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This week I’m interrogating five different authors. Today, no doubt already remembering important business elsewhere is Jeff Salyards, author of The Bloodsounder’s Arc. The final book in that trilogy, Chains of the Heretic, is out now.

Hi Jeff, thanks for joining me.

JeffSalyards1. I always like to start with an easy question, and on this occasion I sought the input of our readers. It seems the question they most wanted to ask you is: Where do you live, and at what times of the day is your house usually left empty?

I’d tell you, but you would mostly find girls’ clothing and toys missing various pieces and parts, and your ankles would surely get bitten multiple times by a manic Jack Russell who takes defending home turf very seriously. There is very little there worth burgling.

Those incomplete toys are looking tempting, actually. I can match them up to the odd pieces and parts in my own son’s toy collection.

2. The Bloodsounder’s Arc is told from the perspective of Arki, a scribe in a role akin to that of an embedded journalist. Why did you choose him as your narrator, rather than, say, one of the battle-hardened warriors in the story?

I’m not totally into sub-genre taxonomy, but whether you tag Bloodsounder’s Arc as “grimdark” or “dark fantasy” or “fantasy where a lot of morally ambiguous characters scheme and kill each other in as many ingenious and devious ways as possible”, there tends to be a fair amount of violence and a high degree of badassery in those categories, and BA isn’t really an exception. But I wanted to pick a narrator who was a direct counterpoint to that—inexperienced, not comfortable with death/dying/bloodshed/intrigue, with sensibilities that didn’t jive with the military company/provocateurs he ends up riding with, and misgivings about his choices and the events that unfold.

The Syldoon are ruthless pragmatists, and while there is code, and loyalty to each Tower (i.e., faction), all bets are off when it comes to any other culture/region, and even to opposed Towers in the Empire. So there is no shortage or rough and tumble badasses in the books, but I felt it was important that not only was Arki not one, but that he found himself questioning everything he witnesses along the way (at least on the front end of the series). I wanted that tension and conflict, rather than just another battle-hardened warrior relaying what happened.

3. Chains of the Heretic is getting some cracking reviews. What would you say the secret is to finishing a series well? *takes notes*

Thanks. Though based on reviews of your stuff, I doubt you need much help from this quarter.

I’m not sure I know any secrets—I won’t be conducting any seminars any time soon, that’s for sure. But for me, a final volume is satisfying when it wraps up most of those dangling plot threads without it being too neat and tidy—there should be some mystery remaining, some doors left unchecked, some things unresolved, just not anything to do with the major plot points or character arcs.

Also (and again, this is just me talking, but you did ask me, so who else would it be?), but what I wanted most for the finale was Arki’s whole journey to be thrown in the spotlight. For most of the series, other more dynamic characters occupied center stage—even though Arki is the narrator, what he narrates often feels like everyone else’s story, as that was what he was sort of hired to do, among other things, and what he is good at by trade. But I wanted his story, his growth and development, to happen in plain sight, but like a magic trick, really subtly, so that you might not even have caught a lot of it even though it occurred right there in front of you.

I wanted the readers to get to the end and realize that in a lot of ways, it WAS his story, even if he didn’t go out of his way to record it that way.

Obviously, that isn’t general ending advice, except to say, I think the best character arcs are the ones that appear to occur naturally, rather than dictated by plot, and the last book is the place to give the conclusion to those arcs and stories some gravitas, or poignancy, or whatever the heck.

JeffSalyardsCovers4. You mention in another interview that you like classical and medieval history, and that your Syldoon warriors are based on the Mamluks from Egypt. If you were going to use some other element of history as inspiration for your world-building, what would it be?

What a great question. That I do not have a remotely great answer to. My new series is set in the suburbs of Chicago 30-some years in the future. So hardly Mesopotamia or ancient Somalia or centered on the Norte Chico civilization.

I don’t think there is anything inherently *wrong* with something that is analogous or vaguely inspired by medieval Western Europe. Plenty of great fiction takes familiar settings and tropes and does something original or unexpected with them. That said, I like to see writers take risks and draw inspiration from less recognizable locales and eras. Daniel Abraham, for instance, in The Long Price Quartet, created a world that clearly was inspired by culture far more eastern than western, and was really engaging and interesting because of it. Kameron Hurley routinely crafts settings that are unusual and as evocative as they are provocative. Norman Mailer used Egypt in Ancient Evenings decades ago, and did a fabulous job with it. I could go on and on—there are plenty of writers who dare to be different, and I totally dig that.

So if I end up writing another fantasy series that synthesizes some element of history, I would probably go for one that pulls from something wacky or unusual too. Though I have no idea what, right now, as my bandwidth is occupied with my new series. I can barely walk and chew bubble gum. This is just asking too much.

Careful, people will start claiming that men can’t do two things at the same time.

5. I understand that your publisher, Night Shade Books, collapsed during the release of your series and had to be rescued by another publisher. A lesser man – and I’m thinking of myself when I say that – might have found the experience a little demoralising. How did you get through it, and what’s next for you now that the Bloodsounder’s Arc is finished?

It was demoralizing. Super-duper demoralizing (how is that for some nimble wordsmithing?). The publisher was in limbo, so the series and the rights to it were in a terrible vortex beyond my control for a fair number of months, and I had no idea if Veil of the Deserters was ever going to see the light of day. Which made writing it suddenly not seem like the best investment of time or energy. But I knew if I let it sit for too long, I would lose any momentum, so after taking a small hiatus to wallow in self-pity, eat gallons of ice cream, and drink heavily, I decided to just put blinders on, continue writing, and hope for the best.

Another publisher stepped in, poised to buy the rights to most of the Night Shade titles (all? it is too painful to go back and review emails) but a certain number of authors needed to agree to terms or the deal on the table was going to get swept right off. I don’t know how much you recall or even heard about that transition, but it was, shall we say, rocky. I cursed a lot at the time.

But at the end of the day, I wanted my series to continue, and after some of the terms were changed for the better after some public outcry, I was content to sign and move forward. And I’m glad I did, because it is possible there wouldn’t have been a book 2 or 3 otherwise. Who knows.

As for what’s next, I have half of a new book tentatively titled Grimoire Zero done, and pretty well revised, and I’m moving onto the second half now. It’s a wild departure from Bloodsounder’s Arc: four third-person POV characters, all very different from each other (and not at all like Arki); set in the nearish future with science fiction and (sub)urban fantasy elements fused together.

There is a mouthy shadowslinger who might or might not be sharing his flesh with his manifested Jungian Shadow, a single-mom nurse with a very costly (and badass!) healing ability, an aloof necromancer/charlatan who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and a very small narcoleptic drone pilot with a flintlock that fires microbots and very unusual companion. Secretive government agencies, super-powered terrorists, and tons and tons of snarky dialogue. And crap blowing up. Oh, and a phase sloth named Twitch. And crazy waffles. Like, the craziest.

Thanks for the interview!

To find out more, check out Jeff's website here.


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This week I’m asking five different questions to five different authors. Anthony Ryan and Kameron Hurley have already taken their turn. Next to search frantically for somewhere to hide is Teresa Frohock, author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale and numerous short stories. Her newest series, Los Nefilim, contains all three novellas: In Midnight’s Silence, Without Light or Guide, and The Second Death in one convenient book.

Hi Teresa, thanks for dropping by.

TeresaFrohock1. As with my other interviewees, I’ll start with an easy question. What are your thoughts on the theory of “rainbow gravity”, which suggests that the universe stretches back into time infinitely? See, nice and easy.

Okay. Stay with me now and I'll try to explain this.

The “rainbow gravity” is the theory that rainbow gravity affects different wavelengths in the same way that a prism affects light. Think about a prism and how the light going in on one side is white, but when it comes out on the other side, it is multi-colored. Scientists use the rainbow theory in an attempt to prove there was no Big Bang (except for the television series, which scientists seem to like), because the Big Bang theory (the scientific one, not the television show) calls for all wavelengths of light to be impacted, to some extent, by gravity.*

The upshot of it is that the ability of gravity to affect wavelengths would be very difficult on earth, because of earth's low gravity, but in places of high gravity, such a black hole, creatures such as Rainbow Brite and her Color Kids can slip into the world through a prism and alter the world with color and love.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Portions of this answer were shamelessly plagiarized from Wikipedia, except for the part about Rainbow Brite coming through black holes—I made that up.]

2. Both Miserere and Los Nefilim are set against a struggle between the forces of Heaven and Hell. What attracted you to write books about angels and demons?

I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church, where instead of stories about the baby Jesus and little lambs, we were told about demons and hell. Once a week. Every week. For my entire childhood. Eventually, it screws with your mind in weird and subtle ways. I wanted proof that these creatures existed—not lambs, or babies named Jesus, but actual demons and angels.

What I found was: there is no proof. So I started doing what everyone else was doing and made up tales to fill in the blanks.

No proof of demons? Then what is this figure on my shoulder that keeps telling me to eat chocolate?

3. You mention on your blog that you have conducted research into demons and demonology, and that this research included the study of such light-hearted texts as Satan’s Rhetoric and In the Company of Demons. When guests visit your house, do they raise eyebrows at the contents of your bookcase? Or at the chalk circles of arcane characters on the floor, perhaps?

Most of the people invited into my house already know I'm strange, so they're rarely surprised by what they find there. I did, while I was reading Satan's Rhetoric, take it with me to the local Mexican restaurant so I could read while munching on salsa and chips. And if you've seen the cover art and the words SATAN'S RHETORIC in huge letters, this will make sense:

One of the waiters walked by and did a double-take on the cover. I don’t mean “oh my, someone is a reading a book” double-take, I mean the gentleman almost dropped the plate he carried.

He was clearly disturbed. A few minutes passed and he returned. He knew me because I’m regular there, so he tried to casually ask me about the book. In return I attempted to reassure him, but accidentally made it worse at first. Finally, I reassured him that I wasn't a Satanist and the book was a history of Renaissance documents, and there was really nothing to worry about at all ... and I gave him a BIG REASSURING SMILE.

After that, I only carried books about the Spanish Civil War into that restaurant, and we’ve had no problems since.

I save my big, reassuring smiles for when I’m most looking to freak someone out.

TeresaFrohockCover4. The Los Nefilim omnibus came out only recently (in ebook – the paperback is available for pre-order). Why did you initially decide to tell the story as three novellas, rather than as a single book in three parts?

A few years ago, I wrote a novel with the Los Nefilim characters—Diago, Miquel, and Guillermo—and although the novel didn’t sell, the characters and their backstory really stayed with me. Since I was between projects, someone asked me to write a novella, and after thinking about it, I decided to bring the boys from that early novel into the twentieth century.

What came out of that suggestion was In Midnight’s Silence, and I was absolutely shocked when Harper Voyager wanted to buy it. David [Pomerico], my editor at Harper Voyager, asked my agent if I had more novellas planned, and of course, the answer was yes.

For me, the Los Nefilim series was a lot like Pan’s Labyrinth was for Guillermo del Toro—it was a project of my heart, and I was just ecstatic that it would be published. So it was nothing for me to rough in the plots to two more novellas for David.

I simply built on the first story. The omnibus reads like a novel in three acts. To fit the time period, I wrote the novellas like the old radio serials of the thirties and forties with lots of action and adventure. They were great fun to write, and as I said, I was just thrilled to have the chance to see Diago’s story come to life. He’s always been one of my favorite characters.

5. Los Nefilim begins in the early years of Spain’s Second Republic. What was it about the Spanish Civil War that particularly interested you, and how many holidays visits to the country did you take for the purposes of research?

I first encountered the Spanish Civil War through Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, where del Toro captured the brutality of the period. However, for the purposes of character motivation, I had to understand the political reasons and why different people chose opposing sides in the war. In the same way in which you can’t fully understand Hitler’s popularity in Germany unless you have some background about the years preceding his rise, you can’t fully understand the Spanish Civil War until you know the political and societal issues at play. The more I read, the more fascinated I became of the whole subject.

While I have not had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona, Spain is number one on my bucket list! I had a wonderful beta reader in Spain, who helped me find resources and answered questions about street names and places in Barcelona. In order to “see” some of the areas I wanted to portray, I took my little yellow Google man and dropped him into Barcelona’s more notorious areas. We made it through unscathed.

I can’t quite say the same for Diago and the boys …

Thanks for your time!

You can find out more about Teresa at her website here.



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This week, I’m asking five different questions to each of five different authors. Yesterday I spoke to Anthony Ryan, and next to look longingly at the exit door is Kameron Hurley, author of The Worldbreaker Saga and the recently released The Geek Feminist Revolution – a collection of essays on the rise of women in science fiction and fantasy, and the diversification of publishing.

Hi Kameron, thanks for stopping by.

KameronHurley1. I always like to start with an easy question. So, if we can all agree that being wrong louder doesn’t make someone right, how do you explain the internet?

People don’t care about being right as much as they care about feeling that they have been heard. The internet lets you scream into the void while simultaneously feeling like you are being listened to.

It can seem like the void at times. I’ve shared my own opinions with the internet on a handful of occasions, and I was amazed and horrified to see that not much changed as a result.

2. How did you find the process of writing Geek Feminist as compared to writing your novels? Is it a book you wanted to write, or felt you needed to write, or both?

The Geek Feminist Revolution is all my agent’s fault. I had been collecting the essays I worked on during blog tours for a couple of years, and I was getting ready to launch my new one as a self-pub title when she came to me and proposed the idea of shopping an essay collection. The timing was right on it as far as this being the right cultural moment for a book like this to drop. I’ve heard from so many people over the years that they would love to have a book of my essays to give to people, and now was the time to do it.

What that meant was that most of the actual writing was done by the time we sold it. I wrote nine new essays specifically for the collection, and got those all done in June and July last year. It’s also a much shorter book than a novel, about half the size of the last epic fantasy I turned in, which made proofing a LOT easier. I should write shorter books!

I think you may be on to something there. My own manuscripts have been known to break floorboards when I drop them.

3. You have written eight books now, I believe. If you were to pick up one to read, which would it be? Overall, is that book also your favourite of your books? (For me, they would be different.)

The first one, God’s War, or maybe the second, Infidel. The further away I am from having worked on a book, the more I can enjoy it. You spend so much time re-reading your work looking for errors, or only looking at the trouble spots so you can fix them, that you get burned out on them. You’re convinced they’re awful, by the end. It takes a good year or two for me to be able to return to a book and read it to enjoy it instead of just tear it apart.

KameronHurleyCover4. The first book of your next fiction series, Stars are Legion, is described as being in the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and Dune. Which particular elements of those books would you say feature in your novel?

Exceptional worldbuilding and political drama, most likely. The Stars Are Legion is a space opera about two families battling it out for dominance on the outer rim of a legion of worldships. It centers on Zan, a lost fighter who wakes with no memory among a group of people who say they are her family. She finds herself forced to choose sides in a genocidal campaign that could either save or destroy the Legion. Fun stuff.

5. Recently, a reviewer of one of my books said that it held his attention “better than my first kiss”. What’s the most striking or amusing comment anyone has made about one of your books?

As a general rule, I try not to comment on my reviews. I will say that one of my favorite reviews of God’s War, my first novel, was from Adam Roberts.

Thanks for the interview!

To find out more, check out Kameron’s website here.



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This week, I’m asking five different questions to each of five different authors. In the coming days I’ll be quizzing Kameron Hurley, Jeff Salyards, Teresa Frohock and Sebastien de Castell, but first to face the glare of my inquisitorial spotlight is Anthony Ryan, author of the Raven’s Shadow series and the forthcoming The Draconis Memoria series – the first volume of which, The Waking Fire, will be published in July 2016.

Hi Anthony, and thanks for joining me.

AnthonyRyan1. Let’s start with an easy question. What is the mathematical proof to the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture that the size of a group of rational points is related to the behaviour of an associated zeta function ζ(s) near the point s=1? (This is one of the $1m puzzles hosted by the Clay Mathematics Institute, but don’t worry, if you get the answer right I’ll be happy to share the prize money with you.)

6 (I’d like my share in cash, thank you).

I’ve written to the CMI to pass on your answer, and to express my concern at the current standard of academia, if a non-mathematician such as yourself can solve in minutes a question that has puzzled the so-called experts for decades. I’ll be sure to pass on their response when I receive it.

2. In view of your former career in the British Civil Service, did you ever consider writing spy novels instead of fantasy ones? (Everyone in the Civil Service is a spy, right?)

My Civil Service career would probably make the most boring basis for a novel, of any kind, ever written. Although, I did once have a nasty argument with someone who stole some of my milk from the communal fridge (I shot him with my exploding fountain pen. HR got involved. It was this whole thing). If I wrote a spy novel it would probably be in the Ian Fleming rather than John Le Carre mode, much as I love the Smiley stories my sensibility tends to be action orientated. Fleming’s Bond novels are really another form of fantasy literature so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch, but of course I’d leave out the misogyny. There’s also plenty of espionage fun to be found in The Draconis Memoria.

It’s coming to something when a person can’t even shoot a work colleague without HR getting involved.

3. I understand that The Raven’s Shadow trilogy has been published in an impressive fifteen countries. Are there any particular foreign markets that you would still like to break into? Somalia is a tough nut to crack, I hear.

Somalia is the Holy Grail of rights sales to which we all aspire… maybe one day. One of the weird thing about foreign rights is that you often don’t find out how well the book does until years after it comes out. Although the Raven’s Shadow novels seem to have done well in Brazil there doesn’t seem to be the same appetite for epic fantasy in the rest of Latin America, or maybe I’m missing something. Also, it would be nice to sell more books in India where, I keep hearing, there’s a huge English speaking market.

AnthonyRyanCover4. The Draconis Memoria is billed as having a steampunk flavour to it. How have you enjoyed writing in a steampunk world compared to writing in the medieval world of The Raven’s Shadow?

There was a lot more research involved, mainly because The Draconis Memoria is set in a world with plenty of technology and I wanted it to be credible, i.e. how exactly does a steam engine work and how would you manoeuvre a paddle-driven warship? I enjoyed the novelty of writing gunfights instead of swordfights but discovered that a battle scene set in a post-industrialised world is a very different, in some ways more complicated beast than one set in a cod-Medieval setting. Then there was the dialogue. The characters in The Draconis Memoria speak in a much more modern idiom than in Raven’s Shadow (they also swear a lot more), but it couldn’t be too modern. I was keen to reflect different cultures and social orders through varying dialects and it took a lot of work to get it right (hopefully, I did). On the whole it’s been a great deal of fun but also I learned that there’s a lot of truth in George RR Martin’s opening essay in Dreamsongs about how in genre fiction the story is the important thing and everything else – guns or swords, steamships or galleons – is just ‘furniture’.

Research? Ouch. One of the key benefits to writing epic fantasy, as I see it, is that you can make pretty much everything up.

5. How long has the story for The Draconis Memoria been in your head? Have you been hoarding a treasure trove of new story ideas in readiness for the end of The Raven’s Shadow, and if so . . . Oh, look! What’s that over there? *peeks inside*

As with all my stories The Draconis Memoria hung around my head in various forms for several years, but I think it only began to solidify into a workable idea about four years ago. Like a lot of writers I have more ideas than I know what to do with; currently percolating in the confused tea-pot that is my brain are no less than fourteen novels spread over three series. Whether or not I ever find the time to write it all is an open question but at least I know I’m not going to run out of material anytime soon.

Thanks for your time!

For anyone wanting to find out more, you can check out Anthony’s website here.


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Five Author Interviews - Round Two

From time to time on my blog, I host a series of interviews of other authors. Five authors, five days, five questions each, what could possibly go wrong? My past guests have come up with cracking responses to some pretty testing questions. Next week I'll be interviewing Sebastien de Castell, Teresa Frohock, Kameron Hurley, Anthony Ryan and Jeff Salyards. To keep you going until then, here are five interviews I did last year with Michael Fletcher, Tom Lloyd, Ilana C. Myer, Peter Newman and Adrian Tchaikovsky. They're well worth a read!

Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky

This week I’m asking five different questions to five different authors. In the coming days I’ll be quizzing Ilana C. Myer, Peter Newman, Michael Fletcher and Tom Lloyd, but first to look frantically for the exit door is Adrian Tchaikovsky, best known for his Shadows of the Apt series that features the kinden – human races that each have a different totem insect.

Hi Adrian, and thanks for doing the interview.

AdrianTchPic1. Let’s start with an easy question. What is the secret to curing the common cold, and why have you been sitting on this information until now?

Robot nose. The reason why I haven’t spread this around is – would *you* admit to having a robot nose?

Only at gunpoint.

2. Your Shadows of the Apt series is an impressively long ten books. How much of the ending of book ten did you know before you started writing book one?

The first four books of SotA form a single plot arc, and it was that I had in mind when I set out. From book 5 onwards the plots arise organically – the logical consequences of things that have gone before, plus other parts of the world I wanted to bring in.The first four books of SotA form a single plot arc, and it was that I had in mind when I set out, From book 5 onwards the plots arise organically - the logical consequences of things that have gone before, plus other parts of the world I wanted to bring in.

3. 2015 saw the publication of your flintlock fantasy, Guns of the Dawn, and your science fiction story, Children of Time. Did you decide you wanted to try out something different from the ‘new heroic’ fantasy of Shadows of the Apt? Or did you simply have story ideas that fitted better into another genre/sub-genre?

During the years I was working on SotA I had a whole load of ideas for stories that were never going to be kinden stories, and other ideas I'd worked with previously got a fresh going over as well. I’d had Guns of the Dawn kicking about my head for a while, and that definitely needed something closer to a historical setting (because female soldiers amongst the kinden, outside the Empire, are common). Children of Time is wholly different – starting with some “what if-ing” regarding the remarkable capabilities of the Portia spider and working up from there.During the years I was working on SotA I had a whole load of ideas for stories that were never going to be kinden stories, and other ideas I'd worked with previously got a fresh going over as well. I'd had Guns of the Dawn kicking about my head for a while, and that definitely needed something closer to a historical setting (because female soldiers amongst the kinden, outside the Empire, are common). Children of Time is wholly different - starting with some "what if-ing" regarding the remarkable capabilities of the Portia spider and working up from there.

I hate spiders, but I still had to look them up. Now I’m desperately searching for the “un-click” button on my mouse.

AdrianTchBook4. Your next novel, The Tiger and the Wolf, is out next year, and has one of the most striking covers I’ve seen for a while. It’s described as “a sweeping fantasy, featuring warfare, shape-shifting, twisted politics and invasion.” Tell us something about the book that is not in that summary.

The world of The Tiger and the Wolf is as high-concept as that of the kinden, but probably in a way that people will “get” more quickly – there’s a lot of front-loading of ideas in SotA and that caused difficulties for some readers. Everyone gets shape-shifting, though, so it's a small step from there to a world where everyone has an animal form as soon as they hit adulthood. Also, the kinden have no real religions of any kind – even their magicians are materialists at heart. With the people of Tiwer & Wolf I wanted to write about societies for whom a numinous, spiritual dimension was enormously important.The world of the Tiger and the Wolf is as high-concept as that of the kinden, but probably in a way that people will "get" more quickly - there's a lot of front-loading of ideas in SotA and that caused difficulties for some readers. Everyone gets shape-shifting, though, so it's a small step from there to a world where everyone has an animal form as soon as they hit adulthood. Also, the kinden have no real religions of any kind - even their magicians are materialists at heart. With the people of Tiwer & Wolf I wanted to write about societies for whom a numinous, spiritual dimension was enormously important.

5. I understand that you have some “real-world” experience of sword fighting. How much of that experience do you bring to your writing, and what are the common mistakes that other authors make in portraying duels? I’m asking for a friend. *Takes out manuscript and red pen*

Knowledge is never wasted. It’s always useful to know the mechanics of something, as it gives you a better toolkit to write about it. As for common mistakes – most often these are mistakes which will set off that portion of your readership that knows about the art – although with fighting arts that’s a fairly large segment. Misuse of armour is a big bete noir – in many books (because, I think, it’s that way in so many films) armour is basically just a cardboard uniform to mark out the bad guys. The Jorah Mormont fight against the Dothrakai in Game of Thrones is very satisfying because he turns up wearing a coat of mail and Martin shows him being very hard to kill because of it. Of course the other common mistake is, when you’ve learned a little swordcraft, to let it get away from you so that the fight scene becomes a dry treatise on swordsmanship. Know a lot, say as little as possible.

Thanks again for the interview!




Interview with Ilana C. Myer

This week I’m asking five different questions to five different authors. Yesterday I spoke to Adrian Tchaikovsky, and next to look to the heavens for inspiration is Ilana C. Myer, author of Last Song Before Night.

Hi Ilana, and thanks for dropping by.

IlanaMyerPic1. I always like to start with an easy question. In your recent AMA at Reddit you said that you liked wine. So, red, white or rose? (Hint: the correct answer is red.)

It looks like we are going to be in agreement right out the gate! I do prefer red wine.

I can see we’re going to get along just fine.

2. Music forms an important part of the subject matter of Last Song Before Night, but did it also play a part in the writing process? Do you play music while you write, and if so, do you pick a piece or song that matches the mood of a scene?

There are a number of ways that music plays a part in my process. One is simple bribery: since most writers would rather do anything than sit down to write, I use music as a bait-and-switch on the reptile brain. I tell it, “Look, we’re not working, just listening to music.” Sometimes it even works.

Another purpose I’ve found music can serve, for me, is an effect similar to wine: it lowers the barriers between the rational mind and the imagination, which can be useful for creative work. It’s a very first-draft process, getting the work out from one’s depths before the logical brain has a chance to sneer; in contrast, editing and revising call upon an entirely different set of tools.    

3. In your book, women are not allowed to be poets or musicians. To what degree did gender roles in our own society influence your writing? *Opens can of worms*

So this is interesting because I am asked about it a lot, or it’s commented upon in a derogatory way—“Why is she perpetuating the usual sexism.” When I was in my early twenties and began this book, nothing felt more natural to me than creating a society in which women were not treated as equals. I came from a strict religious upbringing with which I was grappling quite intensely at that point in my life; at the same time, I was working in Midtown Manhattan as an administrative assistant, during which time a highly-placed executive thought it appropriate to rest his hand on my hip in a meeting in his private office.

Inequality was the air I breathed. While I don’t always agree with the cliché “Write what you know,” art was my way of contending with life as I experienced it. Of understanding reality, as I experienced it. I don’t come to the page with a message to impart—I come to it with questions.

I think that’s a useful attitude to have. If someone comes to the page with answers, they’re probably the wrong ones.

LastSong34. I understand that Last Song Before Night took you years to write. How have you found the process of having to write a sequel in a much shorter time frame, and what can you tell us about that book?

The next book, which is a sequel to Last Song Before Night, was largely inspired by a trip to southern Spain. I’d had no plans for that to happen, and in fact assumed that the next book would be unrelated to Last Song Before Night, since it is a standalone novel. But Seville and Cordoba awakened a fascination. Soon it came to me how rich were the opportunities if I used the world and characters already at my fingertips. My contract with Tor was for three books, so the second and third book will tell one sweeping story, of larger scope than the first book.

Writing while under contract is very different psychologically. I used to agonize that all my work would be for nothing, since publication seemed an impossible dream; now I have different worries about “middle book syndrome” and the rest. I don’t want to hit the marks I hit before. I want to surpass what I’ve done and grow as a writer.

5. On your website, you mention that you come from a family with a long history of writing. Which family members were writers, and what did they write?

My German family, who mostly perished in the 1940s, claim two famous writers—Heinrich Heine and Leon Feuchtwanger. But I also cherish the story of my mother’s father, who I never met as he died too young. He worked for the US Postal Service and wrote fiction whenever he could, including the complete manuscript of a novel. While writing my first book I often thought of him—of his determination to write despite the demands of work and life, knowing his book would most likely never see publication.

Thanks again for your time!




Interview with Peter Newman

This week I’m interrogating five different authors. Adrian Tchaikovsky and Ilana C. Myer have already taken their turn. Next to try out the thumbscrews for size is Peter Newman, author of The Vagrant, and butler in the Hugo-nominated podcast, Tea & Jeopardy.

Hi Peter, and thanks for joining me.

PeterNewmanPic1. I always like to break the ice with an easy question. So, what do little birds see when they get hit on the head?




2. What made you decide to make your main character in The Vagrant a mute, and how often in the writing process did you regret that decision?

I’d been worried that I was relying too much on dialogue in my writing and I wanted to work more on showing the story through action and atmosphere rather than having the characters tell it to us. Around that time the Vagrant appeared and it felt right to not have him speak. I just ran with it (or rather, I plodded very slowly along with it, the book was really hard to write!).

I don’t know if I ever regretted it exactly, but I did curse myself on a regular basis.

Let’s hope no one ever asks you to do an interview in character.

3. What can you tell us about book two in the series? Will the Vagrant be returning as the POV character? Will we be picking up immediately from where events in book one left off?


Book two is set several years after book one and starts with a new threat rising from the Breach. It also explores the consequences of the Vagrant's actions, and you get to learn a lot more about the Empire of the Winged Eye and how it came about. The Vagrant is in it but he isn’t the POV character (this is also true of the goat).


PeterNewmanBook24. I understand that you’re writing a book for a new fantasy MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game, Albion Online. How have you found the process of writing a tie-in novel compared to writing in your own story world?

A lot of fun! It’s been quite liberating because Albion Online already had large chunks of its universe established when I came on the scene. This meant that when I was world-building a large part of it was coming up with fun ways to join the dots. It’s also nice having a team of people I could fire questions at rather than having to go and find out for myself. But the best thing was that I got to play the Alpha test in the name of research.

In terms of what it was like compared to writing in my own world, the challenges were very different. With Albion Online it was very important to me that the book captured the feel of the game, so that a player would feel familiar reading and a reader would feel at home in the game.

5. I note from your blog that you’re a gamer. What is the best fantasy role-playing game of recent years, and why is it Skyrim?

Ha! I loved Skyrim for its scale and the fun of exploring. However *dons fighting trousers* it is not the best fantasy role-playing game because it isn’t Dragon Age: Inquisition. Dragon Age: Inquisition is what Skyrim would have been if it had had proper characters and the ability to interact with them.

And on that note… *runs away*

*Splutters in indignation* *Lines up fleeing figure in cross hairs*

Thanks again for the interview! Peter?





Interview with Michael Fletcher

This week I’m asking five different questions to five different authors. Today, no doubt already wishing the ground would swallow him up, is Michael Fletcher, author of Beyond Redemption.

Hi Michael, and thanks for being here.

MichaelFletcherPic1. I always like to start with an easy question. So, how does the non-locality of a quantum fluctuation/entangled system turn into a localized interaction?

Einstein talked about "spooky actions at a distance," but I prefer spooky actions up close. If you want to get all entangled and interact, I'm cool with that. Hell, I've got an econo-sized bucket of Cool-Whip I can bring.

Wait. Is this a BDSM question?

Okaaay. This is the point where I back away slowly. And learn my lesson about asking smart alec questions (until the next interview, at least).

2. Beyond Redemption features men and women whose delusions become manifest, twisting reality. The third book in my Chronicles of the Exile series includes a man who is able to make his dreams manifest in the waking world. I quickly realised that I needed to set some rules on his abilities, else he would run roughshod over the story. Did you encounter something similar in Beyond Redemption? If so, did you make up those rules beforehand or develop them as you went along?

The rules came with the idea, they were damned near unavoidable. In part my background as a nerd of the first order (I've been role-playing for over 30 years) is to blame. I couldn't help but think of it as a magic system for a game and that meant I needed rules defining how everything worked. And, as a long-time Game-Master, I knew that the power of the delusional had to have both limits and come at a cost. Much of the background behind the story can be found on the wiki I created to help me keep track of everything:

3. I understand you did a lot of role-playing when you were younger, inventing your own adventures as Games Master. Do any of the characters or story lines in Beyond Redemption originate from those adventures?

Nope, though I have pillaged gaming sessions for stories in the past. You can find two of them, Death at the Pass, and Death and Dignity, available for free at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.

I will say that some of the characters in Beyond Redemption are based on people I know.

Wow, I’m guessing these people aren’t the sort to get on the wrong side of.

MichaelFletcherBook4. Several reviewers have suggested that Beyond Redemption is the darkest fantasy they’ve read. Were you ever tempted to turn the tables on grimdark with an ending filled with fluffy kittens and smiling babies?

Dark? That's crazy talk!

I had the title before writing the first word; I knew how it would end even if I had no idea how it would get there. The sequel, however, is all hugs and fluffy bunnies.

I never set out to write anything darker than anything else. I had this story idea and the rest pretty much decided itself. If you have a world where belief and delusion manifests as reality, I don't see how else it will turn out.

Yeah, sure, we could make it a utopia. Will we?

I think not.

5. I notice from your website that you used to be in a goth/rock/metal band. If Beyond Redemption were to be made into a film, would your band’s music make an appropriate soundtrack?

Most of our music, while metal, contained some bounce. The sound track for Beyond Redemption would—to my mind—need to be far darker. The one song we did that might be close was Epic For Manon.

Thank you again for your time!




Interview with Tom Lloyd

This week I’m asking five different questions to five different authors. Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ilana C. Meyer, Peter Newman and Michael Fletcher have all taken their turn. Last, but by no means least, to blink into the glare of the spotlight is Tom Lloyd, author of The Twilight Reign series, the Empire of a Hundred Houses series, and the forthcoming The God Fragments series.

Hi Tom, and thanks for stopping by.

1. As with the other authors, I’ll start with an easy question. What advance were you paid for The God Fragments, and why was that far too little?

Aha ... Broadly speaking, twice as much as my best-selling book and half as much as my worst-selling book. Or to put it in a slightly geekier way – half as well as I should like and less than half as I should like to deserve.

As for why that’s far too little, easy: I’ve sold a decent number of books over the years, nothing to boast about but more than I ever expected when I started out, and this is I think my best and most commercial so I fully expect a bitter and savagely conducted auction for the US rights to start any time now ... Ahem, also it’s my shortest novel (100k shorter than my longest), it’s my simplest (bearing in mind I’ve lost the odd readers due to complexity), it’s my funniest (not that it’s a pun-fest, but there’s a light-hearted tone compared to the brutal epic series or the sober fantasy techno-thriller), and the ideas I’ve given for cover art could be summed up by the phrase “You shall not pass!”

I’m impressed you actually answered that question! I was expecting a nimble side-step.

2. I’ve seen Moon’s Artifice described as a book that blends epic fantasy and mystery. Was that a conscious decision on your part? If you ever stray outside the fantasy genre in your reading (shame on you), is it to pick up a whodunit book?

Honestly, I can’t say if it was or not. I know that sounds stupid, but half of the problem is that I don’t remember what gave me the idea more than a decade ago. I did consciously try to do something different to The Twilight Reign though – have a more normal protagonist with a job in a fantasy world, rather than the deliberate hero caricature that was Isak.

Paul Weimer described it as the fantasy equivalent of a technothriller which I think works quite well too – it sits on the line between fantasy and a certain type of SF, fine to read with either in mind depending on your preference; with mystery being a third point of reference there. Mostly I didn’t want a world-spanning epic series, I wanted a stand-alone set in one place (ignoring the fact there could be follow-ups). Once you throw in the amnesiac assassin trope you’re naturally edging towards a mystery plot, but I never said “right, I’m going to push this as a cross-genre story”. I wrote the story that was in my head rather than the story my agenda required – if I had done the latter, I think both Moon’s Artifice and Old Man’s Ghosts would have been more spy thriller in style. I toyed with the idea, but didn’t want to let one idea dictate everything else.

3. Congratulations on the deal for your third series,The God Fragments. Did you ever consider setting the books in the same world as The Twilight Reign  or the Empire of a Hundred Houses series? Are you sad to leave old characters behind, or excited to start out with new (or both)?

Thank you! As for the characters: Both – I’m always sad to leave characters behind, for different reasons in this case. Isak was with me the whole time I learned to write, sitting in my head for almost fifteen years. There was certainly a period of mourning after that, but I’ve always said I wanted The Twilight Reign to be a complete(d) series for people to read whole if they want. A finished product in a world where long series often drift away and leave frustrated readers in their wake. 

For Empire, it was a bit different because the vague ideas I had for future stories were set to one side even before Old Man’s Ghosts was finished. I knew sales wouldn’t justify writing any more so I didn’t let myself daydream on those, just made sure the final chapter served as a goodbye to my characters from me.

But of course, if you’re not excited about the new characters you should never start the new book. It’s great to note that even when I’m feeling fatigued and uninspired, just setting the new set of characters to talking can drive me on. I like them and I enjoy writing the scenes even if nothing is happening plot-wise – they’ll take me back to that soon enough and in the process they get the juices flowing.

As for setting the books in one of those worlds – nope, never an option. The ideas stand alone, the power structures, gods and magic in all the worlds are too set to allow the other stories to fit in there without being changed beyond recognition.

TomLloydBook4. On your blog, you said you were having fun writing about a collection of “foul-mouthed, childish and trigger-happy mercenaries” in Stranger of Tempest. What makes this type of character so enjoyable, and who among your nearest and dearest did you draw inspiration from?

Well I’m a guy who’s played sport (at not a very high level of quality) all his life and doesn’t enjoy overly serious or intense friends. I’m at my happiest surrounded by food, booze and friends talking bullshit – they know who they are! Lynx, the main character in Stranger, is a loner and naturally suspicious of mercenaries. There’s a lot of me in him unsurprisingly, so if he’s going to plausibly stick with their group there has to be a reason for him to do so, a place to fit there. If drunkenness and childish idiocy comes naturally to me on the page, so be it.

You say that as if drunkenness and childish idiocy were bad things.

5. You’ve published a collection of short stories entitled The God Tattoo. Do you prefer using shorter fiction to fill in some ‘gaps’ from your novels, or to explore something completely new?

Mostly the gaps, although not always in the way you’d expect. The focus and direction of Ragged Man in particular was dictated by a novella I’d written years before, so it’s not always the novels solely providing the structure. The more you immerse yourself in a fantasy world the more there are stories and lives to look at beyond the tight-focus of your central plot. The more freedom you have to explore those the better, but that’s not always easy in a time-pressure world and I’m not particularly inclined to the shorter forms. 

To step away from the current world and write something else isn’t that natural for me. Often when I do so it’s to shake things up and set myself a challenge, but the plan for the new series was always novel, novella, novel, novella. The novellas will be e-only so I can’t put much series-plot-dependent stuff in them, but the first has proved an entertaining aside that I think readers of Stranger of Tempest will really enjoy.

Thanks again for the interview!



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