Monday, July 31, 2017

Interview with Christopher Brown, author of Tropic of Kansas

Please welcome Christopher Brown to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Tropic of Kansas was published on July 11th by Harper Voyager.

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

Christopher Brown:  Thank you for having me! I’ve been writing professionally since I was in college, but my early work was mostly journalism. It wasn’t until I moved to Austin and got involved in the Turkey City Writers Workshop run by Bruce Sterling that I started to seriously write sf. I write because I love language. And I love speculative fiction as a laboratory for exploring the world we have and the worlds we could make—a lab where none of the subjects get hurt because they are all imaginary.

TQ:  Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

CB:  I write the same way I explore—go way off the trail, see what discoveries you can make, and then find your way back. I usually have an ending in mind when I start—it was the first thing I wrote for Tropic of Kansas, and about the only thing that survived serial revision. But I get the best results when I send the characters out with that destination in mind but no maps for how to get there. The surprises that occur when you take that approach are the real engine of a character-driven novel, for me. I have friends that map out elaborate narratives in volumes of notebooks, but that doesn’t work for me. Too bad, since my approach takes a lot longer!

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

CB:  Language comes easily to me, but story is harder. I’m interested in writing a realist science fiction, one grounded in description of the observed world, and propelled by character more than plot, which tends to produce episodic, picaresque narratives more like real life. But I also love the satisfaction of building a compelling page-turner. So those things are at odds, and the process of letting character-driven lyricism find its way into plot takes a lot of time—two or three deep rewrites of the whole thing before what I want really emerges.

TQ:  What has influenced / influences your writing?

CB:  The work I dig all starts with a love of language, writing that paints with words. I like fiction that uses the power of brevity, economy as a design principle, versus the self-indulgent meanders of much contemporary literary fiction—with exceptions, of course. The writers I have learned the most from are probably Joan Didion, J.G. Ballard, William Gibson, Doris Lessing, Walker Percy, Renata Adler and Hunter S. Thompson. That’s an eclectic set, one that includes some writers better known for their journalism, which probably reveals much about how my science fiction wants to engage with the problems of the “allegedly real world.” I also have a background in law and politics, and I imagine the influences of those experiences shows. I’ve learned to be deeply suspicious of power—having worked as both its butler and adversary—and deeply sympathetic with people who have none.

TQ:  Describe Tropic of Kansas in 140 characters or less.

CB:  A dark road trip through an Americana-infused dystopia, as brother and sister seek sanctuary and redemption in a nation torn apart by revolutionary unrest.

TQ:  Tell us something about Tropic of Kansas that is not found in the book description.

CB:  It’s not really meant as a vision of the future, even though that’s how many people read it. While the book has no timestamp, I imagined it as a dark mirror of the present. It’s an effort at a realist dystopia, taking things I have witnessed in the real world and bringing out the emphasis, remixing the proportions. Turning the world upside down in fiction is not only a fun way to tell an engaging story—it’s also a great way to see real-world problems with fresh eyes.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Tropic of Kansas? What appealed to you about writing a post-apocalyptic novel?

CB:  I never really thought that was what I was doing—Tropic of Kansas just tries to report on the world I see around me, through the speculative prism of a repurposed adventure novel. If there’s an apocalypse in Tropic of Kansas, it’s the combined ecological, economic and social failures happening around us that we tend not to notice—maybe because we aren’t the ones most affected.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Tropic of Kansas?

CB:  I did a lot of travel on the back roads of middle America, from the Southwest borderzone to the upper Midwest. I explored a lot of edgelands on foot, including the place where I live in Austin, on a former brownfield lot between a row of factories and the urban woods they hide. I met people living in those woods, and learned about their lives. I saw how wild nature exists in the “empty lots” of the city, and how quickly it reasserts itself if we let it. I worked as a volunteer in my community, lawyering for people who often do not have access to legal services, serving on a grand jury, and learning how unevenly distributed justice often is. I read a ton of source material—American folklore, obscure cartographies of pioneer trails, scholarly studies of bandits and revolutions, and the invisible literature of the war on terror. I tried to pull together all this material from the fabric of the world we live in and remix it to show the worlds it could be—both the worse one, and the better one lurking on the horizon.

TQ:  In Tropic of Kansas who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

CB:  The character of Sig, whose journey really defines the book, was both the easiest and the hardest. He was easy in that he draws on a deeply familiar archetype—the backwoodsman who can be found at the edge of the American woods from Cooper’s Hawkeye to Conan, Rambo and even Katniss Everdeen. But an archetype is not a real character, and writing the true personality and point of view of someone who has spent their adolescence surviving off the land, who doesn’t even have the preoccupation with self that is the basic characteristic of almost all characters in the modern novel, was much harder than I anticipated. You have to learn to show feeling without interiority, vulnerability through toughness—a hard undertaking with a great payoff, I think.

TQ:  Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Tropic of Kansas?

CB:  I can’t seem to get on the subway without grabbing the third rail. When I set out to write Tropic of Kansas I really just wanted to write an entertaining adventure story with a contemporary setting—and ended up starting a revolution in dystopia. Oops! I think writing is inherently political, and you can’t report on the world without showing it as it is. I also think you can deal with tough issues and still tell an entertaining, fun and big-hearted story—and sf is a great way to achieve that.

TQ:  Which question about Tropic of Kansas do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

CB:     Q—Where is the Tropic of Kansas?

            A—It’s not a real place, but you can see it from here.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Tropic of Kansas.

CB:  The emerging consensus is that the best line in the book is the last one, and it’s not really a spoiler, but worth waiting for.

This passage is a pretty good encapsulation of the world of the book, from Tania’s pov:
“Back east they called it the ‘Tropic of Kansas.’ It wasn’t a specific place you could draw on a map, and Kansas wasn’t really even a part of it, but you knew when you were in it and you knew just what they meant. Which wasn’t a compliment. The parts of the Midwest that had somehow turned third world. They tried to return the Louisiana Purchase to the French, the joke went, but it was too damaged.”

TQ:  What's next?

CB:  I have three longer works in progress: a book of speculative nature writing, a story about a criminal defense lawyer in a dystopian society—think Better Call Saul meets 1984—and a novel about capitalists in space. As divergent as they sound, they are all concerned with similar issues—and both easier and harder to write than Tropic of Kansas (but just as fun). Thanks for asking!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tropic of Kansas
Harper Voyager, July 11, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

“Futurist as provocateur! The world is sheer batshit genius . . . a truly hallucinatorily envisioned environment.”—William Gibson, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author

“Timely, dark, and ultimately hopeful: it might not ‘make America great again,’ but then again, it just might.”—Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling and award winning author of Homeland

Acclaimed short story writer and editor of the World Fantasy Award-nominee Three Messages and a Warning eerily envisions an American society unraveling and our borders closed off—from the other side—in this haunting and provocative novel that combines Max Barry’s Jennifer Government, Philip K. Dick’s classic Man in the High Castle, and China Mieville’s The City & the City

The United States of America is no more. Broken into warring territories, its center has become a wasteland DMZ known as “the Tropic of Kansas.” Though this gaping geographic hole has no clear boundaries, everyone knows it's out there—that once-bountiful part of the heartland, broken by greed and exploitation, where neglect now breeds unrest. Two travelers appear in this arid American wilderness: Sig, the fugitive orphan of political dissidents, and his foster sister Tania, a government investigator whose search for Sig leads her into her own past—and towards an unexpected future.

Sig promised those he loves that he would make it to the revolutionary redoubt of occupied New Orleans. But first he must survive the wild edgelands of a barren mid-America policed by citizen militias and autonomous drones, where one wrong move can mean capture . . . or death. One step behind, undercover in the underground, is Tania. Her infiltration of clandestine networks made of old technology and new politics soon transforms her into the hunted one, and gives her a shot at being the agent of real change—if she is willing to give up the explosive government secrets she has sworn to protect.

As brother and sister traverse these vast and dangerous badlands, their paths will eventually intersect on the front lines of a revolution whose fuse they are about to light.

About Christopher

Christopher was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for the anthology Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including MIT Technology Review’s “Twelve Tomorrows,” The Baffler, and Stories for Chip. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Aside from his writing, though, Brown has lived a varied life in which he has, among many other things, taken two companies public, restored a small prairie, worked on two Supreme Court confirmations, rehabilitated a brownfield, reported from Central American war zones, washed airplanes, co-hosted a punk rock radio show, built an eco-bunker, worked day labor, negotiated hundreds of technology deals, protected government whistleblowers, investigated fraud, raised venture capital, explored a lot of secret woodlands, raised an amazing kid, and trained a few dogs.

Website  ~  Twitter @NB_Chris  ~  Instagram  ~  Facebook

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Melanie's Week in Review - July 30, 2017

I can't believe that the summer is half way over. Waaaaaa! August is right around the corner and with that it means I am one step closer to having to wear tights (aka nylons) and long sleeves. Waaaa x 2! To help me through the trials of the passing seasons I turned to my Kindle. So what did I read?

**** Avert your eyes if you haven't read White Hot by Ilona Andrews****

I did a little 'whoop whoop' when the third and final instalment of the Hidden Legacy trilogy - Wildfire - appeared on my Kindle. When I first heard the news that Andrews wasn't able to publish book 2 - White Hot - last year I was a tiny big put out even though both books would be published this year. It couldn't have worked out better. I loved reading both books within weeks of each other.
Wildfire starts immediately after the events of book 2. Nevada is back from her mini holiday to deal with the fact that her evil grandmother knows where the family live. There is only one alternative which is to form a House but that brings its own problems and could jeopardize her romance with Mad Rogan. When Nevada arrives home to find Rogan's ex sitting at her kitchen table she didn't think things could get worse....but it does...waaay way worse. On the trail of a kidnapper Nevada and Rogan are put to the test and not just magically. Can their love survive? Or more importantly will they survive? Read it and find out.

I loved the Hidden Legacy series. I wasn't sure I was going to when I first read the description of the series but it only took a few pages of book 1 - Burn for Me - before I was hooked. I believe part of the reason why I liked it so much was that it was only a trilogy. I didn't have to read 2 or 3 books before the romance started to happen or to discover one or two minor plot points or have to buy book 10 or 11 to find out 'who dunnit'. The plot moved quickly but Andrews didn't skimp on world building or characterisation. This series has heaps of both. Wildfire not only wraps up the overall plot arc of the mysterious conspiracy that wants to bring down the magical hierarchy (sort of) but also, wraps up Nevada's magical growth from untrained truthseeker to powerful Prime. The story was interspersed with quite a bit of romance as Nevada and Rogan navigate their way through their danger filled relationship. Wildfire is an action and romance laden end to the Hidden Legacy series. If you haven't started the series then don't miss out and start with book 1.

The second book I want to tell you about is Dark Horse by Michelle Diener. As by coincidence this book was recommended by Ilona Andrews while I was waiting for Wildfire to be released. Dark Horse appealed to me as it won the SFR Galaxy Award and the Prism Award for Best Futuristic in 2016. I thought I was also onto a winner.

Dark Horse tells the story of Rose McKenzie who has been kidnapped from her home (on earth) and finds herself a prisoner on a spaceship millions of miles away in another galaxy. When Rose teams up with an artificial intelligence to escape she ends up one of the only survivors on a class 5 battleship. Alone, in another galaxy far, far away from home with a evil alien race on her trail Rose takes matters in her own hands and teams up with a much more friendly (and good looking) alien race in order to survive. Captain Dav Jallan can't believe his luck when the class 5 battleship ends up abandoned in his area of space. When he discovers that a frail female alien has been a prisoner on that very ship and now is one of only a few left alive he knows there is more to this than meets the eye and Rose is smack dab in the middle of it.

There are quite a few 'female human gets kidnapped by hunky alien' science fiction books out there and having read one or two I try to avoid them at all costs. Normally they veer too close to erotica for my liking. After reading the book description I was a bit surprised that this book had won so many accolades. I questioned this again when I got to the end. Dark Horse was very predictable and Rose and Dav were pretty generic characters. If this had been just a standalone novel I would have probably enjoyed it more but it is part of a series and I suspect that the plot is just much of the same. Book 2 - Dark Deeds - sounds very very similar. In fact one reviewer complained that it was just a re-hash of the first book. I was a bit disappointed with this book and unless you are a big fan of rather bland romantic science fiction then maybe give it a miss.

That is all for me this week. I hope you have a great week ahead and a even better book to read. Until next week happy reading.

A Hidden Legacy Novel 3
Avon, July 25, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

From Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author, the thrilling conclusion to her Hidden Legacy series, as Nevada and Rogan grapple with a power beyond even their imagination…

Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating—harnessing her truthseeker abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Yes, the billionaire Prime is helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player—and sometimes a pawn—but she also has to deal with his ex-fiancée, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin.

Rogan faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke?

Book 1
Book 2

Dark Horse
Class 5 Series 1
Eclipse (June 15, 2015)
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 380 pages

Some secrets carry the weight of the world.

Rose McKenzie may be far from Earth with no way back, but she's made a powerful ally--a fellow prisoner with whom she's formed a strong bond. Sazo's an artificial intelligence. He's saved her from captivity and torture, but he's also put her in the middle of a conflict, leaving Rose with her loyalties divided.

Captain Dav Jallan doesn't know why he and his crew have stumbled across an almost legendary Class 5 battleship, but he's not going to complain. The only problem is, all its crew are dead, all except for one strange, new alien being.

She calls herself Rose. She seems small and harmless, but less and less about her story is adding up, and Dav has a bad feeling his crew, and maybe even the four planets, are in jeopardy. The Class 5's owners, the Tecran, look set to start a war to get it back and Dav suspects Rose isn't the only alien being who survived what happened on the Class 5. And whatever else is out there is playing its own games.

In this race for the truth, he's going to have to go against his leaders and trust the dark horse.

Winner of a SFR Galaxy Award 2016 and the Prism Award 2016 for Best Futuristic.

Book 2
Book 3

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Orbit 10th Anniversary eBook Sale

Through next Monday, July 31st, Orbit is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary with $2.99 e-book deals on 10 of its most popular titles. Happy Anniversary, Orbit!

by Kim Stanley Robinson
Orbit, May 22, 2012
eBook, 576 pages

Winner of the Nebula Award for Best SF Novel of the Year

The year is 2312. Scientific and technological advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future. Earth is no longer humanity's only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system on moons, planets, and in between. But in this year, 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, its present, and its future.

The first event takes place on Mercury, on the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. It is an unexpected death, but one that might have been foreseen. For Swan Er Hong, it is an event that will change her life. Swan was once a woman who designed worlds. Now she will be led into a plot to destroy them.

Ancillary Justice
Imperial Radch 1
by Ann Leckie
Orbit, October 1, 2013
eBook, 432 pages

The only novel ever to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the first book in Ann Leckie's New York Times bestselling trilogy.

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.

Blood of Elves
Witcher 1
by Andrzej Sapkowski
Orbit, May 1, 2009
eBook, 416 pages

The New York Times bestselling series that inspired the international hit video game: The Witcher.

For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world - for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt's responsibility to protect them all - and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

Blood of Elves is the first full-length Witcher novel, and the perfect follow up if you've read The Last Wish collection.

Newsflesh 1
by Mira Grant
Orbit, May 1, 2010
eBook, 608 pages

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.

Now, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

FEED is the electrifying and critically acclaimed novel of a world a half-step from our own---a novel of geeks, zombies, politics and social media.

The Fifth Season
Broken Earth 1
by N. K. Jemisin
Orbit, August 4, 2015
eBook, 512

"Intricate and extraordinary." - New York Times on The Fifth Season (A New York Times Notable Book of 2015)


This is the way the world ends...for the last time.

A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

The Girl With All the Gifts
by M. R. Carey
Orbit, June 10, 2014
eBook, 416 pages

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

Leviathan Wakes
Expanse 1
by James S. A. Corey
Orbit, June 15, 2011
eBook, 592 pages

The first book in the landmark Expanse series, now a major television series from Syfy!

Leviathan Wakes is James S. A. Corey's first novel in the epic, New York Times bestselling series the Expanse, a modern masterwork of science fiction where humanity has colonized the solar system.

Two hundred years after migrating into space, mankind is in turmoil. When a reluctant ship's captain and washed-up detective find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings our solar system to the brink of civil war, and exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history.

Red Country
by Joe Abercrombie
Orbit, November 13, 2012
eBook, 480 pages

A New York Times bestseller!

They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own. And out in the lawless Far Country the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into an alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust . . .

RED COUNTRY takes place in the same world as the First Law trilogy, Best Served Cold, and The Heroes. This novel also represents the return of Logen Ninefingers, one of Abercrombie's most beloved characters.

Parasol Protectorate 1
by Gail Carriger
Orbit, October 1, 2009
eBook, 416 pages

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is the first book of the Parasol Protectorate series: a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

The Way of Shadows
Night Angel Trilogy 1
by Brent Weeks
Orbit, October 1, 2008
eBook, 688

From New York Times bestselling author Brent Weeks...

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city's most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly - and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics - and cultivate a flair for death.

Shirtless Bear-Fighter - Burt Beariant Cover


PORTLAND, OR, 07/27/2017 — SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER!—from writers Jody LeHeup (former editor of Uncanny X-Force, Deadpool, Quantum and Woody) and Sebastian Girner (SCALES & SCOUNDRELS), artist Nil Vendrell, colorist Mike Spicer (HEAD LOPPER, MYTHIC), and letterer Dave Lanphear—bares all in sizzling new Burt “beariant."

After being betrayed by the bears that raised him, the legendary SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER wanders the forest he’s sworn to protect, fist-fighting bears, eating flapjacks, and being the angriest man the world has ever known! When wild-eyed, super-strong bears attack the citizens of Major City, Shirtless ventures into the human world to do what he does best… PUNCH THOSE BEARS IN THE FACE!

The #WarOnBearror continues with SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER! #2 available on stores now.

Five Fists of Science Returns in September


Featuring a brand-new cover 

PORTLAND, OR, 07/27/2017 — Matt Fraction (SEX CRIMINALS, SOLID STATE) and artist Steven Sanders (THROWAWAYS, Our Love is Real) will release a new paperback edition of FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE this September.

True story: in 1899, Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla decided to end war forever by joining forces to rid the world of evil. With Twain's connections and Tesla's inventions, they went into business selling world peace. The tale of what unfolded next can only now be told: the duo collided with Edison and Morgan, an evil science cabal merging the Black Arts and the Industrial Age.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Interview with Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters

Please welcome Jennie Melamed to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Gather the Daughters was published on July 25th by Little, Brown and Company.

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

Jennie:  I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember. I don’t know exactly why I do it, just that not writing isn’t an option for me. I go through periods when I’m writing less, or even not at all, but I always return to it. Gather the Daughters, though, was the first piece where I really persevered trying to get it published.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jennie:  I’d say 70% pantser, 30% plotter. I often know in my head what’s going to happen in terms of broad strokes, but then my characters will run off and do something completely different than I was planning for them. I’m often surprised by what happens when I sit down and write.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jennie:  Finding the time. I wrote Gather the Daughters while going to graduate school and working- it was a challenge! Even now, when I only work four days a week, sometimes my three days off fly by as I take care of normal human business, and I can only get an hour or so in of writing. It’s frustrating.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Jennie:  I read constantly, and I read very quickly. I’ve found that if I stop reading, I actually get depressed in a week or two. I go through phases in what I read- my last was a Victorian literature phase that lasted a year or two. Everything I read influences my writing in some way.

My work also influences my writing. I work with children as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and I can’t begin to describe some of the chaos and trauma that I witness. I find it comes out in my work, to the point where my agent and editor have to remind me to please lighten up a little bit!

TQDescribe Gather the Daughters in 140 characters or less.

Jennie:  A novel about the daughters of a post-apocalyptic cult at the end of the world.

TQTell us something about Gather the Daughters that is not found in the book description.

JennieGather the Daughters is, in part, a love story. Most people miss it, and so I probably made it too subtle, but two of the main characters are in love and in another world could live happily ever after.

TQWhat inspired you to write Gather the Daughters? What appealed to you about writing a novel with a post-apocalyptic setting?

Jennie:  I can’t go into depth without revealing spoilers, but the idea of Gather the Daughters came to me when I was about eighteen, after listening to so many of my friends reveal child abuse in the their past. I began wondering what it would mean for abuse to be encoded into a culture.

When I was a child, I had post-apocalyptic daydreams all the time. Vanessa’s guilt over her own depicts what I consider to be a fairly common child fantasy- that you are the only one left in all the world, and can do whatever you want. I am fascinated by end-of-the-world scenarios in general. I’m not sure exactly what that says about my personality.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Gather the Daughters?

Jennie:  I didn’t do any specifically for Gather the Daughters, but research I did in graduate school made its way into the book. I did some anthropological and sociological investigation into child abuse in other cultures, as well as studying perpetrators of child abuse. It definitely affected what I wrote.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Gather the Daughters.

Jennie:  The US cover came first. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. There is a girl with her eyes closed in a white dress, falling, with the ground vertical instead of horizontal. To me, it depicts the theme of the novel, not any particular scene. The UK cover came next and has the roses, thorns, and mosquitoes, which I think wonderfully contrasts the beauty of the island with the wildness and cruelty it contains.

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

Jennie:  Vanessa was definitely the easiest; she is a smart girl who reads a lot and tries to please her father, just like I was as a child, although she’s definitely more popular than I was!
Janey was probably the hardest, simply because the first drafts did not have Janey as one of the main characters- Janey’s story was told from Mary’s point of view. Eventually my editor suggested that I switch to having Janey’s point of view instead, and it wasn’t too difficult, but I felt a sense of loss leaving Mary’s narrative behind. I have a huge soft spot for Mary, and I think she’s a less complex character with Janey running the narrative. That said, it was definitely the right decision.

TQHow does isolating the characters on an island affect how they deal with social issues?

Jennie:  There is no point of reference. I think we see this in isolated cultures worldwide, although the number of societies this isolated is shrinking. People live in ways we find wrong or even abhorrent, but they have no way to see that it can be different. Or perhaps someone in power knows it can be different, but chooses to withhold this information, for a variety of reasons. I’m not exempting ourselves from this, I’m often amazed at what a product of culture we are, all of us. That’s part of why I think universal child education is so important, just the ability to think critically and question what we do every day is invaluable.

TQWhich question about Gather the Daughters do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: Why did you write such a disturbing book?

A: To me, Gather the Daughters deals with types of violence that happen all the time, under our noses, and unless one has a way to be exposed to it, it happens hidden and unseen. Violence towards children has been happening since there were children, as far as I can tell, simply because children are vulnerable, and there are those who are drawn to abuse the vulnerable. I guess in short, I have a disturbing take on humankind in general. I think we are overall selfish creatures, and sometimes that selfishness leaps over a boundary to translate into the oppression of others. And I think we are so good at fooling ourselves that the majority of those who oppress others feel their actions are right and good. I don’t mean to say that people can’t be kind, altruistic, or compassionate. But I think those attributes often have to be taught and nurtured, whereas the darker instincts arise and have a strength all their own.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Gather the Daughters.


“She discovers that grief is a liquid. It passes thickly down her throat as she drinks water and pools soggily around her food. It flows through her veins, dark and heavy, and fills the cavities of her bones until they weigh so much she can barely lift her head. It coats her skin like a slick of fat, moving and swirling over her eyes, turning their clear surfaces to dull gray. At night, it rises up from the floor silently until she feels it seep into the bedclothes, lick at her heels and elbows and throat, thrust upward like a rising tide that will drown her in sorrow.”

TQWhat's next?

Jennie:  I am at the very beginning of a work that is related to Gather the Daughters. I can’t promise it will flourish into anything, but I really like what I have so far. That’s all I’m going to say!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jennie:  You’re very welcome!

Gather the Daughters
Little, Brown and Company, July 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

NEVER LET ME GO meets THE GIVER in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.

Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers--chosen male descendants of the original ten--are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly--they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers' hands and their mothers' despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively readable, Melamed's novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.

About Jennie

Jennie Melamed is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in working with traumatized children. During her doctoral work at the University of Washington, she investigated anthropological, biological, and cultural aspects of child sexual abuse. Jennie lives in Seattle with her husband and their two dogs.

Website  ~  Facebook
Twitter @jennie_melamed

31st Arthur C. Clarke Award - Winner

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is the winner of the 31st Arthur C. Clarke Award. The novel is published by Fleet in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The Award was announced at a ceremony held in partnership with Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, on July 27, 2017.

The Underground Railroad has also won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award, the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and the 2017 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize.

The Underground Railroad
Doubleday, August 2, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

US Edition
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, the #1 New York Times bestseller from Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

US Edition

UK Edition

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nintendo Download, July 27, 2017

Nintendo Download, July 27, 2017: Embark on a
Very Personal RPG

This week’s Nintendo Download includes the following featured content:
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS
    • Miitopia – Since the dawn of ever, warriors have banded together to fight evil. Now … Mii characters based on your favorite people must unite to do turn-based battle and save Miitopia! Cast them in roles across the kingdom, manage friendships and give them jobs with distinct stats, abilities, gear and custom looks. The Miitopia game will be available on July 28.
    • Hey! PIKMIN – Captain Olimar has crashed on an unknown planet inhabited by Pikmin. Get a new perspective on his adorably fierce partners as you fight to fuel his ship in his first 2D platformer. Hey! PIKMIN is also the first Pikmin game for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. The 2D game will be available on July 28.
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch
    • Overcooked: Special Edition – Working as a team, you and up to four* fellow chefs must prepare, cook and serve up a variety of tasty orders before the paying customers storm out in a huff. Overcooked: Special Edition features all the exhilarating (and enraging) kitchens from the main game, as well as both expansions, “The Lost Morsel” and “Festive Seasoning.” Sharpen your knives and dust off your chef’s whites – there isn’t mushroom for error, and the steaks are high in these crazy kitchens!
    • NAMCO MUSEUM – Play some of the most popular Namco games, anytime, anywhere! Enjoy classics such as PAC-MAN, GALAGA, SPLATTERHOUSE and TOWER OF DRUAGA, or play games including ROLLING THUNDER, SKYKID or TANK FORCE with friends and family.

Interview with Lee Markham, author of The Truants

Please welcome Lee Markham to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Truants was published on July 11th by The Overlook Press.

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

Lee:  I’ve written for as long as I’ve been able to, all the way back to my early childhood. Storytelling has always been a big thing on both sides of my family. I’m Irish on my mother’s side, and they always like to spin a good yarn. On my father’s side, lots of Christianity (to which I seem to have an immunity, if not quite an allergy) – including quite a few preachers in the bloodline. So the why part of the question doesn’t really apply, or at least feels like it doesn’t – storytelling is something I’ve always been made of, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make stuff up.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Lee:  OK so, here’s the thing – my internet is down right now, so I can’t read through what the other guys you’ve asked have said in response to this, so I’m going to have to answer it blind: is it actually possible to be exclusively one or the other? I do get what you’re saying, and am perhaps being (deliberately?) obtuse, but for me it kinda goes in zebra stripes – plot then pants, pants then plot – and if you fly through it fast enough perhaps it starts to look like the greyness of a hybrid approach… but I can’t begin to imagine that if you subscribe to pantsing (and on a side-note, while we’re here, can we think about addressing the terminology?! I mean, really: pantsing?!) that you don’t have to eventually stream it into some kind of structure. And vice versa, if you have too rigid a structure/plan, your characters will suffocate if you stop them wandering off-piste… they just become Sims ¬– just crappy automaton versions of you.

With The Truants it went like this – I had a neat idea: vampire blood on a knife, that knife ending up on the streets and dropped into the knife-crime mix – so I’d say that would fall at the ‘plan’ end of the spectrum. I then ‘pants’ed my way through the first few scenes of that scenario, and saw where it went. From there I could then see some very clear narrative pillars dotted right the way across the novel – so more plan (I’d say mapping actually feels nearer the mark). I then ‘pants’ed my way out from those opening scenes towards those new pillars on the map. And a ways across the map from there a huge twist (which lands about one third of the way in) came out of nowhere, took even me by surprise and so a huge pants moment, but from which the whole map then revealed itself, so plan plan plan to the end. But yeah – you gotta flip between the two, surely?

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Lee:  Writing for me seems to be quite a visceral, primal thing. When it comes, it just explodes out of me, and oftentimes largely fully formed and ready to roll. The hardest thing for me to do is to tame it, and make it do what I need it to do. With The Truants, entirely by necessity (at the time I was working a horrible job for a sociopathic manager, commuting, all consumed) I accidentally stumbled across a process that worked – I set my alarm clock for 4am every day. Fell out of bed. Was writing by 4:15am. By 6:15am I’d have done 2000 words, half of them from somewhere unknowable between my conscious and subconscious mind. I did that for about 40 days straight and the book was done. I genuinely don’t recall writing huge chunks of it. But the question you asked was what’s the hardest thing about writing – my answer is this: getting up a 4am every morning until the bastard is done. That’s how I do it. It’s massively antisocial. I disappear from the world when I’m writing. It’s like a moon mission. I really struggle to do it around other stuff… and by other stuff I even mean the sound of my own conscious mind wittering about day-to-day rubbish.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Lee:  At the risk of sounding pretentious, simply the pursuit of truth. Even if I’m writing about vampires. It’s just that constant internal churn of questioning about why we’re here, what we’re for, is it really worth it? I struggle sometimes with the world we live in, and have to battle frequently to work around existential impasses. My mind never lets it go. A line in a poem I wrote once rather neatly summarises this process as “Chewing on these same old rages, like dogs killing sticks”. It’s pointless, and no answer ever seems to stick, but that’s the essential machinery of me, and it can be quite exhausting (one reviewer has actually picked up on this, and yeah… it’s a fair cop, I’ll take it). On the plus side though, when I have a narrative idea (like for example a knife with vampire blood on it), I can throw it into that same machine and all sorts of interesting stuff comes out. So there’s that.

I have of course been influenced by other storytellers too – all of whom seem to chew on those same old rages too – and by storytellers I mean anyone working creatively, imaginatively. So not just writers. Filmmakers and musicians too. And journalists. All those guys lifting up the rocks, looking underneath, and reporting back. But to check off a few writers: formatively I went the Stephen King/Clive Barker route… alongside that there was David Cronenberg and John Carpenter working in film… more recently the writings of Robert Fisk, Blake Morrison (whose As If was the single biggest influence on The Truants), and Cormac McCarthy have hugely influenced my voice, if not my style. Alan Moore too.

But the thing that most fires up the 4am writing beast is music. Certain songs can hit a core id button and trigger off whole scenes of a story… the song that was most on a loop whilst writing The Truants is one called CPU by Skream. It’s quite cold and mechanical on one level, but has swirls of fractal undercurrents that perfectly tapped me into The Truants duality of the old-ones’ ancient manipulations contrasting the feral survival instinct that governs the world they’re thrown into. Too much other stuff to go into here – there’s actually a Truants playlist on Spotify and even that only skims the surface.

TQDescribe The Truants in 140 characters or less.

Lee:  A desperate prayer for love and purpose in this endless age of rage and sadness

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

Lee:  I think what perhaps gets lost in the description is the truth of it. That it’s more about love, and grief, and the futility of being, than it is about vampires and neglect. But – and this is a huge but – I don’t feel comfortable claiming any higher-ground credit for that. The Truants really did explode out from somewhere deep down and hurt, and it is what it is. It’s not easy. It assaults. For better or worse it is the sound of my soul weeping for us all, and raging at us all. And it doesn’t have any answers. I don’t know… it seems to catch a lot of readers off guard – they come in expecting something they’ve experienced before, and it breaks the rules. No-one, and nothing is safe. Nothing is assured or sacred. It’s asking, it’s pleading… it’s destabilising… because that’s where I was when I wrote it. Where I still am, really. I think, when it’s boiled down to a soundbite, what’s missing from the book description is this: The Truants hates you, but it wishes, more than anything, to be loved by you. Just like the children in the tale it tells. It’s hoping you will tell it everything will be OK, whilst blaming you for everything being screwed. It wouldn’t blame you for fearing it, but really it just wants to hold you. It’s complicated. It might make you sad. Or angry. Or both.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Truants? What appealed to you about writing a dystopian novel?

Lee:  I’m not sure I would actually call The Truants dystopian. To my mind it’s simply the here and now. With vampires. The world of The Truants is very much a documentary vision of the world we already live in. And so in that sense the inspiration to write The Truants was simply this: how might this horror high-concept (Vampire knife!) play out in the real world? What might that story look like as an after-the-watershed BBC Panorama documentary about inner-city strife? Or what if we looked at the events in this story in the same way Blake Morrison looked at the events in As If? Might it be possible to drag horror, vampires and all, back into reality like Romero did in the 60s with Night of the Living Dead? What might something like that look like today?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Truants?

Lee:  Obviously As If formed the core of that research – although interestingly the crime it details is far less alluded to in The Truants than other incidents. Those incidents that do form key pillars in the novel – the murders of Baby P and Damilola Taylor, as well as the shooting of Mark Duggan and the subsequent city riots of 2011 – are all events that received extensive coverage in the media both at the time and subsequently. To an extent these things are key strands in the weave of the narrative that currently exists in the UK about our inner cities – with one side seeing these horrors as symptomatic of how far people have fallen from decent society, whilst the other side sees them as symptoms of how much decent society is actually failing its people. Round and round, tit-for-tat. The Truants dives into that debate, lives in the minds of both sides, and tries to explore how such opposing views have become so hopelessly entrenched. So from a research POV, I just buried myself in as much objective, inquiry-based reading on each event as I could – which was pretty rough, especially in the case of Baby P – as well as then swinging to each end of the commentary-spectrum. In terms of locale for the story – I just set it in the city I’ve known and lived in for years.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Truants.

Lee:  The cover for The Truants is by a guy called Zack Crook. I think it’s an incredible piece of work. In fact, when the book was initially going through preparations for publication, it went through a name-change – it was originally called The Knife – and I wasn’t 100% sold on the new title. I was open to persuasion, but had my reservations. But when I saw the new title dropped into Zack’s cover design, everything came together for me – that was the moment I thought “OK, cool – we’re all on the same page here.” He may not be aware quite how pivotal he was in putting my mind to rest on the matter, so quite nice to be able to put it on the record here.

TQThe vampire is often used as a metaphor for something else. Are the old-ones of The Truants a new twist on the vampire mythos? What do they stand for in your novel or are they simply another type of vampire?

Lee:  If anything I’d say they’re a metaphor for society itself – a representation of what humanity, and the so-called civilization and social mores it has accrued over millennia, might look like as an individual – which is then used as a device to explore the notion that society might be just as susceptible to patterns of behaviors – doubts and insecurities, judgments and belief systems, a conflicting sense of purpose/purposelessness – as we all are as fleeting, mortal individuals. And then what was interesting was to force this immortal psychology to exist within its constituent mortal ones and see how, perhaps, it’s not as different/superior as it thought it was. For that to work though, I did have to twist the vampire mythos into a new form, so that’s true as well.

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

Lee:  None of the characters were technically hard to write. They all represent voices that chatter in my own journey through life, and so it was easy enough to allow them each time on the platform to say their piece uninterrupted. But writing as Peter was especially tough existentially – painfully heart-breaking – certainly his early scenes.

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

Lee:  Ha! OK… The question would be: is it just me, or is there something being said about gender roles, and gender politics, in the final chapter? Yes. Absolutely. There’s a lot of noise out there at the moment about what constitutes the family unit, and the argument that parenting should ideally consist of a male-female/mother-father double-helix. The final chapter is a discrete parting shot that calls bullshit on that. And on notions of gender and sexuality being defined simply by physical biology. It’s not a core point of the novel, but it pleases me to think some readers might think “Hey, is he saying here that it’s OK for two people of the same gender to start a family?” Yes, I am saying that. Although to be fair it could be argued that the way the point is only very lightly alluded to it might suggest I’m saying the opposite – let me clear right here that I’m not saying that at all. But yes, there is a nod to that debate tucked in there at the end.

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

Lee:  Probably my very favourite quote in the book is also kinda silly, certainly throwaway. And divisive. Most readers I suspect don’t even notice it, but some laugh out loud at it – much like I did when it came to me – others think it’s really annoying (one reviewer went so far as to accuse of it “triteness bordering on the twee”, which also makes me smile – the contrarian in me likes to think the publishers might one day even put “Twee” on the cover in amongst the other reviews because that would tickle me). But anyway, that quote is:
“She didn’t put food down for the cat. She didn’t have a cat.”

The next two are particular favourites with readers. Both capture the melancholy that underpins the whole novel, but the second one punches through into the actual grief of losing a child and forms part of a longer passage that I’ve heard a number of times has left readers on the floor:
“The black tiger-stripes burnt into the blade reminded him of the trails raindrops would weave as they fattened and became too heavy to cling to rain-struck windows. He remembered watching the rain on the windows when he was little. He remembered liking it. He remembered when he was little and would sit and watch the rain on the windows for what seemed like hours and he would feel OK. It had made a kind of sense to him that he couldn’t put into words, but which made everything else seem acceptable. It made everything seem as if it had its place, even the bad stuff, and that if things got too much, they’d simply roll away under their own weight.”
“She hadn’t turned any lights on when she’d got in. She’d gone through to her room, in her coat and her shoes, and she’d lain on the bed and looked at the ceiling. She hadn’t cried. She barely even made a sound. She tried not to breathe. She tried not to blink. But in the end her body would oblige her. That’s just the way it was built. She felt guilty about that. Eventually she got tired, and eventually she slept. She’d felt guilty about even countenancing the idea of sleep, but it had crept up on her in the end and taken her away from it all. She hadn’t dreamt.
        When she’d awoken there had been a few moments when it had all been a dream. A heavenly interlude of untruth, swaddling her in the beautiful notion of her boy not being dead. It had been her shoes that had shattered that moment. The shoes still on her feet. On her bed. They were the vicious little detail that moored her to reality. It had been her shoes that had appropriately repositioned her existence from hope to despair and had reset the trajectory of her life ever since. It had been her shoes that had calibrated the sine wave of her grief. Set in motion the pendulum of her pain.”

But the passage I think I’m proudest of, and which is one of a few passages that I don’t quite recall writing – I channelled it from somewhere in an early-hours haze between sleep and waking – is this one:
“For so long, he ran with me, hunted with me, lived with me, and he was beautiful.
        But if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then time serves only to blind us. Or perhaps time merely serves to erode beauty’s myopia and reveal the base offal at our core, that writhing, desperate need to be something more than life-struck mud and barely repressible appetites. Engines of procreation and decay. Bubbling and gurgling towers of digestion and waste.
        I don’t know. I think these things, and I sound like him.
        I see him now, as he sees everything. That too, I suppose, has been gifted to us both by age.
        After all these years, lifetimes really, I still don’t even know what beauty is, much less love. Other than that once I found him beautiful, and that I remember thinking I loved him.
        But he changed. Of course he changed. Everything changed, everything changes. And perhaps that’s what really happened to him – he stopped changing, stopped moving. And like a shark that stops swimming, the stasis brought him low. His vision clouded over and he lost sight of beauty. He started to hate.
        He started to die.
        He got old.”

TQWhat's next?

Lee:  I have a lot of ideas for a follow-up to The Truants. It’s set about 7 or 8 years after the event of the first novel, and goes a lot deeper and wider. That’s something I’d love to get stuck into. I’m also keen to finish work on a novel I’ve been kicking around for about 25 years now. That one is called The River, and would I suppose be my own Dark Tower – the one that forms the spine into which everything else might plug into. Beyond that, I’ve a few ideas for some other stories in the vault that look pretty interesting. And I’m also working on a series of children’s stories – Chestnut Tree Tales – that have gathered some dust recently, but which I’d love to get up and running again.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Lee:  You’re welcome!

The Truants
The Overlook Press, July 11, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages

A fresh twist on the vampire mythos, The Truants is a dystopian novel of startling intensity, narrated by immortal old-ones.

Contorting the conventional vampire narrative into a startling tale of immortality, blood lust, and rage contaminating London’s inner-city youth like a virus, The Truants tells the story of the last of the old-ones―creatures afflicted with a condition not unlike vampirism: ancient, bloodthirsty, and unable to withstand sunlight.

The last old-one has decided to end his life, but before he can act he is held up at knifepoint. His assailant disappears, the knife in his pocket, the blood of the old-one seared into its sharpened edge. The knife trades hands, drawing blood again, and the old-one is resurrected through his victims’ consciousness and divided, spreading through the infected. With his horde of infected youth, the old-one must reclaim the knife to regain control of his soul. But someone is out to stop him...

About Lee

Lee Markham is the founder of the children’s publishing house Chestnut Tree Tales and No Man, an independent publishing house. He has previously worked as a brand content developer, and he has written articles for magazines including Admap and Brand Strategy. The Truants is his debut novel.