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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with Christian Cantrell

Please welcome Christian Cantrell to The Qwillery. Scorpion, his most recent novel, was published on May 25, 2021 by Random House.







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

Christian:  Thank you! I'd probably give you different answers depending on the day. If I'm rewriting the same exchange for the seventh time in order to refine the rhythm and cadence, I'd say getting dialog exactly right. If I'm trying to find the perfect way to describe a novel, technologically exotic device, I might complain that the English language has too few adjectives.

But overall, I'd say one of the biggest things I struggle with is doing something completely new without taking it too far. I want every book and story I write to be unique — plots, characters, and settings the world has never seen — but the format also has to meet certain expectations of a near-future thriller. Part of the challenge (and the fun) is striking a balance between the two.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Christian:  I'm a pantser who wishes he was a plotter which I suppose makes me a hybrid. I'll usually do quite a bit of outlining and write several pages of treatments only to abandon most of it. For me, writing is a process of discovery. Sometimes I think I know exactly where a chapter is going only to see a much more interesting opportunity mid-flight. Sometimes I think I know who a character is only to watch her do something entirely unexpected. There are downstream repercussions when characters go off script and plots go awry, but I'd much rather watch them develop organically than be overly prescriptive. For me, a lot of the fun of writing is the ride it takes me on, and I believe the delight of discovery conveys to the reader.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does being a software engineer influence (or not) your writing?

Christian:  My two lifelong passions have always been storytelling and technology. While it may not seem like they have much in common, in my mind, they complement one another perfectly.

A good (high-tech) product should always be part of a larger narrative. You don't just buy a new phone; you incorporate a device into your life that helps you stay more tightly connected to the people and issues you care most about. You don't just download a piece of software to edit a video; you invest in learning a new workflow so that your voice can reach more people and you can amplify your impact on the world. You don't buy an EV to save money on gas; you do it as an investment in a better future.

Just as stories unlock the potential of products, for me, technology unlocks the types of stories I like to tell. I don't write near-future thrillers and science fiction simply to indulge in futurism. I create science and technology that don't exist in order to put characters in situations in which they can be challenged in new ways and consequently learn things about themselves that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.



TQDescribe Scorpion using only 5 words.

Christian:  Destiny, transformation, and reluctant heroism.



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

ChristianScorpion is an expansion of a short story I wrote called The Epoch Index. It bounced around Hollywood for a few years before really resonating in 2018. The story was optioned by FOX (now Disney) which is what led to the expansion into a full-length novel.

The Epoch Index ended with the biggest cliffhanger I've ever written. I can't count how many times I was asked by readers "what happens next?" I was so attached to the characters in The Epoch Index that I occasionally reread it and contemplated that exact question myself. Having the opportunity to expand it into a full-length novel was like scratching an itch I'd had for years.



TQWhat inspired you to write Scorpion?

Christian:  I live in the suburbs of Washington D.C. which I've always thought of as a fascinating area. Early in my software career, Northern Virginia was on track to become the Silicon Valley of the east coast until the terrorist attacks in 2001. After one of the biggest intelligence failures in U.S. history, the area ended up being transformed not by venture capital investment, but by massive defense spending. One day we were the headquarters for AOL; the next, Blackwater.

Meanwhile, I was working (remotely) for a company in Silicon Valley, constantly flying out to San Francisco and even relocating for a few years before family brought me back. I feel like these two competing dynamics played a more significant role in Scorpion than anything else I've ever written.

Scorpion is the product of the imagination of a writer and technologist living among spooks.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Scorpion?

Christian:  Research is one of the things I love most about writing an ambitious novel. I spent a lot of time reading about the Large Hadron Collider (and watching documentaries) and learning about gravitational-wave telescopes. And I spent quite a lot of time imagining new types of weapons which will likely be possible in the near future as well as gaming out very clever assassination plots. (Incognito Mode FTW.)

In addition to writing, I also lead a team of prototypers who explore the future of creativity at Adobe which means I regularly work with technologies like AR and VR, machine learning, and even blockchain. All three are well represented in Scorpion.

But I don't want to overstate the role of technology in the novel. It's kind of astounding how little of my research actually made it directly into the book. Scorpion is not, by any means, "hard science fiction." It is a fast-paced, near-future, character-driven thriller that is powered by science and technology as opposed to getting bogged down by it.



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

Christian:  I'm going to say that all of the characters in Scorpion were hard to write.

For me, writing a good character is a process of finding something inside me to use as a seed, but then letting that seed grow into a completely unique individual. There are no characters in Scorpion that are in any way autobiographical, but there is something of me inside of each one.

Fortunately, I've led the type of life that I think germinates a wide variety of seeds. In addition to having studied literature and creative writing in college, I'm also a software engineer, manager of a large international team, husband, and a father of two amazing daughters. I studied theater in Ireland and taught English to engineers in Japan. My father was a builder, so I started earning money in elementary school as a laborer on construction sites, then worked as a carpenter throughout college and for a while after graduating. I supported myself working in bookstores, teaching, and counseling kids removed from their homes by Child Protective Services in a shelter outside of Baltimore. The list goes on. And throughout it all, I've had all kinds of struggles and made all kinds of mistakes — all of which has gone into cultivating a diverse, flawed, lovable, and unpredictable cast.

In other words, I feel like I've spent a lifetime writing these characters.



TQDoes Scorpion touch on any social issues?

Christian:  Yes and no.

We are an extremely socially conscious household, and I spend a lot of my reading time and mental energy on social issues, but I seldom address those issues head-on in my fiction. (Honestly, I often question whether or not that's the right philosophy, and I reserve the right to change course at any moment.) That said, creating a believable future and relatable characters means you don't get to entirely opt out of cultural realities. I'm very careful not to overstep my bounds when writing about characters whose struggles I don't have personal experience with, but I'm also not content with pretending like my characters and stories are somehow miraculously immune to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual identity. In other words, I don't know how to write characters who feel as real to me as anyone I've ever met without at least doing everything in my power to understand some of their struggles.



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

Christian

Q: What was the first sentence you wrote the first day you sat down to write Scorpion, and is it still in the book?

A: I'm glad you asked! When I first started writing The Epoch Index (the short-form predecessor to Scorpion) I knew I wanted to write about two things:
  1. A suburban "nine-to-five spy" who thinks she's signing up for an office job, but who ends up way outside of her comfort zone.
  2. A man so rich that he can somehow afford to be homeless — that instead of having mansions all over the world, the world itself is somehow his home.
So I sat down and wrote the following sentence:

         Ranveer is the richest homeless man in the world.

From there, the framework for the story emerged over the course of many months (and drafts), and finally, the full novel expansion emerged over the course of years. But it all started with that one sentence. And yes, it's still in the book. It's no longer the first sentence, but it's somewhere in chapter 5 which is called, appropriately enough, "Homelessness."



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

Christian

From Chapter 5: Homelessness
Ranveer is the richest homeless man in the world. He is homeless because the tools of his trade are nicely portable, and his work encourages him to be mobile. He is rich because he gets paid enormous sums to solve the kinds of problems that manifest themselves as people.

From Chapter 7: Tools of the Trade
How does that saying go? If your only tool is a .50 caliber, Israeli-made Desert Eagle, suddenly everything looks like it needs a very big hole?

From Chapter 12: Legwork
Quinn knows that there isn’t nearly as much randomness in the universe as most of us perceive. Randomness is usually more the result of our inability to see patterns than the actual absence of them. And finding patterns is what Quinn does.

From Chapter 13: Night Shift
At the end of the day, when you think about it, the safety of each and every one of us really comes down to nothing more than the simple goodwill of others. The truth is that most of us survive day-to-day not because of any real ability to keep ourselves and our families safe, but simply because there is nobody in the immediate vicinity who wishes otherwise.



TQWhat's next?

Christian:  I have three projects (including Scorpion) in development based on short stories — one television and two feature films — that may require varying degrees of involvement. I have another story (the name of which occasionally changes) that, similar to The Epoch Index, I'm expanding and will be submitted for publishing as soon as it's ready. The rights to my first three novels (Containment, Equinox, and Kingmaker) have recently been reverted back to me, so I'm working with my agent on new releases. And if there's demand, I'd love to write a sequel to Scorpion. Without giving anything away, although the story is neatly wrapped up, the ending also suggests a possible new beginning.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Christian:  Thanks for giving me both the time and the space.





Scorpion
Random House, May 25, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
“An exceptional, fast-paced thriller featuring a tech-empowered assassin whose pattern and objective you’ve never seen before, chased by a heroine with tenacious grit.”—David Brin, author of The Postman and Existence

Quinn Mitchell is a nine-to-five spy—an intelligence analyst for the CIA during the day, and a suburban wife and mother on evenings and weekends. After her young daughter is killed in a tragic accident, sending her life into a tailspin, Quinn hopes to find a new start in her latest assignment: investigating a series of bizarre international assassinations whose victims have been found with numeric codes tattooed, burned, or carved into their flesh. As Quinn follows the killer’s trail across the globe, always one body behind, she begins uncovering disturbing connections between the murders—and herself.

Every lead she tracks down in pursuit of the assassin brings Quinn one step closer to the Epoch Index, a mysterious encrypted message discovered in the archives of the Large Hadron Collider. Its origins are unknown and decrypting it is beyond even the CIA. Yet nothing else can possibly link together a slew of unsolvable murders, an enigmatic and sophisticated serial killer who always seems to be three steps ahead, a quirky young physics prodigy whose knowledge extends well beyond her years, and, underlying everything, the inescapable tragedy of Quinn’s own past. Discovering the meaning of the Epoch Index leads Quinn to a shocking twist that shatters everything she thought she knew about the past, the future, and the delicate balance of right and wrong that she must now fight to preserve.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo






About Christian

Christian Cantrell is a software engineer living outside of Washington, D.C. He is the author of the novels Containment, Kingmaker, and Equinox, as well as several short works of speculative fiction, three of which have been optioned for film or TV.








Website  ~  Twitter @cantrell  ~  Blog


Random House Children's Books to Release Never-Before-Published Unfinished Children's Story by Mark Twain...


Press Release

RANDOM HOUSE CHILDREN'S BOOKS TO RELEASE NEVER-BEFORE-PUBLISHED
UNFINISHED CHILDREN’S STORY BY MARK TWAIN,
COMPLETED AND BROUGHT TO LIFE BY CALDECOTT MEDALISTS
PHILIP AND ERIN STEAD

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine to release September 26, 2017, with a 250,000-copy first printing

New York, NY, January 20, 2017—Doubleday Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, has acquired a never-before-published Mark Twain children’s story, it was announced today by Mallory Loehr, Senior Vice President & Publisher of the Random House/Golden Books, Doubleday, and Crown Books for Young Readers Group. The story, a fairy tale left unfinished by Twain, will be brought to life by author Philip Stead and illustrator Erin Stead, the creators of the Caldecott Medal–winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee. The book, THE PURLOINING OF PRINCE OLEOMARGARINE, was acquired and edited by Frances Gilbert, Associate Publishing Director, Random House Books for Young Readers, from Tina Wexler at ICM, representing the Mark Twain House & Museum, and Emily van Beek at Folio Jr., representing the author/illustrator team.

THE PURLOINING OF PRINCE OLEOMARGARINE, an eleven-chapter, 152-page illustrated storybook for all ages, will be published on September 26, 2017, with a first printing of 250,000 copies.

The basis of this new work is sixteen pages of Twain’s handwritten notes after telling his young daughters a fairy tale one night in 1879 while the family was staying in Paris, an event he documented in his journal. In 2011, a visiting scholar at the Mark Twain Papers & Project at the University of California at Berkeley spotted the notes in the archives while conducting his own research and recognized their significance. Although Twain told his young daughters countless bedtime stories, made up on the spot as they requested them, these notes are believed to be the only ones he ever jotted down from those sessions.

“Dr. John Bird, noted Twain scholar and author of Mark Twain and Metaphor, brought the text to our attention,” explained Cindy Lovell, executive director at the Mark Twain House & Museum. “He’d been researching another project when he came across this partial story written by Twain for his daughters. We are thrilled to have the Steads joining us to further bring this treasure to life.”

“To publish a new Twain story is an incredible literary event,” says Gilbert. “When I first got the chance to read this unpublished Twain story, I couldn’t believe what I was holding. I’ve admired Erin and Philip Stead’s work since their first book and couldn’t think of a more ideal match for this project. It’s an American dream team.”

THE PURLOINING OF PRINCE OLEOMARGARINE follows a young boy who eats the flower sprouted by a magical seed and gains the ability to talk to animals. From there, the boy and his new animal friends go off on a wild adventure to rescue a kidnapped prince. Though the story was left in fragments and never completed by Twain, it bears many of the hallmarks of his beloved style, in the humor and playfulness and in the quest of a young boy off on his own navigating the adult world.

Philip and Erin Stead, two of today’s most notable names in children’s literature, have completed the text and illustrated the book, framing the narrative as a story “told to me by my friend, Mr. Mark Twain,” and even including occasional interruptions by an imagined meeting over tea between Philip and Twain.

Said Erin of taking on the project, “As an illustrator, not a writer, I can often use the excuse that I can’t find the right words to describe how I am feeling (stunned and honored being the closest and most generic). Luckily I can now turn to Twain, who is quite quotable, to provide a little context and inspiration: ‘I’m not the declining sort. I would take charge of the constellations if I were asked to do it. All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence: then success is sure.’”

Added Philip: “Of course any person in their right mind would be terrified of this project. But having the support of the Twain house allayed some fears…and then I had a good long walk-and-talk with my dog about it, and she assured me I had her full support, and that I was the right man for the job—provided it did not cut into our twice-daily ambles through the neighborhood, mealtimes, or the hours set aside each day for lying on our backs with our bellies in the air.”

Exploring themes of charity, kindness, and bravery in the face of tyranny, with sharply drawn satire and tear-inducing pathos, this extraordinary combination of talent both classic and contemporary reaches its full potential as an old-fashioned—yet thoroughly modern—fully illustrated storybook that readers of every age will treasure. A monumental event not only in the world of children’s literature, but for literature overall, the publication of THE PURLOINING OF PRINCE OLEOMARGARINE will take place during the 150th anniversary of Mark Twain’s very first book, a collection of twenty-seven previously published stories titled The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches.

ERIN STEAD is the Caldecott Medal–winning illustrator of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, also named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year and a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2010). She and her husband, author and artist Philip Stead, with whom she co-created A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Bear Has a Story to Tell, and Lenny & Lucy, live in northern Michigan. Erin also illustrated And Then It’s Spring, written by Julie Fogliano and named a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book and a Best Children’s Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. Her 2016 book The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, written by Michelle Cuevas, was named a best book of the year by Time, People, the Boston Globe, and School Library Journal.

PHILIP C. STEAD is the author of the Caldecott Medal–winning book A Sick Day for Amos McGee, also named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year and a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year, illustrated by his wife, Erin Stead. Together with Erin, he also created Bear Has a Story to Tell, an E. B. White Read-Aloud Award honor book. Philip, also an artist, has written and illustrated several of his own books, including Samson in the Snow; Hello, My Name Is Ruby; and A Home for Bird. Philip and Erin live in northern Michigan.

Visit Erin and Phillip online at philipstead.com and erinstead.com.

Random House Children’s Books is the world’s largest English-language children’s trade book publisher. Creating books for toddlers through young adult readers, in all formats from board books to activity books to picture books, novels, ebooks, and apps, the imprints of Random House Children’s Books bring together award-winning authors and illustrators, world-famous franchise characters, and multimillion-copy series. The company’s website, Kids @ Random (randomhousekids.com), offers an array of activities, games, and resources for children, teens, parents, and educators. Doubleday Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Both the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Mark Twain Papers & Project at the University of California at Berkeley work to foster an appreciation of Mark Twain as one of our nation’s defining cultural figures and to demonstrate the continuing relevance of his work, life, and times.

The Mark Twain House & Museum has restored the author’s Hartford, Connecticut, home, where the family lived from 1874 to 1891.Twain wrote his most important works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, during the years he lived there. In addition to offering tours of Twain’s restored home, a National Historic Landmark, the institution provides activities and educational programs that illuminate Twain’s literary legacy and share information about his life and times.

The house and museum at 351 Farmington Avenue are open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 860-247-0998, or visit marktwainhouse.org. Programs at the Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign.

The Mark Twain Papers in the Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, is curated by Robert H. Hirst, who is also general editor of The Mark Twain Project, which is the comprehensive scholarly edition being produced at the archive. The Papers are Mark Twain’s private archive, which came to UC Berkeley in 1949 and became a permanent part of the library in 1962 (when Twain’s last surviving daughter, Clara, died). The Project was started in Iowa City, IA, and Berkeley, CA, before becoming a single project in 1980, editing everything of significance written by Mark Twain. It has been supported for half a century by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Learn more at lib.berkeley.edu/libraries/bancroft-library/mark-twain-papers.

Learn more about the book at http://rhcbooks.com/books/248945/the-purloining-of-prince-oleomargarine-by-mark-twain-philip-c-stead



The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine
By Mark Twain and Philip C. Stead
Illustrated by Erin Stead
Doubleday Books for Young Readers, September 26, 2017
Hardcover, 160 pages
Middle Grade (8-12)

Random House Children's Books to Release Never-Before-Published Unfinished Children's Story by Mark Twain...
A never-before-published, previously unfinished Mark Twain children’s story is brought to life by Caldecott Medal winners Philip Stead and Erin Stead.

In a hotel in Paris one evening in 1879, Mark Twain sat with his young daughters, who begged their father for a story. After the girls chose a picture from a magazine to get started, Twain began telling them the tale of Johnny, a poor boy in possession of some magical seeds. Later, Twain would jot down some rough notes about the story, but the tale was left unfinished… until now.

Plucked from the Mark Twain archive at the University of California at Berkeley, Twain’s notes now form the foundation of a fairy tale picked up over a century later. With only Twain’s fragmentary script and a story that stops partway as his guide, author Philip Stead has written a tale that imagines what might have been if Twain had fully realized this work:

Johnny, forlorn and alone except for his pet chicken, meets a kind woman who gives him seeds that change his fortune, allowing him to speak with animals and sending him on a quest to rescue a stolen prince. In the face of a bullying tyrant king, Johnny and his animal friends come to understand that generosity, empathy, and quiet courage are gifts more precious in this world than power and gold.

Illuminated by Erin Stead’s graceful, humorous, and achingly poignant artwork, this is a story that reaches through time and brings us a new book from America’s most legendary writer, envisioned by two of today’s most important names in children’s literature.

Interview with Lily Brooks-Dalton


Please welcome Lily Brooks-Dalton to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Good Morning, Midnight is published on August 9th by Random House. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Lily a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Lily Brooks-Dalton




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

Lily:  I got started pretty young—I loved reading books so much that I wanted to try making them. My mother was an art teacher, so she was familiar with some bookmaking techniques. I still have one of the projects we made together. I wrote it, we illustrated it together, and then she made it into a beautiful little book. Things developed from there, I guess.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Lily:  I’m primarily a plotter, but there always has to be room for surprises. I love outlining, though, and so doodling a vague storyline and then refining the doodles as time goes on is how I situate myself in whatever world I’m trying to create.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lily:  Sharing it. The excitement around letting a book out into the world is wonderful and terrifying all at once. I love the writing of it, getting to inhabit that world and be with those characters, and letting other readers into that space is difficult for me. Not to mention that moment when you can’t edit anymore—that is the moment that I know how to make the book better.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Lily:  I am so inspired by science in all its forms. In my memoir I drew on laws of physics as a backbone for the narrative, and in the novel, Good Morning, Midnight, I found astronomy and ham radio to be enormously influential. I love the way facts can blend with fiction—I find it really exciting to navigate that interplay between the fantasy and reality.



TQDescribe Good Morning, Midnight in 140 characters or less.

Lily:  An aging astronomer in the Arctic and an astronaut stranded in space come to terms with their choices at the end of the world.



TQTell us something about Good Morning, Midnight that is not found in the book description.

Lily:  I’m not sure! Everything that comes to mind is a spoiler.



TQWhat inspired you to write Good Morning, Midnight? What appealed to you about writing Literary / Science Fiction?

Lily:  I was working at a radio station when I thought of the initial idea. It was in the northeast, and when we had lots of snow someone had to be responsible for periodically going outside and knocking the snow off the transmitter, otherwise it would muffle the signal and we would go off the air. If it snowed overnight, then someone had to stay and do that all night, depending on how quickly the snow was accumulating. That image, of someone all alone in an empty radio station, keeping the signal alive, stuck with me. Eventually it became this book.

I love letting research guide my writing, and so because I was so interested in astronomy and ham radio at the time, that’s the direction the story went in. I’m attracted to science fiction because I love thinking about space and stars and all that good stuff. And as much as a I love really out-there sci-fi, I gravitate toward making things feel more plausible. As a reader, I love it all, but as a writer, I like to focus on characters and settings and let plot unfold more gradually. I guess that makes me a literary writer? I don’t know, that label has always seemed odd to me. I guess because technically we’re all literary writers!



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Good Morning, Midnight?

Lily:  Lots! I read a ton of nonfiction, like astronaut memoirs and various astronomy texts, I watched all the sci-fi movies/tv shows I could find, and I haunted space.com for like two years straight. I made it the homepage on my laptop, just so the night sky would always be on my mind.



TQIn Good Morning, Midnight who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Lily:  Augustine was the easiest, I think. He was the character I began with, and so he was always the clearest to me. I modeled him after my grandfather in a lot of ways (who I dedicated the book to), because my grandfather was always very vocal about the way that alcoholism marred the first half of his life, while also embracing the ways in which recovery illuminated the second half. That sense that it’s never too late to make amends, to do things differently—that is what I see in Augustine’s story, and it’s a story I very much relate to.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Good Morning, Midnight?

Lily:  For me and for this story specifically, the minutia of whether humanity falls by way of epidemic or warfare or asteroid or climate change was so much less interesting than what happens after. I wanted to keep the focus on the characters, to detail the emotional and psychological toll of such a catastrophe without dropping into the mechanics of how the world might continue in the wake of it. I was most interested in the individual issues, as opposed to the social. There are lots of fantastic post-apocalyptic books that delve into social issues—I wanted to write something with a different focus.



TQWhich question about Good Morning, Midnight do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Lily:  Where did the title come from?

The title, Good Morning, Midnight, is a line from a beautiful Emily Dickinson poem, but it’s also the title of another book by Jean Rhys published in 1939. At first it was just a working title for me—it felt too strange to take the title not only from a poem, but also from another novel. In the end, however, it was just too perfect. And I think that both the poem and the Rhys novel are in conversation with some of the major themes in Good Morning, Midnight. I included an epigraph that is a particularly fitting line from Rhys’s novel, and despite how different the plots of the two books are, I’ve come to see so many parallels between the two works.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Good Morning, Midnight.

Lily:  Okay, I’ll give you a short passage from the first chapter that I really like:

“…it was only the sky that moved him, the happenings on the other side of the atmospheric window. His work ethic was strong, his ego engorged, his results groundbreaking, but he wasn’t satisfied. He had never been satisfied and never would be. It wasn’t success he craved, or even fame, it was history: he wanted to crack the universe open like a ripe watermelon, to arrange the mess of pulpy seeds before his dumbfounded colleagues. He wanted to take the dripping red fruit in his hands and quantify the guts of infinity, to look back into the dawn of time and glimpse the very beginning. He wanted to be remembered.
        Yet here he was, seventy-eight years old, at the top of the Arctic archipelago, on the rind of civilization—coming to the terminus of his research, the terminus of his life, and all he could do was stare into the bleak face of his own ignorance.”



TQWhat's next?

Lily:  I’m working on a new novel now. So far it’s about an omniscient being and a human wanderer, and how their experiences intersect. I’m excited to be working on something new, we’ll see where it goes!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Lily:  Thanks so much for having me.





Good Morning, Midnight
Random House, August 9, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages

Interview with Lily Brooks-Dalton
For readers of Station Eleven and The Snow Child, Lily Brooks-Dalton’s haunting debut is the unforgettable story of two outsiders—a lonely scientist in the Arctic and an astronaut trying to return to Earth—as they grapple with love, regret, and survival in a world transformed.

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes that the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives? Lily Brooks-Dalton’s captivating debut is a meditation on the power of love and the bravery of the human heart.





About Lily

Interview with Lily Brooks-Dalton
Photo: © Lisa Brooks
LILY BROOKS-DALTON was born and raised in southern Vermont. Her memoir, Motorcycles I've Loved, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and her first novel, Good Morning, Midnight, will be published in the US on 8/9/16. A UK edition, as well as Japanese, French, Italian, Turkish, and Polish translations, are also forthcoming. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Huffington Post, The Toast, and elsewhere.







Website  ~  Instagram  ~  Facebook







Also by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Motorcycles I've Loved: A Memoir
Riverhead Books, April 5, 2016
Trade Paperback, 256 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 7, 2015

Interview with Lily Brooks-Dalton
“What the PCT is to Cheryl Strayed, the open road is to Brooks-Dalton.”—Cosmopolitan

A powerful memoir about a young woman whose passion for motorcycles leads her down a road all her own.


At twenty-one-years-old, Lily Brooks-Dalton is feeling lost; returning to New England after three and a half years traveling overseas, she finds herself unsettled, unattached, and without the drive to move forward. When a friend mentions buying a motorcycle, Brooks-Dalton is intrigued and inspired. Before long she is diving headlong into the world of gearheads, reconsidering her surroundings through the visor of a motorcycle helmet, and beginning a study of motion that will help her understand her own trajectory. Her love for these powerful machines starts as a diversion, but as she continues riding and maintaining her own motorcycles, she rediscovers herself, her history, and her momentum.

Forced to confront her limitations—new and old, real and imagined—Brooks-Dalton learns focus, patience, and how to navigate life on the road. As she builds confidence, both on her bike and off, she begins to find her way, ultimately undertaking an ambitious ride that leaves her strengthened, revitalized, and prepared for whatever comes next.

Honest and lyrical, raw and thoughtful, Motorcycles I’ve Loved is a bold portrait of one young woman’s empowering journey of independence and determination.

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.


Lily Brooks-Dalton

Good Morning, Midnight
Random House, August 9, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
For readers of Station Eleven and The Snow Child, Lily Brooks-Dalton’s haunting debut is the unforgettable story of two outsiders—a lonely scientist in the Arctic and an astronaut trying to return to Earth—as they grapple with love, regret, and survival in a world transformed.

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes that the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives? Lily Brooks-Dalton’s captivating debut is a meditation on the power of love and the bravery of the human heart.

Interview with Lauren Owen, author of The Quick - August 21, 2014


Please welcome Lauren Owen to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Quick was published on June 17, 2014 by Random House.







TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Lauren:  Thank you! I started writing when I was quite young, just for fun – I didn’t know that you could be a writer as a job, I just found it really enjoyable to come up with new ideas for characters and stories.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Lauren:  I love to plot, and I have a lot of fun writing elaborate plans before I start writing. I definitely like to have a journey mapped out before I begin. But once I do actually commence writing I usually deviate wildly, and have to rewrite my plans to match what I’ve written.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lauren:  The most challenging thing is probably pushing through moments of doubt, the writing slumps. There are times when I feel like I’m getting nowhere – the best solution is to carry on writing, but that feels like the last thing I want to do. If I can’t bully myself into pushing on, I find the other thing that helps is spending a lot of time reading.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Lauren:  I am very influenced by the writing of the nineteenth century, which I loved growing up – many of my favorite authors are drawn from this period, including Charlotte Bronte, Wilkie Collins, and Oscar Wilde.



TQ:  Describe The Quick in 140 characters or less.

Lauren:  A gothic mystery set in late-Victorian London. A woman searches for her brother, who has vanished under sinister circumstances.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Quick that is not in the book description.

Lauren:  Two characters visit the premiere performance of Lady Windermere’s Fan in London, and Oscar Wilde makes a brief cameo appearance.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Quick? Why did you set the novel in Victorian London?

Lauren:  I find the Victorian period absolutely fascinating – particularly the later decades of the era, where a lot of the old certainties were beginning to crumble, and new ideas and inventions were emerge. The Quick is to a great extent a response to the gothic fiction of this era – books like Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and The Beetle, which brought the gothic genre to late-nineteenth-century London.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Quick?

Lauren:  A lot of my research was done in the library – I was lucky enough to have access to the British Library some of the time, which was a wonderful opportunity to look up details on 19th century life. I also visited a couple of places in London which still have some similarities to their Victorian incarnations – the Natural History Museum, and Kensal Green graveyard.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Lauren:  Liza was one of the easiest characters to write, because in spite of her unusual circumstances she also has a number of typical child feelings – she wants to be important and brave, she wants approval, she’s frightened, she wants her mother.
Mould was one of the harder characters to write, simply because his narrative strand includes a lot of explication – I ended up having to cut a lot of superfluous detail.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Quick.


Lauren:  Two of my favourite lines from Chapter One, which I think illustrate the relationship between the siblings Charlotte and James, and one of the major themes of the book:

‘They would lie all night like that, snug as the pair of pistols that lived in the blue-lined case in Father’s study.’

And:

‘The library was full of treasures.’



TQ:  What's next?

Lauren:  I’m currently working on a sequel to The Quick, which will continue the story into the next century.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Lauren:  Thank you!





The Quick
Random House, June 17, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 544 pages

For fans of Anne Rice, The Historian, and The Night Circus, an astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London

1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Alarmed, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine London that greets her, she uncovers a hidden, supernatural city populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of the exclusive, secretive Aegolius Club, whose predatory members include the most ambitious, and most bloodthirsty, men in England.

In her first novel, Lauren Owen has created a fantastical world that is both beguiling and terrifying. The Quick will establish her as one of fiction’s most dazzling talents.





About Lauren

LAUREN OWEN studied English Literature at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, before completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2009 Curtis Brown prize for the best fiction dissertation. The Quick is her first novel. She lives in northern England.



Interview with Christian CantrellRandom House Children's Books to Release Never-Before-Published Unfinished Children's Story by Mark Twain...Interview with Lily Brooks-Dalton2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-DaltonInterview with Lauren Owen, author of The Quick - August 21, 2014Feature: Reckless Disregard by Robert Rotstein

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