I hope you’re all hanging in there (I’m writing this post over the weekend, so the lack of mention of election results after Tuesday/throughout the week is because of that; though, I also think, even if I had written this post today, perhaps a break from it all wouldn’t have been too bad a thing?). Anyway, I’m quite honored today to be announcing the release of a new book, on behalf of the author! Check it out below, including a giveaway at the bottom of the page for an ebook copy of the first book in the series!
The Caledon Saga is a fantasy series set in a world inspired by Celtic Wales and Imperial Rome. The story follows multiple characters, beginning with Rhianwyn, daughter of a tribal chief and a warrior accustomed to fighting only with her neighbours. When the expanding Gaian Empire comes to threaten her homeland, Rhia must adapt to a very different world and attempt to unite those tribes into a single force. How well it can stay together, remains to be seen…
‘I had great pleasure reading Wildcat. Apart from your obvious talent as a writer, I have such admiration for your meticulous research.’ — James Cosmo, actor of Lord Commander Mormont of Game of Thrones
JP Harker is the pen-name of James Thomas, an obsessive martial artist and a committed geek of various types, who apparently didn’t drive his wife mad enough with those things and so took up writing fantasy books as well. A proud Welshman with just enough Saxon in him to make things interesting, James hails from the beautiful county of Glamorgan in South Wales.
Want to try out the first book in the series? Enter to win an eBook copy of the first book, Wildcat! Winner will be emailed next week and then their contact information will be given to the author, to provide the prize!
About the first book in the saga, Wildcat:
Rhianwyn of the Caderyn is conflicted about giving up a warrior’s life to become a wife and mother, but her love for her new husband is enough to at least make her consider it. However, with the conquering Gaians moving ever closer to her homeland a peaceful life may no longer be an option, for Rhia or for any of her people. With rival tribes, old suitors, and the dangerous General Lepidus to contend with, Rhia soon finds her new family in unprecedented danger, and her choices now must be about more than just herself…
Wildcat takes place in a fantasy land inspired by Iron Age Britain and follows Rhianwyn’s story as she encounters a civilisation unlike any she could imagine, and is constantly forced to learn and adapt through trial after deadly trial.
Author: K.S. Villoso Genre: Adult Fantasy Publisher: Orbit Books, September 24th, 2020
The Bitch Queen returns in The Ikessar Falcon, the action-packed sequel to K. S. Villoso’s acclaimed fantasy debut, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.
Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worse as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and unimaginable horrors – creatures from the dark, mad dragons and men with hearts hungry for power.
To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen and everything she could never be.
The price for failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.
K.S. Villoso was born in a dank hospital on an afternoon in Albay, Philippines, and things have generally been okay since then. After spending most of her childhood in a slum area in Taguig (where she dodged death-defying traffic, ate questionable food, and fell into open-pit sewers more often than one ought to), she and her family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they spent the better part of two decades trying to chase the North American Dream. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her family, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.
**Special thanks to Caffeine Books Tours and Orbit Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review**
It has been such an honor to participate in the blog tour for The Ilkessar Falcon, the sequel to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, hosted by Caffeine Book Tours! While I enjoyed the first book in the series, this book absolutely blew me away. The hype is real and this series is one you should be supporting and biting at the chance to read it (especially since so much of what I enjoyed in the first book–the worldbuilding, the characterization, the TENSION, is continued and elevated even further, here). So, let’s get down to it!
TENSION. I thought the first book did an amazing job of increasing the tension and constantly making you more worried about what is going to happen next. After reading this, it almost feels like child’s play, for The Ikessar Falcon pulls back on no punches. In fact, it’s almost as if you’re expecting a punch and instead, you get a sword rammed through your core. It’s shocking, it’s painful and yet, just when you think it can’t get any worse? Hello pain, my old friend. Masterclass in tension, honestly.
The shock value. I’m not the best at predicting what is going to happen next, even during the obvious moments. But, even if I had such a talent, I don’t think I would have felt that way in terms of the plot of this story. I’m being vague to avoid spoilers, but there is a specific moment towards the end of the first act that had me shaken. And that wasn’t the only time, either.
The intricacy. I love not only how delicious (and not just because of the amazing inclusion of food details; something I loved from the first book and that continues here!) and intense the plot develops, but how even the most minute and seemingly innocent details and hints are brought back into focus and actually have importance to the main narrative. There is a certain ship-bearing character who we learn has a very interesting proposition who I remember distinctly from a story Tali spoke of from her youth that I wondered would pop back up again, despite believing it to be story meant to simply show some of the beginnings of Tali and Rai’s relationship. But, wow was I wrong and whoa did it come back with a bang. But it’s that kind of intricacy that takes this novel to the next level.
The character development. With how well-written the characters were from the first book, it isn’t surprising that I formed distinct opinions of them. And yet, as the characters grew and we spent more time with them, I found some of those opinions shifting, while others solidified. My respect for Tali raised, as well as Nor. Khine will forever have my heart–and continue to break it. Lo Bahn surprised me, in good ways. Rai…remains complicated (which is surprising, given the level of hatred I had for him at the end of Oren-Yaro) and a character-who-cannot-be-named disgusts me as much as I have to be impressed by their schemes. Oh, and I dislike Agos. Quite a bit. I don’t think I’m meant to, necessarily, but…oops?
You are all alike—Ikessar hens and Oren-yaro dogs with your empty words and your empty smiles and your meaningless tenets, dragging this land down, bringing us all to ruin.”
Nothing. I honestly cannot think of a single thing. This book takes off with a bang and doesn’t slow down. The writing itself is fantastic, the characters fleshed out and put in the worst situations, the plot is shocking and intense, I mean…what more can you want from a novel?
So, no surprise that I rated this 5 out of 5 stars. Some authors worry about suffering from second-book syndrome or worry how the sequel to the start of the series might be perceived, but Villoso has no reason to. I loved this book even more than I did the first and it’s most likely going down as one of my favorite reads this year.
Thank you so much again to Caffeine Tours for the opportunity to join on the blog tour! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour and to purchase yourself a copy of this book, when it comes out on the 22nd!
I am so excited to be taking part another blog tour today! This time, I am stoked to offer you a guest post from author J.T Nicholas, author of novel Re-Coil, which was published on March 3rd from Titan Books! I knew I wanted to read this book when the cover went live and I am so stoked to read it.
But first, if you wanna hear the tips the author learned about navigating the publishing world during his own journey, look no further than this post!
I spent a long time trying to get published. In fact, I think it took me 20 years from the
time I finished my first manuscript (unpublished) to the time my first novel hit shelves.
Along the way, I took graduate-level writing courses, attended conferences and
workshops, and traded critiques in any number of writing groups. The tips I’ve outlined
below aren’t gospel and they may not work for you. But they are what’s helped me keep
going all these years.
Top 10 Tips for New and Aspiring Authors
1. Figure out a writing process that works for you. I can talk all day about what my
“process” is, but that doesn’t mean that it will work for anyone else. We all lead
different lives with different schedules. But you have to write in order to get
published, so figure out something you can be consistent with and stick to it.
2. Know the market. This is a tough one, and this rule isn’t always hard and fast.
But if you’re looking to get traditionally published, you have to have at least a
vague sense of what’s popular and selling. You don’t have to write exactly that
but keeping abreast of what’s happening in your particular genre, what
publishers seem to be looking for and what they’re avoiding is never a bad thing.
Go to publisher and agency websites. Read the blogs and articles that most
publishers and agents post. If nothing else, it might help you understand where
your particular book might best find a home.
3. Don’t chase trends. I know, I know. This sounds contradictory to the tip above.
Knowing the market isn’t the same as regurgitating it, though. Just because
vampires are popular (or not) doesn’t mean your book must include (or can’t
include) them. Don’t write something just because it seems popular at the
4. Realize that your writing isn’t as good as you think it is. There is always room
for improvement. If you’re lucky, and you get rejection letters, those letters will
include critiques. If it’s from reputable agents and editors, those critiques will
be constructive. Listen to them and try and learn from them.
5. Realize that your writing isn’t as bad as you think it is. Sure, there’s always room
for improvement, but we’re often our own worst critics. Give yourself a break.
You might hate what’s on the page right now, but when you re-read it in a week,
it’s going to sound a lot better.
6. Rejection is a part of the process. Particularly if you’re aiming to be traditionally
published, you’re going to get rejected. Agents are going to pass, sometimes
without so much as a reply. Editors might stick your work at the bottom of slush
pile that is years long. Or, you might get nicely worded rejection letters that boil
down to, “Liked it, but not for us.” Do not let the rejection get you down. Don’t
let it stop you. I guarantee that 99% of best-selling authors all have nice little
stacks of rejection letters of their own.
7. Nothing you write will be universally loved. Or, to be more current about it,
haters gonna hate. Shakespeare has 1-star reviews on Goodreads. Freakin’
Shakespeare! We live in a time where snarky deconstruction seems to be more
popular than constructive criticism, so don’t let the haters get you down. If there
is meaningful, constructive feedback, great. That’s useful. If something you
wrote just wasn’t someone’s cup of tea, fair play. Art is subjective, after all. But
ignore the mean-spirited attack-style reviews. They don’t add to the
8. Separate your Socials. Social Media is a mixed bag to begin with. You can get
some good promotional opportunities and you can also attract a horde of trolls
just out to smash and destroy. No sense mixing your business (and if you want to be an author, writing is your business) with your personal life. Create
separate accounts, so that your author profiles and personal profiles are distinct.
Keep the author side professional, and never, ever, feed the trolls.
9. Give yourself a break. Writing is hard. It can be brain-draining. Some days, it
just won’t come. That’s okay. Give yourself a break from time to time. Go take a
walk or workout or whatever it is you do to de-stress and refresh your creative
juices. The words will come a lot easier once you’ve walked away for a bit.
10. And, last but definitely not least, write what you want. Write the stories that you
want to read. If you try to write towards someone else’s vision, it’s going to be a
thousand times harder and the end product will never be as good.
There you have it. My “Top 10” tips for new and aspiring authors. Hopefully there’s a
nugget or two in there that you’ll find helpful, and if you want to see where they led me,
pick up Re-Coil.
About the Author
J.T. Nicholas is the author of the upcoming science fiction novel ReCoil (February 2020 from Titan Books) and the neo-noire science fiction series, The New Lyons Sequence (available now from Rebel Base Books).
J.T. was born in Lexington, Virginia, though within six months he moved (or was moved, rather) to Stuttgart, Germany. Thus began the long journey of the military brat, hopping from state to state and country to country until, at present, he has accumulated nearly thirty relocations. This experience taught him that, regardless of where one found oneself, people were largely the same.
When not writing, J.T. spends his time practicing a variety of martial arts, playing games (video, tabletop, and otherwise), and reading everything he can get his hands on.
J.T. currently resides in Wilmington, North Carolina with his wife, a pair of indifferent cats, and two Australian Shepherd puppies intent on destroying anything and everything that fits in their mouths.
This Friday, I’m happy to bring you a new guest post, this time from self-published author Jon Auerbach, author of his debut novel, Guild of Tokens, one of the books entered into this year’s SPFBO contest. Below, he talks about plotting, novel inspiration and shows an example of how inspirational and influential video games can be.
Check it out and thanks for reading!
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
A man accidentally turns his fiancée into a golden statue with a cursed diamond ring. To break the curse, he needs to find an equally large diamond ring, but said ring can only be found on an island that no one knows how to get to. Well, save for one guy, who booked a gig for a band one time back in the day and had the map to the island tattooed on his back for some reason. Problem solved!
Except that this particular individual is asleep at an exclusive beach club into which no one may enter save members. Oh, and also someone stole the gold statue of your fiancée because this story does take place on an island full of retired pirates!
I won’t bore you with the remaining details on how to solve the quandary (plus they’re kind of gross), but hopefully you’ve recognized the above as one of the puzzles from the classic adventure game The Curse of Monkey Island starring everyone’s favorite pirate wannabee Guybrush Threepwood.
As a kid growing up in the 90s who didn’t have a video game console for most of the decade, the classic LucasArts and Sierra point-and-click adventure games were my favorite gaming pastimes. I remember stumbling upon The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge on my cousin’s Amiga computer during winter break and spending nearly every waking moment of that vacation trying to just get through Act I.
Although the point-and-click adventure genre fell out of favor by the new millennium, games such as the aforementioned Monkey Island series, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Dig, and Day of the Tentacle, to name a few, always held a special place in my gaming heart.
So of course when it came time to choose a career, the first thing I thought of was adventure game designer! Except, my programming skills were lukewarm, my digital art prowess was non-existent, and there was also the lack of genre popularity (Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer’s Kickstarter-backed games notwithstanding). Then I moved on to thinking about becoming a television writer, because I was in a “picking careers with 0.001% chance of making it” kind of mood that week.
Finally, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing stopping me from writing a novel where the main character had to rely on her wits and ability to make connections between disparate items to solve the myriad number of plot obstacles I would throw her way.
And that’s how Guild of Tokens was born.
There was still the matter of making the book a proper fantasy yarn and that’s where one of my other childhood favorites, Chrono Trigger, came in. As I mentioned earlier, the lack of an actual Super Nintendo prevented me from playing the game when it first came out, so I relied on the magic of emulation to experience Crono and Marle’s adventures on my computer many times over to get my party up to level **.
One class of the items needed to do that were the so-called “tabs,” which added a point to your magic, strength, and speed stats. When writing Guild of Tokens, I imagined what would happen if someone were to create those tabs in real life, and those became gummy squares of various colors that when ingested, temporarily increased a particular trait, such as speed, strength, and focus. The effect wouldn’t be permanent, because where’s the fun in that? But it did open up lots of possibilities to merge the magic of Chrono Trigger with the puzzles of Monkey Island.
I’ll give you an example.
In the middle of the book, Jen, our heroine, recovers a string of 12 numbers that had been tattooed on someone’s back. She knows the meaning behind those numbers is important but whether they’re a computer password, a substitution cipher, or something else entirely is beyond her comprehension. So with the help of a speed buff, which not only increases a person’s physical but also their mental speed, she spends a cold winter morning jogging through lower Manhattan at super-speed while her mind works overtime trying to decipher the meaning of the numbers. She eventually discovers that they are a set of latitude and longitude coordinates that point to a nondescript door in Queens.
Of course, when she gets to said door, it’s locked and all attempts, both magical and not, to open it are unsuccessful. That’s where the puzzle-solving half of the equation comes in. Because those 12 numbers? Well, the tattoo actually hid three more sets of numbers and three more locations: the rock where Alexander Hamilton died after his duel with Aaron Burr in Weehawken, the last remaining staircase from the old Polo Grounds in Harlem, and a Dutch millstone in Long Island City. Visiting each place yields nothing except an opportunity at historical vandalism and Jen is about to quit when she realizes that each location is actually the vertex of a triangle, and the real prize is at the center.
I made a map and everything if you want to check my work, and it’s also hidden at location 2840 in the Kindle version for those reading along at home.
There’s plenty more puzzles and magic throughout Guild of Tokens, but the burning question you probably have at the moment is who stole Guybrush’s fiancée?
Turns out it was a pack of monkeys.
Jon Auerbach is a fantasy author from New York, where he lives with his wife and three young children. His debut novel, Guild of Tokens, is available now on Amazon and an entrant in the fifth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.
You can find out more about the world of Guild of Tokens by visiting Jon’s website.
I have a new interview for you today–and writers, especially, you’re not going to want to miss this one, because the amount of wisdom dropped here is just mind blowing. I am so happy to welcome the amazing and inspiring author Christopher Husberg to the blog today! You may know him from his incredible Chaos Queen quintet, published by Titan Books. You know, Duskfall, Dark Immolation, Blood Requiem and Fear the Stars, which came out YESTERDAY here in the US!?
If you aren’t familiar with these books, then I most highly, highly, highly recommend you right this grievous error. Because this shit is gold, friends.
But, enough of my rambles. Let’s dive in.
First off, thanks for stopping by my corner of the internet and giving me some time, Chris! Warmest of welcomes to you! I’m happy to be here! Or, at least, I’m happy for my words to be here? You get the gist–thanks for hosting me! As you know, I am a serious fan of your work, but the way you write, specifically. So, this interview might be a little on the writing-question-heavy side—at least to start. So, let’s kick it off: can you tell us when you first knew you wanted to be a writer? Or what that first story idea was? A huge thank you, first of all, for reading and talking about my work! And I don’t mind writing questions at all, so let’s get into it. I’m one of the weirdos that has kind of always wanted to be a writer. Some of my favorite early memories (like, when I was 6 and 7 or so) are of my dad and me making up stories together. He’d help me draw The Hobbit-style maps to go along with the stories–printed on continuous form paper of course (the printing paper with the perforated holy strips on the sides). I’d draw rudimentary character sketches. It was a whole thing, and it was a lot of fun. Both my parents (mostly my mom) also read to me frequently from a very young age, and that really got me into stories. As for my first story idea, well, it was Redwall fanfiction :-D. I was obsessed with the Redwall series by Brian Jacques as a kid, and it was probably around 11 or 12 that I decided to try writing my own story in that world.
*refuses to mention how she actually hasn’t read the Redwall series* Hey, I’m one of those weirdos, too, so no judgment. 😉 What’s a dream writing day (and environment) for you? What’s your typical writing day like? If they don’t completely overlap (and I’m guessing that they won’t) how do you continue writing and making progress even when you aren’t in your ideal setting? I’m fortunate in that I live out a version of my dream writing day on a regular basis. I attend a yearly retreat where all the writers get up, write all day long, eat dinner together, and then play board games (or write more) late into the night, and start the process over again the next day, keeping that up for about a week’s time. I get SO much done at these retreats; the positive peer pressure of other writers getting stuff done in the same room or house as me works wonders, and I’ll write about 7-10k words a day that way. That said, I wouldn’t say no to a day of solo writing in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives, you know? That sounds pretty perfect to me. As far as typical writing days go, here’s the general idea: I usually aim to get up pretty early, around 5 or 5:30 (I’ve found I’m most productive either late at night or early in the morning, and mornings have just been easier lately). My goal is to get in a solid chunk of writing, minimum 1000 words, ideally closer to 2000, before 7:30ish. Then I have breakfast with my family and hang out with my girls for a while, which is a nice break and helps me recharge a bit. Then I go back to work until I hit my daily minimum of 2k. If it’s going really well, I’ll push for more, but if it’s not, I’ll usually end up taking another break or two during the day for a walk, a video game, or something else that helps me mentally recharge for a bit. Afternoons are more often than not for emails and social media stuff, errands, reading, or devoting time to future projects. While my daily schedule maybe isn’t my “dream” schedule, it’s perfect for me in other ways. My dream schedule of writing doesn’t actually allow for much else besides writing, and thus isn’t sustainable for extended periods of time (like, more than a week). Getting exercise, playing video games, reading, interacting with others, and especially spending time with my family are actually all important parts of my process, too. They keep me recharged, grounded, and sane.
I’m truly salivating at your schedule right now (is that weird to say?). That sounds incredible. But I also like how you mentioned that living life is also integral to the writing process. I don’t think we talk about that enough. What’s it like to write on a deadline, after becoming agented and then getting your series picked up? Any advice on how to navigate that? Deadlines are…great? I don’t know, the truth is I wish I could say I work more efficiently when I have a deadline, but I’m not sure that’s true. I was the type of person that wrote essays and term papers the night before they were due without fail all through college, and while I usually got them in on time, and got decent grades on them, they were rarely actually good, you know? Deadlines didn’t help me in college in that sense, and I think it’s accurate to say they don’t help me as a writer in that sense, either. I mean, if nothing else, yes, I’ll usually get the book turned in on time, but I’m much more concerned with writing stuff of quality than I was in college, and that means I need to be a bit more disciplined and in a lot of ways push the deadline out of my mind and just let myself work through my process. It’s a balancing act between working hard and writing every day, as well as taking breaks and letting stories and characters and plot points marinate and unravel (forgive my mixed metaphor, but both ways of looking at it are accurate). Controlled procrastination is my friend, believe it or not.
Interesting. Honestly, I’d be pretty curious to see if writers in general tend to have a similar approach to you or how they differ. I’m so curious how published writers handle deadlines not because she’s already nervous trying to meet her own that don’t even exist yet *laughs until she cries*. Last I read in your blog, you were recently putting the finishing touches on Fear the Stars, book four in your Chaos Queen quintet, while also drafting the first round of Dawnrise, the final installment. Yet you also hinted at starting to work on a new series (!!). I would love to know how you balance so many projects at once, but particularly how you write in two completely different series “at the same time,” so to speak. While it may seem like I’m working on a bunch of projects simultaneously, the truth is I do still keep them pretty compartmentalized. To clarify my timeline: from around November of 2018 until February of 2019, I was working on a new project, and got about 40,000 words into the first novel of that trilogy. I did some outlining and story breaking for Dawnrise after that until I got revision notes from my editor for Fear the Stars, and then spent a couple weeks editing that book and getting it ready for publication. Now, since the beginning of April, I’ve been working pretty exclusively on Dawnrise. So, in short, I find working on multiple projects to be both helpful and enjoyable. Brandon Sanderson has mentioned multiple times how he will often work on different projects to “take a break” from one of his other projects, and I’ve found the same applies for me. Instead of taking a month off of writing, if I just switch to a different project–especially if it’s a different part of the process in that project–it has more or less the same effect as taking a break. I do still generally work on one project at a time for at least a couple weeks at a time, if that makes sense. I’m not currently in a position, nor do I think it would be helpful, to try to work on multiple things per day. My brain has enough trouble focusing as it is, and giving it more options (look at all the shiny new things!) won’t help that. I did mention above that sometimes afternoons are reserved for “other projects,” but that pretty exclusively refers to either research or light worldbuilding, not actual drafting.
I think I need to try that “take a break on a different project approach.” It sounds appealing. Speaking of a new series, can you share anything about it or is it still too early to tease your readers with that sort of knowledge? Well…to which new series would you be referring? I’ve got a couple things on the docket. Not sure what, if anything, will come of them, but I’m excited about them all ;-)! But you’re probably referring specifically to my artificial intelligence trilogy, as that’s the one I’ve been vocal about. And, my apologies, but I can’t tell you much at the moment. I’ll leave it at this, for now: it’s a post-apocalyptic epic fantasy superhero trilogy with magic, monsters, nanotech, artificial intelligence, and some really weird narrative stuff that I think is fun but may or may not make it in to the final drafts, haha. We’ll see. Personally, I think it’s awesome, but hopefully you won’t have to take my word for it for much longer. *stutters at the tease at the beginning of that answer and already starts clearing off her bookshelf for more Husberg novels* Um, yeah, I’d totally read the hell out of that. What’s the biggest writing roadblock you’ve encountered and how to do you combat it? Hum. There are a lot of ways I could respond to this. Depression? Life circumstances? Laziness? Children? Grocery shopping? My brain will allow itself to be distracted by anything from the very serious to the excruciatingly mundane. I used to get frustrated by this and hope for the day when “all my distractions would be gone” or something? But I’ve since accepted that there will always be distractions, so I might as well just always be writing through them, and willing to change and adapt my schedule, rituals, and routines accordingly. That attitude helps a lot, honestly. And, while I try to write every (week)day, I do miss days on occasion. That used to upset me, too, but I think those days can be just as important for me as a day where I write 10,000 words. It isn’t just that my brain needs a break sometimes, although that’s part of it. Sometimes my brain actually needs time to work something out without writing through it for a day or two, and once I do figure it out, I’m much more productive.
Gosh, I relate to this a lot. Thanks for sharing that! You wrote a really awesome blog series about your journey to become published, wanting to pay it forward to other inspiring authors (like me, who really loved that series). What inspired that pay-it-forward mentality? Hey! I remember writing those. I still intend to finish that series one day, haha. I think I only got through, like, a third of the journey I intended to write! One of the things I truly love about the writing community is the sense of fellowship and good will. You’ll always find a few curmudgeon’s out there (and, on rare occasion, worse), but for the most part I am so grateful for how kind and generous writer-folk can be. I am where I am because people helped me get here; in a world where literally anyone can publish a novel, that kind of help is more important than ever to help good books make it to the forefront. A specific example: taking Brandon’s class in college was immensely helpful. Brandon still teaches that class, for what I’m sure is the equivalent of chump change for him, but he does it to help young writers. While I don’t have nearly the platform that Brandon has, I try to do the same in my own spheres. I want to help all kinds of voices with important stories to tell to find an audience. People helped me, and I want to help others.
Thanks for inspiring me with all of your writing knowledge—and reminding me how much I want to take that class . *pauses from taking copious amounts of notes* Now, let’s focus on your books for a second. The fourth novel, Fear the Stars, comes out June 4th (UK) and June 18th (US) this year. What are you most excited about? SO MANY THINGS. This book contains a number of scenes and sequences that have been lurking in my brain since the Chaos Queen Quintet’s genesis. I’ve been working towards these scenes for four books, now, and it was really gratifying to finally put them on the page. Also, I won’t go into specifics, but book 4 is the end of the road for a character or three. I really love/hated writing those parts.
All that said, I’m still super pumped for book 5. Some of the sequences in book 4 might be my favorite of the series, but I’m very excited about the ending and everything that leads up to it, too. Basically, I have a lot of fun and invest a lot of emotion and mental energy while writing this series–which I think is usually a good sign from a writer. Shit, I am so nervous, now! Especially for a certain child vampire and lovable broken man… Was the Chaos Queen series always planned to be a quintet? What influenced that ultimate decision? It wasn’t always a quintet. After I wrote the first draft of Duskfall, the novel clearly required sequels, and my general ideas for the series made me think it would probably take more than three books. I didn’t settle on five until after I signed with my agent and we started shopping Duskfall around to publishers. He asked me to come up with a general series outline and to decide how many books we should pitch in the series, and five seemed as good a number as any, honestly. I knew it would take more than three, and I figured I didn’t want to start out with a HUGE series, so five seemed a happy medium. Now that I’m writing book 5–which will definitely be the last book in the actual series, by the way (there’s room for standalone novels in the Chaos Queen universe, but this will be the end of this major apocalyptic arc)–I’m very happy with that number. I think it’s exactly the space I needed to give the series an awesome, satisfying ending.
That’s awesome. I’m so glad you were able to have the room you needed to tell this story! You mentioned in another blog post how you’ve felt a lot of growth in your writing, as you’ve worked on this series. Was it simply the act of writing more words that helped you improve or did you actively seek out specific areas you knew you wanted to focus on? The act of writing more words certainly had a lot to do with it. That said, when I was writing book 2 in the Quintet, I realized one of my major weaknesses as a writer was structure. I understood a lot of core structure principles intuitively, because I’d read a lot of books and consumed a lot of stories, but intuition wasn’t enough as I dove into a five-book epic fantasy series. So over the past few years I’ve spent significant time studying various concepts of outlining, structure, and general story form. That’s helped me understand the reasoning behind my intuition, and use those tools more effectively and purposefully when I’m telling a story. That’s all particularly come in handy as I’m wrapping up the series. Also, it’s been fun to play around and experiment with structure while writing the series. (Tiny easter egg: if you pay attention to each of the section titles in each of the five books, for example, you might notice one of the structural patterns I’ve been working with in the CQQ.)
Anyway, I think I need to be doing a number of things to improve as a writer:
Writing, first and foremost, obviously. Purposeful practice.
Reading, both in my genre and outside of it (whether that’s romance novels, research, celebrity autobiographies, or something else altogether).
Being conscious of story consumption in general. I love movies, for example, and I see as many films as I can (RIP MoviePass). I don’t always consciously analyze a film I’ve just seen, but I’ve noticed my mind looks for aspects of storytelling automatically, now, and just being conscious of that helps me work through problems in my own stories sometimes.
Working on specific aspects of the craft. Structure has been a big one for me over the past few years, but I’ve also spent smaller amounts of time working on things like fight/action scenes, magic systems, and dialog. Interestingly, I’ve started focusing more on voice and unique character portrayal recently, which incidentally were things I considered to be some of my strengths as a writer when I wrote Duskfall. So I’ve come full circle in a way, and am back to working on something I once thought I was pretty decent at. That seems appropriate, though, and pretty normal in the process of improving.
*pulls out a new piece of paper, to take more notes* In connection to that, as you see yourself grow as a writer, how do you still remain proud of past published books, even after you look back and can recognize areas you might want to improve?
Interesting question. I just…do? Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. I mean, in one sense I try not to think about it, haha. There are parts of Duskfall I love, but as I’ve been rereading and preparing to write Dawnrise, there are other parts that, quite honestly, make me cringe a little. Not that they’re bad, necessarily, but that I just know better, now, or I can see better ways to deal with certain story problems. I guess the most important thing here is for me to be pretty forgiving of my past self. I was just learning, after all. Five years from now I’ll (hopefully) still be learning, and will likely look back at Dawnrise with the same mixed emotions. As I mentioned above, that seems pretty normal and appropriate in the learning process, so I need to give myself that leeway and be proud of what I’ve done while simultaneously looking forward to the greater things I can do next. And maybe that’s the key–instead of worrying about what I’ve already published, I try to look forward toward future projects. Here’s hoping every creative manages to do that, because that’s not a small feat to accomplish. What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked during an interview, yet never had the chance to answer? Please answer it here! A crossbow, an tactical shotgun, a katana, and, I don’t know, probably Captain Marvel, if you’ll allow it. (You only asked me to answer the question, so…) …… Touché. (And I will allow it.)
Anything else you’d like to share with fans or want readers to know? I mean, if you’re a fan or a reader of my books, you’re awesome! THANK YOU SO MUCH! Finally, how can readers best support you? Well, to quote Sam Sykes: BuY mY bOoK! (Or bookS, in this case.) That said, there are a lot of other things you can do to help me, or any writer of your preference. Leaving reviews, on Amazon and Goodreads, can be huge. Telling a friend about books you love is awesome, too, as is talking about them in general–in person, or recommending a book on Facebook or Reddit, or however it comes up. Word of mouth gets things done in this business! Also, if you happen to know any film or TV producers, send them my way! But really, there are a LOT of worthy books out there. If you happen to pick up mine, I’m very grateful. <3 Thanks so much for stopping by, Chris!
Chris currently lives in Provo, Utah, where he spends his time writing, reading, writing, hiking, writing, playing video games, and hanging out with his wife, Rachel, and daughter, Buffy. When the writing gets tough, he considers resorting to another master’s degree, or heaven forbid a PhD, at whatever university will let him concentrate on gender and pop-culture studies in the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer…but then he remembers how much he loves what he does, and writes some more.
Remember when I mentioned that I was going to try something different, posting an interview with the wonderfully talented Jenn Lyons? Well, I found that I really enjoy doing interviews, so that might become a more regular feature here.
Like, today’s post, for example.
I’m really happy to post my latest interview this morning–this time, with the fantastically brilliant Rowenna Miller, author of Torn and the upcoming release, Fray, which comes out in LESS THAN A WEEK.
But, you’re not here to listen to me ramble, so let’s get right to it.
Thanks for agreeing to stop by my corner of the internet, Rowenna! Warmest welcome, to start! Would you mind starting off by telling me how long have you been writing and what sparked your interest in the first place? I don’t remember not loving books or wanting to be involved in the magic of making books. I wrote picture books as a small child; I dabbled in novels in high school. But what shifted me toward writing “for serious” was the recession. I had my first post-college job, and my hours were cut. I figured I might as well invest that extra day a week into something I cared deeply about, and I turned back toward writing. That’s awesome you were able to turn a negative, like cut hours, into something more positive. That’s not an easy thing to do. I have a lot of writers who follow my blog, so I’m always keen to gather writing advice, especially for those writers still trying to break into the business. Would you mind sharing your publication journey, highlighting any tips you discovered (or wish you knew) along the way? My tip: Always be writing “the next thing.” That’s been my biggest lesson, and it comes from having trunked multiple manuscripts! Whenever I set out to query a project, I started writing the next thing. In a kind of unusual situation, I signed with my agent on an incomplete manuscript—I had queried her with a project she didn’t think she could sell, but when she asked “Are you writing something new?” I was. And she loved how that sounded, so we signed. When I went out on sub for the first time, I started writing something new. The first subbed novel didn’t sell. The project I started while out on sub became Torn. It’s pragmatic, because if you want to make a career out of writing, there’s going to always need to be a Next Thing. It’s also the best sanity-saver in the world. You write something, you’re in love with it, it’s the book of your heart…and the icky truth is that no matter how wonderful it is, it may not make it to publication. You have to be writing something new to fall in love with.
Such an awesome reminder—or new lesson, for those who might not have heard that tip before. Thank you for sharing that! In Torn, I immediately felt drawn into the world from the first page (seriously), thanks to how real the setting felt, the voice you spoke in and how we’re just thrown in headfirst. How did you create such a compelling first chapter that refuses to let go? Thank you! The first chapter was rewritten multiple times, but the first line—Sophie asserting her ethics with a prospective client—never was. It was important to me that the reader get a glimpse into Sophie’s worldview, ethics, and personality right away, not only because these things become very important in the course of the plot, but because for me and for this story in particular, the setting was all seen through her eyes. She’s your guide, so I wanted the reader to connect first to her, and then to the city she calls home through how she experiences it. For me, centering the characters clears the path for how the rest of the writing will go—having “people-centric worldbuilding” in a sense. Gosh, I love that. I guess I didn’t realize how character-centered that beginning was, but the way you describe how you did it, makes so much sense. *scrambles away to take notes* Speaking of Sophie, I absolutely loved her and felt like I connected to her, rooting for her the entire way. In fact, I thought all of your characters were really fleshed out and made me feel some sort of reaction towards them. Any tips on writing a cast of fully-dimensional, yet each personally distinct, characters? One thing I really believe (in fiction and in life) is that everyone is the protagonist of their own story (even if they don’t realize it—and I’ve had a character or two who doesn’t!). So even if they appear for two pages to sell the actual protagonist of your book some fish fillets for dinner, in their head, they’re the Fishmonger Hero of the West End. They all have goals, they all have obstacles to those goals, and your protagonist might be someone who’s helping them, hindering them, or just set dressing. When I folded in the political elements of this story, that took on a whole new element (and doubles down in Fray!), that all those characters have an angle they’re playing in one way or another. As for developing the character traits of my cast, I don’t tend to do many worksheets or brainstorming sketches, but I do let the characters talk to one another a lot. Dialogue in my early drafts tends to ramble and get pared down—sometimes edited out even before I move on to writing the next scene—but it lets me dig at my characters’ personalities and reactions and flesh out the trends that keep them unique and distinctive. And as you’re seeing characters frequently through dialogue, I tend to pay attention to speech patterns and how those reveal character, too.
Fishmonger Hero of the West End. Is it weird I’d honestly read a book about that character? An element that I loved was how you tackled writing romance. It played a factor, but it didn’t distract or take over from the story. In fact, I was just as invested in the revolution plotline as I was with Sophie’s romance (and I usually deter into romanceland pretty quickly, personally, my cares for the main plot dwindling). Was this a purposeful balancing act or did writing the two simply come together? It was definitely intentional, and part of the overall outlook I had in writing. One thing that I love about a lot of, especially more recent, fantasy and sci-fi is how the main “quest” or “goal” or “giant epic space battle” is intertwined with personal relationships and a web of responsibilities and goals. I don’t want to be too overarching or to stereotype, but I feel like the influx of women and nonbinary folks writing genre fiction has been a fantastic influence on this element of story, because we’ve been embracing for years that we have this giant challenge in our lives, to balance all these elements. We talk about “work/life” balance a LOT. We live balancing acts every day, so it feels inauthentic to write stories where any one identity completely wipes out the others. So of course I’ve got a small business owner with a strained family life and a budding relationship and, oh right, a potentially violent political coup happening outside her door because that’s life for most of us (except hopefully the violent coup part…).
I didn’t look at it as a balancing act, but that makes a lot of sense. Whoa. What is your favorite aspect about writing? Opposite, what’s the most difficult challenge? I love just sitting down and drafting. I’m rarely intimidated by a blank page; it’s an invitation to fill it up with literally anything. I enjoy the development of revision, and even the nitpicking of copy edits (you get to internally debate about hyphen use and whether to repeat a word—does it get any better for word nerds?!?). Honestly, the part I don’t love is self-promo. I feel like I’m a poser who’s trying too hard or, alternately, a slacker who isn’t trying hard enough. Fortunately, everyone agrees that writing the book—and then writing another one, and another!—is more important than promotion 😉 Haha, as someone who personally always fights against herself about hyphen usage (and the hyphen always wins), I definitely understand where you’re coming from, here! As a reader who doesn’t know how to sew, at all *hides*, I was surprised how the elements of Sophie’s charmcasting didn’t seem too jargon-y or over-my-head. How did you make it so inviting for readers who might not connect with Sophie’s talent? I’m relieved to hear that the story appealed to non-sewists as well! It’s kind of a general worldbuilding conundrum that a fantasy world (or historical world or sci fi world or pretty much any world other than that in which the reader lives) is going to have terms, concepts, plenty of stuff right down to food that’s unfamiliar to the reader—but depicting the world authentically hinges on including those new things. In this particular case, there were a lot of sewing concepts and types of clothing, and I used the old, tried and true ways of introducing new vocab many writers have deployed before me—using the word alongside synonyms and descriptions to familiarize the reader without slowing the narrative for it and folding the concepts into action that’s actually imperative to the storyline itself.
Well, this non-sewist appreciates how you managed that, because nothing is more off-putting than not being able to understand the jargon. Speaking of your novels, I am ridiculously excited about Fray, coming out June 4th. It’s the “dreaded sophomore novel,” as some coin second novels. Did you experience any sophomore syndrome writing it and, if you did, how did you combat it? One thing that really helped in this area was that I had a fairly long road to get to the first published novel, so I’ve been pretty used to diving into the next thing. Fortunately (fingers crossed!) I didn’t bog down in terms of the drafting or revision of the book itself. But expectations change. I think the big shift when you’re looking at published work is that suddenly the stakes in terms of “do people like this?” feel more immediate. They’re not actually more immediate when you’re drafting, but they feel that way because you’re getting tagged in people’s GoodReads reviews of your first book and maybe ruminating too much about trade reviews. I have to remind myself to put a cork in those concerns. I wish you luck in being able to block out those concerns whenever they arise! I can’t imagine that is easy at all. What are you most excited about in Fray? The action in Torn takes place entirely in Galitha City, but Fray takes Sophie (and the reader) out of the city and into other regions of Galitha and abroad. World building—and showing Sophie engaging with new places and people—was such fun, and I hope readers enjoy the travels. There are also new characters who are absolute scene stealers and had to be actively restrained from taking over the entire book for their own stories. Oooh, I am so excited that we get to travel and see more of the world! You introduced a few different types of charmcasting in Torn: through sewing, singing and through music. Will we get to see any new types of magic in Fray? Without giving away any spoilers, to some degree, yes, there is more exploration of magic in Fray. Sophie in Torn doesn’t really understand much of how or why casting works; in Fray she’s forced to dig in a bit more.
*intrigue intensifies* Because I always want to see cinematic adaptations of all my favorite books, I have to ask: if Unraveled Kingdom ever got optioned for the screen, do you have any dream castings? I am TERRIBLE at these questions, ha—mostly because I can never keep up on who’s who in the acting world and my answers are like twenty years out of date 😛 Mind if I skip? OR—you tell me 😀 Oh gosh, I was not prepared for you to throw that back my way. I mean, I’m always looking for excuses to cast Idris Elba or Kate Beckinsale, but I’m not sure if either of them would fit, honestly. We’re reaching the end-stretch, here. What’s a question you’ve always wished you could have been asked during an interview, yet haven’t yet? Please answer it here! There’s obviously a lot of historical influence in Torn and Fray, but it’s certainly not a perfect analogue to any particular historical place or time. I haven’t ever been asked to speak to that—I think too much nitpicking as to “what comes from where” can derail enjoying your reading, but for fun, some clarification—it’s not 100% eighteenth century France! Though there’s a French Revolution feel, there are some big departures. I don’t establish the Church as a major player; there’s definitely a lot of Georgian British (and especially London street life) influence. A big thing is the fear of rioting and the exploration of potential political change without open revolution, which is in many ways the arc of British domestic policy in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. That’s so interesting, because I totally would have guessed France to be the major influencer. I love that it’s more of a blend! Anything else you’d like to speak to fans about or want readers to know? SFF fans, hang onto your hats—I feel like we’re in an exciting age of fiction right now! Can I just gush and recommend all the GREAT work out there right now that challenges genre assumptions, plays with language and tropes in such fun ways, and opens up new worlds to readers? Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand, Tade Thompson’s Rosewater, Melissa Caruso’s Tethered Mage, RJ Barker’s Age of Assassins, HG Parry’s The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heap, Alex White’s Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, Alexandra Rowland’s A Conspiracy of Truths…I keep running across readers who have this “ugh, fantasy is all white dudes on medieval quests and sci fi is all white dudes having space battles” mentality and CATS AND KITTENS! Not so! There is literally not enough time to read all of the gorgeous new stuff out there.
I am so glad I’ve read (and by read, I mean devoured) most of those novels, but my TBR is apparently not safe around you. Duly noted. 😉 Finally, where can people connect with you and buy your books? In what ways can readers support you? You can find Torn and pre-order Fray anywhere you like to buy books—which includes your local indie, and of course Amazon. TORN FRAY Website Twitter Facebook Sign up for Newsletter (to get the latest updates (plus sometimes I give stuff away!) Thank you so much for taking the time and allowing me to pick your brain a little bit. It’s been a sincere pleasure and I wish you the best of luck on your next writing adventure! Thank you so much for having me!
And there you have it!
Seriously, it was such a pleasure to talk with Rowenna, who was kind enough to let me pick her brain after I was truly floored by Torn. I cannot wait to read the sequel, which comes out NEXT TUESDAY. Pre-order it now or ask your local library if they have it ordered. Because trust me: this is a series you want on your shelves. 🙂
I hope you’re doing good on this Monday evening. Today’s post is a little different for me, but I’m still pretty excited about it.
It’s an unboxing post!
What does that mean? Well, it’s not your typical subscription box unboxing, where you show off all the items you got inside the box. I actually don’t subscribe to any of those boxes and don’t know too much about any of them, either. Mostly because I know myself and I know if I got interested in one and subscribed, my wallet would never survive. And I need my wallet to survive.
Instead, I received a special Legacy of Heavens box. It was created by Wunderkind to help spread the word about Tina Lecount Myers’ series by the same title. Receiving the box in the mail was really cool and I can definitely see why people subscribe to subscription boxes in the first place. It’s a lot of fun to open up a box of goodies while you ignore the pile of bills you just received.
But I think the story of how the box even came to me is almost just as cool.
You see, I was catching up on blog posts, as one does on a Sunday afternoon, when I stumbled across a book review for The Song of All by Tina Lecount Myers. And it sounded really good, so I wrote that in the comments. Then, a few days later, I get an email from someone in the PR department of Wunderkind, asking if I’d like to receive the same Legacy of Heavens box that blogger received, since I was interested in the series! Those kinds of things don’t happen to me, so I was pretty stoked about it.
So, what was in the box?
Let me show you:
The box itself was large and green, so I was already excited to open it, as I usually don’t receive mail like that. (Even my Mom–who gets my packages currently, thanks to the sketchy neighborhood I live in and their track record of lost packages–texted me after it arrived and was like, “What is this?”)
So, I open it and discover a mask of purple, hiding the goodies inside. I wasn’t very patient, and quickly unfolded the paper, though careful not be too rough, as I didn’t want to break one of the items I knew to be inside (my second favorite item, honestly).
First up is an awesome bookmark that matches the cover of the second book, plus two pieces of Finish candy (as this series is based off of indigenous Scandinavian folklore), which, spoiler: were delicious.
Next is a handwritten note with a personalized tarot card! I’ve never really been into tarot decks myself, but I still couldn’t get over how cool (and gorgeous) this was.
Then (one of the items I was looking forward to the most), there was a wonderful candle, with scents reminiscent of the Finnish forest. And it.smells.fantastic.
Finally, the items I was most excited about: the books! I was lucky enough to receive both books in the series currently: the first, The Song of All and then the recently-released sequel, Dreams of the Dark Sky. They sound super interesting and I’m really excited to read them!
For my first ever book box package, I thought this was really incredible! It’s a really fun way to promote this series and definitely helped amp up my excitement for it. My sincere thanks to Wunderkind and the author for sending me this package. Stay tuned for my reviews of these books, hopefully over the summer!
It’s my ultimate pleasure to welcome author Gareth L. Powell to my little corner of the internet today to share some of his wisdom and insight on writing–specifically, what it’s like to write a second book in a trilogy, which Powell just did with his most recent release, Fleet of Knives, sequel to the stellar Embers of War, both from Titan Books. If you don’t know Powell from his awesome books, you probably know him from his super positive presence on the internet, constantly helping out others with advice and encouragement.
So, let’s see what wisdom he has to share for you all today, eh?
The second book is often the hardest. If the first book was well-received, the second has to live up to it, while also turning everything else up a notch and laying the groundwork for the third instalment. The trouble is, because the second book is a bridge between the conflicts of the first and third books, it can be in danger of being boring. The reader knows nothing is at stake, because the final conflict will take place in the third book. The second is all about bringing all the pieces into place for that final conflict. Or is it? My formula for a trilogy is that the first book sets up the characters and their world; the second book turns everything upside down; and the third creates a new world comprised of elements of the first and second. Think of the original Star Wars trilogy: the first introduces Luke, Vader and so on. The second takes everything we thought we knew and changes it: Obi Wan was a liar, Vader is Luke’s father, the Rebellion loses. And then the third episode shows Luke coming to terms with this new reality and forging a new identity based on this new information—to the point where the young farm boy becomes enough like his father to go up against the Emperor but retains enough of his former self not to fall to the dark side. It all sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? But the second book is the author’s opportunity to really make his characters suffer. Everything they thought they knew can be called into question, and the true horror of what they’re facing can be revealed. By the end of the second book, the reader should be wondering how the hell these people are going to triumph in the end, as everything seems so hopeless and desperate.
This approach gives the trilogy the appearance of a sine wave. The plot starts in the middle, rises slightly at the end of the first book, and then plunges down in the second, only to rise again in the third. Second books are also great places to expand upon beloved characters. To reveal greater depth and make us care more about them, so we’ll really be rooting for them in the final conflict.
In Fleet of Knives, the second volume of the Embers of War trilogy, I present my characters with the unforeseen consequences of their actions in the first book. Something that seemed like a good thing turns out to be very, very bad. Plus, I introduce a new threat that has only previously been hinted at and turn one of the characters against the rest. (I’m trying very hard not to give too much away here). So, if you’re one of the people who fell for the good ship Trouble Dog and her misfit crew in Embers of War, you’re going to find out a lot more about them in Fleet of Knives—but you’re also going to see them struggling against bigger and nastier challenges as we meet some new characters, visit some new and weird locations, and finally start to comprehend the nature of the twin threats facing the Generality of Humankind.
GARETH L. POWELL is a speculative fiction author from the UK. He has won the BSFA Award for Best Novel and been shortlisted for the Seiun Awards in Japan. His novels and novellas have been published in the UK and US by Solaris, Titan Books, and Tor.com Publishing.
His short fiction has appeared in Interzone, Clarkesworld, and Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction, and his story ‘Ride The Blue Horse’ was a finalist for the 2015 BSFA Award.
Gareth was born and raised in Bristol, UK, and was once fortunate enough to have Diana Wynne Jones critique one of his early short stories over coffee. Later, he went on to study creative writing under Helen Dunmore at the University of Glamorgan.
Gareth has run creative writing workshops and given guest lectures at UK universities, been a guest speaker at the Arvon Foundation in Shropshire, and given talks about creative writing at various literature festivals around the country.
His nonfiction book About Writing is an essential field guide for aspiring authors.
Gareth has also written for The Guardian, The Irish Times, 2000 AD, and SFX. He has written scripts for corporate training videos, and is currently at work on a screenplay.
He still lives near Bristol and is represented in all professional matters by Alexander Cochran of the C&W literary agency. Fleet of Knives is out now from Titan Books. You can find Gareth on Twitter and his website.
Hello, dear readers!
I’m really excited to bring something a little different to the blog today (if you enjoy it, please let me know so I can try and do it more often). The title gives the post away, so I won’t waste too much time blabbering except to formally say I’m very lucky and even more honored to host fantasy author Jenn Lyons to my site today! She was kind enough to humor me and answer all my questions (upon which I had many) after I was lucky enough to finish reading an ARC of her novel. Her debut, The Ruin of Kings, was published from Tor Books on February 5th, 2019 (or YESTERDAY, if you’re reading when this interview went live) and it positively blew me away.
If you’ve read the book, you know how incredible it is. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. Either way, feel free to take five minutes and get to know the brains behind the next fantasy powerhouse series a little better below!
Thanks for agreeing to stop by my corner of the internet, Jenn! Warmest welcome, to start. Would you mind starting off by telling me how long have you been writing? Hello! It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, mostly little stories, backgrounds for my various RPG characters, stuff like that. My mother used to tell me that I never wrote on the walls, because I far preferred the paper quality of the family bible (woops). I wrote my first novel over twenty years ago (why yes, it was indeed terrible), and began seriously pursuing this idea of being a writer six years ago. You know, the traditional overnight success story. I personally think it’s so inspiring to read about someone who isn’t an overnight success, even if it could potentially be portrayed that way. How long have you had Kihrin’s story inside your head? What inspired it or how did you come up with such a riveting and heartbreaking story? Almost twenty years. Even though a lot of details about the book has changed, his history has never budged. I admit that some of that is because my own history informed his, at least from the sense that I pushed a lot of my own heartache and frustration with my family–and discovering I had an entire extended family I knew nothing about–into his character. (Less so on the prophecies, magic, and dragons, obviously.) I was definitely hoping you were going to confess that dragons were your main real life inspiration. But I think the depth you mentioned above really shows in how real Kihrin’s own struggle feels. As a writer currently in the querying trenches, I’m curious about your own publication journey. Would you mind elaborating a little bit of how you got to debuting with an awesome agent and Tor? The process of finding an agent sometimes feels like trying to find a date to the prom where you’re only allowed to ask someone living in another country using nothing but postcards. In this case, a friend of mine chanced upon a bio of my agent, Sam Morgan, while researching agents to query herself. She immediately insisted I blind-query him, and I did, assuming there was no way he could possibly be interested. A funny thing happened though: because I had nothing to lose and an entirely fatalistic view of my chances, I broke from my normal formal style of query and wrote something irreverent and humorous which was quite authentically ‘me’. And that’s what caught his attention. The rest of it I can lay firmly at Sam’s feet. He’s the one who brought me to Tor’s attention. Let me tell you, I’m glad I was near a couch when I got that phone call, or I’d have ended up on the floor.
Thank you so much for sharing that with me. That honestly gave me a lot of hope (and, on a personal level, having loved your book, I’m really grateful to you, Sam and your friend). On an unrelated note, are you taking applications for apprentices to be mentored by your writing genius, and if so, where I can apply? You flatterer! Although I might protest that ‘genius’ label, truthfully I would love to mentor and teach more. Currently I’m slated to teach a workshop on the use of humor in grim fantasy at the Tucson Festival of Books in March. I’m really looking forward to it. Good luck at the festival! That sounds rad. Okay, so your writing style. The intricate way in which you wove together three narratives but didn’t confuse the reader. How you expertly revealed information from Kihrin’s perspective that was mirrored or matched perfectly in the next chapter from Talon’s. I just…how did you do that? How did you approach that, writing wise? What made you want to write it this way? The very first draft of the book didn’t have that at all! It was a straight linear story and…it felt very generic to me. We’ve all read that book. It’s not a bad book, but I didn’t need to write it again. So I started from scratch and decided on this particular narrative framework, and once I did, everything fell into place. Over the years, a lot of people tried to talk me out of using this approach. Fortunately, I never paid a lick of attention to them. I am so glad you went with your gut on that. And seriously impressed you had the bravery to start writing again from scratch. Alright, let’s mix it up. Which dragons do you prefer to fight: those in Skyrim or those in Dragon Age? I have a confession: I’ve never played Dragon Age. Which I realize is heretical and wrong, not just because I realize the storytelling is amazing, but because I used to work for Bioware’s sister company, Pandemic. Someday I’ll rectify this grievous error. When I have time to play video games again.
Ah, that was also my bad to assume you’ve played it. I hope you do get the time to play it at one point, because I’d love to hear some of your reactions on some of the story arcs of various characters. Within The Ruin of Kings, being trapped–or the feeling of being trapped–felt like a theme throughout your book. Was that purposeful and can you speak more about that, if it is? That was a theme that gradually evolved into the work, just as the discussion of consent issues gradually evolved. I didn’t start out with those themes in mind. I started out with ‘ooh, a thief, and this part needs a dragon, and what about a necromancer?’ but I think part of the process for me as a writer is paying attention to and exploring what the work is trying to tell me. For Kihrin, imprisonment was quite a big deal, which seems obvious in hindsight. I love how organically those themes came out from the story and that actually makes a lot of sense. Another fun one, next: your favorite dragon in fiction: who and why? Maleficent. Yes, I’m counting her as a dragon. She was my gateway dragon, so to speak. I was so enamored of her as a child that she shaped my love of dragons for ever after. Which probably wasn’t what Disney had in mind, but I was always an odd child.
*listening closely, you can hear me applauding Disney’s unintended consequences in the background* The second book, The Name of All Things, drops this year at the end of October (!!). How did we get so lucky to have two books from you in one year? Also, I heard rumors it’s a five book series. Please tell me these rumors are true.
Tor suggested (and I agreed) to a fairly aggressive release schedule, in part because I’m a fast writer and why make my readers wait if we don’t have to? So since the plan is to release the books roughly nine months apart, it all fell from the decision to release the first book in February. I’m so thrilled everyone’s going to have the second book by the end of the year. And yes, it is a five book series. I think I can speak confidently from your readers that we’re pretty stoked about this decision, so thank you! How do you balance being a videogame designer by day and a writer? Any advice for those who are still trying to make the dream of being published come true? Producer, not designer! (They’re different, I promise.) I’m currently taking a break from video game production to focus on the writing for a while. However, I did write the The Ruin of Kings when I was working full time. The secret was focus, by which I mean I had to make some sacrifices. If I had a choice between playing video games for an hour in the evening after work or knocking out a couple thousand words, I made the decision to pick the couple thousand words. I have known a lot of people who want to be writers but fill their lives up with excuses not to write–and while there is nothing wrong with that–at some point, you have to make a choice about priorities. I’m not saying it’s easy, but at the end of the day, no one becomes a writer until they figure out how to put the words down on the page. In whatever manner works for them. Also, writing sprints saved my life. The idea of sitting down and writing for the evening is daunting and easy to put off for another night for any number of entirely legitimate reasons. Instead, I told myself I was just sitting down to write for 30 minutes. And then 30 minutes more, after dinner. And another 30 minutes before bed. The Ruin of Kings was written 30 minutes at a time. My apologies, I definitely read “producer” on your bio and completely botched it in my question! Thank you for fixing that for me. 🙂 You’ve been compared to Sanderson and Rothfuss. I compared you to Scott Lynch, as well. But when people start comparing books to you in the upcoming years, saying, “Oh, this reads like Lyons” (and I have no doubt they will) what aspects of your writing or novel do you hope they highlight? What a good and frankly terrifying question. Besides extremely complicated family trees, I would like to think they’ll be referring to a combination of humor, worldbuilding, and pacing. And the death count. Dear god, but I do kill a lot of people.
Another fun, but potentially dreaded, question: I couldn’t help but think of how perfect your story would translate on screen. Do you have a dream casting? I don’t! Okay, there’s one exception, and you’ll probably laugh, but I always pictured Vin Diesel playing Thurvishar. Also, I want to cast Shohreh Aghdashloo as…someone…just because I love Shohreh Aghdashloo. Otherwise, if this ever comes to any screen I just have to cross my fingers, hope to do better than Ursula K. Le Guin did with the whitewashed television adaptation of Earthsea. More surprise than laughter, but I agree: if it does ever get adapted, I hope it stays true to your origins while adapting to the needs to cinema as a different medium. And I’d be willing to give Vin Diesel a shot to change my mind. 😉 What’s a question you wished you were asked during an interview but never have been? Please answer it here! Oh, I’m still quite new to this whole interview process, you know. Let’s come back to this one in a few years. *marks calendar for future release date interview* Duly noted. Anything else you wanted to speak about or want fans to know, but I didn’t already ask? Don’t wait for the series to finish to buy the first book. This doesn’t just speak for my own work, but for a lot of fantastic new authors out there. I see this comment a fair bit, usually with an explanation that the reader has been burned by authors who are taking years to finish the next book in a series. (And you know who I’m talking about. I don’t need to call anyone out.) While I get how crushing that disappointment can be (writers have died on us, after all), the economics of publishing are such that a reader who does this is betting on a sort of literary herd immunity. That enough other people buy the first book to guarantee profitability and thus sequels. If everyone does this? Then the series won’t be finished. And as much as I’d like to see an author complete a series they’ve been working on for years, I find it far more soul-crushing to know a fantastic series was dropped into a ditch because everyone was waiting for all the books to be released before they even started. Finally, where can people connect with you and buy your books? In what ways can readers support you during this debut year? MacMillian Publishers That’s the master link to pretty much every bookstore carrying The Ruin of Kings, from the big chains to local indie bookstores (who will also pre-order or custom order if asked.) And the main things readers can do to support any author, myself certainly included, (besides buying the books–THANK YOU!) is leave a review and talk about the book to their friends. Word of mouth is gold. Thank you so much for letting me interview you and pick your brain! It truly was a pleasure! Thank you for letting me ramble on. And thank you for that really lovely review, too.
About the Author:
Jenn Lyons’ childhood was spent in the safe havens of local libraries and bookstores, where even as her artistic talents began to develop she continued to nurture her love of science-fiction, fantasy, and noir detective stories. Being pale, not a friend of sunlight, and not much of a morning person, she set her sights on a career that would allow her to stay indoors or work at night (her favorite career pick was ‘cat burglar’) but she was devastated when she discovered that she would not, in fact, ever be able to marry Batman. Older but wiser, she turned from the life of a jewel thief to tackle a career as a graphic artist and illustrator, spending the next 20 years working in print media and advertising. The girl with too many hobbies (a list that included video games, table-top RPGs, LARPing, comic books, and costume design.) Jenn was irresistibly drawn to making things up storytelling.
After making a dramatic shift in careers from graphic artist to video game producer, Jenn Lyons began to seriously dedicate herself to writing.
Her debut epic fantasy novel, The Ruin of Kings, is scheduled for release from Tor Books on February 5, 2019. The second book, The Name of All Things, drops October 29, 2019.
Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, Michael Lyons (who is also a writer — and may or may not be Batman,) a bunch of cats, and a whole lot of coffee.
You can connect with Jenn at her website and Twitter.
Welcome to my second ever guest post! This time, it’s one of the ending posts helping to wrap up the last few days of Nick Setchfield’s blog tour over his debut novel (*throws celebratory balloons*), The War in the Dark. If you haven’t checked out the rest of the amazing posts on this massive tour, ahead over to Titan’s twitter and check them out! But, now that you’re on this stop, you get a really special treat that, if you’re an aspiring writer, you definitely don’t want to miss.
Getting inside the authors head and learning some awesome writing advice.
So, without further ado, here’s Nick Setchfield bequeathing some writing wisdom upon all of us! *fistpump*
FIVE THINGS I LEARNED WRITING THE WAR IN THE DARK Nick Setchfield
LET YOUR IDEAS MUTATE
The idea at the heart of The War in the Dark came to me a long time ago. I won’t tell you what it is because I ended up deploying it as a twist, not a premise, and it waits for you now like a primed and vicious bear-trap, somewhere in the shadows. That primal spark of an idea stayed constant even as everything else changed around it: characters, settings, time periods, even the storytelling media I had in mind for it. At first it was going to power a comic book series. And then an urban fantasy novel, relocated to contemporary New York. Over the years other takes, other spins, orbited that nucleus. And then the idea of making it the core of a ‘60s espionage tale finally freed it from my own, internal development hell. The context may have mutated out of all recognition but there’s a scene in the book that is, beat for beat, the first scene I ever thought of. So trust your ideas, but be prepared to let them evolve until they’re ready for the world. You’ll know when.
WRITING TIME IS A POCKET UNIVERSE I was convinced I would never have time to write. Or at least no time to write anything as time-eating as a novel (books are apex predators – step into that ocean and they will come for you like the sleek and ravenous beasts they are, sensing your life in the water…). As the features editor of SFX my daylight hours are filled with words. I’m writing my own and I’m commissioning the words of others. Ideas for novels would come to me but I’d persuade myself I’d be too exhausted to ever sit down and put them on the page. But then I began to wonder if that was an instinctive defence mechanism against trying (full disclosure – I’m fundamentally lazy and I believe idle pottering is the supreme state of human existence). So I tried. And I found the time, just where I’d left it, and I ring-fenced those hours, each evening, and I kept that appointment with the chair. And yes, there were nights when it was as knackering as I’d always feared. But that time existed, I learned. It was there. It’s always there, like a pocket universe, and it’s a precious, finite resource, the best you have. Carve it out of the day with machetes and flame-throwers if you must, but use it.
WISDOM IS CONTAGIOUS Writers love to give advice. But I don’t think it’s ego that drives that impulse. It’s a survival instinct for the species. In my day job I have the privilege of picking the brains of people I admire and sometimes, in the downtime after an interview, I’ve shamelessly asked for advice. And it’s been generously given, because writers are genetically hardwired to pass on the cleverness that was once passed on to them. Steven Moffat told me that the Doctor was the perfect narrative machine: he knows everything and dispenses exposition with so much charm that you never notice the gears moving beneath the script. But only Doctor Who stories have that gift of a character. What do the rest of us do? Look at Agatha Christie, said Moffat. Usually her final chapters are nothing but exposition. And by that point it’s an absolute banquet for the reader: they’ve been so starved of information that they pounce and they feast on every line of explanation that would have felt crushingly perfunctory in an earlier chapter. So ration exposition. Withhold exposition. Make the reader beg on their knees for exposition. That struck me as so simple, but so smart. And so I’m passing it on to you, now, for the continued good of the species.
YOUR CHARACTERS WILL ONLY TELL YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW There were times I seriously regretted trying to tell a story about spies. They are, by their very nature, insular, self-possessed characters. They watch and they process and they internalise and they do not make small talk at parties. Karina Lazarova, my co-hero, is even less inclined to casual chit-chat than Christopher Winter (from Chapter 15: It wasn’t a companionable silence and yet it wasn’t a cold one, either. She struck him as someone who chose to conserve conversation like oxygen). Before I began writing this book a friend of mine asked “So who’s your female lead?” And I could only say “I don’t know. I haven’t met her yet.” I wasn’t being cute. Even now she hasn’t even told me her real name. In fact Karina raised an elegantly dismissive eyebrow when I considered writing a full biography for her, as some writing guides insist you must. But I listened to her, very closely, and she told me what I needed to know, and she told me that was all that I needed to know. And then I knew what she had to say, and why she would say it. Some characters whisper their true selves through the cracks in their armour.
EVERYTHING YOU LOVE IS VOLTAGE James Bond. Indiana Jones. Harry Palmer. The films of Alfred Hitchcock. The dread-steeped stories of MR James. The soundtracks of John Barry. Ray Bradbury’s glorious word-grenades. The cobbles, mists and chattering wire-taps of Cold War espionage. The dog-eared nobility of airport paperback thrillers, with their creased spines and border-hopping plots. David Bowie’s spooky side. Emma Peel and Modesty Blaise and all their cool, deadly sisters. Fairytale woods. Haunted houses. Ghost trains. London, the French Riviera, the Skeleton Coast. The 1960s. All these things intoxicate me, and all of them made The War in the Dark. Inspirations are fuel, influences are electricity. What you love will power you.
About The Author
Nick Setchfield is a writer and features editor for SFX, Britain’s best-selling magazine of genre entertainment in film, TV and books. A regular contributing writer to Total Film, he’s also been a movie reviewer for the BBC and a scriptwriter for ITV’s Spitting Image. The War in the Dark is his first novel. He lives in Bath.
You can follow Nick on Twitter.