I only found out Jarrod was the designer after I was sent the design and said I loved it.

TQIn The Lost History of Dreams who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

KW:  Grace, the opportunistic maid, was the easiest to write. She was intended as comic relief to all the gothic goings on, and is rather blunt and flirty. Grace also offers a more modern sensibility, which stands in for the reader’s point of view. For example, when Robert first tells Grace he photographs corpses, she asks, “Why on earth would you do that?” In contrast, everyone else in my novel is rather matter of fact about post-mortem photography, which is how it would have been in 1850 England. As far as hardest character to write, that would be Robert’s wife Sida. You’ll need to read Lost History to find out why.

TQWhich question about The Lost History of Dreams do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

KW:  A question about the history of stained glass after the French Revolution. When I was researching Lost History, I was fascinated to learn there was a boom in stained glass production during that period because so many church windows had been destroyed during the Revolution. At one point all of Notre-Dame’s existing stained glass was replaced with clear glass, and the cathedral used for food storage. Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame helped revive interest in the cathedral and its eventual restoration.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Lost History of Dreams.

KW:  Here’s two favorite quotes:

“He’d said, ‘How can there be so much beauty in this world amid so much sorrow?’ The only solution was to create more beauty.”

“Their estrangement had happened as many do, wrought from good intentions and solidified by discomfort.”

TQWhat's next?

KW:  I’ll be on book tour for The Lost History of Dreams through the end of June—all of my events are listed here. In terms of writing, I’m currently revising a middle grade novel set in contemporary Brooklyn; I spilled out a speedy first draft during National Novel Writing Month after finishing Lost History. I also have two historical novels underway, one set in 1888 London and the second in the late 18th century. Both manuscripts are gothic-influenced. As for which novel will be published next, I have no idea—I suppose whichever is finished first!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

KW:  Thank you so much for having me. Loved your questions!

The Lost History of Dreams
Atria Books, April 9, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.

All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave.

Kris Waldherr effortlessly spins a sweeping and atmospheric gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death.

About Kris

Photo © Robert Presutti
Kris Waldherr is an award-winning author, illustrator, and designer. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, and her fiction has been awarded with fellowships by the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts and a reading grant by Poets & Writers. Kris Waldherr works and lives in Brooklyn in a Victorian-era house with her husband, the anthropologist-curator Thomas Ross Miller, and their young daughter.

Website  ~  Twitter @kriswaldherr  ~  Facebook

Interview with Sarah Blake, author of Naamah

Please welcome Sarah Blake to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Naamah will be published on April 9, 2019 by Riverhead Books.

Interview with Sarah Blake, author of Naamah

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

Sarah:  My parents got me a portable word-processing keyboard when I was in middle school and I wrote a long story about a woman named Nerine and there were cliffs involved.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sarah:  I'm a pantser. Though with retelling the story of Noah's ark, I guess I was slightly hybrid for this book.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a poet affect (or not) your prose writing?

Sarah:  I find it extremely frustrating that I can't sit down and read an entire draft of a novel in one sitting so that I can revise it knowing I've addressed everything that I wanted to.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sarah:  Poetry. Short stories. Television. Movies. Novels. The children's books I read with my son.

TQDescribe Naamah using only 5 words.

Sarah:  Woman Can/Can't Save Everyone

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

Sarah:  In the form of an Egyptian vulture, the Metatron is trying to reach Naamah in her dreams.

TQWhat inspired you to write Naamah? What appealed to you about retelling the story of The Great Flood?

Sarah:  I was rereading Genesis for another writing project, and it struck me that Noah's family was on the ark for over a year, uncertain of what the world would be like after the death of everyone they knew. I thought of Naamah stuck on that ark, having to hold it together, for herself and for her family. I needed to know how she would get through that.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Naamah?

Sarah:  I researched a lot about animals. And I loved looking at art inspired by the story of the ark. But I was mostly interested in Naamah's interior life.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Naamah.

Sarah:  There are many tigers in the story, and I think they've taken on greater meaning because of the tiger's appearance on the cover, but I won't spoil anything for you!

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

Sarah:  Naamah was the easiest to write because she was the first one on the ark that I understood. Her sons and daughters-in-law were the most difficult to write because there were so many of them and I wanted them all to come to life even while the book was centered around Naamah.

TQDoes Naamah touch on any social issues?

Sarah:  Feminism.

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

Sarah:  What emotion is most important for you to impart to your reader? Joy.

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

Sarah:  Perhaps in another place, she could look upon her body and know what new thing she is becoming.

TQWhat's next?

Sarah:  A novel set in the future!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sarah:  Thank you!

Riverhead Books, April 9, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Sarah Blake, author of Naamah
“A dreamy and transgressive feminist retelling of the Great Flood from the perspective of Noah’s wife as she wrestles with the mysterious metaphysics of womanhood at the end of the world.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

With the coming of the Great Flood–the mother of all disasters–only one family was spared, drifting on an endless sea, waiting for the waters to subside. We know the story of Noah, moved by divine vision to launch their escape. Now, in a work of astounding invention, acclaimed writer Sarah Blake reclaims the story of his wife, Naamah, the matriarch who kept them alive. Here is the woman torn between faith and fury, lending her strength to her sons and their wives, caring for an unruly menagerie of restless creatures, silently mourning the lover she left behind. Here is the woman escaping into the unreceded waters, where a seductive angel tempts her to join a strange and haunted world. Here is the woman tormented by dreams and questions of her own–questions of service and self-determination, of history and memory, of the kindness or cruelty of fate.

In fresh and modern language, Blake revisits the story of the Ark that rescued life on earth, and rediscovers the agonizing burdens endured by the woman at the heart of the story. Naamah is a parable for our time: a provocative fable of body, spirit, and resilience.

About Sarah

Interview with Sarah Blake, author of Naamah
Photo: © Nina Subin
Sarah Blake is the recipient of a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her writing has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Threepenny Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She lives near Philadelphia, PA.

Website ~ Twitter @blakesarah ~ Instagram

Interview with Mike Chen, author of Here and Now and Then

Please welcome Mike Chen to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Here and Now and Then was published on January 29, 2019 by Mira.

Interview with Mike Chen, author of Here and Now and Then

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

Mike:  I drew a lot of my own fan-fic comic strips when i was a kid -- I used to draw a lot and considered going into graphic design in college. When I was about 9 or 10, the one thing I remember using sheets of paper on was a crossover fan-fic between DOS adventure game Space Quest (with intrepid janitor hero Roger Wilco) and the groundbreaking animated series Robotech (specifically, the Sentinels era). I still love both properties dearly, by the way. I even wrote a big piece for Tor about rebooting Robotech without the nasty legal entanglements of the Macross license.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Mike:  Probably a hybrid. I do really like the Save the Cat beat sheet and I feel like that really rescued my early issues with structure. At the same time, writing in the moment sparks ideas that previously weren't there. So I keep a loose 3-act structure and then I try to write it out. I feel like it takes about 30k words for me to really get the character voices, and after that, things may get tweaked around so I can better understand their decisions.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Mike:  Time is my biggest challenge. I have a day job and a young daughter and other hobbies (which are basically ignored now), and I still enjoy writing for geek media. That all creates a heck of a challenge. At the same time, it's forced me to become a more efficient writer and I've better understood my strengths and weaknesses regarding process.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Mike:  I think the most influential piece of advice I ever got was from my creative writing teacher at UC Davis, Wendy Sheanin. She's now an executive with Simon & Schuster. At the end of the quarter, she asked if I wanted to change majors from mechanical engineering. When I said I wasn't, she told me to “keep writing.” That was obviously a major moment for me, but it's the best advice for any situation. Anytime I hit a problem I can't figure out, I put in a placeholder so I can keep writing; the issue usually resolves itself later organically.

TQ Describe Here and Now and Then using only 5 words.

Mike:  Time travel with big feels.

TQTell us something about Here and Now and Then that is not found in the book description.

Mike:  The book description mentions our present day and 2142 but there's also another time period in the book. When is it? You'll just have to read to find out!

TQWhat inspired you to write Here and Now and Then? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Mike:  Sci-fi has been with me my whole life, as evidenced by my childhood fan fics. There's just something about it that gets in my blood (that's an obscure Robotech reference for the sharp-eyed long-time geeks out there). So I always think about it, but at the same time, the stories that draw me in most tend to be character stories within those settings. One of my favorite hours of sci-fi is Lower Decks from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which follows four ensigns in their everyday lives among the Enterprise crew. I love thinking about the reality among the fantastic, that's where I want to tell stories.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Here and Now and Then?

Mike:  When planning my future world, I researched historical trends for names and food. I propagated this out to fill out my future world. I also looked at other SFF works and noted what they did to ground their worldbuilding efforts -- little things like methods of communication, impacts of climate change, etc.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Here and Now and Then.

Mike:  The design team was Gigi Lau and Emmanuel Polanco. I couldn't have asked for more inspired work, it's striking and unique and beautiful.

TQIn Here and Now and Then who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Mike:  The hardest had to be Miranda, specifically because she's a teenage girl and I am not. My daughter is only four so she doesn't deal with the angst issues of a teen. Making sure that voice worked was a big challenge, and I had friends who write YA and/or have teenage children read early versions to make sure the voice felt authentic.

The easiest probably was Penny. I'd modeled her after actress Jenna Coleman, and I could translate her speaking affect and emotions from what I see on screen to prose probably the smoothest. I felt the same way about Idris Elba as Kin, except since he's the protagonist/POV, capturing his internal processing was more complicated.

TQDoes Here and Now and Then touch on any social issues?

Mike:  Not explicitly. However, I put specific intention in my future worldbuilding about portraying the world that I want to see for my daughter and future generations. Part of this is practical extrapolation of how much things can get socially normalized over generations, and part of this is wishful thinking.

TQWhich question about Here and Now and Then do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Mike:  What are your favorite Easter Eggs in the story?

There are a lot of Doctor Who Easter Eggs throughout the book -- the names of minor characters, locations, and protocol numbers are riffed off Doctor Who historical tidbits. But I think my favorite Easter Eggs are from the missing TCB agents in Chapter 9. Those names are based on characters/locations from Kat Howard’s books Roses & Rot and An Unkindness Of Magicians. In addition to being an amazing and award-winning writer, Kat helped me with a major revision of this manuscript (note: she’s available for hire and totally worth it) and has been one of the best authors-turned-pals in my support system. She sent me a note about how this moment made her day when she was reading the final manuscript for blurbing, and it was the least I could do to tip my hat her way. She’s simply the best in all ways.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Here and Now and Then.


“Hope. Of course. What else would a penny be to him?”

This is from the prologue and I think it sums up the entire theme of the book. The story is about holding onto hope while circumstances push and pull into extremes, and in the end, your hope comes down to the core of relationships. The penny is symbolic of that for Kin, both in the past and the future.

TQWhat's next?

Mike:  My second book, a character-driven post-apocalyptic story titled A BEGINNING AT THE END, is due from Mira Books in January 2020. Six years after a global pandemic, it turns out that the End of the World was more like a big pause. Coming out of quarantine, 2 billion unsure survivors split between big cities, hippie communes, and wasteland gangs. When the father of a presumed-dead pop star announces a global search for his daughter, four lives collide: Krista, a cynical wedding planner; Moira, the ex-pop star in hiding; Rob, a widowed single father; and Sunny, his seven-year-old daughter. As their lives begin to intertwine, reports of a new outbreak send the fragile society into a panic. And when the government enacts new rules in response to the threat, long-buried secrets surface, causing Sunny to run away seeking the truth behind her mother's death. Now, Krista, Rob, and Moira must finally confront the demons of their past in order to hit the road and reunite with Sunny -- before a coastal lockdown puts the world on pause again.

I’ll be talking much more about A BEGINNING AT THE END in coming months. But first things first, we have time travelers to deal with!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Here and Now and Then
MIRA, January 29, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Mike Chen, author of Here and Now and Then
To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when…

Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.

Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.

A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.

About Mike

Interview with Mike Chen, author of Here and Now and Then
Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Mike lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter


Interview with Helen Marshall, author of The Migration

Please welcome Helen Marshall to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Migration was published on March 5, 2019 by Random House Canada.

Interview with Helen Marshall, author of The Migration

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

Helen:  Oooh, good question. One of my earliest finished short stories was a sort of weird fiction piece about a young woman and her love who go looking for the lost city of Atlantic off the Isle of Scilly. My favourite bit is the melodramatic final line: "Their love was deep, but the ocean was deeper."

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Helen:  A natural pantser! I took some improv classes when I was in university and I've found that even though I wasn't good at acting, a lot of the theory has been very helpful for my writing. The book Impro by Keith Johnstone is brilliant and helped me enormously with figuring out how to write short stories. I've had less success pantsing my novels though, and so I tend to be something of a hybrid there. I often come up with the structure of the novel and some of the major plot elements in advance.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Helen:  Not knowing what's going to happen next. Because I'm a pantser, the details of the plot are as much a mystery to me as they are to the reader. But unlike the reader I don't have the luxury of knowing that there will be some sort of resolution at the end. In the words of Tim Gunn, I have to figure out how to "make it work."

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Helen:  I read quite eclectically, wandering from science fiction and horror to non-fiction, science writing, poetry and memoir. What attracts me most to a piece of writing is a compelling voice. Well, a compelling voice and zany ideas. I love the feeling of reading something and encountering something genuinely surprising. Some of my favourite writers are Rob Shearman, Kelly Link, Georgina Bruce, Nick Harkaway and Nina Allan because all of them manage to do that.

TQDescribe The Migration using only 5 words.

Helen:  Sisterly love. Birds, birds, birds.

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

Helen:  Ha! That's difficult to do without spoilers. As a teaser I'll just say that it involves the image of bodies "stacked like a macabre lasagne"...

TQWhat inspired you to write The Migration?

Helen:  To me, The Migration explores death as a transition, rather than as an end. In some ways, it began as a reworking of the motif of the zombie which I felt had been overdone in recent novels. But for me there was something intrinsically fascinating about the idea of the zombie: the loved one who returns as something changed. Although The Migration is set against the backdrop of global changes, it takes intensely personal and focused look at the way families deal with the trauma of losing a loved one, how they come to terms with their own mortality, and how they find a way to keep living in the face of tragedy.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Migration?

Helen:  I did a fair bit of research in different areas to construct the central conceit of The Migration. I found Awakenings by Oliver Sacks to be particularly helpful in terms of thinking about a widespread condition with clusters of symptoms. I supplemented this with conversations with my mother, a pathologist (who kindly arranged a visit to the morgue), and fellow writer M. Huw Evans who helped me convert ideas into story. But the elements of the transformation were inspired by insect metamorphosis, which turned out to be an utterly fascinating line of research.

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

Helen:  The easiest character to write was Sophie's younger sister, Kira. She was one of the main starting points for the novel and her voice seemed the most natural. Sophie's mother was probably the most difficult character to write because her world was so claustrophobic and difficult to grapple with. It was only when I wrote the first draft of the epilogue of the novel that I felt as if I had come to a more sympathetic view of her.

TQDoes The Migration touch on any social issues?

Helen:  In his article, “Apocalypse: What Disasters Reveal”, Dominican writer Junot Diaz turns to the devastating earthquake which struck Haiti in 2010 in order to look at what a disaster might tell us about the world we live in. He reminds us of the Greek etymology of the word apocalypsis, meaning “to uncover or reveal.” The only value that catastrophes of this magnitude offer is that as things fall apart “they give us a chance to see the aspects of our world that we as a society seek to run from, that we hide behind veils of denials”. Importantly, he suggests that disasters provide insights into the underlying conditions which enabled the disaster in the first place so that we can change. The Migration is interested in the revelatory process of this sort of breakdown.

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

Helen:  I was asked a fantastic question in a Reddit interview I gave, which was: what piece of research did you find most interesting but never use?

I read about an experiment in which a scientist ironically named Wigglesworth was searching for the process by which nymphs--the juvenile form of an insect-- entered metamorphosis. Wigglesworth beheaded two groups of nymphs at different stages of development, then used paraffin wax to join the two insect bodies together, neck to neck, so the blood could flow freely from one to the other. What he discovered was that the two insect bodies behaved as if they had been integrated into one, with different parts of the conjoined body being brought into alignment. I referenced the research obliquely in the middle of the book but I initially wanted to include a horrific dream sequence in which Sophie imagined children as the subjects of these experiments.

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


"On the bedside table is an old storybook we used to read together. A fragment of Kira’s favourite story floats into my mind. It described a time when the world was underwater—no land to be found anywhere, just endless ocean and endless sky. And birds—hundreds of them, thousands of them, filling up the empty space with their song. Birds like smoke, birds like weather. Among them was a lark. When her mother died, there was nowhere to bury her body. No earth, only water. And so the lark lived in grief, idly circling. Her path was a knot of sorrow. On the third day she buried her mother in the back of her head."

TQWhat's next?

Helen:  I'm currently at work on two novels, neither of which follow on from The Migration. One is a bonkers tale of godlike talking tigers, stage magicians and truth and lies in politics. The other is about sentient sludge on Mars.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Migration
Random House Canada, March 5, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Helen Marshall, author of The Migration
“A dark fable that somehow feels both timeless and urgently topical. The Migration is heart-wringing and powerful, but over and above that, it’s just vivid and immersive and enthralling throughout.” –M.R. Carey, author of The Girl with All the Gifts

When I was younger I didn’t know a thing about death. I thought it meant stillness, a body gone limp. A marionette with its strings cut. Death was like a long vacation–a going away. Not this.

Storms and flooding are worsening around the world, and a mysterious immune disorder has begun to afflict the young. Sophie Perella is about to begin her senior year of high school in Toronto when her little sister, Kira, is diagnosed. Their parents’ marriage falters under the strain, and Sophie’s mother takes the girls to Oxford, England, to live with their Aunt Irene. An Oxford University professor and historical epidemiologist obsessed with relics of the Black Death, Irene works with a Centre that specializes in treating people with the illness. She is a friend to Sophie, and offers a window into a strange and ancient history of human plague and recovery. Sophie just wants to understand what’s happening now; but as mortality rates climb, and reports emerge of bodily tremors in the deceased, it becomes clear there is nothing normal about this condition–and that the dead aren’t staying dead. When Kira succumbs, Sophie faces an unimaginable choice: let go of the sister she knows, or take action to embrace something terrifying and new.
     Tender and chilling, unsettling and hopeful, The Migration is a story of a young woman’s dawning awareness of mortality and the power of the human heart to thrive in cataclysmic circumstances.

About Helen

Interview with Helen Marshall, author of The Migration
Photo: © Vince Haig
HELEN MARSHALL is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of two short story collections and two poetry chapbooks. Her stories and poetry have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Abyss & ApexLady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and She obtained a PhD from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, and then spent two years completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford investigating literature written during the time of the Black Death. Helen has worked as a managing editor for ChiZine Publications, and was recently hired as a permanent Lecturer in Creative Writing and Publishing at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. She grew up in Sarnia, Ontario, and now resides in Cambridge. The Migration is her first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @manuscriptgal

2019 Debut Author Challenge - May 2019 DebutsInterview with Melanie Golding, author of Little DarlingsInterview with M.G. Wheaton, author of Emily Eternal2019 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April DebutsInterview with Kate Mascarenhas, author of The Psychology of Time TravelInterview with Martine Fournier Watson, author of The Dream PeddlerInterview with Kris Waldherr, author of The Lost History of DreamsInterview with Sarah Blake, author of NaamahInterview with Mike Chen, author of Here and Now and ThenInterview with Helen Marshall, author of The Migration

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