The Qwillery | category: Grand Central Publishing


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow Kingdom

Please welcome Kira Jane Buxton to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Hollow Kingdom is published on August 6, 2019 by Grand Central Publishing.

Interview with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow Kingdom

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

Kira:  Thank you so much for having me! As a child, the very first short story I ever wrote was about an overweight dragon. I may have peaked too soon.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Kira:  I’m definitely a hybrid of the two—a plotser or a panter maybe. I tend to try to adhere to a basic plot outline, but then veer off to uncharted territory and follow characters I didn’t give permission to take over the page. One of the main characters from Hollow Kingdom—Big Jim—was actually supposed to be a little boy, but he just burst onto the first page in all his gutsy glory and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Writers only think they’re in charge of a story.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Kira:  It’s usually being patient enough to hone in on the idea before starting to write. I also tend to get in my own way. When I relax and have fun with it all, I tend to do my best writing. The other most challenging thing about writing is stopping. I live to write, but am starting to become a bit comma shaped. Thankfully, Ewok (my dog, a Brussels griffon) reminds me to get up and go for regular walks.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Kira:  I love to spend time outside each day. Here in Seattle, we’re so fortunate to live amongst some very beautiful trees—fir, cedar, pine, birch, alder. Trees, like books, change brain chemistry, and I feel it’s a privilege to be near them. I have befriended two wild crows who visit me every day, and also spend time with a feisty charm of hummingbirds. Time in nature or reading about nature tends to spark that creative light for me.

TQDescribe Hollow Kingdom using only 5 words.

Kira:  Crude crow must save world

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

Kira:  The main narrator is a crow named Shit Turd (S.T. the crowtagonist), so we have his bird’s eye view of what’s happening to humanity, but there are also interstitial chapters from various animals around the world. I wanted to explore the minds of animals, but also to have a global view of what the apocalypse might look like. I grew up in Asia and the Middle East, so my wanting to explore more of the world in my writing was probably inevitable.

TQWhat inspired you to write Hollow Kingdom?

Kira:  I adore crows and had wanted to write about them for a long time without knowing how. I was driving when I finally got the idea. “What if a crow is telling the story of what happened to our species? What if a crow is talking about our extinction?” I’ve always loved animals, humor, and been an advocate for conservation, so I’d say Hollow Kingdom is the conflation of my passions.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Hollow Kingdom?

Kira:  I loved researching animal and tree facts for Hollow Kingdom. I read so many delicious non-fiction books about the natural world, from Peter Wohlleben’s The Secret Live of Trees, to Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of An Octopus, David George Haskell’s The Songs of Trees, The Wisdom of Wolves by Jamie and Jim Dutcher, Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds, the list goes on. What I found that anything I fabricated or embellished wasn’t half as fascinating and exciting as what’s happening all around us in nature.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Hollow Kingdom.

Kira:  Jarrod Taylor did the gorgeous cover art for Hollow Kingdom. He absolutely nailed it. The periphery of the jacket has a nod to the Himalayan blackberry takeover, and the Seattle skyline features prominently underneath S.T. the crow. One of my favorite things is the purple markings on S.T. that represent rain falling down onto the Space Needle and the skyline. Dennis the bloodhound is on the spine of the novel, which is perfect. Also, I am utterly obsessed with cephalopods, and on the back of the jacket is the most beautiful rendering of one. It would make a beautiful tattoo.

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

Kira:  One of the easiest characters to write was S.T., the crow. Perhaps because it took me so long to figure out what shape this book would take, and perhaps because I spend a lot of time with crows and get to enjoy their varied personalities and many antics. My female crow friend inspired a lot of S.T.’s behavior and character. The hardest was trying to write from the perspective of a hummingbird. I sat for ages trying to “hear” a voice, which ended up being a Highland cow (again, I’m not in control very often).

TQDoes Hollow Kingdom touch on any social issues?

Kira:  At its heart, Hollow Kingdom is an environmental parable and my love letter to the natural world. My hope is that readers remember to look up and enjoy the sky and listen to what the birds are saying. To notice that everything around us is communicating. I know there have been periods of my life where I’ve been so busy, I’ve forgotten to engage with nature, and I don’t want that to happen again. I hope that as a species, we can reconnect with the natural world and remember that we share our home with many incredible creatures.

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

Kira:  Oooh! I love this! “Are the animals based on the real personalities of animals you know?” Many of them are. Genghis Cat is based upon one of my own cats. Others are based on animals I’ve had encounters with either at my first job (I was a volunteer at a zoo as a child when I lived in Indonesia) or at some point in my life. To quote a line from the book, “Life isn’t the same once you know just how deeply a tree feels.” I think that applies to close encounters with all living things. My life has been touched and changed for the better by the wonderful creatures I’ve met.

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


“The trees hum and sing to one another, breathing love and story. They cannot run.”

“You can fuck off now. I have nothing more to say to you.” (Genghis Cat speaking the language of felines everywhere)

TQWhat's next?

Kira:  I think our vociferous little crow still has more to say! I love exploring the minds of animals, so I hope I get to stay in this world a little longer.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Kira:  Thank you so much for having me and for these wonderfully refreshing questions!

Hollow Kingdom
Grand Central Publishing, August 6, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow Kingdom
One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

Then Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn’t quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies–from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis–fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.

Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.

About Kira

Interview with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow Kingdom
Kira Jane Buxton’s writing has appeared in the New York Times,, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Huffington Post, and more. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle, Washington, home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, and a husband.

Website  ~  Twitter @KiraJaneWrites  ~  Facebook

Interview with Michael Rutger, author of The Anomaly

Please welcome Michael Rutger to The Qwillery, as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Anomaly is published on June 19th by Grand Central Publishing.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Michael a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Michael Rutger, author of The Anomaly

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

Michael:  I moved around the world a lot when I was a young kid, because of my father’s job (he was an academic). My mother had taught me to read by the time I was four, partly as a way of keeping me occupied, I suspect — and so I always read a lot. When I was in my early teens I started writing a kids’ adventure story based on a series of books I’d read and re-read many times. I discovered that writing the beginning of a story is fun and pretty easy, but then it gets much harder. That hasn’t changed.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Michael:  A little of both. I have sketched out whole stories — though rarely — and I do plot sections sometimes. But usually I start off just with the underlying ideas, characters, and some sense of where I’m headed… and let it evolve from there. THE ANOMALY was a little different because it’s tightly structured in the second half, and so a natural-born hybrid had to tilt a little more toward plotter on this occasion.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about novel writing?

Michael:  Working out a compelling plot is always challenging, but the first hard thing is choosing what to write. Ideas come easily. The challenge is deciding which of them is worth the commitment of a year of your life, and which truly has the potential to expand from being a simple “What if?” or question mark in your head into something that will provide a strong enough scaffold for a narrative experience that will engage the reader throughout an entire book.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does writing for film affect (or not) your novel writing?

Michael:  Like all writers, I’m influenced by other writers. You start off trying to emulate the writers you enjoy — and trying to recreate the experience they give you in their books — even if only unconsciously. After a while you realize you’ve left that behind and are trying to find and then refine your own voice, your own take on the world and the stories to be found in it. Writing for film yields a helpfully different perspective on the process. In prose you can simply tell people things, in words. In movies and TV, it’s much better to show them. Bringing a little of that to novels, by presenting the reader with images and scenes and letting them do the work of interpreting what’s going on, and what it says about the characters, can make a book a more visceral and immersive experience.

TQDescribe The Anomaly in 140 characters or less.

Michael:  Can I go with the new 280 character limit?

“YouTube archeologist Nolan Moore and his team set out to retrace the steps of an explorer who claimed to discover a mysterious cavern in the Grand Canyon. For once, he may have actually found what he seeks… but also possibly the end of the world.”

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

Michael:  Every single thing that is presented as fact, is a fact. The history, the back story, the myths and legends… it’s all true. The fun for me, and the challenge, was taking all that true stuff and making something quite untrue out of it — while remaining credible.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Anomaly?

Michael:  I’ve been fascinated by unsolved mysteries and strange things about the world and pre-history my whole life. With THE ANOMALY, I felt that I’d finally found a way of taking that obsession into novel form. When I realized this, and the character of Nolan Moore appeared in my head, I knew I’d found what I’d wanted to write.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Anomaly?

Michael:  Quite by accident, I came upon the story of an explorer who claimed to have found something buried deep in the Grand Canyon. After that I nosed around, trying to find out anything that had been found to confirm it… and found nothing. So instead I researched local Native American myths, tied it with things I already knew about speculative areas in American history, and mixed it all together into something strange and different…

TQ Please tell us about the cover for The Anomaly.

Michael:  THE ANOMALY is about a very old mystery, buried deep in a cave system. The cover image captures that well… evoking the locale and the intrigue, without giving anything away.

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

Michael:  THE ANOMALY is told in a first person voice—Nolan Moore, the central character. He was the easiest character to write, because I really enjoy writing in the first person: it makes it feel as if you’re telling a story to someone sitting right there in front of you. That also made him the hardest person to write, however, because he has to convey a universe through his description of events and his internal dialog — evoking not only his own story and feelings, but those of all the other characters.

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


Question: I love THE ANOMALY, its characters and the way it prizes open the door on our understanding of the world, showing us some of the mysteries lurking underneath. Will there be any more like it???

Answer: Yes ;-)

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

Michael:  Hard for me to choose a favorite quote from my own writing, so instead I’ll give you the two epigraphs I used for the first part of the novel, which I think capture some of that the book is about…

It’s the loss of the Grail that sets us out
on the Quest, not the finding.
Martin Shaw
The Snowy Tower

5. The Lord saw that the wickedness
of man was great in the earth,
and that every intention of the thoughts
of his heart was only evil continually.
— Genesis,Chapter 6

TQWhat’s next?

Michael:  At the moment I’m halfway through a sequel to THE ANOMALY, and also working with a company in Hollywood who are aiming to bring THE ANOMALY to the big screen… fingers crossed.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michael:  A huge pleasure — thank you for having me!

The Anomaly
Grand Central Publishing, June 19, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Michael Rutger, author of The Anomaly
“A taut, take-no-prisoners thriller, lean and fast as an express train.”–Preston & Child, #1 New York Times bestselling authors

Not all secrets are meant to be found.

If Indiana Jones lived in the X-Files era, he might bear at least a passing resemblance to Nolan Moore — a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the “real” experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists.

Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways.

Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?

About Michael

Michael Rutger is a screenwriter whose work has been optioned by major Hollywood studios. He lives in California with his wife and son.

Interview with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Hollow KingdomInterview with Michael Rutger, author of The Anomaly

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