Friday, April 28, 2017

Interview with Ruthanna Emrys, author of Winter Tide

Please welcome Ruthanna Emrys to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Winter Tide was published on April 4th by

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

Ruthanna:  Clearly there must have been a point in my life when I didn’t write. I can remember learning to read, and it follows logically that I wasn’t writing then. But I have trouble getting my mind around it.

I “stopped writing” for a couple of years in college, intimidated by unconstructive feedback from a professor. During that period I wrote constantly—journal entries, essays, vignettes about role-playing characters. Eventually I started telling a friend (whom I would for good and sensible reasons eventually marry) about the original stories in my head, and she convinced me that they were worth sharing. So that got me writing long-form fiction again. And funnily enough, all that “not writing” practice on other forms improved my work.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Ruthanna:  I think of myself as a pantser, but I’m probably a hybrid. I start writing as soon as I have a story idea with some inertia to it. At that point my “outline” is a basic concept and a list of cool things that I want to include. After I’ve gotten a little way in, I usually know what’s going to happen 3-4 scenes ahead. Eventually the outline includes an idea or two for how the book will end, but the climax usually says “and then they do something clever” up until I actually write it.

When I finished Winter Tide, I was totally ready to work on the sequel, but kept getting caught up in edits. I discovered that my mind will go right along filling in new scenes even if I don’t get a chance to write them down, and by the time I started typing Deep Roots I had about the first third outlined. That was less fun, because then I had to turn everything into full scenes when my brain had run ahead. (Hm. Just occurred to me that the editorial feedback to seriously trim the first third of the book may not be a coincidence.)

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ruthanna:  I wrestle with plot, and I’m going for two falls out of three… My brain will wake me in the middle of the night with character and mood and chewy worldbuilding, but shaping everything into a coherent story is something I have to focus on consciously. Fortunately my beta readers and editor and agent are all good at pointing out when I need to make things more story-shaped. But I still—I am one of several authors who are obsessed with Elise Matthesen’s jewelry (this is relevant, I promise). She’s a professional muse who makes these amazing titled necklaces and earrings, and people make stories out of them—“Litany of Earth,” the prequel to Winter Tide, is from a pendant named “Going Between.” It’s a piece with intricate wirework binding an octopus charm to a gorgeous speckled blue stone. But many authors use her beaded necklaces to map out the shape of a story, each bead connecting to a specific emotional beat or plot point. I haven’t yet figured out how to do that, or how to see the connection properly. That sort of very concrete, kinesthetic sense of story-shape—that’s the challenge I’m working on now.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Ruthanna:  In addition to my wife’s role in getting me to write fiction at all, I blame her for making it much better. My natural tendency is to wander around with my nose in a book, bumping into things. She will literally, in the middle of walking some place urgent, stop and smell the roses. And then she’ll say, “Oh my god, you have to smell these roses, they’re amazing.” So she taught me to pay attention to the sensory detail of the world around me, and the way people stand and move, and the way I stand and move myself, and that awareness made (and makes) my writing much more grounded.

TQDescribe Winter Tide in 140 characters or less.

At the start of the Cold War, the last survivors from a town of monsters work to rebuild their community and try to hold off World War III.

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

RuthannaWinter Tide is in many ways a book about relationship-building—all the kinds of relationships that go into a working community. There are romances—queer and het, and with varying levels of ease and conflict—but there are also friendships, and mentor/student connections, and family of blood and of choice. Aphra herself is asexual, and when we see through her eyes the focus is on rich friendships, and on the love and the iron sense of duty she feels toward her birth and adoptive families.

The central relationship in the story is Aphra’s “confluence” – the Deep One term for people who practice magic together and in the process develop a constant visceral awareness of each other’s bodies and sensations. (The term ‘confluence’ comes from the idea that their bloodstreams flow together, like rivers.) That intimate and vulnerable connection makes the whole process of study, which might otherwise feel somewhat coldly academic, more personal and more fraught for everyone involved.

TQWhat inspired you to write Winter Tide? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Ruthanna:  I came to Lovecraft’s work sideways, through role-playing games and plush toys and jokes about things man was not meant to know. After a while I decided to explore the original, and my wife started reading me a Best Of collection while I made dinner. I knew the very basics of “Shadow Over Innsmouth,” but even having spent the whole collection mocking his racism, I was shocked when it started with the whole town getting rounded up and sent to concentration camps. This was supposed to be a good thing! I couldn’t get it out of my head. Eventually I had to write the story that seemed obvious from that beginning.

“The Litany of Earth” attracted a lot of attention, and people started asking for more. As it happens, I find people asking to read my stuff very inspiring! So I started thinking about what else I might have to say in that setting, with those characters. Winter Tide was supposed to be “the next Aphra novelette,” but around 5000 words in I realized I was far from halfway through, and that in fact I probably had a novel on my hands.

Lovecraft’s horror can actually be more like steampunk than pure fantasy, because in many cases he was riffing on the best science of his day. A century later we’re pretty sure that islands aren’t formed that way and minds can’t be conveniently switched between bodies, but they’re still fun ideas to play with. I made Aphra’s world more overtly magical to account for this “science marches on” problem—and then suggested that maybe what she calls magic is just early glimmers of a physics that more advanced species treat scientifically.

TQWinter Tide is based in Lovecraft's Mythos. What do you think is the ongoing appeal of the Mythos? Do you have a favorite Lovecraft story or story that uses the Mythos?

Ruthanna:  For me, the appeal of the Mythos is in its sheer scope. It’s abundant in strangeness: life and mind sprouting fungus-like from every crack in reality. Knowledge, books, and exploration have power—sometimes terrifying power, but the sort of resonance that we all believe, instinctively, that they ought to have. Human life and civilization may be trivial by comparison, but what a comparison!

My favorite of Lovecraft’s original stories is “The Shadow Out of Time,” in which one Professor Peaslee tries to put his life back together after an inexplicable five-year fugue episode. He’s horrified (because this is Lovecraft) to discover that he spent those five years in mental exchange with an alien time traveler. His own mind was back in the Jurassic, in the Archives of the Great Race, learning the whole history of the solar system and talking with humans and aliens from every era. Like I said, scope.

My favorite Mythosian yarn of all time is either Neil Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald” or Seanan McGuire’s “Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves.” “Emerald” is a comfort read, the perfect mesh of Holmesian rationality and madness-inducing elder gods. “Deep Down” is a sympathetic yet still disturbing story of the lengths to which Deep Ones will go to help their relatives transition into their fully aquatic forms.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Winter Tide?

Ruthanna:  The Japanese American internment camps and post-war culture were fascinating to read about. I visited San Francisco’s Nihonmachi, though it’s moved since Aphra’s day. (Forcibly moved, in fact, only a few years after the war, and that will come up later in the series.) I asked the historical society docent for help with the Kotos’ meals, and told her I was writing a novel, and didn’t mention the aquatic humanoids.

I did a lot of little bits of research to try and get the time period right. Vocabulary—no “extraterrestrial,” no “alien” as a noun, no “brainwashing,” no “nuclear war.” The language and assumptions of the Cold War were still in their formative stages, very different from the late Cold War during which I grew up. Oh, and everyone smoked. Yes, even in the library, a friend who’d worked at Harvard assured me. Even in the rare book room. The past is another, smellier country.

TQPlease tell us about Winter Tide's cover.

Ruthanna:  When I saw that I had a John Jude Palencar cover, I ran around for days shouting, “I’m sharing a cover artist with Octavia Butler!” And an artist who’s worked on both Butler and Lovecraft really was the perfect choice. If it isn’t too hubristic to say so, Winter Tide uses Lovecraftian tools to explore Butlerian themes.

The cover itself is as much mood as depiction of any specific scene—though Aphra certainly does spend time kneeling on the beach drawing magical diagrams. I like how the diagram itself is intriguingly geometric, rather than ornately Victorian, which is appropriate given the degree to which magic and geometry are tied together in Lovecraft’s work. And that sets the tone for the whole design of the book—even the cover fonts are a little non-Euclidean.

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

Ruthanna:  Catherine Trumbull, secretly an aeons-old eldritch entity from beyond time, was the easiest. I’m normally an extremely snarky person, and Aphra is about as far from first-person snark as you can get and still have an engaging narrative voice. She’s so sincere and thoughtful, and she takes life very seriously. So having someone along who could be sarcastic about everything they’re going through, that was an important relief valve for me! She was also helpful because she’s a time traveler, so every time I wanted a reference or a vocabulary word that wasn’t appropriate to 1949, I simply gave it to her. (There’s one point where she starts to describe something to do with DNA, stops to count on her fingers, and then just tells everyone that they’ll understand in a couple of years.)

Hardest to write was… Oh, I don’t know. I like all my characters and would happily write from any of their perspectives. (Happily enough that the next book includes flashbacks and “flashsides” from nearly all of them.) But probably Deedee Dawson, who absolutely hates letting anyone see what she’s really thinking. The worse a character’s poker face, the easier they are to write.

TQ:  Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Winter Tide?

Ruthanna:  Given that it’s a story about internment camp survivors trying to reclaim their culture and overcome prejudice, social issues would have been hard to avoid! It wasn’t something I stopped to “choose.” My obsessions show up in my writing. It happens that I’m obsessed with deep time, morally ambiguous aliens, minority community survival, cooking, cross-cultural relationships, and reproductive ethics. You know, the usual things.

I hadn’t intended to write something “timely.” (“It was meant to be a warning,” I groan into my splayed hands.) But I’ve been very glad, these past few months, to be writing something that engages so closely with these questions.

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

Ruthanna:  Where did the Hall School come from?

In Lovecraft’s stories, Miskatonic is implied to be an extra Ivy League University—all male, as was normal at the time he was writing. But the real Ivies had sister schools. My mom, for instance, went to Pembroke, which eventually folded into Brown when they became coed. But though Lovecraft wrote more female characters than he’s sometimes given credit for, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he always remembered women existed. So Miskatonic students and professors spend a lot of time on intensive discussions of multi-dimensional mathematics and expeditions to darkest Antarctica, and not a lot of time going down the road to dances.

The “Hall School” in Kingsport gets mentioned once, in a throwaway line, as someone’s alma mater. It’s ambiguous whether they’re a prep school or a college, so I waved my poetic license and turned them into the missing sister. I also made their apparent obscurity a reflection of their treatment by the Miskatonic community: the boys’ school grabs the first-edition Necronomicons and the grant money for trips to ruined alien cities, and Hall gets stuck with whatever’s left over. On the other hand they’re much more willing to share their library holdings with non-traditional visiting researchers like Aphra. And they have a fierce pride in their ability to learn (or at least seek) cosmic secrets with little support.

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

Ruthanna:  I always enjoy the way Aphra sees religion: a face/vase inverted image from how worship of the Mythos gods is usually treated in cosmic horror. Here, she and her brother visit the Miskatonic University chapel, seeking one particular shrine that isn’t quite like the others:

We slipped in. I kept a wary eye out for priests who might waylay visitors, but the interior was still, lit only by flickering gas lamps. Columns like great petrified trees lined the center aisle, branches entwined in the shadows. Above the altar hung a grotesque statue of their god, bleeding. Caleb stared at it a long moment, expression unreadable.

At the outskirts of the room, we found the shrines: alcoves filled with saints and mythic images. Some appeared to be perishing in worrisomely imaginative ways, but others laid gentle hands on sick supplicants, or stood alone against soldiers and monsters. Winged figures hovered over all, bearing silent witness.

As promised, one shrine was more discreet. A stone altar stood empty except for a single candle. If I let my eyes unfocus, the half-abstract carvings resolved into great tentacles reaching from the altar to enfold the little grotto. The artist, I realized, had placed those who knelt here within the god’s embrace, while making the god invisible to any who did not know to look.

I settled before the altar. I wanted to compose myself, as I might before ritual. But Caleb hovered at the edge of the space, a lightning jag of impatience at the edge of my attention.

“Aphra, if you came here to beg favors of the void, I don’t want to watch.”

TQWhat's next?

Ruthanna:  I’m currently doing edits on Deep Roots, the second book in the Innsmouth Legacy series. Aphra and company go to New York to track down distant relatives. My family is from New York, but moved to rural Massachusetts before I was born—I love both places, and can see easily why someone from one would be alarmed by the other. So this was a chance to explore a time and place and a tension that’s part of my own history. New York was for Lovecraft a place of horror: an overwhelming miasma of people who were terrifyingly not like him. Aphra isn’t that kind of bigot, but at the same time she grew up in a town where everyone was just like her, and is now coming to terms with the fact that she’ll never have that again. Deep Roots lays with that conflict between the comfort of being surrounded by like-minded people who understand you, and the diversity and energy and abundance of a big city.

And of course, it has aliens, because everything’s better with aliens. This time out it’s the Mi-Go, another of Lovecraft’s terrific creations. They’re well-known for pulling people’s brains out of their bodies and carting them around the universe in canisters, which is still creepy after a hundred years. Lovecraft also described them as cosmopolitan, a term he clearly intended to be derogatory. They seemed like the sort of people who would show up in New York, and cause trouble. Aphra finds one of her distant relatives staying with them, and discovers that they have much too strong opinions about human politics

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Ruthanna:  Thank you for including me!

Winter Tide
The Innsmouth Legacy 1, April 4, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

"Winter Tide is a weird, lyrical mystery — truly strange and compellingly grim. It's an innovative gem that turns Lovecraft on his head with cleverness and heart" —Cherie Priest

After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.

The government that stole Aphra's life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.

Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

Winter Tide is the debut novel from Ruthanna Emrys, author of the Aphra Marsh story, "The Litany of Earth"--included here as a bonus.

About Ruthanna

Photo by Jamie Anfenson-Comeau
Ruthanna Emrys lives in a mysterious manor house in the outskirts of Washington DC with her wife and their large, strange family. She makes home-made vanilla, obsesses about game design, gives unsolicited advice, occasionally attempts to save the world, and blogs sporadically about these things at her Livejournal. She is the author of The Litany of Earth. Her stories have appeared in a number of venues, including Strange Horizons and Analog.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Twitter @R_Emrys

The Litany of Earth
Tor Books, May 14, 2014
eBook, 32 pages

The state took Aphra away from Innsmouth. They took her history, her home, her family, her god. They tried to take the sea. Now, years later, when she is just beginning to rebuild a life, an agent of that government intrudes on her life again, with an offer she wishes she could refuse. "The Litany of Earth" is a dark fantasy story inspired by the Lovecraft mythos.

SPFBO 2016 - Our Top 3 Finalists

Here are our thoughts our top 3 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016 finalists (excluding the novel that we chose as a finalist).

The Grey Bastards 
Author:  Jonathan French
Publisher: Self-Published, October 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 386 pages
ISBN:  9780988284555 (print); 9780988284562 (eBook)


Such is the creed of the half-orcs dwelling in the Lot Lands. Sworn to hardened brotherhoods known as hoofs, these former slaves patrol their unforgiving country astride massive swine bred for war. They are all that stand between the decadent heart of noble Hispartha and marauding bands of full-blood orcs.

Jackal rides with the Grey Bastards, one of eight hoofs that have survived the harsh embrace of the Lots. Young, cunning and ambitious, he schemes to unseat the increasingly tyrannical founder of the Bastards, a plague-ridden warlord called the Claymaster. Supporting Jackal’s dangerous bid for leadership are Oats, a hulking mongrel with more orc than human blood, and Fetching, the only female rider in all the hoofs.

When the troubling appearance of a foreign sorcerer comes upon the heels of a faceless betrayal, Jackal’s plans are thrown into turmoil. He finds himself saddled with a captive elf girl whose very presence begins to unravel his alliances. With the anarchic blood rite of the Betrayer Moon close at hand, Jackal must decide where his loyalties truly lie, and carve out his place in a world that rewards only the vicious.

Melanie's Review

If you take the orcs, the elves and the dwarves from Middle Earth, mix in some rampaging centaurs with a big helping of not very nice humans, quite a bit of swearing and a multi-layered plot then you have The Grey Bastards. Set in the bleak landscape of ‘the Lotlands’ The Grey Bastards, an elite group of half orc militia. protect their community from almost everyone else. The hero of this tale is not a tall dark and handsome knight on a white charger but rather, a greyish green half orc named Jackal who thunders onto the battle field on enormous multi-tusked hog. That doesn’t make him any less heroic. When Jackal discovers that elvin women are being held captive by a sludge monster, that the leader of Bastards might be involved and there are more and more incursions of full blooded orcs killing his friends and community then Jackal decides to take a stand….and one he might not survive.

I tentatively started The Grey Bastards as I wasn’t completely sure I would like it. I am not normally a fan of this type of fantasy so when I found myself staring at the cover I decided to give it a go. I loved it. This isn’t a book if you are sensitive to blood, guts and swearing so be warned but the plot is soo engaging. Despite Jackal’s penchant for prostitutes, overuse of certain misogynistic words used by some presidents and the fact he had tusks, he was very much the traditional hero – tall, handsome, fights the good fight and protects the innocent.

French has crafted an ambitious but intricate plot. I never knew what was going to happen next or whether Jackal would live to tell the tale. This is a sign of a good book in my view. I could very easily recommend this as one of the best books of SPFBO 2016 and potentially one of my favourite books of this year.

Author:  Dyrk Ashton
Publisher: Self-Published, March 2016 (print); May 2016 (eBook)
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 478 pages
ISBN:  9780997173703 (print)
ASIN: B01CXPD8T4 (eBook)

Gods, monsters, angels, devils. Call them what you like. They exist. The epic battles between titans, giants, and gods, heaven and hell, the forces of light and darkness. They happened. And the war isn't over.

17 year old Fi Patterson lives with her stuffy English uncle and has an internship at a local hospital for the aged. She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, misses her dead mother, wonders about the father she never knew. One bright spot is caring for Peter, a dementia-ridden old man whose faraway smile can make her whole day. And there's her conflicted attraction to Zeke -- awkward, brilliant, talented -- who plays guitar for the old folks. Then a group of very strange and frightening men show up for a "visit"...

Fi and Zeke's worlds are shattered as their typical everyday concerns are suddenly replaced by the immediate need to stay alive -- and they try to come to grips with the unimaginable reality of the Firstborn.

"Keep an open mind. And forget everything you know..."

Tracey's Review

Paternus delves deeply into myth, folklore, and fairytales, and the result is a harrowing, edge of your seat adventure. Firstborn Kleron, also known as Lucifer, has plans to eradicate those of his kin whose allegiance lie with their Father, Pater. Kleron has assembled an army of mythological badasses that possess wicked powers of destruction and enjoy using them. Eighteen year old Fiona and her almost boyfriend Zeke become inextricably entangled in this bloodbath. While working at St. Augustine's hospital, she becomes attached to a patient suffering from severe dementia. As Kleron and his assassins begin to take out their adversaries, Zeke and Fiona are trapped in the middle of a violent assault with Fiona's elderly friend Peter, the intended target.

The idea of familiar (and some not so familiar) figures from mythology and folklore springing to life is very appealing. All the events are basically happening simultaneously and I was fascinated with the many different locations and subsequent deities associated with them. Each chapter gives enough backstory to familiarize the reader with figures that they might not recognize, or explains twists to very familiar legends, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although there is a great deal of hopping from place to place, author Dyrk Ashton's skillfully keeps events clear, concise, and extremely exciting.

I did, however, find it hard to establish a connection to Fiona and Zeke. I realize Fiona is discovering enormous chunks of information about herself and doesn't stand much of a chance to shine because of the larger than life nature of her cohorts. I like Zeke a little better; in addition to his special ability, his wide knowledge of obscure legends makes him unique. Unfortunately, his humanness often left me feeling he was superfluous and inadequate. I found their characterizations to be mediocre but I suspect they will be given a chance to bloom in further installments.

This is definitely an action driven story, full of magic and arcane weapons, and at times is pretty violent. Although its many characters are introduced helter-skelter throughout the story, they each play an integral part, and I believe Ashton does a magnificent job weaving each piece together seamlessly. Also fascinating is Ashton's idea of traveling through different dimensions by "slipping" from one place to the next, and the well-explained laws that make it possible and extremely dangerous.

I am a fan of the mythology behind the many beings that populate the story and I loved learning the histories of their creation as well as the reason Kleron's faction have embarked on their bloody quest. Fast-paced, well-written, and enjoyable, Paternus is a distinctly different, adrenaline fueled fantasy that will keep readers flipping pages well into the wee hours.

Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma
Author:  Brian O'Sullivan
Series:   The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series 1
Publisher: Self-Published, February 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 284 pages
ISBN: 9780992254575 (print); 9780994106261 (eBook)

The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series - Book 1: Defence of Ráth Bládhma:

Ireland: 192 A.D. A time of strife and treachery. Political ambition and inter-tribal conflict has set the country on edge, testing the strength of long-established alliances.

Following the massacre of their enemies at the battle of Cnucha, Clann Morna are hungry for power. Elsewhere, a mysterious war party roams the forests of the ‘Great Wild’ and a ruthless magician is intent on murder.

In the secluded valley of Glenn Ceoch, disgraced druid Bodhmhall and her lover, the woman warrior Liath Luachra, have successfully avoided the bloodshed for many years. Now, the arrival of a pregnant refugee threatens the peace they have created together. Run or fight, the odds are overwhelming.

And death stalks on every side.

Based on the ancient Fenian Cycle texts, the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series by Irish author Brian O’Sullivan is a gritty and authentic retelling of the birth and early adventures of Ireland’s greatest hero, Fionn mac Cumhaill. Tender, gripping, and utterly action-packed, this is Irish/Celtic fiction as you’ve never read it before.

Finalist for the 2016 SPFBO Competition.

Melanie's Review

When I started the first few pages of Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma I did a bit of an inner groan. I was convinced I wasn't going to like it but was pleasantly surprised. Set in 193 AD Ireland druid Bodmall leads a clan of outcasts in a small rath (village) in a secluded valley of Glenn Ceo. I was certain that I wasn't going to enjoy either the setting or the story however, I really enjoyed it. The characters were well developed, the plot was gripping and the characters were both realistic and interesting. It was however, the prose that really made this book. It was so very well written. Hats off to Brian O'Sullivan for telling this myth in a truly evocative way.

Nintendo Announces New Nintendo 2DS XL - Available July 28th

Press Release

Nintendo to Launch New Nintendo 2DS XL Portable System on July 28

New Dedicated Hand-Held System Will Sell at a Suggested Retail Price of $149.99

REDMOND, Wash.--April 27, 2017 (BUSINESS WIRE)--The Nintendo 3DS family of systems will soon be adding a new member. On July 28, New Nintendo 2DS XL makes its debut in the United States at a suggested retail price of $149.99. The New Nintendo 2DS XL system gives consumers a third choice of hand-held systems, one that offers pricing and features that fit between the Nintendo 2DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL systems. New Nintendo 2DS XL will launch on the same day as two big new games for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems: Hey! PIKMIN and Miitopia.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Interview with Antonia Honeywell, author of The Ship

Please welcome Antonia Honeywell to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Ship was published on April 25th by Orbit Books.

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

Antonia:  Hello! Thank you so much for inviting me.

I wrote my first novel when I was eight – it was a wet playtime at my primary school and we weren’t allowed to play outside. A group of classmates were playing snakes and ladders. I think I’d have liked to join in, but I didn’t make friends easily, and instead I found myself writing the story of a game of Snakes and Ladders from the point of view of one of the counters. I kept writing because, apart from reading, it was the thing I enjoyed doing most – I kept diaries, wrote long letters, and stories which I kept secret. I’m a teacher by training – the intention was to earn my living by teaching until I could earn it by writing. But I fell in love with teaching – I still think it’s one of the hardest and most valuable jobs anyone can do – and it took me over a decade to start working seriously on a novel, and another decade (and more novels) to get published.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Antonia:  I’m a panster first-drafter. It takes that roller-coaster ride of just letting the words come to work out what I’m writing about, where the focus of the story lies, what potential it has. It’s safe to say that my first drafts are largely unreadable! But they give me the material to begin crafting a working draft, and then the plotter in me takes over.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Antonia:  Finding the time. I was a full-time teacher when I began, running the English department of a huge comprehensive in Inner London. Then I married and began having children, which was just as time-consuming. There are always things that need doing more than my writing, and it’s not always easy to put my work first. But I’m well-organised and determined, which helps. I have writer friends who tell me that they have acres of time and still struggle, so I’m not sure there are any easy answers.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Antonia:  My reading, mostly. I’ve always read a lot – we had a village library close to my school, and as my parents both worked, I spent hours there, reading voraciously and indiscriminately. When they divorced, my life was torn apart, but the libraries in the different schools and towns gave me places I felt at home in. Opening the cover of a book is like unlocking an escape hatch into a new world. When I began to write, I realized how fine is the line between escape and self-discovery. No matter how unfamiliar or strange the fictional world, a reader is always searching for herself in it. I think that’s true of writers, too.

TQDescribe The Ship in 140 characters or less.

Antonia:  A father tries to save his child from a man-made apocalypse, and the child realizes that the truth is an ugly, complicated beast from which she must save herself.

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

Antonia:  It’s a book about faith, and about belief. And about the stories we tell ourselves in order to justify the actions we’ve taken, or that we long to take.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Ship? What appealed to you about writing a post-apocalyptic novel?

Antonia:  When we write about the future, we’re really writing about our fears for the present. That’s as true of George Orwell and Margaret Atwood as it is for me. For me, the fear for the future doesn’t lie in any one specific threat. Climate change, global warming, religious extremism – they’re all worrying, but hanging over these real and tangible concerns is a malaise that’s allowing a particular kind of political bullying to take the place of genuine debate. In the UK, for example, we currently have no effective opposition party. This means that initiatives are being implemented without being properly explored and examined. We need the friction of differing opinions to polish and refine our ideas, wherever we place ourselves on the political spectrum. But increasingly, I find people wanting to escape from the news, to create their own bubbles in which they interact only with people who agree with them and ignore, or dismiss, those who don’t. We’re beginning to write our own news, instead of studying the reality. The Ship is a fictional exploration of that tendency.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Ship?

Antonia:  Oh, so much – everything from how much longer our oil supplies will hold out to the cubic footage of storage required for enough tinned tuna to keep five hundred people in protein for twenty years. I studied preppers and religious cults – opposite but strangely similar reactions to the prospect of the end of civilization. I studied the construction and maintenance of cruise ships. And I found a great deal of material by simply reading the papers. The interesting thing is how little of this concrete research made it into the final draft of the story. It forms a bedrock, but doesn’t appear on the surface.

TQPlease tell us about The Ship's cover.

Antonia:  I love the US cover. It’s mysterious and atmospheric, with that incredible flash of shocking pink. The hardback beneath the dustjacket is the same bright pink, which is a touch of genius – the very book design suggests hope in a seemingly hopeless universe.

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

Antonia:  Once I’d discovered Lalla, she became quite easy to write. At first, I wanted readers to love her as much as I do. But once I let go of that notion and allowed her to be what she is - a teenager who’s always had whatever she’s needed, and who has been the centre and sun of her parents’ existence since the day she was born – she lived and breathed quite naturally. Michael was harder. It would have been easy to write him as the tyrannical dictator he is, but I wanted to understand why people follow him and revere him as they do. Many speculative/futuristic novels take place in a society in which the good and bad are crystal clear – we know who are the terrorists and who the freedom fighters. And I love reading them. But I wanted Michael to exist in the muddier waters of intention and effect, and for Lalla to show the price that we pay for our confusion.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Ship?

Antonia:  We’re living in a world in which the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Being rich is becoming confused with moral worth, and more and more doors are being closed to children whose parents can’t pay for them to be opened. And this worries me, because eventually choices will become the preserve of the wealthy, while the poor will do what they must to survive. This puts the future into the hands of the people who can pay for it, with no interrogation or exploration of what that future looks like. In The Ship, the collapse of society has made Michael Paul incredibly wealthy, and he is free to do exactly as he wants with that wealth. The only person free to question him and his motives is the reader.

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


Q: How can you love such an ungrateful little toad as Lalla Paul, for whom the entire world of The Ship was created?

A: How can you do anything but love someone who has the courage to speak up for the sun in a world illuminated only by electric light?

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

Antonia:  At the beginning, Lalla asks her parents, ‘If the ship is real, why don’t we just get on it?’ I think of this whenever someone presents a simple solution (“Build a wall!” “Finish the relationship!” “Play together nicely!”) to a complicated situation. Ideas are wonderful, and the start to everything, but every solution contains problems of its own. I also enjoy Lalla thinking of herself as ‘a bubbling stream, lost in a ocean of salt.’ So often, the quiet, fresh, life-sustaining voices are drowned out by the clamour and glitter of those who think they have all the answers. But no one has all the answers. That’s why we need to listen more than we talk.

TQWhat's next?

Antonia:  The Ship was sold on a one-book deal, and my subsequent writing occupies a different universe, so the path ahead is neither clear nor smooth. But it’s a rare writer who knows exactly what’s coming next – all I can do is keep writing, and writing, and writing. That’s what makes a writer, whatever stage they are at in their career.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Antonia:  Thank you so very much for having me; it’s been a pleasure.

The Ship
Orbit, April 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

"Powerful, haunting, and beautiful," (M. R. Carey, author of The Girl With All the Gifts) The Ship is a luminous and genre-defying debut novel that follows a young woman's coming of age in a world where she has no future.

London burned for three weeks. And then it got worse...

Young, naive Lalla has grown up isolated in her parents' apartment, sheltered from the chaos amid the ruins of civilization. But things are getting more dangerous outside. People are killing each other for husks of bread, and the police are detaining anyone without an identification card. On her sixteenth birthday, Lalla's father decides it's time to use their escape route--a ship he's built that is only big enough to save five hundred people.

But the utopia her father has created isn't everything it appears. There's more food than anyone can eat, but nothing grows; more clothes than anyone can wear, but no way to mend them; and no-one can tell her where they are going.

About Antonia

Antonia Honeywell studied English at Manchester University and worked at the Natural History and Victoria and Albert Museums in London, running creative writing workshops and education programmes for children, before training as a teacher. During her ten years teaching English, drama and film studies, she wrote a musical, and a play which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival. She has four young children and lives in Buckinghamshire. The Ship is her first novel.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @antonia_writes

The New Adventures of Aladdin - VOD May 16


From Under the Milky Way - opening on VOD Nationwide on Tuesday, May 16th  on all major platforms including: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Microsoft, Vudu, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Verizon, Vimeo, and various other cable operators.

The film has both dubbed English and French language versions (with English subtitles).

On Christmas’ eve, Sam and his best friend Khalid both dress up as Santa Claus to steal everything they can at their local department store. Quickly, Sam is stopped by a group of children asking for a story... the story of Aladdin. Or his own version of it. In Aladdin’s shoes, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him to the heart of the city of Baghdad, a place of infinite wonders.

Unfortunately, behind the picture-perfect setting, people are suffering from the tyranny of the terrible Vizir, known for his ferocity and questionable breath. Helped by his Genie, will the young thief Aladdin be able to thwart the evil plans of Vizir, save Khalid and conquer the heart of the princess Shallia?

McDonald’s Happy Meals “Power Up” with Toys Based on Mario and Friends Through May 22nd

Press Release

McDonald’s Happy Meals “Power Up” with Toys Based on Mario and Friends

Purchase a Happy Meal for the Chance to Enter to Win a Nintendo Switch System

Nintendo fans will want to collect each of the eight toys, which include Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, Yoshi, Invincible Mario, a Red Koopa Shell and 1-Up Mushroom. Each one of the toys has a special function, like a translucent Mario that lights up in different colors. (Graphic: Business Wire)
REDMOND, Wash.--April 26, 2017 (BUSINESS WIRE)--Nintendo is partnering with McDonald’s to bring some of its most famous characters from the Mushroom Kingdom to Happy Meals everywhere. Starting today and running through May 22, anyone who purchases a Happy Meal at participating McDonald’s restaurants across the U.S. will receive one of eight fun toys based on Super Mario characters. These classic and instantly recognizable characters are also featured in the upcoming Mario Kart 8 Deluxe game for Nintendo’s newest system, Nintendo Switch.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Interview with T. M. Lakomy, author of The Shadow Crucible

Please welcome T. M. Lakomy to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Shadow Crucible was published on April 25th by SelectBooks.

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

T. M.:  I started writing when I was 13, but I never took it seriously enough. I wrote little stories, and snippets of larger ones that I never finished. It was when I enrolled at university that I began to give it proper thought, especially after delving into fascinating topics such as shamanism and the Archaeology of the North (Viking Age).

I write because culturally, storytelling is an important piece of our heritage. Our morals, ethics and beliefs are woven through tales often dark and mysterious conveying the spiritual wisdom of our people and our collective memories. Since we didn’t really have much of a recorded history, oral traditions prevailed and were the backbone of our society. So, storytelling is in my blood and an important component of my identity.

There is much I would love to share with the world, and the best vehicle for my messages is fantasy, new ideas and stimulating thoughts are best spread through the conduit of storytelling and allegories. I have also a very different take on Fantasy that I believe would prove to be interesting to people.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

T. M.:  I would say I am a hybrid, it depends on the flow of the story and the themes I am exploring. At times, there is little need to plot, as the story flows naturally, chartering it’s own course, and at other times there is need for careful scheming as I wish to establish a certain trajectory in the story.

I suppose it is about the destination of the story and the best manner of achieving it, but there are set rules with me.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

T. M.:  The most difficult thing is the cultural context. Having grown up in North Africa as a tribal native, there is a dark and esoteric undertone to my writings. There is a psychological quest that I seek to assuage through discovering the darker aspects of our imagination and I am careful not to come across the wrong way with the audience. There are many social issues that I explore in my writing and because my part of the world isn’t really explored, there is much room for misinterpretation.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

T. M.:  My experiences as a child influenced my writing. I grew up between two worlds and felt part of both at times and yet neither. Folklore plays a role in my inspiration and my Slavic maternal grandmother was full of old myths of Eastern Europe, that I prized. The monsters, demons and spiritual warriors of the Amazigh culture also influenced my writing; I grew up believing in them and they fascinated me.

I am very much influenced by the darker aspects of the human experience; wars, disasters, poverty, sorrows but also hope. There is a yearning in my writing to find answers to the world and what lies beyond.

TQDescribe The Shadow Crucible in 140 characters or less.

T. M.:  The novel is about a Seer who discovers the ruler of the world is an evil deity, trading in human souls so she seeks to tear down the veil and escape the world.

TQTell us something about The Shadow Crucible that is not found in the book description.

T. M.:  The Shadow Crucible explores the theme of Apotheosis, basing it on genuine theories around the Threefold death. Many deities and humans that achieved a status of godhead (glance at religions) went through some form of death initiation, returning as a god. The shamanistic transformations in the novel are not fantasy but rather detailed accounts given by Siberian shamans as they were initiated. So, there is a mixture of gnostic texts and archaeology.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Shadow Crucible? What appeals to you about writing a Dark Fantasy?

T. M.:  The Characters in the novel have been germinating in my mind for years. I have always loved Dark Fantasy as it is somehow more raw and genuine, exploring the darker aspects of our imagination and nature thus making it more real and closer to our reality in some strange way.
My archaeological studies prompted my interests, then my fascination with apotheosis and Gnosticism. I have always been an avid explorer, desiring nothing more but to discover the origins our belief systems and mythology.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Shadow Crucible?

T. M.:  It was mostly re reading the banned gospels and ascertaining whether there is a salient thread connecting them all, I intend to be thought provoking so I leveraged many notions that are deemed controversial.

TQPlease tell us about The Shadow Crucible's cover.

T. M.:  I discussed what I wanted the cover to look like with my publisher. I dreamed about it one night, I saw what the cover was intended to look like. In the dream there was one of the character I had imagined, and he having a full blown discussion with me over it.

A crucible is where you mix and melt metals together, and on an alchemical level it’s about achieving something new through the mingling of numerous elements. I have mingled many different esoteric religious beliefs into my novel as well as pagan traditions and sheer fantasy; the combination achieves a fresher outlook on human spirituality and folklore.

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

T. M.:  The easiest character to write was the blind god Samael, I had a fixed idea about what he was and what he stood for, and exactly what he intended to do with the world. I based him on the Samael of the Nag Hammadi (Dead sea scrolls). He is the embodiment of evil, the true absence of light, the one who intends to dethrone the Goddess/God and continue enslaving humanity by creating false religions and waging war against one another.

The most difficult character to write was Estella; there are numerous facets to her personality and she is often confused as to where she stands on the chessboard of the gods. She is very human; loves life and its delights, not particularly interested in her gift or being part of the effort to stop Samael or Lucifer’s machinations. She is more interested in her people, those gifted by the older pagan gods, yet feels it is her duty to stand up to the Templar and the church because of her position. Her beliefs change a lot and her encounter with Lucifer furthers her confusion and fear of the world. She is a reluctant heroine, determined to do things on her own terms and refusing to “save the world” the way the Templar Mikhail wants.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Shadow Crucible?

T. M.:  I explore the topic of blind dogma a lot throughout the novel, the dogmatic aspect of people and religions claiming the monopoly on god and claiming to be his mouthpiece. And also, the validity of old religions and the similarities between all of them and their syncretism. I have explored social issues more in my second novel which I am polishing up.

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

T. M.:

“Do you believe in any of the ideology that the main protagonist subscribes to?”

The answer is yes: I do believe a lot of Estella’s worldview, question remains what it exactly is she truly believes and whether it comes out clearly in the story.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Shadow Crucible.

T. M.:

1)  The wraiths clamoured and filled the king’s head with their ghastly whispers, and his will was threadbare and like a glass bauble, frail and liable to splinter into a million pieces. Alina was at his side with a smile that could curdle blood, pushing into a sharpened silver dagger into his hands. The king did not recoil from the beast’s touch this time.

“We own you, today and yesterday, tomorrow and for infinity, body and soul, blood and bone, mind and dreams” it hissed.

2)  “To the everlasting miracles!” he cried out softly, and his countenance darkened briefly like a passing storm. “You worship the god of lies, whether in churches or as heretics hidden in secret covens. And you war against each other, proclaiming the other one damned. But you are all lost, for the many houses of human religion are held by the string of the same master puppeteer.” His face held bleak judgement.

TQWhat's next?

T. M.:  What’s next is polishing up my second novel, it has more of a horror element in it, it deals more with magical religious cults and eugenics in magic, again I draw on real things and couch them in Fantasy.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

T. M.:  You are very welcome.

The Shadow Crucible
The Blind God 1
SelectBooks, April 25, 2017
Trade Paperback, 400 pages

In a world where angels, demons, and gods fight over the possession of mortal souls, two conflicted pawns are ensnared in a cruel game. The enigmatic seer Estella finds herself thrown together with Count Mikhail, a dogmatic Templar dedicated to subjugating her kind. But when a corrupted cardinal and puppet king begin a systematic genocide of her people, the two become unlikely allies.

Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All organized religions are shops orchestrated to consume mankind. Every deity, religion, and spiritual guide has been corrupted, and each claims to have the monopoly on truth and salvation.

In a perilous game where the truth is distorted and meddling ancient deities converge to partake of the unseen battle, Estella unwittingly finds herself hunted by Lucifer. Traversing the edge of hell’s precipice, Estella and Mikhail are reduced to mere instruments. Their only means to overcome is through courting the Threefold Death, the ancient ritual of apotheosis—of man becoming God.

The Shadow Crucible is a gripping epic set in medieval England where the struggle for redemption is crushed by the powers of evil. Tamara Lakomy is a new and compelling voice in the world of dark fantasy.

About T. M. Lakomy

Tamara Lakomy is British born but grew up in North Africa during troubled times. She resides in London.

She studied archaeology and became enamoured with the shamanistic practices of indigenous people.

She is an author and poet who seeks to challenge our notions of reality, and see life with a different perspective.

She works in East Africa with indigenous tribes studying the origins of mankind and the salient golden thread in the tapestry of humanity’s beliefs.

Facebook  ~  Twitter @shadow_crucible

Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Author:  Brian Staveley
Series:  Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne World
Publisher:  Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  US$25.99 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765389879 (print); 9780765389893 (eBook)

Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death.

“Brilliant.” —V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author

From the award-winning epic fantasy world of The Emperor’s Blades

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer—she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love . . . and ending it on the edge of her sword.

"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades

Tracey's/Trinitytwo's Review

Pyrre Lakatur must kill seven people in fourteen days or she will die. Pyrre however, is not afraid of death- rather, she is troubled by the thought of failure. Killing seven people would be easy for Pyrre, who belongs to a religion known among the populace as Skullsworn. She is accomplished in the many ways a life can be offered to Ananshael, the God of Death. However, to become a priestess, she must adhere to certain requirements; one of which is to kill the individual she loves. Love is something Pyrre has never experienced, so in desperation she has chosen Dombâng, the city of her youth for her Trial. There she will attempt to rekindle the passion she shared with former lover, Ruc Lan Lac, who now presides as constable over the troubled city. Accompanying Pyrre as witnesses are vivacious and deadly Ela, a legendary priestess of her order, and Kossal, a gruff older priest. Her Trial hinges on the hope that Ruc will let her get close enough so they can fall in love. Then she can kill him.

Skullsworn is set in the world of Brian Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series. Although Pyrre had a part to play in that trilogy, this standalone novel takes place years before those events. I like that Pyrre tells her own narrative in first person. It allows the reader to fully appreciate her history, motivations, and inner workings. She is a distinctive protagonist who is definitely more comfortable with her blades than her emotions. I particularly enjoyed her interactions with Ela, whose lessons are a delightful combination of philosophy, humor, and combat.

The city of Dombâng plays an integral role in the story. It still seethes under the martial law imposed upon it by the Annurian Empire centuries ago. Worship to its fierce gods is outlawed, but its people still believe in the forbidden sacrificial rituals, which leaves it ripe for rebellion. The deadly deltas and marshes that surround it are rife with a plethora of creatures that survive by preying on the weak. I really enjoyed the political intrigues and colorful, yet lethal locations that kept the action progressing in unexpected and exhilarating ways.

Because of her devotion to her deity, Pyrre's heartfelt journey of self-discovery is unlike any that comes to mind. Skullsworn kept me mesmerized from start to finish. I love the story's epilogue; it took me by surprise and left a smile on my face. Brian Staveley is both a master of the English language and an accomplished storyteller which makes this book a pleasure to read. Unique, bold, and exciting, Skullsworn is not to be missed.

Warner Bros. Television and DC Entertainment Announce All-New Live-Action Series “Titans”

Press Release

Warner Bros. Television and DC Entertainment Announce All-New Live-Action Series “Titans,” from Executive Producers Akiva Goldsman, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter, to Debut in 2018

“Young Justice: Outsiders,” the Highly Anticipated Third Season of Warner Bros. Animation’s “Young Justice,” Also to Bow Next Year

Series Will Air Exclusively on Upcoming DC-Branded Direct-to-Consumer 
Digital Service

BURBANK, Calif.--April 25, 2017 (BUSINESS WIRE)--Warner Bros. Television and DC Entertainment today announced that executive producers Akiva Goldsman, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter are teaming up for the all-new live-action drama series “Titans,” which will debut in 2018. Additionally, Warner Bros. Animation’s “Young Justice: Outsiders,” the highly anticipated third season of the popular “Young Justice” series, is also ramping up for its first mission next year.

Both fan-driven series are in early stages of production and will air exclusively on a DC-branded direct-to-consumer digital service in 2018. Operated by Warner Bros. Digital Networks Group, the new digital service will deliver an immersive experience designed just for DC fans.

New game based on “The Pillars of the Earth” begins this summer

Press Release

New game based on “The Pillars of the Earth” begins this summer

Part 1 of Daedalic’s interactive novel to be released in August; The
game is coming to PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One; The
steam page is live now

Hamburg - April 25, 2017 - German developer and publisher Daedalic Entertainment today reveals their upcoming video game “The Pillars of the Earth” is set for an August 2017 release. Available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, the game is an adaptation of the best-selling historical novel by Ken Follett, “The Pillars of the Earth”. It is a one-of-a-kind, 2D point and click adventure, a genre that Daedalic is renowned for. The development team took the 1200-pages book as the blueprint and, turned it into an interactive novel. Players follow a nonlinear storyline with 3 playable main characters. The game is going to be released as three books with seven chapters each. Players purchase a season pass when buying book 1 – Daedalic will share more information about book 2 and 3 at Gamescom this year.

This has been the biggest and most ambitious project Daedalic has embarked on to date. Matt Kempke and Kevin Mentz, both author and game designer, stated, “We took the source material completely apart and reassembled it as a unique experience for the player. We kept the core story but of course a game gives us more freedom to add decision-making and interaction.” The game provides a compelling and involving version of “The Pillars of the Earth”. Players develop a deep emotional connection with the characters while controlling their way through the dense and thrilling story. Moreover, the game lets player change events from the novel as well as influence the fates of its characters.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Interview Casey Doran, author of Jericho's Razor

Please welcome Casey Doran to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Jericho's Razor is published on April 25th by Polis Books.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Casey a Happy Publication Day!

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

Casey:  Thanks for having me. Writing is something that I’ve always done. I began by scribbling stories in notebooks that usually went unfinished and unread by anyone - probably because even then nobody could read my handwriting. When I was fourteen I got my very first Smith Corona typewriter for my birthday. The feel of sitting down in front of it, feeding a fresh sheet of paper and hammering away was the most awesome thing I’d experienced. I still didn't really know what the hell I was doing, but I was hooked. My family was always very supportive of my writing, but I probably owe the focus that I eventually developed towards being a writer to various teachers that I had over the years.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Casey:  I’d say that I run the gamut. Everything that I write starts out plotted, outlined and organized. My board will be filled with 3x5 cards that lay out the exact direction the book is supposed to follow. The problem is I’ve never been very good with directions and once I start typing everything takes a sharp detour into ‘How The Heck Did We Get Here?’ I’ve come to look at outlines the same way I do Christmas Decorations - Nice things that serve their purpose for awhile but will eventually be taken down without really affecting anything. I used to get frustrated when I couldn't plan a story every step of the way but I’ve learned to just let the plot develop the way it wants.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Casey:  I think just trusting the process. I still have tendencies to be something of a control freak so when a book doesn't fall in line I tend to get frustrated. Then I’ll question everything I’ve done up to that point and want to change everything. When that happens I’ve learned that the best thing to do is just walk away for while and focus on something else. Inevitably the solution will present itself. Not having everything mapped out is still intimidating but it’s like the old adage about writing being like driving in fog - you can only see a few feet ahead of you, but you can make it to end that way.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Casey:  I try to take inspiration from everything. Books. People. Music. Experiences. If I see something on the news or if a certain situation happens that makes me think about something in a certain way. The list of writers who inspire me grows every day with almost every book I read, even the ones I don’t like. Inspiration is everywhere, it’s all a matter of how you use it. Pop culture also plays heavily into my inspiration since Jericho is a movie buff and likes to crack out random quotes throughout the book.

TQDescribe Jericho's Razor in 140 characters or less.

Casey:  A new twist on a familiar story with an ending you won't see coming. (Hopefully)

TQTell us something about Jericho's Razor that is not found in the book description.

Casey:  I think Jericho’s Razor covers many themes, but mainly it’s about people who are just trying to deal with the situation they’re in while struggling to come to terms with events that have affected their lives. Nobody is an ex-commando or a psychic or in any way really exceptional. I think the overall normalcy of the characters helps make them more relatable.

TQWhat inspired you to write Jericho's Razor? Your main character is a horror writer. How much do you draw on your own experience as a writer in crafting Jericho Sands?

Casey:  The inspiration for Jericho’s Razor began with a documentary I watched about cults late one night. I started to imagine what it would be like for a person to grow up in that kind of situation. Then I imagined the worst possible exodus that person could have and how it would affect the rest of their life. Jericho was raised in a heavily abusive and isolated environment. He never had to interact with society at large until he was a teenager and by then he was notorious. His decision to write horror novels, specifically a main character who he uses an avatar for his baggage, all stems from that. It certainly explains his position on authority figures and why he can be overly confrontational to almost self-destructive degrees.

I don’t really draw much from my own experience for Jericho since we’re both so different. He’s constant chaos and movement and stimulus. He can't write without a glass of Jack to one side, a burning cigarette to the other and something loud playing in the background. He’s the embodiment of Henry Chinaski saying that nobody who could write worth a damn could ever write in peace.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Jericho's Razor?

Casey:  Since I’m still pretty much a newbie, research is one of the areas I’m still working on. I did some background into cults and police procedure but mostly I just winged it and let the book be more character driven than fact driven. As a reader I tend to skim sections that seem bogged down with extraneous information, so I tried to follow Elmore Leonard’s advice and leave those parts out.

TQPlease tell us about Jericho's Razor's cover.

Casey:  The artist responsible for that amazing cover is Adrijus Tuscia. When I first saw the proof I literally leapt out of my chair. Readers will instantly recognize the scene from which Adrijus got the inspiration for the cover and I’m sure they’ll agree that he did a phenomenal job of capturing the essence and tone of the moment.

TQIn Jericho's Razor who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Casey:  Jericho is probably the easiest character to write since he’s the driving force behind the narrative and he and I have common ground. We both have some bad habits that we let get the better of us. We’re both probably a little too sarcastic for our own good at times. I’m not sure who the hardest character to write was, but the most fun ‘character’ to write is actually Doomsday. I had no idea he would be so popular but many of the reader reviews make a point to mention him. They’ll be happy to know that Jericho’s temperamental Boxer will have an even larger role in books to come.

TQWhich question about Jericho's Razor do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q - Is the ending the one that you first envisioned when beginning the book?
A - Not remotely!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Jericho's Razor.


“You didn't recognize him?”
“No. The missing head made recognition difficult.”

TQWhat's next?

Casey:  Book Two in the Jericho Sands series titled The Art of Murder will be released later this year. I feel it’s a much more complex and developed installment with higher stakes and bigger shock value. We’ll get to know the characters a little better while also saying goodbye to some of them. I’m currently finishing Book 3 in the series which will lead almost directly into Book 4.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Casey:  Thank You. The pleasure was all mine.

Jericho's Razor
Jericho Sands 1
Polis Books, April 25, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

Horror writer Jericho Sands has had a hell of a month. He's endured a bitter break up with his punk rocker girlfriend, learned that his lungs are blacker than a coal mine, and served time in county jail for throwing a United States Congressman in a dumpster. He's heartbroken, sleep deprived and suffering from a debilitating case of writer's block

Life is about to get much worse.

Somebody from Jericho's past has left a decapitated body on his doorstep. The similarity to methods used in his books, his lack of an alibi and his proximity to the victim all lead the detectives handling the case to quickly identify Jericho as the primary suspect.

But being framed for murder is the least of Jericho's problems, because this killer is only getting started. The mysterious executioner known as 'The River City Slasher' has made it clear that more innocent people will be killed before Jericho himself is the final victim. Unable to trust the cops, Jericho is forced to examine the darkest parts of his own psyche to catch a killer, save innocent lives, and free himself from his own guilt. When Jericho finally learns the identity of the killer terrorizing the city, it shocks him in ways he was unprepared for, causing him to doubt all he holds to be true, including his own judgment and motivations.

The first book in the Jericho Sands series, Jericho's Razor heralds the debut of a phenomenal new thriller writer in Casey Doran.


The Art of Murder
Jericho Sands 2
Polis Books, August 15, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages

Jericho Sands has spent the past nine months in Mexico getting in bar fights with shark poachers, drinking tequila and listening to wolves howl outside the walls of the beachfront shack he’s been calling home. He’s living completely ‘off the grid’; no power, no phone, nothing but nagging questions about who he is and how far he allowed himself to fall for a woman who proved to be a serial killer hell-bent on revenge. He’s struggled with his decision to let Alyssa Jagger live. Was it because he realized that revenge does not equal justice? Or did he spare her life because deep down, in a dark place he doesn’t want to explore, he allowed himself to fall for her and could not bring himself to be her executioner.

Jericho’s self-imposed exile is ended when he learns about the murder of his best friend and father figure, Gus Tanner. Gunshots fired in a dark alley force Jericho back to the city he left behind and he soon discovers that a new killer is making himself known, a daring young painter who uses the blood of his victims as the medium for his works of art. The butcher who the media dubs ‘The DaVinci of Death’, leaves his handiwork on the front door of a new art gallery and demands that it be displayed, or else more macabre works will follow. Katrina Masters, the owner of the gallery and Jericho’s old flame, refuses to be blackmailed, enraging the killer who is determined to make the town appreciate his talents. Even if it kills them all.

While facing the fallout from everything he left behind, Jericho must also deal with a new police chief with a personal vendetta, detectives who prove incapable of stopping the killer, his resurrected feelings for Katrina Masters and his conflicted feelings for Alyssa Jagger. To find the killer, Jericho must continue going down roads he does not want travel. He must commit to choices that will forever determine who he truly is. And this time, there will be going back.

About Casey

Casey Doran is the author of the Jericho Sands series (Jericho’s Razor, The Art of Murder) published by Polis Books. When not writing he enjoys running, collecting vinyl albums and watching his favorite football team loose. A California native, he now lives in Illinois with his teenage daughter and a nine pound Jack Russell possessed by the devil. He invites you to follow him on Facebook and Twitter at @cpdoran.