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A blog about books and other things speculative

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2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - January

As part of this year's Debut Author Challenge I thought it would be fun to choose a favorite cover from each month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2012 Debut Novel Cover of the Year.

But I'm not going to choose the winning covers - you are. Welcome to the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars!

Here are your choices for January 2012:





















Interview with Daniel O'Malley and Giveaway - January 14, 2012

Please welcome Daniel O'Malley to The Qwillery as part of 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Rook, Daniel's wonderful debut novel, was published on January 11, 2012. You can read my 5 Qwill review of The Rook by clicking here.


TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?


DJTO’M:  Well, I do my best writing when I’m sitting on the couch, with my feet up, and the TV on mute. Which is not interesting at all, but does fill my mother with rage when she sees me doing it. She feels it’s not authorly enough, that it looks too easy. But the thing that always bites me (or at least makes me look the most ridiculous) is that I always get my best ideas in the worst possible places. Often at the movies, or when I’m walking the dog at night, or in a meeting as part of my day job. Somewhere where, inevitably, I can’t write down the idea. So, I’ll end up repeating it frantically to myself, or sitting for hours with my fingers crossed so I don’t forget to remember. At one public service training course, I had a great idea about an entire family assassinating each other, and hurriedly scrawled down ‘kill entire family’, only to realize that one of my fellow students was looking, horrified, over my shoulder.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?



DJTO’M:  Oh boy, there’s a lot of them, but the ones that I’ve reread the most times are probably the most important. So, here are my top four (four is the new five, apparently.)

Firstly, if you want to be a member of my family, you are obliged to worship at the altar of George MacDonald Fraser. His Flashman books are thrust into your infant hands, and you have to like them, or else you are exposed to the elements. Fortunately for me, I love them. His main character is capable of (reluctant) action, and gets put in dire and dangerous situations, but Fraser was never afraid to make his hero look absolutely ridiculous. Which really struck a chord for me, because I look ridiculous so frequently.

I discovered Terry Pratchett in 7th grade, and never looked back. Every time a new book comes out, I consume it voraciously. He’s funny, and he’s clever, and he writes such good characters. He’s the kind of writer whose work leaves you consumed with envy because you know you will never be as brilliant as he.

Brian Michael Bendis writes outstanding dialogue, and he always seems willing to make unexpected moves that leave you gasping. I’ve been reading his Ultimate Spider-Man for years, and his writing has given me a deep affection for the characters. He’s also left me feeling like I’ve been punched in the gut with the rapidity with which he changes everything.

Finally, books by China Mieville (sorry, I don’t know how to put the little accent on the ‘e’) fill me with a great and terrible joy. I love the complexity of his work, how he throws in a million ideas, any one of which could make a whole book by itself. It makes for a really rich fictional world. I really tried to do something along those lines, putting in lots of cool little things, and incidental mentions of big ideas.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?



DJTO’M:  I’m kind of a sick hybrid. I’ll start out with my one big idea – my concept -- and I’ll usually know vaguely where I’m going, and I’ll have in mind a few stops along the way. But then an idea will spontaneously occur to me, and I’ll pursue it. Or else, I’ll see some flaw, some question that needs to be answered, and I’ll have to figure it out. In fact, some of my favorite writing has come out of plugging up the plot holes. At one point in The Rook, the main character and a bunch of others have to go through a battery of intense, undignified and invasive medical examinations, solely because I’d written myself into a corner. It was entirely possible that everyone was a traitor, and I needed to prove there were some trustworthy people around. Otherwise, the book would have ended with everyone locked in their offices, with guns pointed at the doors.

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

DJTO’M:  Sitting down and actually doing it. It’s so, so easy not to write -- there’s a billion things I could be doing. My house is never so clean and my correspondences never as up as to date as when I’m working on a book.

TQ:  Describe The Rook in 140 characters or less.


DJTO’M:  M. Thomas protects Britain from supernatural horror. Myfanwy T. has no memory of who she is. And they're the same person.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Rook?



DJTO’M:  I have the deplorable (and entirely unique) habit of getting bored during meetings. And during these meetings I have been known, on occasion, to pretend that I’m a stranger who has been abruptly dropped into my body. I have to figure out what’s going on, and who I am, and provide reasonably believable spontaneous answers. Out of that, I wondered how well someone could really fake being someone else.

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



DJTO’M:  Not a whole heap, to be perfectly honest. Probably the most informative thing that happened was that, partway through the novel, I got a position with the Australian Government. Of course, my job was nothing like the work of the Checquy (I do media and communications stuff for the organization that investigates transport accidents), but there were various details and aspects that I realized had to go in. Some things were fairly minor (I’d managed not to give my secret Government operatives security passes) and others were things I’d simply never known about (no public service undertaking, be it a communications strategy or the besieging of a fungus cult, is going to happen without a risk assessment, and some occupational health and safety preparations.)

TQ:  Why did you set the novel in Great Britain?



DJTO’M:  There were several reasons, really, some quite prosaic, and some based on emotion. Firstly, it’s the right size – it meant that my main character could get around to occurrence sites fairly easily. And secondly, it’s got a good long history of continuous government, and that was necessary, for the Checquy to have that sense of centuries and centuries of weird traditions and bureaucracy. Plus, it’s handy for Europe, and all the related risk of having extremely large countries looming over the horizon, ready to invade.

Finally, a huge number of the books I read as a kid and teenager were set in Great Britain, so, for me, it’s always been the place where that sort of thing happens. We can probably agree to blame Enid Blyton and E. Nesbit for most of that.

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



DJTO’M:  At first, the lead character, Myfanwy Thomas, was very daunting to write. Partially because she has amnesia, and I really wasn’t sure how someone would react to that, and partially because she’s a woman, and so there was a bit of hesitation on that score. In the back of my mind, I was convinced that a thousand women (many of them suffering from amnesia) would stand up and condemn the book. But, then I figured that if there were any egregiously inappropriate actions or words, a) someone would point it out before it got printed, and b) I could blame it on the amnesia. And for those with amnesia who felt it was inaccurate, I could blame it on being magic amnesia. As it turned out, there weren’t any problems, which is nice. But for a while, it was a trifle nerve-wracking.

The easiest character was an obnoxious teenage guy who wanders around, acting all precocious and entitled. Probably because, as a teenage guy, I had a few periods of being shiningly obnoxious, precocious and entitled.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Rook?

DJTO’M:  I’m very fond of a scene where various important Government executives gather to watch the hatching of a dragon. It’s an important occasion, with all sorts of scientific and military and hierarchical implications on the line, and the machinery of the Checquy working frantically to make sure everything turns out right. Naturally, everything turns out wrong. Dragon-hatchings are kind of a cliché in fiction, so it was really fun to try and tip one on its head.

TQ:  What's next?

DJTO’M:  I have a ton of ideas for the world of the Checquy, and I am keen to explore the possibilities further, but at the moment I’m working on a couple of unrelated books. One is a young adult novel set in the Ottoman Empire in 1500’s. The other is a novel about a woman who is a talent agent for assassins and killers. She manages their careers, and they are all complete divas, requiring constant attention.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

DJTO’M:  Thanks for having me.






The Rook
Little, Brown and Company (January 11, 2012)
Hardcover, 496 pages
Urban Fantasy/Thriller

"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

Filled with characters both fascinating and fantastical, THE ROOK is a richly inventive, suspenseful, and often wry thriller that marks an ambitious debut from a promising young writer.


About Daniel O'Malley

Dan O'Malley graduated from Michigan State University and earned a Master's Degree in medieval history from Ohio State University. He then returned to his childhoom home, Australia. He now works for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, writing press releases for government investigations of plane crashes and runaway boats. Learn more at www.rookfiles.com

Dan's Links:

The Rook Files
Dan's Twitter
Myfanwy Thomas' Twitter
Facebook







The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win copy of The Rook from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

If you worked for a secret governmental agency dealing with the supernatural, 
what would your job be?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Saturday, January 21, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

Release Day Review - The Rook - 5 Qwills

The Rook
Author:  Daniel O'Malley
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (January 11, 2012)
Price: $25.99
Language: English
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Thriller
ISBN: 9780316098793
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher

Release Day Review - The Rook - 5 Qwills
"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

Filled with characters both fascinating and fantastical, THE ROOK is a richly inventive, suspenseful, and often wry thriller that marks an ambitious debut from a promising young writer.

My thoughts

When I think of The Rook the first word that comes to mind is 'fun.' Great fun actually. But to simply say that The Rook is 'fun' would be facile on my part. The Rook is a terrific read for a lot of reasons.

Foremost The Rook is very well written. The mystery of why Myfanwy Thomas is without her memory and who did what to whom is hard to crack. As soon as I'd thought I'd figured it out, the story proved me wrong. Not because of authorial plot shenanigans, but because the unraveling of the mystery was very well handled. I really enjoyed how this is done with new Myfanwy being aided by information left behind by old Myfanwy.  Myfanwy is a wonderful character. She's trying to figure out how to do her job as Rook and racing against time to find who in the Chequy harmed her and why. The Rook is not a short read (nearly 500 pages), but I barely noticed the length.

The Chequy is itself amazing. It's a fantastical governmental agency. Think FBI/CIA rolled into one that handles supernatural threats. Yes, other supernatural agencies exist in literature, but none quite like the Chequy. How the Chequy functions is explained well, but never bogs down the story. I really enjoyed seeing how the Chequy works, how threats are handled, and meeting the people with whom Myfanwy works, despite that fact that one of them wants her erased. Mr. O'Malley's scrupulous attention to detail creates a believable, if somewhat unusual, governmental agency.

The upper echelon of the Chequy are fascinating characters themselves. Because Myfanwy is trying to figure out which of them might be after her, we get to know each of them well. I certainly enjoyed learning about them and their powers... and trying to figure out who did it and why.

Mr. O'Malley has infused The Rook with wry humor, unusual supernatural beings, and a deeply absorbing mystery. The Rook made me laugh out loud, entertained me, and kept me fascinated from start to finish.

I give The Rook 5 Qwills.

Release Day Review - The Rook - 5 Qwills

2012 Debut Author Challenge Update - Daniel O'Malley and The Rook - December 11, 2011

The Qwillery is thrilled to announce that Daniel O'Malley will be participating in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge. The Rook, Daniel's debut novel, will be published on January 11. 2012 by Little, Brown and Company.

2012 Debut Author Challenge Update - Daniel O'Malley and The Rook - December 11, 2011
"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

Filled with characters both fascinating and fantastical, THE ROOK is a richly inventive, suspenseful, and often wry thriller that marks an ambitious debut from a promising young writer.
2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - JanuaryInterview with Daniel O'Malley and Giveaway - January 14, 2012Release Day Review - The Rook - 5 Qwills2012 Debut Author Challenge Update - Daniel O'Malley and The Rook - December 11, 2011

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