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The Qwillery

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The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton - Excerpt

Please welcome India Holton to The Qwillery with an excerpt from The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels.


Berkley Trade Paperback Original | On Sale: June 15th, 2021


There was no possibility of walking to the library that day. Morning rain had blanched the air, and Miss Darlington feared that if Cecilia ventured out she would develop a cough and be dead within the week. Therefore Cecilia was at home, sitting with her aunt in a room ten degrees colder than the streets of London, and reading aloud The Song of Hiawatha by “that American rogue, Mr. Longfellow,” when the strange gentleman knocked at their door.

As the sound barged through the house, interrupting Cecilia’s recitation mid-rhyme, she looked inquiringly at her aunt. But Miss Darlington’s own gaze went to the mantel clock, which was ticking sedately toward a quarter to one. The old lady frowned.

“It is an abomination the way people these days knock at any wild, unseemly hour,” she said in much the same tone the prime minister had used in Parliament recently to decry the London rioters. “I do declare—!”

Cecilia waited, but Miss Darlington’s only declaration came in the form of sipping her tea pointedly, by which Cecilia understood that the abominable caller was to be ignored. She returned to Hiawatha and had just begun proceeding “toward the land of the Pearl-Feather” when the knocking came again with increased force, silencing her and causing Miss Darlington to set her teacup into its saucer with a clink. Tea splashed, and Cecilia hastily laid down the poetry book before things really got out of hand.

“I shall see who it is,” she said, smoothing her dress as she rose and touching the red-gold hair at her temples, although there was no crease in the muslin nor a single strand out of place in her coiffure.

“Do be careful, dear,” Miss Darlington admonished. “Anyone attempting to visit at this time of day is obviously some kind of hooligan.”

“Fear not, Aunty.” Cecilia took up a bone-handled letter opener from the small table beside her chair. “They will not trouble me.”

Miss Darlington harrumphed. “We are buying no subscriptions today,” she called out as Cecilia left the room.

In fact they had never bought subscriptions, so this was an unnecessary injunction, although typical of Miss Darlington, who persisted in seeing her ward as the reckless tomboy who had entered her care ten years before: prone to climbing trees, fashioning cloaks from tablecloths, and making unauthorized doorstep purchases whenever the fancy took her. But a decade’s proper education had wrought wonders, and now Cecilia walked the hall quite calmly, her French heels tapping against the polished marble floor, her intentions aimed in no way toward the taking of a subscription. She opened the door.

“Yes?” she asked.

“Good afternoon,” said the man on the step. “May I interest you in a brochure on the plight of the endangered North Atlantic auk?”

Cecilia blinked from his pleasant smile to the brochure he was holding out in a black-gloved hand. She noticed at once the scandalous lack of hat upon his blond hair and the embroidery trimming his black frock coat. He wore neither sideburns nor mustache, his boots were tall and buckled, and a silver hoop hung from one ear. She looked again at his smile, which quirked in response.

“No,” she said, and closed the door.

And bolted it.

Ned remained for a moment longer with the brochure extended as his brain waited for his body to catch up with events. He considered what he had seen of the woman who had stood so briefly in the shadows of the doorway, but he could not recall the exact color of the sash that waisted her soft white dress, nor whether it had been pearls or stars in her hair, nor even how deeply winter dreamed in her lovely eyes. He held only a general impression of “beauty so rare and face so fair”—and implacability so terrifying in such a young woman.

And then his body made pace, and he grinned.

Miss Darlington was pouring herself another cup of tea when Cecilia returned to the parlor. “Who was it?” she asked without looking up.

“A pirate, I believe,” Cecilia said as she sat and, taking the little book of poetry, began sliding a finger down a page to relocate the line at which she’d been interrupted.

Miss Darlington set the teapot down. With a delicate pair of tongs fashioned like a sea monster, she began loading sugar cubes into her cup. “What made you think that?”

Cecilia was quiet a moment as she recollected the man. He had been handsome in a rather dangerous way, despite the ridiculous coat. A light in his eyes had suggested he’d known his brochure would not fool her, but he’d entertained himself with the pose anyway. She predicted his hair would fall over his brow if a breeze went through it, and that the slight bulge in his trousers had been in case she was not happy to see him—a dagger, or perhaps a gun.

“Well?” her aunt prompted, and Cecilia blinked herself back into focus.

“He had a tattoo of an anchor on his wrist,” she said. “Part of it was visible from beneath his sleeve. But he did not offer me a secret handshake, nor invite himself in for tea, as anyone of decent piratic society would have done, so I took him for a rogue and shut him out.”

“A rogue pirate! At our door!” Miss Darlington made a small, disapproving noise behind pursed lips. “How reprehensible. Think of the germs he might have had. I wonder what he was after.”

Cecilia shrugged. Had Hiawatha confronted the magician yet? She could not remember. Her finger, three-quarters of the way down the page, moved up again. “The Scope diamond, perhaps,” she said. “Or Lady Askew’s necklace.”

Miss Darlington clanked a teaspoon around her cup in a manner that made Cecilia wince. “Imagine if you had been out as you planned, Cecilia dear. What would I have done, had he broken in?”

“Shot him?” Cecilia suggested.

Miss Darlington arched two vehemently plucked eyebrows toward the ringlets on her brow. “Good heavens, child, what do you take me for, a maniac? Think of the damage a ricocheting bullet would do in this room.”

“Stabbed him, then?”

“And get blood all over the rug? It’s a sixteenth-century Persian antique, you know, part of the royal collection. It took a great deal of effort to acquire.”

“Steal,” Cecilia murmured.

“Obtain by private means.”

“Well,” Cecilia said, abandoning a losing battle in favor of the original topic of conversation. “It was indeed fortunate I was here. ‘The level moon stared at him—’ ”

“The moon? Is it up already?” Miss Darlington glared at the wall as if she might see through its swarm of framed pictures, its wallpaper and wood, to the celestial orb beyond, and therefore convey her disgust at its diurnal shenanigans.

“No, it stared at Hiawatha,” Cecilia explained. “In the poem.”

“Oh. Carry on, then.”

“ ‘In his face stared pale and haggard—’ ”

“Repetitive fellow, isn’t he?”

“Poets do tend to—”

Miss Darlington waved a hand irritably. “I don’t mean the poet, girl. The pirate. Look, he’s now trying to climb in the window.”

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
Dangerous Damsels 1
Berkley, June 15, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
"The kind of book for which the word “rollicking” was invented.”—New York Times Book Review

One of Bustle’s Best New Books Out June 2021
A Popsugar Best Summer Read of 2021

A prim and proper lady thief must save her aunt from a crazed pirate and his dangerously charming henchman in this fantastical historical romance.

Cecilia Bassingwaite is the ideal Victorian lady. She’s also a thief. Like the other members of the Wisteria Society crime sorority, she flies around England drinking tea, blackmailing friends, and acquiring treasure by interesting means. Sure, she has a dark and traumatic past and an overbearing aunt, but all things considered, it’s a pleasant existence. Until the men show up.

Ned Lightbourne is a sometimes assassin who is smitten with Cecilia from the moment they meet. Unfortunately, that happens to be while he’s under direct orders to kill her. His employer, Captain Morvath, who possesses a gothic abbey bristling with cannons and an unbridled hate for the world, intends to rid England of all its presumptuous women, starting with the Wisteria Society. Ned has plans of his own. But both men have made one grave mistake. Never underestimate a woman.

When Morvath imperils the Wisteria Society, Cecilia is forced to team up with her handsome would-be assassin to save the women who raised her–hopefully proving, once and for all, that she’s as much of a scoundrel as the rest of them.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

About India

India Holton lives in New Zealand. She's taught creative writing classes to high school students and written nonfiction and fiction pieces for various magazines. Learn more on her website and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Spotlight - Shutter by Melissa Larsen

Melissa Larsen's debut novel, Shutter, was published on June 15th by Berkley. We'll have an interview with Melissa later this month. In the meantime check out what others have to say about Shutter and admire that beautiful cover!

Berkley, June 15, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
“[A] chilling debut novel.” — The New York Times Book Review

A young woman agrees to star in a filmmaker’s latest project, but soon realizes the movie is not what she expected in this chilling debut novel.

In the wake of her father’s death, Betty Roux doesn’t allow herself to mourn. Instead, she pushes away her mother, breaks up with her boyfriend, and leaves everything behind to move to New York City. She doesn’t know what she wants, except to run.

When she’s offered the chance to play the leading role in mysterious indie filmmaker Anthony Marino’s new project, she jumps at the opportunity. For a month Betty will live in a cabin on a private island off the coast of Maine, with a five-person cast and crew. Her mother warns against it, but Betty is too drawn to the charismatic Anthony to say no.

Anthony gives her a new identity–Lola–and Betty tells herself that this is exactly what she’s been looking for. The chance to reinvent herself. That is, until they begin filming and she meets Sammy, the island’s caretaker, and Betty realizes just how little she knows about the movie and its director.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Photo © Emily Hlaváč Green
About Melissa

Melissa Larsen has an M.F.A. from Columbia University and a B.A. from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She has interned and worked extensively in publishing. She lives in San Francisco, and Shutter is her first novel.

Website  ~  Twitter @lisslarsen

A Conversation with Evie Green Author of WE HEAR VOICES

Please welcome Evie Green to The Qwillery. We Hear Voices, her first horror novel, will be published on December 1, 2020 by Berkley.

Tell us about WE HEAR VOICES. What inspired you to write this story?

Many years ago, when I was about 9 or 10, I read a book by John Wyndham, called Chocky It’s about a boy with a voice in his head, told from the point of view of his baffled father. A few years ago, I found a copy of it in a second hand bookshop, so I read it again and could not get the ideas it sparked off out of my head. I started writing without really knowing what was going to happen, and many years later, WE HEAR VOICES is the result.

This is your first horror novel. What drew you to write in the genre?

Funnily enough, I never set out to write a horror novel! I wrote the book that was in my head, and I suppose it went through a few gears, from thriller to speculative fiction, then sci fi, and finally to horror. Genre is a strange thing! Also, its first draft didn’t have a pandemic in it. I added it in as a bit of exciting background, with absolutely no idea of how relevant that aspect would become. It did mean I was well up to speed with face masks and so on by the time COVID 19 came along.

Your story is about a boy with a dangerous imaginary friend, but also about a family and how that family copes in the aftermath of challenging times. Why did you choose to incorporate such a strong family storyline into your novel?

WE HEAR VOICES is a family novel before all else I have three teenage children, and two stepchildren, so my family is at the heart of all I do, and I’m really interested in the immediacy of questions like how far you would go to protect your child. One of the protagonists, Nina, is a teenage girl, and in a way she’s a lot like my eldest child, in that she’s more sensible than most of the adults around her! I think that teenagers have an undeserved bad reputation: I love having them around, and always really enjoy meeting their friends. In my other life I write YA fiction, so I’ve got a great affection for good teenage character, and wanted Nina to be as much a part of the plot as her mother. However, Rachel is really at the centre of it all. She’s had her own struggles in the past, and has to contend wit h a desperately ill child, a pandemic, dealing with her ex husband, and then death and destruction at the hands of her own possessed child. She could easily fall apart, but she manages to hang on most of the time.

What kind of research was required befo re writing WE HEAR VOICES?

As space travel is a part of the book, I spoke to an old university friend, Kevin Fong, who’s now an expert on the human body in space as well as a medical doctor and astrophysicist! During the course of our conversation, we also talked about pandemics, and he said that the number one worry of governments worldwide is a pandemic, and that one would happen sooner or later. We had absolutely no idea at that point that there was one approaching. I was mainly after his expertise on space colonisation, however, and took the information he gave me and ran with it, fictionally. My brother is an epidemiologist, so I also got some advice from him, though the pandemic itself is just ending at the start of the book. I considered whether the WE HEAR VOICES world would have had a full lockdown and decided that it wouldn’t, for economic reasons, so they have rules about facemasks and so on, but the virus has mainly been left to sweep though the population.

What do you hope readers will take away from your novel?

The one thing that didn’t change through the many drafts of this novel was the ending: I’ve always wanted it to end with a shock (as I like reading books like that) so I hope that’s enjoyable. In a broader sense, I suppose I’d like them to think about family, about the questions of how far you defend your child if they do something indefensible, and what on earth a parent can do if they feel their child is out of control. Child mental health is a huge problem worldwide at the moment, and it has huge ramifications for the future.

We Hear Voices
Berkley, December 1, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
An eerie horror debut about a little boy who recovers from a mysterious pandemic and inherits an imaginary friend who makes him do violent things…

Kids have imaginary friends. Rachel knows this. So when her young son, Billy, miraculously recovers from a horrible flu that has proven fatal for many, she thinks nothing of Delfy, his new invisible friend. After all, her family is healthy and that’s all that matters.

But soon Delfy is telling Billy what to do, and the boy is acting up and lashing out in ways he never has before. As Delfy’s influence is growing stranger and more sinister by the day, and rising tensions threaten to tear Rachel’s family apart, she clings to one purpose: to protect her children at any cost—even from themselves.

We Hear Voices is a gripping near-future horror novel that tests the fragility of family and the terrifying gray area between fear and love.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

© Charlotte Knee Photography 2020
About Evie

Evie Green is a pseudonym for a British author who has written professionally for her entire adult life. She lives by the sea in England with her husband, children, and guinea pigs, and loves writing in the very early morning, fueled by coffee.

Website  ~  Twitter

Interview with Carole Stivers, author of The Mother Code

Please welcome Carole Stivers to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Mother Code was published on August 25, 2020 by Berkley.

Interview with Carole Stivers, author of The Mother Code

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

Carole:  The first fiction piece I remember writing was one I penned in about the fourth grade, called “Carbuncle and I.” The story was based on Sherlock Holmes, but the detective and his assistant were cute and cartoonish. I can’t remember the plot, but a picture I drew of the characters is forever etched in my mind.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Carole:  I started out as a pantser, but that wasn’t very rewarding—so much work ended up on the cutting room floor! Now I’m a hybrid. I try to start a novel with a clear beginning and end in mind. Then I write my way through, adding beats on a separate sheet as I go along to guide the narrative. This allows things to take surprising turns, while still maintaining the focus of the original theme and desired ending.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Carole:  I do lots of research before even starting, which is more like work than fun. Then I slog through getting the first draft on paper. But after that comes the joy, when I get to flesh out the story and get more into the characters, their emotions and motivations. For me, the revision phase is best, knowing that I have something solid to work with and to mold.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Carole:  Whenever I start to lose momentum and hope for my work, I find solace in reading good authors. I love new authors who take chances with their writing, like Devi S. Laskar (The Atlas of Reds and Blues) and Rachel Howard (The Risk of Us). And of course I love the greats, like Margaret Atwood, whose prose sinks into the mind so effortlessly, and Isabel Allende, whose worlds are so beautifully built.

TQDescribe The Mother Code using only 5 words.

Carole:  A child discovers his mother.

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

Carole:  Kai is not alone in his quest to decide the fate of his Mother. There are other children, two little girls in particular, who are instrumental in his trajectory. And there are many other important female characters who drive the plot.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Mother Code? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction.

Carole:  I had the first spark of an idea for The Mother Code while traveling in the desert Southwest with my family in 2003. At the heart of the story, I wanted there to be a reliance by a child on his “Mother” robot in this setting, because, so far as he knew, there was no other life left on the planet. The rest of the story—the origins of the pandemic that set the stage, the origins of the Mothers and their children, the conflict that arose as the children and their Mothers matured and changed, and the few human adults who remained afterward to shepherd the children, all grew out of that original idea.

I was a scientist for many years, and I feel comfortable writing about scientists and laboratory settings. But writing science fiction also allows me to place characters in strange circumstances and watch them fight their way through. By forcing my characters to face the uncanny, I can leverage that “defamiliarization” to ask questions in a fresh way that is not confrontational to the reader and might inspire them to think or feel differently.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Mother Code?

Carole:  I travelled to the sites where my story takes place: the San Francisco Presidio, Los Alamos, the desert Southwest, and the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. I took a tour of the Hopi Reservation, talked to current residents about their lives and livelihoods, and read books about Hopi history and tradition.

I researched robotics and AI to develop a picture of what my Mother robots would have to look like, how they would be programmed, and what materials would be used in their construction. For specifics, I consulted with a good friend who is a pilot, a computer systems manager, and a science fiction fan.

I also researched the genetic engineering of human fetuses, innovative bionic prostheses, and advances in man-machine brain interfaces. One difficult issue I faced was how to destroy most of human life on planet Earth, while leaving all else intact. My “IC-NAN” is based on current research in DNA therapeutics at Northwestern University.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Mother Code.

Carole:  The cover is meant to depict nurturing in the form of the cupped hands—a protection of something fragile from the hardships of the desert (portrayed in the desert palette colors). The “Mother Code” that directs the hands in their duties is depicted as symbols at the top of the image, which degrade into sand and dust at the bottom of the image to give a sense that the Code itself is fragile.

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

Carole:  For me, Kai was easiest to write. As a child, Kai is a seeker; he came to the story as a blank slate, learning as he went along. The hardest character for me to write was Rick Blevins, a military man—it was difficult for me to avoid stereotypes when writing him. But the most fun to write was Kendra Jenkins, a character who only occurred to me when I was well into the novel. A problem-solver with a can-do attitude, Kendra is most like me in her approach to life, and she has a quirky side to her that I enjoyed portraying.

TQDoes The Mother Code touch on any social issues?

Carole:  At the time I began work on The Mother Code, I was most concerned about the possible use of bioagents in warfare and what they might inadvertently do if they got out of control. I know that COVID-19 was not developed for warfare. But it has certainly given rise to greater concern about such agents—which I think is a good thing.

TQ:  Which question about The Mother Code do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: Do you really think that a machine like Rho-Z, Kai’s Mother, could be programmed to care for a child?

A: I think that a machine could definitely be designed that would serve the basic needs of a child. The trick would be the human element, which is key for a child to truly thrive. In The Mother Code, that human element develops in a surprising way. But I believe that such an outcome is indeed probable.

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

Carole:  My favorite quotes relate to Kai’s instinctive relationship with his Mother:

“But at night, when they were alone, that feeling was as strong as ever— the feeling that he couldn’t possibly know where he ended, and his Mother began.”

“And he responded, not in words but in song—the song of the Mother Code.”

TQWhat's next?

Carole:  I’m currently working on a tale that I call Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Story of Your Life. I only hope it matches up to either of those two classics—especially the second, which was written by the amazing Ted Chiang.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Mother Code
Berkley, August 25, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Carole Stivers, author of The Mother Code
What it means to be human—and a mother—is put to the test in Carole Stivers’s debut novel set in a world that is more chilling and precarious than ever.

The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots—to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order: an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right—the Mother Code.

Kai is born in America’s desert Southwest, his only companion his robotic Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too—in ways that were never predicted. And when government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai is faced with a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?

Set in a future that could be our own, The Mother Code explores what truly makes us human—and the tenuous nature of the boundaries between us and the machines we create.

About Carole

Interview with Carole Stivers, author of The Mother Code
Photo: © Alan Stivers
Carole Stivers was born in East Cleveland, Ohio. She received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She went on to post-doctoral work at Stanford University before launching a career in medical diagnostics. She now lives in California, where she’s combined her love of writing and her fascination with the possibilities of science to create her first novel, The Mother Code.

Website  ~  Facebook

Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return

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

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

Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return

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

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

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

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

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

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

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

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

TQDescribe The Return using only 5 words.

RH:  Careful. Keep your friends close.

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

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

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

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

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

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Return?

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

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Return.

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

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

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

TQDoes The Return touch on any social issues?

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

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

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

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

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

TQWhat's next?

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

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

RH:  Thank you!

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

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

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

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

About Rachel

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

Website ~ Twitter @rachfacelogic

Interview with Sarah Pinsker, author of A Song For A New Day

Please welcome Sarah Pinsker to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. A Song for a New Day was published on September 10, 2019 by Berkley.

Interview with Sarah Pinsker, author of A Song For A New Day

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

Sarah:  I wrote horse stories starting when I was around eight. I think some of them were just rewrites of books I'd liked. The kind of thing where there's a scruffy-looking horse about to go to auction, and the girl buys the horse for one dollar more than the meat buyers, and the horse turns out to be super fancy once he's healed/groomed/trained. I think my first genre story had to do with an open-mic singer taking bids on his soul from god and the devil. On brand.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sarah:  I would normally say I'm an unrepentant pantser, but I had to turn in an outline for the novel I'm currently working on, and I have to admit it was a surprisingly fun and interesting process. It let me ask a lot of questions of the book early on that would normally have taken me a while to reach through trial and error and discovery. So...still a pantser, but with a new appreciation for the other modes? Does that make me a hybrid? My rebel spirit is still in pantsing.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sarah:  These days it's a physical/mental thing. My usual writing spaces aren't feeling comfortable right now. I think maybe I need a standing desk. Once I'm writing I'm good, but getting to the point of sitting down and focusing is taking me more time than it used to, and staying seated is taking more discipline than it used to. We also adopted a new dog recently, and he's very good at convincing me I'd rather be playing with him.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sarah:  What doesn't influence my writing? I guess I write a lot of stories rooted in place. I love traveling and I've been a lot of places. I love the challenge of trying to get at the heart of a place. Music. New technologies and my own paranoia about them. Dreams. Misread road signs, strange coincidences...

TQDescribe A Song For A New Day using only 5 words.

Sarah:  Live music. Found family. Connection.

TQTell us something about A Song For A New Day that is not found in the book description.

Sarah:  The description makes the black and white/good and bad distinction between the Before and After periods the book describes, which makes it seem like the former was fine, and after is dystopic. The book has more shades of gray. I tried to acknowledge that the world we live in now, ostensibly the Before, is already dystopic for some people. There are aspects of the After that are better, or different in a not-entirely-bad way. Even characters who disapprove of the corporate shenanigans acknowledge some positive results of the changes. I find those shades far more interesting to write than a simple everything's-not-awesome dystopia.

TQWhat inspired you to write A Song For A New Day? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction and in particular a dystopian novel?

SarahA Song For A New Day takes place in the same world as one of my previous stories, "Our Lady of the Open Road." I realized I had more to say about this world, and that there was more to explore than the slice of future tour life that story showed. There are so many interesting future music technologies, both for listening and for live music, but we're also living in a time where people have more and more distractions at home. Everything competes with the bands who are out there playing small clubs every night. I wanted to explore all sides of that question, and look at a future where some people might have even more reason to stay home, and some people might fight it.

I love science fiction for the expanded palette it provides. I like the "what ifs" and Theodore Sturgeon's "ask the next question." Many aspects of this novel reflect today's hopes and fears, but it's easier to look at those from a slight distance. It's an exaggeration of one possible path. This story takes place in a very near future, but you still need those world building tools to get there.

I didn't actually put the dystopia label on it myself, though in retrospect it obviously is one. In my head, it's just an exploration of a possible future.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for A Song For A New Day?

Sarah:  This book took less research than a lot of short stories. The music stuff was stuff I knew. A little about VR and AR, I guess? I had to double check how long some of the distances between cities would take if highways weren't options for your rebel human-driven van.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for A Song For A New Day.

Sarah:  The cover was done by Jason Booher. I don't know who the photo captures. It reminds me of a couple of singers, but I don't know if it is actually any of them. It's not meant to represent a particular character. I had asked for a cover that looked like a DIY rock show poster, and this is exactly that.

TQIn A Song For A New Day who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Sarah:  I wrote about Luce previously in a story called "Our Lady of the Open Road," and part of why I returned to her was that her voice was so easy to slip into. She voices a lot of my own concerns. Rosemary was a little more challenging. Fun, also; there's an interesting challenge in trying to see the whole world through the eyes of someone who has never been anywhere or done anything. Rosemary consistently surprised me in her reactions to things. She made me look for the positives in the so-called dystopia I'd created, since it was the only world she'd ever known, and she didn't mind it all that much. Finding the positives was itself more difficult than the bad-made-worse parts.

TQDoes A Song For A New Day touch on any social issues?

Sarah:  Lots! The big ones involve the trauma that we're all living right now. Guns and the constant threat of violence. Our societal willingness to trade freedom for safety instead of addressing the root problem. School inequities. Prisons. Corporations. Data privacy.

I wanted to make this future one where, even though it's dystopic in many ways, some of our current problems have been addressed and have become non-issues. Accessibility in devices and the physical world. Asking before hugging people. Pronoun pins. It's not a perfect world – racism and homophobia still exist – but in the context of the spaces these characters inhabit, they've sought places where people would be striving to both see those situations and improve upon them. I wanted to normalize seeing differences and acknowledging them and then moving on from there to form community. I love, love, love writing queer characters and just letting them exist in community with each other. As in real life, we find each other, and support each other. I think letting multiple queer characters exist in a novel where queerness isn't the point is still a statement of its own, and I can't wait until it's not.

TQWhich question about A Song For A New Day do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: "Beyond the novelette 'Our Lady of the Open Road,' have you written or do you plan to write anything else about these characters?"

I adore standalone novels, and this is meant to be a standalone as far as these main characters are concerned, but I've written stories about some of the peripheral characters. There's an inventor/musician named Katja in the book who was the protagonist of my story "A Song Transmuted," which appeared in the Cyber World anthology and was reprinted in Sunspot Jungle and the upcoming A Punk Rock Future anthology. My story in the Apex Do Not Go Quietly anthology has a cameo from another character, Joni, as a kid.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from A Song For A New Day.


"There were, to my knowledge, one hundred and seventy-two ways to wreck a hotel room."

"Fear is a virus. Music is a virus, and a vaccine, and a cure."

TQWhat's next?

Sarah:  I'm working on another near-future novel right now, set in a different near future. There's a dark fantasy novelette called "Two Truths and a Lie" that'll be on, but I think that might not show up until next year. And I have a dozen short stories I'm dying to finish and send out into the world.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

A Song for a New Day
Berkley, September 10, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Sarah Pinsker, author of A Song For A New Day
In this captivating science fiction novel from an award-winning author, public gatherings are illegal making concerts impossible, except for those willing to break the law for the love of music, and for one chance at human connection.

In the Before, when the government didn’t prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce’s connection to the world–her music, her purpose–is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law.

Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery–no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she’ll have to do something she’s never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won’t be enough.

About Sarah

Interview with Sarah Pinsker, author of A Song For A New Day
Photo © Emily Osborne
Sarah Pinsker‘s Nebula and Sturgeon Award-winning short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, F&SF, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, as well as numerous other magazines, anthologies, year’s bests, podcasts, and translation markets. She is also a singer/songwriter who has toured nationally behind three albums on various independent labels. Her first collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea, was released in early 2019 by Small Beer Press. This is her first novel. She lives with her wife in Baltimore, Maryland.

Website  ~  Twitter @SarahPinsker

SALVATION DAY 24-Hour Giveaway

24 hours to survive. 24 hours to win.

You could win an advance copy of SALVATION DAY by Kali Wallace, a gripping thriller that takes place in less than 24 hours! But act quickly, because this giveaway is also only 24 hours - and time is running out...

See the giveaway here.

Salvation Day
Berkley, July 9, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

A lethal virus is awoken on an abandoned spaceship in this incredibly fast-paced, claustrophobic thriller.

They thought the ship would be their salvation.

Zahra knew every detail of the plan. House of Wisdom, a massive exploration vessel, had been abandoned by the government of Earth a decade earlier, when a deadly virus broke out and killed everyone on board in a matter of hours. But now it could belong to her people if they were bold enough to take it. All they needed to do was kidnap Jaswinder Bhattacharya—the sole survivor of the tragedy, and the last person whose genetic signature would allow entry to the spaceship.

But what Zahra and her crew could not know was what waited for them on the ship—a terrifying secret buried by the government. A threat to all of humanity that lay sleeping alongside the orbiting dead.

And then they woke it up.

About Kali Wallace

Kali Wallace has had a lifelong passion for both science and storytelling, and she earned a PhD in geophysics before becoming an author. Salvation Day is her first novel for adults. She is also the author of two young adult novels, Shallow Grave sand The Memory Trees; the children’s fantasy novel City of Islands; and a number of short stories. After spending most of her life in Colorado, she now lives in southern California.

Coming Soon... The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

The Girl in Red
Berkley, June 18, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Coming Soon... The Girl in Red by Christina Henry
From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a postapocalyptic take on the perennial classic “Little Red Riding Hood”…about a woman who isn’t as defenseless as she seems.

It’s not safe for anyone  alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods….

About Christina

Christina Henry is the author of AliceRed QueenLost Boy, The Mermaid, and the national bestselling Black Wings series, featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle, Beezle. She lives in Chicago and can be found online at and on Twitter @C_Henry_Author.

Coming Soon... The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Melanie's Week in Review - August 5, 2018

Melanie's Week in Review - August 5, 2018

Welcome to August. I can't believe that 2018 is already half over. Where does time go?  Some of you may have seen on the news that the UK is still in the grips of a heatwave. This summer has actually been a summer! I also can't believe that it is August and the weather is still in the high 20's and low 30's. The downside of all this lovely weather (despite sweating buckets at work) is that I can't concentrate on reading. I usually feel a bit like a wet noodle and can't pick up a book. I have however, read 1 book this week that I can tell you about. So what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - August 5, 2018
Berkley has published the 4th instalment of Karen Chance's Dorina Basarab series - Shadow's Bane. Not a lot has changed for the newly appointment Senator as her life is just as wild and crazy as ever. When the nephew of one of her fey friends goes missing and presumed sold into slavery Dory is on the case. She discovers that slaves are being bought and sold to take part in illegal fight - a sort of underground fight club. Well this is what it seems on the surface. Dory and her alter ego Dorina are determined to find the missing fey and put the slavers out of business, permanently. All this while fending off assassins who want to take her place on the council and the growing dominance of her true vampire self, Dorina.

I prefer this series to Chance's Cassie Palmer series mainly due to the pace. While the pace is still frenetic at least Dory has the opportunity to eat dinner and have a heart to heart with her bestie Claire. Dory isn't as driven by her sex drive as Cassie is and there tends to be more of a plot in this series. It was interesting, that  while Dory is supposed to be the star of this story, it is Mircea that steals it. Dory's present day story is interlaced with chapters dedicated to Mircea's story back in the 1400's when he was trying to find a way to separate Dorina and Dory to help his daughter survive. It is through these back flash chapters that the background to the story's whole plot starts to unfold. We are also given insights into Dorina's real powers which add another element to the plot in the present day story.

The prominent theme in this instalment is one of belonging or perhaps more about family. Dory worries that Dorina is becoming more dominant and that she will take over and destroy everything that she has tried to hold onto like her relationship with the hunky vampire Louis-Cesare. There are a few sideline plots with her roommate Claire and the battalion of fey soldiers that are living in their back garden protecting Claire and her baby (and heir to the Light Fey throne) Aiden. Dory desperately wants to belong and keep hold of the community of friends she has started to think of as family. In the past Dorina, when she takes over, she manages to destroy any relationships that Dory has tried to build....until now. In between the Dory/Dorina elements of the plot is a lot of action. Usually with Dory getting her butt kicked and ending up with bruises on her bruises. Saucy scenes  between Dory and Louise-Cesare are still there but these are more like filler between the slaver plotline and the Mircea POV chapters. Overall, this was a good balance between action, romance and plot. A few of the characters that have been missing in previous books return along with the introduction of new ones. It did kind of feel like a final book as there was a resolution to a number of plot threads from previous books. It seemed like things were being tied up for Dory so I don't know if this is the last we will hear of the 5 foot nothing, hard as nails dhampir.

I hate to sound like a Hugh D'Ambray groupie but I bought the audio version of Ilona Andrews Iron and Magic.  I loved the narrator - Steve West  - who did the voice over for Galahad in the video game The Order 1886 (which I also loved.....a must play for any gamers out there). He has a very swoony voice and it worked perfectly for Hugh. Some of the female characters didn't sound anything like I imagined they would but he did such a great job of Hugh I wasn't too disappointed.

The temperature is going to drop a bit this week so hopefully I can get some of my reading mojo back. Until next week Happy Reading!

Shadow's Bane
A Midnight's Daughter Novel / Dorina Basarab 4
Berkley, July 31, 2018
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 624 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - August 5, 2018
Half-human, half-vampire Dorina Basarab is back–and facing her biggest challenge yet in the next urban fantasy in the New York Times bestselling series.

Dorina Basarab is a dhampir–half-human, half-vampire. As one of the Vampire Senate’s newest members, Dory already has a lot on her plate. But then a relative of one of Dory’s fey friends goes missing. They fear he’s been sold to a slaver who arranges fights–sometimes to the death–between different types of fey.

As Dory investigates, she and her friends learn the slavers are into something much bigger than a fight club. With the Vampire Senate gearing up for war with Faerie, it’ll take everything she has to defeat the slavers–and deal with the entirely too attractive master vampire Louis-Cesare….

[click to embiggen]

Melanie's Week in Review - August 5, 2018
Book 1
Melanie's Week in Review - August 5, 2018
Book 2
Melanie's Week in Review - August 5, 2018
Book 3

Giveaway: The Child by Fiona Barton

Fiona Barton's The Child came out in Trade Paperback on March 6th. Thanks to the publisher we have a copy to giveaway. US Only! See 'The Giveaway' below to see how enter.

The Child 
Berkley, March 6, 2018
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Hardcover and eBook, June 27, 2017

Giveaway: The Child by Fiona Barton
An NPR Best Book of the Year
A Bustle Best Thriller Novel of the Year

The Child is a perfect blend of beach read and book club selection. It’s a fascinating and fitting follow-up to [Barton’s] best-selling debut novel, The Widow. . . .[A] page-turning whodunit….A novel that is both fast-paced and thought-provoking, it keeps the reader guessing right to the end.”—USA Today

“Fiona Barton brings back reporter Kate Waters from the best-selling The Widow and delivers another winner with The Child.…A truly engaging tale. Those who enjoyed The Widow will discover that Barton has only gotten better.”—The Associated Press

“An engrossing, irresistible story about the coming to light of a long-buried secret and an absolutely fabulous read—I loved it!”—Shari Lapena, New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door

“Tense, tantalizing, and ultimately very satisfying…definitely one of the year’s must-reads.”—Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author

The author of the stunning New York Times bestseller The Widow returns with a brand-new novel of twisting psychological suspense, now in paperback.
As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers human remains, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but she’s at a loss for answers. As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier. A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. She soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

About Fiona

Giveaway: The Child by Fiona Barton
Photo by Jenny Lewis
Fiona Barton trains and works with journalists all over the world. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. Born in Cambridge, England, she currently lives in southwest France.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @figbarton

The Giveaway

What:  1 Trade Paperback copy of The Child by Fiona Barton. US ONLY

  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “Child“ with or without the quotation marks.
  • In the body of the email, please provide your name and full mailing address. The winning address is used only to mail the novel(s) and is provided The Qwillery only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted by The Qwillery once the giveaway ends.
Who:  The giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a United States mailing address.

When:  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on April 6, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton - ExcerptSpotlight - Shutter by Melissa Larsen A Conversation with Evie Green Author of WE HEAR VOICESInterview with Carole Stivers, author of The Mother CodeInterview with Rachel Harrison, author of The ReturnInterview with Sarah Pinsker, author of A Song For A New DaySALVATION DAY 24-Hour GiveawayComing Soon... The Girl in Red by Christina HenryMelanie's Week in Review - August 5, 2018Giveaway: The Child by Fiona Barton

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