Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Interview with Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of The Bloodprint

Please welcome Ausma Zehanat Khan to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Bloodprint, the author's first speculative fiction novel, is published on October 3rd by Harper Voyager.

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

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

Ausma:  I’ve been writing since I was a child, mainly because my head is filled with voices and writing seems like a good way to expunge them. As I grew up and became more serious about writing, I realized I have stories to tell—stories about people from backgrounds like mine. I wanted to be able to add my voice because it was something I didn’t see very much of when I was growing up. Representation is so important to your sense of yourself, it helps you understand the value of your contribution. Writing was one way to explore that.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Ausma:  I’m definitely a plotter. Part of it is stress factor—I can’t handle the stress of not knowing outcomes or how to get from A to Z. But mostly it’s because I like to do a lot of reading beforehand which helps me flesh out my story and lay it all out in my mind. I’m not completely rigid though—I outline very thoroughly, but if something new comes up, I try to follow where it leads.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ausma:  I’d have to say it’s deadlines. There’s simply not enough time in the day to read, plan, write, and keep up on social media. So often I want to curl up with a book or visit family or get other things done, and I really have to work at being disciplined.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Ausma:  The Ngaio Marsh mysteries with their gift for language. Dune by Frank Herbert was an awe-inspiring work of science fiction for me. The Shannara series by Terry Brooks for making me fall madly in love with fantasy. And I try to read a lot of history and books in translation so I can have a better sense of how rich and diverse our world is, and how we all fit together. I can never decide if my favourite book is Dune or if it’s Samarkand by Amin Maalouf. Both have influenced The Bloodprint.

TQDescribe The Bloodprint in 140 characters or less.

Ausma:  Arian and Sinnia, two powerful women warriors, embark on a quest for a sacred text that will help them defeat the oppressive rule of the Talisman.

Did I make it under 140?

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

Ausma:  The Bloodprint features a slow-burning, long-thwarted romance between two of its lead characters—Arian and Daniyar. It was my favorite part of the book to write!

TQWhat inspired you to write The Bloodprint? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Ausma:  I visited the Chamber of Holy Relics at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul several years ago. I was in the presence of a sacred manuscript and the room around me was filled with reverence for the written word. I wanted to capture that feeling in a book.

I like the narrative freedom that writing fantasy offers. I love its scope for building new worlds while relying on touchstones that we recognize from our own. Much of the fantasy I read is about the struggle between good and evil and the desire of good people to reclaim their worlds from darkness. I find that necessary and relevant today.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Bloodprint?

Ausma:  I read a lot of books about the history of the Silk Road, particularly the routes through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Iran. And I read a lot of political history about Central Asia. I became more than a little obsessed with the accomplishments and conquests of the Mongol Empire. I also watched documentaries, and studied hundreds of maps and photographs to get a better feel for the kind of world I wanted to create.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Bloodprint?

Ausma:  I love the cover designed by Steve Stone! It completely suggests a world in turmoil and under threat. And it’s not a spoiler to tell you that the main stronghold depicted on the cover represents the Citadel of the Council of Hira, a powerful group of women mystics. My protagonists Arian and Sinnia are members of the Council of Hira—the Citadel is their home.

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

Ausma:  The easiest character to write was Arian because I’d been thinking about what drives her for so long and I had a strong sense of her personality: she’s stubbornly dedicated to doing what she thinks is right but she’s willing to listen to the wisdom of others…in most cases. I know her background, her history and what she’ll sacrifice in pursuit of her quest. The hardest character to write was Daniyar because he keeps so much to himself and he resists when I want to push him to the forefront of the book. He reminds me that this is Arian’s story. But I worked at making him more flawed and relatable, so he isn’t just this aloof, sexy warrior.

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

Ausma:  I have a background in human rights so human rights issues are always at the forefront of my mind. I’m interested in exploring the question of what happens to societies that have experienced the hardships of war. What emerges from those broken politics? And what kinds of social and political conditions lead to authoritarianism or state breakdown? A common outcome of state collapse is the extreme vulnerability of women, children and minorities. The Bloodprint explores that kind of world and examines the question of what it would take to change things for the better.

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

Ausma:  Do I know a man like Daniyar in real life? Let’s just say yes and leave it at that!

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


       Silence and isolation were the legacy of the wars of the Far Range, the countryside despoiled and dangerous, outsiders viewed with suspicion and distrust. Women caught in the open were sold to slave-chains. Men were conscripted to the Talisman cause.

       And so the vast, wild country of Khorasan had shrunk into these pockets of ignorance and fear.

TQWhat's next?

Ausma:  I’ve completed the second book of the Khorasan Archives—the sequel to The Bloodprint—and will begin work on the third installment soon. I’m hoping to do some travel for research, but in the meantime, I’m finishing edits on my fourth mystery, A Dangerous Crossing, which will be out next February. I’ve also begun work on the fifth book in my detective series. It’s been a completely hectic but wonderful time!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Ausma:  Thank you so much for having me!

The Bloodprint
The Khorasan Archives
Harper Voyager, October 3, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

The author of the acclaimed mystery The Unquiet Dead delivers her first fantasy novel—the opening installment in a thrilling quartet—a tale of religion, oppression, and political intrigue that radiates with heroism, wonder, and hope.

A dark power called the Talisman, born of ignorance and persecution, has risen in the land. Led by a man known only as the One-Eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.

But there are those who fight the Talisman’s spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her fellow warrior, Sinnia, skilled fighters who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-Eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: the Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.

Finding the Bloodprint promises to be their most perilous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal boy they freed from slavery and a man that used to be both Arian’s confidant and sword master—Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.

About Ausma

Photo by Athif Khan
Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a PhD in international human rights law with a specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans.  She is the author of the award-winning debut novel The Unquiet Dead, the first in the Khattak/Getty mystery series. Her subsequent novels include The Language of Secrets and Among the Ruins. A British-born Canadian, she now lives in Colorado with her husband.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @ausmazehanat


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