Please welcome Devin Madson
to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. We Ride the Storm
is published on June 23, 2020 by Orbit.
Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Devin a Happy Publication Day!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
Devin: I wrote a story called The Little Sad Christmas Tree. I was six so I don’t recall writing it very clearly but my parents kept it and I still have it somewhere. It’s about a little pine tree that cries when its mother gets cut down and taken away and all the other trees laugh at him. He gets cut down too and taken to a shop to be sold but no one wants him, so he cries some more. He gets magically reunited with his mother at the end though. I don’t think I was trying to say anything particular with that, more I had only one page left.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Devin: A bit of both. I almost completely pants most first books in a series because I’m too impatient to sit down and plan. And the only time I did, I ended up with a completely different book. With different themes, plot and a bunch of extra point of view characters. But when I get to later books in a series, I plan more and more to make sure I’m pulling all the threads together and will be able to finish the story in the right number of books. Really, I just go with whatever works best for a particular book, but the most I’ve ever planned is a couple of guiding paragraphs per chapter and some thoughts on arcs. That’s HARDCORE planning in Devinland.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Devin: Action scenes! And for some reason I keep writing a lot of them. Because they have to be tense, they require very tight pacing and timing, balance and cadence, and can’t just be hammered out in a couple of minutes. At least not by me. The only thing more challenging, that you absolutely can’t lose your readers in by a misstep of word choice or pacing, is a sex scene, but I don’t write anywhere near as many of those. Structural edits also suck, because they are weeks of painstakingly ripping apart and rebuilding a manuscript and it is the most draining part of the job for me, mentally and emotionally.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Devin: The things I have noticed as being influences (rather than the bazillion tiny things we passively observe and absorb in life) are generally not fantasy based, which I find interesting. Despite not writing romances, I have been heavily influenced by Georgette Heyer over the years. She was a master at character creation and evolution as well as subtle character-based and situational humour. I’ve also been influenced by all too many video games and history programs/podcasts. And Terry Pratchett.
TQ: Describe We Ride the Storm using only 5 words.
Devin: Shit keeps hitting the fan.
TQ: Tell us something about We Ride the Storm that is not found in the book description.
Devin: There is no black and white morality in this book. It’s all messy, right and wrong impossible to discern half the time, as people are forced to make decisions without knowing for sure what the outcome will be. Often they are making the best of two bad choices, which will have flow on effects into the decisions forced upon others. One thing I really wanted to achieve with this book is the idea that people and situations often aren’t neat and simple and clear cut. People are complicated. They are changeable. Contradictory. Emotional. I wanted to represent this in my fiction. Rather than creating ideals of people, I wanted to show them in all their messy glory as they struggle with their own paths and feelings and motivations (as well as one can in fiction, which is never allowed to be quite as messy and random as real life).
TQ: What inspired you to write We Ride the Storm? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?
Devin: The biggest thing that appeals to me about writing fantasy (except for having to do less research because you can make things up) is that you can put people into situations that are impossible in our world and shake it up to see what would happen. The human psyche is an amazing thing, as are the connections and relationships we make with others. And they’re all so much more interesting and boundless in fantasy. As for We Ride the Storm, it’s the continuation of a generational story I started in my novella, In Shadows We Fall, and then on through The Vengeance Trilogy (also being re-released by Orbit, but you don’t have to read them first, they can be read in any order) so there wasn’t as much unique inspiration for this story. When I first started writing in this world, the story I wanted to tell informed much of the world building, but now the world and its history informs the stories I want to tell.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for We Ride the Storm?
Devin: Because I don’t plan ahead most of the time, I tend to research on the fly when I need something (or I’m lazy and write and leave it for Future Devin like a jerk). These can be little things like how long it takes blood to congeal or sometimes bigger things about horses and castles.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for We Ride the Storm.
Devin: Because We Ride the Storm was previously self-published, Orbit wanted to differentiate the new cover, so although it depicts horsemen riding into battle like the original, they commissioned black and white scratchboard art from Nico Delort. I loved the original too (by John Anthony Di Giovanni), as both are very striking in their different ways. The colour of the new one really gets across the mood and feel of the book though, I think they really nailed it.
TQ: In We Ride the Storm who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Devin: Cassandra is always the easiest character to write because I’m putting my dialled up to 11 snarky thought process and sense of humour on the page, filtered through her life experience and goals. Miko is the hardest, because she has a very complicated mix of ambition yet a desire to do what is right and good, of wanting to prove herself yet learn from those around her. She walks a fine balance in everything, even with having to be an accommodating leader and yet be fiercely determined, while at the same time she’s young and inexperienced in a lot of things.
TQ: Does We Ride the Storm touch on any social issues?
Devin: While it doesn’t specifically focus on any particular social issues, due to the journeys of certain characters the book touches on the struggles of women in a patriarchal society and some of the damage it does to the society as a whole, as well as the difficulties of a whole culture struggling to maintain itself while the world becomes more urbanized and technologically advanced around them. They are left having to ask ‘What makes us who we are?’ and trying to find an answer.
TQ: Which question about We Ride the Storm do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Devin: Let’s go with my favourite thing about it. I don’t do favourite characters in books (not in other peoples nor my own), I have favourite relationships. It can be a friendship, a parent/child relationship, a found family or a romantic relationship, it doesn’t matter, my favourite stuff is always the between people stuff. In this book it’s the relationship between Rah, one of the POV characters, and Gideon, leader of the Levanti exiles. They’re from the same herd so they have known each other all their lives, and while you only see some of it and get a little of their history in this first book, everything about the intensity and complications of it speaks to my soul on a deep level.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from We Ride the Storm.
Devin: While I’m very proud of both my original opening line and the new one, the bits I like the most are the humorous character moments like this:
“What’s this?” She eyed the food like it was a dead animal.
“What does it look like?” I said, fingers hunting an elusive coin. “It’s flatbread. But that bit didn’t cook right through so it’s all yours.”
And that they let me get away with this:
“Now let’s keep moving before the sight of this damn place makes me piss myself.”
“As you wish, Your Whoreness.” He had taken a few steps but turned to look back over his shoulder. “Or should it be Your Assassinness? Whoresassin!”
TQ: What's next?
Devin: I’m just putting the finishing touches on book 3 of The Reborn Empire series, after which I’ll be moving on to putting a cap on the series that has been quite the journey for me. I’m also hoping to find time to write a novella that’s been pecking away at my thoughts, the first thing I’ve written in more than a decade that isn’t set in this world of mine. And I’m very slowly working toward getting my audio drama, The 59 Bodies of Saki Laroth, produced and released.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Devin: Thank you for having me!
We Ride the Storm
The Reborn Empire 1
Orbit, June 23, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages
In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s propulsive epic fantasy.
War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.
Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.
In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.
In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.
And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.
As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.
The Reborn Empire
We Ride the Storm
For more from Devin Madson, check out:
The Vengeance Trilogy
The Blood of Whisperers
The Gods of Vice
The Grave at Storm's End
Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter. Website