The Qwillery | category: Interview | (page 1 of 58)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Marina Lostetter

Please welcome Marina Lostetter back to The Qwillery. The Helm of Mindnight, the first novel in the The Five Penalties series, was published on April 13, 2021 by Tor Books.

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery! When we first chatted in 2017 you answered the questions regarding the most challenging thing for you about writing as follows:

"The upside to plotting for me is the focus it brings to drafting a story--the words flow well once I know where I'm going and what I'm trying to say. The downside is my tendency to try to bend the characters to fit the plot. I often write myself into corners because I want events to happen a certain way, but it doesn’t make sense for the characters to make the choices I want them to. " [Interview here.]

What has changed as far as writing challenges for you?

Marina:  Everything above still holds true. There is one new challenge I've encountered now that I'm five novels into my career, and that's coming to terms with the fact that each novel writing experience is completely different. I'll start out thinking, I can write this really quickly--draft it efficiently--because I've written a novel before, I know exactly how this will go, but then, inevitably, each book has its own nuances that make drafting completely different process than before. Either I'm trying to tackle a structure that's different, or I'm writing a character that just won't "behave," or thematically things just won't fit together easily. Each creative project is unique unto itself.

TQ:  What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when your first novel was published that you know now?

Marina:  Book releases are exhausting! There's a lot involved in a writing career besides butt-in-chair writing time. The more writing you do, the more "authoring" you do as well.

TQ:  Your prior novels have been Science Fiction. The Helm of Midnight is your first fantasy novel. What appeals to you about writing fantasy?

Marina:  I love the freedom of magic. The ability to create in-depth histories and versions of "physics" that have very little to do with reality. I can make monsters, I can make gods, I can built impossible cities.

TQ:  Describe The Helm of Midnight using only 5 words.

Marina:  I'm going to steal five words from some of the wonderful authors who blurbed the book: Bloody, ambitious, mind-ripping, beautiful, and vicious.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Helm of Midnight that is not in the book description.

Marina:  The valley of Arkensyre, in which the story takes place, is sealed off from the outside world. It's protected by the gods from the wastelands, where all manner of monsters roam. Only one kind of monster can make it past the god-barrier, and that's varger--hulking creatures that look half-bear, half-dog, which are covered in boils and only have a taste for human flesh. They can't be killed, just reduced to a fog and bottled away in enchanted glass.

But they might not all be as monstrous as they seem.

TQ:  Does The Helm of Midnight, the first novel in The Five Penalties series, share anything thematically with your Noumenon SF series?

Marina:  I tend to write about characters trying to do their best and be better people, even when their "best" is sincerely awful. Also, in the Noumenon series, the characters start out thinking physics is behaving one way, when really it's behaving very differently. Similarly, the magic system in The Helm of Midnight appears to function a certain way, but there are layers to its functionality that have yet to be discovered.

TQ:  Please tell us about the cover for The Helm of Midnight.

Marina:  Sam Weber is the cover artists. On the front we see a Regulator (essentially a lawperson in charge of overseeing enchantments) in a very specific version of their uniform. White is reserved for a special occasion. I play a lot with color meaning in The Helm of Midnight.

TQ:  In The Helm of Midnight who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Marina:  Melanie came the most naturally to me, but that might be because I've "known" her the longest. She featured in the original short story The Helm of Midnight is based on, which I wrote a decade ago now. Individually, Krona and her sister, De-Lia, weren't that difficult to write, but I'd say their relationship was one of the toughest to get right. They have a very push-and-pull kind of sisterhood. Sometimes they're rivals, sometimes they're codependent, but there's a lot of love and respect between them, even when their relationship is rocky.

TQ:  Does The Helm of Midnight touch on any social issues?

Marina:  Part of The Helm of Midnight deals with being a cog in a bad system, and how society can push us to do things we might not otherwise do. Thematically it asks things like, what are our individual roles in upholding broken systems? In what ways can we use bad systems to try to do good things regardless? At what point are we truly bad people, and the system doesn't matter? Does intent matter? Do the ends ever justify truly terrible means?

There's also a lot of focus on bodily autonomy.

TQ:  Which question about The Helm of Midnight do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Marina:  I wish more people would ask about the deities, because the Valley's creation myth and the gods' roles aren't just set dressing or back story. They're extremely integral to the plot of the first novel, as well as the over-arching plot of the trilogy. Essentially, the Valley has five gods, which correspond to the five kinds of magic: Time, Nature, Knowledge, Emotion, and the Unknown. But there's also a sixth deity, the Thalo. The Thalo created the world and the monsters, but not the humans. It sees humans as unfit, poorly formed abominations. Its sinister influence is a constant drive in The Five Penalties series.

TQ:  What's next?

Marina:  I have another book coming out this year! ACTIVATION DEGRADATION is releasing on September 28, 2021. It's a thriller-esque sci fi novel set in Jovian space, featuring soft robots, queer space pirates, action-adventure, and unreliable narration.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Marina:  Thank you so much for having me!

The Helm of Midnight
The Five Penalties 1
Tor Books, April 13, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages
Hannibal meets Mistborn in Marina Lostetter’s THE HELM OF MIDNIGHT, the dark and stunning first novel in a new trilogy that combines the intricate worldbuilding and rigorous magic system of the best of epic fantasy with a dark and chilling thriller.

In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power—the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city.

Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question.

It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

About Marina

Marina J. Lostetter (she/her) is the author of Noumenon and Noumenon: Infinity. This is her first foray into fantasy. Originally from Oregon, she now resides in Arkansas with her husband, Alex. When not writing or drawing she can often be found reading spec-fic, or playing it (she enjoys a good zombie-themed board game now and again). And she does it all while globetrotting. Visit her online at or follow her on Twitter @MarinaLostetter.

Interview with Kevin Hearne

Please welcome Kevin Hearne to The Qwillery. Ink & Sigil, a novel From the World of the Iron Druid Chronciles, was published by Del Rey on August 25, 2020.

Interview with Kevin Hearne

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery! We last chatted in 2011. Since then you have completed The Iron Druid Chronicles, started new series, and now have returned the world of The Iron Druid Chronicles. How has your writing process changed since Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles 1) was published? 

Kevin:  Hounded was completely pantsed, as they say, with no outline whatsoever. I stopped to research as needed as I figured things out. Now I write outlines and then skip around the book nonlinearly to make sure I'm productive every day and don't get stuck on an early chapter when a really fun chapter is waiting to be written. It allows me to draft much quicker than writing from beginning to end with no idea of how it will turn out. 

TQ:  Why have you returned to the World of the Iron Druid Chronicles with Ink & Sigil? 

Kevin:  I love the world, basically, where all religions, all pantheons are real, the gods and monsters just out of our sight, and we have our modern accoutrements to distract us from what's really going on. 

TQ:  How does this new series fit in with The Iron Druid Chronicles? 

Kevin:  Al MacBharrais is a sigil agent, and they write and enforce magical contracts that have to do with the rights of gods and monsters to visit our world. The Iron Druid would occasionally do this work—kick demons back to hell or what have you—but there was a lot more work to be done than what a single Druid could handle, so Brighid made sigil agents to pick up the slack. 

TQ:  Describe Ink & Sigil using only 5 words. 

Kevin:  Whisky, magic, and wizard vans! 

TQ:  Tell us something about Ink & Sigil that is not found in the book description. 

Kevin:  Its very serious subject regards human trafficking, though it is primarily viewed through the lens of Fae trafficking. 

TQ:  Does Ink & Sigil touch on any social issues? 

Kevin:  It does. It tackles the widespread issue of human trafficking, and research for that was pretty harrowing. 

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Ink & Sigil. 


"A toast! Tae inks and sigils and straight razors, tae good bosses and wizards on lizards, tae outsmarting evil when ye can and kicking its arse when ye cannae do that, and tae distillers of fine spirits everywhere. Sláinte!"

TQ:  Thank you for joining us again at The Qwillery!

Ink & Sigil
From the World of the Iron Druid Chronicles
Del Rey, August 25, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Kevin Hearne
New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne returns to the world of his beloved Iron Druid Chronicles in a spin-off series about an eccentric master of rare magic solving an uncanny mystery in Scotland. 

“Ink & Sigil is escape reading, and I loved every word.”—Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of A Longer Fall 

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae. 

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse. 

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective—while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

About Kevin

Interview with Kevin Hearne

Kevin Hearne
hugs trees, pets doggies, and rocks out to heavy metal. He also thinks tacos are a pretty nifty idea. He is the author of The Seven Kennings series and the New York Times bestselling series The Iron Druid Chronicles, and co-author of The Tales of Pell with Delilah S. Dawson.

Twitter @Kevin Hearne

Photo © Kimberly Hearne

Interview with Signe Pike, author of The Lost Queen Trilogy

Please welcome Signe Pike to The Qwillery. The Lost Kingdom, the 2nd novel in The Lost Queen Trilogy, was published on September 15th by Atria Books.
TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Forgotten Kingdom (The Lost Queen 2), was published on September 15th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Lost Queen (2018) to The Forgotten Kingdom?
Signe:  Thanks for having me back! With this second book I’ve had the chance to experiment with some new writing elements that I found very exciting – writing from multiple perspectives being one. The Forgotten Kingdom also taught me new lessons about trusting my instincts, and listening to my inner voice that brought some magical results. 
TQ:  In our last interview you stated that the most challenging thing about writing for you is "Drowning out the voice of my inner critic and keeping my mind focused on the task at hand." Have your challenges changed? 
Signe:  The challenge with this book was trusting, and time. I had to give enough slack on the rope and hope the story would take me where I wanted to end up. And it did! With this book, I felt much more confident about writing fiction, and I knew and loved my characters so well, the inner critic isn’t quite as loud. 
TQ:  What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when The Lost Queen came out that you know now? 
Signe:  Honestly, there’s nothing in my perception of publishing that has changed. It’s a beautiful, resilient creature, book sales are up 12% this year across the industry, even as we’ve experienced such tremendous difficulty as a country. People need stories now more than ever, myself included. They are sacrosanct. 
TQ:  Tell us something about The Forgotten Kingdom that is not in the book description. 
Signe:  This book might make you cry. If it doesn’t, you might not be human. 
TQ:  Which character in the The Lost Queen series (so far) surprised you the most? Do you have a favorite character (we won't tell the others)?
Signe:  I love all my protagonists, but in The Forgotten Kingdom, I developed a particular fondness for some of the new characters who showed up. Muirenn, Talorcan, and especially Diarmid. I love his ornery sense of humor.
TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Forgotten Kingdom. 
Signe:  “I do not know whether I fear him or am calling him as I stand upon the boulder, high above the iron salt waters, looking out over the winter hills. I stand upon the boulder and wait for Rhydderch and his men. I wait. I watch. And I remember.” I’d been stuck trying to figure out how to begin The Forgotten Kingdom, waiting for Lailoken to come close. When he finally strode onto the page, this was what I heard. I built the book around these words. 
TQ:  Is there anything that you can share about the TV series? 
Signe:  Nothing in TV or film is ever certain, but there is such an incredible team behind these books, and so far, things are still in the works. 
TQ:  What's next? 
Signe:  I’m looking forward to settling back into my office and diving into the research again as I start thinking about the third book in the trilogy. The research is what gets me excited. I find something that it seems no one else has discovered or written about, and it makes my pulse skip a beat. When I come across something and think, “How does no one know about this?” That usually means it’s an element that will surface in the book. I love piecing historical clues back together. That feels like my purpose. 
TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery. 
Signe:  I hope I’ll “see you” again for book three! In the meantime, I’ll be working away…. 
The Forgotten Kingdom
The Lost Queen 2
Atria Books, September 15, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 496 pages
From the author of The Lost Queen, hailed as “Outlander meets Camelot” (Kirsty Logan, author of Things We Say in the Dark) and “The Mists of Avalon for a new generation” (Linnea Hartsuyker, author of The Golden Wolf), a new novel in which a forgotten queen of sixth century Scotland claims her throne as her family is torn apart and war looms.

AD 573. Imprisoned in her chamber, Languoreth awaits news in torment. Her husband and son have ridden off to wage war against her brother, Lailoken. She doesn’t yet know that her young daughter, Angharad, who was training with Lailoken to become a Wisdom Keeper, has been lost in the chaos. As one of the bloodiest battles of early medieval Scottish history scatters its survivors to the wind, Lailoken and his men must flee to exile in the mountains of the Lowlands, while nine-year-old Angharad must summon all Lailoken has taught her and follow her own destiny through the mysterious, mystical land of the Picts.

In the aftermath of the battle, old political alliances unravel, opening the way for the ambitious adherents of the new religion: Christianity. Lailoken is half-mad with battle sickness, and Languoreth must hide her allegiance to the Old Way to survive her marriage to the next Christian king of Strathclyde. Worst yet, the new King of the Angles is bent on expanding his kingdom at any cost. Now the exiled Lailoken, with the help of a young warrior named Artur, may be the only man who can bring the Christians and the pagans together to defeat the encroaching Angles. But to do so, he must claim the role that will forever transform him. He must become the man known to history as “Myrddin.”

Bitter rivalries are ignited, lost loves are found, new loves are born, and old enemies come face-to-face with their reckoning in this compellingly fresh look at one of the most enduring legends of all time.
The Lost Queen
The Lost Queen 1
Atria Books, June 4, 2019
Trade Paperback, 560 pages
Hardcover and eBook, September 4, 2018

Interview with Signe Pike, author of The Lost Queen Trilogy
Outlander meets Camelot” (Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers) in the first book of an exciting historical trilogy that reveals the untold story of Languoreth—a powerful and, until now, tragically forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland—twin sister of the man who inspired the legendary character of Merlin.

Intelligent, passionate, rebellious, and brave, Languoreth is the unforgettable heroine of The Lost Queen, a tale of conflicted loves and survival set against the cinematic backdrop of ancient Scotland, a magical land of myths and superstition inspired by the beauty of the natural world. One of the most powerful early medieval queens in British history, Languoreth ruled at a time of enormous disruption and bloodshed, when the burgeoning forces of Christianity threatened to obliterate the ancient pagan beliefs and change her way of life forever.

Together with her twin brother Lailoken, a warrior and druid known to history as Merlin, Languoreth is catapulted into a world of danger and violence. When a war brings the hero Emrys Pendragon, to their door, Languoreth collides with the handsome warrior Maelgwn. Their passionate connection is forged by enchantment, but Languoreth is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of the High King who is sympathetic to the followers of Christianity. As Rhydderch's wife, Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way, her kingdom, and all she holds dear.

“Moving, thrilling, and ultimately spellbinding” (BookPage), The Lost Queen brings this remarkable woman to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of the most enduring legends of all time. “Moving, thrilling, and ultimately spellbinding, The Lost Queen is perfect for readers of historical fiction like The Clan of the Cave Bear and Wolf Hall, and for lovers of fantasy like Outlander and The Mists of Avalon” (BookPage).
About Signe
Photograph by Tiffany Mizzell
Signe Pike is the author of The Lost Queen, The Forgotten Kingdom, and the travel memoir Faery Tale, and has researched and written about Celtic history and folklore for more than a decade. Visit her at
Twitter @SignePike
Photograph by Tiffany Mizzell

Interview with Jon Richter

Please welcome Jon Richter to The Qwillery. Auxiliary: London 2039, Jon's most recent novel, was published in May by TCK Publishing.


Interview with Jon Richter

The QwilleryWelcome to The Qwillery. Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jon Richter: I’ve actually never heard of a ‘hybrid’ before, but I love the idea of such a disturbing experiment, stitching the two approaches together to create some sort of horrifying Frankenstein’s Writer! I am probably closer to a ‘pantser’ these days –my first couple of books were meticulously planned before I started writing, only to find the stories veering wildly off track as soon as I got going! So now I’m happier to go with the flow, scribble down an outline and just dive in to see what emerges…

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? 

JR:  Sadly I don’t make enough money from writing to rely it on it for my full-time income, so I have to juggle it alongside a busy day job. I was foolish enough to become a qualified accountant in my younger days, so although I’m very lucky to be able to earn good money, it does mean that my working hours can be very long and challenging… and it can sometimes be difficult to switch my brain out of numbers mode and into words!

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? 

JR:  I love dark fiction of all kinds, and in many forms of media: books, movies, TV shows and video games are all fantastic sources of inspiration. I love stories that are original, unpredictable and leave a lingering chill… recent favourites include the book House Of Leaves by Mark Danielewski (never have I felt so keenly that a book was reading me as much as I was reading it…) and the video game Pathologic 2, which told a haunting tale of a plague outbreak in a fantasy setting. When I spent the first two days saving up fictional currency to buy a gun from a dodgy bloke at the docks, only to find two days later that the town’s economy had collapsed and I was having to trade the gun for a loaf of bread just to avoid starving to death, I knew I was experiencing a masterpiece!

TQDescribe Auxiliary: London 2039 using only 5 words. 
JR:  Where our technology might lead…

TQTell us something about Auxiliary: London 2039 that is not found in the book description
JR:  This is a great question! Hmmm… okay, the first thing that’s popped into my head is a bit about the game’s omnipresent AI ‘overseer’, TIM (The Imagination Machine). A little like an extremely beefed-up version of Alexa, TIM runs everything: he flies the planes, he reads your children bedtime stories, he makes your coffee, and he’s your constant companion, available to speak to you whenever you like. I wanted to make this character very different from the more typical ‘evil AI’ trope that proliferates science fiction, but also not necessarily motivated by good either. TIM is a tool, nothing more: a neural network that learns from vast quantities of data to simulate consciousness to better serve its human creators. 
When researching other fictional AIs, I stumbled across ‘AM’, the Allied Mastercomputer, who appears in Harlan Ellison’s short story I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream (what a title). The short story is certainly worth a read, but is most notable for being the alleged inspiration for Skynet in the Terminator movies – indeed, Ellison settled out of court following the first film’s release, and was given a sum of money as well as an acknowledgement in the credits. 
AM is not the sort of AI I wanted to create, but is a fascinating character nonetheless: it despises humanity with a passion, so much so that it wipes out all humans except for five hand-picked victims who it intends to torture for all eternity. The video game version of the story features an incredible, hate-fuelled rant, which I recently learned was actually voiced by none other than Harlan himself!

Check it out here if you want to hear what our AIs might grow to think of us…

TQWhat inspired you to write Auxiliary: London 2039? 
JR:  I am fascinated by modern technological trends and developments, and the book was really an attempt to project forward into the near future, when things like driverless cars, smarter AIs, cybernetics, augmented reality and rudimentary robots will become much more commonplace.
I have always loved classic murder mysteries and noir detective stories, and when an image popped into my head one day – of a crime scene with a dead body mashed into a wall, a severed cybernetic arm protruding out from its crushed face into the room, while detectives took photographs and pondered what had happened – I couldn’t resist making my first foray into the world of cyberpunk!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Auxiliary: London 2039?

JR:  As mentioned above, I’m really interested in modern technology, and so researching the book was a labour of love! It gave me a great excuse to read about all manner of emerging innovations, such as the Brain Computer Interfaces being developed by the likes of Neuralink which really could transform our society (imagine being able to talk just by ‘thinking’ to each other?) 
One of the most interesting subjects I stumbled upon was the field of synthetic meat. I don’t just mean meat substitutes made from mushroom or soya or whatever – I mean actual, vat-grown protein grown from stem cells that is indistinguishable from the real thing. It looks and tastes like chicken because it is chicken – just chicken that’s been cultivated in a laboratory. This technology already exists, and if its developers can reduce the cost then there’s a very real chance this could completely replace traditionally farmed meat in the coming years… and could also mean that we find ourselves able to grow and eat the meat of more exotic animals, because there would no longer be any need to kill them. 
And why stop at panda steaks and polar bear fillets? Soon we might find exclusive restaurants selling meat from our favourite celebrities… Beyonce Burgers, anyone?

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Auxiliary: London 2039. 
JR:  To my shame I actually don’t know the name of the artist, but I certainly think TCK Publishing did a fantastic job with the book’s cover. It depicts the afore-mentioned mechanical arm, and the central mystery that drives the book’s plot – and also leaves the reader with no doubt about the type of book they are about to enjoy! Metal prosthetics like this are such an iconic cyberpunk image that it felt like an absolutely perfect piece of cover art.

TQIn Auxiliary: London 2039 who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
JR:  The main character, Carl Dremmler, is a bitter and selfish man, but also honourable and good-natured at his heart. In some ways, he is similar to me – struggling at times to exist in modern society, always feeling a little behind the curve, riddled with irrational neuroses and prejudices he is unaware of, trying but not always succeeding to do the right thing – so to write him I really just had to crank up the dial on some of my own flaws. 
Conversely, writing TIM was a challenge, as I had to make a huge effort to think in a very different way. TIM is ruthlessly logical, but his actions and the way he communicates are born from a very different type of intellect: an intellect forged not from nurture, but from billions of terabytes of uploaded data. I am particularly proud of the poem that TIM writes during the story, which I hope captures the AI’s motivations and mindset.

TQDoes Auxiliary: London 2039 touch on any social issues? 
JR:  I wanted to consider the impact of emerging technology on society in a realistic way. For example, just because new building methods exist doesn’t mean that all existing housing stock will be demolished and replaced with some sort of dystopian metropolis: people are likely to be living in the same existing housing for many decades to come. 
However, I do think there will be some fundamental changes, particularly a trend towards greater social isolation (especially following the COVID outbreak). We are already seeing this manifesting in the form of services like UberEats (why go out for food when you can have it brought to your door?), Amazon (why go to the shop when you can order everything you need online?) and the staggering rate of improvement in the levels of immersion offered by video gaming (why interact with friends in person when it’s more interesting to do so via Minecraft, or Fortnite?) 
If you couple this with the inevitable decimation of the workforce (automation will, without doubt, reduce the number of jobs available, and the government will need to find new economic systems to cope with a population where the majority, not the minority, are unemployed, rendered obsolete by technology such as driverless cars and sophisticated AIs) then our society will face a very real challenge in providing stimulation and motivation for a population that spends most of its time sitting around indoors.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Auxiliary: London 2039.
JR:  Well I’ve already shared the book’s central mystery, so here’s the scene where Dremmler first learns about the crime he’s about to be dispatched to investigate: 
‘He nearly decapitates his girlfriend, then calls to hand himself in? And then, what, cuts his own arm off? He sounds like a piece of work.
Maggie drew a long pull on the eCig, the swirling vapour almost hiding her face from view. ‘That’s the fun part. He’s saying he didn’t do it. He’s saying it was the arm.’

And then a little snippet of conversation between Dremmler and TIM, where the former is trying to understand the AI’s approach to morality: 
‘But how do you decide what’s right and what’s wrong?’
‘I don’t. My decisions are based solely on probabilities, statistics, and frequencies. The world has already decided what’s right and wrong; I merely observe, and imitate.’

TQWhat's next? 
JR:  Before sitting down to this interview I was working on the first round of edits for a ‘sidequel’ to Auxiliary, exploring how TIM might react to a pandemic similar to the one that’s turned our lives upside down in 2020. It’s a very different sort of novel to its predecessor, and in typical ‘pantser’ style has gone completely off the rails, but I’m hoping to bring it to you all very soon!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

JR:  It has been my absolute pleasure. Thank you for listening to my sinister ramblings!

Auxiliary: London 2039
TCK Publishing, May 3, 2020
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 223 pages
Interview with Jon Richter
The silicon revolution left Dremmler behind but a good detective is never obsolete.

London is quiet in 2039—thanks to the machines. People stay indoors, communicating through high-tech glasses and gorging on simulated reality while 3D printers and scuttling robots cater to their every whim. Mammoth corporations wage war for dominance in a world where human augmentation blurs the line between flesh and steel. 

And at the center of it all lurks The Imagination Machine: the hyper-advanced, omnipresent AI that drives our cars, flies our planes, cooks our food, and plans our lives. Servile, patient, tireless … TIM has everything humanity requires. Everything except a soul.

Through this silicon jungle prowls Carl Dremmler, police detective—one of the few professions better suited to meat than machine. His latest case: a grisly murder seemingly perpetrated by the victim’s boyfriend. Dremmler’s boss wants a quick end to the case, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the heinous crime, not him. An advanced prosthetic, controlled by a chip in his skull.

A chip controlled by TIM.

Dremmler smells blood: the seeds of a conspiracy that could burn London to ash unless he exposes the truth. His investigation pits him against desperate criminals, scheming businesswomen, deadly automatons—and the nightmares of his own past. And when Dremmler finds himself questioning even TIM’s inscrutable motives, he’s forced to stare into the blank soul of the machine.

Auxiliary is gripping, unpredictable, and bleakly atmospheric—ideal for fans of cyberpunk classics like the Blade Runner movies, Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and the Netflix original series Black Mirror

About Jon
Interview with Jon Richter

Jon Richter writes dark fiction, including his three gripping crime thrillers, Deadly Burial, Never Rest and Rabbit Hole, his recent cyberpunk noir thriller Auxiliary: London 2039, as well as two collections of short horror fiction, volumes one and two of Jon Richter's Disturbing Works
Jon lives in London and is a self-confessed nerd who loves books, films and video games – basically any way to tell a great story. He writes whenever he can, and hopes to bring you more macabre tales in the very near future. He also co-hosts the Dark Natter podcast, a fortnightly dissection of the greatest works of dark fiction, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcast fix. 
If you want to chat to him about any of this, you can find him on Twitter @RichterWrites or Instagram @jonrichterwrites. His website haunts the internet at, and you can find his books available on Amazon here:

Interview with Michael R. Underwood

Please welcome Michael R. Underwood to The Qwillery! Annihilation Aria, the first novel in his new Space Opera series, is published on July 21, 2020 by Parvus Press.

Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Michael a Happy Book Birthday!

Interview with Michael R. Underwood

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel Annihilation Aria is published on July 21st. Over the years, what has become less challenging for you as a writer? More challenging?

MRU:  It’s gotten a bit easier for me to ride the ups and downs of publishing, but easier is not easy. It’s still an industry where getting better as a writer is no guarantee that your books will do better commercially. And that’s very discouraging. Writing books themselves have gotten easier and harder. Easier as I learn how to be more flexible in my process, responding to each book with the approach that works for it. Harder because I keep raising the bar for myself and in rising to the challenges posed to me by editors like my editor on Annihilation Aria, Kaelyn Considine. Aria is my best attempt (so far) to write a fun adventure story while adding more emotional depth and interesting worldbuilding.

TQDescribe Annihilation Aria using only 5 words.

MRU:  Space archaeology gets very complicated.

TQPlease tell us something about Annihilation Aria that is not found in the book description.

MRU:  Something I’ve already gotten positive feedback about with regards to the book is people saying they really like seeing a book with a happily-married couple in it. Max and Lahra start the novel already well into their relationship, but it’s one that is still loving and affectionate, even if they have their problems like any other couple. Being happily married myself, I wanted to help contribute to the body of works that feature established couples rather than only ever showing the meet-cute and the whirlwind romance.

TQWhich character in the Annihilation Aria was the most fun to write?

MRU:  The more time I spent developing her people’s culture, the more fun Lahra became to write. She became a way for me to play with the idea of the Warrior People, with Lahra as one of the few remaining members of her people’s warrior caste. I loved developing the worldbuilding for how she relates to the song magic of her people and her inherited quest to find and restore the lost heir.

TQAnnihilation Aria is a space opera? What makes a story a "space opera"?

MRU:  Generally, I agree with the reading of space opera as the science fiction analogue to epic fantasy. Space opera as a term riffs on horse opera, an old name for westerns. In modern science fiction, space opera has broadened to cover a wide range of science fiction, from series like The Expanse to Star Wars to Dune and many projects in between. Some space opera overlaps with military SF, some overlaps more with space fantasy (Annihilation Aria among them).

For this book, I leaned into a literal definition of space opera by having Lahra’s people use song magic, with Lahra’s battle songs featuring prominently in the actions sequences of the novel. Which made it fun and let me give the series (only one book commissioned so far) the cheeky title of “The Space Operas.” And if I get to write more books, I can give them equally fun titles like Chaos Canto or the like.

TQYour novels often (but not always) subtly pay homage to various genres and/or geekdoms. I particularly enjoy this in a novel. Will we be treated to this in Annihilation Aria?

MRUAnnihilation Aria was inspired by Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, and some other space opera series. Reviewers have talked about Aria playing with 1908s space opera tropes but with updated sensibilities, and that’s definitely the approach I took in writing it. Most of my work so far has been focused on fun, adventure storytelling but done with as much inclusivity as I can manage.

TQDoes Annihilation Aria touch on any social issues?

MRU:  When I started writing Aria in 2015, its political edge was not as sharp as the final result. Then November 2016 happened. I decided to lean into that anger at the rise of US authoritarianism instead of shying away from it. The evil empire in this book is not at all the same as Trumpism in the USA, but the book definitely became more anti-authoritarian and revolutionary. Empires and the struggle against them are fairly common in space opera, but I tried to be a bit more pointed about the details of how authoritarianism and fascism creates systems of social control by limiting free speech, limiting movement, etc. All while still crafting a novel more about adventure and heroism than oppression and tragedy.

TQWhich question about Annihilation Aria do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Made up question: Why a greatsword for Lahra’s sword of station?

MRU:  Great question! Greatswords were used as a weapon of choice by some bodyguards in renaissance Europe. A greatsword is heavier and harder to control than a longsword, but its size and strength makes it great for clearing and controlling space. I’ve studied a bit of greatsword technique from the Iberian Peninsula as well as other Iberian swordplay, and I jumped at the opportunity to showcase greatswords in this project. Plus, epic fantasy and space opera already make space for Giant Ridiculous Swords, so most of what I had to do was bring my own martial arts knowledge to it and figure out how magical/martial arts movie-ish I wanted swordplay to be in this one.

TQ Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Annihilation Aria.

Lahra Kevain sang “Sahvo’s Embrace” to her armor in the sun-soaked cargo hold. The embrace was an aria of resilience and rebirth from the epic of Zhore, sung originally by a love-struck guardian to the princess who was her charge.

The song awakened the suit, allowing her armor to repair itself using the sun’s energy. The coral-steel resonated with her voice, stitching itself back together, scalloped ridges and joints sealing and smoothing over. One by one, traces of her and Max’s last misadventure faded, and the suit returned to its optimal form.

TQWhat's next?

MRU:  I’m not the fastest writer, so I’ve been working on ways to stay connected with writers and colleagues. The past couple of years, I’ve had a lot of fun writing essays on the craft of writing and the business of publishing at my Patreon ( I’ve covered topics from how the pandemic may impact publishing to how sub-rights work as well as building a quick one-shot for D&D and getting from concept to page one in a new writing project. Plus it has pictures of my very cute dog Oreo.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

MRU:  Thanks so much for having me back! Debuting back in 2012 feels simultaneously like just the other day and a lifetime ago, and I really appreciate the support and chance to get to grow along with the Qwillery audience.

Annihilation Aria
The Space Operas 1
Parvus Press, July 21, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Michael R. Underwood
Max is cheery xeno-archeologist from Earth, stranded and trying to find a way home. Lahra is a stern warrior of a nearly extinct race searching for her people’s heir. Wheel is the couple’s cybernetic pilot running from her past and toward an unknown future.

On Wheel’s ship, the Kettle, the trio traverses the galaxy, dodging Imperial patrols and searching ancient ruins for anything they can sell. The crew of the Kettle are deeply in debt to their home base’s most powerful gangster, and she wants her money back.  

So when a dangerous, but promising job comes their way, Max, Lahra, and Wheel have little choice but to take it. However, the crew of the Kettle gets more than they bargained for when they find themselves in possession of a powerful artifact, one that puts them in the crosshairs of the Vsenk, the galaxy’s ruthless and oppressive imperial overlords. 

Max, Lahra, and Wheel are pulled into a web of galactic subterfuge, ancient alien weaponry, a secret resistance force, lost civilizations, and giant space turtles.  The Vsenk will stop at nothing to recover what the crew of the Kettle has found and Max’s brains, Lahra’s muscle, and Wheel’s skills may be all that stands between entire planets and annihilation.  

Can they evade space fascists, kick-start a rebellion, and save the galaxy all while they each try to find their own way home?

About Michael

Interview with Michael R. Underwood
Michael R. Underwood is the author of over twelve books, including Annihilation Aria, Born to the Blade (an epic fantasy serial), the Ree Reyes Geekomancy series and Genrenauts, a series of novellas, which was a finalist for the r/Fantasy “Stabby” Award.

Mike grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. He holds a B.A. in Creative Mythology and in East Asian Studies from Indiana University and a M.A. in Folklore Studies from the University of Oregon.

In years past, he danced Argentine Tango and was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and studying historical martial arts. Mike has been a hobby game store clerk, a student archivist, a webmaster, a web design teacher, a bear-builder, a bookseller, an independent publishers’ representative, and more.

Mike lives in Baltimore with his wife, their dog Oreo, and an ever-growing library. He also loves geeking out with video & role-playing games, studying historical martial arts, and making pizzas from scratch. He is also a co-host on the actual play show Speculate! and a guest host on The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

Website  ~  Twitter @MikeRUnderwood  ~  Facebook

Interview with Raymond E. Feist

Please welcome Raymond E. Feist to The Qwillery. Queen of Storms (The Firemane Saga 2) is published today by Harper Voyager.

Interview with Raymond E. Feist

The QwilleryWelcome to The Qwillery. You have written over 30 novels. Has your writing process changed over the years?

Raymond E. Feist:  Parts of the process remain unchanged. The thinking the stuff up part, mostly is the same. Getting it down on paper has become a bit more expedient, what I think of as "writers muscle memory." I know when not to look for that perfect word, when to just put something down and come back later to rewrite. Another part is to expect less, that is to be willing to not have every chapter, page, word be priceless. "Murder your darlings" is often attributed to William Faulkner, but he got from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, but all good writers eventually come to understand what that means, and I sort of got it in my first book, but by book four I knew exactly what that meant. It references another often misquoted meme, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

TQQueen of Storms is the 2nd novel in your Firemane Saga after King of Ashes. How many novels do you have planned for The Firemane Saga?

RF:  It should be a three act play, more or less. My characters have a habit of lying to me from time to time, so the Serpentwar ended up four, and the Demonwar was only two. I do think the next one Master of Furies, will be the last of this series.

TQDescribe Queen of Storms using only 5 words.

RF:  Things Get Nasty Really Fast.

TQ Please tell us something about Queen of Storms that is not found in the publisher's book description. 

RF:  Like a lot of my previous books, there's a "things are not what they seem" element here, and I hope the readers find the surprises the sort that make sense rather than make them want to throw the book across the room, because some of those unexpected changes are terrible for the characters. So, surprises are not found in the description.

TQWho is your favorite character to write in The Firemane Saga so far?

RF:  I don't really have favorites, and never have. Some are a bit more fun to write about, so right now it's Hava and Bodai. Hava because I like strong women characters who aren't basically "a guy in drag," and Bodai because he's a teacher by nature, so I can pedantic in places and the reader blames him and not me.

TQWhich question about The Firemane Saga do you wish someone would ask? Please ask it and answer it!

RF:  I can't really think of anything. I've been doing this for almost 40 years now, and have been asked every sort of question from the dumb "what's the book about" by someone who's never read a word of mine to things so insightful my reaction was, "I wish I had thought of that." I think the reason your question is a bit odd for me is that I feel the work speaks for itself. I've observed younger writers try to explain their work, and always think, "Are you going to stand in the bookstore and explain to every reader what you meant?" The book speaks for itself or you are doing it wrong. I look at these interviews as either being to build interest in the coming work, or as retrospectives for me to explain the damnfool choices I made in previous works. I also spend more time avoiding spoilers than thinking about "why didn't they ask me this other thing."

TQDo The Firemane Saga and the Riftwar Cycle share anything thematically?

RF:  In some basic ways, sure. If I was to analyze my own work, which I only do in the editorial sense, not in any scholarly, critical theory fashion, it's that every human being is born into a world that makes no sense, and each of us seeks to bring some order out of chaos. In my writing, how that happens is a function of what sort of person the character is. What I love about that is I can have characters do things that are alien to how I look at everything, and I delight if I think I've pulled off a convincing journey for the reader. I've been taken to task upon occasion by someone who objected to something a character did, so for that reader it was a real thing. Having a character commit murder does not mean I'm personally in favor of murder, is an obvious example. So, overall, the common element in this series and the Riftware is that struggle for awareness and making sense out of an apparently chaotic universe. The tone should be similar as the same guy is writing both.

TQHow did it feel to start a new series after so many years with the Riftwar Cycle and are you completely finished with Riftwar?

RF:  I forgot how much time went into world building and constructing believable societies, cultures, and their relationships. The word that comes to mind is "humbling." What I thought I was "dash off" became a year's hard work, bordering on drudgery at times.

Nothing's ever finished. I could change my mind and do another series in Midkemia should I decide. There are always new stories. No one every asked Hemingway if he ran out of stories set on Earth, or Shakespeare why all his plays were set in Europe. So, I might go back to Midkemia someday. I might do another series on Garn, or I might go crazy and try to set up a whole third universe.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

RF:  You are very welcome.

Queen of Storms
The Firemane Saga 2
Harper Voyager, July 14, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Raymond E. Feist
Dark and powerful forces threaten the world of Garn once more in this second novel in legendary New York Times bestselling author Raymond E. Feist’s epic fantasy series, the Firemane Saga.

Hatushaly and his young wife Hava have arrived in the prosperous trading town of Beran’s Hill to restore and reopen the fire-damaged Inn of the Three Stars. They are also preparing for the popular midsummer festival, where their friends Declan and Gwen will be wed.

But Hatu and Hava are not the ordinary loving couple they appear to be. They are assassins from the mysterious island of Coaltachin, home to the powerful and lethal Nocusara, the fearsome “Hidden Warriors.” Posing as innkeepers, they are awaiting instructions from their masters in the Kingdom of Night.

Hatu conceals an even more dangerous secret. He is the last remaining member of the legendary Firemanes, the ruling family of Ithrace. Known as the Kingdom of Flames, Ithrace was one of the five greatest realms of Tembria, ruled by Hatu’s father, Stervern Langene, until he and his people were betrayed. His heir, Hatu—then a baby—was hidden among the Nocusara, who raised him to become a deadly spy.

Hatu works hard to hide his true identity from all who would seek to use or to destroy him, as fate has other plans for the noble warrior. Unexpected calamity forces him to make choices he could not have dreamed awaited him.

A series of horrific events shatters the peace of Beran’s Hill, bringing death and devastation and unleashing monstrous forces. Once more, the Greater Realms of Tembria are threatened—and nothing will ever be the same again.


King of Ashes
The Firemane Saga 1
Harper Voyager, January 29, 2019
Mass Market Paperback, 512 pages
Hardcover and eBook, May 8, 2018

Interview with Raymond E. Feist
The first volume in legendary master and New York Times bestselling author Raymond E. Feist’s epic heroic fantasy series, The Firemane Saga—an electrifying tale of two young men whose choices will determine a world’s destiny.

For centuries, the five greatest kingdoms of North and South Tembria, twin continents on the world of Garn, have coexisted in peace. But the balance of power is destroyed when four of the kingdoms violate an ancient covenant and betray the fifth: Ithrace, the Kingdom of Flames, ruled by Steveren Langene, known as "the Firemane" for his brilliant red hair. As war engulfs the world, Ithrace is destroyed and the Greater Realms of Tembria are thrust into a dangerous struggle for supremacy.

As a Free Lord, Baron Daylon Dumarch owes allegiance to no king. When an abandoned infant is found hidden in Daylon’s pavilion, he realizes that the child must be the missing heir of the slain Steveren. The boy is valuable—and vulnerable. A cunning and patient man, Daylon decides to keep the baby’s existence secret, and sends him to be raised on the Island of Coaltachin, home of the so-called Kingdom of Night, where the powerful and lethal Nocusara, the "Hidden Warriors," legendary assassins and spies, are trained.

Years later, another orphan of mysterious provenance, a young man named Declan, earns his Masters rank as a weapons smith. Blessed with intelligence and skill, he unlocks the secret to forging King’s Steel, the apex of a weapon maker’s trade known by very few. Yet this precious knowledge is also deadly, and Declan is forced to leave his home to safeguard his life. Landing in Lord Daylon’s provinces, he hopes to start anew.

Soon, the two young men—an unknowing rightful heir to a throne and a brilliantly talented young swordsmith—will discover that their fates, and that of Garn, are entwined. The legendary, long-ago War of Betrayal has never truly ended . . . and they must discover the secret of who truly threatens their world.

About the Author

Interview with Raymond E. Feist
© HarperCollins Publishers
Raymond E. Feist is the author of more than thirty previous books, including the internationally bestselling “Riftwar Cycle” of novels set in his signature world of Midkemia, as well as a standalone novel, Faerie Tale. The Firemane Saga is his first all-new epic fantasy series. He lives in San Diego, California.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @refeist

Interview with Sean McDonough

Please welcome Sean McDonough to The Qwillery. Sean is one of the fabulous horror writers that I met at CT HorrorFest last month. His most recent work is The Class Reunion which was released on October 29, 2019.

Interview with Sean McDonough

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

Sean:  The first thing I remember writing is an attempt at a Goosebumps book when I was ten. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that the plot revolved around a haunted carousel.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sean:  100% a pantser. I think if the writing is organic, the best thing I can do is get out of the way. The closest thing I do to plotting is a scribbled note in the margins for something I want to do twenty pages down the road.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sean:  The hardest thing for me is reminding myself that plot problems don’t have to unfold in a straight line. When I get to an interesting problem, my first instinct is to write out the solution with a battering ram. Good fiction comes with twists and turns, and I have to remind myself to keep the problem solving messy.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sean:  80s horror. The books and movies of that decade had such an honest, unpretentious embrace of the wild gruesomeness that makes horror the mainstay genre of sleepovers and weirdos at the back of the bus. I try to write my own work in a way that captures that joyful carnage.

TQWhat appeals to you about writing horror?

Sean:  I like that horror is about breaking the rules. The dead come back to life. The thing bumping under the bed really is a creature. We root for the monsters instead of the white knights. Everything that the world is supposed to be gets inverted in a horror story.

TQDescribe your new novella, The Class Reunion, using only 5 words.

Sean:  Classic slasher style served fresh.

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

Sean:  The easiest character was my main character Vickie. Her strengths and flaws really came together very early on. From there, I just had to sit back and see if she could survive the bloody gauntlet I laid out for her. The hardest was Alex. He’s one of the popular kids who, on the service, had it all put together. I had to find a way to get into his humanity without interrupting the flow of the story.

TQYou've described The Class Reunion as a slasher novella. For you what elements are essential for a slasher novella / novel?

Sean:  The most essential element is a memorable killer. It’s not enough to give a knife to a masked maniac, you have to make sure you do something to make him memorable. Which brings me to essential element number two- make sure the deaths are memorably outrageous.

TQDo you write any different types of horror? Tell us a bit about your other works.

Sean:  I write all kinds of horror. Aside from my previous slasher slasher novel, I’ve also written a creature feature and a massacre at a cursed amusement park.

TQ:   What's next?

Sean:  Up next is an old school witchcraft story with a grotesque twist.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sean:  Pleasure was all mine.

The Class Reunion
October 29, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 150 pages

Interview with Sean McDonough
The graduates of Saint Regina Academy have broken into their abandoned elementary school for an impromptu reunion.

...But there’s someone else inside the school with them. He wants their flesh. He wants their blood. And he’s going to make sure that this is a class reunion that nobody ever forgets.

About Sean

Interview with Sean McDonough
Raised on Goosebumps, the horror section at Blockbuster, and other things he shouldn't have been exposed to at eight years old, Sean McDonough is a fresh new voice in horror fiction. His books evoke a sense of gleeful gruesomeness and dark humor, perfect for keeping the Halloween spirit alive all year long.

You can follow me on Facebook at

Instagram at

And you can peruse my works at

Interview with Jay Allan

Please welcome Jay Allan to The Qwillery. The Emperor's Fist was published on August 20, 2019 by Harper Voyager.

Interview with Jay Allan

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

Jay:  I could probably come up with vague recollections of various things that never amounted to anything, but the first book I finished was Marines, which started my career.

TQYou've written well over 2 dozen novels. How has your writing process changed over the years?

Jay:  I’d say two things have changed. First, I’m a lot more comfortable, and the words flow more easily than they used to. Second, I’ve tried to pay attention to comments and reviews. You write something, but of course, you’re trying to make it resonate with the reader. If there is too much repetition, for example, or not enough, reader comments are the best way to see that.

TQIf you could not write Military SF what else would you write?

Jay:  I’d probably be writing cyber-thrillers and the like. I was a big Tom Clancy fan, and I also like books that are right on the line between thriller and SF. Think the Andromeda Strain and the like.

TQDescribe your latest Far Stars novel, The Emperor's Fist, using only 5 words.

Jay:  Emperor’s coming, and he’s pissed!

TQTell us something about The Emperor's Fist that is not found in the book description.

Jay:  For those who’ve read the earlier books in the series, Blackhawk is somewhat of a tortured character. In The Emperor’s Fist, we see more about his past, and we see him dealing with his greatest struggle resulting from that.

TQDo you need to read the Far Stars novels in order?

Jay:  I don’t think so. If you read The Emperor’s Fist and like it, the previous trilogy is sort of a prequel to you, but I think the new book works well as a standalone, too.

TQWhat's next?

Jay:  Well, I like to think I’m not done with Blackhawk and the other from the Far Stars, but I don’t know when I’ll get back to them. I’m continuing to work on my Blood on the Stars series, with book 14 coming out in September. Next year, I’ve got two new things coming, one that is really special that I still can’t share yet, and the other is a series about an alien invasion of Earth and the resistance to it. I’ve been planning that for a while, and I’m excited to finally get it started.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Emperor's Fist
A Blackhawk Novel
Far Stars 4
Harper Voyager, August 20, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Jay Allan
In this thrilling new installment in the Far Stars saga, a reluctant hero with a bloody past must reunite with an old love to battle an evil emperor willing to destroy all their worlds if he cannot control them.

When the Far Stars came under imperial attack, Astra Lucerne—the daughter and successor of the Far Stars’ greatest conqueror—Marshal Augustin Lucerne—rallied her father’s confederation forces to defend their worlds. They were joined in the fight by former imperial general Arkarin Blackhawk, a warrior whose skills and brutality made him infamous, and who has, for two decades, sought the redemption he knows is unreachable.

Now, with the imperial foothold in the sector eliminated, the Far Stars is free and almost united. While Astra’s forces continue to depose local tyrants and warlords, Ark and his crew have slipped back into the shadows. Though his heart belongs to Astra, Ark cannot get too close. His imperial conditioning remains under control, but it is still volatile, and the temptation of power threatens to unleash the dark compulsions that made him the most merciless of the emperor’s servants. He cannot risk allowing Astra to see the darkness inside him.

But while the battle has been won, the war may not be over. A petty smuggler makes a discovery that can enable the emperor to strike back and crush the resistance—unless Ark and Astra join forces again to stop him.

Interview with Jay Allan
Far Stars 1
Interview with Jay Allan
Far Stars 2
Interview with Jay Allan
Far Stars 3

About Jay

Interview with Jay Allan
Jay Allan is a former investor and the author of the Crimson Worlds series and the Far Stars Confederation series. When not writing, he enjoys traveling, running, hiking, and reading. He loves hearing from readers and always answers emails. He currently lives in New York City.

Website  ~  Twitter @jayallanwrites

Interview with Rena Rossner, author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood

Please welcome Rena Rossner to The Qwillery. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is now out in Trade Paperback from Redhook.

Interview with Rena Rossner, author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood

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

Rena:  I think I was in second grade, and it was a story about a bunny named Jenny LaHare. (There was also a real Jenny LaHare – a stuffed rabbit dressed in a pink flowered bonnet and dress and pinafore, who slept in my bed every night. I think I named her after my sister’s best friend Jen Levine…)

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

Rena:  I am a pantser and it is both a blessing and a curse. I am insanely jealous of authors who can plot out their novels – and authors who can plot in general. For me, my best work happens when I least expect it, and it is precisely when I decide exactly what will happen in a scene that my characters decide to do something completely different. But somehow, those are also the best moments – the places where magic happens. It’s really hard to trust yourself, to trust your subconscious, but it’s really what I’ve learned that I must do.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rena:  The most challenging thing for me about writing is plotting – I really love to let the story take me where it will, but that often means that my plots need work. I am much more invested in the lyricism of my sentences – the “prettiness” of the writing, than I am in the actual plot of the story, so I often have to force myself to focus, and that’s really hard. I also write really slowly, so I’m majorly envious of writers who can put down thousands of words in a session, while for me, every 100 words feel like a major victory.

TQDescribe The Sisters of the Winter Wood using only 5 words.

Rena:  A Jewish fairy tale about sisters. (That’s 5 if you don’t count the “A”!)

TQTell us something about The Sisters of the Winter Wood that is not found in the book description.

Rena:  There are moments when the forest comes alive, and also where things characters see in the woods are not exactly the reality. Those were some of the parts I enjoyed writing the most.

TQWhat appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy?

Rena:  Two things: One, that it is a space where I can re-insert women into the story. Most of history has been written by men, and in seeking testimony and stories about what life was like in Dubossary (the town my mother’s father’s family came from, on the border of Moldova and Ukraine,) in the late 1800s and early 1900s, nearly all the stories I was able to find were either by men or about men. But I know that were women there, and I know that they had stories to tell, that some of them were certainly heroines in their own right. But their stories were lost to me – their stories are lost to us. One of the only ways that we can get those stories back (after doing copious amounts of research into what was, and what might have been,) is to imagine them. And secondly, fantasy is a place where we can rewrite history. It is only in fairy tales and fantasy where anything can happen – heroes can become villains and villains get the chance to redeem themselves. It’s a really important space, because it can help us make sense of our present, and find ways to make sure that if we are faced with a similar situation, we may have the tools or the power to make different choices – to ensure a different outcome.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Sisters of the Winter Wood?

Rena:  I didn’t know much about the history of the real town of Dubossary when I first started out. I was simply looking for a place to set my tale, and I decided to start reading some of my family’s genealogy books (which I had never read before.) I found a poem online that was part of the Dubossary Yizkor (Memorial) book that echoed some of Goblin Market, it mentioned that the town was full of orchards and vineyards, berries, grapes, pears, apples, and melons, and I knew where I had to set my book. I also discovered, via that Yizkor Book but also via family testimory, that the Jews from that town fought back and made sure that a pogrom didn’t happen there. But it didn’t last. Starting in September 1941, the Nazis came to Dubossary and forced 600 Jews into the main synagogue and burnt it to the ground, after which they systematically wiped out the entire Jewish population. Today, there are 18,000 Jews buried in mass graves in the forests surround the town and only about 100-150 Jews left from the town. It is a bittersweet tale, and I read many many words of testimony from survivors who grew up in Dubossary in order to be able to bring the story to life. I wanted to bring to life the shtetl as it was before tragedy befell the town, to tell a story of courage, resistance and resilience, not a tale of tragedy.

TQDo have a favorite folk or fairy tale?

Rena:  I think that GOBLIN MARKET is certainly my favorite fairy tale, which is why I spent so many years thinking about to write a re-telling. But I am also definitely partial to The Twelve Dancing Princesses – I once write a kind of twisted short story based on that tale…

TQ In The Sisters of the Winter Wood who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Rena:  Liba was the easiest character for me to write, because she is the most like me. I struggled with Dovid the most. I wanted to strike the perfect balance between his naivete and his sweetness, but also to give him a backbone and to find a way for him to come into his own.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Sisters of the Winter Wood.


“She didn’t waste her time trying to smooth herself into something she wasn’t. She was powerful because she forged her own path.”

“If you want to know the history of a town, read the gravestones in its cemetery.”

“Sometimes even the smallest voice can have a big opinion.”

“That’s what the forest teaches you – change can come in the blink of an eye – the fall of one spark can mean total destruction.”

“Mami always says that fairy tales are real. With my head in my swan-mother’s lap,I start to believe – and I wonder which tale is ours.”

TQWhat's next?

Rena:  I’m working on another fairy tale retelling that will also be based on my family history but this time set in Romania - part Hansel and Gretel, part Boys with Golden Stars (a Romanian fairy tale,) and it features a girl who falls in love with a star. It’s another story about sisters, and it’s a story about how we tell stories, and how those stories change us.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

The Sisters of Winter Wood
Redhook, June 18, 2019
Trade Paperback, 480 pages
Hardcover and eBook, September 25, 2018

Interview with Rena Rossner, author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood
Captivating and boldly imaginative, with a tale of sisterhood at its heart, Rena Rossner’s debut fantasy invites you to enter a world filled with magic, folklore, and the dangers of the woods.

“With luscious and hypnotic prose, Rena Rossner tells a gripping, powerful story of family, sisterhood, and two young women trying to find their way in the world.” –Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles and Circe

In a remote village surrounded by vast forests on the border of Moldova and Ukraine, sisters Liba and Laya have been raised on the honeyed scent of their Mami’s babka and the low rumble of their Tati’s prayers. But when a troupe of mysterious men arrives, Laya falls under their spell – despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And this is not the only danger lurking in the woods.

As dark forces close in on their village, Liba and Laya discover a family secret passed down through generations. Faced with a magical heritage they never knew existed, the sisters realize the old fairy tales are true…and could save them all.

About Rena

Interview with Rena Rossner, author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood
Photo by Tomer Rottenberg
Rena Rossner lives in Israel, where she works as a literary agent. All eight of her great grandparents immigrated to America to escape the pogroms, from towns like Dubossary and Kupel. It is their story, together with her love of Jewish mythology and fantasy, which inspired her to write The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

Website  ~  Twitter @renarossner


Interview with Stephen Blackmoore

Please welcome Stephen Blackmoore to The Qwillery. Fire Season, the 4th Eric Carter novel, was published on April 16, 2019 by DAW. 

I adore Eric Carter - he's snarky, reckless, a bit crazy, and my favorite anti-hero. I don't expect him to be the good guy though he often ends up that way by accident. He's really conflicted and flawed, which makes him more emotionally believable. Fire Season is the most intricate of the Eric Carter novels (so far). More is revealed about Eric's family and there are plenty of surprises. Blackmoore once again delivers a high-octane thrill ride of mayhem, magic and murder and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I highly recommend Fire Season and the Eric Carter series!

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Fire Season (Eric Carter 4), was published in April. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote City of the Lost (2012) to Fire Season?

Stephen:  I think so. It's gotten, I can't think of another word for it, sloppier. CITY OF THE LOST felt like I just threw it together. In fact I did just throw it together. I had no idea how it was going to go. Pantsed the whole thing.

But with DEAD THINGS I outlined. Not one or two pages, or notes in a whiteboard. No, I made a 30 page outline and whenever I shifted a direction, I would go back and shift the outline to see if the change was going to break the story.

Then I wrote a three pager for BROKEN SOULS and that was enough.

HUNGRY GHOSTS was a Notepad file with sentence fragments and a white board with half a dozen bullet points.

FIRE SEASON I didn't even have that much. I had a couple of ideas, a few bits of scenes and lines of dialog, kind of the direction I knew it was going to go, and that there was going to be a lot of fire in it.

The one I turned in a few months ago and the one I'm working on now are pretty much the same way, only less organized.

TQWhich character in the Eric Carter series (so far) surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Stephen:  For both of those questions, it's Santa Muerte. In HUNGRY GHOSTS Eric tries to kill the folk saint Santa Muerte, who's also the Aztec goddess of the dead, Mictecacihuatl, who he's had problems with since book one. He's doing this while trying to protect her avatar, a woman named Tabitha Cheung who he's come to have complicated feelings about.

Well, he fucks that up. And though Santa Muerte is destroyed, Tabitha goes along with her in a way that (SPOILER ALERT BUT MAYBE NOT REALLY) something new is created in her stead. It's an amalgam of Santa Muerte and Tabitha, which makes things even more complicated for Eric. The thing he despises and the person that maybe he has a thing for, and he really doesn't know what to do with it.

And honestly, neither does she.

TQDescribe Fire Season using only 5 words.

Stephen:  Angry gods necromancy big fire.

TQTell us something about Fire Season that is not in the book description.

Stephen:  I kill a lot more people in the book than I thought I was going to. Like a lot more. I really crank up the death count and the Holy Shit Did That Horrible Thing Just Happen up to eleven.

TQPlease tell us about Quetzalcoatl who appears to be after Eric Carter in Fire Season.

Stephen:  He's an asshole. He's betrayed the other Aztec gods (no one's quite sure why - but there's a bit of a resolution on that in FIRE SEASON) and helped the Spanish kill all but two of them, and in that final fight he was almost destroyed. He's weak, but he's still a god. He's driven, single-minded, and like everyone else has a hidden agenda.

TQWhich question about Fire Season do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Stephen:  "Can I give you a truckload of money to make this into a TV series?" The answer is, of course, "Yes."

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Fire Season.


"I tried idealism once. Gave me a rash."

"That's the problem with coke. It makes everything sound like a great idea. If at all possible, never make plans on coke."

TQWhat's next?

Stephen:  The next book in the series, GHOST MONEY, comes out in January. After that is BOTTLE DEMON, which I'm working on now. Besides that I've got another couple of things I'm working toward that may or may not pan out, so we'll see.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephen:  Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the book!

Fire Season
Eric Carter 4
DAW, April 16, 2019
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
The fourth book of this dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Los Angeles is burning.

During one of the hottest summers the city has ever seen, someone is murdering mages with fires that burn when they shouldn’t, that don’t stop when they should. Necromancer Eric Carter is being framed for the killings and hunted by his own people.

To Carter, everything points to the god Quetzalcoatl coming after him, after he defied the mad wind god in the Aztec land of the dead. But too many things aren’t adding up, and Carter knows there’s more going on.

If he doesn’t figure out what it is and put a stop to it fast, Quetzalcoatl won’t just kill him, he’ll burn the whole damn city down with him.


Dead Things
Eric Carter 1
DAW, February 3, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 256 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it’s a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He’s turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he’d never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister’s been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it’s the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who’s taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter’s going to find out who did it, and he’s going to make them pay.

As long as they don’t kill him first.

Broken Souls
Eric Carter 2
DAW, August 5, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Sister murdered, best friend dead, married to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte. Necromancer Eric Carter’s return to Los Angeles hasn’t gone well, and it’s about to get even worse.

His link to the Aztec death goddess is changing his powers, changing him, and he’s not sure how far it will go. He’s starting to question his own sanity, wonder if he’s losing his mind. No mean feat for a guy who talks to the dead on a regular basis.

While searching for a way to break Santa Muerte’s hold over him, Carter finds himself the target of a psychopath who can steal anyone’s form, powers, and memories. Identity theft is one thing, but this guy does it by killing his victims and wearing their skins like a suit. He can be anyone. He can be anywhere.

Now Carter has to change the game — go from hunted to hunter. All he has for help is a Skid Row bruja and a ghost who’s either his dead friend Alex or the manifestation of Carter’s own guilt-fueled psychotic break.

Everything is trying to kill him. Nothing is as it seems. If all his plans go perfectly, he might survive the week.

He’s hoping that’s a good thing.

Hungry Ghosts
Eric Carter 3
DAW, February 7, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer Eric Carter’s problems keep getting bigger. Bad enough he’s the unwilling husband to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte, but now her ex, the Aztec King of the dead, Mictlantecuhtli, has come back — and it turns out that Carter and he are swapping places. As Mictlantecuhtli breaks loose of his prison of jade, Carter is slowly turning to stone.

To make matters worse, both gods are trying to get Carter to assassinate the other. But only one of them can be telling him the truth and he can’t trust either one. Carter’s solution? Kill them both.

If he wants to get out of this situation with his soul intact, he’ll have to go to Mictlan, the Aztec land of the dead, and take down a couple of death gods while facing down the worst trials the place has to offer him: his own sins.

About Stephen

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore
Stephen Blackmoore is a pulp writer of little to no renown who once thought lighting things on fire was one of the best things a kid could do with his time. Until he discovered that eyebrows don't grow back very quickly. He is the author of the urban fantasy novels CITY OF THE LOST, DEAD THINGS, BROKEN SOULS, HUNGRY GHOSTS, and FIRE SEASON. His short stories and poetry have appeared in Plots With Guns, Needle, Spinetingler, Thrilling Detective, Shots, Demolition, Clean Sheets , Flashing In The Gutters and a couple of anthologies with authors far better than he is. You can even stalk him on Twitter (@sblackmoore) or check out his website at

Interview with Marina LostetterInterview with Kevin HearneInterview with Signe Pike, author of The Lost Queen TrilogyInterview with Jon RichterInterview with Michael R. UnderwoodInterview with Raymond E. FeistInterview with Sean McDonoughInterview with Jay AllanInterview with Rena Rossner, author of The Sisters of the Winter WoodInterview with Stephen Blackmoore

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