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Interview with Joshua Phillip Johnson, author of The Forever Sea


Please welcome Joshua Phillip Johnson to The Qwillery as part of the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Forever Sea was published on January 19, 2021 by DAW.







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

Joshua Phillip Johnson:  Thanks so much for having me here! I have very vivid memories of writing Pokemon fan fiction on the computer in my parents' room. I saved it on a floppy drive that I labelled "Stories of Fun Adventures," and I must have added to it every day for about 6 months. I eventually moved on to other things, but that was the start for me: imagining myself in a world with tiny monstrous friends going on fun adventures. I lost that floppy drive at some point, which is probably for the best.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

JJ:  I'm a pantser who is trying to be a plotter! I'm bad at outlining, but writing is so much easier for me when I take the time and slog through the plotting process before I draft.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

JJ:  All of it! Writing is really hard for me, but it's a challenge I really love. Most difficult, though, is probably pushing past my internal editor on a first draft.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

JJ:  Other books primarily, but also the environment, politics, conversations with friends and other writers, relationships with family, colleagues, and friends. I tend to think everything in a writer's world makes its way into their work in some form or another, but books and the environment are probably top of my list for conscious and intentional influences.



TQDescribe The Forever Sea using only 5 words.

JJ:  The uncut hair of graves.



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

JJ:  There's a frame narrative surrounding Kindred's story, one told by a mysterious character known only as the Storyteller. His parts are some of my favorite, so I won't spoil them!



TQWhat inspired you to write The Forever Sea? What appeals to you about writing fantasy?

JJ:  I live in a place that was once covered in tallgrass prairie, and there are still remnants of it around here. I was inspired by that (mostly) lost landscape. Fantasy is my favorite genre to read, and I love writing it, too! Maybe it seems naive or childish, but I'm so interested in stories about magic, in part because it's awesome, but also because it feels really relevant to our world today. My favorite band, Cloud Cult, has this great line in one of their songs: "Everything is magic 'til you think it's not." So much of the world feels that way to me, and so stories that find joy in magic--both literal and metaphorical--are still my favorite!



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Forever Sea?

JJ: I'm lucky to teach at a university, so I spent time talking with and interviewing a colleague who studies the prairie. I also read books about prairie landscapes and had my copy of Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie at hand whenever I was writing. For the boat bits, I went sailing with friends of mine who have a small sailboat and spent a wonderful long afternoon at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. I'm sure I still got plenty of things wrong, and those mistakes are all mine.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Forever Sea.

JJ:  I was so fortunate to get two wonderful covers for the book.

1) The US cover is by the brilliant Marc Simonetti, and the jacket design is by Katie Anderson. The cover shows The Errant, a harvesting vessel that features prominently in the book, cutting across the Forever Sea, a fibrous spray of prairie plants filling the air around it. It's amazing and I love it.

2) The UK cover is by the amazing Julia Lloyd, and it depicts Kindred, the main character, standing in the Forever Sea, staring ahead at the ghostly image of a ship in the near distance. Much of the book pivots around Kindred's desire to know what's beyond the known parameters of the sea--what's beyond the horizon and what's below the surface, and it's so meaningful and cool to have a cover with her being in the Sea.



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

JJ:  Little Wing was maybe the easiest to write. She's the quartermaster/second in command aboard The Errant, and she's a character I love deeply. I'm not sure why, but her parts always came very naturally to me. Maybe because she's straightforward and focused in ways I only wish I could be. Anyway, I love her.

Hardest was Kindred, which is a problem since she's the main character! She can be quite internal and reactive (much like me), and I often found her at odds with a plot that was pushing forward. Writing her character may have been a bit of self help for me. :-)



TQDoes The Forever Sea touch on any social issues?

JJ:  Definitely! Environmentalism is always a social issue; people are disproportionately affected by scarcity and environmental problems based on race and class, and any climate solutions we come up with will need to seriously engage racial justice and social justice issues. I don't think that The Forever Sea is any sort of key text for these things, but they were all in my mind while writing.

The other is sexuality. Writing this book helped me come out as bisexual. This novel isn't about that process; Kindred is much more comfortable with her sexuality than I was while writing, and I'm still not in a place where I'm ready to talk much about it, but those ideas are certainly present.



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

JJ:  Hmm! What a great prompt! I'd love someone to ask "Which plant mentioned in the novel is your favorite?" And my answer would be prairie smoke! It's such a gentle, unassuming plant, and when it blooms, it lets loose these long, fuzzy hairs that catch and move in the wind like tendrils of smoke.



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

JJ:  The first is from Kindred's first time really experiencing the Forever Sea: "What had been before only an unremarkable throw of green, monotonous and monolithic, became more for Kindred. She saw the rise and wave of more big bluestem around her, and other plants too--each one articulating radical existences in the spaces between light and dark green, between yellow and gold, between stalk and stem.

"Every blade a doorway and every shadow an entrance to a life Kindred had never known but which called to her all the same."

The second is a riddle Kindred buys: "Little-light, fallen from above. Sun sight without eye. Young, I follow dawn. Old, I drop young."



TQWhat's next?

JJ:  I need to revise the sequel to The Forever Sea, but I've also started work on a new project. It's still too fresh to really talk about, but I can say it's a fantasy novel with a math-based magic system, weird death rituals, and dangerously different ideas about green energy.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

JJ:  Thanks so much for having me!






The Forever Sea
DAW, January 19, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages
The first book in a new environmental epic fantasy series set in a world where ships kept afloat by magical hearthfires sail an endless grass sea.

On the never-ending, miles-high expanse of prairie grasses known as the Forever Sea, Kindred Greyreach, hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard harvesting vessel The Errant, is just beginning to fit in with the crew of her new ship when she receives devastating news. Her grandmother—The Marchess, legendary captain and hearthfire keeper—has stepped from her vessel and disappeared into the sea.

But the note she leaves Kindred suggests this was not an act of suicide. Something waits in the depths, and the Marchess has set out to find it.

To follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kindred must embroil herself in conflicts bigger than she could imagine: a water war simmering below the surface of two cultures; the politics of a mythic pirate city floating beyond the edges of safe seas; battles against beasts of the deep, driven to the brink of madness; and the elusive promise of a world below the waves.

Kindred finds that she will sacrifice almost everything—ship, crew, and a life sailing in the sun—to discover the truth of the darkness that waits below the Forever Sea.





About Joshua Phillip Johnson

Joshua Phillip Johnson lives in a little green house on what used to be the prairie with his partner and their child. His work has appeared in Syntax & Salt, The Future Fire, and Metaphorosis Magazine, among others. He teaches at a small liberal arts university. The Forever Sea is his first novel.








Website  ~  Twitter @JohnsonJoshuaP


2021 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January 2021 Debuts




Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the beginning of 2022 the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2021 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Coverartist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on January 31, 2021, unless the vote is extended. If the vote is extended the ending date will be updated.

Vote for your favorite January 2021 Debut Cover!
 
pollcode.com free polls





Cover design by Lena Yang and James A. Owen
Cover art and chapter illustrations by James A. Owen





Cover and internal design © 2021 Central Avenue Marketing Ltd
Cover Design: Michelle Halket





Cover design by Michael Morris. Cover photo © Getty Images
Cover copyright © 2021 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.










Cover at by Marc Simonetti; design by Katie Anderson





Cover art by Alan Dingman; design by Mumtaz Mustafa










Cover art and design by Julia Lloyd






2021 Debut Author Challenge - January Debuts




There are 9 debuts for January 2021.

Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.

The January debut authors and their novels are listed in alphabetical order by author (not book title or publication date). Take a good look at the covers. Voting for your favorite January cover for the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will take place starting on or about January 15, 2021.



Srinath Adiga

Dead Money
Central Avenue Publishing, January 26, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
They said you can’t take your money with you when you die. What if they were wrong?

Hong Kong, 2002. A stock market trader desperate to pay off a gangster debt invents a scam: Afterlife Dollars. A product inspired by an ancient Chinese custom that allows people to buy their way into heaven.

It’s the beginning of a dizzying chain reaction that ripples in Mumbai, where one man does the unthinkable to secure his afterlife—while thousands of miles away in Amsterdam, another man races against time to stop an apocalypse. As the characters grapple with unprecedented moral dilemmas, their choices will affect the rest of humanity.

Profound, intense and plotted with unexpected twists and turns, Srinath Adiga’s debut novel is a timely and illuminating satire about religion, capitalism, and how the very things that make us human can ultimately lead to our demise.





Elizabeth Chatsworth

The Brass Queen
CamCat Books, January 12, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 48 pages
She knows a liar when she sees one. He knows a fraud when he meets one.

In a steam-powered world, Miss Constance Haltwhistle is the last in a line of blue-blooded rogues. Selling firearms under her alias, the “Brass Queen,” she has kept her baronial estate’s coffers full. But when US spy J. F. Trusdale saves her from assassins, she’s pulled into a search for a scientist with an invisibility serum. As royal foes create an invisible army to start a global war, Constance and Trusdale must learn to trust each other. If they don’t, the world as they know it will disappear before their eyes.

If you like the Parasol Protectorate or the Invisible Library series, you’ll love this gaslamp fantasy—a rambunctious romantic romp that will have you both laughing out loud and wishing you owned all of Miss Haltwhistle's armaments.





Helen Fisher

Faye, Faraway
Gallery Books, January 26, 2021
Hardcover and eBooks, 304 pages
A heartfelt, spellbinding, and irresistible debut novel for fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Outlander that movingly examines loss, faith, and love as it follows a grown woman who travels back in time to be reunited with the mother she lost when she was a child.

Faye is a thirty-seven-year-old happily married mother of two young daughters. Every night, before she puts them to bed, she whispers to them: “You are good, you are kind, you are clever, you are funny.” She’s determined that they never doubt for a minute that their mother loves them unconditionally. After all, her own mother Jeanie had died when she was only seven years old and Faye has never gotten over that intense pain of losing her.

But one day, her life is turned upside down when she finds herself in 1977, the year before her mother died. Suddenly, she has the chance to reconnect with her long-lost mother, and even meets her own younger self, a little girl she can barely remember. Jeanie doesn’t recognize Faye as her daughter, of course, even though there is something eerily familiar about her...

As the two women become close friends, they share many secrets—but Faye is terrified of revealing the truth about her identity. Will it prevent her from returning to her own time and her beloved husband and daughters? What if she’s doomed to remain in the past forever? Faye knows that eventually she will have to choose between those she loves in the past and those she loves in the here and now, and that knowledge presents her with an impossible choice.

Emotionally gripping and ineffably sweet Faye, Faraway is a brilliant exploration of the grief associated with unimaginable loss and the magic of being healed by love.this gaslamp fantasy—a rambunctious romantic romp that will have you both laughing out loud and wishing you owned all of Miss Haltwhistle's armaments.





Claire Holroyde

The Effort
Grand Central Publishing, January 12, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages
For readers of Station Eleven and Good Morning, Midnight comes an electric, heart-pounding novel of love and sacrifice that follows people around the world as they unite to prevent a global catastrophe.

When dark comet UD3 was spotted near Jupiter’s orbit, its existence was largely ignored. But to individuals who knew better — scientists like Benjamin Schwartz, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies — the threat this eight-kilometer comet posed to the survival of the human race was unthinkable. The 150-million-year reign of the dinosaurs ended when an asteroid impact generated more than a billiontimes the energy of an atomic bomb.

What would happen to Earth’s seven billion inhabitants if a similar event were allowed to occur?

Ben and his indomitable girlfriend Amy Kowalski fly to South America to assemble an international counteraction team, whose notable recruits include Love Mwangi, a UN interpreter and nomad scholar, and Zhen Liu, an extraordinary engineer from China’s national space agency. At the same time, on board a polar icebreaker life continues under the looming shadow of comet UD3. Jack Campbell, a photographer for National Geographic, works to capture the beauty of the Arctic before it is gone forever. Gustavo Wayãpi, a Nobel Laureate poet from Brazil, struggles to accept the recent murder of his beloved twin brother. And Maya Gutiérrez, an impassioned marine biologist is — quite unexpectedly — falling in love for the first time.

Together, these men and women must fight to survive in an unknown future with no rules and nothing to be taken for granted. They have two choices: neutralize the greatest threat the world has ever seen (preferably before mass hysteria hits or world leaders declare World War III) or come to terms with the annihilation of humanity itself.

Their mission is codenamed The Effort.





Joshua Phillip Johnson

The Forever Sea
DAW, January 19, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages
The first book in a new environmental epic fantasy series set in a world where ships kept afloat by magical hearthfires sail an endless grass sea.

On the never-ending, miles-high expanse of prairie grasses known as the Forever Sea, Kindred Greyreach, hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard harvesting vessel The Errant, is just beginning to fit in with the crew of her new ship when she receives devastating news. Her grandmother—The Marchess, legendary captain and hearthfire keeper—has stepped from her vessel and disappeared into the sea.

But the note she leaves Kindred suggests this was not an act of suicide. Something waits in the depths, and the Marchess has set out to find it.

To follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kindred must embroil herself in conflicts bigger than she could imagine: a water war simmering below the surface of two cultures; the politics of a mythic pirate city floating beyond the edges of safe seas; battles against beasts of the deep, driven to the brink of madness; and the elusive promise of a world below the waves.

Kindred finds that she will sacrifice almost everything—ship, crew, and a life sailing in the sun—to discover the truth of the darkness that waits below the Forever Sea.





Greta Kelly

The Frozen Crown
Harper Voyager, January 12, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
"Propulsive and intricate, Greta Kelly has constructed a world of twisting politics and thrilling magic following a heroine who is both clever and uncompromising, but ultimately, has heart. A stellar read that I thoroughly enjoyed." -- Emily Duncan, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Saints

A princess with a powerful and dangerous secret must find a way to save her country from ruthless invaders in this exciting debut fantasy, the first novel in a thrilling duology packed with heroism, treachery, magic, and war.

Askia became heir to the Frozen Crown of Seravesh because of her devotion to her people. But her realm is facing a threat she cannot defeat by sheer will alone. The mad emperor of the Roven Empire has unleashed a horde of invading soldiers to enslave her lands. For months, her warriors have waged a valiant, stealth battle, yet they cannot stop the enemy’s advancement. Running out of time, she sets sail for sun-drenched Vishir, the neighboring land to the south, to seek help from its ruler, Emperor Armaan.

A young woman raised in army camps, Askia is ill-equipped to navigate Vishir’s labyrinthine political games. Her every move sinks her deeper into court intrigues which bewilder and repel her, leaving her vulnerable not only to enemies gathering at Vishir's gates, but to those behind the palace walls.

And in this glittering court, where secrets are worth more than gold, Askia fears that one false step will expose her true nature. For Askia is a witch gifted with magical abilities—knowledge that could destroy not only her life but her people. As her adversaries draw closer, Askia is forced to make an impossible choice—and no matter what she decides, it may not be enough to prevent Seravesh’s fall.





H.M. Long

Hall of Smoke
Titan Books, January 19, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
Epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war, for readers of Brian Staveley’s Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne.

Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller and atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.

Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.





Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu

The Theory of Flight
Catalyst Press, January 12, 2021
Hardcover, 316 pages
As Imogen Zula Nyoni, aka Genie, lies in a coma at Mater Dei Hospital, her family and friends struggle to come to terms with her impending death. This is the story of Genie, who has gifts that transcend time and space. With the lightest of touches, and with an overlay of magical-realist beauty, this novel sketches, through the lives of a few families and the fate of a single patch of ground, decades of national history (a country in Southern Africa that is never named) – from colonial occupation through the freedom struggle, to the devastation wrought by the sojas, the HIV virus, and The Man Himself.

At turns mysterious and magical, but always honest, The Theory of Flight explores the many ways we lose those we love before they die. When it was published in South Africa, the novel was awarded the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.





Jael Richardson

Gutter Child
HarperAvenue, January 26, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
A fierce and illuminating debut from FOLD founder Jael Richardson about a young woman who must find the courage to determine her own future and secure her freedom

Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. In this world, Elimina Dubois is one of only 100 babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity as part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government.

But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself all alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. Elimina is sent to an academy with new rules and expectations where she befriends Gutter children who are making their own way through the Gutter System in whatever ways they know how. When Elimina’s life takes another unexpected turn, she will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longs for after all.

Richardson’s Gutter Child reveals one young woman’s journey through a fractured world of heartbreaking disadvantages and shocking injustices. Elimina is a modern heroine in an altered but all too recognizable reality who must find the strength within herself to forge her future and defy a system that tries to shape her destiny.
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Interview with Joshua Phillip Johnson, author of The Forever Sea2021 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January 2021 Debuts2021 Debut Author Challenge - January Debuts

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