The Qwillery | category: 2020 DAC Interview | (page 3 of 4)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with EeLeen Lee, author of Liquid Crystal Nightingale

Please welcome EeLeen Lee to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Liquid Crystal Nightingale was published on March 17, 2020 by Abaddon.

Interview with EeLeen Lee, author of Liquid Crystal Nightingale

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

EeLeen:  A review of a film I had not seen – Tron (1982) – because I was seven years old and didn’t want to appear uncool to the other kids. The piece was so convincing the teacher made me read it out in class. But the joke was on all of us because Tron isn’t actually the film's protagonist, it’s the programmer Flynn as portrayed by Jeff Bridges.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

EeLeen:  I’m more structure-based: plot is what happens in the story but structure is how you convey to the reader what’s happening. A plot maybe watertight but poor structure will undercut it. I allow my inner pantser to emerge when it comes to dialogue since it’s the flow is easier to revise than blocks of prose.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

EeLeen:  Two things: 1) Trying not to be terrified of the blank page, and 2) Shutting off online distractions but not social media per se. On occasion I’ve become quite lost down the Research Rabbit Hole.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

EeLeen:  William Gibson, Yoon Ha Lee, Pat Cadigan, Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space novels, China Mieville's Bas Lag novels, and recent John le Carré.

I also love science fiction concept art, especially by Chris Foss and the late Syd Mead.

TQDescribe Liquid Crystal Nightingale using only 5 words.

EeLeen:  Not all who break, shatter.

TQTell us something about Liquid Crystal Nightingale that is not found in the book description.

EeLeen:  The weaponry is strange and deliberately so: dance accoutrements, modified gemmological implants, and guns firing unusual projectiles. As with ships, weapons tend to be science fiction shorthand so I really wanted to get away from the clichéd lasers or pulse rifles.

TQWhat inspired you to write Liquid Crystal Nightingale? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

EeLeen:  The novel started out as an exercise: write about a couple of imaginary cities, à la Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. As soon as I started writing about a city that looked like a cat’s eye when seen from space, I had to continue it.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I love science fiction concept art but I can’t draw or paint. So in writing I get to paint the images in my head with words.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Liquid Crystal Nightingale?

EeLeen:  Mining, asteroid mining and then speculations about off-world economies, dance, gemmology and geology, and materials science. My problem was deciding on what to leave out of the novel.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Liquid Crystal Nightingale.

EeLeen:  The very talented artist is Adam Tredowski and his work is reminiscent of Mead and Foss. Tredowski’s paintings can be found on Deviantart

I’ve been asked if the space station on the cover is Chatoyance but it’s not because Chatoyance is written as a city settlement and not an orbital construct. The cover image isn’t entirely accurate in terms of the novel. But in retrospect the image inadvertently references the defence ring of military satellites called the Demarcation referred to in the novel.

TQIn Liquid Crystal Nightingale who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

EeLeen:  The protagonist, Pleo Tanza, was the most difficult because I was expecting her to spring fully-formed from my imagination and onto the page after living in my head for years. This did not happen and rediscovering her character was like catching smoke with a butterfly net for six to nine months.

The two investigators, Dumortier and Nadira, were the inverse: they were not fully-formed in my head but the ease with which they took shape on the page surprised me. The more I wrote of them and as them I realised both of them were unintentional audience surrogates. It enhances reader immersion when even both characters, who are the most competent and experienced professionals (senior investigators), find themselves in over their heads by the events in the novel.

TQWhich question about Liquid Crystal Nightingale do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

EeLeen:  I wish someone would spot and ask about the significance of the gemmological references in the novel, so I will highlight two: Pleo is named for pleochroism, a trait displayed by gems when they seem to possess varying colours when viewed from different angles. This is a great metaphor for her character. Dumortier is named after the palaeontologist Eugene Dumortier, and the mineral dumortierite is named after him. Dumortierite is a very reassuring deep denim blue, and that too, represented his character.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Liquid Crystal Nightingale.


“Intention fashions the weapon.”

“Our queen is in the crowd.”

TQWhat's next?

EeLeen:  I’m writing a military science fiction novel set in a very different universe from Liquid Crystal Nightingale.

TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

EeLeen:  Thank you very much!

Liquid Crystal Nightingale
Abaddon, March 17, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with EeLeen Lee, author of Liquid Crystal Nightingale
A bold and clever political thriller science fiction debut

Go deeper, they said. Look closer.

Pleo Tanza is a survivor. Her father was broken by tragedy, her twin sister is dead—chewed up and spat out by the corruption and injustice of Chatoyance—but she’s going to make it, whatever it takes. She’s going to get off this rock.

But escape is for the rich or lucky. Pleo’s framed for the murder of a rival student—the daughter of one of the colony’s wealthy, squabbling clans—and goes on the run, setting off a chain events that could destroy the fragile balance of the old colony forever…

About EeLeen

Interview with EeLeen Lee, author of Liquid Crystal Nightingale
EeLeen Lee was born in London, UK but has roots in Malaysia. After graduating from Royal Holloway College she several years as a lecturer and a copywriter until she took the leap into writing. As a result, her fiction since has appeared in various magazines and anthologies in the U.K, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, such as Asian Monsters from Fox Spirit Books, and Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction. When she is not writing she can be found editing fiction and nonfiction, being an armchair gemmologist, and tweeting at odd hours.

Twitter @EeleenLee

Interview with S. A. Jones, author of The Fortress

Please welcome S. A. Jones to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Fortress is published on March 17, 2020 by Erewhon.

Interview with S. A. Jones, author of The Fortress

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

S. A.:  I don’t remember this incident but it is part of my family folklore. When I was a toddler I was an obsessive scribbler. My parents would make me repeat “I only write on paper. I only write on paper” to reinforce that I was not to draw on any other surface.

They had their kitchen decorated with wallpaper.

You can guess what happened.

The first writing that I remember was a series of illustrated stories I did for my sister Bec when I was twelve and she was two. The stories were called Octavia, Gillian and the Acqua-Gumpoo. They were about a misunderstood sea monster with bad hair trying to find his place in a hierarchical, snobbish court. So totally not autobiographical.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

S. A.:  I am a plotter. That said, the process of writing often reveals developments that I hadn’t consciously thought of until I start to write. So there is an extent to which writing and plotting are symbiotic.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

S. A.:  The terror of the blank page. Once I start writing I can be immensely productive in a fairly short time span. But surmounting the fear that I am composed of nothing but airy, wordless spaces is a constant battle.

What has influenced / influences your writing?

S. A.:  I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t compelled to write so it is hard to isolate an influence. Despite my working class background my family has always encouraged the belief that reading and writing are worthwhile pursuits so I’ve been fortunate in that regard.

Time and money definitely influence the kind of books I write. There are a couple of research-intensive books I’d love to write but I simply don’t have the resources to pursue them.

TQDescribe The Fortress using only 5 words.

S. A.:  Your Misogynist Boss Gets His

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

S. A.:  The original inhabitants of The Fortress, the Vaik, are genetically improbable: women of colour with blonde hair. I was interested in the idea of a sovereign state governed by women whose physicality our culture does not code as powerful.

In my original draft all of the Vaik were women of colour with blonde hair. As I worked through the story I realised that what characterised Vaikness was not biological or racial but psychological: a total immunity to any sense of gendered inferiority. Being Vaik is a state of mind.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Fortress?

S. A.:  Breathing while female

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Fortress?

S. A.:  I have observed corporate life for a long while now. Jonathon is an extreme example but he is a type of successful, wealthy, entitled man with very little consciousness about how power flows between him and other people. He isn’t evil, he’s just snug and comfortable in a world that works very well for him. Why would he poke and pull at his world to see what it is made of? Whether it is fair or just?

I majored in history and minored in politics at university so I’ve always been interested in how societies govern themselves and the narratives that create a sense of shared purpose and identity.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Fortress.

S. A.:  The cover is by Marina Drukman. I think it is stunning. It captures the raw physicality of the book while showing Jonathon’s power and vulnerability.

I have very little talent for visual design (when my ten year old daughter and I have ‘drawing dates’ she is tactful about my woeful efforts). I’m immensely grateful to Erewhon for engaging Marina because she grasped the essentials of the book and translated them into her medium. I’m fascinated by ekphrasis so the cover reveal is always a high point in the publishing process for me.

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

S. A.:  Jonathon was probably the easiest character because I understand him. Getting into his head and the rhythm of his speech came naturally.

Ulait was harder because her experience of girlhood is unprecedented. Ulait’s birthright is sexual pleasure and agency. She decides when and with whom she will be physically intimate. She has enormous physical freedom and no fear of men. Yet in other ways her life is quite restricted. She lives entirely within the geographical confines of the Fortress. She is drilled in Vaik narratives to the point where she can’t even draw what she wants without being chastised for not sticking to Vaik myth. She cannot have an equal relationship with a man because that does not exist in Vaik society.

TQDoes The Fortress touch on any social issues?

S. A.:  It doesn’t so much touch on them as give them a bear-hug and take them home for tea: gender, power, consent, subjectivity, pleasure, capitalism, justice, social cohesion…

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

S. A.:

Q. How does it feel to win the Man Booker prize for The Fortress?

A. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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

S. A.:  This is creed sets out the principles for the four tenets of Vaik society which are work, history, sex and justice.

Work. History. Sex. Justice.

A moving body is a creative body. It produces the food on our plates, [LG1] the walls that protect us and the art that delights us.

We created and recreate ourselves by standing apart. We honour they who won us our solitude, but we are not petrified.

Pleasure consists in the freedom to, and the freedom from, and every Vaik will herself determine in what measure these things are best.

We are instruments of the sovereignty of all women, and do not shrink from the sacrifice this entails.

Work. History. Sex. Justice.

We are Vaik.

TQWhat's next?

S. A.:  I’m currently working on a book about a truck driver named Brian who is accidentally turned into a vampire by a drug-running bikie clan. One of the side-effects of his vampirism is that it cures Brian’s dyslexia. So finally we have an answer to the question is it better to be a blood-sucking fiend or go your whole life and not read Middlemarch?

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

S. A.:  My pleasure.

The Fortress
Erewhon, March 17, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages
(US Debut)

Interview with S. A. Jones, author of The Fortress
Jonathon Bridge has a corner office in a top-tier law firm, tailored suits and an impeccable pedigree. He has a fascinating wife, Adalia, a child on the way, and a string of pretty young interns as lovers on the side. He’s a man who’s going places. His world is our world: the same chaos and sprawl, haves and have-nots, men and women, skyscrapers and billboards. But it also exists alongside a vast, self-sustaining city-state called The Fortress where the indigenous inhabitants—the Vaik, a society run and populated exclusively by women—live in isolation.

When Adalia discovers his indiscretions and the ugly sexual violence pervading his firm, she agrees to continue their fractured marriage only on the condition that Jonathan voluntarily offers himself to the Fortress as a supplicant and stay there for a year.

Jonathon’s arrival at the Fortress begins with a recitation of the conditions of his stay: He is forbidden to ask questions, to raise his hand in anger, and to refuse sex. Jonathon is utterly unprepared for what will happen to him over the course of the year—not only to his body, but to his mind and his heart.

This absorbing, confronting and moving novel asks questions about consent, power, love and fulfillment. It asks what it takes for a man to change, and whether change is possible without a radical reversal of the conditions that seem normal.

About S. A. Jones

Interview with S. A. Jones, author of The Fortress
S. A. Jones is a Melbourne-based novelist and essayist whose work has been published in venues including The Guardian. She holds a PhD in history and has been a senior executive and a Shadow Ministerial staffer. In 2013 she was recognized by Westpac and The Australian Financial Review as one of Australia's 100 Women of Influence for her public policy work. The Fortress is her third novel, and her debut in the United States.


Interview with Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors

Please welcome Kawai Strong Washburn to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Sharks in the Time of Saviors was published on March 3, 2020 by MCD.

Interview with Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors

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

Kawai Strong Washburn:  Thank you for having me! In middle school I wrote a few short science fiction stories that I remember, more or less. Heroes crash landing on distant landscapes, zombie tentacles fighting each other. Really sophisticated, compelling stuff.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

KSW:  It depends on the format. I'm comfortable 'pantsing' a short story, but for longer works I prefer a hybrid approach: working out characterization and the plot it implies upfront, building out disparate scenes with an eye for their internal logic/causal chain based on characterization, etc. I find this still allows for serendipity, which is what a lot of writers are afraid of when they think of planning.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

KSW:  Finding a way to make writing fit in with the larger concerns of my life (family, other employment, climate policy work). As much as I love writing, it still feels like a largely selfish endeavor, one that ultimately has to defer to parenthood and, just as importantly, active local/state/national work on climate change.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

KSW:  The feeling I get from performing or witnessing live hula; deep interactions with the natural world; live readings and compelling oratory more generally; the transformative reading experiences I have, which continually reassure me of the power of literature.

TQDescribe Sharks in the Time of Saviors using only 5 words.

KSW:  Complex, mythical, jagged, ultimately bright.

TQTell us something about Sharks in the Time of Saviors that is not found in the book description.

KSW:  There's a make-out scene in a bathroom, and it's simultaneously far more and far less sexy than you think.


TQWhat inspired you to write Sharks in the Time of Saviors?

KSW:  My experience as kama'āina (local to Hawai'i, a child of the land) moving to the continental United States, especially after time living abroad in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. There are many differences between a place like Hawai'i and the rest of the United States. Another huge influence are the many transcendent (I don't use the word lightly) experiences I've had in the natural world, particularly in remote backpacking, mountaineering, surfing, and rock climbing. Finally, my interest in the potential for a sustainable future, one in which our modern lifestyle is corrected into something more in harmony with nature.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Sharks in the Time of Saviors?

KSW:  Lots of research on prison systems and emergency medicine, as well as ancient Hawaiian mythology. I actually have some experience with all three of these topics, but needed to really collect all the pertinent details to make sure they worked appropriately in the context of the story.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Sharks in the Time of Saviors.

KSW:  It's a rad, bright, orange-yellow gradient with a bold image of an inverted shark and embedded foil water-effect droplets, with lettering that suggests shark teeth. The cover was designed by Rodrigo Corral, with the shark image drawn by Matt Buck and lettering by Na Kim.

TQIn Sharks in the Time of Saviors who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?


Easiest: Malia, probably because she was the closest to the place I was in life mentally and emotionally for large portions of the book, and also because she's generally speaking retrospectively from a single place and time.

Hardest: Dean, not only because of the work I had to do adapting Hawaiian Pidgin to something that felt readable and not terribly distracting on the page, but also because he does many things that I find objectionable (and more generally make me uncomfortable). I had to find a way to show his blind spots and self-justifications, not run from them, but also find a way to empathize with him.

TQDoes Sharks in the Time of Saviors touch on any social issues?

KSW:  Absolutely. It touches on issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and cultural identity in the United States, as well as the colonial history of Hawai'i.

TQWhich question about Sharks in the Time of Saviors do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: How do you think this book speaks to our current moment:

A: One of the issues that is forefront in my mind--probably the greatest challenge of the 21st century--is how we can reconfigure our modern lifestyle in a way that achieves some semblance of ecological balance. My novel speaks to that most directly in its rendering of the almost interpersonal relationship between people and the land, particularly as we see it through Kaui's character arc and plotline.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Sharks in the Time of Saviors.


"The golden feeling of the owl's last flight stayed with me, even if the vision had long since faded into the dark."

"I could see him there, the waves and tides and gods dragging him around. But I'm in the water, too, I wanted to say. No one's watching to see if I stay afloat."

TQWhat's next?

KSW:  Another novel! It spans (roughly) two hundred years, from ancient Hawai'i to future Hawai'i. There's reincarnation and a band of female pirates and slick hot technology and more courage and bravery than you can fit in a nation.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

KSW:  Thank you for having me!

Sharks in the Time of Saviors
MCD, March 3, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors
Sharks in the Time of Saviors is a groundbreaking debut novel that folds the legends of Hawai’ian gods into an engrossing family saga; a story of exile and the pursuit of salvation from Kawai Strong Washburn.

“Old myths clash with new realities, love is in a ride or die with grief, faith rubs hard against magic, and comic flips with tragic so much they meld into something new. All told with daredevil lyricism to burn. A ferocious debut.” —Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf

So good it hurts and hurts to where it heals. It is revelatory and unputdownable. Washburn is an extraordinarily brilliant new talent.” —Tommy Orange, author of There There

In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.

Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods—a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.

When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i—with tragic consequences—they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.

About Kawai Strong Washburn

Interview with Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors
Photo by Crystal Lieppa
Kawai Strong Washburn was born and raised on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island of Hawai‘i. His work has appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, McSweeney’s, and Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, among other outlets. He was a 2015 Tin House Summer Scholar and 2015 Bread Loaf work-study scholar. Today, he lives with his wife and daughters in Minneapolis. Sharks in the Time of Saviors is his first novel.

Website  ~   Twitter @incrediblekdub

Interview with Premee Mohamed, author of Beneath the Rising

Please welcome Premee Mohamed to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Beneath the Rising is published on March 3, 2020 by Solaris.

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

Interview with Premee Mohamed, author of Beneath the Rising

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

Premee:  I believe it was an illustrated picture book when I was seven or eight... it was about a cat who runs away from home and becomes a pirate (someone also steals his tail at some point if I recall correctly?). A coworker of my dad's gave me these alcohol-based drafting markers to colour it in with and I'm pretty sure I killed a whole bunch of brain cells.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Premee:  I used to be a pure pantser, but I think I would now say I'm a hybrid on my way to being a plotter, at least for novels. It's easy to put in about three signposts for a short story and then write whatever you want between them as long as those three things get hit, but I'm terrible for just having 'and then this happened, and then this happened' in a novel. I have so many novels from the last 20 years or so that just don't end! Now, I write landmarks in an outline document, and pants between them, which gives me the flexibility I like.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Premee:  So far, I'd say dealing with all the non-writing stuff... I had been writing for years but never wanted to get published, but I wish before I had decided that, I had researched taxes and receipts and organization and time management and contract language. There's a lot to learn on the fly and it all takes so much time away from the actual writing unless you keep on top of it!

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Premee:  I read a lot, so definitely whatever fiction I'm reading at the time. And I read a lot of nonfiction as well, there's so much interesting writing out there. I probably have 5000 bookmarks, saved articles, tagged posts, and so on with 'Interesting for book!' (Of course, this means a lot gets missed, but I do intend to catch up one day!) Not so much movies or TV, which I don't watch much of, and I am not very current with what's out right now. My job, which is in environmental policy, is a constant source of ideas and conflict. And music for sure; I have dozens of short stories and at least one novella so far based on favourite songs or albums. 'Beneath the Rising' was definitely influenced by the science degree I was taking at the time, too, and how frustrating but exciting I found it. I miss those days of realizing just how much we didn't know we didn't know.

TQDescribe Beneath the Rising using only 5 words.

Premee:  "OK, I definitely fixed it."

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

Premee:  The book description focuses on their friendship, which I think was my goal, but it doesn't talk much about everything trying to drive them apart as the events start to unravel: family responsibilities, ancient monsters, possessed thralls, international police, a worried assistant, bounty hunters, and a mysterious secret society. Even the weather, even the geography. Odds are way lower than they seem that everybody is going to make it out of this in one piece.

TQWhat inspired you to write Beneath the Rising?

Premee:  Definitely my experience in university, I think. Coming to grips with everything we wanted to know about science and the ways we were limited by funding, time, labour, intelligence, memory, luck, but also the limitations of measuring techniques and available reagents. I think at least at first both Johnny Chambers herself, and the book, were purely wish-fulfillment: What would you do if you had most limitations removed from the research you were doing? And after that: But what if those gates and those gatekeepers are there for a reason? How could you get around them, and why would you think it was justifiable for you and only you to do that? What might happen as a result of all that power and disregard for risk? Do you have the right to risk things that aren't yours (say: the fate of the entire world) just because you want to?

TQHow does being a scientist affect (or not) your fiction writing?

Premee:  Abstractly, I think it continues to affect everything I write about and how I write. Not just in the ability to research and synthesize huge amounts of data from a wide variety of sources, including many that I would not have known about before studying science, but the ability to make logical jumps from ideas or facts and connect things, I think those are tremendously useful. Keeping correlation and causation appropriately apart is essential in my job, but pushing them together in interesting ways is essential in speculative fiction. Deriving the unexpected from the known, and helping people connect ideas in a new light, is always the goal.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Beneath the Rising?

Premee:  Well, I absolutely whiffed on the actual science; I read about three things related to clean-energy reactors and particle physics and made up the rest. (I hope no physicists read this novel. They will be very irritated with me.) But I spent a long time researching the places they were going. Encyclopedias, travel memoirs, the arts library at my university, National Geographics, and just asking around in the old days (the internet wasn't a lot of help in 2002). When I polished it up for querying in 2016, I also used a lot of blogs, city websites, Google Earth, and Twitter. It's so fantastic now to be able to be informed directly and without filters by the people who live there and take photos of their everyday life. I really hope I was able to use my research accurately and respectfully, while working with the limitation that it's in a universe in which Johnny Chambers and her science and her corporations have changed the whole world.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Beneath the Rising.

Premee:  I love the cover! They asked me for input about it very early on in the process and I said I would love to see something graphic, and I didn't like the painterly style of covers which depicted the faces of the characters. Then that was the last I heard of it till it went live for pre-orders. The artist is James Paul Jones (@jamespauljones). I didn't realize, when I first looked at it, that there were silhouettes around the ring, and when I did I think I screamed out loud at my desk. It's so well-done. I've seen people comparing it to the language from the 'Arrival' movie, which I haven't seen. I think it looks more like the aftermath of a specific event in the book... readers will figure it out at about the same time I did, I think.

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

Premee:  This is such an interesting question! I think Nick was the easiest to write at the time. I constantly felt like him. I almost could have just transcribed my journals at the time: full of hope and expectations, having difficulty distinguishing between romantic and platonic love, feeling completely responsible for the safety and health of my younger sibling, severe anxiety, always wanting to do the right thing, loyal to a fault. Johnny was the hardest: not just that she was supposed to be more intelligent than me, but more intelligent than, supposedly, anyone; and that she had this awful, blatant disregard for other people's feelings and worries. It was fun to write someone so confident and have it often tip over into arrogance, but it was also tiring. I kept fretting that she was, somehow, secretly, me, just because she was the scientist character.

TQDoes Beneath the Rising touch on any social issues?

Premee:  I didn't think so at the time, seeing it as a basic adventure/fantasy story; but when I reviewed it in preparation for querying, I do think it touches on some fairly heavy stuff. Not merely classism, not merely the idea of assimilation after immigration (which Nick, like me, didn't think about much as a teenager), but also colonialism in general: what's the end result of empire? What do you get as a world, as a mindset, after centuries and centuries of people transporting, enslaving, mutilating, killing, suppressing, torturing, and erasing black and brown cultures and peoples for profit? Johnny doesn't think about it, clearly. But maybe she should.

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

Premee:  No one's asking whether anything from the novel appears in any of my short stories! The answer is, yes, and you'll see it right away when you start looking for it!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Beneath the Rising.

Premee:  "I cannot believe that you have all this money and you don't have a secret getaway blimp for when monsters are watching the house," I said. "What's even the point?"

TQWhat's next?

Premee:  I am working diligently on the sequel, which will be a very, very different book from the first one. After that I guess we'll see!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Premee:  Thank you for having me here! :)

Beneath the Rising
Solaris, March 3, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Premee Mohamed, author of Beneath the Rising
All the Birds in the Sky meets Lovecraft Country in this whimsical coming-of-age story about two kids in the middle of a war of eldritch horrors from outside spacetime…

Nick Prasad and Joanna “Johnny” Chambers have been friends since childhood. She’s rich, white, and a genius; he’s poor, brown, and secretly in love with her.

But when Johnny invents a clean reactor that could eliminate fossil fuels and change the world, she awakens the primal, evil Ancient ones set on subjugating humanity.

From the oldest library in the world to the ruins of Nineveh, hunted at every turn, they need to trust each other completely to survive…

About Premee

Interview with Premee Mohamed, author of Beneath the Rising
Premee Mohamed is a scientist and writer based out of Alberta, Canada. She has degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science, but hopes that readers of her fiction will not hold that against her. Her short speculative fiction has been published in a variety of venues, which can be found on her website.
Website ~ Twitter @premeesaurus

Interview with Kelly Braffet, author of The Unwilling

Please welcome Kelly Braffet to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Unwilling, Kelly's fantasy debut, was published on February 11, 2020 by MIRA.

Interview with Kelly Braffet, author of The Unwilling

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

Kelly:  The very first short story I ever wrote was called “The Blue Giraffe.” A terrifying tale of conformity, it was about an idiosyncratically pigmented giraffe who was advised to eat an orange to correct his coloring, and did so. Was the orange in season? Was it organic? What was the orange’s carbon footprint? We’ll never know, mostly because I was in preschool and didn’t know what any of those things meant yet.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Kelly:  I’ve written five novels, and it seems as if every time I have to figure out a new way to do it all over again. I’ve done outlines, I’ve done no-outlines, I’ve done partial outlines. Whatever yanks the thing out of my brain. Since we’re talking about The Unwilling: I spent 20 years thinking about it, so it was pretty fully formed before I started to write it down. There were a few plot knots that I had to figure out a few chapters ahead of time, but it was fairly well behaved in the allowing-itself-to-be-written department.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Kelly:  Honestly, the most challenging part of being a writer for me is this part: the promotion. If I could just sit in my pajamas and write the books and send them off into the world via vacuum tube, I would do so delightedly. And that’s not because I don’t love my literary people, or my readers – it’s just because it’s a whole other toolbox, and not one I dig into regularly. It’s like when the guy who was installing our new dryer asked if we had a socket set. We did, but I had to find it, and then I had to make sure it had the right parts, and even then I wasn’t totally sure it was what the guy needed. But if he’d had asked me for, say, a knife sharpener – I know exactly where that is, and I use it all the time. Promoting is the socket set. Writing is the knife sharpener.

If we’re talking about writing, the hardest part is winnowing out the distractions. Life has so many demands – like for instance, sometimes the dryer breaks, and the repair guy has to come and declare it dead, and then all of this other stuff happens and there’s your week gone, just with calling people and scheduling things and letting people into the house. Sometimes I cheat and go to hotels to work, just to minimize the distractions. But that’s incredibly lonely.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Kelly:  Everything. I just said in an interview the other day that I wasn’t sure I “got” ideas as much as they accumulated slowly in the corners of my mind, like mental dust bunnies. But instead of cat and bunny hair – we just adopted a rabbit, so some of our dust bunnies are made of actual angora – they’re made of things I notice in books and movies, or read on the internet, or see out of the corner of my eye as I’m driving. I try to stay curious about everything, which I realize is kind of at odds with my desire to sit at home in my pajamas all the time. Internal conflict! Keeps life interesting.

TQDescribe The Unwilling using only 5 words.

Kelly:  This is the kind of thing I’m terrible at. My good friend Anthony Breznican called it “an adventure story about empathy” – can I steal that?

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

Kelly:  It’s a story about chosen family. When your birth family is absent, or a mess, you find other people to fill in those gaps. Judah, Gavin, Elly and Theron love each other, and that love is the source of all of their power. (And a not-insignificant amount of their trouble, but they’re not to blame for that.)

TQWhat inspired you to write The Unwilling, your first Fantasy novel? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Kelly:  I’ve always loved fantasy. Many years ago, when I was in college, I read a fantasy novel by a non-fantasy writer and didn’t like it. I thought, “I can write a better fantasy novel than that! It’ll be about four people who live in a deserted castle after civilization falls.” Fast forward twenty years, and those four people eventually became Judah, Gavin, Theron and Elly, the main characters in The Unwilling. The story evolved a lot over time, obviously. As to why now, the short answer is that I was trying to write another crime novel and it wasn’t behaving itself, so I turned to the only other story kicking around my head, which was this one.

Part of what I love about fantasy is the worldbuilding. I love that feeling of “Why can’t I live there?” that comes with a really original setting. But more than that, I like the sense that (within the bounds of whatever magical system exists) anything can happen. The Unwilling has all the human drama of my crime novels, but the magic is an extra level of possibility to play with.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Unwilling?

Kelly:  Honestly, most of it revolved around food. I took a cheesemaking workshop, tried my hand at harvesting the wild yeast in my kitchen (turns out there’s not much of it, which is why I haven’t ditched writing and started up a sourdough bakery), and cooked all sorts of random things, just to see if they worked. Other than that, most of the research was of the “what kind of carriages exist,” internet-search variety. I do keep notes files for all of my works-in-progress, with random ideas that occur to me and things that I want to include. Since this particular work was in progress for twenty years, the notes file is . . . lengthy. If you read it start to finish, I doubt it would bear any resemblance at all to the book as published.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Unwilling.

Kelly:  The cover was designed by Micaela Alcaino, and I love it. Normally, the art department of a publisher sends a few different initial concepts, and then everyone discusses. This time they only sent one, and it was pretty much there out of the gate. We asked for a few tweaks, but nothing dramatic. It was important to me that the cover for The Unwilling capture the dark and knotted feel of the story, and I think it does.

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

Kelly:  Normally, there is a character that really gives me trouble, in one way or another, but I’d had these people in my head for so long that they were pretty fully formed. I suppose that the Seneschal was probably the most difficult, because he’s key to the plot but also extremely interior. We don’t ever see what he’s thinking. Even in those few moments when he talks about his own motivations, there’s a pretty good chance that he’s lying. I also didn’t want to make him a cartoonish monster; the book has one of those already, and I saw the Seneschal as much more subtle. And much more dangerous.

TQDoes The Unwilling touch on any social issues?

Kelly:  I think it would be difficult to find a novel that doesn’t at least touch on social issues, because what we think of as “social issues” are actually just humans trying to interact with each other despite their differences. But I will say that The Unwilling is a very intentionally feminist novel. The women in the book are, in some ways, those who suffer the most, but they’re also the ones who really come into their own power over the course of the story. The book also deals a lot with economic inequality, and life at the bottom of the tier in Highfall; one of my two narrators, Nate, is a healer who works with the poorest people in the city. So many fantasy novels are about the ruling classes. The Unwilling is no exception, but I also thought it was important to include the lives of ordinary people.

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

Kelly:  If my grandmother was still alive, she would probably glare at me and ask why I didn’t write nicer stories. But these are the stories that grow in my head, and they grow out of everything that I see in the world around me. Human beings are not particularly kind to each other, and they never have been. I absolutely see why my gran preferred “nicer” stories, and don’t blame her or anyone else for gravitating to more pleasant depictions of the world, but the stories that I write tend to be about people who feel powerless and at the mercy of the world around them, and that’s not a nice feeling. I feel like it would be dishonest to tell the stories any other way.

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

Kelly:  This is from the perspective of Nate Clare, a travelling healer who comes from outside the city to find Judah for reasons of his own: “He could remember quite clearly what it had been like to be that little boy, lying under a quilt, knowing only the dusty ease of playing outdoors, the familiar excitement of setting up stage and footlights in a new town, the smoky campfire warmth of being loved by everyone around him. He’d had no notion, then, that he would ever cross the Barriers to the blue and gray spires of this strange, sad city, or that he would grow into a man who sat alone in a gloomy lab after midnight, figuring out how much poison per smallweight of tea.”

TQWhat's next?

Kelly:  Right now I’m working pretty frantically on the sequel to The Unwilling, which will hopefully be out next year. After that, the crime novel that wasn’t behaving itself had a change of heart, and it’s currently sitting in a nice messy first-draft stack on my desk, waiting for further attention.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Kelly:  Thank you for having me!

The Unwilling
MIRA, February 11, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 576 pages
(Fantasy Debut)

Interview with Kelly Braffet, author of The Unwilling
A penetrating tale of magic, faith and pride…The Unwilling is the story of Judah, a foundling born with a special gift and raised inside Highfall castle along with Gavin, the son and heir to Lord Elban’s vast empire. Judah and Gavin share an unnatural bond that is both the key to Judah’s survival—and possibly her undoing.

As Gavin is groomed for his future role, Judah comes to realize that she has no real position within the kingdom and, in fact, no hope at all of ever traveling beyond its castle walls. Elban—a lord as mighty as he is cruel—has his own plans for her, and for all of them. She is a mere pawn to him, and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

But outside the walls, in the starving, desperate city, a magus, a healer with his own secret power unlike anything Highfall has seen in years, is newly arrived from the provinces. He, too, has plans for the empire, and at the heart of those plans lies Judah. The girl who started life with no name and no history will soon uncover more to her story than she ever imagined.

An epic tale of greed and ambition, cruelty and love, this deeply immersive novel is about bowing to traditions and burning them down.

About Kelly

Interview with Kelly Braffet, author of The Unwilling
Kelly Braffet is the author of the novels The Unwilling, Save Yourself, Josie and Jack and Last Seen Leaving. Her writing has been published in The Fairy Tale Review, Post Road, and several anthologies. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University and currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, the author Owen King.

Website  ~  Twitter @KellyBraffet

Interview with Andrew Hunter Murray, author of The Last Day

Please welcome Andrew Hunter Murray to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Last Day was published on February 4, 2020 by Dutton.

Interview with Andrew Hunter Murray, author of The Last Day

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

Andrew:  It was a rather uninspired bit we were asked to write for an exam at school at the age of about seven, about losing my parents in a supermarket. Clearly, themes of familial segregation and trauma resulting from it stayed with me, as there’s a fair bit of that in The Last Day. Although I hadn’t yet thought of ending the world first…

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Andrew:  Enormous plotter. The only time I’ve tried pantsing (can this really be a verb?), I got disastrously stuck and then had to go back and unpick everything and start again. I’m now very wary of starting to write a big work without knowing what’s going to happen – although I might still do that for a short story.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Andrew:  The starting. Pure agony. The sooner you can get the Band-Aid ripped off, the better, and after an hour or two I have to be pried from the desk.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Andrew:  Better writers. Fortunately, there are thousands of them, all coming up with the most remarkable plotlines and brilliantly striking characters and themes. Every day of writing is a thrilling attempt to try and keep up with them, and as a lot of my favorite authors are dead, I can only gain on them.

TQDescribe The Last Day using only 5 words.

Andrew:  Planetary-collapse-inspired-gripping-yarn.

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

Andrew:  I gave up twice, lost faith plenty more times, and threw away 30,000 words at one point because the plot had gone in a different direction. All of that is meant to emphasize not that it was terribly brave of me to start again, just that all creative projects seem a certainty once they’re done, when in fact they may seem a much less sure thing from a position in the thick of it. In short: if you’re writing something yourself, keep going!

TQWhat inspired you to write The Last Day?

Andrew:  The state of the world today, and a vision of how it might be fifty years from now – if we don’t start to change direction now.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Last Day?

Andrew:  Quite a bit! Because it’s about the planet’s rotation slowing to a stop, I contacted astrophysicists and oceanographers, and in between times I read as much science as I could about satellites and servers and the effects of sunshine. I also read a brilliant book called ‘The New Odyssey’, all about the people who are making their way from Africa and the Middle East to Europe in search of a better life. That all fed into the book at various points.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Last Day.

Andrew:  The British and American covers are very different. But in the USA, we see the following: a brown-haired woman in a long coat running along a gangway, surrounded by the corona of an eclipse. So we know it’s going to be a) a little planetary and science-fictionish, and b) a rip-roaring read. And the *final* element of the cover is some nice words from Lee Child saying how much he enjoyed it, which is possibly my favorite bit.

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

Andrew:  Ellen Hopper, my main character, was the easiest. She practically grabbed me by the lapels (although really she’s a polite person and wouldn’t do that in real life). I don’t recall finding any characters particularly difficult to caption; the stuff I find really hard is the overarching structure and individual bits of plot.

TQDoes The Last Day touch on any social issues?

Andrew:  Yes, I think so. It has a big sci-fi idea at the core, but like all sci-fi it’s an attempt to analyze the world as it is today. So the book looks at climate migration, and about whether it’s right to bring a child into a world being slowly cooked by global warming, and about countries which have started trying to keep foreigners out in the attempt to preserve what they have, and totalitarianism. So I don’t think I could have avoided social issues really.

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

Andrew:  “Would you prefer the first series of the TV adaptation to be eight or ten parts long?” And: eight, please.

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


“The ship of the dead, that was how it had begun. Hopper remembered that later.” This is the first line of my first ever novel, so I think it will always have a pretty special place in my heart. I remember reading a wise author – possibly Neil Gaiman? – saying that first line of your first book will the most important thing you’ll ever write. So I went back and forth on the phrasing quite a lot.

TQWhat's next?

Andrew:  All sorts. I’m currently polishing a set of short stories beyond the point of all practicability and winding up my arm for the second novel. It will be in similar territory, but I think different enough to present something new to any readers who stick with me…

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Andrew:  Thank you!

The Last Day
Dutton, February 4, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Andrew Hunter Murray, author of The Last Day
A visionary and powerful debut thriller set in a terrifyingly plausible dystopian near-future—with clear parallels to today’s headlines—in which the future of humanity lies in the hands of one woman, a scientist who has stumbled upon a secret that the government will go to any lengths to keep hidden.

A world half in darkness. A secret she must bring to light.

It is 2059, and the world has crashed. Forty years ago, a solar catastrophe began to slow the planet’s rotation to a stop. Now, one half of the globe is permanently sunlit, the other half trapped in an endless night. The United States has colonized the southern half of Great Britain—lucky enough to find itself in the narrow habitable region left between frozen darkness and scorching sunlight—where both nations have managed to survive the ensuing chaos by isolating themselves from the rest of the world.

Ellen Hopper is a scientist living on a frostbitten rig in the cold Atlantic. She wants nothing more to do with her country after its slide into casual violence and brutal authoritarianism. Yet when two government officials arrive, demanding she return to London to see her dying college mentor, she accepts—and begins to unravel a secret that threatens not only the nation’s fragile balance, but the future of the whole human race.

About Andrew

Interview with Andrew Hunter Murray, author of The Last Day
Photo: © Matt Crockett
Andrew Hunter Murray is a writer and comedian. He is one of the writers and researchers behind the BBC show QI and also cohosts the spinoff podcast, No Such Thing as a Fish, which, since 2014, has released 250 episodes, been downloaded 200 million times, and toured the world. It has also spawned two bestselling books, The Book of the Year and The Book of the Year 2018, as well as a BBC Two series No Such Thing as the News. Andrew also writes for Private Eye magazine and hosts the Eye‘s in-house podcast, Page 94, interviewing the country’s best investigative journalists about their work. In his spare time he performs in the Jane Austen–themed improv comedy group Austentatious, which plays in London’s West End and around the UK. The Last Day is his debut novel.

Twitter @andrewhunterm

Interview with K. S. Villoso, author of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro

Please welcome K. S. Villoso to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is published on February 18, 2020 by Orbit.

Interview with K. S. Villoso, author of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro

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

K. S.:  This was back in 1st grade and was a short, incoherent story that was a mish-mash of genres and just about everything I was into at the time. I think the main character was a dog…

TQ Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

K. S.:  I’m essentially whatever is convenient at the time. I outline before I start writing. The first draft will look nothing like the outline. Sometimes I will re-outline partway through the novel, scrap that draft, and start again. Sometimes I will follow the outline perfectly for three chapters and then realize I have a gap towards the next plot point… in which case I will pants my way through. Unfortunately, I may not even reach that next plot point and everything will change based on that part that I pantsed.

It’s a sort of perfect, contained chaos. I have a hard time trying to make it make sense to others, but it always makes sense to me…

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

K. S.:  It’s hard to keep focus when I have so many things I want to explore all at once. That means my first drafts are often very messy, and each subsequent draft is a matter of keeping some ideas and throwing the rest out. I also get bored easily—I can’t just write stories that go from point A to B…so I like creating puzzles out of my work and then sitting down and trying to work it out through the process of writing. This means every single one of my manuscripts require a lot of work from my end just to sort my thoughts and the story out.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

K. S.:  I’ve probably mentioned author influences in other interviews elsewhere, so I’m going to talk a bit more about genre… particularly, the horror influence in my work. Along with epic fantasy, I truly enjoy horror, and I probably have seen more horror movies than anything else combined. I love the psychological aspect of it, of using fear and very high tension as tools in storytelling, and of figuratively—maybe literally—using “ghosts” to deepen character conflicts. People have mentioned how my plots are anxiety or stress-inducing, and that’s mostly this influence coming into play—I like focusing on character dilemmas first and then slowly, very slowly, revealing the plot one puzzle piece after another…all after the external conflicts have reared their ugly (again, very often literally) heads.

TQDescribe The Wolf of Oren-Yaro using only 5 words.

K. S.:  Intense sword-wielding Bitch Queen…

TQTell us something about The Wolf of Oren-Yaro that is not found in the book description.

K. S.:  There are heists! (See answer to Question No. 12).

TQWhat inspired you to write The Wolf of Oren-Yaro? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

K. S.The Wolf of Oren-yaro was my take on the classic hero’s journey/chosen one story…from the point-of-view of a woman who is both a wife and a mother. One who, incidentally, is also the daughter of a man many people consider the villain. The situation is rife with challenges that made it very interesting for me to explore.

Writing fantasy is great because it allows you to use worldbuilding as an added tool to carry the story through. By that I mean you can basically make things up to drive home the point, or create an elaborate metaphor—you can adjust the environment, or alter history and time itself to explore a certain theme. So you can create a really powerful story that can go beyond plot or character.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro?

K. S.:  I draw from my culture and upbringing for a lot of the worldbuilding; it’s not so much learning about things from the outside, but bringing out what I know from the inside, and then trying to make sense of it on the proverbial paper. So there is no specific “research”—there is however a lot of introspection, a lot of discussion over topics and issues that would lead me to look up certain facts to support or disprove an argument.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.

K. S.:  I am one of the blessed, lucky few who got a cover depicting not just Queen Talyien’s image, but Talyien as a character and person. You can get a sense both of her determination and her challenges from one look at the cover. In the cover, she is also carrying her father’s kampilan. It doesn’t actually show up until Book 3, but the symbolism is there as Talyien really is carrying the burdens her father—a dark figure in history—has left her.

TQIn The Wolf of Oren-Yaro who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

K. S.:  The easiest character is probably…and obviously…Khine. I think it’s because I share the same background as him, coming from the lower rungs of society while for the longest time brushing elbows with people who have it better. And while I’ve thankfully never had to resort to becoming a thief, I may have once or twice schemed myself out of messes. Khine goes with the flow while actively strategizing his next move; this is the easiest kind of character for me to write because it is very, very close to how I’d do things myself.

Talyien, on the other hand…while her voice came rushing to me like a wave, she also possessed an intensity that kept me on my toes. Half the time I have this perfect plot point set up and she’s like “No.” So now I have to go rushing after her to try and fish her out of whatever situation she’s in. That impulsive, hotheaded nature made it difficult to follow the original outline, as she lands herself in trouble one after another and I had to find a way to get her out of it while maintaining the story’s momentum.

TQDoes The Wolf of Oren-Yaro touch on any social issues?

K. S.:  If readers want to read it as nothing more than an action-adventure fantasy story, they are welcome to do so. It’s written to entertain, it has a plot, it has great character interactions and some pretty cool fight scenes. There is absolutely no obligation to see it beyond that.

If readers want to stop for a moment and look beyond that outer layer, though, there’s quite a bit—not so much that they’re added in, but because these issues are an integral part of the characters, especially Queen Talyien’s, and the world they find themselves in. The challenges a woman faces that perhaps a man in her position wouldn’t have to worry about, for instance; power and the many ways it can corrupt, social inequalities, the effect of political struggles on the common people.

TQWhich question about The Wolf of Oren-Yaro do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

K. S.:  “So Kay, I noticed you put a particular importance on heists in this book…is that just random or is this epic fantasy also a heist novel in disguise?”

“Why, thank you for noticing that, Kay. The introduction of the con-artist and thief, Khine Lamang, is a marker, a foreshadowing of what’s about to come. This series, after all, is about tricks and schemes, about believing one thing when really it’s about something else. We get more heists as the series progresses, culminating to that one, final trick…”

“No spoilers.”

“I can’t spoil you, you already know how it ends!”

“So let me just chime in with your readers: YOU’RE A MONSTER, HOW COULD YOU, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF.”

“Somebody take this doppelganger away.”

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.

K. S.:  Here’s two of them:

There are people who find themselves in a precarious situation, believe
themselves betrayed, and will do nothing but run their tongues ragged in
criticizing the world for not helping them better. Like wailing dogs in the rain,
they strain against their leashes instead of turning to gnaw their bonds to
freedom, or sit on their piss and wait for pity.

Betrayal has a funny way of turning your world upside down. As familiar as I
had already been with it by that point, it still amazed me how far I could
stretch that moment of denial. The thought of what had been—of what could
yet be—persisted. Perhaps it is not the same for most people. Perhaps, when
you love less, it is easier not to let the emptiness become a cavern from which
you can no longer see the sun.

TQWhat's next?

K. S.:  Well, we’re going to hit the ground running with this series. The sequel, THE IKESSAR FALCON, is out on September 29, 2020. It’s a chonky book, so those hesitant to give THE WOLF OF OREN-YARO a try because it’s a new series will have plenty to keep themselves busy until Book 3…which is out in the first half of next year.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
Chronicles of the Bitch Queen 1
Orbit, February 18, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Interview with K. S. Villoso, author of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
A queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. A debut epic fantasy from an exciting new voice.

“They called me the Bitch Queen, the she-wolf, because I murdered a man and exiled my king the night before they crowned me.”

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves, which nearly tore her nation apart. But her arranged marriage with the son of a rival clan should herald peaceful days to come.

However, her husband’s sudden departure before their reign begins puts a quick end to those dreams, and the kingdom is fractured beyond repair.

Years later, Talyien receives a message, one that will send her across the sea. What’s meant to be an effort at reconciling the past becomes an assassination attempt. Stranded in a land she doesn’t know, with no idea whom she can trust, Talyien will have to embrace her namesake.

A wolf of Oren-yaro is not tamed.

About K.S. Villoso

Interview with K. S. Villoso, author of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
Photo by Mikhail Villoso
K.S. Villoso writes speculative fiction with a focus on deeply personal themes and character-driven narratives. Much of her work is inspired by her childhood in the slums of Taguig, Philippines. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her husband, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.

Website  ~  Twitter @k_villoso

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2020 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on February 29, 2020, unless the vote is extended. If the vote is extended the ending date will be updated.

Vote for your favorite February 2020 Debut Cover! free polls

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts
Cover design and lettering by Emily Courdelle
Cover art direction by Steve Panton - LBBG

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts
Cover by Francesca Corsini

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts
Jacket design by Adam Auerbach

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts
Cover illustration by Mio Im
Cover design by Julianna Lee

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts
Cover design by Lisa Marie Pompilio
Cover photographs by Arcangel and Shutterstock
Cover copyright © 2020 Hachette Book Group, Inc.

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts

2020 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2020 Debuts
Cover design by Lauren Panepinto
Cover illustration by Simon Goinard
Cover copyright © 2019 Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Interview with Constance Sayers, author of A Witch in Time

Please welcome Constance Sayers to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. A Witch in Time is published on February 11, 2020 by Redhook.

Interview with Constance Sayers, author of A Witch in Time

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

Constance:  This is embarrassing, but I wrote a soap opera treatment when I was twelve. (In my defense, it was the height of the General Hospital craze.) My sister gave me her old baby-blue Smith Corona typewriter and I sat for hours in my dad’s study and typing this story. I worked on it for years and in the end I think it was nearly two-hundred pages which is quite a lot of commitment at that age! Obviously, I really wanted to be a screenwriter at one point in my life. In undergrad, I took at least three semesters of screenwriting and playwriting.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Constance:  I’m a true hybrid. Being a full pantser hasn’t worked out for me very well because I tend to wander. Having to turn in fully-baked plots to the publisher has helped me make sure that I know where I’m going with the narrative. Often, I can see holes appearing right away in a 3-page synopsis and I know those are things I’m going to have to work out to find solutions for (plot holes, inconsistencies). I also get feedback from my editor on the outline where she can see any major structural problems and things I should steer clear of or places where I could get tripped up. I also try to put in some atmosphere in my synopsis, kind of like a movie treatment. I’ll often go back and consult them to see what type of mood or voice I was trying to create and if I pulled it off. Once I start to actually write, however, I allow the manuscript to surprise me. I will make drastic changes (adding characters, shifting the ending) if it feels right as I’m writing or revising on the fly so my detailed plot description never feels restricting.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Constance:  The first draft. It’s an ugly time for me when there is nothing yet on the page. When I’m in first draft mode, I write a thousand words a day, faithfully. Some days it’s excruciating and other days I’ll write five-thousand words…but I always make myself come back and do another thousand the next day. I don’t worry if the words are good, I never even look at them, I just keep going. This process is not unlike getting up at 5 am to work out (which I also do). In the moment, you hate it…you’ll try to talk yourself out of it, but after you’ve put in the time, you feel at peace. I adore the second and third drafts, so I’m just slogging through the first (very rough) draft.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Constance:  My father always wanted to be a professional musician, so growing up, our house was always filled with music. There was no choice in the matter that I would study piano and voice with an eye toward a career in an opera somewhere. I love music, but there is a math to it that didn’t come naturally to me. I’m a terrible piano player. That said, music is the single biggest influence in my writing. My characters are always musicians or frustrated musicians. I find musical instruments haunting and mysterious things. Often, I provide a soundtrack for the book. For nearly four years, I was an overnight DJ for a commercial radio station in rural Pennsylvania and the love of music and the search for new music is something that always present in me. I write with the Apple Music Chill station and for A Witch in Time, I was very influenced by music—particularly Eric Satie for Juliet and the Laurel Canyon sound for Sandra.

TQDescribe A Witch in Time using only 5 words.

Constance:  Curse Gone Wrong Through Time

TQTell us something about A Witch in Time that is not found in the book description.

Constance:  There is actually some family history in the book. There is a scene for Juliet that is something that came from my own grandmother’s history. In 1918, my grandmother was a young girl and was attacked by three men while walking home. In the 1980s, my father learned about this incident quite by accident and attempted to find out more details. I recall no one in the family wanting to discuss it, so we were forced to go to the city archives to find her police case files. Those files were tough for him to read. It’s a rather tragic story in that as a result of the attack, my grandmother had a child out of wedlock. It was 1918, so as you can imagine, she had very limited options, but she took her infant daughter and went to work as a housekeeper for an older widower. That widower would eventually become my grandfather Despite a rather large difference in their ages, they were married on Valentine’s Day and had three children of their own before she died at the age of 27. I like to think—hope—that she eventually found some happiness in her life. So much of her story was lost to history and memory, but the character of Juliet is definitely inspired by her. It’s a crazy story, but shows you that real life is sometimes much stranger than fiction.

TQWhat inspired you to write A Witch in Time?

Constance:  My sister brought home a print of a well-known painting and she thought the subject looked exactly like me. I’ll admit, the likeness was pretty unsettling. This painting hung on her wall for years and I recall thinking: What if there was a story where a character discovered she was the person in the painting from another time? I love “what if” types of narratives. The book just came to shape rather quickly after that.

TQWhy do you think we are continually fascinated by witches?

Constance:  For years I wrote rural noir short stories and novels—those realist kind of close-up, gritty stories. I don’t think my writing really popped until I started looking at the fantastical. Witches are limitless creatures in a way…they can transcend the mundane and at least for me, I love the power and possibility of that.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for A Witch in Time?

Constance:  I started with books, both non-fiction and fiction or films of the time. I have bookshelves filled with biographies of painters and Hollywood stars of the 1930s. One time period is difficult enough, but I was juggling three, so I just dove in, getting a sense of each time. With the exception of Challans, France, I also visited every location and worked with local historians who would take me to places representative of the time. I recall admiring David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas so much for his immersive time periods. I tried very hard to make the language of each section really feel like the time. I studied a lot of interviews and films from the 1930s to try and get Nora right. I also think those feel different than the groovy tone of Sandra in the 1970s or the more formal language of Juliet in Belle Epoque Paris.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for A Witch in Time.

Constance:  Lisa Pompilio of Orbit Books created the cover. I love how mysterious it is and how shadowy the woman on the cover is. I’m assuming she’s Juliet, but then Juliet is all of them so I love the choice Lisa made to shadow her face. I’d also never talked to the folks at Redhook/Orbit about my love (borderline obsession) of all things Rococo so to my amazement, Lisa included this Rococo flourishes on the cover that I adore. I’m also a sucker for typography, so I love a good serif font.

TQIn A Witch in Time who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Constance:  Sandra is hands-down my favorite character, yet she is no one else’s favorite. (In fact, she’s usually people’s least favorite). Without giving anything away, you don’t get to the ending without Sandra. She is the keystone and asks the difficult questions and matches Luke for the first time in the book, much to his surprise. I loved, loved writing for her and I think it shows. Also, I grew up in the 1970s, so for me it was the romanticized time of childhood. While my favorite, Sandra was the hardest to write. I ended up writing that section twice. By that I mean, I largely scrapped the first take on her and started over and rewrote the entire thing. Juliet was the easiest. Her story just came to me. I didn’t know if I could write a period section like that (I’d never done it before), so it was fun to see that it worked.

TQDoes A Witch in Time touch on any social issues?

Constance:  I really tried to illustrate how difficult it was to be a woman. I think it is still hard to be a woman, but certainly in 1895, Juliet is a teenager who is seduced by a much older man. She finds herself in a terrible situation that requires otherworldly intervention to get her out of. I wanted her time period and the choices available to her to feel as restrictive as a corset. Nora’s situation is a bit better, but not much. I wanted to focus on Hollywood at the very moment the idea of the ideal “woman” was created on screen. To me that was “the” moment in Hollywood and quite a moment in the public’s formation of an “ideal.” Norma is literally erased and re-created as a sex-symbol Nora, but it’s all an illusion. Next comes Sandra. The seventies were about choices, but still I think they weren’t always free.

TQWhich question about A Witch in Time do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Constance:  Who would you cast as Luke and Helen! It’s my favorite question. I was a big Battlestar Galactica fan and actor Callum Keith Rennie (Leoben) was always who I had in my mind when writing for Luke. For Helen, I always thought Genevieve Angelson from Good Girls Revolt was a great Helen. In my mind, the same actress would have to play all of the parts and I think she’d morph from Juliet to Helen well.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from A Witch in Time.


“People were meant to live in their small pockets of time with events proceeding in digestible intervals. To see so many lifetimes of progress unfurled before us is far too jarring and almost incomprehensible. It makes us doubt our significance in the world. And a feeling of significance is so important to our survival.”

TQWhat's next?

Constance:  I’m working on a book about a circus with dark origins.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Constance:  You’re welcome!

A Witch in Time
Redhook, February 11, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Constance Sayers, author of A Witch in Time
A young witch is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist, in this haunting debut novel.

In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother — a witch — attempts to cast a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly summons a demon, binding her daughter to both Auguste and this supernatural being for all time.

Born and re-born, Juliet is fated to live her affair and die tragically young across continents and lifetimes.

But finally, in present-day Washington D.C., something shifts. In this life, Juliet starts to remember her tragic past. And this time, she begins to develop powers of her own that might finally break the spell…

A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of Witches, Outlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.

About Constance

Interview with Constance Sayers, author of A Witch in Time
Photo by Julie Ann Pixler
Constance Sayers received her MA in English from George Mason University and her BA in writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a media executive at Atlantic Media. She has been twice named to Folio’s list of “Top 100 Media People in America” and was included in their list of “Top Women in Media.” She is the co-founder of the Thoughtful Dog literary magazine and lives in Kensington, Maryland.

Twitter @constancesayers

Interview with Chana Porter, author of The Seep

Please welcome Chana Porter to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Seep was published on January 21, 2020 by Soho Press.

Interview with Chana Porter, author of The Seep

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

Chana:  Happy to be here! Thanks for having me.

I wrote a lot of poetry and stories as a child. I remember my second grade teacher reading a story I had written about pirates out loud to the rest of the class, without asking me. It was a strange feeling. I had just transferred from a modern orthodox Jewish school in Baltimore to a public school in the suburbs and I felt shy about being the new kid. But I liked the feeling of having my imagination acknowledged. The delight won out over the embarrassment.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Chana:  I’m a hybrid! I dream the major plot points before sitting down to write. If I don’t have a clear idea of some major parts of the action, I know I’m not ready. But if I clearly imagine everything too well, I find the process loses its life force. I’ll write juicy scenes out of order, as well, and then fill in the gaps. I also rewrite A LOT. Loads end up on the cutting room floor, so to speak.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Chana:  I love every part of being a writer and I feel extremely lucky to get to do it. That being said— I find generative early drafts very fun. Later on in the process, it can feel almost athletic to go back into a draft and work on the entire book. I eat protein bars and drink lots of water when overhauling a draft.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Chana:  I wouldn’t be the writer I am without Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel Delany, Jeff VanderMeer. Those are the big ones for me. I also love film and theater— could go on and on about my influences there (and you’ll see some shout outs to my favorite filmmakers in The Seep!) And Star Trek.

TQDescribe The Seep using only 5 words.

Chana:  Benevolent aliens, unexpected consequences. Lush!

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

Chana:  It’s a novel about grief and loss, amongst other things, but it’s actually very funny. I’m not interested in spending time with characters without good senses of humor. Being alive on this tiny spinning planet is often very ridiculous.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Seep?

Chana:  I’m interested in what our world would look like if it was life affirming for its inhabitants. I don’t think it’s our nature to oppress people, to draw these fictitious borders, to poison our ecosystem. So I wanted to create a utopia that gets people thinking about the collective choices we’re making in our current reality. Then I wanted to use this frame of a softer, abundant future to explore complex issues and emotions, like grief and loss, identity and community. Because I don't think we can move towards a more equitable future without acknowledging past oppressions, nor should we gloss over difference in an effort to celebrate oneness. I’ve attempted to create a story which is not didactic, but gives the reader a lot of personal agency and responsibility in answering the questions the novel raises. A reader remarked that I leave about half of the questions I raise unanswered— that balance feels right. I’m asking you to engage with me.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Seep?

Chana:  A lot! I worked on this book for seven years, and researched as I went. I read a lot of science fiction that dealt with utopia (or things that seem like utopia, which is more often the case with the genre.) I read essays about communes and communal living. I went to the Next Systems conference where I attended lectures about permaculture and alternate forms of currency. (I was there teaching a workshop with my summer institute The Octavia Project, so it was a wonderful synchronicity.) I researched different indigenous tribes in the Northeast to narrow down where I though Trina’s ancestry should partially be from— my main character is part Native American, part Jewish. I’m Jewish, so I didn’t research that, but I was reading a lot about Yiddish theater traditions for my own interest, and that certainly influenced the creation of another character, YD. Everything makes its way into the work. So that was the more formal research. And then other specific details about characters and settings are inspired from my own community and mentors, my experiences in cooperatively living and working. Rachel Pollack was my advisor at Goddard College, where I began writing. She was an invaluable mentor for the creation of the world.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Seep.

Chana:  Soho Press (who are so wonderful) asked me for my input. I said I wanted the cover to feel like “lush overgrowth, water, flowering, fruiting -- or anything that alludes to the natural world overtaking the domestic.” The wonderful designer Michael Morris made the most gorgeous cover. Better than I could have dreamed!

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

Chana:  When I began The Seep, it was a much longer novel with three shifting points of view— three main characters. Trina pushed out the other two storylines— she took over! She was very easy to write. I didn’t find the other characters particularly challenging, but I do find that writing a group scene is a tight rope balancing act.

TQDoes The Seep touch on any social issues?

Chana:  Quite a few. The main conflict of The Seep explores complex issues around identity and agency, in a future where you can change your appearance at will. I won’t say more than that.

Additionally, my protagonist, Trina, is an older trans lesbian. I wanted to celebrate a trans elder character who is at home in her body and has a loving marriage, a successful career, deep friendships. And then, of course, I had to make her suffer. Because great characters struggle (and I think no beautiful life is without its own intensity.)

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

Chana:  I’m SHOCKED no one has asked me “If you had the opportunity, would you be Seeped?”

I think yes! How could I resist? But, you know— in moderation. :)

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

Chana:  This one always makes me chuckle. It’s from the beginning of the book, as part of a larger catalogue of the changes The Seep has brought to the earth:

“All debts were forgiven. The student loan people threw away their phones.”

TQWhat's next?

Chana:  I have a big novel that’s almost finished, and about 20K of the next one ready to be explored. In my life as a playwright, my play with music WE ARE RADIOS will be workshopped at Shotgun Players in Berkley, CA this August 4th-5th.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Chana:  Thank you for the work you do to support debut authors!

The Seep
Soho Press, January 21, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 216 pages

Interview with Chana Porter, author of The Seep
A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut is perfect for fans of Jeff VanderMeer and Carmen Maria Machado.

Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.

Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.

Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.

About Chana

Interview with Chana Porter, author of The Seep
Photo by Stella Kalinina
Chana Porter is a playwright, teacher, MacDowell Colony fellow, and co-founder of the Octavia Project, a STEM and fiction-writing program for girls and gender non-conforming youth from underserved communities. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is currently at work on her next novel.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @PorterChana

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