The Qwillery | category: 2020 DAC Interview | (page 2 of 4)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Cherie Dimaline, author of Empire of Wild

Please welcome Cherie Dimaline to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews for her US Debut. Empire of Wild is published on July 28, 2020 by William Morrow.

Interview with Cherie Dimaline, author of Empire of Wild

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

Cherie:  I used to get in trouble all the time during class because I would write stories on the back of math tests… and forget to do the math. This started in grade 2 and 3. I’m sure they were short and terrible, but I remember in those moments when the classroom was quiet and there was an hour stretching in front of me, all I could do was write. I remember one story about some kids who find a dragon in the woods behind their house after school one day.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Cherie:  Total hybrid. Usually I start with a seed of an idea, or a voice and then I plot once I have a bunch of pages teetering on the edge of my desk.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Cherie:  It’s tough to shut out the public before it’s time to let them in. I lose myself in the story and it’s so beautiful. But then I start to think about the readers who are my partners in the project and my confidence falls. So I have to try to build walls in order to write, which then makes me feel like a bad partner. Maybe anxiety is the biggest challenge then.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Cherie:  Other writers like Omar El Akaad and Jesmyn Ward and poets like Gregory Scofield inspire me and anger me- how can they write so damn well?!. And always, my grandmother who was the first person to tell me stories, is my main inspiration. She told my stories about the rogarou who plays a huge role in this book. And, full disclosure, I binge watched True Blood to de-stress and that sulky, supernatural-ness may or may not have seeped in to the prose here and there….

TQDescribe Empire of Wild using only 5 words.

Cherie:  Gothic, lush, magic, sex, survival (Oh, sex survival sounds like a good reality show)

TQTell us something about Empire of Wild that is not found in the book description.

Cherie:  I started writing it on the back of a barf bag during a redeye flight. I still have that bag. Thankfully there was minimal turbulence so it didn’t have to be used for anything other than story notes.

TQWhat inspired you to write Empire of Wild?

Cherie:  On that same flight, I read an article in a magazine (Walrus magazine) about these new well-funded missionary churches that were going into Indigenous communities to bring the people in off the land and to god. They were headed by Indigenous preachers, at least publically. It made me wonder about a lot of things like why now, and who was funding the missions, and what did this mean for traditional people and the community overall.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Empire of Wild?

Cherie:  I really thought about wolf culture globally, which surprisingly brought me to the Inquisition in Germany where they tried werewolves along with witches.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Empire of Wild.

Cherie:  We really wanted to find an image that spoke to the magic and fear and seduction of the woods and all the things that could be lurking there. So the trees and the stars in one image really gives the idea of possibility and adventure.

TQIn Empire of Wild who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Cherie:  Joan was the easiest to write because she is based on so many strong women who I love dearly, real badass, beautifully flawed and remarkable women. Cecile was the hardest because she was a villain and started off as such a cliché. She had no nuance, no rationale that you could connect to. And a villain without nuance is a paper doll. So I sat down to write her backstory and it ended up in the book.

TQDoes Empire of Wild touch on any social issues?

Cherie:  Everything I write end up having social issues embedded in them. This one has resource extraction, cultural survival and colonization. You know, just the small stuff.

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


Was it fun to write the sexier scenes in the book?

Oh hells yes it was!

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


Old medicine has a way of being remembered, of haunting the land where it was laid. People are forgetful. Medicine is not.

He had generous lips and a wide smile. But his teeth? It was like God put a bunch of potentials in a Yahtzee cup and tossed, thinking Fuck it, let’s just hope for the best.

TQWhat's next?

Cherie:  I’m working on the TV adaptation to my YA book The Marrow Thieves. And researching souvenirs, road trips and witchcraft for a new project. Oh yeah, it’s going to be a wild one!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Empire of Wild
William Morrow, July 28, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Cherie Dimaline, author of Empire of Wild
“Deftly written, gripping and informative. Empire of Wild is a rip-roaring read!”—Margaret Atwood, From Instagram

Empire of Wild is doing everything I love in a contemporary novel and more. It is tough, funny, beautiful, honest and propulsive—all the while telling a story that needs to be told by a person who needs to be telling it.”—Tommy Orange, author of There There

A bold and brilliant new indigenous voice in contemporary literature makes her American debut with this kinetic, imaginative, and sensuous fable inspired by the traditional Canadian Métis legend of the Rogarou—a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of native people’s communities.

Joan has been searching for her missing husband, Victor, for nearly a year—ever since that terrible night they’d had their first serious argument hours before he mysteriously vanished. Her Métis family has lived in their tightly knit rural community for generations, but no one keeps the old ways . . . until they have to. That moment has arrived for Joan.

One morning, grieving and severely hungover, Joan hears a shocking sound coming from inside a revival tent in a gritty Walmart parking lot. It is the unmistakable voice of Victor. Drawn inside, she sees him. He has the same face, the same eyes, the same hands, though his hair is much shorter and he's wearing a suit. But he doesn't seem to recognize Joan at all. He insists his name is Eugene Wolff, and that he is a reverend whose mission is to spread the word of Jesus and grow His flock. Yet Joan suspects there is something dark and terrifying within this charismatic preacher who professes to be a man of God . . . something old and very dangerous.

Joan turns to Ajean, an elderly foul-mouthed card shark who is one of the few among her community steeped in the traditions of her people and knowledgeable about their ancient enemies. With the help of the old Métis and her peculiar Johnny-Cash-loving, twelve-year-old nephew Zeus, Joan must find a way to uncover the truth and remind Reverend Wolff who he really is . . . if he really is. Her life, and those of everyone she loves, depends upon it.

About Cherie

Interview with Cherie Dimaline, author of Empire of Wild
Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author and editor whose award-winning fiction has been published and anthologized internationally. In 2014, she was named the Emerging Artist of the Year at the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and became the first Aboriginal Writer in Residence for the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of the young adult novel The Marrow Thieves, which was a Canadian bestseller and won several honors, including the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Kirkus Prize in the young adult literature category, and was a fan favorite in the 2018 edition of CBC’s Canada Reads. She lives in Christian Island, Ontario.

Website  ~  Twitter @cherie_dimaline

Interview with John P. Murphy, author of Red Noise

Please welcome John P. Murphy to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Red Noise was published on July 7, 2020 by Angry Robot.

Interview with John P. Murphy, author of Red Noise

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

John P. Murphy:  Oh gosh. Does anyone have an answer to this that isn't horribly embarrassing? I wrote pretty much constantly when I was a kid, and it all kind of blended together. Some kind of generic epic fantasy thing, with airships. The airships bit, at least, I remember. I was a huge JRPG fan starting in the early 90s - we got a copy of Final Fantasy with Nintendo Power magazine, and I was absolutely hooked on it. I pretty much immediately started writing stories that were really very thinly veiled copies, driven mostly by people having cool names rather than personalities.

The first piece I remember letting people read was probably a one act play. I was really into theatre in high school, and we were allowed to write skits and short plays to put on for credit. I'm not sure if this was the first one, but I remember writing one about a writer who handcuffed himself to his desk to make himself finish on deadline, and all his terrible drafts were acted out in front of him. That was pretty fun; I hadn't thought of that in years.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

JPM:  These days I'm a plotter. Part of that is that I have so little time to write, so that I spend time during the day planning out what I'm going to write, and can then generally speed through it. I don't often finish according to plan, though: if it's going an interesting direction, I keep at it, and then revise the plan. But what I need most is to know the ending, especially the emotional payoff - I need that north star if the plot is going to work, and for me I can't just pants that.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

JPM:  Finishing! I pretty reliably hit a rough spot at about the two-thirds spot in almost everything I write. By that point I've hit most of the things I hadn't fully thought through, the shine of the idea has worn off, and I'm convinced that nobody will ever like it. I've abandoned a few drafts at that stage, but mostly it just takes a lot of energy and motivation to get through. I bribe myself with good whiskey and home-roasted coffee.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

JPM:  This one had a lot of influences. I'm kind of a cultural magpie. I've been really enjoying some of the more recent space-based science fiction lately; I love the way Aliette de Bodard's science fiction paints a different kind of space-faring future than we're used to seeing. I read a lot of old-school noir in preparing for this, like Chandler and Hammett, and newer more horror-oriented noir like Cassandra Khaw. I was obviously pretty strongly influence by samurai flicks and the grittier style of Western - think Clint Eastwood, not John Wayne. A fair bit of anime, especially Cowboy Bebop and Planetes. Firefly, too. The Fallout games likely had an influence on the aesthetic. Heck, there's even a Dwarf Fortress reference in there, but if anyone gets that I'll be amazed.

TQDescribe Red Noise using only 5 words.

JPM:  Space samurai flick with explosives.

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

JPM:  So, if you'll just look over there at that fascinating bird, I'm definitely not re-reading my own book description right now. Oh, it flew away.

Maybe this is implied in the description, but I did want to say that the plot of Red Noise isn't so much about being a badass, as it's about being clever. The Miner possibly could take down all the baddies in a frontal assault, but I don't think it would be as fun a story if she did. I've always found Odysseus more interesting than Achilles; Loki more interesting than Thor. So she can fight, yeah, but it's more important that she can think.

TQWhat inspired you to write Red Noise? What appeals to you about writing Space Opera?

JPM:  Well, to go way, way back, I was introduced to samurai films back in college, and then wrote essays on them during a study abroad in Japan twenty years ago. I just love that aesthetic. I'd watched a lot of Westerns growing up, since my dad was a fan, and they felt like both a missing piece and a distillation of the form. Yojimbo in particular struck me, and I did a paper on it and the later movies that were based on it, as well as going back and looking at its own antecedents, particularly Hammett's Red Harvest. I decided early on that I wanted to take my own stab at the genre, specifically in space, but it took the 2016 election and the use of social media to rile up so much of society against itself to really spur me to write it.

As for Space Opera in particular... It's such a wonderful sandbox for storytelling, and I think there are good reasons it has such overlap with Space Westerns. There's a tolerance for handwaving, for one thing. Readers will appreciate as much science as you feel like throwing in, but the focus is on the story more than on the tech. That's a comfortable place to be for someone like me, who can't help but geek out a bit but who still would rather write about Sturm und Drang than scribble out another doctoral thesis.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Red Noise?

JPM:  Most of my research was non-technical, trying to get the feel right. I especially did research into how I wanted to write the action. I hadn't written much before, and I tend to dislike it in a lot of books that I read -- I find it too drawn-out, too focused on the wrong things. I watched a bunch of Westerns and samurai movies, and reread some books that I thought did action well. I found that the fights that worked best for me were short and punchy (sorry! sorry!) and at their best were pulling double-duty in illuminating character. I'm pretty happy with how the fight scenes turned out, and how they differ from the Miner's point of view versus someone like Screwball.

I also did some research into nuclear weapons, and I kind of wish I hadn't. Some of these things are hard to forget.

TQDoes having a PhD in Engineering and a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering help or hinder your writing of Red Noise?

JPM:  A little of both. As a background thing, knowing the shape of how things are likely to work is a huge help. Understanding how systems interact and how they break helps me fill in the little details that make the world feel a little more real, or rather more realistically broken. Plus having all this miscellaneous knowledge, like how listening devices work or how robotic systems operate. A bigger benefit is knowing how to research, how to come up to speed on new things quickly.

On the other hand, I don't have a lot of interest in writing hard SF. I don't really read it much either, and anyway most of what passes for hard SF narrowly focuses on getting just one field right at the expense of dozens of others. But still I worry a lot about expectations: Are people going to pick up the book knowing I have a PhD and expect all the science to be spot-on? Most of the time I try not to write stuff I know is absolute nonsense, but sometimes I have to shrug, quietly apologize to my professors, and move on. That's part of the appeal of space opera as a genre, that lessened expectation of rigid correctness.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Red Noise.

JPM:  The cover process was fun, and Angry Robot was so good about it. It's very abstract, just that foil sword piercing the title, with stars in the background, pulled off brilliantly by Kieryn Tyler. I put together a Pinterest board of all these things that I loved in visual design, that the book made me think of. The Criterion Collection DVD covers for Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, for example, even sumi-e paintings. I really enjoy the effect of black and white and red. Kieryn took all that amorphous mess and really ran with it.

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

JPM:  Takata was the easiest to write, and Angelica the hardest, for the same reason: they're the two characters who are most like me. Takata is off to the side, and he gets to pretty much just react to what's going on. His role in the story is to be opinionated and provide a little bit of an outside moral compass. And boy, I can talk. So he was easy to write.

Angelica, on the other hand, has to act and antagonize. To write her, I had her mostly do what would come naturally to me - but as a result, she tended to blend into the background in the early drafts and just sort of exist; then when she acted it would seem to come from nowhere. Forcing myself to double back and think through and make her motivations as clear as the others, especially when she doesn't have that much page time, was hard.

TQDoes Red Noise touch on any social issues?

JPM:  Several of them, some intentionally, some not. It doesn't take much reading to see political parallels, but I'll leave those for the reader. In a way, it's a poor book that doesn't touch on anything important to the author. One of the big questions of the book, though, is the point of argument between Takata and Herrera: what has to come first, justice or peace? The argument is explicit sometimes, but that question was on my mind a lot when writing. It reads differently to me in the summer of 2020 than it did when I handed in the manuscript last year, and I'm pleased by that. I expect it will read differently next year, too.

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

JPM:   "Tell us about the food in Red Noise"

Also JPM:  I'm glad you asked! Eating and drinking is a big part of world building, and I'm such a foodie that I always enjoy those parts of books. Station 35 is way out in the middle of nowhere, muddling through with a combination of local production and cheap shipped-in stuff. After six months of fighting, what's left in the pantry is weird - and kind of prophetic of what's left in my own pantry after a few months of avoiding grocery stores. Staples bought in bulk, the "maybe later" frozen food, and home-grown vegetables that maybe don't look so great. The Miner mostly lives on emergency rations (partly inspired by my own experiments with that Soylent stuff), but one of the characters is trying to run a restaurant, and the other is the universe's worst bootlegger.

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


       “How bad are these nurses?”
       “I caught Skeeve doing what he thought was cocaine off a bedpan.”
       Mills struggled with that sentence and landed on, “Skeeve?”
       “Technically ‘Other Skeeve’ but nobody’s seen Original Skeeve in a while, and if he’s dead, then Other Skeeve feels he inherits because ‘a man has rights’.” Joff’s expression grew haunted. “That is a sentence that has come out of my mouth. I can’t take it back, Arun.”

       “You ever killed anybody?”
       The Miner glanced sideways at her, but couldn’t read anything but idle curiosity. “Some.”
       “How come?”
       She shrugged. “You can’t like everybody.”

TQWhat's next?

JPM:  I'd been working on a near-future thriller, picking up some of the themes I'd been writing about in my novella Claudius Rex (about an AI private detective) but near-future is a bit rough writing these days. I've got a couple short stories in the works, and a fantasy legal thriller that I've been tinkering on for a while now.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

JPM:  Thank you for having me! This has been fun!

Red Noise
Angry Robot, July 7, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with John P. Murphy, author of Red Noise
Caught up in a space station turf war between gangs and corrupt law, a lone asteroid miner decides to take them all down.

When an asteroid miner comes to Station 35 looking to sell her cargo and get back to the solitude she craves, she gets swept up in a three-way standoff with gangs and crooked cops. Faced with either taking sides or cleaning out the Augean Stables, she breaks out the grenades…

About John P. Murphy

Interview with John P. Murphy, author of Red Noise
John is an engineer and writer living in New Hampshire with his partner and two ridiculously fluffy cats. His previous work, The Liar, was shortlisted for a Nebula Award for Best Novella in 2016. He was a SFWA Director-at-Large until 2018 and is now the Short Fiction Committee Chair. He has a PhD in Engineering and a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Website  ~  Twitter @dolohov

Interview with John Fram, author of The Bright Lands

Please welcome John Fram to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Bright Lands is published on July 7, 2020 by Hanover Square Press.

Interview with John Fram, author of The Bright Lands

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

John:  I think I was five or six when I wrote a the start of a really morbid piece of Sherlock Holmes fan fiction involving a corpse being lobbed at the door of 221B Baker Street. I still want to know what happened to that body.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

John:  A hybrid, I think. I started with a lengthy outline but of course the demands of good dialogue and good characterization mean your story inevitably starts heading off in new directions.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

John:  Finding ways to afford all the free time it demands.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

John:  The Bible and Final Fantasy will teach you pretty much everything you need to know about metaphor and action and theme. The rest is just practice.

TQDescribe The Bright Lands using only 5 words.

John:  Young men with big secrets.

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

John:  It has a double-digit body count.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Bright Lands? Why write a supernatural thriller?

John:  I looked out the window and saw that the world had taken a hard turn into the horror genre. I'm just trying to keep up.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Bright Lands?

John:  I talked to lots of young high school football players on Instagram. Seeing what happens in this book, I have a feeling they don't want me to say another word about them.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Bright Lands.

John:  It's the best thing that's ever happened to me. Why look a gift horse in the mouth?

TQDoes The Bright Lands touch on any social issues?

John:  I'd say so. I'm tired of fiction that takes prisoners and I wrote The Bright Lands to be a brick through everyone's window. If someone doesn't walk away from it shaking, I feel like I've failed.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Bright Lands
Hanover Square Press, July7, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with John Fram, author of The Bright Lands
A Library Journal Best Winter/Spring Debut 2020

“Marks the debut of an already accomplished novelist.” —John Banville

The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

Shocking, twisty and relentlessly suspenseful, John Fram’s debut is a heart-pounding story about old secrets, modern anxieties and the price young men pay for glory.

About John

Interview with John Fram, author of The Bright Lands
© Luke Fontana
John Fram was raised in Texas. A resident of New York, he has written for The Atlantic, Pacific Standard and elsewhere. This is his first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @johnsfram  ~  Instagram

Interview with C. T. Rwizi, author of Scarlet Odyssey

Please welcome C. T. Rwizi to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Scarlet Odyssey was published on July 1, 2020 by 47North.

Interview with C. T. Rwizi, author of Scarlet Odyssey

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

C.T.:  The very first thing I wrote is not something I’d ever let anyone read. Ever. It was a cheesy, racy drama featuring cheating spouses, oversexed neighbors, soap opera style twists, fast cars and lots and lots of clichés. It was laughably bad. But I was trying to get the hang of writing at the time so I chose to do so in a way I’d find entertaining. Surprisingly, it worked. I was motivated to keep coming back to my crazy plot, and along the way I refined a writing process that works for me. I never got to finish the story though, since halfway through I decided to get more serious about my writing. I do return to it once in a while when I feel the need to laugh at my past self.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

C.T.:  Now there’s a fun word. Pantser. Pantster? Either way, I would say I am perhaps a tenth that. Mostly, I plot. I’ll have serious writers block if I sit in front of my computer and I don’t have a plan for where my chapter or scene begins and where it ends. Often, whenever I’m stuck, it’s because I haven’t planned things in enough detail.

What I usually do is create a skeleton of the whole book—i.e. beginning, middle and end—allowing for flexibility along the way. But I will plan each chapter in great detail before attempting to write it, and always with an awareness of what needs to happen next.

Sometimes, however, I’ll be in the middle of writing a scene and realize that it might work better if I deviated from the plan. When that happens, I stop writing, create a new plan to fit in this new idea, then continue. I almost never just write and see where things go.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

C.T.:  Editing a completed first draft can be fun and easy because most of the hard work has been done. The story’s broad strokes have been painted and the manuscript is no longer a nebulous idea in your head. It’s real, and you can see what needs to be improved, what should be removed, what’s missing, etc.

Getting to this point, however, is not easy. It requires endurance and motivation. You need to believe in your project enough to keep coming back to it. And that’s one of the most difficult things about writing: maintaining belief in your own work. Resisting the temptation to scrap it and start all over, or simply to give up. It can be difficult to keep going even when you’re not feeling confident, but that’s part of the process.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

C.T.:  The space operas of Alastair Reynolds and Peter Hamilton. I love books that impart a sense of awe at the size and age of the universe, works that deal with big ideas on a cosmic scale, and yet stay close to their characters. My work is not a space opera, but I vied to evoke the same sense of awe in my readers.

TQDescribe Scarlet Odyssey using only 5 words.

C.T.:  Bizarre. Mysterious. Magical. Chilling. Queer.

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

C.T.:  The world on which the story is based orbits a binary star—i.e., it has two suns: one yellow, one white. It also has a red moon, and a blue comet that shoots across the sky once every year.

TQWhat inspired you to write Scarlet Odyssey? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

C.T.:  I’d started a project based in a medieval European setting, but I was increasingly drawn to a supporting character from a southern continent, to the extent that I realized, based on the amount of time I was giving him, that I wanted him to be the star of the show, and to write about his society, which was more familiar to me than medieval Europe. Thus was born Scarlet Odyssey, a fantasy set in an African-inspired society.

As for what appeals to me about writing fantasy, I guess I blame my overactive imagination for seeking an outlet. I grew up reading Harry Potter like many other kids my age, though I craved to read similar works starring young black people like myself. But there weren’t many options at the time, so I was only stuck with what was available and my own imagination.

Things are beginning to change now, fortunately, with many writers of color being given the stage to write their own stories. Being a writer in the genre right now means I can be part of that change.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Scarlet Odyssey?

C.T.:  The starting point for many of the ideas I used was personal experience or knowledge I acquired by virtue of having grown up in southern Africa. The drystone architecture of my main character’s society, for example, was inspired by the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, which are not far from my grandfather’s farm in the Masvingo province of Zimbabwe, and which I have visited on many occasions. The bullfighting ritual featured early on in the book was inspired by a similar ritual performed by young men in Eswatini at the king’s royal kraal. The beasts that appear are inspired by several African mythologies, from the tikoloshe of South Africa and Swaziland to the ilomba of Zambia.

So I was going off on myths and cultures I was already familiar with, and that are regularly seen or practiced or discussed among southern Africans. I did have to take my knowledge a step further, however, and I did this by reading scholarly research into African myths as well as the histories of the ancient Shona, Zulu and Swazi peoples.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Scarlet Odyssey.

C.T.:  The cover was designed by Shasti O’Leary Soudant. It depicts a sunset in the savannahs, which definitely features in the novel as a significant portion of it takes place in grassy velds similar to what you would find in south and east Africa.

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

C.T.:  The main character, Salo, is an outcast due to his failure to conform to his society’s standards of masculinity, which are higher for him since he’s the chief’s firstborn son. Though he’s a very different person from me, I empathized with him greatly because I myself am familiar with the social pressures born of toxic masculinity—to be seen as the strong one even when you don’t feel strong, to avoid anything even remotely feminine lest people question your manhood or sexuality, to repress your emotions at all costs. My personal experiences were handy as I wrote Salo’s character.

Conversely, the hardest character to write was the Maidservant, mostly because she has to do some pretty terrible things even though she knows they are wrong. I’ll admit; it was hard to empathize with her at times.

TQDoes Scarlet Odyssey touch on any social issues?

C.T.:  My book explores the toxicity of strict gender norms and the struggle of those who fail to conform to them. It also touches on tribalism and xenophobia, attitudes that still plague many African societies.

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

C.T.:  How much fun did you have writing this book?

Honestly? Lots. There were times I’d spend whole weekends in front of my computer without noticing the passage of time. This book is why I’ll be writing for as long as I am physically able to do so.

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


“I’ve seen people in glistening cities do the most savage of things, and people in the heart of the hinterlands do the noblest. I don’t think civilization is a place or a culture or a level of technological development. I think it’s simply the recognition that all life is valuable and must be treated as such. Everything else follows from there.”

TQWhat's next?

C.T.Requiem Moon, the sequel to Scarlet Odyssey, will be coming out in the spring of 2021. It’s out with the copy editors so it’s very close to done. But that will not be the last you hear from me.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

C.T.:  It has been a pleasure.

Scarlet Odyssey
Scarlet Odyssey 1
47North, July 1, 2020
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 559 pages

Interview with C. T. Rwizi, author of Scarlet Odyssey
Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.

Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.

Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.

On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.

About C. T. Rwizi

Interview with C. T. Rwizi, author of Scarlet Odyssey
C. T. Rwizi was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in Swaziland, finished high school in Costa Rica and got a BA in government at Dartmouth College in the United States. He currently lives in South Africa with his family, and enjoys playing video games, taking long runs and spending way too much time lurking on Reddit. He is a self-professed lover of synthwave. Scarlet Odyssey is his debut novel.

Twitter @c_t_rwizi

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm

Please welcome Devin Madson to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. We Ride the Storm is published on June 23, 2020 by Orbit.

Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Devin a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm

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

Devin:  I wrote a story called The Little Sad Christmas Tree. I was six so I don’t recall writing it very clearly but my parents kept it and I still have it somewhere. It’s about a little pine tree that cries when its mother gets cut down and taken away and all the other trees laugh at him. He gets cut down too and taken to a shop to be sold but no one wants him, so he cries some more. He gets magically reunited with his mother at the end though. I don’t think I was trying to say anything particular with that, more I had only one page left.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Devin:  A bit of both. I almost completely pants most first books in a series because I’m too impatient to sit down and plan. And the only time I did, I ended up with a completely different book. With different themes, plot and a bunch of extra point of view characters. But when I get to later books in a series, I plan more and more to make sure I’m pulling all the threads together and will be able to finish the story in the right number of books. Really, I just go with whatever works best for a particular book, but the most I’ve ever planned is a couple of guiding paragraphs per chapter and some thoughts on arcs. That’s HARDCORE planning in Devinland.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Devin:  Action scenes! And for some reason I keep writing a lot of them. Because they have to be tense, they require very tight pacing and timing, balance and cadence, and can’t just be hammered out in a couple of minutes. At least not by me. The only thing more challenging, that you absolutely can’t lose your readers in by a misstep of word choice or pacing, is a sex scene, but I don’t write anywhere near as many of those. Structural edits also suck, because they are weeks of painstakingly ripping apart and rebuilding a manuscript and it is the most draining part of the job for me, mentally and emotionally.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Devin:  The things I have noticed as being influences (rather than the bazillion tiny things we passively observe and absorb in life) are generally not fantasy based, which I find interesting. Despite not writing romances, I have been heavily influenced by Georgette Heyer over the years. She was a master at character creation and evolution as well as subtle character-based and situational humour. I’ve also been influenced by all too many video games and history programs/podcasts. And Terry Pratchett.

TQDescribe We Ride the Storm using only 5 words.

Devin:  Shit keeps hitting the fan.

TQTell us something about We Ride the Storm that is not found in the book description.

Devin:  There is no black and white morality in this book. It’s all messy, right and wrong impossible to discern half the time, as people are forced to make decisions without knowing for sure what the outcome will be. Often they are making the best of two bad choices, which will have flow on effects into the decisions forced upon others. One thing I really wanted to achieve with this book is the idea that people and situations often aren’t neat and simple and clear cut. People are complicated. They are changeable. Contradictory. Emotional. I wanted to represent this in my fiction. Rather than creating ideals of people, I wanted to show them in all their messy glory as they struggle with their own paths and feelings and motivations (as well as one can in fiction, which is never allowed to be quite as messy and random as real life).

TQWhat inspired you to write We Ride the Storm? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Devin:  The biggest thing that appeals to me about writing fantasy (except for having to do less research because you can make things up) is that you can put people into situations that are impossible in our world and shake it up to see what would happen. The human psyche is an amazing thing, as are the connections and relationships we make with others. And they’re all so much more interesting and boundless in fantasy. As for We Ride the Storm, it’s the continuation of a generational story I started in my novella, In Shadows We Fall, and then on through The Vengeance Trilogy (also being re-released by Orbit, but you don’t have to read them first, they can be read in any order) so there wasn’t as much unique inspiration for this story. When I first started writing in this world, the story I wanted to tell informed much of the world building, but now the world and its history informs the stories I want to tell.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for We Ride the Storm?

Devin:  Because I don’t plan ahead most of the time, I tend to research on the fly when I need something (or I’m lazy and write and leave it for Future Devin like a jerk). These can be little things like how long it takes blood to congeal or sometimes bigger things about horses and castles.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for We Ride the Storm.

Devin:  Because We Ride the Storm was previously self-published, Orbit wanted to differentiate the new cover, so although it depicts horsemen riding into battle like the original, they commissioned black and white scratchboard art from Nico Delort. I loved the original too (by John Anthony Di Giovanni), as both are very striking in their different ways. The colour of the new one really gets across the mood and feel of the book though, I think they really nailed it.

TQIn We Ride the Storm who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Devin:  Cassandra is always the easiest character to write because I’m putting my dialled up to 11 snarky thought process and sense of humour on the page, filtered through her life experience and goals. Miko is the hardest, because she has a very complicated mix of ambition yet a desire to do what is right and good, of wanting to prove herself yet learn from those around her. She walks a fine balance in everything, even with having to be an accommodating leader and yet be fiercely determined, while at the same time she’s young and inexperienced in a lot of things.

TQDoes We Ride the Storm touch on any social issues?

Devin:  While it doesn’t specifically focus on any particular social issues, due to the journeys of certain characters the book touches on the struggles of women in a patriarchal society and some of the damage it does to the society as a whole, as well as the difficulties of a whole culture struggling to maintain itself while the world becomes more urbanized and technologically advanced around them. They are left having to ask ‘What makes us who we are?’ and trying to find an answer.

TQWhich question about We Ride the Storm do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Devin:  Let’s go with my favourite thing about it. I don’t do favourite characters in books (not in other peoples nor my own), I have favourite relationships. It can be a friendship, a parent/child relationship, a found family or a romantic relationship, it doesn’t matter, my favourite stuff is always the between people stuff. In this book it’s the relationship between Rah, one of the POV characters, and Gideon, leader of the Levanti exiles. They’re from the same herd so they have known each other all their lives, and while you only see some of it and get a little of their history in this first book, everything about the intensity and complications of it speaks to my soul on a deep level.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from We Ride the Storm.

Devin:  While I’m very proud of both my original opening line and the new one, the bits I like the most are the humorous character moments like this:

“What’s this?” She eyed the food like it was a dead animal.
“What does it look like?” I said, fingers hunting an elusive coin. “It’s flatbread. But that bit didn’t cook right through so it’s all yours.”

And that they let me get away with this:

“Now let’s keep moving before the sight of this damn place makes me piss myself.”
“As you wish, Your Whoreness.” He had taken a few steps but turned to look back over his shoulder. “Or should it be Your Assassinness? Whoresassin!”

TQWhat's next?

Devin:  I’m just putting the finishing touches on book 3 of The Reborn Empire series, after which I’ll be moving on to putting a cap on the series that has been quite the journey for me. I’m also hoping to find time to write a novella that’s been pecking away at my thoughts, the first thing I’ve written in more than a decade that isn’t set in this world of mine. And I’m very slowly working toward getting my audio drama, The 59 Bodies of Saki Laroth, produced and released.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Devin:  Thank you for having me!

We Ride the Storm
The Reborn Empire 1
Orbit, June 23, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm
In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s propulsive epic fantasy.

War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.

Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.

In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.

In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.

And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.

As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

The Reborn Empire
We Ride the Storm

For more from Devin Madson, check out:
The Vengeance Trilogy
The Blood of Whisperers
The Gods of Vice
The Grave at Storm's End

About Devin

Interview with Devin Madson, author of We Ride the Storm
Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.

Website  ~  Twitter @DevinMadson

Interview with Doug Engstrom, author of Corporate Gunslinger

Please welcome Doug Engstrom to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Corporate Gunslinger is published on today, June 15th, by Harper Voyager.

Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Doug a Happy Book Birthday! And if you love the cover of Corporate Gunslinger vote for it in the Cover Wars here.

Interview with Doug Engstrom, author of Corporate Gunslinger

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

Doug:  When I was in about the fourth or fifth grade, I wrote a series of science fiction stories with my friends, in which we were all crew members on an “Intergalactic Cruiser.” Fortunately, I don’t remember much else about it.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Doug:  I think it’s a continuum rather than either/or, but I’m pretty far toward the plotter end of the spectrum. I start with a detailed scene-by-scene outline. However, I treat it like a project plan rather than a blueprint, which is to say that I will make changes — sometimes very large ones — as I write, and I use the outline to help me accommodate and integrate those changes. For example, if I move a scene that contains information used in later scenes, I can use the outline to see if I’m still giving this information at the right time, or if I need to find a different place to introduce it.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Doug:  Staying focused for long periods of time without an immediate, externally-enforceable deadline.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

DougCorporate Gunslinger was heavily influenced by David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years, which basically upended the way I look at society and economics; also Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, which got me to think about the stories we tell ourselves to justify our actions; and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, which gave me a lot of insight into cognitive errors. Farah Mendlesohn’s book, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, did a lot to make me conscious of how heavily I’m influenced by Heinlein, even though I’m mostly reacting against his politics.

TQDescribe Corporate Gunslinger using only 5 words.

Doug:  An actress becomes a gunfighter.

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

Doug:  Though it’s a very grim story, it has touches of humor—there are some hijinks in the midst of all the death and mayhem.

TQWhat inspired you to write Corporate Gunslinger?

Doug:  The book started out as one of a series of vignettes that purported to be an oral history of work in the mid-21st century, people talking about their jobs in the way they talked to Studs Terkel in Working. Except because it’s the mid-21st century, the jobs they’re describing are professions like “AI Wrangler” and “Theology Mixer.” Many of the vignettes directly or indirectly satirize trends in society, and “Corporate Gunfighter” was definitely one of those. The vignette format ultimately didn’t work out, but I liked the idea and the character, so I turned it into a longer format piece. Much longer, as it turned out.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Corporate Gunslinger?

Doug:  I did a lot of research on dueling codes and read accounts of duels, as well as a lot of reading on gunshot wounds and how firearms and bullets behave in different circumstances. Because I was writing women as main characters, I also spent a lot of time listening to women on panels at SF conventions and on social media as they talked about their expectations for female characters in the stories they read, and particularly the things that men tend to get wrong.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Corporate Gunslinger.

Doug:  Yeon Kim created an amazing cover. The bright orange background attracts attention, the gun lets you know “gunslinger” isn’t metaphorical, and the stylized female image wielding it lets you know the protagonist isn’t who you might expect. Though the elements are relatively simple, they have terrific impact.

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

Doug:  Kira, the main character, was the hardest to write. As both the main character and the only point of view character, she has to carry the book, so she required a lot more depth and complexity, and it took me a number of tries to get her right. There was also the continuing challenge of her making morally repugnant choices, but remaining likable enough and understandable enough that readers sympathize with her predicament and care about what happens to her.

Diana, Kira's trainer, was the easiest. She came together without a lot of effort, in part because I set her up as Kira’s polar opposite in terms of temperament. That gave me Diana's basic orientation, and once I figured out the backstory that produced that temperament, I didn’t have to think very hard about any given situation before I knew how she’d behave.

TQDoes Corporate Gunslinger touch on any social issues?

Doug:  The book is, among other things, a political satire, so social issues are everywhere. There’s the effect of debt on individuals, our tendency to allow horrific outcomes to occur if they’re the result of a person’s “choice,” and selling grossly inequitable situations with the language of fairness and opportunity — to say nothing of our collective willingness to accept routine violence and prioritize the interest of corporations over the needs of people.

The biggest thing, though, is the question of how and why people participate in oppressive systems, and Kira’s story is a "case in point” I want people to think about.

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


“Don’t think the pretty girl won’t kill you.” — Kira, speaking to an opponent before a duel.

“It’s not what you know that keeps alive, baby girl. It’s what you can remember at the right time.” — Diana to Kira, after a brutally difficult training session.

TQWhat's next?

Doug:  I’m working on several proposals. One is a thriller set in the same world as Corporate Gunslinger, about a tech support worker who finds someone is trying to get control of her companion AI, and is willing to kill her to do it. Another is an atompunk alternate history set in a version of the 1990’s that looks a lot like what we expected in 1970, except for the radical left-wing Christians taking over the asteroid belt. And finally, a fantasy about a seed company intern and an outcast fae getting caught up in a corrupt plot involving human executives and fae royalty.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Corporate Gunslinger
Harper Voyager, June 16, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Doug Engstrom, author of Corporate Gunslinger
Doug Engstrom imagines a future all too terrifying—and all too possible—in this eerie, dystopic speculative fiction debut about corporate greed, debt slavery, and gun violence that is as intense and dark as Stephen King’s The Long Walk.

Like many Americans in the middle of the 21st century, aspiring actress Kira Clark is in debt. She financed her drama education with loans secured by a “lifetime services contract.” If she defaults, her creditors will control every aspect of her life. Behind on her payments and facing foreclosure, Kira reluctantly accepts a large signing bonus to become a corporate gunfighter for TKC Insurance. After a year of training, she will take her place on the dueling fields that have become the final, lethal stop in the American legal system.

Putting her MFA in acting to work, Kira takes on the persona of a cold, intimidating gunslinger known as “Death’s Angel.” But just as she becomes the most feared gunfighter in TKC’s stable, she’s severely wounded during a duel on live video, shattering her aura of invincibility. A series of devastating setbacks follow, forcing Kira to face the truth about her life and what she’s become.

When the opportunity to fight another professional for a huge purse arises, Kira sees it as a chance to buy a new life . . . or die trying.

Structured around a chilling duel, Corporate Gunslinger is a modern satire that forces us to confront the growing inequalities in our society and our penchant for guns and bloodshed, as well as offering a visceral look at where we may be heading—far sooner than we know.

About Doug

Interview with Doug Engstrom, author of Corporate Gunslinger
Doug Engstrom has been a farmer's son, a US Air Force officer, a technical writer, a computer support specialist, and a business analyst, as well as being a writer of speculative fiction. He lives near Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Catherine Engstrom.

Website  ~  Twitter @engstrom_doug  ~  Facebook

Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing Thunder

Please welcome Alina Boyden to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Stealing Thunder is published on May 12, 2020 by Ace.

Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Alina a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing Thunder

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

Alina:  Wow, we're really going back to the beginning, huh? The first piece of fiction I actually remember sitting down at a computer and writing was a story in French when I was in third or fourth grade, having just spent the summer studying it. It has not survived the intervening centuries, and so I can't go back and look at how bad my French was at that age. The first piece I wrote of real fiction was when I was 18, I think, back in like maybe 2002, and it was a 300,000 word post-apocalyptic epic about the trials and tribulations of a small medieval city-state in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. I still have it, but can't wholeheartedly recommend it. Some authors can make 300,000 words seem to fly by, but 18-year-old me was not one of those people.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Alina:  I am 1000% pantser. I never outline. I do a lot of research and world-building ahead of time, and I generally know in my head more or less what the starting drama is, and more or less what the resolution is, and then I just let the characters work it out. Sometimes I honestly don't even know what the ending is when I start. In fact, when I started writing Stealing Thunder I didn't have the slightest clue what the plot was going to be. I just knew who Razia was and where she was, and what her situation was, and she took care of the rest.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Alina:  Editing. By far editing. I tend to be one of those people who writes one draft of a thing, and that's the finished product, more or less. That was the case with Stealing Thunder. However, while that's a very entertaining way to live your life, I don't think it's consistent enough for the fiction market, given how competitive it is. So, the sequel, for example, went through about a dozen "drafts." Though none of those drafts was a full draft. I tend to write myself into corners and then erase the path back to where it branched, and start over. So for the sequel to Stealing Thunder, which is around 124,000 words, I wrote something like 400 or 450,000 words. So, maybe instead of a plotter or a pantser I'm a pruner?

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Alina:  History is probably my biggest influence. I'm a history nut, and will happily spend hours and hours researching the history of just the most random things. I don't have a particular place or time that I'm more in love with than any other. They're all equally brilliant and fascinating. I think what I love about it is that you get to see people who are just like us living in a world vastly different from our own, and I think that dovetails brilliantly with fantasy and science fiction.

TQWhat is a cultural anthropologist and how does being one affect your writing?

Alina:  I'm a trained cultural anthropologist, but I don't really identify as one. I'm also a trained archaeologist, and a trained historian from an academic standpoint. We all have many facets to our identities, but if I'm anything professionally at this point, it's a writer. That being said, I think that cultural anthropology is a discipline that has at its founding core a very hopeful message for humanity, and one that is particularly valuable for fiction, as I've often heard fiction described as an exercise in empathy. Cultural anthropology was founded on the idea of empathy, and the idea that if you take the time to listen to other people and to live with other people, you can come to understand something about them. It was predicated, at least in the Boasian tradition, on the idea that no culture is superior to any other, that no people is hierarchically above any other, and that all cultural beliefs and practices are of equal value. Like many ideals, cultural anthropology's have rarely been achieved in actual practice, but I think it's a good message to take home nonetheless.

TQDescribe Stealing Thunder using only 5 words.

Alina:  Trans "Pretty Woman" with dragons.

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

Alina:  Page 1 has three trans women having a conversation not about cis people. I don't know if there's some equivalent of the Bechdel test for trans women, but if it exists, Stealing Thunder might be the only fantasy novel in the history of the world that passes it. And it does so on page 1.

TQWhat inspired you to write Stealing Thunder? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Alina:  I was inspired to write Stealing Thunder largely as a result of my experiences with South Asian trans women and their communities. They are some of the oldest communities in the world of trans people who are out and acknowledged by society. That blew my mind when I first encountered it, and it really changed my approach to writing trans girls in fiction in general, but fantasy in particular, because I was so tired of seeing LGBT representation where we're all unicorns who live alone and never encounter anyone like us. (And, like medieval unicorns we also usually die just before consummating our love).

Fantasy is my favorite genre because I get to write historical fiction, but I don't have to be slavish to the history, and if I want to have something different happen, or to have a weird pterano-bird-dragon that you can ride on, I can have that.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Stealing Thunder?

Alina:  Stealing Thunder didn't require much in the way of special research, because it was stuff I was already doing. At the time I wrote it, I was studying Urdu, reading the history of South Asia, having loads of conversations with South Asian trans women, and so it was something that I was very much already stewing in at the time. For the sequel, without giving anything away, I did delve very especially into certain regional histories and ethnographies, but for Stealing Thunder it sort of naturally followed what I was already doing.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Stealing Thunder.

Alina:  If you zoom in really close on the full-size digital image, the details on the columns on either side of Razia are amazing. Greg Ruth did a really wonderful job, and I am so happy that my first book has such cool cover art. Lots of authors aren't so lucky.

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

Alina:  The easiest characters for me are always the jerks, I think. I don't know what that says about me, but I find them to be really fun. I don't mean villains necessarily, but antagonists. So Sikander, Razia's father, Arjun's father, they're all really easy for me. Even Karim to an extent. But the hardest were Razia's sisters, Sakshi and Lakshmi. Lakshmi because she's a kid, and I was never a normal kid, so writing a normal kid is really hard for me. And Sakshi because she's the supportive one, the kind one, but I can't make her too one note, or she's just not a character. People like drama, they like tension, and so when you write characters who are adversarial, I think people tend to see them more vividly. So a supportive cast is tough to write without making them dull.

TQDoes Stealing Thunder touch on any social issues?

Alina:  I don't think Stealing Thunder so much touches on social issues as it does just take a flamethrower (or maybe a fire-breathing zahhak) to them. I think it's easy, if you live in a liberal bubble in the US, to forget that in most of the country trans people's rights are being eroded every day - especially trans childrens'. Just in the last three weeks we've seen bills preventing trans girls from playing sports and preventing all trans people from changing their birth certificates made law in Idaho, just to cite one example. At this very moment, the Supreme Court is waiting to rule on whether or not I can be fired from my job just for being transgender. If the case goes against us, Title VII will no longer apply to trans people anywhere in the US. So, while the climate is not nearly as bad as it was when I transitioned eighteen years ago, it is far from good, and to have a book put out by the biggest publisher in the world with a trans girl heroine is really making a statement.

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

Alina:  What does it mean to you to have an unapologetically positive story with a trans woman main character?

It means everything to me, and I hope it will come to mean something to those members of our community who read fantasy novels. Stealing Thunder counters so many negative messages for trans women in our country - that we're not pretty, that we're not desirable, that we're not worthy of love, that we're not heroic, that we're not noble, that we're sinful, that we're weak, that we're mentally incompetent, insane, deranged, perverse. I've been called every single one of those things in my life, and so has every other trans woman I've ever met. We've seen it in literature, on TV, in film, and acted out on the nightly news. I somewhat jokingly summarize Stealing Thunder as trans girl Pretty Woman in the Mughal Empire with dragons, but we didn't actually get Pretty Woman. We got the Crying Game, where we're portrayed by a cis man, and when our romantic interest finds out we're trans, he vomits and punches us in the face. And as horrible as that sounds, that was the most positive representation I saw of a trans woman in film in my youth. Normally we're creepy serial killers or confusing corpses for criminal investigators to figure out - if we're included at all. So, to finally get a chance to see a positive portrayal of a trans woman in my favorite literary genre is really a special experience, and I hope it's inspiring for other trans women who pick it up and read it.

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


"How do you explain your soul to another person? How do you give them a glimpse of it?"

"As difficult as life could be here, at least my life was my own, and at least I was me."

TQWhat's next?

Alina:  Next for me is editing Stealing Thunder's sequel, which is slated to release in May 2021. I have a couple of other fun projects brewing that I can't really talk too much about yet, but mostly I'm just looking forward to seeing Stealing Thunder finally out in the world!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Alina:  Thank you so much for hosting me!

Stealing Thunder
Ace, May 12, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Alina Boyden, author of Stealing Thunder
Protecting her identity means life or death in this immersive epic fantasy inspired by the Mughal Empire.  

In a different life, under a different name, Razia Khan was raised to be the Crown Prince of Nizam, the most powerful kingdom in Daryastan. Born with the soul of a woman, she ran away at a young age to escape her father’s hatred and live life true to herself.

Amongst the hijras of Bikampur, Razia finds sisterhood and discovers a new purpose in life. By day she’s one of her dera’s finest dancers, and by night its most profitable thief. But when her latest target leads her to cross paths with Arjun Agnivansha, Prince of Bikampur, it is she who has something stolen.

An immediate connection with the prince changes Razia’s life forever, and she finds herself embroiled in a dangerous political war. The stakes are greater than any heist she’s ever performed. When the battle brings her face to face with her father, Razia has the chance to reclaim everything she lost…and save her prince.

About Alina

Alina Boyden is a cultural anthropologist focused on organized communities of transgender women in Pakistan, known as khwaja siras, or more popularly as hijras, focusing on how they use their unique community organization to advance the fight for their rights at home and abroad–something which has inspired her, as a transgender woman, in her own battles for civil rights in the U.S. as she fought for transgender care in a major court case with the ACLU.

Website  ~  Twitter @AlinaBoyden

Interview with Corry L. Lee, author of Weave the Lightning

Please welcome Corry L. Lee to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Weave the Lightning was published on April 7, 2020 by Solaris.

Interview with Corry L. Lee, author of Weave the Lightning

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

Corry:  I was in 5th grade. My “novel,” written on loose leaf notebook paper, was about a group of aliens called rock-moose (moose-like sentients with a symbiotic relationship to the rock-like creatures living on their long, shaggy fur). The water on the surface of the world turned solid during the day. An expedition from Earth had portal-ed in and was having trouble. It was a hybrid first-contact / survival story.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Corry:  Hybrid. I work out the way-points of my plot before I start writing - the ending, big events, that sort of thing - but my efforts to do more substantial outlines tend not to be very productive.

I do always write up a full outline once I finish a draft, as it helps me see the book from a different perspective when I’m pondering a revision. And I’ve started writing revision outlines (of the thing I’m revising toward) to try and iron out some of the bugs before doing all that re-writing.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Corry:  Despite outlining only rough way-points for a draft, I like having a plan. My subconscious, on the other hand, is more like a squirrel, darting off after shiny ideas. Often those ideas are in fact better than the plan, but I still get pissed when stomping through uncharted idea-underbrush. “But whyyyyy?” I moan to all who will listen. Though I often later admit that, yes, the squirrel was chasing a diamond and not a shiny bottlecap.

I might need to make peace with the squirrel.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Corry:  N.K. Jemisin, Ann Leckie, Yoon Ha Lee, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Ann Patchett, Tanya Huff.

Also, I was (okay, still am and always will be) a huge Babylon 5 fan.

TQDescribe Weave the Lightning using only 5 words.

Corry:  Russian-inspired. Storm magic. Travelling circus.

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

Corry:  It’s about hope, trust, and building a better world. I’m fundamentally an optimist, and it shows.

TQWhat inspired you to write Weave the Lightning? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Corry:  I wanted to develop a big, crunchy magic system that tied deeply into characters’ emotional space. I love magic that feels rich and organic, as complex as the people wielding it. I also love when technology develops alongside magic, when the world is constantly evolving with power dynamics shifting.

TQWhich period in Russian history was your inspiration for Weave the Lightning?

Corry:  It’s a mash-up. Technology is 1910s era, but Bourshkanya is a secondary world with Russian-flavored culture, heavily influenced by storm magic. A fascist regime has held control for the last 20-odd years, becoming increasingly repressive. In its historical underpinnings, it’s a bit Soviet, a bit pre-WWII Germany.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Weave the Lightning?

Corry:  I read and watched a lot of WWI, WWII, and Soviet-era books, films, and documentaries. Stand-outs are Lucie Aubrac’s memoir Outwitting the Gestapo and the Newberry nominated Breaking Stalin’s Nose. I chewed on discussions of fascism, like Robert O. Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism, and tried to understand how growing up under an oppressive regime affected a nation’s youth.

I also read and watched lots of circus-related material, which was much more fun!

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Weave the Lightning.

Corry:  I love the cover! It’s hard to see its full beauty in photos because the lightning bolt is spot-varnished, which means that if you tip the book back and forth, the lightning seems to flash!

The high wire walker stepping across the lightning is Celka Prochazka, a young female resistance fighter whose family are “The Amazing Prochazkas,” a travelling circus’s top-billed act of high wire walkers - modelled lightly off the real-life Flying Wallendas.

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

Corry:  Celka was the easiest. She’s bold and enthusiastic. She’s struggling to understand her magic and determined to fight the regime. She begins with a very clear sense of “right” and “wrong,” which ends up being challenged in interesting ways in the book.

Gerrit was much harder. He’s the son of the fascist state’s Supreme-General. He was trained at a top military mage academy, and so spent his life steeped in the regime’s “might makes right.” But he’s a good person at heart, if horribly entitled. Walking the line between making Gerrit the person his father wants him to be - who he’s spent his life striving to become - and a sympathetic character we can root for was an interesting challenge.

TQDoes Weave the Lightning touch on any social issues?

Corry:  Fantasy is often laden with sexism, even if the protagonists are female and the magic doesn’t discriminate along gender lines. I wanted to develop a society with deep-seated gender equality, because I believe in the power of fiction to light the way to a better world.

So despite being set in a fascist state with 1910s-era technology, women and men aren’t pigeon-holed into gender roles, non-binary pronouns are unremarkable, and love is love.

TQWhich question about Weave the Lightning do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Corry:  Are there any hidden gems or call-outs?

The minor character named Lucie is named after Lucie Aubrac, an amazing woman in the WWII French resistance who stood up to some nasty Gestapo monsters in Lyon. She fought, she loved, and she did much of it while pregnant. She’s a real-life badass, so I wanted to salute her.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Weave the Lightning.


“Most people thought time marched at an unwavering pace, each second as long as the next. Those people had never walked the wire.”


“Why are you staring at me like I have a bayonet sticking out of my chest?” he asked.

She huffed a surprised laugh. “You’re serious?”

He looked down at his chest. “Not about the bayonet.”

TQWhat's next?

Corry:  I’m currently revising Weave the Lightning’s sequel, The Storm’s Betrayal (due out in 2021). I love how it has given me a chance to open up the world and dig into different aspects of the magic system. Also, a new character (I don’t want to spoiler who, because they’re in the first book) gets a POV... and it’s delightful.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Corry:  Thank you for having me!

Weave the Lightning
Solaris, April 7, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Corry L. Lee, author of Weave the Lightning
Russian-inspired epic of magical revolution & romance

Empire. Revolution. Magic.

Gerrit is the son of Bourshkanya’s Supreme-General. Despite his powerful storm-affinity and the State’s best training, he can’t control his magic. To escape the brutal consequences, he flees.

Celka is a travelling circus performer, hiding both her link to the underground and her storm-affinity from the prying eyes of the secret police. But Gerrit’s arrival threatens to expose everything: her magic, her family, and the people they protect.

The storms have returned, and everything will change.

About Corry

Interview with Corry L. Lee, author of Weave the Lightning
Corry L. Lee is a science fiction and fantasy author, Ph.D. physicist, award-winning science teacher, data geek, and mom. In Ph.D. research at Harvard, she shed light on the universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang. At a major tech company, she connected science to technology, improving the customer experience through online experimentation. She’s currently obsessed with cross-country skiing, yoga, and single origin coffee. A transplant to Seattle, Washington from sunny Colorado, she is learning to embrace rainy days. Learn more at

Twitter  @CorryLLee  ~  Facebook

Interview with Matthew Ward, author of Legacy of Ash

Please welcome Matthew Ward to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Legacy of Ash is published on April 7, 2020 by Orbit.

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

Interview with Matthew Ward, author of Legacy of Ash

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

Matthew:  I used to scribble stories all the time at primary school, though I’ve no recollection of what went into them. The first real crack I remember taking at writing was a Babylon 5 novel, twenty-five or so years ago. It wouldn’t have worked out – and for all sorts of reasons, not least that I didn’t get very far. It’s long since been lost to hard drive crashes and the like.

Probably for the best.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Matthew:  It varies from book to book. I prefer making things up as I go – writing’s more fun when I’m discovering the story as if I’m reading it. But there are certain tales where things have to slot into place just so. Those end up with quite meticulous plans … character arcs, plot beats and the like nailed into place from the very beginning. That’s a lot more like actual work (yuck), but sometimes you gotta.

I’ll be interested to see which one readers think Legacy of Ash is.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Matthew:  I learnt long ago that I don’t have a lot of patience for heavy redrafting, so everything has to be ‘right’ before I move on – whether to the next sentence, paragraph, chapter or whatever – otherwise the knowledge that it isn’t overshadows everything I try to do afterwards. It makes some days a bit of a grind, and some chapters end up lingering for what seems like eternity. But the results speak for themselves … at least, I hope they do.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Matthew:  I love big, overarching stories, but conversely, light-touch continuity – the idea that you can be reading several separate (but complete) tales that build into something much larger without compromising either.

From that point of view, I discovered comics at just the right time to spark my interest – Babylon 5 was winding down, and there wasn’t really anything left on TV doing what it had done – and just the wrong time, because the trend of massively decompressed storytelling was getting underway.

I think that’s one of the reasons I love narratives with a huge weight of history behind them (Babylon 5, The Lord of the Rings). They create the illusion that the story you’re experiencing – even if you devour it front to back – is only part of a much larger tale whose outline you can just about glimpse, if you squint at it just right. I find that sense of depth fascinating – it’s when the world becomes a living, breathing thing.

TQDescribe Legacy of Ash using only 5 words.

Matthew:  Mistakes of old, come due. Or perhaps ‘Oh no, don’t do that!’

TQTell us something about Legacy of Ash that is not found in the book description.

Matthew:  This isn’t just a war of mortals. There are divine powers waiting in the wings, and sometimes a good deal closer. They’ve been forgotten in Tressia (the main setting for the book), or otherwise warped so much by ‘official’ history as to be unrecognisable, but they’re there, and they won’t be ignored.

TQWhat inspired you to write Legacy of Ash? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Matthew:  The story of Legacy of Ash (in fact, the whole Legacy trilogy) goes back some twenty-odd years, as do many of the characters – if in a very prototypical form – so initial inspirations are a bit hazy at this point.

I knew there was a great story waiting to be told, but I spent years dancing around actually getting started. It sounds pompous, but I’m not sure I was ready to tell the story – my writing just wasn’t there yet, and it was going to need to be if I were to do it justice. And then somewhere along the line, it just clicked, and now we’re here.

Fantasy’s a wonderful genre to write within, because it’s so flexible. You can ground yourself in reality as much (or as little) as you like, so long as you can carry the reader with you. It’s escapism at its finest.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Legacy of Ash?

Matthew:  Not much of any, if I’m honest. I have an obsession with real world adjacent names, so I spend a lot of time scratching at that aspect – Legacy has names inspired (or directly drawn from) Slavic, Celtic, British, Indian and Hebrew roots.

Otherwise? I started getting a bit obsessed about marching times/distances, but that was about as far as my research went.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Legacy of Ash.

Matthew:  The illustration’s by Larry Rostant; the design by Charlotte Stroomer. It’s a thing of beauty, and so wonderfully emblematic of the book. Right from the get-go, the narrative pivots around the prophecy of a phoenix – a leader who’ll bring freedom to the oppressed south – and fire is ever-present, both as a metaphor for rebirth, and of cleansing.

More than that, I probably shouldn’t say…

TQIn Legacy of Ash who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Matthew:  I’ve always loved secondary characters. Favourite character in Star Wars? Wedge Antilles. Favourite Ghostbuster? Winston Zeddemore. And so on, etc.

It’s a quirk that spills over into my writing, and I love every moment I spend with the supporting cast. Of these, Vladama Kurkas is probably the most straightforward, because he’s a straightforward soul – but he’s also smarter than he lets on, which gives him a wonderfully broad range to work with.

Josiri Trelan was probably the hardest. He’s a protagonist, which is already a black mark against him in my supporting character-loving soul, but also he has probably the biggest arc in the book. He’s never there as meat in the room. If he’s in the scene, he’s got to sing.

TQDoes Legacy of Ash touch on any social issues?

Matthew:  It’s fair to say there’s a theme of overcoming prejudice running through the book. Every character brings societal baggage to the table – how they react to that prejudice and (if they) overcome it is ultimately what defines them, as it does us all.

One of the greatest challenges we all face is accepting that what we consider ‘normal’ or ‘reasonable’ may not be when viewed from another’s perspective. How we move forward from that point has the power to change the world, if we let it.

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


Q: Are you Tressian or Hadari at heart?

A: Tricky one, because the two realms have a lot more in common than they first appear. But on balance, I’m probably Tressian, as I’m a little bit too attached to structure and protocol. I also look a lot better in shirt and cravat than silk robes too, so there’s that.

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

Matthew:  Let’s start with a bit of scene-setting, going back to the idea of story behind the story.

The mists of Krayna Dell defied the light of dawn. Revekah wasn’t surprised. It was often thus in the Forbidden Places, where old magic wore thin the walls between the living realm and Otherworld. For those who didn’t heed the priesthood’s warnings about such places, a thousand tales counselled caution. Spirits lurked within the mists, or so it was said. Spirits, and worse. Revekah had never seen such peril for herself – nor spoken to anyone who had – but the fear remained.
        Mists or no, the Forbidden Places were different. As if the turnings of the world held little influence on what passed within, or distant seasons lingered jealously beneath the boughs.

For an actual character quote, I’d go with “They mistake bigotry for the tinder of great days gone.” as it sums up so much of what the book’s about.

(I’ll leave it a surprise which character says it, and when.)

TQWhat's next?

Matthew:  Well, book two – Legacy of Steel – is currently in the ‘making it awesome’ phase (boring people call this ‘editing’), where my editor politely asks me to stop using the word ‘softly’ so much, and otherwise helps me see the forest again, and not the trees. That’s going to be hugely exciting to get capped off.

Meanwhile, I’m well underway with book three, which is even more exciting (a threequel beats a sequel, right?) So I’m still very much neck deep in Tressia.

After? Well, I have plans. I always have plans. There are more stories to tell in Aradane (the world of Legacy of Ash), so I’m hoping people want to read them. Other than that? Something to do with vampires, perhaps. Or maybe monsters in the London Underground.

Either way, it’ll be a fun ride.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Legacy of Ash
The Legacy Trilogy 1
Orbit, April 7, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 800 pages

Interview with Matthew Ward, author of Legacy of Ash
Legacy of Ash is an unmissable fantasy debut–an epic tale of intrigue and revolution, soldiers and assassins, ancient magic and the eternal clash of empires.

A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.

Ruling families — once protectors of justice and democracy — now plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives. Blinded by ambition, they remain heedless of the threat posed by the invading armies of the Hadari Empire.

Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise.

Viktor Akadra is the Republic’s champion. A warrior without equal, he hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic.

Josiri Trelan is Viktor’s sworn enemy. A political prisoner, he dreams of reigniting his mother’s failed rebellion.

And yet Calenne Trelan, Josiri’s sister, seeks only to break free of their tarnished legacy; to escape the expectation and prejudice that haunts the family name.

As war spreads across the Republic, these three must set aside their differences in order to save their home. Yet decades of bad blood are not easily set aside. And victory — if it comes at all — will demand a darker price than any of them could have imagined.

About Matthew

Interview with Matthew Ward, author of Legacy of Ash
Photo by Photo Nottingham
Matthew Ward is a fantasy author, cat-servant, and owner of more musical instruments than he can actually play. He’s afflicted with an obsession for old places — castles, historic cities, and the London Underground chief amongst them — and should probably cultivate more interests to help expand out his author biography. Ward lives near Nottingham with his wife and several cats.

Website  ~ Twitter @thetowerofstars

Facebook  ~  Pinterest

Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return

Please welcome Rachel Harrison to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Return is published on March 24, 2020 by Berkley.

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

Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return

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

Rachel Harrison: One of my earliest memories is dictating a story to my mother before I could write myself, so I must have been pretty young. I have a very clear picture of where I was, but I don’t remember what the story was about. Willing to bet someone died, though. As a child author I was quite brutal. Excessive death. Maiming, too. Maiming was a staple of my early fiction.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

RH:  A hybrid! For The Return I had a solid outline, but I like to give myself some breathing room. Sometimes my characters intervene.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

RH:  I love to write. I wish I had more time to write but writing itself is pure joy for me. I think the challenging part comes with putting your work out there. It’s really vulnerable and weird and wonderful and terrifying and exciting. It’s a lot to process, and in general I have a low threshold for the stresses of existence, so it’s been tricky for me to navigate this strange new reality.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

RH:  For The Return, I was influenced by The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and The Shining by Stephen King, which is an entirely unsurprising answer as those are two of the best and most iconic horror novels of all time. But I was also really influenced by Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Those are my favorite books about female friendship. As far as the setting goes, The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo was the inspiration for the Red Honey Inn, the hotel in the novel. I’ve never been, but I saw some pictures and was smitten. I hope to go someday!

TQDescribe The Return using only 5 words.

RH:  Careful. Keep your friends close.

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

RH:  This book is really a coming-of-age story. Everyone always talks about how hard it is to be a teenager, but you don’t magically have everything figured out when you hit twenty. Things get harder and more complicated, and you have to pay taxes. You want horror, let’s talk first trip to H&R block. What I’m getting at is, The Return explores some of the struggles of being in your twenties and trying, and sometimes failing, to figure out who you are, what you want out of life as an adult, and who’s going to stay with you on your journey.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Return? What appeals to you about writing horror?

RH:   I was inspired by my relationships with my friends and my experience in my twenties. On a bit of a deeper level, I’ve had two close friendships fall apart in my life. I never knew how to mourn those relationships. There’s a lot out there on getting over romantic breakups, but how are you supposed to cope when you lose a friend? I personally felt, and still feel, a lot of shame and confusion and sadness over the ends of those friendships, and writing this book was a way for me to parse out those feelings.

And everything about writing horror appeals to me. I love the genre so much it’s difficult for me to articulate an answer. My inner monologue is currently set to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, but instead of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” it’s “ghosts in dark graveyards and monsters in closets.” The world is a frightening place. Writing horror is how I explore my fear, so it becomes less of a burden.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Return?

RH:  I researched characters, I researched locations, but it’s horror fiction, so a lot of it is imagination, heavily seasoned with personal experiences, anxieties, and traumas.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Return.

RH:  The cover is a hot pink masterpiece by Katie Anderson. All I’ll say about the cover is that it’s absolutely perfect and I’m obsessed with it.

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

RH:  Molly was probably the easiest to write because she’s self-assured, she knows exactly who she is. Also, we both have dirty sailor mouths. Julie was the hardest because she’s got a lot going on. She can be warm, but she’s not forthcoming. It was difficult for me to understand her at times because she doesn’t want to be understood. She enjoys being an enigma.

TQDoes The Return touch on any social issues?

RH:  I wanted to write a novel that felt honest about female friendship. My friends and I love and support each other, but in my opinion, no healthy long-term relationship is pure love and support, sunshine and rainbows, and that’s okay, it’s normal! It’s important that women allow each other to be flawed, to give each other room to make mistakes. Women are allowed to be fuck ups. We’re human! We can love and support each other and also be honest our feelings and experiences, even if they aren’t pretty. We should be able to fail and forgive each other. Fail and forgive ourselves.

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

RH:  Hmm, this one is tough. Maybe, “Rachel, The Return is so brilliant and amazing, how did you write such an incredible book?” I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Though feel free to ask me that. I like to talk about my characters, especially the messy ones. I think I’d like to be asked about Elise, how I feel about her. It’d be a long answer.

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

RH:  “You can’t erase your past when there are pieces of it scattered inside other people.”

TQWhat's next?

RH:  I’m too superstitious to answer this question but follow me on Twitter for updates @rachfacelogic! *throws salt over shoulder*

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

RH:  Thank you!

The Return
Berkley, March 24, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return
A group of friends reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance in this edgy and haunting debut.

Julie is missing, and no one believes she will ever return—except Elise. Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and feels it in her bones that her best friend is out there and that one day Julie will come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

Along with Molly and Mae, their two close friends from college, the women decide to reunite at a remote inn. But the second Elise sees Julie, she knows something is wrong—she’s emaciated, with sallow skin and odd appetites. And as the weekend unfurls, it becomes impossible to deny that the Julie who vanished two years ago is not the same Julie who came back. But then who—or what—is she?

About Rachel

Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return
Photo: © Nic Harris
Rachel Harrison was born and raised in the weird state of New Jersey. She received her bachelor’s in Writing for Film & Television from Emerson College. After graduating, she worked on TV game shows, in publishing, and for a big bank. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their cat/overlord. This is her first novel.

Website ~ Twitter @rachfacelogic

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