The Qwillery | category: Interview | (page 2 of 58)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Cate Glass, author of An Illusion of Thieves

Please welcome Cate Glass to The Qwillery. An Illusion of Thieves (Chimera 1) is published today by Tor Books.

Interview with Cate Glass, author of An Illusion of Thieves

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

Cate:  A short story for my tenth grade English teacher. It was the first time an assigned story could be about anything we wanted. I wrote about a brother and sister growing up on an isolated hardscrabble farm in some version of the Midwest. Their very strict but loving father had taught them that the only way to survive was to focus on the here and now, on what was real, forbidding them to make up stories or otherwise use their imaginations. Then Something Happened in the woods one day to upend their beliefs—and explain why their father was the way he was. The teacher asked to keep the story, and, foolishly, I let her. That was it for fiction writing for many, many years. When a friend persuaded me to take up writing as a hobby, I expanded that story into a novel, which still sits in my trunk, yelling at me for attention.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Cate:  Definitely not an outliner/pre-plotter. But I do know where I am going when I sit down to write. I call myself an Organic Story Developer. I develop enough of characters, world, and situation to write an opening scene and get a general idea of the shape of the story. I just don’t know the details of how I am going to get there. As I move forward, I learn more and more about the characters and the world, which feeds the plot, clarifying events that need to happen to develop the characters and to deepen the world. Rinse. Repeat. To me it keeps the story new every day.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Cate:  Verbiage. I love words, and I obsess over getting just the right feel, sound, and rhythm on the page. It makes me a slow writer.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Cate:  Everything. Nature, music, art, museums, travel, politics, history. Tidbits I hear on National Public Radio. Archeology news. Science. Living. Stories I love. I do believe that a writer brings every experience to the page in some fashion.

TQDescribe An Illusion of Thieves using only 5 words.

Cate:  Forbidden magic. Four sorcerers. Intrigue.

TQTell us something about An Illusion of Thieves that is not found in the book description.

Cate:  The reason magic is forbidden: Sorcerers are believed to be the descendants of a beast the gods imprisoned under the earth after the Wars of Creation. This same beast causes volcanoes and earthquakes. Those who carry the taint of sorcery are condemned to die, lest they use their talents to set the beast free to wreak the world’s end.

TQWhat inspired you to write An Illusion of Thieves? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Cate:  I watched a recent Mission Impossible film and my exceptional spouse and I started comparing it to the original TV series about an ensemble of people with specific talents who accomplished off-the-books missions that legit spies couldn't do. That got me asking "what if...?" What if the very specific talents were magical—maybe in a world where magic is forbidden, and sorcerers are very rare? What if there were really impossible missions that they believed needed doing? Once I started thinking about possible talents that would make up such a group, Romy, Placidio, Neri, and Dumond came alive, insisting that their stories be written!

I enjoy writing fantasy because there are no rules. I grew up reading just about every genre of fiction. I loved mysteries, double agent and other kinds of spy novels, adventure stories, historical novels, romantic suspense, political thrillers, mythology, fairy tales, and fantastical adventures like Alice in Wonderland. As a fantasy writer, I can tell any of those stories in a world of my own making! What could be more fun than that?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for An Illusion of Thieves?

Cate:  I wanted to set the Chimera stories in the kind of world where intrigue and skullduggery abounded. Rather than empire-building battles, I wanted to focus on more localized struggles, where the important conflicts take place in salons or dining rooms, artisan workshops, public buildings, and the like, and involved matters like hostage-taking, poisonings, assassinations – and, yes, thieving. When I settled on a locale much like that of Renaissance Italy, I was led into research about every thing from the materials available in an age of burgeoning exploration and trade to Mediterranean vegetation, poisons, wine production, barge traffic on rivers. As the Chimera's first mission has to do with art forgery and a statue of great antiquity, I read up on bronze casting. And as one of my four is a professional duelist, I read up on dueling regulations, weapons, and protocols. As the series goes on, I've gotten into researching the cloth trade and divination schemes, the history of geology, and numerous other topics.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for An Illusion of Thieves.

Cate:  The artist is Alyssa Winans. Rather than reflecting a specific incident, her gorgeous cover art reflects the hidden energies in a world where magic has a meant a death sentence for thousands of years. Sorcerers spend their lives suppressing their gifts. The person on the cover is Romy of Lizard's Alley, a law scribe who for nine years was a courtesan bound to the most powerful man in her city. She tells the story of An Illusion of magic caused her to forfeit one life and find another.

TQIn An Illusion of Thieves who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Cate:  The easiest was Neri, Romy's almost-sixteen-year-old brother. Maybe because I have three sons of my own. Maybe just because his emotional drivers were so clear. He has grown up in grinding poverty with a family who is terrified of him. He is illiterate and ignorant about the wider world, possessing one incredible gift that he dares not use. His eldest sister, whose name no one speaks, is the only other person he knows who has magic, but she lives in luxury with the richest and most dangerous man in the city. This is one angry, resentful kid, and yet that elder sister is the only person in the world who was never scared of him.

The hardest was Romy herself. We are in her head, so I had to learn everything about her. This is not a romance, so what was it that defined her relationship with the Shadow Lord both before and after the split that changed the course of her life? It would have been very easy to fall into the "lost love" cliche or the "woman scorned" cliche. I wanted her strong, but flawed. Intelligent, but her knowledge of the world is through the very specific lens of her past. Conflicted, but not wallowing in the past. And always interesting and unexpected.

TQDoes An Illusion of Thieves touch on any social issues?

Cate:  I never set out to address social issues. But I do try to make my worlds feel real, which means issues of morality, justice, bias, fanaticism…you name it…will eventually come into play.

TQWhich question about An Illusion of Thieves do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Cate:  Does Romy believe there is really a monster imprisoned under the earth? No. But events tell her that magic is only one hint of the extraordinary in the world. The mythos will creep quietly into the Chimera stories as they go on.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from An Illusion of Thieves.

Cate:  When Romy the courtesan is dismissed, she’s thrown back into poverty and saddled with an angry teenaged brother to feed:

“I sat in the dark fretting over what kind of work I might do that did not involve lustful men, libidinous women, haggling at the market, or incessant stares from strangers. After four-and-twenty years of haphazard education, I ought to have a few useful skills besides the obvious.”

And Placidio di Vasil always has a pithy comment:

Placidio examined the dagger’s grip, quillions, edge, and point as a physician explores skulls, tongues, and urine. “Well chosen,” he conceded. “A good length. But what need has a Beggars Ring boy for a new blade and finer skills? Have you acquired a new enemy? ’Twould likely be cheaper to hire me to fight, than to teach a hothead to skewer a dunderwit.”

TQWhat's next?

Cate:  Next up is the second Chimera adventure: A Conjuring of Assassins, coming in February 2020. Romy, Placidio, Neri, and Dumond think their new mission is a simple one—break into a prison cell, find out where the prisoner has hidden a very dangerous document, and be off to destroy it. But things get complicated very quickly when the prisoner isn’t at all what they expected, and Romy rescues a half-drowned stranger who has some most unusual talents.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Cate:  Thank you for having me!

An Illusion of Thieves
Chimera 1
Tor Books, May 21, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Cate Glass, author of An Illusion of Thieves
A ragtag crew with forbidden magic must pull off an elaborate heist and stop a civil war in An Illusion of Thieves, a fantasy adventure from Cate Glass.

In Cantagna, being a sorcerer is a death sentence.

Romy escapes her hardscrabble upbringing when she becomes courtesan to the Shadow Lord, a revolutionary noble who brings laws and comforts once reserved for the wealthy to all. When her brother, Neri, is caught thieving with the aid of magic, Romy's aristocratic influence is the only thing that can spare his life—and the price is her banishment.

Now back in Beggar’s Ring, she has just her wits and her own long-hidden sorcery to help her and Neri survive. But when a plot to overthrow the Shadow Lord and incite civil war is uncovered, only Romy knows how to stop it. To do so, she’ll have to rely on newfound allies—a swordmaster, a silversmith, and her own thieving brother. And they'll need the very thing that could condemn them all: magic.

About Cate

Interview with Cate Glass, author of An Illusion of Thieves
Cate Glass is a writer of the fantasy adventure series Chimera. Cate Glass is also a pen name of Carol Berg, award-winning and bestselling author of fifteen epic fantasy novels and half a dozen novellas and short stories.

Though Cate's home has a great view of the Colorado Rockies, she has lived a large portion of her life in realms of mystery and adventure - Middle Earth, Camelot, Amber, Wonderland, Harry Dresden's Chicago, Jim Chee's New Mexico, Cheltenham race track or the colleges of Oxford, Victorian London, Cold War Berlin, the Welsh borderlands, River Heights, Marvel's version of Hell's get the drift.

While studying mathematics and software engineering at Rice University and the University of Colorado respectively, Cate carved out a special place for studies in English and History of Art and reading, reading, reading.

A few years into a career as a software development engineer, Cate took up a hobby of writing her own fiction. Many manuscripts later (see Carol Berg's bibliography) Cate is deep into the stories of the Chimera.

Cate enjoys binging on movies and (well-written!) TV, as well as camping, hiking, and biking with her mechanical engineer spouse, and three sons who juggle music and teaching, software and carpentry, rocket science and ice hockey.

Website  ~  Twitter @CateGlassWriter  ~  Facebook

Interview with Tim Clare

Please welcome Tim Clare to The Qwillery. The Ice House is published May 2, 2019 by Canongate.

Interview with Tim Clare

The QwilleryWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Tim Clare:  For me, the central challenge of all art is telling the truth without stating the obvious. Saying something that feels true but also revelatory. I know that sounds like a cute little maxim and perhaps a bit pretentious, but it applies right across the board. A good piece of observational comedy does that. You're like, 'oh yeah, it *is* like that' and you're surprised and something that's always been there is revealed to you.

In fiction, the problem can manifest as simply as 'How do I get this person to walk into a room and pick up a mug without boring the reader?' and as fiendishly complex as 'How can I say war is bad and love is good in an interesting way, despite knowing 95% of my readers already agree with me?'

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

TC:  Ooh I like 'hybrid'. Makes us sound like some hideous chimera.

I definitely use a mix of planning and discovery, and like most writers I think mine is the One True Way and everyone else is a freak. But it depends on the project. Starting to identify with one style - nurturing an attachment to planning or improvising - is a great way to shut down your growth as a writer. I try to experiment, push myself. More often than not, I discover my narrow conception of what type of writer I am is better understood as a summary of where I've been. Change is the handmaiden of creativity.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does being a poet affect your prose writing?

TC:  I mean, everything I read and almost every aspect of my daily life influences my writing! I don't always realise til later but it's there, percolating through in weird, subconscious images.

Re: the poetry thing. I'm not sure it does affect my prose writing that much. I write mainly rhyming stuff, so I've developed a reasonably good ear for cadence. I suppose the key skill I port across from poetry is not being sloppy on the line. Looking for extraneous words to cut, especially function words like that, the, his, which. And remembering that a full stop is a pause and a form of emphasis, so making sure each sentence finishes on its strongest, most pertinent word.

TQDescribe The Ice House using only 5 words.

TC:  Armed pensioner versus battle nun.

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

TC:  At one point we meet a pet fox called Dagobert.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Ice House?

TC:  All sorts! I went to the jungle in Borneo, had an explore and took a boat trip downriver. That helped a lot with some baseline flavour. Then I researched rainforests in South America and Vietnam, read about canopy formation and the ecosystem and how humans interact with it. I read a lot of the King James Bible and apocrypha, Buddhist sutras, the history of the Cathars and Butler's Lives of the Saints to formulate Hagar's rather unique theological worldview. I studied beetle anatomy and was very lucky to get a rosemary beetle infestation in our garden. I really love beetles now. I went to a museum and practised loading and handling an SMLE, the rifle Delphine owns. For the birth scene I consulted a doctor who works in paediatrics, read up about C-sections and I was present at the birth of my daughter (which happened during the writing of this novel - not literally while I was on the laptop, but... you know). I researched karst geology and quite a bit on nautical history, a lot on mushrooms and fungi and a surprising amount about roof architecture in different climates. Cloud formations, military uniforms throughout the ages... I really researched a bananas amount and most of it didn't make it to the page. It's just in my head, allowing me permission to bullshit with confidence.

TQHow many years have passed since the end of The Honours to the start of The Ice House? Must you read The Honours to understand The Ice House?

TC:  The accurate, semi-facetious answer is zero. The Ice House opens approximately three minutes after the events of The Honours. But the bulk of the narrative takes place 73 years later.

You don't need to have read The Honours to understand The Ice House, according to advance readers who've only read the second one. But The Honours will be a very different ride if you've read The Ice House. Coming after, it inevitably reveals some of what went on in the previous book.

For me, I think of their relationship as being like Alien and Aliens. You don't have to have watched the first movie to know those marines are in deep shit. But your understanding of why Ripley cares so much is deeper if you've seen Alien.

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

TC:  Hagar, one of the two main viewpoint characters, was a piece of piss to write. She wants stuff and she does her best to make it happen, despite being massively outnumbered and under-resourced. The only issue is she was quite happy to take action that knocked the whole plot out of alignment. But I always let her, then rejigged the world to reflect her action, because that was much more interesting than keeping her meek or incompetent. So she was easy, but her effect on other scenes wasn't.

Delphine was the hardest character to write, at first. I love her and I'm very conscious lots of other people do too, so I was so scared of writing bad fanfic of my own work. The events of The Honours changed her. Time has changed her. So how can you have that continuity while ensuring she's not this static pastiche of the original character? It took a lot of ink, a lot of scenes which didn't make it to the final draft, and a lot of listening and reflecting to really find her voice. I interviewed her a bit, but really it was putting her through the challenges of the story, letting her bounce off other characters, that helped me discover who she is now. And of course she's going through that journey herself.

I'm really happy with where she ended up - the process was worth it - but rightly or wrongly I had more performance anxiety with her, because getting her story right matters hugely to me.

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

TC:  Oh gosh. I'm going to give the most dickheadish answer to this question and say, I honestly don't have question I especially want to be asked, because the novel itself is everything I wanted to say. Of course I have opinions about the characters, and I can speak about what went into making it, but to a significant extent my opinion about it is no more valid than yours.

I know that might come off like I'm treating my own work as some sacrosanct immutable artefact rather than just some words I put in order. I just... I like the characters, I've spent so long with them, they're weirdly real to me. I don't have one ossified ideological proposition I'm consciously trying to sell you through the medium of fiction.

Well maybe that's the question: 'What would you most like to achieve with the book?'

I'd like the reader to feel they make it their own. I'd like it to feel like it's just for them.

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


"'You might want to conceal the gun,' he said. 'Not the best way to make a first impression.'

'You don't know what impression I want to make,' said Delphine."

TQ:   What's next?

TC:  I'm working on a novel with the working title All Goblins Must Die, about a goblin anarchist commune at the top of a floating city and four friends who might be the city's unlikely last hope after their heist goes wrong.

I've got some other ideas that I've written short proof-of-concept sections for, I'm starting to fiddle with scenes for the final novel in The Honours trilogy, and I want to write a creative writing handbook. I'm very excited, but dadding keeps me (blissfully) busy so it's taking a while!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

TC:  Thank you for having me!

The Ice House
The Honours Trilogy 2
Canongate Books, May 2, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Tim Clare
War doesn't end. It sleeps.

Delphine Venner is an old woman now. She is old, but she remembers everything. She remembers what it is to be a child of war, she remembers fighting for her life and she remembers what the terrifying creatures from another world took from her all those years ago. She remembers the gateway, and those she lost.

And in that other world, beast-filled and brutal, someone waits for her. Hagar, a centuries-old assassin, daily paying a terrible price for her unending youth, is planning one final death: that of her abhorrent master, the Grand-Duc. The death that will cost her everything. The death which requires Delphine.

Voyaging into this violence and chaos, Delphine must remember who she really is and be ready to fight once more, as war reawakens. In the battle to destroy an ageless evil, will both worlds be saved - or will every mortal creature lose everything?


The Honours
The Honours Trilogy 1
Canongate Books, April 2, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Tim Clare

1935. Norfolk.

Its newest resident, Miss Delphine Venner, is determined to uncover the secrets of the Hall’s elite society, which has taken in her gullible mother and unstable father.

As she explores the house and discovers the secret network of hidden passages that thread through the estate, Delphine uncovers a world more dark and threatening than she ever imagined. With the help of head gamekeeper Mr Garforth, Delphine must learn the bloody lessons of war and find the soldier within herself in time to battle the deadly forces amassing in the woods …
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Book Depository : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

The Honours is a dark, glittering and dangerously unputdownable novel which invites you to enter a thrilling and fantastical world unlike any other.

About Tim

Interview with Tim Clare
Photo © Andi Sapey
Tim Clare is a writer, poet and musician. He won Best Biography/Memoir at the East Anglian Book Awards for his first book, We Can’t All Be Astronauts, while his fiction debut, The Honours, was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. He has performed his work at festivals and clubs across the world, on BBC TV and radio. Tim has also written for the Guardian, The Times, the Independent and the Big Issue, and presents the fiction writing podcast Death Of 1,000 Cuts. His latest novel, The Ice House, is published on May 2nd.

@TimClarePoet |

Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)

Please welcome Jack Heckel to The Qwillery. The Darkest Lord, the 3rd novel, in the fabulous Mysterium Chronicles, was published in digital format on February 26th by Harper Voyager Impulse and on April 2nd in Mass Market Paperback.

Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)

TQWelcome again to The Qwillery. The eBook of the third and final novel in The Mysterium Chronicles, The Darkest Lord, was published on February 26th. First (and not most important) where is my T-shirt?

Seriously, what are your feelings on completing the Trilogy?


Seriously, the question is whether you want an Avery Lives t-shirt:

Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)

Or, a Mysterium University sweatshirt:

Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)

And, we mean that.

Seriously, which one?

Actually, we’d love to send you both, since you were the inspiration for them.

As for your secondary question, the overall feelings we have at finishing the trilogy is giddy relief marked by bouts of exuberant joy. This probably explains why the first thing we did is to make t-shirts and sweatshirts. We wanted to be able to celebrate with our readers (in a tangible way) the end of Avery’s story.

And, for readers of your blog, we want to extend an offer that if they graduate from Mysterium University (by reading and reviewing each of the three novels) they can get one of those snazzy sweatshirts or t-shirts (reader’s choice) sent to them by Jack himself.

[TQ's Note: No t-shirts or sweatshirts were harmed in the making of this interview.]

TQPlease explain to our readers how your collaboration works. Are you plotters, pantsers or hybrids?

JH:  Definitely a hybrid. Having two authors means some planning is essential, otherwise we would have the impossible task of sorting through multiple versions of text every step of the way. Having said that, we find that our carefully crafted outlines typically survive three chapters before breaking down under the strain of our collaboration. What happens, and we see this as a boon rather than a problem, is that we get stuck on some section of text, and then get on the phone together and suddenly the story takes about a dozen twists and turns. Figuring out how to take those creative moments and weave them into the story and the story around them is a challenge, but ultimately the best part of working together.

TQDescribe The Mysterium Chronicles using only 5 words.

JH:  Pratchett sends Potter to graduate school. Hmm… that was six. Can we have a bonus word?

TQIn The Mysterium Chronicles, was there a character who surprised you? Which character was the most difficult to write?

JH:  Sam surprised us the most. He was originally going to be a bit of a joke character. The silly, downtrodden and bemused sidekick. However, as the story progressed we discovered that the sidekick character is often the most human. As the novels have gone along his role has increased, and, not to give anything away, that culminates in The Darkest Lord.

The most difficult character was Avery. Hands down. We went into these stories wanting to poke very gentle fun at the often black and white nature of epic fantasy novels. To do that we knew we would need a character that lived in the many hues of gray between good and evil. Even though we love the guy, striking that balance in Avery was a never-ending source of writing stress.

TQThe Darker Lord (Book 2) took place 4 months after Avery returned to Mysterium. How soon after The Darker Lord does The Darkest Lord take place? And does time really matter where wizards are concerned?

JH:  About another six months to a year after The Darker Lord. We really wanted to pace these novels so they occurred in quick succession, but where enough time would have passed that some consequences from the previous books would have had time to accumulate.

As for whether time has meaning, we will only say that given the situation Avery finds himself in at the opening of The Darkest Lord every day counts!

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

JH:  We think the question we would love someone to ask is: “Does Avery actually live?” However, we only like this question because then we could raise an eyebrow, and answer, “Do any of us actually live?” Or something equally enigmatic and infuriating.

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


This first just because it’s true:

“Semi-liches don’t get sore, Sam,” Drake said with exaggerated gravity. “They get evil.”

And this second because we love opening lines:

My name is Avery, and I wish I weren’t the Dark Lord.

It was a fervent wish. One that I repeated daily, but with no effect, because I was the Dark Lord, and the fact that I was—alongside a number of other regrettable life choices—probably explains why I was lying in a coffin listening to a voice, dry as death, calmly reciting my latest crimes against the multiverse.

TQWhat was (each of) your soundtrack for The Darkest Lord?

John:  I found an all Beatles channel and that was it. John, Paul, George and Ringo were my constant companions during this novel.

Harry:  I listened to a mix of classic rock and Doctor Who theme music.

TQTotal number of Easter Eggs in all 3 novels?

JH:  Aha! You think you can trick us into giving such crucial information away? We cannot be fooled so easily. In fact, to celebrate the upcoming launch of the paperback (April 2) we are asking people to point to their favorite Easter eggs and will have a bit of an Easter egg hunt? Not to pimp our website too much, but… if you check in at over the next week we will be providing further details. (Prizes will be available!)

TQIs there any chance that you may visit Mysterium and the subworlds again? Perhaps Eldrin's Trelari RPG wargame or Moregoth's Guide to Dress?

JH  Definitely. Of course, there are a lot of side stories we would love to explore, like Moregoth’s origin story, or a narrative written from Eldrin’s point of view. Beyond that, we’ve been thinking about a joke book from the demi-lich Gray, or Harold’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Mages? But our favorite concept is a daily calendar of inspirational quotes from Moregoth: “Today remember to embrace life… wrap your fingers around its throat and choke it to death.” Honestly, an RPG supplement or a Trelari wargame isn’t out of the question.

TQWhat are you working on next? (collectively or individually).

JH  Collectively we are going to return to Prince Charming. We have been wanting to write a third Charming Tales novel for some time. Individually, John is working on a novel based on the fairytale, The Seven Ravens, and Harry is revising a series of superhero novels, along with a fantasy project or two. Look for further details on all future projects on

TQThank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.

The Darkest Lord
The Mysterium Chronicles 3
Harper Voyager Impulse, February 26, 2019
     eBook, 384 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 2, 2019
     Mass Market Paperback, 528 pages

Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)
In the epic conclusion to Jack Heckel’s whimsical fantasy series, Dark Lord Avery Stewart must join the Company of the Fellowship in a frenzied war against Moregoth and the corrupt forces of Mysterium. . . and destroy the magical artifact fueling the interworld chaos

In The Darker Lord, Avery Stewart learned a terrible truth about Mysterium: the home of his beloved university and the reality-center of the multiverse is not the world he thought it was. The true Mysterians, innately endowed with the power to manipulate reality, were displaced eons ago by the subworlders with whom they shared their magical teachings, and written out of the reality pattern of their own world. For years they have lived in exile in the subworld of Trelari, shielded from the Mysterian pursuit led by Moregoth and the Sealers. That is, until Valdara, the warrior queen of Trelari, reopened the subworld to the rest of the multiverse and challenged the Mysterium to a final showdown.

One year later, a violent war of worlds drags on, and Avery can’t help feeling that all of this is his fault.

But the good news (if you can call it that) is that Avery might hold the key—literally, a key—to ending the suffering and saving Trelari. For Avery possesses the Reality Key, a magical artifact with the power to bend reality to one’s will, often to the immediate detriment of entire worlds. . . and, if it falls into the hands of the Mysterian forces, much more. To protect his friends, save Trelari, and bring order to Mysterium, Avery will need to do the unthinkable: travel to the heart of Mysterium, destroy the Key, and rewrite Mysterium’s reality pattern to restore balance to the multiverse, once and for all.


The Dark Lord
The Mysterium Chronicles 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, November 1, 2016
     eBook, 464 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, December 27, 2016
     Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages

Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)
In this hilarious parody of epic fantasy, a young man travels into a dark and magical world, where dwarves, elves, and sorcerers dwell, to restore the balance between good and evil

After spending years as an undercover, evil wizard in the enchanted world of Trelari, Avery hangs up the cloak he wore as the Dark Lord and returns to his studies at Mysterium University.

On the day of his homecoming, Avery drunkenly confides in a beautiful stranger, telling her everything about his travels. When Avery awakens, hungover and confused, he discovers that his worst nightmare has come true: the mysterious girl has gone to Trelari to rule as a Dark Queen.

Avery must travel back to the bewitched land and liberate the magical creatures . . . but in order to do so, he has to join forces with the very people who fought him as the Dark Lord.

The Darker Lord
The Mysterium Chronicles 2
Harper Voyager Impulse, July 24, 2018
     eBook, 464 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, September 4, 2018
     Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages

Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)
The second novel of Jack Heckel’s Mysterium series, The Darker Lord follows beleaguered former Dark Lord Avery Stewart as he is forced to take up his cloak and his Imp once again and travel the doors between realms in order to keep the fabric of the universe intact. More or less intact, anyway.

In The Dark Lord, Avery had an epiphany about the Mysterium. Only now he can’t remember what it was, no matter how much coffee he drinks or how many times he reads the novel published from his notes. What he does know is that he has become the most famous mage in the multiverse, and no one is happy with him. His fellow mages are upset at his rapid promotion, Dawn and Eldrin are tired of him spending his days on their couch watching bad TV, and Harold the Imp won’t talk to him.

Luckily, things can always get worse. And they do when the Administration’s enforcer, Moregoth, arrives at the first lecture of the semester to apprehend two of Avery’s new students for undoubtedly sinister reasons. In a fit of foolishness and heroism, Avery defies the university and flees with his friends into subworld. There, he reunites with his former allies from Trelari and thus begins a frantic race through the multiverse to escape Moregoth.

But as Avery’s amnesia begins to fade, he realizes his loss of memory is no accident, that he is caught in a conspiracy as terrifying as Mysterium University’s Student Records Building—and that his friends might not all be on his side.

About Jack Heckel

Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)
Harry Heckel
Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)
John Peck
Jack Heckel’s life is an open book. Actually, it’s the book you are in all hope holding right now (and if you are not holding it, he would like to tell you it can be purchased from any of your finest purveyors of the written word). Beyond that, Jack aspires to be either a witty, urbane world traveler who lives on his vintage yacht, The Clever Double Entendre, or a geographically illiterate professor of literature who spends his nonwriting time restoring an eighteenth-century lighthouse off a remote part of the Vermont coastline. Whatever you want to believe of him, he is without doubt the author of The Dark Lord. More than anything, Jack lives for his readers. Despite whatever Jack may claim, in reality, Jack Heckel is the pen name for John Peck and Harry Heckel.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @JackHeckel

Interview with Charlie Holmberg

Please welcome Charlie N. Holmberg to The Qwillery. Smoke and Summons, the 1st novel in the Numina series, was published on February 1, 2019 by 47North.

Interview with Charlie Holmberg

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

Charlie:  It’s either a weird Escaflowne fan fiction I did on a mailing list or an unfinished book called “Kaiku and the Ruby Necklace,” which was equally terrible.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Charlie:  I am very much a plotter. Outlines all the way! I can’t wrap my mind around pantsing. XD

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Has your writing process changed from when you wrote The Paper Magician (2014) until now?

Charlie:  I don’t think I could pinpoint one specific thing that’s the most challenging about writing. It really depends on the time of year and the book in question. Sometimes the most challenging thing is making a character arc work. Sometimes it’s school visits. Other times it’s dealing with rejection. Right now it’s that all my projects came to a head at the same time and I have to race to my deadlines!

The most significant change in my writing process actually happened just before I wrote The Paper Magician. (So apparently it was a change for the better!) I feel like I have a more intuitive sense of how to outline a story now, so I don’t get as calculating about how I piece a book together. I now story board EVERY book I write, whereas before I just wrote out a sequence of ideas in a Word document. That involved a lot of annoying back and forth!

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Charlie:  A huge influencer of mine is Hayao Miyazaki. I love his creativity! Sometimes it’s just a simple line in one of his movies that inspires something, or it’s the tone, or his characters. I’ve also been influenced by Brandon Sanderson, who is one of my favorite authors and was my writing instructor in college.

TQDescribe Smoke and Summons using only 5 words.

Charlie:  Magical fidget spinners meets Pokemon.

TQTell us something about Smoke and Summons that is not found in the book description.

Charlie:  There’s a very strong theme of family ties throughout this book and the series.

TQWhat inspired you to write Smoke and Summons? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Charlie:  Initially, it was because my agent and editor teamed up against me and pressured me to write another series! So I had to come up with an idea big enough to encompass multiple books. I went through my Pinterest boards, brainstorming folder, and past, unpublished novels of mine, pulling out anything and everything I found interesting. Some of those things included hosting monsters, an immortality switch, and a horse made of fire.

I adore fantasy because there’s just no limit to it. I like being able to read and write about things I can’t experience in real life. Fantasy encompasses so many other genres as well, so in a way, I get to write a little of everything!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Smoke and Summons?

Charlie:  I did a lot of research on how guns work (especially old models) and the industrial revolution. Most of this was done via the lovely internet, as well as contacting friends who are experts in those fields.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Smoke and Summons.

Charlie:  I love my cover. The artist did an amazing job! The cover depicts Ireth, the fire-horse “demon” that’s bound to my main female character, Sandis.

TQ:   In Smoke and Summons who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Charlie:  You know, between the two viewpoint characters, it kind of switched depending on the scene and the book (Sandis, for instance, was harder to write in the third book of the series). Starting out, Rone was harder, but I got the hang of him pretty quickly.

TQDoes Smoke and Summons , the 1st novel in your Numina series, share anything thematically with your Paper Magician series?

CharlieSmoke and Summons has few similarities to The Paper Magician series. It’s tone is much darker, the stakes higher, and the plot more desperate. Even their progression is different. The Paper Magician series is more serial, while the Numina series is one giant story told in three books. They do both have what I hope are intriguing magic systems and main characters you can root for.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Smoke and Summons.


It never got easier. No matter how many times Kazen summoned a numen into her, it never got easier. Neither did the fear it instilled into Kazen’s victims, nor the pure, unrelenting pain possession wreaked upon her body.

Her stomach tensed, but she opened her mind, welcoming Ireth. Acceptance made the transition more bearable.

Ireth didn’t mean to hurt her.

TQWhat's next?

Charlie:  First is Myths and Mortals and Siege and Sacrifice, the other two books in the series, releasing April 16th and September 17th, respectively. So excited for them!

After that, I have a standalone romantic fantasy releasing called The Will and the Wilds. It’s the first book I wrote based on a dream. I call it my “kissing book” because it has twelve kissing scenes in it.

I’m hoping to sell a duology soon that’s in a similar vein as The Paper Magician, but no contract yet. ;)

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Smoke and Summons
Numina 1
47North, February 1, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 319 pages

Interview with Charlie Holmberg
A captivating world of monsters and magic from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series.

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon—a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day—a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…


Myth and Mortals
Numina 2
47North, April 16, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 288 pages

Interview with Charlie Holmberg
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg builds her bewitching world of beasts and betrayal as the Numina Series continues.

Sandis has escaped Kazen’s grasp, but she finds herself unmoored, reeling from her thief friend Rone’s betrayal.

Kazen has been hurt but not stopped, and he’ll do anything to summon the monster that could lay waste to the entire world. Sandis knows she must be the one to stop him, but with her own trusted numen now bound to another, and finding herself with no one she can trust, she is in desperate need of allies. Rone seems determined to help her, but Sandis has no intention of letting him get close to her again. What she doesn’t know is how much Rone gave up to protect her. Or how much more he is willing to give up to keep her safe.

As chaos mounts, Sandis must determine whom to trust. After all, the lines between enemy and ally have never been less clear…and corruption lurks in the most unlikely of places.

About Charlie

Interview with Charlie Holmberg
Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie N. Holmberg was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She is a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and finally adopted a dog. Her fantasy Paper Magician Series, which includes The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician, and The Master Magician, has been optioned by the Walt Disney Company. Her stand-alone novel, Followed by Frost, was nominated for a 2016 RITA Award for Best Young Adult Romance. She currently lives with her family in Utah. Visit her at

Twitter @CNHolmberg  ~  Facebook

Interview with Timothy S. Johnston

Please welcome Timothy S. Johnston to The Qwillery. The War Beneath was published by ChiZine Publications on January 1, 2019.

Interview with Timothy S. Johnston

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. The War Beneath, the first novel in your new The Rise of Oceania series, was recently published. Describe The War Beneath using only 5 words.


Underwater espionage science fiction thriller.


Hold your breath or die trying! (That’s six words, I know.)

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

Timothy:  Every scene takes place underwater, either in a submersible, a habitat, or while swimming. There is no exposition or dialogue above the surface or on land at all.

TQYou seem to like putting your characters in inhospitable environments. Why did you choose under water for this series?

Timothy:  For this book, I imagined a world suffering from global warming and rising ocean levels. To me the oceans are the next frontier for humanity. There are untold resources there that we will undoubtedly look to as temperatures continue to increase on land. Another reason might be that because the characters live in an intense undersea world, and are always under greater pressures than at the surface, this mirrors the pressure of the situations they’re dealing with. It ramps up tension and keeps readers turning the pages.

TQWhat kinds of research did you do for The War Beneath?

Timothy:  I had to study marine exploration over the past century or so. I had to learn about innovations in the past and what might be coming in the near future. Also, I had to understand what living under pressure — in a saturation environment — would mean for people. The inhabitants of the undersea world can’t swim to the surface in an emergency (they would get The Bends) and I had to learn about this and be able to explain it without interrupting the adventure and excitement. I also had to study the undersea environment: the bathymetry, marine life, geology, and so on. The research and plotting always takes longer than the actual writing, to make it all seem more realistic. It was lots of fun!

TQIn a prior interview you stated that you are a plotter. Did any of the characters in The War Beneath surprise you?

Timothy:  Oh yes! This always happens when writing. Side characters turn out to be very likeable, or they turn out to be better villains than I had originally planned. I don’t want to say who, though, but when writing, a character will suddenly tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, what if I did this? Wouldn’t that be cool?” A novel is an organic thing once you begin writing. Even though I have the broad brush strokes down before writing the first word, each character takes on a life of their own and helps direct the story in a natural, dramatic, and tense fashion.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The War Beneath.

Timothy:  Erik Mohr of Made by Emblem in Toronto designed it. I think it’s brilliant, but I have to confess that my publisher and the artist are responsible for it. The floating corpse near the surface was a fantastic choice. It ensures readers know that this is an underwater thriller, especially with the structure partially hidden by the depths.

TQDoes The War Beneath touch on any social issues?

Timothy:  The most emotional theme in this book is one of fathers and sons. It’s something I think about sometimes. Growing up, we look with admiration and adoration at our fathers. The position a father reaches in life also puts great pressure on sons. How are we supposed to achieve what our dads have? How are we supposed to exceed their accomplishments? This is particularly difficult when the father is famous or has reached monumental goals in life. I feel for children of celebrities, for instance. However, the corollary of this is, What if the father has committed an unspeakable crime? Something the son is ashamed of? How does it affect the son’s growth and development? This is a major theme in The War Beneath. The title has a dual meaning, and this is it.

TQYou are an unrepentant genre bender. Where does The War Beneath fit in the genre spectrum?

Timothy:  It’s a thriller, and it has a science/technological element, so it is science fiction thriller. It is for mainstream readers, however, so it might also be called a technothriller. It’s a grand underwater adventure though. I describe it as Mission: Impossible meets The Hunt for Red October, or sometimes as James Bond underwater. I think its appeal is very broad. There is a healthy dose of science in this book too.

TQYour prior series, The Tanner Sequence, was a trilogy. What do you have planned for The Rise of Oceania?

Timothy:  This is a series. I’ve already written the first three books and they are either out or in the pipeline. The Savage Deeps is coming November 2019. I’m also hoping to extend it to six books in total, but we’ll have to see.

TQDo The Rise of Oceania and The Tanner Sequence share anything thematically?

Timothy:  The environments in my books seem to always be hostile. By that I don’t mean that the ocean is hostile; I mean that it’s dangerous. If a character goes outside for too long, they’ll die. This adds tension and heightens drama in any situation. As a writer, I enjoy this. As a reader, I think it makes for a page-turner. Several reviewers have already said they found themselves holding their breath during underwater action sequences. This pleases me to no end.

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


        When I had awoken that morning, I’d assumed it would be the same as any other day. Now here I was, mentally preparing myself to pursue and kill a traitorous operative of TCI. A former friend. It was surreal.


        A minute later the warsub began searching with her active sonar, pinging away once every couple of seconds. No doubt they had detected us heading for the seamount and had heard our thrusters cut out. Since we were now a part of the bottom terrain, however, I hoped that they could not see us.
        And then the unthinkable happened.
        She started to drop her mines.

TQWhat's next?

TimothyThe Savage Deeps is coming in November 2019. Fatal Depth is coming in 2020 (both from ChiZine Publications.) I am currently making the book-signing rounds in Southern Ontario. I love meeting other fans of science fiction thrillers.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Timothy:  Thanks for having me again! I hope people will enter their names in my draw for TSJ swag! I have new stuff to give away. Also visit my blog at to read my movie, book, and videogame reviews and also to enter my contests.

The War Beneath
The Rise of Oceania 1
ChiZine Publications, January 1, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback, and eBook, 350 pages

Interview with Timothy S. Johnston
Living and working underwater can be a dangerous thing. First the bulkheads sweat, then there’s a trickle of water . . .

. . . and then in an instant you’re gone. The only thing left is a bloody pulp in the dark water and crushed bone fragments on the seafloor.

And you can’t bolt to the surface in an emergency. . . . The bends will get you.

But that’s not the worst. When you’re living underwater and also working as a spy for your city, that’s when things get really dangerous.

Truman McClusky has been out of the intelligence business for years, working the kelp farms and helping his city Trieste flourish on the shallow continental shelf just off the coast of Florida. Until his former partner shows up, that is, steals a piece of valuable new technology and makes a mad dash into the Atlantic. Before he knows it, Mac ends up back in the game, chasing the spy to not only recapture the tech, but to kill his former friend.

But when he learns the grim truth behind the theft, it sends his stable life into turmoil and plunges him into an even deadlier mission: evade the submarines of hostile foreign powers, escape assassins, and forge through the world’s oceans at breakneck pace on a daring quest to survive, with more lethal secrets than he thought possible in his pocket.

The future of the city depends on McClusky . . . if he can make it back home.

About Timothy

Interview with Timothy S. Johnston
Timothy S. Johnston is a lifelong fan of thrillers and science fiction thrillers in both print and film. His greatest desire is to contribute to the genre which has given him so much over the past four decades. He wishes he could personally thank every novelist, screenwriter, filmmaker, director and actor who has ever inspired him to tell great stories. He has been an educator for twenty years and a writer for thirty. He lives on planet Earth, but he dreams of the stars. Visit to register for news alerts, read his blog and reviews, and learn more about his current and upcoming thrillers. Timothy is the author of THE WAR BENEATH and THE SAVAGE DEEPS. His futuristic murder mystery/thrillers include THE FURNACE, THE FREEZER, and THE VOID. Follow Timothy on Facebook @TSJAuthor and Twitter @TSJ_Author.

Author Giveaway

What: 3 prizes / 3 winners:
1. A signed copy of the trade paperback of THE WAR BENEATH + TSJ pens and bookmark.
2. TSJ Pens and Bookmark package.
3. TSJ Pens and Bookmark package.
Interview with Timothy S. Johnston

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

When:  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on April 14, 2019. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

Interview with Sarah Chorn, author of Seraphina's Lament

Please welcome Sarah Chorn to The Qwillery. Seraphina's Lament (The Bloodlands 1) was published in February 2019.

Interview with Sarah Chorn, author of Seraphina's Lament

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

Sarah:  I wrote a book in Kindergarten. It was about a family of bears that got lost in the woods while it was raining. I remember stapling the pages together and tying them with yarn and then proudly giving it to my teacher, who thought it was so wonderful she read it to the class during story time. I still have it sitting in a box in my basement.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sarah:  I’ve tried so hard to plot. I keep seeing people wax poetic about how wonderful plotting is and I try. I try so hard, and I hate every second of it. I feel too constrained, I think. I’ve never been good at coloring inside the lines. I guess I’m a pantser and always will be. It’s just how my mind works. I love the discovery I feel as I write.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sarah:  Finding time to do it. I have a day job, I’m also an editor, I have two small kids, and a house and family to take care of, plus health problems due to my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I almost never get an hour to just sit down and write. Seraphina’s Lament was written in 5-10 minute chunks throughout the day. I rarely get more time than that to sit at my computer.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sarah:  I’ve been reviewing books for about ten years now, and I’ve been an editor for going on three. I’ve read a lot of books. It would be impossible for me to say that those books didn’t influence me in some way. I love lyrical writing, and poetic prose, and I tend to glom onto authors who write that way and study their books intensely. Mark Lawrence, Margaret Atwood, Catherynne M. Valente and so many others.

TQDescribe Seraphina's Lament using only 5 words.

Sarah:  This question is killing me. Five words? I had to turn to my writing group to help me out here, because the tagline for the book is six words – “You must break before you become.” And one of my friends in my writing group piped up with, “A song from the Decembrists popped into my head when I was thinking of your book. The lyrics are, ‘Everything is awful.’”

So… there you go. I guess. This should be a question writers are asked in hell.

TQTell us something about Seraphina's Lament that is not found in the book description.

Sarah:  A lot of Seraphina’s personal story arc is almost autobiographical. There’s a whole lot of me in her. I gave her my spine and leg injury and chronic pain. She walks with a cane. Her days are dictated by the limits of her body. More than that, she’s coming to grips with herself, her situation and her body in ways that I very much felt during my own life when I was going through cancer treatments, and coming to grips with my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome diagnosis, and the ways this chronic illness is altering my body. The book’s tagline, “You must break before you become” was a line I thought up when I was in the hospital.

TQWhat inspired you to write Seraphina's Lament? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Sarah:  I’ve always enjoyed fantasy. I think there’s a certain freedom with exploring complex ideas, that can often be uncomfortable, that you get in a secondary world, that you just can’t really accomplish when you write fiction set in the real world, and I’ve always liked that. Plus, I just really dig being able to create my own world, and the people that fill it. I guess I have a bit of a god complex in that way (har har).

Seraphina’s Lament was inspired by a trip to the historical nonfiction section of my library. I happened upon a bunch of books on Russian history and basically thought, “This looks neat and I know nothing about Russia so let’s change that.” It happened that the first book I read was on the Holodomor, which was a tragic genocide that I knew nothing about until I happened across it. I was transfixed. Up to 10 million people died in 1932-1933 due to Stalin’s horrible policies. Almost no one in the west knows anything about it, which is, in my opinion, completely and absolutely wrong.

I was reading this book, and the story just came to life in my mind. I knew I had to tell it.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Seraphina's Lament?

Sarah:  I had to do an absolute ton of research. I had to not only understand what had happened, but it’s broader impact, and all the events that took place that led up to the Holodomor. I’ve spent over a year buried in Russian history. You can’t understand Stalin and his policies unless you understand Lenin. Lenin doesn’t make complete sense unless you really know more about the last three Tsars (at least), and Europe leading up to and through WWI, and the list goes on. One thing led to another, which led to another. A lot of my research gave me context for the events I was writing about. I didn’t realize how important that context would be until I was actually writing the book and detailing the events that take place in it.

However, it was equally important for me to understand the events of the Holodmor, and all the things that surrounded it. Yes, my book is set in a secondary world, and yes, I absolutely do take liberties with events and twist them enough to fit my book and the trilogy this is going to become, but the Holodomor was a tragic, horrible event, and I wanted to stay as true to it as I possibly could and doing that took a shocking amount of research.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Seraphina's Lament.

Sarah:  Pen Astridge did the cover art, and I cannot praise her enough. She’s amazing. I’m pretty terrible with that sort of thing, so I sent her a rundown of the plot, some important points, and basically told her to go nuts with it. I was probably the least helpful person she’s ever worked with in her life. However, she sent me the cover for Seraphina’s Lament and I just about died. It doesn’t depict any one person or event, it’s more symbolic of people being marked by drought, and famine, and the death and tragedy that flows in its wake.

She’s an amazing cover artist. I can’t recommend her enough.

TQIn Seraphina's Lament who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Sarah:  The easiest character surprised me a bit. I expected him to be the hardest, but he’s the one where the story just took off and I wrote without thinking. That’s Taub. I expected to have a hard time writing about him because cannibalism is gross and just generally uncomfortable, but his part of the book came easiest. Maybe because he’s just so far outside of my comfort zone it was easier to write about him? I’m not sure why, but Taub just flowed out of me.

The hardest was Neryan, who is Seraphina’s twin brother. He is basically smothered by survivor’s guilt and he’s emotionally torn a few different directions. I had a hard time pinning him down, trying to keep his guilt relatable without overdoing it. I had to rewrite a lot of his chapters during edits, and nailing down his motivations was really a struggle for me. I think he was so difficult because he’s so incredibly close to the center of events, but not actually the center of events, and trying to keep him balanced just right was one hell of a task.

TQDoes Seraphina's Lament touch on any social issues?

Sarah:  There are a lot of social issues in the book. Slavery is a topic, as are governmental policies and how they affect people. Disabilities take a role through Seraphina, and so does race. There’s a lot here for people to chew on, if they want to, but I also tried very, very hard to not be preachy or in-your-face about any of it.

TQWhich question about Seraphina's Lament do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Sarah:  I think I’d like someone to ask why I thought it was important to make Seraphina disabled. The answer would be for a lot of reasons. One of which I mentioned above. Another is because I don’t see a lot of myself (my chronic pain, and disabilities) in fantasy books, and I really wanted to write a character that I could relate to. It’s important to see ourselves in the books we read, and I really wanted my chronic pain to be represented, not just for me, but for all the other people out there who deal with chronic pain. Maybe someone else with chronic pain will pick this book up, and see a character being strong, and central to the plot WHILE dealing with chronic pain. Too often we get swept into the margins or pushed onto the back burner. I want people to see a disabled person being badass because we belong in stories too.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Seraphina's Lament.

Sarah:  I’ll give you the start of Seraphina’s first chapter, where I’m trying to describe her (my) chronic pain – this is how she starts the book:

Seraphina felt like she had swallowed the sun.

Agony, to her, wasn’t something that happened; it was a force that burned inside, as much a part of her as her soul. It started in her right foot, and traveled like a forest fire up her twisted leg to settle in her hip, and then eventually made a home in her lower back. Skin too tight, too much sensation for one body to hold. This was how she imagined the universe felt before it birthed planets. All this pain and pressure, this stretching and then, inevitably, the explosion.

TQWhat's next?

Sarah:  I’m currently working on An Elegy for Hope, which is the book that follows Seraphina’s Lament. I’m also writing a social SciFi book about genetic modification called Glass Rhapsody.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sarah:  Thanks for having me!

Seraphina's Lament
The Bloodlands 1
February 2019
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

Interview with Sarah Chorn, author of Seraphina's Lament
The world is dying.

The Sunset Lands are broken, torn apart by a war of ideology paid for with the lives of the peasants. Drought holds the east as famine ravages the farmlands. In the west, borders slam shut in the face of waves of refugees, dooming all of those trying to flee to slow starvation, or a future in forced labor camps. There is no salvation.

In the city of Lord’s Reach, Seraphina, a slave with unique talents, sets in motion a series of events that will change everything. In a fight for the soul of the nation, everyone is a player. But something ominous is calling people to Lord’s Reach and the very nature of magic itself is changing. Paths will converge, the battle for the Sunset Lands has shifted, and now humanity itself is at stake.

First, you must break before you can become.

About Sarah

Interview with Sarah Chorn, author of Seraphina's Lament
Sarah has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a freelance writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, three-time cancer survivor, and mom to two kids. In her ideal world, she’d do nothing but drink lots of tea and read from a never-ending pile of speculative fiction books.

Website  ~  Twitter @bookwormblues

Interview with Rio Youers

Please welcome Rio Youers to The Qwillery. Halcyon was published on July 10, 2018 in the US / Canada by St. Martin's Press and in the UK on October 23, 2018 by Titan Books.

Interview with Rio Youers

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

Rio Youers:  I’ve been writing fiction for as long as I’ve been able to form sentences. The first story I remember writing—at five, maybe six years old—was called Jojo the Clown. It’s worth mentioning because it was twenty-four pages long (even at six I needed an editor). The first story I submitted for publication was called The Dog, a short piece about a telepathic killer (I was charmed by the idea of a psychic psycho). It wasn’t very good, and was promptly and justly rejected. The possibility of being published, though, was too appealing, so I submitted stories regularly from that point forward, amassing the rejections until I was good enough for an editor to say yes. It took many years.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

RY:  I know a lot of writers tire quickly with the editing and proofing stages, but I love all of that—the process of refining the material. It’s like tuning a guitar. It plays better, and makes people happier, when the notes are true. The most challenging thing for me has always been beginning a new novel, working through the first 10 or 20,000 words, until the work finds its voice, and the characters begin to breathe on their own. That’s when the magic happens, when you can surrender some control and let the story unravel.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

RY:  So many things. Great fiction, obviously. Great storytelling, in any form. Good friends, good conversation. Good music. I absorb anything creative and moving. And that’s what I endeavor to bring to my fiction. Whether I manage it or not is a matter of opinion.

TQDescribe Halcyon using only 5 words.

RY:  Family love versus evil cult.

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

RY:  Valerie Kemp, aka Mother Moon, serves a group of powerful, iniquitous men who call themselves The Society of Pain. They believe that pain is the gateway to enlightenment, and have Valerie orchestrate acts of violence and terror to channel the suffering of the masses. Valerie’s goal is to escape their hold over her, and find her own path to enlightenment.

TQWhat inspired you to write Halcyon? What appeals to you about writing Supernatural Thrillers?

RY:  Trump’s administration, his divided nation, the domestic terrorism, mass shootings, civil unrest, the greed and corruption. This is a dark and dangerous era in American history, and I wanted explore that. Initially, I’d set out to write a Mosquito Coast-style novel about a family’s need to escape, but it developed into something more, something deeper. I’d always intended for Halcyon to be character-driven, with an emphasis on family and core American values, but in many ways it became a kind of critique—a social commentary. I’m fine with that. Halcyon is a timely novel, and I’m very proud of it.

The supernatural element gives my imagination more room to run free. Adding a dose of the paranormal means I can divert from the confines of reality, although reality has to form the basis of everything. Credibility is key.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Halcyon?

RY:  Ugly research. Heartbreaking research. The novel deals with many difficult issues. Domestic terrorism, racial tension, mass shootings. I had to dig where I didn’t want to, and I’m pretty sure I hit every FBI watchlist along the way. It wasn’t all so bleak, though. Among the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of things I Googled were, “Average score for Zener card tests” and “What music do ten tears olds listen to?” But the big stuff, the main body of the research, was incredibly harrowing.

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

RY:  The easiest: the main character, Martin Lovegrove. He’s a goofy, forty-something, doting family man. He’s basically me. Authors are regularly asked if they base their characters on themselves, and I think there’s a little part of me in every character I’ve created … but there’s a lot of me in Martin Lovegrove.

The hardest? Well, Martin’s daughters, Edith and Shirley, were a challenge. They’re ten and fifteen years old respectively, and the world has shifted gears since I was a kid. It’s not easy to convincingly represent the mind (and the will) of a young person, especially when your own mind is full of cobwebs that were spun at around the time Crockett and Tubbs were on TV.

Valerie Kemp was a challenge, too. She’s such a dark, complicated individual, with so many layers. Usually, I’ll uncover more about my characters as I write them—spend time with them—but Valerie kept leading me from one mystery to another, and I was at least two drafts deep before I understood what made her tick. She fascinated, enthralled, and horrified me. We had a blast.

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

RY:  Did you cry at all while writing Halcyon? The answer: Yes, I did. I’m a very emotional man, I’m attached to my characters, and I cried many times.

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

RY:  I don’t know if they’re my favorite, exactly, but they’re quite important quotes: “When pleasure is denied, the channel to new possibilities, and alternate experiences, becomes broader.” And, “I think everybody in America should know how to treat gunshot wounds.”

TQWhat's next?

RY:  I’m currently working on a hi-octane, no-holds-barred action novel called Lola on Fire. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I will say that it’s a straight thriller, with no supernatural element, and that I’m channeling some of my favorite authors and filmmakers—Elmore Leonard and Martin Scorsese, to name but two—while writing it. If all goes to plan, I expect it to be published in early 2020.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

RY:  The pleasure was all mine. Thank you.

Titan Books, October 23, 2018
Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Interview with Rio Youers
Halcyon is the answer for anyone who wants to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems.

A self-sustaining community on a breathtakingly beautiful island, Halcyon is run for people who want to live without fear, crime or greed. Its leader has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing, and believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.

On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. Yet he soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer. As the founder captivates his young family, Martin sets out to discover the truth of the island, however terrible it might be, where something so perfect hides unimaginable darkness beneath…

St. Martin's Press, July 10, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 384 Pages

Interview with Rio Youers
From the author of End Times and Point Hollow comes a new thriller, Rio Youers's Halcyon

HALCYON is the answer for all Americans who want to escape, but paradise isn't what it seems. A beautiful island in the middle of Lake Ontario—a self-sustaining community made up of people who want to live without fear, crime, or greed. Halcyon is run by Valerie Kemp, aka Mother Moon, benevolent and altruistic on the outside, but hiding an unimaginable darkness inside. She has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing. And she believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.

On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. He soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer and sets out to discover the truth—however terrible it might be—behind the island and its mysterious founder, Mother Moon.

About Rio

Interview with Rio Youers
© Sophie Hogan
RIO YOUERS is the British Fantasy Award–nominated author of End Times and Point Hollow. His short fiction has been published in many notable anthologies, and his novel Westlake Soul was nominated for Canada’s prestigious Sunburst Award. Rio lives in southwestern Ontario with his wife, Emily, and their children, Lily and Charlie.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @Rio_Youers

Interview with Aliette de Bodard

Please welcome Aliette de Bodard to The Qwillery. In the Vanishers' Palace is out today from JABberwocky Literary Agency.

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

Interview with Aliette de Bodard

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

Aliette:  Hello and thank you for having me! My first fiction piece was an illustrated story about people going to rescue the daughter of the Cat Emperor of the Universe. I was 12 when I wrote it, and what I mostly remember is that the illustrations were terrible. I probably decided then and there that while writer might be a career for me, illustrator was definitely not.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Aliette:  I am most definitely a plotter. I just find it impossible to write anything if I don't have an idea of where it's going and how I get there. It gets worse for novels, where I need a detailed list of scenes and chapters and an order to them. I tend to do a big outlining phase that consumes about half my writing time for a piece, where I obsessively write the outline with a lot of details. Then I write pretty quickly after that. I'm not saying I stick to the outline, mind you! I certainly deviate from it quite significantly when I'm writing, but when that happens I'll stop and redo the outline rather than forge on, and only then will I continue writing.

TQYou've written (so far) 3 series - the Obsidian and Blood Trilogy, the Universe of Xuya, and the Dominion of the Fallen with the 3rd novel in this series out next year. Has you're writing process changed from when you wrote your first published novel to now?

Aliette:  I think the main way in which my process has changed is that I've accepted that I can be flexible with it? When I first started writing, the process was very much this lifeline I clung to. Having a detailed outline was the only thing that was going to prevent my novel from turning into a smoking crater, and if I even so much as slightly deviated from it I'd be lost. Now that I've got more books under my belt, I know that on some level I'm capable of making a novel and that it's not the end of the world if I don't exactly follow the outline. That said, I also know how much I can deviate from the process: I know that if I don't follow the outline at some point in the very near future I'll have to pause and re-plot, or I'll end up frustrated and unable to write!

TQYour most recent work is In the Vanishers' Palace, which is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. What attracted you to this fairy tale?

Aliette:  I've always been attracted to Beauty and the Beast. I think it's partly because the Disney version came out when I was a kid and was one of the first movies I can remember going to the theatre for, and partly because it's about love in spite of physical appearance, and love triumphing against all obstacles. It's a very old and very powerful tale. At the same time, while I love it to bits, I recognise that it's deeply problematic when it comes to consent: Beauty falls in love with her kidnapper and her jailer, and the huge power imbalance between them isn't ever really acknowledged. I wanted to retell this story, but in a way that would have a love story that was born of free will and where both parties respected the other's consent. I also wanted to bring into it the Vietnamese elements from my childhood, to make Beauty an impoverished scholar and the Beast a dragon spirit turned fearful and dark.

TQTell us something about In the Vanishers' Palace that is not found in the book description.

Aliette:  The eponymous palace, the one in which Vu Côn (the dragon) lives, was inspired by Escher's artwork. I wanted something creepy and dizzying, and I decided Escher was the perfect match. Every room in the palace, with their infinitely receding perspectives and their architecture where the reader is uncertain where up, down or sideways are, is inspired by one or two different pieces of Escher's.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for In the Vanishers' Palace?

Aliette:  I did a lot of research on Escher (obviously!), on Vietnamese folklore and in particular the traditional tales involving dragons. A bunch of research also went in medicine, because several of the main characters are healers, and the world it's set in is one where random plagues abound, and obviously I needed to make up some plausible diseases people could catch. I also looked into Traditional Chinese/Vietnamese medicine.

TQPlease tell us about the fabulous cover for In the Vanishers' Palace.

Aliette:  The cover was painted by Kelsey Liggett, and designed by Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein and Melanie Ujimori. It doesn't depict something from the novel, but rather its overall mood. The main character Yên, my impoverished scholar, is seen wearing an áo dài, a traditional Vietnamese tunic: we picked peach as a colour because it had a nice contrast with the background and it was warm (it's also a very traditional female colour). In background, you see the dragon, Vu Côn--I really like that she's this huge, enormous, threatening shadow, because that's how Yên starts out as perceiving her, before realising there's more to her than meets the eye. But at the same time the huge dark dragon symbolises the darkness at the heart of the tale, and the dangerous secrets in the palace that Yên will have to face, so it's very fitting, in more ways than one, that she's falling through the dragon's coils.

TQDoes In the Vanishers' Palace touch on any social issues?

Aliette:  I didn't mean to touch on any social issues: I basically wrote this book because I wanted to write something that would make me happy and that would be welcoming to my friends. But of course writing is always a political act, and writing a book in which the main characters are two queer Vietnamese women falling in love with each other, and which has several supporting non-binary characters, is not neutral. It says something about which people are being allowed happiness, being allowed escape, being allowed their own stories; and it's a statement all of its own!

TQWhich question about In the Vanishers' Palace do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Aliette:  How did you work out the magic system?

The magic system in In the Vanishers' Palace is language-based, which sounds simple but actually gave me quite a large headache. It's not only language-based, but it's also writing based: magicians need to have the right words and then to write them down (whether in a circle or in the air) before anything happens. It's based on literary allusions, which means that you have to be fairly fluent in poetry and stories before you can put things together: for instance, the words used to summon the dragon, "Fish, River, Gate, Storm", come from a story in which carps leap through a gate located at the top of a waterfall and transform into dragons (who are river and storm spirits).

One of the questions I had to deal with was what form the writing should take, and it wasn't an innocuous one. Vietnamese is written today with an alphabet, but the archaic form of the language used Chinese characters (as in, actual characters taken from Chinese in the days of Chinese domination of Vietnam). In the first version I wrote, the more archaic versions of the magical language used characters, and then I realised that I was erasing the Vietnamese language as it is now, and implying that anything magical was really Chinese, which is a unsatisfactory way of handling things. So I ended up giving everyone a different alphabet: there's one for the mortals and one for the spirits, and a really weird one for the departed race, the Vanishers, one that few people can read anymore.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from In the Vanishers' Palace.

Aliette:  Here are two!

"Something pushed from beneath the water—emerging, lithe and sinuous, a huge, serpentine body, translucent stubs of antlers with the same glow as the moon’s—a mane, scattering droplets of river water as the dragon shook herself, her roar the thunder of a storm that stripped leaves and bark from the trees."

"Because she had to, Yên looked up; and down again, quickly, before she could be overwhelmed. The room stretched and twisted. Rivulets of water ran down on either side of the path leading to the throne where Vu Côn sat, gradually gathering to become a huge river that climbed over the throne and then fell back behind it, a soundless, impossible waterfall. But the rivulets went on and on, receding into the distance and forming another, farther-away waterfall falling on an empty throne, and on and on, repeating without any sign that this pattern ever ended."

TQWhat's next?

Aliette:  I'm going to be a guest at World Fantasy at the end of the month, where I'll be talking safe havens in storms and all things fantasy. Bookwise, I'm working on book 3 of Dominion of the Fallen, which will wrap up the series. It'll be set in the same dark Gothic devastated Paris, and focus on House Harrier, which is a snobbish House divided by class, and which runs into troubles of its own after a mysterious magical explosion. After that I'll be tackling a space opera set in my Xuya universe (which is a galactic empire based on Vietnamese culture, with spaceships who are part of families).

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Aliette:  Thank you very much for having me! Honoured.

In the Vanishers' Palace
JABberwocky Literary Agency, October 16, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 208 pages

Interview with Aliette de Bodard
From the award-winning author of the Dominion of the Fallen series comes a dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land...

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village's debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn's amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets...

About Aliette

Interview with Aliette de Bodard
Photo by Lou Abercrombie
Aliette de Bodard writes speculative fiction: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and two British Science Fiction Association Awards. She is the author of the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which comprises The House of Shattered Wings (2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, Locus Award finalist), and its standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns (Ace/Gollancz, 2017 European Science Fiction Society Achievement Award, Locus award finalist). She lives in Paris.

Website  ~  Twitter @aliettedb  ~  Facebook

Interview with Peter McLean

Please welcome Peter McLean to The Qwillery. Priest of Bones, the first novel in the War for the Rose Throne, was published on October 2nd by Ace.

Interview with Peter McLean

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery! Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne 1) was published on October 2nd. Describe Priest of Bones using only 5 words.

Peter:  Peaky Blinders with Swords. There, that’s only four words! Joel Cunningham at Barnes & Noble came up with that when they hosted the online cover reveal, and it’s absolutely perfect.

TQIn our first interview (back in 2016) you said that the most challenging thing for you about writing was "Simply making the time to do it is always the hardest thing." Is this still the case or have new challenges cropped up?

Peter:  Yes and no. I had eighteen months off between leaving one day job and starting another, which gave me a ton of time to work (the second book, Priest of Lies, is already done!) but I’m now back at work during the days again, so I’m once more burning the candle at both ends. It’s manageable though, I find I just have to choose what I don’t do in order to make time for writing. I barely watch TV any more, for example, and nights out have definitely become a thing of the past. Writing is one of those things that, if you really want to do it, you’ll find the time somewhere. I know people who get up to write at 5am every day before their families wake up, for example, and people who write on their lunch breaks at work. The time is always there, it’s just up to you how you choose to use it.

TQYour first series, The Burned Man series (Drake, Dominion, and Damnation), is Urban Fantasy. Priest of Bones is described as "...a fresh and compelling take on grimdark fantasy." While The Burned Man series was often grim and dark it could not be called grimdark. What drew you to writing grimdark? What is "grimdark" in your opinion?

Peter:  Oh boy, I’m not even sure of the answer to that myself. I don’t really think anyone outside of the Warhammer community (where the term originated) really agrees on what “grimdark” means. For me, at least, it’s about morally ambiguous characters, about everyone thinking they’re doing the right thing and usually being wrong, and about consequences. One of the key signatures of books commonly regarded as grimdark is that actions have consequences. Wounds get infected and go bad, soldiers get dysentery on campaign, good people die unexpectedly, and war leaves mental as well as physical scars. In those respects I suppose you could say it’s more “realistic” than traditional high fantasy where you often find instant healing spells and so forth, but it’s not just that. There’s an aesthetic to it too, a grime that speaks to the noir-lover in me. I can’t see myself ever writing about singing elves and happy unicorns, if you know what I mean.

TQAre there any themes that Priest of Bones shares with The Burned Man series?

Peter:  Yeah, definitely. Childhood trauma and parent issues seem to be two of my recurring themes whatever I’m writing, and both Don Drake and Tomas Piety are the products of abusive upbringings. There’s the criminality too, of course. Don Drake from The Burned Man was basically a hitman, at least to begin with, and Tomas Piety is a gangster. Both are trying to do good, to be better men, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Both series are set amongst the lower classes of their worlds, too; even when I’m reading history, I’m infinitely more interested in how cobblers, bakers, seamstresses and soldiers lived in a given time than I am in royalty or dukes and duchesses. I always think people’s actions and decisions are more interesting when they’re influenced not simply by what they perceive to be right, but also by how they’ll get to eat that day.

TQYou've set Priest of Bones sort of in the Tudor period. What appeals to you about this particular historical period?

Peter:  I knew I wanted my broken soldiers to be haunted by the noise of the cannon, in a nod to the heroes of the First World War, so I decided to set the story in an analogue of the Tudor period rather than the more ubiquitous “Medieval fantasy era”, which is never particularly Medieval anyway. Also I wanted Ellinburg, where the book is set, to be a filthy industrial city, with lots of heavy manufacturing. I didn’t want to go steampunk with it, but there are a lot of factories powered by waterwheels which I think fit better in a later-feeling setting.

TQIn Priest of Bones who was your favorite character to write and why? Which character has given you the most trouble and why?

Peter:  Bloody Anne is far and away my favourite character. Like the very best characters, she just sort of arrived in my head one day, fully formed and generally causing trouble, demanding to be written. She fascinates me because she functions as Tomas’s conscience, something he’s personally lacking to a large degree. Their relationship is purely platonic but there’s definitely a love between them, and a deep well of mutual respect.

I think in a way Tomas himself was probably the most difficult – with a first person narrator you’re obviously much deeper in that character than any of the others, and Tomas is a complicated man. He just arrived too, but he was much harder to get into the head of than Anne. He’s a ruthless, manipulative businessman out for himself and a natural leader, but at the same time he genuinely cares for his people and his streets, the place where he came from. He grew up dirt poor on those streets, abused and with no prospects. He’s a completely self-made man with big political ambitions and bigger problems, who gets swallowed up by events beyond his control and has to do what he can to make the best of it. He’s a man of contradictions, priest and executioner both. While he is enormously fun to write about it’s a big character to wrap around myself, and not always a comfortable head to live in while writing him.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Priest of Bones.

Peter:  I absolutely love the cover, Ace really did me proud there. It was designed in-house at Berkley by Katie Anderson, combining the photograph of the sword by Jelena Jovanovic with Slava Geri’s street scene. The US trade paperback has a gorgeous textured finish too, while the UK edition from Jo Fletcher Books has a slightly different design but the same image, and will be a my first hardcover release.

TQPlease share with us one or two of your favorite quotes from Priest of Bones.


“My weapons are gold and lace, and paints and powders. And the dagger, when it’s needed. You can hide a dagger very well indeed, behind enough lace.”

When people have run out of food, and hope, and places to hide, do not be surprised if they have also run out of mercy.

TQWhat's next?

Peter:  Next is the second book in the series, Priest of Lies, due out next July. Without giving too much away, you’ll see savage gang warfare, visit Dannsburg, see the imposing House of Law and the terrible House of Magicians, and discover what happens when a man who lives by his brutal reputation finds himself thrown into the merciless arena of royal politics in a city where that reputation simply doesn’t exist.

And that’s without what the Queen’s Men have planned for him.

TQThank you for joining us as The Qwillery!

Peter:  Thank you for having me!

Priest of Bones
War for the Rose Throne 1
Ace, October 2, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Peter McLean
“The first in an unmissable series, Priest of Bones is a fresh and compelling take on grimdark fantasy. Mashing together soldiers, gangsters, magic and war into a heady mix that is a hulking big brother to The Lies of Locke Lamora.”–Anna Stephens, author of Godblind

The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety heads home with Sergeant Bloody Anne at his side. But things have changed while he was away: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg–his people–have run out of food and hope and places to hide. Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his with help from Anne, his brother, Jochan, and his new gang: the Pious Men. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, everything gets more complicated.

As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the back-street taverns, brothels, and gambling dens of Tomas’s old life, it becomes clear:

The war is only just beginning.

About Peter

Interview with Peter McLean
Peter McLean lives in the UK, where he studies martial arts and magic, and volunteers at a prison, teaching creative writing. He is the author of the Burned Man urban fantasy series.

Website  ~  Twitter @petemc666  ~  Facebook

Interview with Larry Allen, author of A Forgotten Legacy

Please welcome Larry Allen to The Qwillery. A Forgotten Legacy was published in April 2018 by Waquoit Press.

Interview with Larry Allen, author of A Forgotten Legacy

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

Larry:  A rather embarrassing picture book from about second grade. I guess you could call it science fiction, because it involved robots. And embarrassing because it involved robots giving birth. Fortunately I found it recently while packing for a move, and it's now archived where no one will see it again. Ever.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Larry:  Generally a plotter. My upcoming novel project, though, began by pantsing; I had what I though was a good idea and decided to run with it and see where it went. I got about ten thousand words in and hit a stone wall, so I reverted to type, put together a plot outline, and began moving forward again. Where I landed was nowhere near the outline, but it did break the logjam. I'm reminded of the old Eisenhower quote "... plans are useless, but planning is indispensable"

I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable
Read more at:

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Larry:  Discipline, definitely. I'm most productive when I put in the hours. Sadly, Real Life™ intrudes, which is really no excuse - we all have the same 168 hours a week; it's what we do with them that makes the difference. So I'll take this question as a gentle reminder to get back to work.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Larry:  Partly the old masters: Asimov, Heinlein, Sterling... Some of their work can seem archaic by contemporary standards, but even if a story is dated, we can learn from it. Aesop's fables have held up remarkably well over the last 2500 years. But I also draw from my engineering background - when a new piece of technology appears on the scene, it's fun to extrapolate where it might go. Unless the extrapolation leads to the end of the world. I hate stories where everyone is dead at the end.

TQDescribe A Forgotten Legacy using only 5 words.

Larry:  Do I really have to? (That's 5 words). Seriously, though, how about "Be bold. Surprise even yourself."

TQTell us something about A Forgotten Legacy that is not found in the book description.

Larry:  Most of the first contact stories I've ever read involve grandiose missions that go well. Whether it's diplomatic outreach or alien invasion, the recurring theme is a master strategy executed according to plan. But in the real world, things go wrong. Part of what motivated my writing 'Legacy was that it would be interesting to explore what might happen if things go sideways in a big way. Apollo 13 on steroids?

TQWhat inspired you to write A Forgotten Legacy? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

Larry:  The big inspiration was the idea that we're all more than we think we are. It may take us some time to discover in what way that's so. Some of us go a lifetime without ever making that discovery. For me, the big appeal of Science Fiction is that the opportunities to explore are limitless - if you don't like the world you're in, you can make a new one... and another, and another. I've got some ideas for mainstream action/adventure novels, but my ideas for Science Fiction projects keep crowding them out. Chase my muse, or play to a wider audience? I guess I've made my choice.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for A Forgotten Legacy?

Larry:  The broad strokes were material I already knew, so most of my research was into the sort of minutiae that, when you get it right nobody notices, but when you get it wrong your reader rolls her eyes, puts the book down, and clicks one star on the review page. For me, this included everything from calculating the apparent diameter of a planet from a particular orbit, down to what fraction of human cultures kiss (Most of them, it turns out, and even some simians). With the internet, there's really no excuse for getting these things wrong. And I hope that there's not some fundamental oversight in 'Legacy that makes me eat these words.

TQIn A Forgotten Legacy who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Larry:  The protagonist was definitely the easiest character to write, because of there's a lot of me in him, both by nature and life experience. The book isn't remotely autobiographical, but I'd like to believe that if I was placed in Greg's situation, I'd have the courage to do what he does.

The hardest? Probably the villain's significant other. She's a cool, perfectly heartless sociopath, and she was inspired by a real-life business associate from some years ago. My most effective technique for getting a character right is to imagine myself as that character, going through the scene. But in this case, doing so just gave me the creeps. I've got an idea for another novel, but the protagonist is an utterly amoral monster, so it will probably never get written.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from A Forgotten Legacy.

Larry:  Its tough to chose something that will stand alone, out of context. But hopefully these will illustrate the tone of the book, without revealing the content.
"Late arrival? On your record. Too long between calls? On your record. More than average duration of bathroom breaks? Well, not necessarily on your record, but it would turn up in the report sent to your team leader at the end of each week, and you’d surely be spoken to."
"...his gaze shifted from window to window, reading signs and examining merchandise offered for sale. Some items were easily identifiable... [but] other signs were utterly confusing, such as the one that said ‘Psychic Readings’. A narrowly focused specialty bookstore, possibly?"

TQWhat's next?

Larry:  What's next is another novel: The Sixth World. Without giving away too much, it's a story set on a future Utopian earth, but in which the protagonist discovers a deeply buried fatal flaw in that society; one that makes it's eventual collapse inevitable. In addition to making some observations about our own world that I hope my readers will find thought-provoking, I'll also be taking them to some pretty interesting new places. It's out with beta readers now, and I hope it will be released it early next year.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Larry:  Well thank you for inviting me! I hope we'll be able to do this again some day.

A Forgotten Legacy
Waquoit Press, April 2018
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 307 pages

Interview with Larry Allen, author of A Forgotten Legacy
David Frey signed on as a mission specialist for the Endeavor's inaugural interstellar expedition - a chance to be among the first to visit another world. But after a devastating shipboard disaster, he finds himself marooned and alone, trillions of miles from home.

Greg Parker commutes between a dead-end job and a loveless marriage, his dreams of a life at sea long abandoned.

Christopher Bishop's high-tech empire has made him one of the most successful men in the world. But something he's tried to find for a generation still eludes him.

Much to all of their surprise, their lives are about to converge in a way that none of them could possibly have imagined.

Written by an engineer and pilot, A Forgotten Legacy will be a compelling read for science fiction fans, as well as those who just want to enjoy an entertaining, suspenseful adventure.

About Larry

Interview with Larry Allen, author of A Forgotten Legacy
When not working on his latest science fiction novel or short story, Larry Allen consults for the electronic engineering and embedded computing industries. He spends his recreational time flying light airplanes, long-distance bicycling, traveling, and of course voraciously reading. On rare occasions he has been observed taking the Polar Bear Plunge. He prefers cats to dogs, and lives with his wife on Cape Cod.


Interview with Cate Glass, author of An Illusion of ThievesInterview with Tim ClareInterview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)Interview with Charlie HolmbergInterview with Timothy S. Johnston Interview with Sarah Chorn, author of Seraphina's LamentInterview with Rio YouersInterview with Aliette de BodardInterview with Peter McLeanInterview with Larry Allen, author of A Forgotten Legacy

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