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Interview with Courtney Schafer and Giveaway - August 11, 2011

Please welcome Courtney Schafer to the The Qwillery as part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.  The Whitefire Crossing (The Shattered Sigil 1) was released on August 1, 2011.


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

Courtney:  When I’m struggling with a thorny plot problem, or a scene feels flat and I’m not sure how to make it zing on the page, I ditch my computer and go climb a mountain. Preferably by some route difficult enough to make my heart pound and my hands sweat. By the time I come back down again, I almost always have a solution. I’m convinced that the combination of adrenaline and improved circulation does wonders for brainpower. But it’s not just the physical activity that helps me – exercising indoors doesn’t work nearly so well. There’s something about the expansive vistas you get from a mountain peak that throws the gates of inspiration wide open. I don’t know what I’d do as a writer if I lived in a flat state!

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

Courtney:  My all-time favorite writer is Dorothy Dunnett. Her two major series (the Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolo) are shelved in historical fiction, but I’d argue that they qualify equally well as historical fantasy, thanks to the suggestion of clairvoyant mental powers in certain characters. No matter how many times I read her novels, I remain in awe of her consummate skill with plot and characterization. Other favorites include C.J. Cherryh, Emma Bull, Patricia McKillip, Carol Berg, Martha Wells, Joan Vinge, and Elizabeth Bear. Martha Wells and Carol Berg in particular showed me that a story can have thrilling adventure right along with a deep exploration of character.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Courtney:  I’m somewhere in between. I don’t outline, but when I start a story I always know the beginning, the end, and a few major signposts along the way. That way I’ve got a firm destination, but the freedom to take unexpected twists and turns as I go there.

TQ:  Describe The Whitefire Crossing in 140 characters or less.

Courtney:  A mountain climber and an apprentice mage get caught up in a war of intrigue between rival mages that will decide the fate of a city.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Whitefire Crossing?

Courtney:  I love to read, and I read fast. After years of wishing my favorite authors could put out novels faster, I finally decided to quit whining about it and instead try writing more of the kind of books I wanted to read, full of magic and intrigue and adventure. As a climber, I thought it might be fun to write a fantasy novel involving mountaineering, and set it in a landscape reminiscent of one of my favorite places to climb: the Owens Valley and eastern Sierra Nevada, in California. If you’ve never been to the Owens Valley, the scenery is spectacular; it’s one of the deepest valleys in the world, with snowcapped 14,000 foot peaks rising straight up from arid desert full of sagebrush and sand dunes. I put pictures of the eastern Sierra beside my computer, and any time I felt my motivation flagging, all I had to do was look at those and get inspired all over again.

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

Courtney:  I didn’t have to do much, since most of the mountaineering bits came from my own knowledge and experience, and the magic came straight from my imagination. I did do some further research on the history of mountaineering, since I based my climbers in the novel on the local guides and crystal hunters that traveled the Alps in the 1700s. When I first moved to Colorado back in 1995, I took a mountaineering class from the Colorado Mountain Club in which we were taught not only modern techniques, but learned about a lot of the old-school climbing methods that were prevalent before our age of synthetic ropes and stealth-rubber soles. (Climbing was a far more risky endeavor in the 17th and 18th centuries!) When I set out to write The Whitefire Crossing, I went back and read a few more historical accounts and old journals, just to be sure my climbers would be using equipment appropriate to the technology level of my world.

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

Courtney:  With my two protagonists Dev and Kiran, it seemed like one character was always easier than the other to write, but which one was easiest changed with every chapter! Because I wrote Dev’s scenes in 1st person and Kiran’s scenes in 3rd, I had different challenges with each character. For Dev (the climber), I had to be careful not to get bogged down too much in his head, and to keep his narration properly sardonic without being too flippant in times of stress. For Kiran (the mage), I had to make sure I got deep enough into his POV that he didn’t feel like a cipher compared to Dev, while carefully gauging how much information about his past I was giving the reader.

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

Courtney:  There’s a scene where someone casts a spell to stop an avalanche that I just love, both because of the action and because it’s a pivotal moment for that character. I’m also quite fond of a scene late in the book in which Dev (and the reader) gets to see one of the novel’s antagonists in person for the first time.

TQ:  What's next?

Courtney:  I’m hard at work on The Whitefire Crossing’s sequel, The Tainted City, which is scheduled to release in the fall of 2012. If these first two novels sell well, there may be a third book in the series – otherwise, I’ve got a few ideas for new stories floating around.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Courtney:  Thanks so much for having me, Sally!


About The Whitefire Crossing

The Whitefire Crossing
The Shattered Sigil 1
(Night Shade Books, August 9, 2011)
Interview with Courtney Schafer and Giveaway - August 11, 2011
Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He's in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it's easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel--where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark--into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.

But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution--and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.

Yet the young mage is not the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other--or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.


Amazon : Barnes & Noble : Book Depository


Courtney's guest blog about the cover art of The Whitefire Crossing may be found by clicking here.


About Courtney

Interview with Courtney Schafer and Giveaway - August 11, 2011
Courtney Schafer grew up reading Diana Wynne Jones and Patricia McKillip and her love of fantasy has only grown with age. Her debut fantasy novel The Whitefire Crossing will release this August from Night Shade Books. When not writing, Courtney figure skates, climbs 14,000 foot peaks, squeezes through Utah slot canyons, and skis way too fast through trees. To support her adrenaline-fueled hobbies and writing habit, she received a degree in electrical engineering from Caltech and now works in the aerospace industry. Visit her at http://www.courtneyschafer.com/.

Courtney's Links

Website: http://www.courtneyschafer.com/
The Night Bazaar (group blog) : http://night-bazaar.com


The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a signed copy of The Whitefire Crossing from Courtney!

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

What would be your adventure? (Mountaineering? 
A trip through the rain forest? A safari? Something else?)

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 Thursday, August 18, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

Guest Blog: The Art of The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer and Giveaway

The Art of The Whitefire Crossing

By: Courtney Schafer

Ah, cover art. Two words certain to leave a debut author torn between excitement (“ooh, can’t wait to see my novel as a Real Live Book!”) and nerves (“Oh god, what if I hate the cover?”). For those not in the know, authors – especially brand new ones – often have no say in the cover. If you talk to industry veterans, you’ll hear a host of horror stories. Most tales of woe involve marketing folks who ignore the actual content of the story in favor of slapping the latest, greatest art trope on the cover. (“Put a tattooed chick with a sword on it. Those are hot right now. What’s that you say? None of the characters have tattoos, let alone carry swords? Who cares – you want it to sell, right?”)

So I was both delighted and relieved when my editor at Night Shade Books emailed me the cover art they’d commissioned from artist David Palumbo. Not only was the art gorgeous, but it did a wonderful job portraying the spirit of my book.

I like to call The Whitefire Crossing an adventure fantasy. When writing it, I aimed for the adventurous feel and tight character focus of sword-and-sorcery, but with pitons and ice axes instead of swords. One of Whitefire’s two protagonists is a mountain climber, the other a mage; at the start of the book, the mage (Kiran) hires the mountain climber (Dev) to help him cross the treacherous Whitefire Mountains and sneak over the spell-warded border of a neighboring country. Neither Dev nor Kiran trust each other, and for good reason – they’re each playing a deeper game than the other realizes. Soon enough they’re hip deep in trouble, caught between dangerous enemies with the fate of their home city hanging in the balance.

Looking at the cover art, the “mountain adventure” part of The Whitefire Crossing comes through loud and clear. I could tell right off that David Palumbo had actually read the book (or some portion thereof – though as it turns out, he read the whole thing). Not only are the mountains perfect: steep, snowy and rugged – which I’m thrilled about, since as a climber myself, mountains are important to me! – but so are the little details. The charm dangling from Dev’s wrist; the rope connecting the two men; the believably warm clothing; the tree turning black from Kiran’s touch because he’s stealing its life energy to supplement his own – all of that is just right.

Speaking of Kiran and the tree: the original version of the art didn’t have the red glow on the tree, just the blackened bark.

Guest Blog: The Art of The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer and Giveaway

The original version was more true to the book; here’s a description of Kiran sucking life from a tree, as told from Dev’s perspective:

He didn’t say a word, just went straight for the nearest tree and grabbed a branch like it was a lifeline. I don’t know what I’d expected. A flash like a mage ward would give, or a sound, or something – but there was nothing like that. His head fell back, his eyes closed, and the look on his face made my skin crawl. I’d seen that same slack-jawed pleasure in lionclaw addicts when they swallowed a dose.

The needles of the tree withered to brown, then curled and blackened as if burned.

But while the blackened-bark art was both beautiful and accurate, I worried it was a little too subtle. I thought it might be good to clearly indicate to potential readers that the book had a strong magical element, and wasn’t historical fantasy. With the support of my agent, I brought it up with my editor. The editor agreed; so David added the red glow to the tree, to play up the magical element. I’m very happy with the result – I figure it’s more important for a cover to give the right feel for a book than be perfectly accurate.

Which brings me to character depictions: I think I’ve figured out why so many recent fantasy covers feature people in hoods or with their backs to the viewer. It’s so the publisher doesn’t have to worry the author will freak out over how the artist drew the character’s face. After all, it’s pretty hard to match whatever image the author’s been carrying around in their head for so long.

On my cover, Kiran’s face is showing, and he came out a bit more Asian than I’d imagined him. (In the book, he’s described as having black hair and high cheekbones, but blue eyes and fair skin). I don’t mind, though, because again I think it gives the right feel – most of the characters in Whitefire are meant to be either non-white or a mélange of races. Dev, for instance, is described as brown-skinned, dark-haired and green-eyed; I’ve always pictured him as a male, somewhat darker-skinned version of the green-eyed Afghan girl in that famous National Geographic picture. (See http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text) With Dev’s face hidden, I definitely prefer Kiran not to look like a fantasy-standard white boy.

I feel pretty darn lucky to have gotten such a great cover for my first novel. I’m hoping David Palumbo will do the art again for Whitefire’s sequel, The Tainted City (forthcoming in 2012). Regardless, I think I’m in great hands with Night Shade!


About The Whitefire Crossing

The Whitefire Crossing
The Shattered Sigil 1
(Night Shade Books, August 9, 2011)
Guest Blog: The Art of The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer and Giveaway
Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He's in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it's easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel--where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark--into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.

But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution--and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.

Yet the young mage is not the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other--or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.

Amazon : B&N : Book Depository : Borders


About Courtney

Guest Blog: The Art of The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer and Giveaway
Courtney Schafer grew up reading Diana Wynne Jones and Patricia McKillip and her love of fantasy has only grown with age. Her debut fantasy novel The Whitefire Crossing will release this August from Night Shade Books. When not writing, Courtney figure skates, climbs 14,000 foot peaks, squeezes through Utah slot canyons, and skis way too fast through trees. To support her adrenaline-fueled hobbies and writing habit, she received a degree in electrical engineering from Caltech and now works in the aerospace industry. Visit her at http://www.courtneyschafer.com/.


The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win an ARC of The Whitefire Crossing from Courtney!

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

Have you ever bought a book because of its cover art?

or

Do you have a favorite cover or cover artist?

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 Tuesday, July 5, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

2011 Debut Author Challenge Update - May 30, 2011

I'm thrilled to share with you the cover and back cover copy for The Whitefire Crossing by debut author Courtney Schafer. The Whitefire Crossing will be published on August 9, 2011 by Night Shade Books.

2011 Debut Author Challenge Update - May 30, 2011

Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He's in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it's easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel - where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark - into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.
But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution - and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.
Yet Kiran isn't the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other - or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.
Look for a guest blog from Courtney near the end of June and a 2011 Debut Author Challenge Interview in August.
Interview with Courtney Schafer and Giveaway - August 11, 2011Guest Blog: The Art of The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer and Giveaway2011 Debut Author Challenge Update - May 30, 2011

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