The Qwillery | category: Interview | (page 3 of 58)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy

Please welcome Anna Smith Spark to The Qwillery. The Tower of Living and Dying, Empires of Dust 2, was published on August 7th by Orbit.

Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Tower of Living and Dying (Empire of Dust 2), was published on August 7th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Court of Broken Knives (Empire of Dust 1) to now?

Anna:  Thank you so much for having me back!

Good question. The writing process for the two books was totally different. They were both incredibly interesting to write in very different ways.

The Court of Broken Knives was written in a mad blast over a year, with no thought of publication at all. It wasn’t even written as a novel, in fact – I sat down one day after not having written fiction for well over ten years, started writing and things came unstoppably vomited out. Men in a desert, heat, violence: I had no idea what was happening, who these people were, where they were, why. Then next thing I knew a dragon had turned up. It really wasn’t until I’d written maybe 50,000 words that I had any idea that I was writing a fantasy novel; I finally worked out what the book was about clearly in my mind, uh, when I came to edit it for final publication. It was a journey of discovery for me, a world to explore and a group of people revealing more of themselves as I travelled with them.

The Tower of Living and Dying was written after I had an agent and a book deal. So I was writing ‘book two of a big new fantasy trilogy’ with a plot synopsis I vaguely needed to follow, characters I knew inside out (virtually literally, in some cases), a world who’s geography I could follow on a beautiful map. There were far more limitations in some ways, I’d be cursing Sophie my amazing map artist for putting a river just here rather than a smidge more over there, suddenly things like a character’s family background, life goals, chances of surviving the next twenty pages with a head and at least one working limb, were rather more fixed. And I had my editors’ voices whispering in my ears: ‘that’s not a commercial move to do that’, ‘that’s not persuasive motivation’, ‘no no no no no we’ve literally just discussed this as a problem in book one’.

But – the confidence! The joyous pleasure of feeling ‘I’m a writer! A writer! Me! So ... I can write!’ After a lifetime of not having much confidence in myself, mental health problems, a depressing day job stretching on into eternity as my one purpose in life, suddenly I was a writer with people saying very nice things about my writing. The confidence to really explore how far I can go with it, push my prose to the limits. I knew I could do it. The Tower of Living and Dying was a sculpture in a block of marble, in there waiting for me to hack it out. Perhaps it wasn’t as exhilarating as a whole as writing The Court of Broken Knives, finding out that I could write every day as I wrote. Certainly it was more exhausting. But it felt more stable. In the end I think it produced a stronger result.

Book three, however, is bloody killing me. The one thing about the kind of reviews I’m getting is the amount of pressure they pile on for book three.

What’s that sound I can hear? Is it your heart bleeding for me as you read this? Please don’t feel you need to cry for me either, it’s getting your computer all wet. But you have no idea how tough it is. It’s right up there with ‘I’m struggling to find ways to spend my money’, ‘the thing about being this beautiful is how difficult it is to get my PhD supervisor to take me seriously’ and ‘I have a metabolic condition where I lose more weight the more chocolate I eat’ as a tragic but often misunderstood life problem. It’s hard but I’m heroically trying to cope.

Seriously, I am humbled and awed and wonderstruck by the response to The Court of Broken Knives and The Tower of Living and Dying. It’s difficult to put into words how it feels when I get a good review, how grateful I am when people say they’ve bought my book. I regularly cry when I hear from people who enjoyed it, then phone my dad to tell him and he cries too. But the pressure I feel not to disappoint people is pretty intense now. Book three is the end of the story, the summation of the ideas I’ve explored in the first two books, the culmination of my and my readers’ hopes, potentially the last book of mine people buy and the last book I write for HarperVoyager and Orbit. So … no pressure there.

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when The Court of Broken Knives came out that you know now?

Anna:  Hmmm… I know a lot about the publishing industry anyway, to be honest, my father is a writer and small-press publisher, as are many of his friends, I have several old family friends who work in publishing, journalism, arts administration and so on. Also I did a PhD, so the process of structural editing, the polite comment that asks you to entirely recast the structure of the book, was nothing new to me. I rather enjoy being edited, actually, it’s familiar, and nice to have someone telling you what to write for a bit. Also if everyone hates that bit I can feel vindicated at my editor.

TQDescribe The Tower of Living and Dying using only 5 words.

Anna:  War sorrow landscapes beauty death.

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

Anna:  Another good question. One I think about a lot.

Marith is always the hardest character to write because he is both the depths of my soul and the one great love of my life. He gets out of control and has to be reined in to make him readable, I have to check myself to try to understand him in the way we have to try to understand ourselves sometimes. It can feel very raw writing something that intensely about parts of myself and feelings I’ve had. He is toxic and vile, I’ve fallen into the fucked up romantic trap so many times myself and it’s important to make clear that he’s poison. But the lure of what he offers, him as something attractive despite or because of it, a leader, a dreamer, why people might follow him … that has to be important too. So many times, over and over, people have followed to the bitter end. Some blithely, some pitifully, some out of their own evil, some horribly aware of how fucked up it is. Trying to embody any of that in a character is emotionally draining.

I have to rein him in for other reasons too, reminding myself I’m writing grimdark fantasy not, uh, the other kind of fantasy. Although several people have said they’d love to read some of the other kind of fantasy about him and Carin, so…

Raeta was one of those delightful surprise characters that hit you from nowhere, more like the experience of writing The Court of Broken Knives had been. She really came out of nowhere at me, and I fell deeply in love with her. She was originally introduced as a very minor cameo role for a friend of mine in Broken Knives and blossomed from there.

Also, the increasing depth of heart and humanity I find in Bil Emmereth as she opens herself up to me as Orhan more is delighting me.

TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Tower of Living and Dying.


Out of the chaos an army forming, eight thousand men armed and ready, horses, ships, supplies. Tearing its way to life like a child birthing. Coalescing like bronze in the forge.

We worship the sky and the trees and the earth and the sea and the rocks we walk on. We dream of light and shadows and the glory of something far greater, the old wild powers of the world. Gods and demons parading. The secret things we cannot see that fly somewhere far beyond our human eyes.

Salt-soaked pitch-soaked well-seasoned damp wood is … astonishing when it explodes.

TQThe Empires of Dust series is grimdark fantasy. Are there any other genres / subgenres in which you'd like to write? If not, why not?

Anna:  At the moment, I can’t see myself writing anything other than high fantasy in one form or another. I love reading and writing fantasy, writing wonders and magic and epic war is so much damned fun. And there’s so much of Irlast I still need to explore.

There’s a lot of the stupid snobbery around ‘literary writing’ doesn’t apply in the same way it does in fantasy. It makes me so incredibly angry that literary fantasy is dismissed as a non-sequitur. Literary science fiction is a given, as is literary historical fiction. But literary fantasy is ignored. In as much as I have any goal in my writing now beyond writing for the joy of it, I want to treat the rarefied path of literary fantasy and see just how far I can take it. Explore the horrors of the human soul, the heights of love, the depths of grief, the riches of mundane life, push the language of modernism and archaicism, play delicious language games … with magic swords and chainmail bikinis and dragons.

TQWhat is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?

Anna:  My father has a postcard on his desk that says ‘You must write as if your life depended on it’. I grew up looking at it. All it really means, in the end, is WRITE. Don’t wait for the right time and place, or think you’re not good enough. Don’t write for others. Don’t think about ‘will this sell? Is this good?’. Just write without restrictions on yourself.

TQWhat advice would you give to a debut author?

Anna:  Honestly? You’re nothing special. You’ve written one book. Unless you’re J K Rowling or E L James, your life is not going to be forever changed. All that’s changed is that you’ve got the pressure of having a deadline for your next book.

Even more honestly? You’re really nothing special. No matter how many books you go on to write. If I ever find myself approaching book bloggers and review sites like this one with anything other than humility awe and gratitude, if I ever stop pinching myself in wonder every time anyone asks me what I do and I can say ‘author’, if I ever stop feeling like I’m going to weep for joy when someone says they liked my book, I need to stop writing for publication immediately.

TQWhat's next?

Anna:  Killing myself wrestling book three into submission. It’s either the book or me. Indeed, by the time this is published, it may well have been me. Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant. Then …. who knows? I would love to write more novels set in Irlast, exploring other voices and perspectives on things. There’s a whole world there to explore, the landscapes, the people; Irlast is ultimately a map of my subconscious so I don’t see myself abandoning it any time soon. I’ve written several short stories set in Irlast, for the forthcoming Rogues, Legends III and Unbound II anthologies. Beyond that, it’s with the gods. I’ve been pouring libations to Apollo and Calliope daily.

TQThank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.

The Tower of Living and Dying
Empires of Dust 2
Orbit, July 24, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy
A powerhouse story of bloodshed, ambition, and fate, The Tower of Living and Dying is a continuation of Anna Smith Spark’s brilliant Empires of Dust trilogy, which began with The Court of Broken Knives.

Marith has been a sellsword, a prince, a murderer, a demon, and dead. But something keeps bringing him back to life, and now there is nothing stopping him from taking back the throne that is rightfully his.

Thalia, the former high priestess, remains Marith’s only tenuous grasp to whatever goodness he has left. His left hand and his last source of light, Thalia still believes that the power that lies within him can be used for better ends. But as more forces gather beneath Marith’s banner, she can feel her influence slipping.

Read the second book in this “gritty and glorious!” (Miles Cameron) epic fantasy series reminiscent of Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence where the exiled son of a king fights to reclaim his throne no matter the cost.

Empires of Dust
The Court of Broken Knives
The Tower of Living and Dying


The Court of Broken Knives
Empires of Dust 1
Orbit, August 15, 2017
    Trade Paperback, 512 pages
Orbit, June 27, 2017
    eBook, 512 pages

Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy
Perfect for fans of Mark Lawrence and R Scott Bakker, The Court of Broken Knives is the explosive debut by one of grimdark fantasy’s most exciting new voices.

Shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel
Shortlisted for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award

It is the richest empire the world has ever known, and it is also doomed–but only one man can see it.

Haunted by prophetic dreams, Orhan has hired a company of soldiers to cross the desert to reach the capital city. Once they enter the palace, they have one mission: kill the emperor, then all those who remain. Only from the ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Though he is young, ambitious, and impossibly charming, something dark hides in Marith’s past–and in his blood.

Dive into this new fantasy series for readers looking for epic battle scenes, gritty heroes, and blood-soaked revenge.

About Anna

Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust Trilogy
Anna Smith Spark is the author of the critically acclaimed grimdark epic fantast trilogy Empires of Dust. The David Gemmell Awards shortlisted The Court of Broken Knives is out now with HarperVoyager/Orbit; The Tower of Living and Dying will be published August 2018.

Anna lives in London, UK. She loves grimdark and epic fantasy and historical military fiction. Anna has a BA in Classics, an MA in history and a PhD in English Literature. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website Previous jobs include petty bureaucrat, English teacher and fetish model.

Anna’s favourite authors and key influences are R. Scott Bakker, Steve Erikson, M. John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Stewart and Mary Renault.  She spent several years as an obsessive D&D player. She can often be spotted at sff conventions wearing very unusual shoes.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @queenofgrimdark

Interview with V. M. Escalada

Please welcome V. M. Escalada to The Qwillery. Gift of Griffins is published on August 7th by DAW.

Interview with V. M. Escalada

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

V. M.:  Great to be here, thanks for inviting me. I'd have to say I'm a hybrid. My academic training pushes me in the direction of outlines, but I only prepare one to be sure that I've got a viable story, that the idea works and has someplace to go. That isn't necessarily where it actually does go, of course.

TQTell us something about Gift of Griffins that is not found in the book description.

V. M.:  I see that nothing about Griffinhome is mentioned, so there's nothing about how the griffins' society works, and what Weimerk's place is in it. It does have an impact on the plot, though obviously I'm not going to tell you what that is.

TQWhat inspired you to write the Faraman Prophecy? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

V. M.:  I was a fan of those forensics shows that were all the rage for a while. Since my brain lives in a fantasy space, I thought, "what if psychics were used as crime scene investigators?" They could just walk into the crime scene, touch things, and know immediately what had happened. I figured out pretty quickly that the idea wouldn't make a story – at least not a crime-based story, since the psychics would just say "he did it" and the story would be over. So then I wondered, what if being a psychic was the problem? What if they were going about their lawful business when their country was invaded by people who thought Talents were witches that had to be destroyed?

I consider fantasy one of the oldest genres. The way we approach it today, we're able to put our characters into situations that stress them to the breaking point in a way that non-genre writing just can't do. And it also allows the writer to present a society or a world that is different from the world we live in – explore that world, examine it and, occasionally, compare it to the real world.

I've said this before, and I know I'll say it again: I believe that genre literature in general, and fantasy literature in particular is the only place where the protagonist can behave heroically, honourably, without being treated ironically.

It's the only genre where characters can to try to behave as their best selves.

TQWhy griffins?

V. M.:  Well, there are already an awful lot of dragons around, aren't there? Seriously, I liked the idea of griffins because they're dual-natured. Lions and eagles are both at the top of their food chains, top predators. I thought that would make an interesting character, particularly since we meet Weimerk as a hatchling.

TQPlease tell us about magic works in the Faraman Prophecy world.

V. M.:  I like magic to be personal, not dependent on artifacts that anyone can use. So in both books of The Faraman Prophecy, magical abilities are something that people are born with, and trained to use. Like other natural abilities, singing, dancing, cooking etc. some are better at it than others.

TQIn Gift of Griffins who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Which character has surprised you?

V. M.:  Probably the easiest character to write was Ennick. He doesn't have a huge role in terms of lines, but in his way he's extremely important. He's unique in his motives and outlook, which made him easy to understand, at least for me, some of the other characters seem to have a bit of difficulty.

The hardest character was Weimerk, the griffin. It's always a challenge when you're creating a non-human consciousness. Why would they think the same way we do?

I'd have to say the character than surprised me is Wynn Martan. She became a bit of a Mercutio-like character in that she often steals the scenes she's in. She's a redhead, and it turned out that she has the true ginger attitude.

TQDoes Gift of Griffins touch on any social issues?

V. M.:  In many ways I'm looking at the issue of racial/social biases and prejudices from a number of angles. The Faraman Polity is fairly gender-equal, with a slight bias toward women. So you'll find that ranking military officers, nobles, landowners, and even the Luqs, are very likely to be women. The Faramans themselves don't find anything unusual in this, but the Halians are a totally different matter. Not only are they male-centric, but they believe Talents are abominations that must be destroyed. However, it's not just gender equally that gets explored. Biases pop up between the different types of magic-users, and even within the same groups.

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

V. M.:  Most of my favourite lines concern Weimerk the griffin. Here are a few:

Most of my favourite lines concern Weimerk the griffin. Here are a few:

"The griffin showed you?" The woman's tone softened and became kinder. Clearly she thought Ker was mentally defective . . . "And what griffin would that be, my dear?"
Ker pointed upward. "This one."

He might have been half lion and half eagle, but he seemed to have the stomach of both.
<<I am still growing.>> Somehow his thoughts conveyed a clear feeling of offense.
<<You are not.>>

<<You're late.>>
<<I am not. I am always here when I arrive, and never a moment later.>>

TQWhat's next?

V. M.:  I had a couple of ideas for more stories in the Faraman universe, but I couldn't choose between them. So, I'm working on a totally different book, where the "magic" and the physical world are linked. The magicians themselves don't understand as much about their magic as they think they do. I'm still working out the kinks, but it looks promising so far.

Still, I'd love to visit Kerida and Tel and Weimerk again someday. And Wynn. I can see her getting into a lot of trouble.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

V. M.:  You're very welcome. I've enjoyed myself.

Gift of Griffins
Faraman Prophecy 2
DAW, August 7, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with V. M. Escalada
The second book in the Faraman Prophecy epic fantasy series returns to a world of military might and magical Talents as Kerida Nast continues the quest to save her nation.

Kerida Nast and her companions have succeeded in finding Jerek Brightwing, the new Luqs of Farama, and uniting him with a part of his Battle Wings, but not all their problems have been solved. Farama is still in the hands of the Halian invaders and their Shekayrin, and it’s going to take magical as well as military strength to overcome them.

Unexpected help comes from Bakura, the Princess Imperial of the Halians, whose Gifts have been suppressed.  As the Voice of her brother the Sky Emperor she has some political power over the Halian military, and she will use it to aid the Faramans, if Kerida can free her from what she sees as a prison. But whether Kerida can help the princess remains to be seen. If she succeeds, Bakura may prove their salvation. But should Kerida fail, all may be lost….


Halls of Law
Faraman Prophecy 1
DAW, August 7, 2018
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, August 1, 2017

Interview with V. M. Escalada
Now in paperback, the first book in the Faraman Prophecy epic fantasy series introduces a world of military might and magical Talents on the brink of destruction–and two unlikely heroes may be its only saviors.

Seventeen-year-old Kerida Nast has always wanted a career in the military, just like the rest of her family. So when her Talent is discovered, and she knows she’ll have to spend the rest of her life as a psychic for the Halls of Law, Ker isn’t happy about it. Anyone entering the Halls must give up all personal connection with the outside world, losing their family and friends permanently.

But just as Kerida is beginning to reconcile herself to her new role, the Faraman Polity is invaded by strangers from Halia, who begin a systematic campaign of destruction against the Halls, killing every last Talent they can find.

Kerida manages to escape, falling in with Tel Cursar, a young soldier fleeing the battle, which saw the deaths of the royal family. Having no obvious heir to the throne, no new ruler to rally behind, the military leaders will be divided, unable to act quickly enough to save the empire. And with the Halls being burned to the ground, and the Talents slaughtered, the Rule of Law will be shattered.

About V. M. Escalada

Interview with V. M. Escalada
Photo: © Jessica Kennedy
V. M. Escalada lives in a nineteenth-century limestone farmhouse in southeastern Ontario with her husband. Born in Canada, her cultural background is half Spanish and half Polish, which makes it interesting at meal times. Her most unusual job was translating letters between lovers, one of whom spoke only English, the other only Spanish.

Twitter @VioletteMalan

Interview with Danie Ware

Please welcome Danie Ware to The Qwillery. Danie's most recent novel, Children of Artifice, was published on June 16th by Fox Spirit Books.

Interview with Danie Ware

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

Danie:  Was a long and windy horsey story written as a pre-teen. It was called The Fire Saddle and illustrated throughout… and (other than the front cover) I can’t honestly remember a thing about it. Other than it was awful. Obviously.

TQChildren of Artifice is your 4th novel after the 3 novel Ecko series. What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when the 1st Ecko novel came out that you know now?

Danie:  The sheer amount of hard work that goes into producing a novel – not just the writing, but the complex layers of agents and editors and copy-editors and cover artists and publishers and reps and bookstores… You may produce the basic story, but that’s only the beginning of a very long journey indeed. And it’s hard work for all involved!

TQDescribe Children of Artifice with only 5 words.

Danie:  Science fantasy, urban love story.

TQTell us something about Children of Artifice that is not found in the book description.

Danie:  Children of Artifice deals a lot with identity – with what a name really means, what responsibilities it carries, and what happens if you lose or wish to lose it. It also deals with family – there are many layers of narrative that are about ties of blood and ties of love, and how they can pull you to pieces.

TQWhat inspired you to write Children of Artifice? What appeals to you about writing fantasy?

Danie:  I love writing fantasy because the sky’s the limit and your world’s your own – you can dream as big as you like. The trick, though, is to keep the themes and feelings that we can understand and identify with – in this case, falling unexpectedly in love.

The inspiration came from exploring the relationship of the two main characters, how they interact, how they are pulled together almost in spite of themselves. And how they get caught in the centre of the whirlpool that surrounds them.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Children of Artifice?

Danie:  A lot work on alchemy, mining, volcanoes, and volcanic rock (thanks to Simon ‘Doc of Rocks’ Morden for his help), as well as into the culture and demographics of Dickensian London, and (slightly bizarrely) the Edo period of medieval Japan. Setting a story in a sealed location also means a lot of restrictions, and I had to think through how everything would work – and how essentially water-based agriculture would change the most basic ‘taken-for-granted’ things about a fantasy society.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Children of Artifice.

Danie:  Cover art is by Sarah Anne Langton, and shows the rock of the city’s mineworkings, overlaid with the symbolism of the urban magic/metallurgy that threads throughout the book. It was originally intended to be copper-coloured, but the shade came out looking brown – so the blue is the colour that copper makes when it burns. And copper is rather integral to the story!

TQIn Children of Artifice who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Danie:  Caph was the easiest – his thoughts and reactions and emotions have always been second nature, very easy to feel and follow. Proteus was the hardest – he’s a character concept that I’ve struggled with, on and off, for many years. And I was SO pleased to finally get him (and them) right!

TQDoes Children of Artifice touch on any social issues?

Danie:  A gay relationship is the central thread of the story – but I wanted to step away from the old clichés and do something slightly different. They still have their barriers to cross – but those barriers are more about class and caste, rather than sexuality. There’s also a thread about Caph have been bullied/abused by his ex, and about his father’s unforgiving attitude that it makes him ‘less than a man’. It’s not easy to have been a victim, and his breaking free of the self-blame is critical.

TQDoes Children of Artifice share anything thematically with the Ecko series (Ecko Rising, Ecko Burning, and Ecko Endgame)?

Danie:  Only that is doesn’t fit into tidy genre boundaries!

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

Danie:  Maybe: how long did it take you to write? And the answer is a year – and four previous drafts, the first one in about 1993. Never throw your writing away!

TQGive us one or two of your favourite non-spoilery quotes from Children of Artifice.


‘Slowly, the red sky darkened to lavender and the lamps gleamed in the dusk. The blue moon rose, a sliver like a promise. The dockers and loaders, their shifts over, put flame to swaying strings of lanterns and settled in groups to drink and brag. Clouds of midges round around them occasionally flashing to incendiary doom.’

“Holding down his tension, Proteus turned off the tight, stone roadway and took the steps two at a time, He came up to the cluttered porch panting sheened in a dirty sweat. It stank up here, of piss and breakfast, of life and humanity. Layers of noise drifted up from the tangle below – a crying child, a blazing row, the grunts of married sex.”

TQWhat's next?

Danie:  There is a second book, which I’m about halfway through, but I keep getting distracted. I have more Black Library fiction coming very soon – and there will be even more news towards the end of the year!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Danie:  Thank you for having me!

Children of Artiface
Fox Spirit Books, June 16, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Danie Ware
An ancient city, sealed in a vast crater. A history of metallurgical magic, and of Builders that could craft the living, breathing stone.

Caphen Talmar is the high-born son of an elite family, descended from the Builders themselves, his artistic career ruined when his ex-lover broke his fingers.

One night, gambling down at the wharfside – somewhere he shouldn’t have been in the first place – he meets Aden. An uncomplicated, rough-edged dockworker, Aden is everything Caph needs to forget the pressures of his father’s constant criticism.

But this isn’t just another one-night stand. Aden is trying to find his sister, and he needs Caph’s help. Soon, they find themselves tangled in a deadly game of trust, lies and political rebellion.

And, as Caph begins to understand the real depth of the horrors they’ve uncovered, he learns that Aden is not what he seems. And Aden knows more about the coming destruction than Caph could ever have guessed.

Interview with Danie Ware
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About Danie

Interview with Danie Ware

Website  ~  Twitter @Danacea  ~  Facebook


Interview with Danie Ware
Ecko Rising
Ecko 1
Titan Books, April 26, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 528 pages
Trade Paperback and eBook, June 11, 2013

Ecko is an unlikely saviour: a savage gleefully cynical rebel/assassin, he operates out of hi-tech London, making his own rules in a repressed and subdued society. When the biggest job of his life goes horribly wrong, Ecko awakes in a world he doesn’t recognise: a world without tech, weapons, cams, cables – anything that makes sense to him. Can this be his own creation, a virtual Rorschach designed just for him, or is it something much more? Ecko finds himself immersed in a world just as troubled as his own, striving to conquer his deepest fears and save it from extinction.

If Ecko can win through, then he might just learn to care - or break the progam and get home.

Interview with Danie Ware
Ecko Burning
Ecko 2
Titan Books, June 3, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Ruthless and ambitious, Lord Phylos has control of Fhaveon city, and is using her forces to bring the grasslands under his command. His last opponent is an elderly scribe who’s lost his best friend and wants only to do the right thing.

Seeking weapons, Ecko and his companions follow a trail of myth and rumour to a ruined city where both nightmare and shocking truth lie in wait.

Back in London, the Bard is offered the opportunity to realise everything he has ever wanted – if he will give up his soul.

When all of these things come together, the world will change beyond recognition.

Interview with Danie Ware
Ecko Endgame
Ecko 3
Titan Books, November 10, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages

Winter has come to the Varchinde – and with it, the fatal spread of the blight. The grass is dead, and the plains’ cities are falling to the loss of crops and trade.

Now, the Kas take their chance to rise from Rammouthe. Overmatched, betrayed and abandoned by his own forces, Rhan takes the ultimate gamble – he will abandon Fhaveon to lure the Kas into a final confrontation.

But the world’s memory is returning. And, as the battle rages round him, Ecko begins to realise that everything they have done has been for a purpose. If they can fit the pieces together, then they might just win the war.

Yet, even if they do defeat the Kas, the blight is still there. And to save both the Varchinde and himself, Ecko must face the worst fear of all – the one that has come from his own world.

Interview with Danie Ware
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Born to the Blade: An Interview with Michael R. Underwood and Marie Brennan

Please welcome Michael R. Underwood and Marie Brennan to The Qwillery to answer some questions about Born to the Blade, a Serial Box series. The first episode, Arrivals, was published on April 18, 2018. The series is written by Marie Brennan, Cassandra Khaw, Malka Older, and Michael R. Underwood.

Born to the Blade: An Interview with Michael R. Underwood and Marie Brennan

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. How did the Born to the Blade serial come about?

Michael R. Underwood (MRU):  Born to the Blade started as a magic system I imagined over ten years ago. I wanted to have magic that felt embodied, that was the opposite of the D&D stereotype of the frail wizards that can’t lift a sword. In this world, magical talent isn’t heritable, but it is common enough that each nation has their own way of considering and utilizing people with the gift. Bladecraft, the magic of this world, uses edged metal for carving sigils to create magical effects. I first explored the world in a very pulpy sky pirate adventure (a trunk novel, never to be seen) that set up some of the political tensions we explored in Born to the Blade (Quloo’s aerstone shortage, Mertikan imperialism, Tsukisen’s isolationism).

When I found out about Serial Box, I got in touch and talked with co-founders Julian Yap and Molly Barton about what they were looking for, and developed several pitches. Born to the Blade, re-working a concept I had for an unfinished novel in the setting, was the one that most excited them, so we developed the world together toward the series order. And here we are, with the fabulous team of Malka Older, Cassandra Khaw, and myself weaving the tale for readers to enjoy.

TQWhat's Born to the Blade about? How many episodes will it be?

MRU:  Born to the Blade is an epic fantasy series of diplomacy, swordplay, and magic, focusing on duelist-diplomats from a variety of nations that work together in an analogue to the UN security council based in the neutral city of Twaa-Fei. It’s a story about people caught between personal loyalties and national loyalties, between friendship and duplicity, between ambition and compassion. Another way that I’ve been pitching it is like Avatar the Last Airbender meets The West Wing, with magic swordfights.

The first season is eleven episodes, and if we get renewed, I’d love to take the series forward with a total of three to five seasons. I have plans for a three-season version and a five-season version, so we’ll see where the winds of fate take us.

TQWhy is this story suited to the serial format?

MRU:  Born to the Blade was specifically built for the Serial Box format, drawing on drama series like Babylon 5 and Game of Thrones that unfold story bit by bit, balancing a cohesive story for each episode with the ongoing serial drama of character arcs and widescreen storytelling about war, diplomacy, and so on.

TQPlease tell us in general how the collaborative process works with each of you writing different episodes? Do each of you try to write in the same style for each episode?

MRU:  We kicked off the development process for season one with a weekend-long writers’ summit, where all four of us on the writers’ team talked about what we wanted the series to be, ideas about the world and characters, and once we had the world, characters, and their relationships more firmly established, we broke the story for season one, with character arcs, twists, mysteries, and so on. We broke the story within the episode structure, so that we already had a pretty clear sense of what major story beats went where in the season.

The actual collaboration process was not unlike a TV show, where each episode was assigned to one member of the writing team. For each episode, we developed a more detailed outline which the team discussed, then wrote the episode and shared with the team, arranged in phases (roughly act one, two, and three of the season). We all gave feedback on each episode, so while any given episode is entirely written by just one team member, every episode represents all of our ideas and creativity. We didn’t push ourselves to all write in identical prose styles, but as the team lead, I did take the lead in setting the tone and approach for the series in writing the pilot episode before any of the other episodes were written, helping us find the voice and approach for the series and characters (though as I said above, all of this represents everyone’s approach rather than just my own).

TQWhat do you like about writing a serial? Is writing episodes in a serial easier or harder than writing a novella?

MRU:  It’s been a great challenge to pack in as much story as possible to 10K word episodes (about 40 pages or an hour of audio). I’m definitely more used to novella and novel-length writing, so I have had to continually push myself to focus, to make every scene do double or triple duty, and to pack as much worldbuilding into other parts of the story as possible in order to keep the wordcount on target.
Working on Born to the Blade has definitely helped me become a stronger writer, and I have also set myself other challenges, like writing fight scenes that are exciting and easy to follow while also being emotionally resonant.

TQWhat is the easiest and hardest thing about writing a serial?

Marie Brennan (MB): It might seem counter-intuitive, but I feel like one of the easiest things was making sure every episode had something cool happening in it. An episode isn't the same thing as a chapter; if you think about a TV show and compare it to a novel, you'll generally see a different structure for how they're broken up. (Depending on the writer. Some novelists structure their books like TV shows.) Both approaches work, but once I got my brain into TV-style gear, it was pretty easy to think of each episode as having some kind of set-piece or ending punch, rather than building toward the ultimate end goal in a more gradual fashion.

The hardest thing was making we kept all the balls in the air. Most novels focus on only one or two protagonists, or if they have more, each one tends to get their own chapter. But because Serial Box's projects are structured more like TV series, we had to make sure the central characters were doing something significant in every episode, and the secondary characters weren't neglected for too long. It creates challenges for pacing both within an episode and across the whole season.

TQDo you have a favorite secondary character?

MB: Several! Our development process meant we spent a chunk of time considering each major secondary character directly, rather than focusing only on the main protagonists and positioning everyone else in relation to them. My answer changes from day to day; I wrote a piece for Mary Robinette Kowal's "My Favorite Bit" feature about Bellona Avitus, the junior warder for Mertika. But while she's one of my favorite bits of the story, I don't actually like her -- she's really not a good person.

So I'll choose Ueda no Takeshi, the Ikaran warder. I can't go into detail as to why without giving spoilers, but he's a "still waters run deep" kind of guy. And I like that he's a nerd: he studies the magical elements of his world, like the birthrights people acquire from being born on a particular island, and gets his strength from knowlege as much as his ability to hit people with a sword. (He's actually not all that great at hitting people with a sword.)

TQHave any of the characters in Born to the Blade been surprising?

MRU:  A lot, especially because I’ve had the fortune of witnessing how Malka, Marie, and Cassandra write the characters and take them in ways I didn’t expect. I think Bellona came to surprise all of us, as we dug in on what made her tick, how she tried to deal with Lavinia (her superior)’s domineering and demanding approach, as well as the ways that we showcased Bellona’s calculating but obvious social maneuvering through the baby shower and other efforts to make a grand gesture or big display.

TQWhat kinds of research have you done for Born to the Blade?

MRU:  A lot of the research that shows up in Born to the Blade was more a result of me and the other team members applying what we already knew, from martial arts (unarmed and swordplay) to the material and intangible culture of a variety of civilizations and peoples from around the world that we drew from to create the numerous nations of the sky. Marie did a bunch of extra work in developing a resource document for hairstyles and clothing notes for the different nations, condensing and clarifying the brainstorming that all four of us had done along the way.

TQAre social issues touched upon in Born to the Blade?

MRU:  The issues we touch on most directly are imperialism and colonialism, with Michiko as a subject of the Mertikan empire. But with Quloo we have a story that resonates with peak oil and/or climate change. Because it is a political and diplomatic series, social issues are never far from the surface, and I am especially happy with the ways that the team was always very conscious of the different levels that character actions and big moves in the story operated on, always boiling down to power – who has it, who uses it, for what purpose, and with what unintended effects.

TQAny hints to what is upcoming for Oda no Michiko and Kris Denn?

MRU:  Michiko, Kris, and Ojo are all in very different places at the end of the season than they were at the series’ start, with new perspectives, drastically different relationships, and new objectives emerging from the action and intrigue of the season. Born to the Blade is the most character-driven story I’ve worked on as a writer, which makes it very exciting, as I came out of the season with a clear sense of what each character wants based on the season’s events, and what they’re willing to do now to achieve those goals.

Just talking about it makes me want to dive back in and start writing season two. But that will have to wait to see how readers react and whether the series has earned enough support to get picked up (again, think TV series). So if you have already been reading and want to see more, make sure to spread the word and encourage friends to subscribe and read, too!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Born to the Blade is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Google Play, iBooks, Kobo and Serial Box.

The Episodes:

 1.  Arrivals by Michael R. Underwood
 2.  Fault Lines by Marie Brennan
 3.  Baby Shower by Cassandra Khaw
 4.  The Gauntlet by Michael R. Underwood
 5.  Trade Deal by Malka Older
 6.  Spiraling by Marie Brennan
 7.  Dreadnought by Cassandra Khaw
 8.  Refugees by Malka Older
 9.  Assassination by Malka Older
10. Shattered Blades by Marie Brennan
11. All the Nations of the Skies by Michael R. Underwood

Look for Born to the Blade: The Complete Season One on July 27th:

Born to the Blade: An Interview with Michael R. Underwood and Marie Brennan
For centuries the Warders' Circle on the neutral islands of Twaa-Fei has given the countries of the sky a way to avoid war, settling their disputes through formal, magical duels. But the Circle's ability to maintain peace is fading: the Mertikan Empire is preparing for conquest and the trade nation of Quloo is sinking, stripped of the aerstone that keeps both ships and island a-sky. When upstart Kris Denn tries to win their island a seat in the Warder’s Circle and colonial subject Oda no Michiko discovers that her conquered nation's past is not what she's been told, they upset the balance of power. The storm they bring will bind all the peoples of the sky together…or tear them apart.

The Authors

Marie BrennanWebsiteTwitter
Cassandra KhawFacebookTwitter
Malka OlderWebsiteTwitter
Michael R. UnderwoodWebsiteTwitter

Interview with Callie Bates

Please welcome Callie Bates to The Qwillery. Callie is the author of The Waking Land series - The Waking Land (2017) and The Memory of Fire which was published on June 5th by Del Rey.

Interview with Callie Bates

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Memory of Fire (The Waking Land 2), was published on June 5th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Waking Land (2017) to The Memory of Fire?

Callie:  My writing process remained much the same from The Waking Land to The Memory of Fire—I still handwrote the first draft, then transferred to the computer for revisions and edits. (Having said that, I made significant changes in how I drafted the third book in the series—I learned how to revise much more effectively!)

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when The Waking Land came out that you know now?

Callie:  I wish I had been able to take the advice to chill out and not worry so much about everything! Perhaps inevitably, everything seems much more fraught and urgent when your first novel comes out—and like most things in life, in hindsight, it wasn’t quite as monumental as it seemed.

TQWhich method or methods do you use to keep track of your characters' traits, eye color, etc. and events in the novels?

Callie:  A lot of those traits are ingrained in my mind at this point (or so I claim), but I have also found Scrivener’s Characters/Places/Research templates quite handy, especially early in the drafting process when it feels like my brain is imploding.

TQHow soon after the events in The Waking Land do the events in The Memory of Fire take place?

Callie:  There’s a gap of about two months from the epilogue in The Waking Land to Chapter 1 in The Memory of Fire. Enough time for political tensions to have escalated!

TQPlease tell us a bit about how the magic system in The Waking Land series works.

Callie:  Magic in this world is highly individualized; there is as much variation in people’s abilities as there is in their personalities. Especially since magic hasn’t been taught or widely practiced in a long time, the characters are still discovering all that is possible with sorcery. At one point in The Memory of Fire, Jahan explains that magic is the fulfillment of the potential in anything—for example, it’s possible to light a candle with his mind because the potential for fire exists in the candle.

TQHow difficult or easy was it for you to change your 1st person point of view character for The Memory of Fire?

Callie:  It actually turned out to be much more difficult than I thought it would! I ended up rewriting the book quite thoroughly because I didn’t get Jahan’s voice right on the first go-round. But maybe this is, in part, a typical challenge for a second novel—I think we authors tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves with the next book.

TQWhich character in the The Waking Land series (so far) surprised you the most?

Callie:  I would say, as a pair, Sophy and Alistar have been the most unexpected! While I intended for years to write about Elanna and Jahan, Sophy and Alistar both individually just showed up as I was writing The Waking Land—Sophy demanding in her diffident way to be seen, and Alistar bounding onto the page. And now Sophy’s getting her own book, the third in the trilogy, which I would not have foreseen before writing TWL.

TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Memory of Fire.

Callie:  “I look into her eyes. I need to remember them as long as I can, but I already know how the memories will slip and fade. I know what it’s like to wake up on that stone table, with nothing but the certainty of loss.”

TQWhat's next?

Callie:  I’m finishing up the third book in The Waking Land series, which as I said is about Sophy, who’s trying to figure out how to rule a kingdom, and her heart. I can’t wait to share it with the world!

TQThank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.

Callie:  Thanks for having me!

The Memory of Fire
The Waking Land 2
Del Rey, June 5, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Callie Bates
Callie Bates’s debut novel, The Waking Land, announced the arrival of a brilliant new talent in epic fantasy. Now, with The Memory of Fire, Bates expertly deepens her tale, spinning glittering threads of magic and intrigue into a vibrant tapestry of adventure, betrayal, and romance.

Thanks to the magic of Elanna Valtai and the Paladisan noble Jahan Korakide, he lands once controlled by the empire of Paladis have won their independence. But as Elanna exhausts her powers restoring the ravaged land, news that the emperor is readying an invasion spurs Jahan on a desperate mission to establish peace.

Going back to Paladis proves to be anything but peaceful. As magic is a crime in the empire, punishable by death, Jahan must hide his abilities. Nonetheless, the grand inquisitor’s hunters suspect him of sorcery, and mysterious, urgent messages from the witch who secretly trained Jahan only increase his danger of being exposed. Worst of all, the crown prince has turned his back on Jahan, robbing him of the royal protection he once enjoyed.

As word of Jahan’s return spreads, long-sheathed knives, sharp and deadly, are drawn again. And when Elanna, stripped of her magic, is brought to the capital in chains, Jahan must face down the traumas of his past to defeat the shadowy enemies threatening his true love’s life, and the future of the revolution itself.


The Waking Land
The Waking Land 1
Del Rey, January 2, 2018
Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, June 27, 2017

Interview with Callie Bates
In the lush and magical tradition of Naomi Novik’s award-winning Uprooted comes this riveting debut from brilliant young writer Callie Bates—whose boundless imagination places her among the finest authors of fantasy fiction, including Sarah J. Maas and Sabaa Tahir.

Lady Elanna is fiercely devoted to the king who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder—and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition—powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.

About Callie

Interview with Callie Bates
Photo © Jim Schumaker
Callie Bates is a writer, harpist and certified harp therapist, sometime artist, and nature nerd. When she’s not creating, she’s hitting the trails or streets and exploring new places. She lives in the Upper Midwest. She is also the author of The Waking Land.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @calliebywords

Interview with RR Haywood

Please welcome RR Haywood to The Qwillery. Extinct, the 3rd novel in the Extracted Trilogy, was published on May 17, 2018 by 47North.

Interview with RR Haywood

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

RR:  Hi! Thank you for having me. Cor, blimey – sounds evil doesn’t it? A plotter, a pantser or a hybrid? They’re like the gang names of societal groups in a dystopian future that roam the skeletal remains of the cities and the vast wastelands. The Plotters plot and scheme and work to the plan. They’re organised and ruthless whereas the Pantsers run free and lawless, going where the day takes them, having cray cray shenanigans and wild parties, and there, in the background skirting the fringes, are the quieter yet still playful Hybrids.

I’m so writing that as a book. Copyrighted! Bugger off other writers. Mine mine mine…
Er, so I guess I do all three, and I can take equal amounts of pleasure from writing within each discipline.

You cannot beat those days when you sit down with a plan and hit a mammoth word count. That sense of accomplishment is not to be underestimated.

Likewise, sitting down to a white blank page and simply going at it with action / reaction and flying by the seat of your pants is just gorgeous, but aye, you are more likely to stall and write yourself into a corner that way.

Mostly I write hybrid. With The Undead (UK’s best-selling zombie series – woohoo! Get the plug in) I set the characters the end goal for the day / scene / plot, but how they do that, and what happens on the way is down to them.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

RR:  I adore writing fast-flowing, rapid-fire dialogue with multiple characters each with their own voice, and I would gladly fill a whole book with that, but damn it, readers want pesky annoying things like plots and protagonists and antagonists and other stuff. I guess self-indulgence is the answer and learning that what I love to write the most may not be the things people like to read the most.

TQDescribe Extinct (The Extracted Trilogy 3) in 140 characters or less.

RR“A book with people in it doing time travel!” No, that’s awful. Hang on, let me try again… “Time travel, dinosaurs, big bombs and big bunkers…” argh, that’s even worse. Gosh, this is hard. “Extinct is the third book in the Extracted series and it’s awesome…”

I give up.

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

RR:  (See above with my awful pseudo tweets)

Hmmm, a significant number of scenes are set against the backdrop of the allied destruction of Germany in 1945 during one specific period that saw over 1000 bombers in the skies in one day. It’s brutally realistic.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Extracted Trilogy? What appeals to you about writing SF and especially Time Travel novels?

RR:  There were a number of influencing factors. The Undead had been submitted to publishers and turned down, but with some very strong feedback that they loved my writing and style, but they did not want to invest in the zombie genre. That got me thinking of what to write next. At that time, I had recently read The Chronicles of St Mary by the wonderful Jodi Taylor which planted the time-travel seed in my mind. I had also always wanted to write my Grandfather as a character – he was in the Royal Navy in WW2. Eventually all of those things, plus a million others, all gave birth to Extracted.

My interest in time-travel was more about the impact such a thing would have and how governments would want to weaponise it.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Extracted Trilogy?

RR:  I researched the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic periods to establish when I wanted certain parts of the story set, and within that I delved into the creatures and fauna and flora known to have existed in those times. There is still so much we do not know about our own distant past, and for a writer that is just fantastic because you can have one foot in reality, and the other in pure poetic make-it-all-up-land.

In all honesty, any scene can require research – anything from Public transport systems within a certain city to what you should do with a broken nose.

With regards to time travel – this is where I can be a little bullish in my attitude. Time travel does not exist. It is entirely fictional; therefore, it is down to the writer on how they want to play with it. I had a few people early on telling me that I had to include pre-destiny as the major plotline. Why? Yeah it might be a factor but there are no rules.

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

RR:  Mad Harry Madden was the easiest. A British Commando from WW2. He was modelled on my own Grandfather. I knew what he looked like and I had his essence straight away. Writing Harry in any scene is just pure pleasure.

Miri is the hardest. That character is so layered it’s untrue, and even now, after three books, I’m still finding hidden motivations within her.

TQWhat are your feelings on concluding The Extracted Trilogy?

RR:  It ain’t over yet! 47North wanted a trilogy and that was delivered as planned. I have however, left myself lots of nice breadcrumbs to pick up and I will definitely go back into that world for more when I can.

TQ What's next?

RR:  Ooh exciting! The Undead is ongoing. We’re twenty-two books into the main series now and still going very strong with more planned.

I’m just finishing a new science-fiction story about a robbery on board a fleet of spaceships. It’s great fun and hopefully that will be going out to publishers very soon.

I’ve also written a new time-travel story which centres on an organisation that recruits and sends people back in time to “fix and tweak” things. That will also be pushed out soon I hope.

After that I have a ton of projects I want to do!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

RR:  Thank you so much for having me. It’s been very kind of you to give me this space to yack on and I hope I haven’t bored you all too much.

Take care
RR Haywood

Extracted Trilogy 3
47North, May 17, 2018
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 418 pages

Interview with RR Haywood
The end of the world has been avoided—for now. With Miri and her team of extracted heroes still on the run, Mother, the disgraced former head of the British Secret Service, has other ideas…

While Mother retreats to her bunker to plot her next move, Miri, Ben, Safa and Harry travel far into the future to ensure that they have prevented the apocalypse. But what they find just doesn’t make sense.

London in 2111 is on the brink of annihilation. What’s more, the timelines have been twisted. Folded in on each other. It’s hard to keep track of who is where. Or, more accurately, who is when.

About RR Haywood

RR Haywood is the Amazon #1 and Washington Post best-selling author of the international smash-hit time-travel series - EXTRACTED.

He is also the creator and author of THE UNDEAD. The UK’s best-selling zombie horror series. A self-published phenomenon that has become a cult hit with a readership that defies generations and gender.

He has lots of tattoos and lives in a cave somewhere underground away from the spy satellites and invisible drones sent to watch over us by the BBC. He is a certified, badged and registered hypochondriac and blames the invisible BBC drones for this.

Website  ~  Facebook

Interview with Steve McHugh

Please welcome Steve McHugh to The Qwillery. A Glimmer of Hope, the 1st novel in The Avalon Chronicles, was published on April 1st by 47North.

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

Steve:  I knew I wanted to be an author when I was at school, so about 13 or 14, and my English teacher told me to go get some books from the library that were out of my usual comfort zone. I got Stephen King’s It, Terry Pratchett’s Men At Arms, and David Gemmell’s Legend. That was when I knew I wanted to be an author.

Fast-forward a few years, to when I was about to become a father for the first time at 25, and I knew I needed to start writing seriously. I didn’t want to be that person who said, “One day,” so I started writing. I joined an online writing group, and I learned the craft.

So, it was really a combination of wanting to write, and needing to write, but also the fact that I wanted to be able to say that I at least tried.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Steve:  A hybrid, definitely that. Before I start a book, I sit down with a notepad and some pens and I go over the world-building and character creation. As I’m doing that, I let the story start to build, and I start jotting down bits that I want to have happen during the story.

By the time it comes to actually sit down and write, I’ll know the beginning and end of the story, and the main scenes that I want. The later of which, might not always be in the right order—and they have a tendency to change as needed—but it’s usually a good indication of where everything will finish.

So, when I write, I know what I want in the chapter I’m working on, and the next one after that, although it’s often a massive surprise to me when something happens I wasn’t expecting.
I tried just plotting everything out in detail, and it sucked. I got irritated that it didn’t go the way I’d planned, because characters don’t always do what they’re told. My hybrid way works for me as it allows me to keep the surprise of what happens, but gives me a framework to move around in.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Steve:  Two years ago I went fulltime author. I was on book 5 in the Hellequin Chronicles (I think), and I had 3 years of work lined up, so I took the plunge. Turns out working from home is not the beautiful paradise land that I expected.

My TV is here. As is my PS4, and books, and all the cool stuff I could be playing around with when not writing. Actually forcing myself to sit down and get on with my job is something that isn’t always easy. I love being an author, it’s easily the best job I’ve ever had, but working from home can be an exercise in having to force yourself to get away from distractions.

There’s also the issue of being shut away in my office for days and weeks at a time, especially when I have deadlines, so there’s a constant need to remember to go see people. Now, that’s not so bad because I have a wife and 3 children, who are more than happy to remind me that I don’t need to lock myself away, but it’s still hard work to stay on top of seeing people outside of the house. I’ve gotten better at it, but that work/life balance, took some getting used to.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Steve:  Short answer: everything.

It’s not really the most descriptive answer ever, but it’s pretty close to being accurate. Long answer; my wife, my kids, my friends and family, anime, movies, music, books, comics, videogames… the list really does go on.

More specifically, I’ve always been influenced by Asian cinema. I grew up watching a lot of films from Japan/China/South Korea etc, and as I’ve grown up, that love of the way they make action films and thrillers, is something that has continued. Same with Anime. Both of those things influence my writing, at the very least they influence how I write action scenes, and use magic in stories.

There are scenes from comics I read growing up, that inspired me to write one scene or another, and I’ve played videogames that did something I thought was cool and figured out if I could incorporate something similar.

Inspiration comes from all around me, which is probably why my brain rarely switches off.

TQIn December 2017 the 7th and final book in the Hellequin Chronicles was published. Now you have a new Urban Fantasy series starting with A Glimmer of Hope, the first novel in the Avalon Chronicles. Do these Urban Fantasy series have anything in common?

Steve:  Both series are set in the same world, and both have some of the same characters. The end of the Hellequin Chronicles left the world in a very different place to where it started, and while the first Avalon book takes because before that shift, the second and third take place after. They’re both action-adventure series with magic, monsters, and mayhem, and they were both a ton to write.

As someone who loves Mythology, it’s nice that my world has mythologies from all different regions and periods of history, so I can pick and choose which ones to use for which book. The Hellequin books had a lot of Greek, Arthurian, and Mesopotamian, but the Avalon books have a lot of Norse mythology.

So, while there are quite a few similarities, and the series take place in the same world, Layla is a very different character to Nate, so it’s been nice to write something different, but familiar at the same time.

TQWhat appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

Steve:  Mostly, because it’s fun. That’s why I write anything. If I’m not enjoying the genre, I probably won’t enjoy the story I’m telling.

I like the idea of taking characters from mythology and bringing them into the 21st century, sometimes kicking and screaming all the way, I like looking through myths and trying to figure out exactly what could be considered fact from fiction. For example, I had the idea that most of the stories regarding Zeus changing into animals to have sex with people, were made up by Hera in revenge for him being an absolute arse to her. It’s fun being able to twist the characters that most will have heard of, into something very different. And being able to then take that into a modern setting is a very interesting idea.

Also, urban fantasy lets me have my cake and eat it. I can write about Hades living in Canada one chapter, and then have another realm, which is linked to earth, but is more epic fantasy in nature. The ability to write a fantastical story that incorporates different genres I love is something that makes me happy to work with the Urban Fantasy genre.

TQTell us something about A Glimmer of Hope that is not found in the book description.

Steve:  It has one of my favourite actions scenes I’ve written to date. It starts with a car chase, and ends with a run through the woods while monsters are chasing them. It’s was a huge amount of fun to write, not just because of the action and fighting that take place, but also because it’s the introduction of one of my favourite characters from the Hellequin Chronicles to this book, and the first thing he says is a line from Terminator.

Whenever I write a book, I like to make sure that no matter what it’s about, it has elements to it that make me smile, and that one chapter pretty much made me smile the entire time I was writing it.

TQIn the A Glimmer of Hope who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Steve:  There are a few which were quite easy to write. Most of the cast from the Hellequin Chronicles are easy now, considering I’ve spent so long with most of them. Tommy the werewolf star wars geek, and Remy the… well, Remy, are probably the easiest two as with Tommy I get to let lose my own Star Wars nerd, and with Remy I get to write all the things people probably shouldn’t say out loud, and he just does.

The hardest was probably Layla to begin with. As the main protagonist of the story, I needed to get her right, and make sure that she was interesting to follow. She hasn’t had the easiest of lives, and has some issues she’s avoided for a large part of her life, so it was difficult trying to figure out how a 21 year old woman, who had gone through so much, would react to these massive changes in her life.

TQWhich question about A Glimmer of Hope do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Steve:  That’s a hard question. Probably, who is your favourite character that was created for the A Glimmer of Hope?

That’s a great question, Steve’s brain. Probably Harry. I like Harry a lot. Harry is the son of a Chinese-American general in the US army, and a British doctor mum. He’s in his 20s, and his entire life plan is to stay in further education as long as possible so he doesn’t have to go and get a proper job. He’s one of the few humans in the book that become involved with the story as he’s one of Layla’s best-friends. Harry is just a genuinely nice person who is amazed at everything he discovers about a world he had no idea existed, and it’s interesting to have him just think everything is so cool and not freaking out over having met werewolves, sorcerers, and the like.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from A Glimmer of Hope.

Steve:  The first one is from Tommy, just after Layla discovers the world she knew isn’t exactly the full story: This world will crush you if you think you’re a monster when you’re not. There are enough actual monsters out there already.

The second is Layla thinking about her job, which in many ways was a cathartic moment for me to write as it mirrors how I felt about a job of mine at the time: “It wasn’t that the job was hard, or that the people were bad; it was just a combination of boredom and a complete and total apathy from those in management. It was as if they didn’t care what happened to the majority of people who worked for them, and it created a “them and us” scenario that made work feel like she was constantly trying to do a good job for no reason whatsoever.”

TQWhat's next?

Steve:  I have a few things that are next for me. The second and third Avalon Chronicles books will be out in July and October respectively (A Flicker of Steel, and A Thunder of War). Seeing how they’re both written and off to my publisher, I’m going to be spending the rest of the year writing the first book in an Epic Fantasy series I’ve been wanting to work on for a few years now, as well as the first book in the series after the Avalon Chronicles. So, I guess I’ll be kept busy for a while yet.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Steve:  Thank you for having me.

A Glimmer of Hope
The Avalon Chronicles 1
47North, April 1, 2018
Hardcover and Kindle eBook, 351 pages

From Steve McHugh, the bestselling author of The Hellequin Chronicles, comes a new urban fantasy series packed with mystery, action, and, above all, magic.

Layla Cassidy has always wanted a normal life, and the chance to put her father’s brutal legacy behind her. And in her final year of university she’s finally found it. Or so she thinks.

But when Layla accidentally activates an ancient scroll, she is bestowed with an incredible, inhuman power. She plunges into a dangerous new world, full of mythical creatures and menace—all while a group of fanatics will stop at nothing to turn her abilities to their cause.

To protect those she loves most, Layla must take control of her new powers…before they destroy her. All is not yet lost—there is a light shining, but Layla must survive long enough to see it.


A Flicker of Steel
The Avalon Chronicle 2
47North, July 3, 2018
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook

Avalon stands revealed, but the war is far from over. For Layla Cassidy, it has only just begun.

Thrust into a new world full of magic and monsters, Layla has finally come to terms with her supernatural powers—and left her old life behind. But her enemies are relentless.

Sixteen months after her life changed forever, Layla and her team are besieged during a rescue attempt gone awry and must fight their way through to freedom. It turns out that Avalon has only grown since their last encounter, adding fresh villains to its horde. Meanwhile, revelations abound as Layla confronts twists and betrayals in her own life, with each new detail adding to the shadow that looms over her.

As Layla fights against the forces of evil, her powers begin to increase—and she discovers more about the darkness that lies in her past. As this same darkness threatens her future, will she be ready to fight for everything she holds dear?

About Steve

Steve McHugh is the bestselling author of the Hellequin Chronicles series and the new The Avalon Chronicles, whose first book A Glimmer of Hope (47North) is out now.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @stevejmchugh

Interview with Eric Barnes

Please welcome Eric Barnes to The Qwillery. The City Where We Once Lived was published on April 3rd by Arcade Publishing.

Interview with Eric Barnes

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

Eric:  Besides the fact that writing is the hardest work I've ever done (harder than construction, than working in a fish processing plant in Alaska, than laying off whole divisions of companies), and that the simple act of committing to the work of writing a book is just breathtaking, I'd say that the publishing process is the hardest part. You put in all that solitary work, finally get to the point you feel good about what you've done, then you're faced with the harsh but real realities of the business side of publishing.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Eric:  I tend to write my way into a book. I have an idea. I have a few sentences. I find a voice. I write forward, erratically, sometimes out of order, still trying to find the voice and some sort of rhythm. And then, after 50 to 75 pages, I'll stop and try to figure out a plot. Then I outline heavily, with great detail, and write to that outline, all the while varying from the outline I spent so much time refining.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Eric:  The most influential books now are The Road (Cormac McCarthy), White Noise (Don DeLillo), and For the Time Being (Annie Dillard). But Vonnegut remains so influential. And I'd have never started writing, I don't think, if I hadn't read Raymond Carver and Richard Ford, who wrote about the kind of people I grew up around, and which made me think, "Wait, I have stories to tell that people might want to read."

TQDescribe The City Where We Once Lived in 140 characters or less.

Eric:  A novel about a city that's been abandoned and the people who choose to live there. Think Detroit, or New Orleans after Katrina. Or NYC in the 70s.

TQTell us something about The City Where We Once Lived that is not found in the book description.

Eric:  That's a great question. It's a deeply quiet book.

TQWhat inspired you to write The City Where We Once Lived?

Eric:  I have always been fascinated by the environmental and political decisions that lead to the harm or descruction of places, whethere it's small towns wrecked by big box retailers or cities in Eastern Europe polluted by coal plants or New Orleans left vulnerable by decades of inattention to the risks of a hurrican.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The City Where We Once Lived?

Eric:  Not much. I hate research. So I write about things I know about, have read about.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The City Where We Once Lived.

Eric:  I love that cover. I had minimal input on it, and not in a bad way. The cover captures the vague, quiet, passively accepted madness of the city in the book.

TQIn The City Where We Once Lived who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Eric:  Easiest.... The Minister, because he's an innately hopeful person, who only lightly lets on to the many wounds he has.

Hardest.... The narrator, because the more I wrote, the more he became like me.

TQWhy have you chosen to write about the effects of climate change in The City Where We Once Lived? Do you consider The City Where We Once Lived part of the Cli-Fi genre?

Eric:  I definitely don't think the book is part of the Cli-Fi genre, mostly because I didn't know such a thing existed. (Not that it's a bad thing. I just had no idea.)

I din't really mean to write about climate change. I wrote about a city that failed, for many reasons, environmental issues being part of that, but political decisions being just as important. Climate was originally meant to be a bit of an afterthought, backdrop to the way people lived.

But, climate took on a bigger meaning, definitely, as I wrote. It was the ultimate expression of the dismissiveness and disregard people had for the city. They thought, in other words, they could only abuse the city. In fact, they were abusing the world.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The City Where We Once Lived.


"At night, even covered by the many blankets on my couch, I hear a crash, thick and deep and distant, as another levee collapses to the north, the hiss of water rushing southward, the sound in the air echoing heavily, the water from the bay moving another few blocks toward me."

"I type quickly on the typewriter, the sounds loud and steady, and sometimes as I sit here alone in this office finishing my stories, for a moment I'll think it is the sound of the typewriter that I'm creating, not the words in the stories themselves."

TQWhat's next?

Eric:  I'm happy to say that Arcade will be publishing a prequel to CITY, called ABOVE THE ETHER, to be published in spring 2019.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The City Where We Once Lived
Arcade Publishing, April 3, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 244 pages

Interview with Eric Barnes
In a near future where climate change has severely affected weather and agriculture, the North End of an unnamed city has long been abandoned in favor of the neighboring South End. Aside from the scavengers steadily stripping the empty city to its bones, only a few thousand people remain, content to live quietly among the crumbling metropolis. Many, like the narrator, are there to try to escape the demons of their past. He spends his time observing and recording the decay around him, attempting to bury memories of what he has lost.

But it eventually becomes clear that things are unraveling elsewhere as well, as strangers, violent and desperate alike, begin to appear in the North End, spreading word of social and political deterioration in the South End and beyond. Faced with a growing disruption to his isolated life, the narrator discovers within himself a surprising need to resist losing the home he has created in this empty place. He and the rest of the citizens of the North End must choose whether to face outsiders as invaders or welcome them as neighbors.

The City Where We Once Lived is a haunting novel of the near future that combines a prescient look at how climate change and industrial flight will shape our world with a deeply personal story of one man running from his past. With glowing prose, Eric Barnes brings into sharp focus questions of how we come to call a place home and what is our capacity for violence when that home becomes threatened.

About Eric

Eric Barnes is the author of two previous novels, Shimmer and Something Pretty, Something Beautiful. He has published more than forty short stories in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, the Literary Review, Best American Mystery Stories, and other publications. By day, he is publisher of newspapers in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga that cover business, politics, the arts, and more. On Fridays, he hosts a news talk show on his local PBS station. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @ericbarnes2

Interview with James Maxwell

Please welcome James Maxwell to The Qwillery. Iron Will, the final novel in The Shifting Tides tetralogy, was published on March 13th by 47North.

Interview with James Maxwell

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

James:  I remember quite clearly a piece that I wrote aged eleven. There was a young writer’s retreat I really wanted to go to, but you had to be submit a work of fiction to win a place. I remember my piece so well because of how much effort I put in. I didn’t have any experience with short fiction – I thought stories and novels were the same thing: always long. So I wrote a 40,000 word fantasy novelette with the highly-imaginative title Golden Dragons. It was a sprawling homage to everything I liked about fantasy. I went to the retreat and worked with published authors and hung out with other young writers, which was incredible.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

James:  People who know me would definitely say I’m a plotter. I work with very detailed outlines! But surely no one can truly be a pantser? Even if all you have is a character, a quest, and maybe a title, that’s still planning. I see it as a sliding scale. You can certainly over-plan – there needs to be space to invent things as you go, in the moment of writing. But under-planning can be a problem too. That’s when you end up retroactively planning while editing, which I think is harder.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

James:  Procrastination. Definitely. The modern world puts a lot of demands on our attention and it’s always tough to shut out the world so you can spend time inside your head for a while. When I’m heavily engaged with writing a book I end up playing all sorts of tricks on myself. Turning my phone off; leaving it in another room. Not opening mail. Leaving my wife to answer the door. Getting out of the house and writing in the library. I do think you end up with better work when you stay in the moment as much as possible, and that means not getting distracted.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

James:  Travel, history, film & television, fiction, non-fiction, conversation, dreams, walking around and observing… It all goes in and gets scrambled and then something comes back out. In the end I think you write what you loved as a child, combined with the observations you have made about the world since.

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

James:  There’s a twist that readers of the previous Shifting Tides novel, Copper Chain, may or may not see coming. There’s also an epic sea adventure, a trek through the ice and snow, a search for an ancient artefact, a major evacuation, and a love that’s tested beyond endurance.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Shifting Tides series? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

James:  For a time I was fortunate enough to live on the island of Malta, right in the middle of the Mediterranean. There is so much history there; you walk past incredible things every day. I also love sailing, and the roving nature of Homer’s stories. It all got me thinking about Greek mythology and modern fantasy and wondering if I could combine the two in a new and original way. We’re used to Middle Ages fantasy but it’s incredible how developed the ancient world was. For example, 500 years before Julius Caesar they were building wooden ships that were so big it wasn’t until the period of European colonisation that they got bigger. I'd better stop now; I can talk about this stuff all day! As for why I write fantasy… I think I just love the fact that anything is possible.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Shifting Tides Series?

James:  I did quite a lot of background research into the period. I didn’t want to write historical fiction – not at all – but it’s important that the world be consistent. I read a bunch of books about Alexander the Great and the Greco-Persian wars but the hard part was answering my questions about daily life, so I ended up getting quite specific with the stuff I was reading.
Ideally, though, you want the research to disappear into the background. World building is amazing fun, and after setting some ground rules I like to let my imagination run free.

TQYou've written two tetralogies - The Evermen Saga and The Shifting Tides. Why 4 books for each series?

James:  I think it came down to the kind of story I wanted to tell. Trilogies are fantastic – I’m actually working on one for my next project. But in the case of my previous two series I wanted to have a bit more freedom to roam and play in the worlds I’d created. I always try to give each individual book a conclusive ending, and that’s actually easier with four books than it is for three. There’s a lot to keep track of, however, and you end up with a lot of narrative threads to tie up. That’s why a five book series might be one too many!

TQIn The Shifting Tides series who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Which character surprised you?

James:  The easiest would have to be Kargan, who starts off as the fleet commander on the enemy side and continues to rise through the ranks as the series progresses. He is ambitious, and he is a bully, and he is utterly contemptuous of other cultures. He just rolled right onto the page.

There is another character, Kyphos, who is the right-hand man of a king who has returned to claim his throne. He was a bit more difficult to write because I wanted him to be both ruthless and likeable. It’s his loyalty to his king that made it work, despite some of the terrible things he does.

The character that surprised me was Aristocles, the father of the heroine, Chloe. A politician, he is used to wealth and power, and when he is betrayed and cast out of his city he is thrown into a completely new world. He’s out of his depth, yet he finds a way to keep going.

TQWhat are your feelings on concluding The Shifting Tides series.

James:  It’s always a bit sad to finish a series. I end up feeling very close to my characters and I know I’m saying goodbye to them when I wrap it all up. At the same time, I love getting started on a new project. It’s a really exciting time.

TQWhat's next?

James:  For my next project I’m really letting my imagination soar. I’m blending genres a bit more, and rather than using a setting based on history I’m building something fresh and new. It’s the most threatening world I’ve created yet. There will be three books, and I’m writing them back to back, which will help a lot with immersing myself in the story.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

James:  Thank for having me! And let me take this opportunity to thank all my readers. I hope you’re enjoying the journey as much as I am.

Iron Will
The Shifting Tides 4
47North, March 13, 2018
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 416 pages

Interview with James Maxwell
The epic conclusion to James Maxwell’s gripping fantasy series.

The world is facing a war to end all wars, a confrontation that will destroy everything Dion and Chloe hold dear. With Palemon’s dragon army growing in number, time is running out…

Dion is doing everything in his power to prepare his kingdom, but he knows it will not be enough. Although he needs Chloe’s help, recent tragedy makes him terrified for her safety. Magic is dangerous. Only Palemon is too arrogant to see it.

As chaos engulfs the land and Palemon risks civilization itself, Dion and Chloe must unite people of all nations to have any chance of survival.


Golden Age
The Shifting Tides 1
47North, May 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 464 pages

Interview with James Maxwell
The first book in an epic fantasy series by James Maxwell, author of the bestselling Evermen Saga.

War is coming to Xanthos. The king refuses to face the truth, but his overlooked second son, Dion, can see the signs: strange warships patrolling, rumors of a new tyrant across the sea, and the princess of a neighboring land taken hostage…

The princess, Chloe, refuses to be a helpless pawn in this clash of nations. She and Dion will need allies to turn the tide of war – and there are none more powerful than the eldren, a mysterious race of shapeshifters who live in the Wilds.

As a world-spanning conflict begins, a king is betrayed, a prophecy is fulfilled, and Dion learns a secret about his past that changes his life forever.

Silver Road
The Shifting Tides 2
47North, November 8, 2016
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 492 pages

Interview with James Maxwell
Chloe’s quest to escape the Oracle’s prophecy leads her to a magus with a secret: the eldren are not the only race to use magic in warfare. An ancient power is rediscovered, and a forgotten people will return.

Meanwhile, cursed by his birth, Dion tries to forge a new life at sea, away from both the eldren and his former life in Xanthos, but the one thing he can’t leave behind is his heritage.

Two kings on opposite sides of the ocean prepare for war.

The clash of civilizations has only just begun…

Copper Chain
The Shifting Tides 3
47North, August 3, 2017
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 380 pages

Interview with James Maxwell
When a desperate king threatens Dion and everything he loves, only dangerous magic can keep him safe.

Dion, now king of Xanthos, is finally in command of the naval fleet he’s always dreamed of. But his hopes for peace are jeopardized when King Palemon, in dire need of ships to rescue his starving people from the frozen wastelands of the north, invades the Salesian city of Malakai.

Too weak to confront Dion directly, Palemon turns to magic: mysterious copper chains from the lost civilization of Aleuthea, which have the potential to control dragons…and Dion.

With the people he loves in danger, and his own freedom at risk, Dion’s only hope is Chloe and the power she struggles to tame.

About James

Interview with James Maxwell
James Maxwell is the bestselling author of The Evermen Saga and The Shifting Tides series, and has previously ranked in the top 5 bestselling authors on Amazon worldwide. The final book in The Shifting Tides series, Iron Will, is out now in paperback with 47North, Amazon Publishing. Find out more about James and his books here.

Website  ~  Twitter @james_maxwell  ~  Facebook

Interview with Michelle Hauck, Author of the Birth of Saints Trilogy

Please welcome Michelle Hauck to The Qwillery. Steadfast, the 3rd novel in the Birth of Saints trilogy, was published on December 5, 2017 by Harper Voyager Impulse.

Interview with Michelle Hauck, Author of the Birth of Saints Trilogy

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Steadfast (Birth of Saints 3), was published on December 5th. How does it feel to see the end of the trilogy published?

Michelle:  I admit at first it was a giant relief. That was back in June when the deadline was days away and I was still polishing. It was the closest I ever came to not being done by a deadline. There was a lot of pressure then. Now that another milestone has come and gone with the release date, I’m feeling rather nostalgic. If you spend three years working on anything, day after day, there’s bound to be some regret when it ends. I’m going through a grieving period before I can really connect to another story. I think every writer faces that to some degree, even if it’s just putting your head into a different world and different characters.

TQHas your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Grudging (Birth of Saints 1) to Steadfast?

Michelle:  There’s more confidence now. A little less editing and revising. I have more trust that what I produce is worthwhile. But my process is pretty much the same. Write in the morning before work. Do a short read through to edit before I add new words. Never plan more than three chapters ahead. I’m not big on outlining or making plans. I’d rather wing the writing process. I didn’t have the ending thought out for Steadfast until more than halfway through writing the draft. I’m still a fly by the seat of my pants writer. Which is kind of interesting because if I don’t know the ending, the characters can’t broadcast it either.

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Grudging came out that you know now?

Michelle:  I have to go with how much harder marketing and promotion is than the actual writing. I mean you hear that all the time from published writers, but it doesn’t really resonate until you’re in that situation. It’s painful to have to ask for reviews or to ask for people to buy your book. I think most of us have been trained since childhood not to be that way, not to ask for help for ourselves or to push our own agenda. Maybe that’s a female thing, or maybe it’s just me.

TQWhich character in the Birth of Saints trilogy surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Michelle:  Some of the minor characters really surprised me. As I said earlier I’m a pantser and I don’t really outline or plan. Sometimes I throw in what feels like a minor character, and all of a sudden, they end up with their own point of view. Father Telo was such a character. He was supposed to be in a few scenes to counsel a major character, Alcalde Julian, and I just couldn’t shake him. Father Telo grew to have his own agenda and his own mission to assassinate the Northern leader and he just took on a life of his own, becoming a major thread in Faithful and Steadfast.

The fact that he was a priest made him perhaps my hardest character to write. He was just outside of my experience and the whole write-what-you-know ideal. Father Telo is just so different from me. He had no romance interest. He’s more religious. He’s a male. I had to do a lot more research to write him than any other of my six point-of-view characters.

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

Michelle:  There’s very much an element of women in a male society coming into their own. A subplot of the series is about the male leader of the city—Julian—being forced out due to some mistakes, and the women coming forward to vote in record numbers and installing his wife—Beatriz—as the new elected official—and not just for one city-state, but for two. And then there’s the whole character arc of the husband and wife learning to deal with the power shift in their relationship. I’m afraid there’s a fire in my heart over the whole “She Persisted” situation in the real world and that carried over to my writing.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in the Birth of Saints trilogy?

Michelle:  As I mentioned in the last question there’s the whole women as a segment of society coming into their own. But there’s also a theme of kindness. Let’s not be like the people oppressing us. Let’s choose kindness. Let’s choose tolerance. Let’s care for the suffering of the people being suppressed and see the value in everyone. There’s been too much hate in national policy lately. And I’m really feeling that need to respect all people these days. You see this even more in Steadfast where we finally see the Northern side of this clash of cultures.

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

Michelle:  This is a quote from a speech by Beatriz to her people: “The Northerners are a people of violence and bloodshed. They took our city—my child—our children. I would not have us be like them. I would have us show them the meaning of kindness.”

And here is Claire trying to convince the Women of the Song to help her against the Northern god. You can guess from her speech that it doesn’t go too well: “The god’s power wiped a squad of soldiers out in the blink of an eye. This is not a joke. We need to be marching out of our swamp to help stop more killing. Even a ‘snit of a girl’ can see that. But unfortunately, that girl is talking to a bunch of old hens, clucking around instead of acting! Stupid and worthless! If we all die, it will be your fault!”

TQWhat's next?

Michelle:  So far what’s next is being lazy. I’ve taken a few months off from writing to just allow myself the free time to splurge on binge watching Netflix. Or to read. My writing heart is still connected to the characters from Birth of Saints and so I’m waiting for a little distance to turn my brain to new characters. Mostly. As I’m going through my writing vacation, I’m also slowly completing chapters for an almost finished rewrite of an epic fantasy I envisioned years ago. Old familiar characters given a new life, but not something completely new. When that’s done then I’ll look toward something totally original.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michelle:  Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s been great fun!

Birth of Saints 3
Harper Voyager Impulse, December 5, 2017
     eBook, 560 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, January 9, 2018
     Mass Market Paperback, 560 pages

Interview with Michelle Hauck, Author of the Birth of Saints Trilogy
The final novel in Michelle Hauck's Birth of Saints trilogy, Steadfast follows Grudging and Faithful in telling the fateful story of Claire and Ramiro and their battle against a god that hungers for blood.

When the Northerners invaded, the ciudades-estado knew they faced a powerful army. But what they didn’t expect was the deadly magic that was also brought to the desert: the white-robed priests with their lethal Diviners, and the evil god, Dal. Cities have burned, armies have been decimated, and entire populaces have been sacrificed in the Sun God’s name, and it looks as if nothing can prevent the devastation.

But there are still those with hope.

Claire, a Woman of the Song, has already brought considerable magic of her own to fight the Children of Dal, and Ramiro, a soldier who has forsaken his vows to Colina Hermosa’s cavalry in order to stand by her side, has killed and bled for their cause. Separated after the last battle, they move forward with the hope that the saints will hear their prayers, their families will be saved, and that they’ll see each other once more.

A stirring conclusion to the Birth of Saints series, Ramiro and Claire’s journey finds completion in a battle between evil and love.


Birth of Saints 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, November 17, 2015
     eBook, 432 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, December 22, 2015
     Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages

Interview with Michelle Hauck, Author of the Birth of Saints Trilogy
A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo of Michelle Hauck's the Book of Saints trilogy that combines the grace of Ellen Kushner's Swordpoint with the esprit de corps of Django Wexler's Shadow Campaign series.

A world of chivalry and witchcraft…

and the invaders who would destroy everything

The north has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.
The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.

Birth of Saints 2
Harper Voyager Impulse, November 15, 2016
     eBook, 384 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, December 27, 2016
     Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages

Interview with Michelle Hauck, Author of the Birth of Saints Trilogy
Following Grudging--and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall--religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck's Birth of Saints series!

A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?

On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.

What they find instead is an old woman.

But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.

About Michelle

Interview with Michelle Hauck, Author of the Birth of Saints Trilogy
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. She is the author of the YA epic fantasy Kindar's Cure, as well as the short story “Frost and Fog,” which is included in the anthology Summer's Double Edge.

Website  ~  Twitter @Michelle4Laughs  ~  Facebook
Interview with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust TrilogyInterview with V. M. EscaladaInterview with Danie WareBorn to the Blade: An Interview with Michael R. Underwood and Marie BrennanInterview with Callie BatesInterview with RR HaywoodInterview with Steve McHughInterview with Eric BarnesInterview with James MaxwellInterview with Michelle Hauck, Author of the Birth of Saints Trilogy

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