Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Interview with Erika Lewis, author of Game of Shadows

Please welcome Erika Lewis to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Game of Shadows is published on February 28th by Tor Books.

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

TQWhen did you start writing and why?

Erika:  When I was about 8 years old my best friend and I would pass journals back and forth. We didn’t go to the same school, so during the week we’d write in composition notebooks, journaling notes to each other. Sometimes stories, sometimes diary entries, it changed depending on the week. Then we’d trade on the weekend. I was going through a tough time. So was she. Lots of changes on the home front. Writing stories was an escape.

Over the years, during and after college, through my first job as an intern at CNN during the first Gulf War, then after moving to Los Angeles and started working for studios and networks in production, I just kept writing. Now, after getting my shot to do what I love, I still just keep writing. It’s addictive!

TQAre you a plotter, pantser or hybrid?

Erika:  I would call myself a disenfranchised plotter. LOL! I write an outline, sometimes extremely detailed then about half way through writing the story, the characters throw me for a loop and want to go in a totally different direction. That means having to do more research many times if I’m working with a particular mythology, like in Game of Shadows, but the characters always know best! So, I tend to listen.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Erika:  I tend to prefer to write in first person or close third. A recent challenged for me has been the protagonist’s point of view, meaning which character would be the most interesting to tell the story. In a new project I’m working on, I originally wrote it from one character’s perspective only to realize I was missing out on a much more interesting point of view. A character who at first seems like she should be the antagonist, someone I wanted to hate. But as I kept writing, I realized that she wasn’t the person I thought she was, and as it turns out, she is the voice that I personally think will make everyone else listen. Okay, all that was rather cryptic, I know. Sorry. But the point is that I then had to start over. Through the painful process comes something that is vastly more satisfying for me, and hopefully will be for the reader as well.

TQWhat has influenced/influences your writing? How does your prior work in TV influence (or not) your novel writing?

Erika:  Life experiences tend to influence my writing the most. I would think that’s a common thing. I lived in the U.K and spent a great deal of time in Ireland. I fell in love with the landscape, the warmth of the people, and the rich history. But by the time I started to play around with the idea of writing a story about where those mythical Celtic races and magical druids disappeared to, I was living in Los Angeles. So I wanted to find a way to bring the two things together, so Ethan Makkai is living in Los Angeles when we first meet him in Game of Shadows.

Television has, for good or bad, influenced the pacing of my novels. I love a plot to move. It needs to stand still just long enough to suck me in emotionally, connect me to each and every character, but then keep the train moving. Not that quiet moments can’t keep up a solid pace too! They lull you into a false sense of security, as if nothing bad could happen at least for a few more pages, then bam!

TQDescribe Game of Shadows in 140 characters or less.

Erika:  Haunted and desperate for independence, Ethan Makkai has no idea his gift makes him the most wanted guy on the planet. #RadharcRules

TQTell us something about Game of Shadows that’s not is not found in the book description.

Erika:  The story is told from multiple POVs, not just Ethan’s. Tor Books has been an amazing partner, understanding that, to me, in order for this book to truly show off the distress in Tara, other voices needed to be heard. Ethan races through the different realms in Tara, trying to get to his mother before they kill her. But his story happens simultaneously with Tara itself going on red alert that this villain is back and preparing for onslaught. Not to mention a few chapters from the pathological villain himself.

When I think of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I found it so satisfying that the story wasn’t just following Frodo, and finding out what happened after he throws the ring into the running lava in Mount Doom. It was truly epic for all of middle-earth!

TQWhat inspired you to write Game of Shadows? What appeals to you about writing fantasy and specifically Celtic Mythology?

Erika:  My time in Ireland inspired Game of Shadows, and a love for young adult stories lead me to Ethan being the entry point into the hidden lands of Tara. Many years after returning home from living abroad, I started researching the different cycles of history in Ireland, and focused in on the Mythological Cycle. I wondered what happened to the ancient races and magical Druids after the gods and goddesses lost the war to humans and vacated? Known as the Tuatha Dé Danann, followers of the mother goddess Danu, they left through the fairy mounds, but there was no mention of what happened to the on the Ravens, Faoladhs, Fomorians, and the others in Game of Shadows. I had a thought…maybe they’re still here…

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Game of Shadows?

Erika:  Oh boy…so much research. Books, online, but also I worked with an incredible Celtic Lecturer at Berkeley. She would read my chapters, and generally laugh at what I’d done with the different legendary races, and help me linguistically with ancient Irish. But I altered the language a bit with the idea that through time all languages change.

TQPlease tells us about the Game of Shadows’ cover art.

Erika:  My editor Elayne Becker at Tor had this idea for the cover, and I just love it. It’s more than meets the eye. Ghosts plague Ethan, yes. He hates it. They make him look insane all the time because he’s not allowed to talk about his gift, or them.

His power called radharc, gives him the ability to see ghosts, but it’s so much more than that. Not to spoil anything but the ghost chasing after Ethan represents more than just a ghost. It’s his nemesis…and his destiny.

TQIn Game of Shadows, who was the easiest character to write, and who was the hardest?

Erika:  Easiest was Lily Niles. I love her. I knew her from the moment she attacked Ethan. She’s a strong female character with a take-no-prisoners attitude. My husband calls me five-feet of fury, a nickname I’ve earned, mainly when I think someone is being wronged. I can’t help myself. If a bully is on the attack, no one should stand by and watch, and typically, I don’t. Lily’s fierce with a sword (wish I was,) but also knows what she wants and goes after it. That includes Ethan.

The hardest character was King Fearghus in Gransmore. He rules the Fomorians. His daughter was murdered, and he blames himself for what happened. Ethan realizes how much his powers are a gift when he’s able to give Fearghus a little relief. I don’t want to spoil too much, but Fearghus is a character that you just want to hug every time he appears, though you won’t feel that way at first!

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Game of Shadows?

Erika:  In my humble opinion, social issues are in everything writers’ write, whether we realize it or not. We take inspiration from our lives, cultures, and the times we live in. When I started Game of Shadows, violence in America was and still is a huge issue. Ethan, in seeing ghosts and communicating with the dead, feels the permanent great divide between those who have passed on, and those left behind in the living world. For that reason, he is not someone who easily wields a weapon.

Having grown up in Los Angeles, in what he thought was a fairly safe environment, Ethan never experienced true life or death situations until the day his mother is kidnapped. He’s had jerks at school giving him grief, but never felt like his life was in danger. Much later in the book, in the last act, Ethan trains with someone he looks up to above all others (no spoilers.) A great warrior, a person who has battled for most of his life, he tells Ethan, “No one can beat down an enemy with compassion.” But compassion is a part of who Ethan is at his core. Circumstances do change of course, but it’s up to Ethan in the end how he will react when things turn deadly. As Bran says in the opening prophecy, “For in darkness there is always light, and in the face of death a reason to fight.”

TQWhat question about Game of Shadows do you wish someone would ask?

Erika:  About the incredible artwork inside: I was so lucky to have two very talented comic artists make the Celtic marks of Tara, and the map. Megan Hutchison (http://www.blackem-art.com) created the shield that incorporates the realms individual marks. These are an integral part of the story. When a Tarisian leaves Tara, they must take the shadowwalker’s oath, a promise of secrecy. The pledge’s remnant is a permanent tattoo of the Tarisian’s realm’s mark on the underside of the wrist. Ethan’s family is from Landover, and their mark is the triple spiral. His mother has it as if branded into her flesh on the underside of her wrist. But Ethan wasn’t born in Tara, so does Ethan have it? Well, no spoilers here, right? Here’s a look at the shield of Tara.

Megan took inspiration from ancient Ireland in creating the marks. Fun fact: The triple spiral, Landover’s symbol, is found chiseled into the stones at Newgrange (http://www.knowth.com/newgrange.htm), a more than 5,200 year-old mound in the Boyne Valley in Ireland.

The map of Tara was as important for me as a writer as it is for the reader. I drew a fairly pathetic sketch that Eric Gravel (https://erigrav.carbonmade.com) then turned into what you see in the book. Here’s the colored version!

In writing the long journey for Ethan, Lily and Christian through Tara, I used this map frequently. Being a visual person, I needed to literally see where they were going, and now everyone who reads the book can too!

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Game of Shadows.

Erika:  Non-spoilery, huh? There’s a fair bit about Ethan in the summary of the book, so how about a little introduction to Lily. This quote comes from chapter 5 when they meet for the first time.

“Ethan’s knees strained, gripping the saddle, trying to stay on. Devlin pivoted right, trying to avoid a white horse that suddenly appeared in front of him. Ethan slipped down in the saddle. He didn’t know how much longer he could hold on. Panicked, he looked for help from the rider on the white horse a second before she catapulted onto him, sending him crashing to the ground.”

And one more from Lily’s own mouth.

“You know, your father said he’d confine you to your house for two weeks if he caught you out again.”
Lily glanced sideways at him. “No. He said if he found me on the castle grounds. These are not the castle grounds.”
“You like to live dangerously, don’t you?”
“Always.” She kicked her horse.

And perhaps a little from Ethan’s and Tara’s enemy, Sawney Bean. In this chapter he’s talking to a ghost inside his prison cave. Twisted, she continuously prattles on, pining for her lover, Torin, who betrayed her. Is Bean evil? Oh yes, but with a touch of sarcasm that leaves me wondering what it would be like to hang out with him for a night:

“Have you ever noticed that both ‘love’ and ‘hate are four letter words? On opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, and yet connected at their very core. In order to fully understand hate, one must have felt love. And if love is a noble cause, isn’t hate then just as noble? Harnessing hatred for those who tossed you out and considered you worthless? Is there any more noble cause? And thus by default, isn’t revenge the proper course of action, rather than reconciliation?” He paused his scribbling and turned to face her. “Revenge on Torin should be what you seek, Kiara, and yet, you, even in death, continue to seek love.”

TQWhat’s next?

Erika:  The sequel to Game of Shadows. I’m so excited to dive in. I spent time this summer in Ireland doing a ton of research, and writing the outline. The story grows so much, and Ethan and Lily’s lives move in directions neither they nor I ever saw coming.

On the what’s coming out, this summer my graphic novel, The 49th Key will be released! Also, Jessica Chobot’s (https://twitter.com/JessicaChobot) and my comic series Firebrand will continue to publish chapters on LINE Webtoon (http://www.webtoons.com/en/fantasy/firebrand/list?title_no=877.)

There’s a few other things too in the comic world, but can’t talk about them yet ☺.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

Game of Shadows
Tor Books, February 28, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

A young man plagued by the ability to see ghosts races to save the mythological land of Tara from a terrible fate in Erika Lewis's stunning debut, Game of Shadows.

Thousands of years ago in Ireland, an ancient race fought a world-changing battle—and lost. Their land overrun, the Celtic gods and goddesses fled, while the mythical races and magical druids sailed to an uncharted continent, cloaked so mankind could never find it. This new homeland was named Tara.

In modern day Los Angeles, Ethan Makkai struggles with an overprotective mother who never lets him out of her sight, and a terrifying secret: he can see ghosts. Desperate for a taste of freedom, he leaves his apartment by himself for the first time—only to find his life changed forever. After being attacked by dive-bombing birds, he races home to find the place trashed and his mother gone.

With the help of a captain from Tara who has been secretly watching the Makkais for a long time, Ethan sets out to save his mother; a journey that leads him to the hidden lands, and straight into the arms of a vicious sorcerer who will stop at nothing until he controls Tara.With new-found allies including Christian, the cousin he never knew he had, and Lily, the sword-slinging healer who’d rather fight than mend bones, Ethan travels an arduous road—dodging imprisonment, battling beasts he thought only existed in nightmares, and accepting help from the beings he’s always sought to avoid: ghosts. This L.A. teen must garner strength from his gift and embrace his destiny if he’s going to save his mother, the fearless girl he’s fallen for, and all the people of Tara.

About Erika

Photo by Peter Konerko
ERIKA LEWIS graduated from Vanderbilt University, and went on to earn an Advanced Certificate in Creative Writing from Stony Brook University. She has had a successful career in television production for the past fifteen years, working with Sony (V.I.P, Strong Medicine), with Fireworks Television (La Femme Nikita, Andromeda, Mutant X, Strange Days at Blake Holsey High), with Fox (On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Ambush Makeover) and with G4 (Attack of the Show, X-Play). Erika is the author of The 49th Key, currently running in Heavy Metal Magazine, with the trade out soon, and the recently released Firebrand with Legendary Comics. Game of Shadows is Erika’s debut novel. Find out more at: http://www.erikalewis.com/

Twitter @ErikaElyLewis  ~  Facebook


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