The Qwillery | category: Arche Press


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Jessica Reisman

Please welcome Jessica Reisman to The Qwillery. Substrate Phantoms was published on May 16th by Arche Press (Resurrection House).

Interview with Jessica Reisman

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

Jessica:  I started writing poems and short fiction at nine years old; my first story was inspired by Watership Down. Why would be two things: first, reading stories and loving them and wanting to create worlds and stories myself; second, because visions of beautiful possibilities crowded my head, but my art skills weren't up to the task of bringing them into being, so I started to try and bring them to life with words, instead. My writing is still very visual.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jessica:  I'm a hybrid in that I do a whole lot of note writing, character background work, world building, etc., before I start writing, and have an idea of the overall arc and shape of the story, but plot only comes to me organically, from the characters and the world. With novels that just means I find my way slowly sometimes. With short fiction it often means I don't find the actual plot until second or third draft.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jessica:  My dayjob, it keeps getting in the way of writing time. :) A less flip answer would be that I find beginnings of stories challenging, and I find after-writing challenging--that is, everything that comes after to get the work published, noticed, read. The challenges involved in the writing itself are challenges I enjoy, so I don't think of them as "challenging," if you see what I mean. I'm one of those writers who actually do love the writing process itself.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jessica:  Other writers, first and always. My earliest direct influences in writing were Samuel Delaney, Ursula Le Guin, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, followed soon by Patricia McKillip, Tanith Lee, and C.J. Cherryh. Other influences are a love of art and nature; a never diminished awe for the amazing possibility and wonder of this universe and this planet; and a longing for community, connection, kindness, and a more just society.

TQDescribe Substrate Phantoms in 140 characters or less.

Jessica:  Substrate Phantoms is a far future literary space adventure that opens on a space station haunted by strange phenomena.

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

Jessica:  In its very first incarnation it was sort of the Orpheus myth in space.

TQWhat inspired you to write Substrate Phantoms? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction and in particular an Alien Contact story?

Jessica:  I love space opera and adventure, and the first blush of inspiration for SP was the seemingly haunted station, and how we, us humans, keep bringing the more Gothic/superstitious preoccupations of our psyches forward with us, no matter how much our technology advances. What appeals to me about alien contact, particularly in this case first contact, is the dichotomy between the fact of so many planets, so many galaxies, so much potential "alien" life, when we still haven't, as far as we know, had any contact with any, and still, to our detriment, treat others within our own species as alien.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Substrate Phantoms?

Jessica:  Everything from space station mechanics and disaster experiences to agricultural/farming systems and neurological disorders. My usual research habits are wide-ranging, tangent-prone, and perhaps a little shallow.

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

Jessica:  Jhinsei is the easiest for me. I wouldn't say that I am Jhinsei or Jhinsei is me, but we have some things in common and he's definitely a cognate of one of the mes within me. And Mheth was the hardest, because he's far from me in personality and behavior. Also, I wanted Mheth to have a shade of Mercutio from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a certain morbid, slightly manic whimsy, and that was a bit of a challenge--a fun one, but still a challenge.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Substrate Phantoms?

Jessica:  I don't think it's a choice, at least not for me; social issues are unavoidable. In fact I consider myself a writer of social science fiction--one of the things I've always most loved about science fiction (and fantasy) is its vast and glorious potential to envision other and better possibilities for societies, for ways of being, and to comment on ways that are maybe not so helpful or useful to us. For me, it's integral to the act of writing--not to be didactic or overt, but writing from a real place within means those social issues are just going to be there, in the way you envision your world and the characters, relationships, politics, economies, and life within it. Saying you don't include social issues simply means you include the status quo unexamined, doesn't it?

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


Q: Would you like to see the book as a beautifully illustrated graphic novel or perhaps a movie?

A: Yes, yes I would!

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

     Wind splashed, sudden and violent, across the fields and against the semiperm. Stronger winds moaned behind it. The roiling, flickering murk Mheth had seen in the distance was almost upon them.

     “What exactly is a moud storm?”

     “Mouds are some type of insect. I think—”

     Flickering murk hit the semiperm, with a huge rush of wind. It went over the building in a wave, filling the air with little lightnings and smudges of color in the murk. There was an odd pattering Mheth thought must be rain, but then thousands, hundreds of thousands of bugs began tumbling into the semiperm, pitching along the roof, spitting colored light on impact, chartreuse, verdigris, dark gold, angry reds.

     Jhinsei sat up, eyes wide. It seemed to go on for a long time, droves of insects hurtling on the wind, gusting torrentially into the semiperm and everything else in their path, flashing stains of gleaming color all around. The noise dinned and drowned. It wasn’t just the sound of insects pummeling semiperm, walls, and roof, but a sibilant clicking washing through it all from the insects themselves.

     A scent like cardamom and hot sand burned the air. The moud storm raged for maybe ten minutes. Then, slowly, the noise of wind and pummeling insect bodies lessened. The sound of rain came, gentle in the wake of the violence; occasional straggling insects, tiny turning flecks of colored light sparked and disappeared. Scents of cool and mineral rain washed through the semiperm.

TQWhat's next?

Jessica:  I have a story coming out at June 7th called "Bourbon, Sugar, Grace," for which I've recently seen the fabulous art. I'm excited for people to read it (and Substrate Phantoms!). I'm working on the sequel to Substrate Phantoms and I have an alternate 1600s South China Seas fantasy novel soon to be going out looking for a home.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jessica:  Thank you!

Substrate Phantoms
Arche Press, May 16, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

Interview with Jessica Reisman
The space station Termagenti—hub of commerce, culture, and civilization—may be haunted. Dangerous power surges, inexplicable energy manifestations, and strange accidents plague the station. Even after generations of exploring deep space, humanity has yet to encounter another race, and yet, some believe that what is troubling the station may be an alien life form.

Jhinsei and his operations team crawl throughout the station, one of many close-knit working groups that keep Termagenti operational. After an unexplained and deadly mishap takes his team from him, Jhinsei finds himself—for lack of a better word—haunted by his dead teammates. In fact, they may not be alone in taking up residence in his brain. He may have picked up a ghost—an alien intelligence that is using him to flee its dying ship. As Jhinsei struggles to understand what is happening to his sanity, inquisitive and dangerous members of the station's managing oligarchy begin to take an increasingly focused interest in him.

Haunted by his past and the increasing urgent presence of another within his mind, Jhinsei flees the station for the nearby planet Ash, where he undertakes an exploration that will redefine friend, foe, self, and other. With Substrate Phantoms, Jessica Reisman offers an evocative and thought-provoking story of first contact, where who we are is questioned as much as who they might be.

About Jessica

Interview with Jessica Reisman
Jessica Reisman's stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. A graduate of Clarion West 1995, she is a SFWA member. Her story “Threads” won the South East Science Fiction Achievement award. Her far future science fiction adventure SUBSTRATE PHANTOMS, from Resurrection House Books, is out in May 2017, and her story "Bourbon, Sugar, Grace" will appear on in June 2017. She currently calls Austin, Texas home. Find out more at

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @jesswynne

Interview with Matthew Kressel, author of King of Shards

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

Interview with Matthew Kressel, author of King of Shards

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

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

TQAre you a plotter, pantser or hybrid?

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

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

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

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

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

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

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

TQDescribe King of Shards in 140 characters or less.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

TQWhat's next?

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

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Matthew:  Thank you so much for letting me participate!

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

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

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

About Matthew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WebsiteFacebook ~ Twitter @mattkressel ~ Google+ ~ Pinterest

Interview with Jessica ReismanInterview with Matthew Kressel, author of King of Shards

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