The Qwillery | category: Interview | (page 5 of 58)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Yoon Ha Lee

Please welcome Yoon Ha Lee to The Qwillery. Raven Stratagem (Machineries Of Empire Trilogy 2) is published today by Solaris Books.

Interview with Yoon Ha Lee

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Raven Stratagem (Machineries Of Empire Trilogy 2), is published on June 13th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Ninefox Gambit (Machineries Of Empire Trilogy 1) to Raven Stratagem?

YHL:  Hello, and thanks for having me! The writing process was mostly the same! In both cases I started with a longhand rough draft written with fountain pen, although with Ninefox I just wrote in notebooks, while in Raven Stratagem, because it has three main POV characters, I color-coded the characters' chapters using pastel Clairefontaine paper in a binder. I also color-coordinated the fountain pen inks (pink paper and red ink for Shuos Mikodez because red is one of the Shuos colors, for example). It's ridiculous, but it made the structure of the book easier to see at a glance, and it appealed to my sense of frivolity. I took later drafts into Scrivener for ease of editing and revisions, and ran them by multiple beta readers, then did more revisions. For revisions, I would write quick summaries of each chapter on index cards along with the POV, and rearrange the index cards so I could quickly reshuffle my plot--especially useful when I had to add some chapters to Raven Stratagem and needed to reorganize the novel so that the midpoint event once again fell at the actual midpoint of the wordcount.

TQNinefox Gambit has been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke, Hugo and Nebula Awards. How does that affect your writing if at all?

YHL:  Well, it made me more of a nervous wreck for a while there, simply because it was so overwhelming! But honestly, while I'm honored for my book to be considered, it doesn't change the day-to-day work of writing. The words still have to get down on the page (or in the computer). Congratulations to all the Nebula winners, by the way!

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

YHL:  Mostly that the book publishing process takes months to years! I remember having one short story get published by a webzine literally weeks after I sold it. I'm pretty sure you can't do that with print books. It's more like what I imagine running a marathon would be like (if I could run marathons). You have to be in it for the long haul and keep sight of far-off goals.

TQWhat method or methods do you use to keep track of the characters and events in the Machineries of Empire Trilogy?

YHL:  I realized pretty rapidly that I was going to need a continuity bible. Mine is a 40,000-word Scrivener file that I...really should update more often, because it's outdated again, and from time to time I export dated copies in mobi format so I can put it on my Kindle for easy reference. For events, I have a timeline. It's hilarious, because I hate keeping track of dates, but given how obsessed the hexarchate is with numbers and dates, it was impossible not to.

For major characters, I do full write-ups on their personalities, quirks, notable traits, physical appearances, and so on. I also stat them up as if they were overpowered roleplaying game characters, with the caveat that since they're book characters they don't need to adhere to some notion of "game balance." And for some of the major characters I also write up their opinions of the other characters, which may or may not have much basis in reality, since characters have their own biases and misconceptions.

TQ Tell us something about Raven Stratagem that is not in the book description.

YHL:  Partway through the book, you'll get some more backstory on Shuos Jedao and Nirai Kujen and their entirely unhealthy alliance! This includes some things that Jedao himself isn't currently aware of.

TQ Please tell us about the cover for Raven Stratagem.

YHL:  The art is by Chris Moore, who also did the cover art for Ninefox, and it depicts one of the space stations in Raven Stratagem, the Fortress of Spinshot Coins. I think the starships are supposed to evoke ravens based on the title, which I thought was an especially nice touch. I'm thrilled by Moore's covers (I have seen previews of the one for Revenant Gun, which is the third book) and they're all gorgeous, but I have to admit that Raven Stratagem's is my favorite!

TQWhich character in the Machineries of Empire Trilogy (so far) has surprised you the most?

YHL:  I think Hexarch Nirai Kujen. Originally I'd written Ninefox Gambit as a standalone, and Kujen was a very minor character. He ended up becoming much more important than I'd intended. His personality also changed significantly, partly as a consequence of feedback from my sister and my husband regarding the very first draft of Ninefox, in which Jedao was an out-and-out sociopath. I mean, he's still not a particularly nice or good human being, but my sister and husband felt that having Cheris be overshadowed and bullied by someone so palpably evil would make the book too unpleasant for anyone to actually read. So I dialed Jedao back and redid his personality and motivations. But of course, I guess there's a conservation of sociopathy going on, so that Kujen, who was originally a cowardly mad scientist who pursued immortality because he was terrified to die, ended up as a sociopath in revisions. Sorry...? I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the third book to get much more background on him, although there's some more material on him in Raven Stratagem.

TQThe Machineries of Empire Trilogy is Space Opera. What do you think is the appeal of Space Opera?

YHL:  Well, I don't know about anyone else, but for me it's two parts Big Space Battles to one part not having to sweat the fine details of actual physics. Certainly there are space operas that adhere more strictly to known physics and engineering, but there's a whole spectrum of this stuff from technology as essentially magic (which is where Machineries falls) to harder sf, so there's something for everyone. I like physics fine and sometimes read hard sf for fun, but sometimes I don't want to sweat Lorentzian contractions or be bothered about how the FTL system makes no sense. (They rarely do, in my experience...)

The other thing I think might be particularly appealing about space opera is its romantic nature, not in the sense of kissing scenes but larger-than-life plots and personalities. I hear that in history two opposing approaches to understanding events are Big Personalities vs. Massed Social Forces. I think there's value to both approaches (I say, despite not being a historian), but space opera very definitely tends toward Big Personalities, which can be appealing as a fantasy of agency.

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


          “Look at the insignia,” the man said. “That’s some kind of officer, isn’t it?”
          Whoever the medics were, they clearly weren’t Kel.
          “That’s a lieutenant colonel, you dimwit.” The owner of the first voice sounded like they wished their companion were something smarter, like a slime mold.

TQWhat's next?

YHL:  I'm currently working on a Korean mythology space opera for middle grade readers called Dragon Pearl for Disney-Hyperion. The heroine is a shapeshifting fox spirit girl searching for her brother, who allegedly deserted from the Space Forces while hunting for the Dragon Pearl of the title--an artifact that can terraform worlds. As you can imagine, considering that this whole thing is set in space, I'm playing fast and loose with the source folklore and not sweating authenticity too much.

After that, I'll be working on a collection of hexarchate short stories called, appropriately, Hexarchate Stories. Half the material will be reprints of extant hexarchate material, and half of it will be new to the collection. And after that, who knows?

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

YHL:  Thank you for having me!

Raven Stratagem
The Machineries of Empire 2
Solaris, June 13, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Yoon Ha Lee
Captain Kel Cheris is possessed by a long-dead traitor general. Together they must face the rivalries of the hexarchate and a potentially devastating invasion.

When the hexarchate's gifted young captain Kel Cheris summoned the ghost of the long-dead General Shuos Jedao to help her put down a rebellion, she didn't reckon on his breaking free of centuries of imprisonment – and possessing her.

Even worse, the enemy Hafn are invading, and Jedao takes over General Kel Khiruev's fleet, which was tasked with stopping them. Only one of Khiruev's subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, seems to be able to resist the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.


Ninefox Gambit
The Machineries of Empire 1
Solaris Books, June 14, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Yoon Ha Lee
To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics.  Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics.  Cheris's career isn't the only thing at stake.  If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris's best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.  As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao--because she might be his next victim.

About Yoon Ha Lee

Interview with Yoon Ha Lee
Yoon Ha Lee's first novel, NINEFOX GAMBIT, came out in 2016 from Solaris Books and was shortlisted for the Nebula, Hugo, and Clarke awards. Its sequel, RAVEN STRATAGEM, is forthcoming in June 2017. He lives in Louisiana with his family and an extremely lazy cat, and has not yet been eaten by gators.

Website  ~  Twitter @motomaratai

Yoon Ha Lee has written guides to the factions of the hexarchate in his faction blogs at Solaris Books:








Interview with Craig Comer

Please welcome Craig Comer to The Qwillery. The Laird of Duncairn was published on May 2nd by City Owl Press.

Interview with Craig Comer

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

Craig:  Hello! In retrospect, I’ve always been writing. As a kid, I used to create stories and try to plot out longer works. I drew maps and dreamed up other worlds. At one point, I had a binder full of characters and story ideas. But I never tried to do anything professional until after college. I wrote a story. It got published online, and it clicked that I wanted to write and publish more. It was kind of a headshaking epiphany because I’d been creating stories for so long, I just hadn’t realized it.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Craig:  More of a plotter, but I’m definitely trying out different techniques. I think that’s important at the start—to try different approaches to writing in order to hone in on your author’s voice. My first novel is pantsed, and it’s sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Its structure doesn’t work at all. For The Laird of Duncairn, I focused on plotting what the big power players would do so that I could see how Effie’s actions impacted them. She’s a small fish in a big sea, so I needed to know everyone’s end-game first, then set her loose among them.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Craig:  A common one, I think—finding the time to do it. I sit at a computer for my day job, so wanting to spend more hours of the day fixed at a keyboard isn’t always appealing. But the stories keep coming, and I have to write them down somewhere!

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Craig:  I love to travel. We did a ton of road trips as a kid, and I was always reading or staring out the window taking in everything. I travel with my wife now, and we love to cook up stories for the places we’re visiting. The people around us probably think we’re a bit looney, hearing our discussions—types of poisons, why a non-existent mill burned down, why someone’s lover needs to be a bit older. You know, common conversation topics while sitting in a café or hiking a trail.

TQDescribe The Laird of Duncairn in 140 characters or less.

Craig:  An orphaned fey rallies those who revile her against an auld enemy as the battle over the FEY MATTER ravages the Highlands.

TQTell us something about The Laird of Duncairn that is not found in the book description.

Craig:  Though the book is only loosely historical—the setting is very much my imagining of Victorian Scotland rather than to-the-button accurate—I do have a few historical figures making appearances. And I left them as Easter eggs rather than letting them call attention to themselves. I thought it more fun that way, and it doesn’t alter the story in any way if you don’t catch them.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Laird of Duncairn? Why did you set the novel in Scotland?

Craig:  Like all my great ideas, it started with my wife. I’d written several fantasy short stories in imagined worlds, and she suggested I try writing in a place I knew well. I’d studied history in Scotland and lived there for a year, and fleshing out that setting came at a time when I’d thought of the Effie character. The two blended, and the tale started there. It was fun plopping her into the same pubs and castles I frequented while as a student, only set a hundred years earlier.

TQThe Laird of Duncairn is described as a gaslamp fantasy. What is a 'gaslamp fantasy'?

Craig:  To paraphrase Leanna Renee Hieber, author of the Eterna Files, gaslamp uses the same 19th century aesthetic as steampunk but uses fantasy elements in place of science fiction. It has ghosts, fairies, and magic systems rather than clockwork devices, gadgets, and mad scientists.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Laird of Duncairn?

Craig:  Beyond brushing up on Scottish history, I really focused on researching a mythology that wasn’t just a retelling of the Irish fairy courts. Scottish mythology is a hybrid of the Celtic and the Norse, and I found the tales from the Orkney and Shetland islands fascinating and fresh. So I used those where I could and plan to use more in the future.

TQIn The Laird of Duncairn who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Craig:  Edmond Glover, because he’s a buffoon. Everyone else has a lot more substance; Glover is blindly driven by his own obsessions. I hope that doesn’t say too much about me. :) The hardest was Effie because of the need to balance her personal growth with her need to serve the story.

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

CraigHow many dresses does Effie ruin during the book? The answer is just 4, I think, but it might feel like more. Her curiosity gets her into a lot mischief, and those dresses weren’t exactly designed for crawling through caves or crashing through trees!

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


“The fey will do anything to protect their substance. Unfortunately, the queen has more men and more bullets.”

Effie smiled, but her tone held sorrow in it. “I spent my childhood hunted by the queen’s minions, casting about for a home and a family. To be called a romantic is to admit I am part of a dying race.”

TQWhat's next?

Craig:  I’ve finished the rough draft of book II of the Fey Matter series and am about to start editing and revising it. I hope to have it out by the start of next year, and then a third book shortly after that. I’ve also started plotting out a contemporary mystery series set in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. I want it to have the feel of The Dresden Files meets Midsomer Murders.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Craig:  Thank you for hosting me! These were fun questions!

The Laird of Duncairn
A Fey Matter Novel 1
City Owl Press, May 2, 2017
    Trade Paperback, 344 pages
City Owl Press, May 16, 2017
    eBook,3 44 pages

Interview with Craig Comer
The year is 1882 Scotland, and the auld alliance betwixt king and fey has long been forgotten. Men of science, backed by barons of industry, push the boundaries of technology. When Sir Walter Conrad discovers a new energy source, one that could topple nations and revolutionize society, the race to dominate its ownership begins. But the excavation and use of this energy source will have dire consequences for both humans and fey. For an ancient enemy stirs, awakened by Sir Walter’s discovery.

Outcast half-fey Effie of Glen Coe is the Empire’s only hope at averting the oncoming disaster. Effie finds herself embroiled in the conflict, investigating the eldritch evil spreading throughout the Highlands. As she struggles against the greed of mighty lords and to escape the clutches of the queen’s minions, her comfortable world is shattered. Racing to thwart the growing menace, she realizes the only thing that can save them all is a truce no one wants.

About Craig

Interview with Craig Comer
Craig Comer is the author of the gaslamp fantasy novel THE LAIRD OF DUNCAIRN and co-author of the mosaic fantasy novel THE ROADS TO BALDAIRN MOTTE. His shorter works have appeared in several anthologies, including BARDIC TALES AND SAGE ADVICE and PULP EMPIRE VOLUME IV. Craig earned a Master’s Degree in Writing from the University of Southern California. He enjoys tramping across countries in his spare time, preferably those strewn with pubs and castles.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @CraigComer

Interview with Weston Ochse

Please welcome Weston Ochse to The Qwillery. Grunt Hero, the 3rd and final Task Force Ombra Novel, was published on April 25th by Solaris.

Interview with Weston Ochse

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

Weston:  Hi, Sally. I began writing when I turned 30. Scratch that. I actually began writing when I was 8, but that story was pulled from circulation by the school and I didn’t write for another 22 years.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Weston:  I’m a hybrid. I plot enough,t hen I pants it. I love it when a character surprises me. When they do, I know I have something special. I’m not sure that if I was a pure plotter if that would happen.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Weston:  Facebook.

TQDescribe Grunt Hero in 140 characters or less.

Weston:  Humanity fought the war and lost. Aliens now have the run of our Earth. When all hope is gone, all that’s left is to seek revenge.

TQGrunt Hero is the conclusion to your Task Force Ombra series. What are your feelings on wrapping up the series?

Weston:  I’d call this a trilogy, not a series. When I wrote the SEAL Team 666 books, I thought I was writing a trilogy, but it ended up being a series. What’s the difference? A trilogy is an enclosed literary environment where something special happens. A series is books that follow one after the other that don’t necessarily have a relation to the others except for characters and setting. Like the James Bond books. That was a series. I took what I learned about failing to write a trilogy with the SEAL Team 666 books and impressed them into the writing of the Grunt Trilogy. What are my feelings, you ask? I’m happy that I actually created a solid trilogy. I am sort of saddened to let Ben Mason go, though. He was a hell of a grunt.

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

Weston:  It has walruses.

TQWhat inspired you to write the Task Force Ombra series? What appeals to you about writing Military SF?

Weston:  I’ve spent 35 years in the military. They say write what you know. I’ve written thirty books and six out of the last seven books I wrote were military fiction. It’s appealing to my sensibilities right now to write military sf. I think there’s some really terrific writing out there, but not a lot by people who have been street level with a terrorist. There are feelings one has when they are in harm’s way that no amount of research can get you. In fact, I wrote Grunt Life while I was in Afghanistan and brought into it some of the feelings of mortality I was having then.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Grunt Hero and the series?

Weston:  I did a lot of research so I could get the Gun Porn right. Then there was science. I had a science guy who kept me straight. I’d ask him if I could do something, then when he’d stop laughing, he’d tell me what I could really do. I wanted the science behind everything to be as real as possible.

TQIn the Task Force Ombra series who was the easiest character to write and why? Which character surprised you?

Weston:  Ben Mason was the easiest to write for me, because he was essentially me. I included many biographical elements into that character. Michelle became the hardest to write, mainly because of what I did to her.

TQWhat's next?

Weston:  I wrote and turned in Burning Sky for Solaris, which is a military horror novel set in Afghanistan. I’m working on the sequel to that, Dead Sky and I’m also working on a few other books. I had a big short story year this last year. I worked on the franchises of Hellboy, X-Files, Joe Ledger, Aliens and Predator. The Hellboy and Predator stories have yet to be published. This fall I’m working with DC Comics on a project. I’m super stoked about that.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Weston:  No. Thank you!

Grunt Hero
A Task Force Ombra Novel 3
Solaris, April 25, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Weston Ochse
It is a time for heroes, for killers, for Grunts.

In this thrilling conclusion to the breakout military SF series, we find Earth plagued with millions of miles of terraformed cities, black vines crushing concrete, revealing iron and steel. Those unable to escape the vines are empty vessels waiting to be filled, living storage for alien algorythmic thought. What else can happen? What more can be done? This has always been a time for for heroes, for Killers, for Grunts, but are they enough?

Benjamin Carter Mason will be asked to return to OMBRA to help them find these answers, and what he finds will send him over the edge. In the end, his efforts won't be about survival, they'll be about revenge, and his revenge will be served in a blaze.


Grunt Life
A Task Force Ombra Novel 1
Solaris, April 29, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Weston Ochse
This is a brand new Military SF series from Weston Ochse, an experienced military man and author.

Benjamin Carter Mason died last night. Maybe he threw himself off a bridge into Los Angeles Harbor, or maybe he burned to death in a house fire in San Pedro; it doesn’t really matter. Today, Mason’s starting a new life. He’s back in boot camp, training for the only war left that matters a damn.

For years, their spies have been coming to Earth, mapping our cities, learning our weaknesses, leaving tragedy in their wake. Our governments knew, but they did nothing—the prospect was too awful, the costs too high—and now, the horrifying and utterly alien Cray are invading, laying waste to our cities. The human race is a heartbeat away from extinction.

That is, unless Mason, and the other men and women of Task Force OMBRA, can do anything about it.

This is a time for heroes. For killers. For Grunts

Grunt Traitor
A Task Force Ombra Novel 2
Solaris, July 28, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Weston Ochse
The breakout military SF series continues!

Their spies were among us for years. They mapped our electrical infrastructure, learned our weaknesses, until finally they flipped the switch and threw us back into the Dark Ages.

Only OMBRA and its battalions around the world seem capable of defending Earth from the next wave of attack—terraforming. But at what price can we gain our freedom from these yet to be identified aliens? They're pushing the human race to the edge of extinction if we can't find a way to change things. But what will we have to change? What will we humans become to survive this threat. This is a time for heroes. For killers. For Grunts.

Benjamin Carter Mason will be asked this question over and over as he dives deep into the nasty heart of an alien transformed Los Angeles. And in the end, he might be the last person on Earth defending not just our lives, but our humanity. 

About Weston

Interview with Weston Ochse
Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, border crossers, narco-bad guys, and human smuggling punks. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war.

Follow Wes on Twitter, and for more information visit the official Weston Ochse website.

Interview with G.S. Denning, author of the Warlock Holmes Novels

Please welcome G.S. Denning back to The Qwillery. The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles (Warlock Holmes 2) was published on May 16th by Titan Books.

Interview with G.S. Denning, author of the Warlock Holmes Novels

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles (Warlock Holmes 2), was published on May 16th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote A Study in Brimstone (2016) to The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles?

G.S.:  Well, I’m still stealing time at nights and weekends. Still running off to friendly restaurants who will bring me diet cokes for 3 hours while I write and write. The biggest change is that I have the fan feedback from book 1. Now I can hear what my readers value about the series and include more of that. For example, I had no idea how much people would like Grogsson and Lestrade. I had to sneak a whole Grogsson-centric story into Hell-hound when I realized how much people wanted him and how little I had. (Oh, that’s The Adventure of the Solitary Tricyclist, by the way.)

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when A Study in Brimstone came out that you know now?

G.S.:  The podcast “Writing Excuses” taught me a lot. Traditional publishing is slow. Be ready, fellow authors. Nothing happens quickly except deadlines.

Yet, I’ve learned to be exceedingly grateful that I went the traditional publishing route. I can go see my books, in book-stores and I didn’t have to drive them there and brow-beat the proprietors into carrying them. There’s an audiobook version and I didn’t have to call all the audio companies and beg. As much as people complain about how slow traditional publishing is and how small the per-book percentage that goes to the author, I know perfectly well that I could never, never, never have gotten Warlock this far on my own. Thanks to the whole team!

TQTell us something about The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles that is not found in the book description.

G.S.:  Part of it was a writing challenge to myself: write an origin story where the reader doesn’t realize they’re reading one. The book hasn’t been out long enough for me to find out if I’m really blindsiding people or they’re seeing through me. Time will tell.

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

G.S.:  John Watson surprised me most. As I conceived this series, it was centered around the arcane wellspring that was Holmes. In a way, it still is. Yet every adventure is narrated by John. He filters all the wonder through this veneer of normalcy. He’s the everyman character—he’s an extension of how the reader would feel if they were thrust into a world of monsters. I’m surprised by how much of this story has become about John and what he thinks and feels as the story swirls on.

As far as the hardest: the women. Most geek-readers, most Holmes fans and the bulk of my fan-base are women. But the original stories are from another age. Women are rarely important in the original stories—victims seeking protection, for the most part. Of course, there’s Irene Adler, who bests Holmes, but she is in only one of the 60 stories. I’m trying to build female characters we can relate to and root for. Read the descriptions of Violet Smith in book 2 and Violet Hunter in book 3 and you’ll see how much I’m trying to build in cos-play opportunity and (especially in Hunter’s case) fan-fic launch points.

TQWhat do you think is the ongoing appeal of stories. etc. based on Sherlock Holmes?

G.S.:  Oh man, there’s a bunch. We love the odd-couple friendship of Holmes and Watson—how this super-powered individual needs a tie to normalcy (and that’s true of Warlock and Sherlock in equal measure). We love the pace of the stories and the chance to guess along and match our wits against the greatest detective. We love the language and the exotic-yet-familiar feel of Victorian London. We love the cloying promise that adventure and wonder hide in this everyday doldrum we inhabit. Some of us just like John’s moustache. As much as people can talk about how dated and out-of-touch the stories are, there’s a reason these things have stayed in print in over 150 countries and 125 years.

TQSherlock Holmes has appeared in 60 stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. How do you pick which stories to use?

G.S.:  The horrifying-yet-wonderful thing is: if these books keep doing as well as they are now, I’ll eventually have to use all 60. I’m pacing myself so I don’t use all 4 novels too early (right now, book 3 hasn’t got one). I’ve been trying to start strong by using recognizable favorites like Study in Scarlet, Hound of the Baskervilles and Speckled Band. I chose Baskervilles as the second story I ever wrote, because –duh- there’s a hell-hound in it. There was really no challenge introducing a supernatural element in to that particular story. Then again, I’m saving The Sussex Vampire, for the same reason.

The real hard part is creating an overall arch for the stories—the tale of how Moriarty came back to power from near-ruin and tricked Holmes and Watson into destroying the world. Readers have been very patient with me in book 1 and 2, where the Moriarty element is more in the background. Spoiler-alert: he comes to the fore in book 3.

TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles.


“No murder! Bad Horse! If you make a habit of it, I shall be cross with you!” –Warlock Holmes to Silver Blaze.

“In a proof that small words can have great import, I am holding a copy of Two Gentlemen In Verona. By this author’s interpretation, Verona is a down-on-her luck servant girl who finds herself sandwiched—quite literally—between the affections of a country squire and a poor groom.” –John Watson presenting an inappropriate gift to Mrs. Hudson.

“Aaaaaaaaaaiiieeah! Tears and wreck and wrack and ruin! The black one has returned! Prince of tatters! Prince of ash!” –Fasoul the Turk to… well… actually not Moriarty, but the person standing beside him.

“You cannot assume an animal’s behavior, based entirely on its breed.” –Warlock Holmes’s questionable advice on pre-judging hell-hounds.

TQWhat's next?

G.S.:  Book 3—My Grave Ritual—is underway and will be released May 15, 2018. It features the return of Moriarty to Holmes and Watson’s world and the growing sense that if Watson keeps meddling in the world of monsters and gods, he’s certain to die. There’s *ahem* a bit more romance, as well.

I’m realizing it would take between 8 and 9 books to finish the entire Holmes canon and I’m planning out my long-game. The Chekhov’s guns for both Holmes and Moriarty are already in place, but there’s a lot of maneuvering to be done before the final confrontation.

We’ve had two nibbles already for adapting Warlock to the big-or-small screen. Nothing really in the works yet, but I’d love to see my Holmes and Watson take their place amongst the other filmed adaptations and I’m doing my best to keep the writing screen-friendly.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

G.S.:  Are you kidding? Thanks for having me back. All authors ever want to do is drone on and on about their work and you’ve provided us with exactly that chance. You’re like super-heroes and therapists, all rolled into one.

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles
Warlock Holmes 2
Titan Books, May 16, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with G.S. Denning, author of the Warlock Holmes Novels
The game’s afoot once more as Holmes and Watson face off against Moriarty’s gang, the Pinkertons, flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and the dreaded Pumpcrow. Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes.


A Study in Brimstone
Warlock Holmes 1
Titan Books, May 17, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with G.S. Denning, author of the Warlock Holmes Novels
Sherlock Holmes is an unparalleled genius. Warlock Holmes is an idiot. A font of arcane power, certainly. But he’s brilliantly dim. Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart companion. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety… and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.

About G.S. Denning

Interview with G.S. Denning, author of the Warlock Holmes Novels
G.S. Denning is an author, improv comic, and speaker. ​

Before publishing Warlock Holmes, G.S. performed improv comedy for 20 years with Seattle Theatersports and Jet City Improv in Seattle, and SAC Comedy in Florida. He was a writer/performer for live shows at Disney's Epcot Center, wrote comedic reviews for Wizards of the Coast, and worked as a translation editor for Nintendo, ensuring that humor/context translated appropriately from Japanese to English video game scripts.

G.S. is extremely knowledgeable about history and all things pertaining to the geekiverse. He now gives engaging and educational talks to schools, inspiring students to turn their love of comic books and video games into a creative career or enriching hobby. He speaks at conventions, teaching writers improv comedy techiques that will improve their storytelling. He loves chatting on podcasts and is a terribly friendly geek. He has The Best Wife and The Most Beautiful Children and lives in Las Vegas.

Website  ~  Twitter @GS_Denning  ~  Facebook

Interview with Gregory Benford

Please welcome Gregory Benford to The Qwillery. The Berlin Project, an alternate history of World War II, was published on May 9th by Saga Press.

Interview with Gregory Benford

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. You've written over 20 novels. How has your writing process changed over the years?

Gregory:  I started out writing terribly stiff stuff, which meant my first two stories did not sell. Then to compete in a story contest I wrote a wry, amusing story about a party—not my usual subject, i.e., science. It worked! So as I wrote more, moving to novels, I saw that you can’t think about that future in the dry light of science alone. Novels serve us deeply because we want meaning, and fiction creates meaning in concrete form. Scientifically minded people could perhaps conceptualize novels as case studies or thought experiments--both finer grained and wider ranging in their approach to meaning than cruder genres such as religion, psychology or common sense. A literary life is an ongoing moral education, a geography of the human world. I learned to include as much of life as I could, evoke the five senses and our fallible human selves. It helps to be humble.

TQWhat is, for you, the most challenging things about writing?

Gregory:  Learning to let yourself fly. Just go. Savants call it The Zone but to me it’s letting the unconscious come out to play. The murky origin of Freudian slips can help you!

TQThe Berlin Project is an alternate history of WWII. Why did you focus on the development of the nuclear bomb?

Gregory:  It was the crucial phase shift between the first 45 years of the 20th Century, dominated by the two biggest wars in history—into the rest, where wars were cold and a golden age bloomed. The problem of vast wars was solved not by the diplomats, but by the physicists. Make those wars impossible. I’m a physicist, know how weapons design works, and learned of the key historical pivot from Edward Teller, for whom I was a postdoc: We erred early in the war, neglecting the technology that would have given us the bomb a year earlier. Could that lead to a better world than ours? I couldn’t resist! I knew nearly every character in the novel, so I used my memories of them. It was huge fun, though it took 5 years.

TQWhat appealed to you about writing alternate history?

Gregory:  A chance to rethink the crucial turning years of the last century. To revisit many friends, long gone. To make WW II new again!

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

Gregory:  I had to rethink the whole last two years of the war. A million people died nearly every month, then!—colossal tragedies, every day.

        So suppose we do the Manhattan Project job right, first time.

        Next, how to use a bomb? There would be a fresh one every month or two, at best, so what’s the first target?

        In the novel, everybody thinks Berlin is the obvious target. I asked military types and they said no, you must leave in place the civilian authority that can surrender. This is standard doctrine. But in 1944?
        We now know that the Prussian wing of the German Army’s General Staff tried to negotiate through the British for at least a cease-fire, from 1943 onward. They tried to kill Hitler and nearly did in July 1944. The commanding generals were all on battlefields in 1944, not Berlin--where the Nazi Party types, whom the Prussians hated, were dug in.
        So… What to do with these elements?
        I researched many off-trail threads that really happened, but we forget: That both sides thought of using radioactive uranium as a pollutant, akin to poison gas and worked out details. That Eisenhower sent teams with Geiger counters to measure such use at Normandy. That we so feared a German nuclear program, the General commanding the Manhattan Project, Leslie Groves, sent in his top agent to assassinate Heisenberg if the agent thought Heisenberg’s team was getting close to a bomb.
        Blend these and many existing letters and memos, my memories from knowing most of the characters in the novel--season to taste, heat, stir.

TQIn addition to being an author you are a physicist and a professor of physics. How did your own background influence The Berlin Project?

Gregory:  I used my whole education—nuclear, weapons, and how scientists think. They’re hardnosed, sure, but idealistic, too. These counter-currents in their personalities made the drama work better, more furious.

TQWhat sorts of research did you do for The Berlin Project?

Gregory:  I must’ve read 200+ books, innumerable memoirs, once-classified documents, the works. I found the ID badges of Feynman and Fermi and others, at the Los Alamos lab—and put them in the novel! It has 45 photos, since I thought: This is a historical, why not show history? Much fun.

TQYou knew many of the people portrayed in The Berlin Project. How difficult or easy was it to write people you know?

Gregory:  Easier than inventing from whole cloth. I have a good aural memory, could recall how people like Fermi, Feynman, Teller, etc talked. I sat back and channeled them!

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

Gregory:  Freeman Dyson remarks, “All of science is uncertain and subject to revision. The glory of science is to imagine more than we can prove.”

The baseball player Moe Berg (a major character in the novel!) says, “
“You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”

TQWhat's next?

Gregory:  Just turned into Simon & Schuster, a next novel, Rewrite—about reliving your life, better this time, and quantum mechanics. As characters, Phil Dick, Albert Einstein, and Robert Heinlein.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Berlin Project
Saga Press, May 9, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with Gregory Benford
New York Times bestselling author Gregory Benford creates an alternate history about the creation of the atomic bomb that explores what could have happened if the bomb was ready to be used by June 6, 1944.

Karl Cohen, a chemist and mathematician who is part of The Manhattan Project team, has discovered an alternate solution for creating the uranium isotope needed to cause a chain reaction: U-235.

After convincing General Groves of his new method, Cohen and his team of scientists work at Oak Ridge preparing to have a nuclear bomb ready to drop by the summer of 1944 in an effort to stop the war on the western front. What ensues is an altered account of World War II in this taut thriller.

Combining fascinating science with intimate and true accounts of several members of The Manhattan Project, The Berlin Project is an astounding novel that reimagines history and what could have happened if the atom bomb was ready in time to stop Hitler from killing millions of people

About Gregory

Interview with Gregory Benford

Gregory Benford — physicist, educator, author — was born in Mobile, Alabama, on January 30, 1941. In 1963, he received a B.S. from the University of Oklahoma, and then attended the University of California, San Diego, where he received his Ph.D. in 1967. Benford is a professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine, where he has been a faculty member since 1971. Benford is the author of over twenty novels, including Jupiter Project, Artifact, Against Infinity, Eater, and Timescape. A two-time winner of the Nebula Award, Benford has also won the John W. Campbell Award, the Australian Ditmar Award, the 1995 Lord Foundation Award for achievement in the sciences, and the 1990 United Nations Medal in Literature. Visit his website at

Interview with Jessica Reisman

Please welcome Jessica Reisman to The Qwillery. Substrate Phantoms was published on May 16th by Arche Press (Resurrection House).

Interview with Jessica Reisman

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

Jessica:  I started writing poems and short fiction at nine years old; my first story was inspired by Watership Down. Why would be two things: first, reading stories and loving them and wanting to create worlds and stories myself; second, because visions of beautiful possibilities crowded my head, but my art skills weren't up to the task of bringing them into being, so I started to try and bring them to life with words, instead. My writing is still very visual.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jessica:  I'm a hybrid in that I do a whole lot of note writing, character background work, world building, etc., before I start writing, and have an idea of the overall arc and shape of the story, but plot only comes to me organically, from the characters and the world. With novels that just means I find my way slowly sometimes. With short fiction it often means I don't find the actual plot until second or third draft.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jessica:  My dayjob, it keeps getting in the way of writing time. :) A less flip answer would be that I find beginnings of stories challenging, and I find after-writing challenging--that is, everything that comes after to get the work published, noticed, read. The challenges involved in the writing itself are challenges I enjoy, so I don't think of them as "challenging," if you see what I mean. I'm one of those writers who actually do love the writing process itself.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jessica:  Other writers, first and always. My earliest direct influences in writing were Samuel Delaney, Ursula Le Guin, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, followed soon by Patricia McKillip, Tanith Lee, and C.J. Cherryh. Other influences are a love of art and nature; a never diminished awe for the amazing possibility and wonder of this universe and this planet; and a longing for community, connection, kindness, and a more just society.

TQDescribe Substrate Phantoms in 140 characters or less.

Jessica:  Substrate Phantoms is a far future literary space adventure that opens on a space station haunted by strange phenomena.

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

Jessica:  In its very first incarnation it was sort of the Orpheus myth in space.

TQWhat inspired you to write Substrate Phantoms? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction and in particular an Alien Contact story?

Jessica:  I love space opera and adventure, and the first blush of inspiration for SP was the seemingly haunted station, and how we, us humans, keep bringing the more Gothic/superstitious preoccupations of our psyches forward with us, no matter how much our technology advances. What appeals to me about alien contact, particularly in this case first contact, is the dichotomy between the fact of so many planets, so many galaxies, so much potential "alien" life, when we still haven't, as far as we know, had any contact with any, and still, to our detriment, treat others within our own species as alien.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Substrate Phantoms?

Jessica:  Everything from space station mechanics and disaster experiences to agricultural/farming systems and neurological disorders. My usual research habits are wide-ranging, tangent-prone, and perhaps a little shallow.

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

Jessica:  Jhinsei is the easiest for me. I wouldn't say that I am Jhinsei or Jhinsei is me, but we have some things in common and he's definitely a cognate of one of the mes within me. And Mheth was the hardest, because he's far from me in personality and behavior. Also, I wanted Mheth to have a shade of Mercutio from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a certain morbid, slightly manic whimsy, and that was a bit of a challenge--a fun one, but still a challenge.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Substrate Phantoms?

Jessica:  I don't think it's a choice, at least not for me; social issues are unavoidable. In fact I consider myself a writer of social science fiction--one of the things I've always most loved about science fiction (and fantasy) is its vast and glorious potential to envision other and better possibilities for societies, for ways of being, and to comment on ways that are maybe not so helpful or useful to us. For me, it's integral to the act of writing--not to be didactic or overt, but writing from a real place within means those social issues are just going to be there, in the way you envision your world and the characters, relationships, politics, economies, and life within it. Saying you don't include social issues simply means you include the status quo unexamined, doesn't it?

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


Q: Would you like to see the book as a beautifully illustrated graphic novel or perhaps a movie?

A: Yes, yes I would!

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

     Wind splashed, sudden and violent, across the fields and against the semiperm. Stronger winds moaned behind it. The roiling, flickering murk Mheth had seen in the distance was almost upon them.

     “What exactly is a moud storm?”

     “Mouds are some type of insect. I think—”

     Flickering murk hit the semiperm, with a huge rush of wind. It went over the building in a wave, filling the air with little lightnings and smudges of color in the murk. There was an odd pattering Mheth thought must be rain, but then thousands, hundreds of thousands of bugs began tumbling into the semiperm, pitching along the roof, spitting colored light on impact, chartreuse, verdigris, dark gold, angry reds.

     Jhinsei sat up, eyes wide. It seemed to go on for a long time, droves of insects hurtling on the wind, gusting torrentially into the semiperm and everything else in their path, flashing stains of gleaming color all around. The noise dinned and drowned. It wasn’t just the sound of insects pummeling semiperm, walls, and roof, but a sibilant clicking washing through it all from the insects themselves.

     A scent like cardamom and hot sand burned the air. The moud storm raged for maybe ten minutes. Then, slowly, the noise of wind and pummeling insect bodies lessened. The sound of rain came, gentle in the wake of the violence; occasional straggling insects, tiny turning flecks of colored light sparked and disappeared. Scents of cool and mineral rain washed through the semiperm.

TQWhat's next?

Jessica:  I have a story coming out at June 7th called "Bourbon, Sugar, Grace," for which I've recently seen the fabulous art. I'm excited for people to read it (and Substrate Phantoms!). I'm working on the sequel to Substrate Phantoms and I have an alternate 1600s South China Seas fantasy novel soon to be going out looking for a home.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jessica:  Thank you!

Substrate Phantoms
Arche Press, May 16, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

Interview with Jessica Reisman
The space station Termagenti—hub of commerce, culture, and civilization—may be haunted. Dangerous power surges, inexplicable energy manifestations, and strange accidents plague the station. Even after generations of exploring deep space, humanity has yet to encounter another race, and yet, some believe that what is troubling the station may be an alien life form.

Jhinsei and his operations team crawl throughout the station, one of many close-knit working groups that keep Termagenti operational. After an unexplained and deadly mishap takes his team from him, Jhinsei finds himself—for lack of a better word—haunted by his dead teammates. In fact, they may not be alone in taking up residence in his brain. He may have picked up a ghost—an alien intelligence that is using him to flee its dying ship. As Jhinsei struggles to understand what is happening to his sanity, inquisitive and dangerous members of the station's managing oligarchy begin to take an increasingly focused interest in him.

Haunted by his past and the increasing urgent presence of another within his mind, Jhinsei flees the station for the nearby planet Ash, where he undertakes an exploration that will redefine friend, foe, self, and other. With Substrate Phantoms, Jessica Reisman offers an evocative and thought-provoking story of first contact, where who we are is questioned as much as who they might be.

About Jessica

Interview with Jessica Reisman
Jessica Reisman's stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. A graduate of Clarion West 1995, she is a SFWA member. Her story “Threads” won the South East Science Fiction Achievement award. Her far future science fiction adventure SUBSTRATE PHANTOMS, from Resurrection House Books, is out in May 2017, and her story "Bourbon, Sugar, Grace" will appear on in June 2017. She currently calls Austin, Texas home. Find out more at

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @jesswynne

Interview with Steve Wiley

Please welcome Steve Wiley to The Qwillery. The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan is out now from Lavender Line Press.

Interview with Steve Wiley

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

Steve:  I published my first short fiction piece about five years ago by entering a short story contest in a small literary journal. My piece didn’t win the contest, but was a finalist, and so was published. That gave me real confidence in my style of writing and voice. After that, I kept publishing short pieces in literary journals, and actually published a few chapters of this book in literary journals. As far as why I write, I’ve always liked to tell stories, and create art. This book is both.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Steve:  Definitely a pantser. I wrote the middle of this book before I even had an idea of the start and finish. As a reader, I just want to enjoy what I’m reading, strong plot or not. So, I tried to make this book something people could enjoy reading, chapter by chapter, as individual stories which were interesting for the reader to digest, with or without a plot.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Steve:  Finding a big, new, fun idea, which gets the words flowing is difficult. I’m still figuring out what my next project will be. Once I get it, I’ll be fine, but finding the idea can be hard.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Steve:  Everything I read is in what I write, but this book has J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll fingerprints all over it. The East Side in this book was inspired by a Wonderland, and Francesca Finnegan is based in many ways on Peter Pan. I also pulled quite a bit from Hans Christian Andersen.

TQDescribe The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan in 140 characters or less.

Steve:  The novel is a magical redefinition of the city and its citizens, explained through the adventures of a boy and girl aboard a secret L train, which travels through a mythical, East Side of the city.

TQTell us something about The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan that is not found in the book description.

Steve:  I don’t socialize the fact that I pretty much rewrite Chicago history in the book itself, because I was afraid too much history might turn fantasy readers off. But within the book itself, we take major events and places in Chicago history (Chicago fire, Riverview, Fort Dearborn), and blow them up to high fantasy. I hope readers are pleasantly surprised by this, especially those who know Chicago, and appreciate history.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan? What appeals to you about writing fantasy and in particular a fairytale?

Steve:  I still live near Chicago, and lived within the city itself for many years. I’ve always felt like Chicago was missing a fairytale. New York has a fairytale. London has one. Why not Chicago? I wrote something I would have been interested in reading myself. I also like the idea of a fairytale because they’re an endangered species. Beauty and the Beast was written more than 200 years ago! We cling to these old fairytales, but don’t create new ones. Why?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan?

Steve:  Historical research was definitely needed, but not all that much, just due to the fact I was already pretty well educated in everything Chicago. I think it would have been impossible for someone not from Chicago to write this book. You have to know the city inside and out to rewrite the story of how everything in it came to be.

TQWhy did you set the novel in Chicago?

Steve:  I set the novel in Chicago because I love the city itself. I was born there, grew up there, am raising my kids there, and I’ll be buried there. Chicagoans are proud of their city. I wanted to deliver a book the city could be proud of. We give half the proceeds from the book to Chicago Public Schools because we wanted to make the reader feel like they were giving back to the city with each purchase. My mother was also a teacher for 30 years within the city. If this book could raise a meaningful sum of money for Chicago Public Schools, it would be a proper end to the fairytale.

TQIn The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Steve:  Easiest character was the protagonist Richard Lyons. He was really based on myself in many ways, and we have a lot in common – I’ve been reported missing by my wife, have been a vice president of something, and used to ride the Brown Line to work daily. Hardest character was Francesca Finnegan. I wanted her to be the strange combination of an innocent girl, who was also fearless and mysterious.

TQWhich question about The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Steve:  Who is your favorite character in the book?

Easily Templeton Goodfellow, the funny old, alcoholic elf. I had fun writing his lines. He’s the friend you call to have a drink, who will never turn you down, and always has a good story to tell.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan.


"Once people stop asking you what your favorite color is, you're done for."

"Within the shallow river valleys of Chicago, there hide undiscovered kingdoms."

TQWhat's next?

Steve:  I’m consumed with marketing activities for the book well into the summer, and after would like to take a break from everything. I think I’ll start my next project in 2018. I’m not certain what that next project will be yet. But, whatever the next project is, you can expect something as unexpected as The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan
Lavender Line Press, February 24, 2017
Trade Paperback, Hardcover and Kindle eBook, 342 pages

Interview with Steve Wiley
"One of the most captivating and magical books I've read"  ~ Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune

"Intelligent, Enchanting, Playful"   ~  Publishers Weekly    

There is magic in the city...

In Chicago, a secret L train runs through the mythical East Side. On that train, you'll discover fantastical truths about the city, alongside the most incredible cast of characters, including one exceptional girl by the name of Francesca Finnegan.

Once upon an extraordinary time, Francesca invited a boy named Richard aboard the secret L, for an adventure through the East Side. The night was a mad epic, complete with gravity-defying first kisses, spectral cocktails, fabled Ferris wheels, and more. Unfortunately for Richard, the night ended like one of those elusive dreams, forgotten the moment you wake. Now, Richard is all grown up and out of childish adventures, an adult whose life is on the verge of ruin. It will take the rediscovery of his exploits with Francesca, and a reacquaintance with the boy he once was, to save him.

Witty, humorous, and at times profound, this fairytale teaches a lesson - one that adult readers are sure to benefit from.

Half the proceeds from this book are donated to Chicago Public Schools.

About Steve

Interview with Steve Wiley
Steve is a father, husband, uncle, brother, friend, and purveyor of fairy stories. He grew up in and around Chicagoland, where he still lives with his wife and two kids. He has been published in an array of strange and serious places, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., to Crannóg magazine in Galway, Ireland. This is his first book. He has an undergraduate degree in something he has forgotten from Illinois State University and a graduate degree in something equally forgotten from DePaul University. Steve once passionately kissed a bronze seahorse in the middle of Buckingham Fountain.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

Interview with Marie Brennan

Please welcome Marie Brennan to The Qwillery. Within the Sanctuary of Wings, the 5th and final Memoir of Lady Trent, was published on April 25, 2017 by Tor Books.

Interview with Marie Brennan

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery! The first of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, A Natural History of Dragons, was published in 2013 and now Within the Sanctuary of Wings, the final Memoir has been published. What are your thoughts on ending this series?

Marie:  I'm sad to see it end -- but I also am glad to be finishing while I am sad, rather than after I've grown tired of it. Or worse, after my readers have grown tired of it.

TQWhen we first spoke I asked if you were a plotter or pantser and you replied "...somewhere in between." And now, 4 years later, how would you answer that question? Has anything changed about your writing process?

Marie:  I'm a bit less linear than I used to be, but ultimately, I'm still in between on the question of outlining versus improvising. For example, I knew going into Sanctuary what Isabella was going to find, but the specifics of how she found it and what happened afterward? Those mostly got made up as I went along. I still have fixed points I want to hit, and those get added to along the way, but a lot of it is still discovery, me figuring out how I'm going to get from where I am to where I want to be.

TQYou are both an anthropologist and a folklorist. Have you based any of the dragons that have been documented by Lady Trent on anything in the fossil record?

Marie:  Oh, definitely! The drakeflies in The Tropic of Serpents were inspired by a dinosaur called Microraptor, which had two sets of wings. They were probably connected by a membrane rather than being separate like a dragonfly's, but that didn't stop me from running with my own version. And the idea that a swamp-wyrm at different stages in its life cycle might look like very different organisms also came from a theory about certain dinosaurs -- apparently I was reading a lot about dinos while I worked on that book!

TQAnd do you have a favorite dragon from folklore?

Marie:  My favorite dragon overall is Maleficent, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to call Disney's decision to turn her into a dragon an element of genuine pre-modern folklore. I'm also quite partial to the Wawel dragon of Kraków -- but that's more a matter of liking the story of how the dragon got defeated, rather than the dragon itself. So let's go with the quetzalcoatl of Aztec folklore, because feathered dragons are cool. (As are feathered dinosaurs!)

TQWhat is the most unusual thing that Lady Trent has discovered in Books 1 - 4?

Marie:  I am so tempted to name off some random detail about people! Part of the idea behind the series is that the places she travels to are every bit as interesting as the dragons she studies there. But since I suspect you meant something dragon-related, I'll say the odd quirk of draconic development Isabella figures out at the end of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, via the honeyseeker breeding project. I can't really be more specific without spoilers, though.

TQPlease describe Within the Sanctuary of Wings in 140 characters.

Marie:  Intrepid lady adventurer nearly gets killed in the Himalaya discovering awesome dragon stuff!

TQPlease tell us something about Within the Sanctuary of Wings that is not found in the book description.

Marie:  There's a whole lot of linguistic fun around the efforts to decipher the ancient Draconean language. And I love the fact that fans of this series are the kinds of nerds who really will find that fun -- it's like a puzzle, and the characters have to get really creative to solve it.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Within the Sanctuary of Wings.

Marie:  "In the history of scientific discovery, it is my opinion that insufficient credit has been given to the behaviour of the humble yak."

TQPlease tell us a bit about the 4 dragons on the gorgeous cover of Within the Sanctuary of Wings?

Marie:  Todd Lockwood and I were discussing the covers a year or two ago, trying to figure out what else we could do that would fit the "scientific" theme of the images, without being a rehash of what we'd done before. He was the one who suggested an evolutionary series, like those pictures you see of a chimpanzee getting bigger and more upright until it's a modern human being. The idea is that you're seeing how a much more lizard-like creature eventually became a beautiful Yelangese azure dragon.

TQWho has been your favorite not main character in the Memoirs? And which character has given you the most trouble?

Marie:  Oh, man -- you're going to make me pick? I'm going to cheat and say my favorite is a tie between Tom and Suhail. The former because I loved developing his partnership with Isabella over the course of the series, and the latter because he's an archaeologist and in some ways my self-insert character. Most trouble was Ankumata, the ruler of Bayembe, because he required me to think through a lot of political calculus to figure out how he should act.

TQWhat's next?

Marie:  On May 30th will be publishing Lightning in the Blood, the sequel to Cold-Forged Flame. That series is more in the epic fantasy vein than the historical/scientific flavor of the Memoirs, but I've had a lot of fun with the worldbuilding for it.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Marie:  Thank you!

Within the Sanctuary of Wings
The Lady Trent Memoirs 5
Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Marie Brennan
Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the conclusion to Marie Brennan's thrilling Lady Trent Memoirs

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent--dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.

And yet--after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia--the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure--scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland's enemies--and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

About Marie

Interview with Marie Brennan
MARIE BRENNAN is an anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material. She is the author of several acclaimed fantasy novels including A Natural History of Dragons; The Onyx Court Series: Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, A Star Shall Fall, and With Fate Conspire; Warrior; and Witch. Her short stories have appeared in more than a dozen print and online publications.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Twitter @swan_tower


A Natural History of Dragons
The Lady Trent Memoirs 1
Tor Books, February 4, 2014
Trade Paperback,352 pages
Hardcover and eBook, February 5, 2013

Interview with Marie Brennan
Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in A Natural History of Dragons, combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age.

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon's presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one's life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.
Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

"Saturated with the joy and urgency of discovery and scientific curiosity."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on A Natural History of Dragons

An NPR Best Book of 2013

The Tropic of Serpents
The Lady Trent Memoirs 2
Tor Books, February 14, 2015
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 4, 2014

Interview with Marie Brennan
The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's The Tropic of Serpents . . .

Attentive readers of Lady Trent's earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world's premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

Voyage of the Basilisk
The Lady Trent Memoirs 3
Tor Books, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 31, 2015

Interview with Marie Brennan
The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's Voyage of the Basilisk . . .

Devoted readers of Lady Trent's earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now.

Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella's in ways both professional and personal.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella's life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes
The Lady Trent Memoirs 4
Tor Books, March 14, 2017
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 5, 2016

Interview with Marie Brennan
In the Labyrinth of Drakes, the thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent's expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review
A Lady Trent Story
Tor Books, May 18, 2016
eBook, 32 Pages

Interview with Marie Brennan
After risking the neck of her loved ones and herself during her perilous sea voyage aboard The Basilisk, and the discoveries made at Keonga, Isabella, Lady Trent, returns to Scirland with the aim of publishing her research. And yet, given the level of secret knowledge she now posses, she is reduced to waiting to reveal her new academic discovery until royal decrees can be lifted and a fraught political situation avoided. In her idle frustration, Isabella vents her spleen upon the shoddy research published by lesser men with swollen heads in local journals. Enjoy the following collection of letters, found in a trunk of mislaid scholarly documents left behind when she removed to Linshire for the season.

Dark Matter by Black Crouch - Excerpt, Interview, Review

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was published in Trade Paperback on May 2nd by Broadway Books. Today we are sharing an excerpt from Dark Matter and re-posting our interview with Blake and review from July 2016.

An Excerpt from Dark Matter

I’m aware of someone gripping my ankles.
     As hands slide under my shoulders, a woman says, “How’d he get out of the box?”
     A man responds: “No idea. Look, he’s coming to.”
     I open my eyes, but all I see is blurred movement and light.
     The man barks, “Let’s get him the hell out of here.”
     I try to speak, but the words fall out of my mouth, garbled and formless.
     The woman says, “Dr. Dessen? Can you hear me? We’re going to lift you onto a gurney now.”
     I look toward my feet, and the man’s face racks into focus. He’s staring at me through the face shield of an aluminized hazmat suit with a self-contained breathing apparatus.
     Glancing at the woman behind my head, he says, “One, two, three.”
     They hoist me onto a gurney and lock padded restraints around
my ankles and wrists.
     “Only for your protection, Dr. Dessen.”
     I watch the ceiling scroll past, forty or fifty feet above.
     Where the hell am I? A hangar?
     I catch a glint of memory—a needle puncturing my neck. I was injected with something. This is some crazy hallucination.
     A radio squawks, “Extraction team, report. Over.”
     The woman says with excitement bleeding through her voice, "We have Dessen. We're en route. Over."
     I hear the squeak of wheels rolling.
     "Copy that. Initial condition assessment? Over."
     She reaches down with a gloved hand and wakes some kind of monitoring device that's been Velcroed to my left arm.
     "Pulse rate: one-fifteen. BP: one-forty over ninety-two. Temp: ninety-eight-point-nine. Oh-two sat: ninety-five percent. Gamma: point-eight seven. ETA thirty seconds. Out."
     A buzzing sound startles me.
     We move through a pair of vaultlike doors that are slowly opening.
     Jesus Christ.
     Stay calm. This isn't real.
     The wheels squeak faster, more urgently.
     We're in a corridor lined with plastic, my eyes squinting against the onslaught of light from fluorescent bulbs shining overhead.
     The doors behind us slam shut with an ominous clang, like the gates to a keep.
     They wheel me into an operating room toward an imposing figure
in a positive pressure suit, standing under an array of surgical lights.
     He smiles down at me through his face shield and says, as if he knows me, "Welcome back, Jason. Congratulations. You did it."
     I can only see his eyes, but they don't remind me of anyone I've ever met.
     ''Are you experiencing any pain?" he asks.
     I shake my head.
     "Do you know how you got the cuts and bruises on your face?''
     "Do you know who you are?"
     I nod.
     "Do you know where you are?"
     "Do you recognize me?"
     'Tm Leighton Vance, chief executive and medical officer. We're
colleagues and friends." He holds up a pair of surgical shears. "I need to get you out of these clothes."
     He removes the monitoring device and goes to work on my jeans and boxer shorts, tossing them into a metal tray. As he cuts off my shirt, I gaze up at the lights burning down on me, trying not to panic.
     But I'm naked and strapped to a gurney.
     No, I remind myself, I'm hallucinating that I'm naked and strapped to a gurney. Because none of this is real.
     Leighton lifts the tray holding my shoes and clothes and hands it to someone behind my head, outside my line of sight. "Test every­ thing."
     Footsteps rush out of the room.
     I note the sharp bite of isopropyl alcohol a second before Leighton cleans a swatch of skin on the underside of my arm.
     He ties a tourniquet above my elbow.
     "Tust drawing some blood," he says, taking a large-gauge hypoder­-
mic needle from the instrument tray.
     He's good. I don't even feel the sting.
     When he's finished, Leighton rolls the gurney toward the far side of the OR to a glass door with a touchscreen mounted on the wall beside it.
     "Wish I could tell you this is the fun part," he says. "If you're too
disoriented to remember what's about to happen, that's probably for the best."
     I try to ask what's happening, but words still elude me. Leigh­ ton's fingers dance across the touchscreen. The glass door opens, and he pushes me into a chamber that's just large enough to hold the gurney.
     "Ninety seconds," he says. "You'll be fine. It never killed any of the test subjects."
Excerpted from DARK MATTER. Copyright © 2017 by Blake Crouch. Published by Broadway Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. You've written over a dozen novels. Has your writing process changed (or not) over the years? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Blake:  Thanks for having me! My writing process has definitely evolved and is continuing to evolve from book to book. The hardest thing for me is finding the right idea. It involves lots of hemming and hawing and self-doubting and journaling and outlining before I finally commit to something and get underway with the writing itself.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Blake:  I would describe myself as a plotter who, along the way, is very open to becoming a pantser when inspiration strikes. In other words, I go into a book having a pretty good notion of what the first half of the book is going to be and a vaguer idea of the latter half. But along the way, I want to be surprised. By characters. By sudden reversals I never planned. So I go into the process with a game plan that I hope inspiration and magic will dramatically alter.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Blake:  Lately, it’s a combination of two things. 1. My own life: the challenges and struggles I face seem to work their way into the psychology of my main characters (and sometimes villains). 2. A strong interest in emerging technologies and how they are changing our world, our species.

TQDescribe Dark Matter in 140 characters or less.

Blake:  If Christopher Nolan directed It’s a Wonderful Life.

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

Blake:  At it’s heart, it’s a love story.

TQWhat inspired you to write Dark Matter? What appeals to you about writing Thrillers?

Blake:  I wrote it because I’m fascinated by quantum mechanics and what that field of science suggests about the universe we live in. I love writing thrillers because I love reading thrillers. I write the kinds of books I would want to read.

TQDo Dark Matter and the Wayward Pine Trilogy (Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town) share anything thematically?

Blake:  Yes. They share man questioning his reality, and at times, his identity. They also share the idea that as we progress as a species and reach higher levels of scientific achievement, that threatens to not only change the world around us, but also what it means to be human.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Dark Matter?

Blake:  I read books, articles, abstracts for the last decade, just trying to wrap my brain around quantum mechanics. I still don’t fully understand it. To truly grasp the insanity of how sub-atomic particles behave requires advanced mathematics degrees, and I took as few of those courses as possible in college. When I finished Dark Matter I sent the book to a physicist named Clifford Johnson who teaches at USC. He was kind of enough to read the science-heavy passages and make sure I hadn’t gotten too far off track in my representation of certain theories.

TQ:   In Dark Matter who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Blake:  Jason was far and away the easiest because I feel like he and I are pulled in similar direction in terms of career vs. family. And being in my mid-thirties, I find myself looking more and more back toward the path not taken. Amanda was the hardest character for me, not to write, but to do justice to. She’s a fairly minor character in the book, but she is with Jason during his hardest moments. I didn’t want to short shrift her character, while at the same time, I didn’t want her journey to overshadow my main character’s.

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


Q: Was this the hardest book you ever wrote?

A: By a factor of about 10.

TQ:   Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Dark Matter.

Blake:  I really like this one, from early on in the book. We’re deep in the main character (Jason’s) head here and beginning to understand where he is in life:
“There’s an energy to these autumn nights that touches something primal inside of me. Something from long ago. From my childhood in western Iowa. I think of high school football games and the stadium lights blazing down on the players. I smell ripening apples, and the sour reek of beer from keg parties in the cornfields. I feel the wind in my face as I ride in the bed of an old pickup truck down a country road at night, dust swirling red in the taillights and the entire span of my life yawning out ahead of me.

It’s the beautiful thing about youth.

There’s a weightlessness that permeates everything because no damning choices have been made, no paths committed to, and the road forking out ahead is pure, unlimited potential.

I love my life, but I haven’t felt that lightness of being in ages. Autumn nights like this are as close as I get.”

TQWhat's next?

Blake:  That’s a great question. Remember what I said about how hard it is for me to fall in love with a new idea? I’m speed-dating a bunch of them right now.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Blake:  Thank YOU! Awesome questions.

Dark Matter
Broadway Books, May 2, 2017
Trade Paperback,368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, July 26, 2016

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” 

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Qwill's Thoughts

Jason Dessen's life is about to change dramatically. He's kidnapped. His life is wrenched away from him. And all he wants is not the fame and glory of the new world he wakes up in, he just wants his wife and son and the life they've made. Jason is not a typical hero. He starts out a happy man who understands what he has potentially given up to have the life he has with the woman he loves deeply and their son he loves as much. This love is palpable and deeply felt. He will do what he has to do to get home if he can while coming to a deeper understanding of what makes the world around him his world. I didn't always like Jason's attitude and some of things he did, but I understood and respected his decisions.

Dark Matter is tightly plotted and beautifully written. There are moments of deep introspection and of pulse-pounding action. There is science that stretches the boundaries of what we know and what is possible. Crouch raises questions about identity, the multiverse and who we are and wraps these questions in an extremely entertaining, often tense, moving SF thriller.

Dark Matter is, for me, essentially a story about a man's love for his wife and family and his journey to be with them. And it's about quantum mechanics and human entanglement. It's about perseverance in the face of nearly insurmountable odds and finding your way home. It's also mind-blowingly twisty and wonderful. Dark Matter will make you think, question and wonder.

About Blake

Photo by Jesse Giddings
Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of the novel, Dark Matter, for which he is writing the screenplay for Sony Pictures. His international-bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted into a television series for FOX, executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, that was Summer 2015's #1 show. With Chad Hodge, Crouch also created Good Behavior, the TNT television show starring Michelle Dockery based on his Letty Dobesh novellas. He has written more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over thirty languages and his short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Crouch lives in Colorado.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @blakecrouch1

Interview with Brian Staveley

Please welcome Brian Staveley to The Qwillery. Skullsworn will be published on April 25, 2017 by Tor Books.

Interview with Brian Staveley

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery again. What appeals to you about writing Epic Fantasy and are there any other genres or subgenres in which you'd like to write?

Brian:  I love the scope of epic fantasy, the chance to include the mythic, the historical, the religious, the philosophical at the same time as writing some bloody battles and backstabbing intrigue. That said, I’m writing a novella now. It’s the first time I’ve worked at that length, and the first time I’ve written anything outside the world of the Unhewn Throne, and I’m loving both the intimacy of the form and the chance to be more stylistically experimental.

TQYou've written 100s of pages in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe. What is your method for keeping your facts straight?

Brian:  I have no method. I have random documents strewn about my computer that are only vaguely organized. Occasionally I need to go back and dig around in one of my books for some obscure name or fact. I am absolutely certain that there are better, easier, more efficient ways to do this, but no one ever accused me of doing things the easy way.

TQThe 3rd novel in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy, The Last Mortal Bond, was published in 2016, with the Trade Paperback out last month. How did you feel wrapping up that Trilogy?

Brian:  Massive relief. A trilogy is sort of like a hockey game: kicking ass for two periods doesn’t matter if you let everything go to shit in the third. And I’ve read a number of trilogies in which this happens. I’m thrilled that most readers seem to have really enjoyed the conclusion to the tale, that I didn’t inadvertently ruin everything that came before.

TQBut, you've returned to that universe with Skullsworn which is a standalone novel. Where does Skullsworn fit temporally with The Emperor's Blades, The Providence of Fire and The Last Mortal Bond?

BrianSkullsworn is set about twenty years before The Emperor’s Blades, and it takes place in a city—Dombang—that doesn’t appear (outside the occasional, casual mention) in the trilogy at all. It was great having the chance to flesh out the physical world, and also to take a look at the Annurian Empire from a different angle—many inhabitants of Dombang see the Empire as a sinister occupying force. They’re certainly no fans of the Malkeenians.

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

Brian:  The setting is more important to this book than any of the others. Dombang is a city built on a river delta, a city of a thousand bridges and canals, while the delta is teeming with deadly flora and fauna—poisonous plants, venomous snakes, jaguars, crocodiles. I wanted to create a location for this story that felt beautiful but also rotten, hot, and claustrophobic. That’s crucial to the political climate of the city, but also to Pyrre’s personal psychological journey.

TQPyrre Lakatur is the main character in Skullsworn. Where has she appeared in the trilogy?

Brian:  Pyrre is in her mid-forties in the trilogy. She’s a pretty significant secondary character—definitely a fan favorite—but I don’t want to say too much about her for people who haven’t read The Emperor’s Blades. I guess it’s obvious from Skullsworn itself that she is very, very good at killing people. It’s worth mentioning, though, that she’s quite a different character in Skullsworn than in the trilogy—younger, less certain of herself.

TQCan you tell us about the world in which Pyrre finds herself?

Brian:  As I mentioned above, Dombang is nominally part of the Annurian Empire—it was conquered two hundred years before the time in which Skullsworn is set—and yet, unlike most other parts of the empire, Dombang still seethes with revolution. Part of this is due to the city’s isolation. Even more is due to the local religion, which the Annurians have attempted to stamp out. The locals believe that a trinity of brutal, bloody gods inhabits the delta and keeps the city safe. They’re even willing to offer human sacrifice to those gods…

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Skullsworn.

Brian:  Rich Anderson’s cover art for the US version doesn’t depict a specific scene. Our goal was to capture a) something of Pyrre’s character and b) something of the city itself. We actually considered a few versions that had Pyrre front and center in the frame, but those struck me as wrong. Not only does she fight from the shadows, but she’s not emotionally ready to stand in the middle of a book cover when this story takes place. The Pyrre of the trilogy would happily recline straight across the cover, but she’s not there yet in Skullsworn.

The UK cover, by contrast, does a really nice job capturing the feel of the delta. There are no huge cliffs like that, but I like the ambience of the cover, the way it suggests a wild and dangerous world beyond the limits of Dombang.

Interview with Brian Staveley
US Cover
Interview with Brian Staveley
UK Cover

TQWill you be writing more stories set in The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, perhaps bringing back another fan favorite?

Brian:  Absolutely. As soon as I wrap up this novella, I’m getting back to another in-universe stand-alone. This one involves another female character that a lot of readers have grown to love, although I don’t think she’s going to be a POV character in the novel. Stay tuned!

TQThank you for joining us again at The Qwillery!

Brian:  Thanks for having me!

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne World
Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Brian Staveley
Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death.

“Brilliant.” —V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author

From the award-winning epic fantasy world of The Emperor’s Blades

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love . . . and ending it on the edge of her sword.

"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades

About Brian

Interview with Brian Staveley
Author Photo: Laura Swoyer
Brian Staveley is the author of the award-winning fantasy trilogy, The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. After teaching literature, philosophy, history, and religion for more than a decade, he began writing fiction. His first book, The Emperor’s Blades, won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, the Reddit Stabby for best debut, and scored semi-finalist spots in the Goodreads Choice Awards in two categories: epic fantasy and debut. The entire trilogy, which includes The Providence of Fire and the The Last Mortal Bond has been translated into over ten languages worldwide.

Brian lives on a steep dirt road in the mountains of southern Vermont, where he divides his time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order.

Website  ~  Twitter @BrianStaveley  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy

The Emperor's Blades
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1
Tor Books, August 26, 2014
Trade Paperback, 496 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 14, 2014

Interview with Brian Staveley
In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it's too late.

An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test.

At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor's final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing—and risk everything—to see that justice is meted out.

See Tracey's/trinitytwo's Review here.

The Providence of Fire
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 2
Tor Books, December 8, 2015
Trade Paperback, 624 pages
Hardcover and eBook, January 13, 2015

Interview with Brian Staveley
The Providence of Fire is the second novel in Brian Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, a gripping new epic fantasy series

The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.

Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.

Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, a renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.

Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.

See Tracey's/trinitytwo's Review here.

The Last Mortal Bond
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 3
Tor Books, March 14, 2017
Trade Paperback, 672 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 15, 2016

Interview with Brian Staveley
The trilogy that began with The Emperor's Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire in Brian Staveley's The Last Mortal Bond

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all--Valyn, Adare, and Kaden--come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

See Tracey's/trinitytwo's Review here.

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne 1 - 3
Tor Books, Dec 6, 2016
eBook Bundle

Interview with Brian Staveley
Includes: The Emperor's Blades, The Providence of Fire, The Last Mortal Bond, and an excerpt from the forthcoming Skullsworn

“An enchanting union of old and new, Staveley's debut will keep you turning pages late into the night.” Pierce Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Red Rising

The emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

The Emperor’s Blades — Three siblings: Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery. An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral. At the heart of the empire, Adare hunts those who murdered her father.

The Providence of Fire — Kaden infiltrates the Annurian capital, while Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion compels the rival forces to unite. Unknown to Adare, Valyn has allied with the invading nomads.

The Last Mortal Bond — The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; capricious gods walk the earth in human guise, but the imperial siblings at the heart of it all soon understand that there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
The Emperor's Blades
The Providence of Fire
The Last Mortal Bond

Other books in the world of the Unhewn Throne
Skullsworn (forthcoming)

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Interview with Yoon Ha LeeInterview with Craig ComerInterview with Weston OchseInterview with G.S. Denning, author of the Warlock Holmes NovelsInterview with Gregory BenfordInterview with Jessica ReismanInterview with Steve WileyInterview with Marie BrennanDark Matter by Black Crouch - Excerpt, Interview, ReviewInterview with Brian Staveley

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