Sunday, March 31, 2019

Interview with Charlie Holmberg

Please welcome Charlie N. Holmberg to The Qwillery. Smoke and Summons, the 1st novel in the Numina series, was published on February 1, 2019 by 47North.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Charlie:  It’s either a weird Escaflowne fan fiction I did on a mailing list or an unfinished book called “Kaiku and the Ruby Necklace,” which was equally terrible.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Charlie:  I am very much a plotter. Outlines all the way! I can’t wrap my mind around pantsing. XD

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Has your writing process changed from when you wrote The Paper Magician (2014) until now?

Charlie:  I don’t think I could pinpoint one specific thing that’s the most challenging about writing. It really depends on the time of year and the book in question. Sometimes the most challenging thing is making a character arc work. Sometimes it’s school visits. Other times it’s dealing with rejection. Right now it’s that all my projects came to a head at the same time and I have to race to my deadlines!

The most significant change in my writing process actually happened just before I wrote The Paper Magician. (So apparently it was a change for the better!) I feel like I have a more intuitive sense of how to outline a story now, so I don’t get as calculating about how I piece a book together. I now story board EVERY book I write, whereas before I just wrote out a sequence of ideas in a Word document. That involved a lot of annoying back and forth!

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Charlie:  A huge influencer of mine is Hayao Miyazaki. I love his creativity! Sometimes it’s just a simple line in one of his movies that inspires something, or it’s the tone, or his characters. I’ve also been influenced by Brandon Sanderson, who is one of my favorite authors and was my writing instructor in college.

TQDescribe Smoke and Summons using only 5 words.

Charlie:  Magical fidget spinners meets Pokemon.

TQTell us something about Smoke and Summons that is not found in the book description.

Charlie:  There’s a very strong theme of family ties throughout this book and the series.

TQWhat inspired you to write Smoke and Summons? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Charlie:  Initially, it was because my agent and editor teamed up against me and pressured me to write another series! So I had to come up with an idea big enough to encompass multiple books. I went through my Pinterest boards, brainstorming folder, and past, unpublished novels of mine, pulling out anything and everything I found interesting. Some of those things included hosting monsters, an immortality switch, and a horse made of fire.

I adore fantasy because there’s just no limit to it. I like being able to read and write about things I can’t experience in real life. Fantasy encompasses so many other genres as well, so in a way, I get to write a little of everything!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Smoke and Summons?

Charlie:  I did a lot of research on how guns work (especially old models) and the industrial revolution. Most of this was done via the lovely internet, as well as contacting friends who are experts in those fields.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Smoke and Summons.

Charlie:  I love my cover. The artist did an amazing job! The cover depicts Ireth, the fire-horse “demon” that’s bound to my main female character, Sandis.

TQ:   In Smoke and Summons who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Charlie:  You know, between the two viewpoint characters, it kind of switched depending on the scene and the book (Sandis, for instance, was harder to write in the third book of the series). Starting out, Rone was harder, but I got the hang of him pretty quickly.

TQDoes Smoke and Summons , the 1st novel in your Numina series, share anything thematically with your Paper Magician series?

CharlieSmoke and Summons has few similarities to The Paper Magician series. It’s tone is much darker, the stakes higher, and the plot more desperate. Even their progression is different. The Paper Magician series is more serial, while the Numina series is one giant story told in three books. They do both have what I hope are intriguing magic systems and main characters you can root for.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Smoke and Summons.


It never got easier. No matter how many times Kazen summoned a numen into her, it never got easier. Neither did the fear it instilled into Kazen’s victims, nor the pure, unrelenting pain possession wreaked upon her body.

Her stomach tensed, but she opened her mind, welcoming Ireth. Acceptance made the transition more bearable.

Ireth didn’t mean to hurt her.

TQWhat's next?

Charlie:  First is Myths and Mortals and Siege and Sacrifice, the other two books in the series, releasing April 16th and September 17th, respectively. So excited for them!

After that, I have a standalone romantic fantasy releasing called The Will and the Wilds. It’s the first book I wrote based on a dream. I call it my “kissing book” because it has twelve kissing scenes in it.

I’m hoping to sell a duology soon that’s in a similar vein as The Paper Magician, but no contract yet. ;)

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Smoke and Summons
Numina 1
47North, February 1, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 319 pages

A captivating world of monsters and magic from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series.

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon—a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day—a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…


Myth and Mortals
Numina 2
47North, April 16, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 288 pages

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg builds her bewitching world of beasts and betrayal as the Numina Series continues.

Sandis has escaped Kazen’s grasp, but she finds herself unmoored, reeling from her thief friend Rone’s betrayal.

Kazen has been hurt but not stopped, and he’ll do anything to summon the monster that could lay waste to the entire world. Sandis knows she must be the one to stop him, but with her own trusted numen now bound to another, and finding herself with no one she can trust, she is in desperate need of allies. Rone seems determined to help her, but Sandis has no intention of letting him get close to her again. What she doesn’t know is how much Rone gave up to protect her. Or how much more he is willing to give up to keep her safe.

As chaos mounts, Sandis must determine whom to trust. After all, the lines between enemy and ally have never been less clear…and corruption lurks in the most unlikely of places.

About Charlie

Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie N. Holmberg was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She is a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and finally adopted a dog. Her fantasy Paper Magician Series, which includes The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician, and The Master Magician, has been optioned by the Walt Disney Company. Her stand-alone novel, Followed by Frost, was nominated for a 2016 RITA Award for Best Young Adult Romance. She currently lives with her family in Utah. Visit her at

Twitter @CNHolmberg  ~  Facebook

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Interview with Namwali Serpell, author of The Old Drift

Please welcome Namwali Serpell to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Old Drift was published on March 26, 2019 by Hogarth.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Namwali:  In fifth grade, I started writing a children's book about the invention of the alphabet. "Ay!" "It's a bee!" "See?"

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Namwali:  Hybrid. I know the plot of land but not what will spring from the soil as I garden.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Namwali:  Suppressing my impulse toward beauty, particularly similes.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Namwali:  Bugs, the Zambian space program, hair, the cosmopolis, syncretism, etymology, microbiology, eyes, fairy tales, sci-fi, chitenge.

TQDescribe The Old Drift using only 5 words.

Namwali:  The (My) Great Zambian Novel.

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

Namwali:  Sex and menstruation happen at an almost realistic frequency.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Old Drift?

Namwali:  I wanted to figure out the specific nature of my country--what philosophers would call its "quiddity."

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Old Drift?

Namwali:  All sorts: History (how was the Kariba Dam built?); microbiology (what's the likeliest HIV vaccine?); engineering (why aren't microdrones smaller yet?); pop culture (when did He-Man figurines first get exported to Zambia?); tech (can human skin conduct enough electricity to run a smartphone?).

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Old Drift. Who created the cover?

Namwali:  Kai and Sunny. The keywords I gave them were: MOSQUITOS, DRIFT, WATERFALL.

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

Namwali:  The easiest was Joseph--nerdy, self-pitying. The hardest was Lee--beautiful, callous.

TQDoes The Old Drift touch on any social issues?

Namwali:  Yes, it ends with an attempt at a Marxist revolution! Race, class, gender, sexuality--all the goodies.

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

Namwali:  Is this an allusion to Björk? YES.

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

Namwali:  "Every family is a war but some are more civil than others."

TQWhat's next?

Namwali:  A nonfiction book about why I love-hate American Psycho and two novels, one about vengeance, one about mourning.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Namwali:  Thanks!

The Old Drift
Hogarth, March 26, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 576 pages

An electrifying debut from the winner of the 2015 Caine Prize for African writing, The Old Drift is the Great Zambian Novel you didn’t know you were waiting for

On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis. The tale? A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction. The moral? To err is human.

In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives – their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes – form a symphony about what it means to be human.

From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines – this gripping, unforgettable novel sweeps over the years and the globe, subverting expectations along the way. Exploding with color and energy, The Old Drift is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time.

About Namwali

Photo © Peg Skorpinski
NAMWALI SERPELL is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for women writers in 2011 and was selected for the Africa 39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under 40. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing. The Old Drift is her first novel.

Website Twitter @namwalien

Friday, March 29, 2019

Interview with Timothy S. Johnston

Please welcome Timothy S. Johnston to The Qwillery. The War Beneath was published by ChiZine Publications on January 1, 2019.

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. The War Beneath, the first novel in your new The Rise of Oceania series, was recently published. Describe The War Beneath using only 5 words.


Underwater espionage science fiction thriller.


Hold your breath or die trying! (That’s six words, I know.)

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

Timothy:  Every scene takes place underwater, either in a submersible, a habitat, or while swimming. There is no exposition or dialogue above the surface or on land at all.

TQYou seem to like putting your characters in inhospitable environments. Why did you choose under water for this series?

Timothy:  For this book, I imagined a world suffering from global warming and rising ocean levels. To me the oceans are the next frontier for humanity. There are untold resources there that we will undoubtedly look to as temperatures continue to increase on land. Another reason might be that because the characters live in an intense undersea world, and are always under greater pressures than at the surface, this mirrors the pressure of the situations they’re dealing with. It ramps up tension and keeps readers turning the pages.

TQWhat kinds of research did you do for The War Beneath?

Timothy:  I had to study marine exploration over the past century or so. I had to learn about innovations in the past and what might be coming in the near future. Also, I had to understand what living under pressure — in a saturation environment — would mean for people. The inhabitants of the undersea world can’t swim to the surface in an emergency (they would get The Bends) and I had to learn about this and be able to explain it without interrupting the adventure and excitement. I also had to study the undersea environment: the bathymetry, marine life, geology, and so on. The research and plotting always takes longer than the actual writing, to make it all seem more realistic. It was lots of fun!

TQIn a prior interview you stated that you are a plotter. Did any of the characters in The War Beneath surprise you?

Timothy:  Oh yes! This always happens when writing. Side characters turn out to be very likeable, or they turn out to be better villains than I had originally planned. I don’t want to say who, though, but when writing, a character will suddenly tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, what if I did this? Wouldn’t that be cool?” A novel is an organic thing once you begin writing. Even though I have the broad brush strokes down before writing the first word, each character takes on a life of their own and helps direct the story in a natural, dramatic, and tense fashion.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The War Beneath.

Timothy:  Erik Mohr of Made by Emblem in Toronto designed it. I think it’s brilliant, but I have to confess that my publisher and the artist are responsible for it. The floating corpse near the surface was a fantastic choice. It ensures readers know that this is an underwater thriller, especially with the structure partially hidden by the depths.

TQDoes The War Beneath touch on any social issues?

Timothy:  The most emotional theme in this book is one of fathers and sons. It’s something I think about sometimes. Growing up, we look with admiration and adoration at our fathers. The position a father reaches in life also puts great pressure on sons. How are we supposed to achieve what our dads have? How are we supposed to exceed their accomplishments? This is particularly difficult when the father is famous or has reached monumental goals in life. I feel for children of celebrities, for instance. However, the corollary of this is, What if the father has committed an unspeakable crime? Something the son is ashamed of? How does it affect the son’s growth and development? This is a major theme in The War Beneath. The title has a dual meaning, and this is it.

TQYou are an unrepentant genre bender. Where does The War Beneath fit in the genre spectrum?

Timothy:  It’s a thriller, and it has a science/technological element, so it is science fiction thriller. It is for mainstream readers, however, so it might also be called a technothriller. It’s a grand underwater adventure though. I describe it as Mission: Impossible meets The Hunt for Red October, or sometimes as James Bond underwater. I think its appeal is very broad. There is a healthy dose of science in this book too.

TQYour prior series, The Tanner Sequence, was a trilogy. What do you have planned for The Rise of Oceania?

Timothy:  This is a series. I’ve already written the first three books and they are either out or in the pipeline. The Savage Deeps is coming November 2019. I’m also hoping to extend it to six books in total, but we’ll have to see.

TQDo The Rise of Oceania and The Tanner Sequence share anything thematically?

Timothy:  The environments in my books seem to always be hostile. By that I don’t mean that the ocean is hostile; I mean that it’s dangerous. If a character goes outside for too long, they’ll die. This adds tension and heightens drama in any situation. As a writer, I enjoy this. As a reader, I think it makes for a page-turner. Several reviewers have already said they found themselves holding their breath during underwater action sequences. This pleases me to no end.

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


        When I had awoken that morning, I’d assumed it would be the same as any other day. Now here I was, mentally preparing myself to pursue and kill a traitorous operative of TCI. A former friend. It was surreal.


        A minute later the warsub began searching with her active sonar, pinging away once every couple of seconds. No doubt they had detected us heading for the seamount and had heard our thrusters cut out. Since we were now a part of the bottom terrain, however, I hoped that they could not see us.
        And then the unthinkable happened.
        She started to drop her mines.

TQWhat's next?

TimothyThe Savage Deeps is coming in November 2019. Fatal Depth is coming in 2020 (both from ChiZine Publications.) I am currently making the book-signing rounds in Southern Ontario. I love meeting other fans of science fiction thrillers.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Timothy:  Thanks for having me again! I hope people will enter their names in my draw for TSJ swag! I have new stuff to give away. Also visit my blog at to read my movie, book, and videogame reviews and also to enter my contests.

The War Beneath
The Rise of Oceania 1
ChiZine Publications, January 1, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback, and eBook, 350 pages

Living and working underwater can be a dangerous thing. First the bulkheads sweat, then there’s a trickle of water . . .

. . . and then in an instant you’re gone. The only thing left is a bloody pulp in the dark water and crushed bone fragments on the seafloor.

And you can’t bolt to the surface in an emergency. . . . The bends will get you.

But that’s not the worst. When you’re living underwater and also working as a spy for your city, that’s when things get really dangerous.

Truman McClusky has been out of the intelligence business for years, working the kelp farms and helping his city Trieste flourish on the shallow continental shelf just off the coast of Florida. Until his former partner shows up, that is, steals a piece of valuable new technology and makes a mad dash into the Atlantic. Before he knows it, Mac ends up back in the game, chasing the spy to not only recapture the tech, but to kill his former friend.

But when he learns the grim truth behind the theft, it sends his stable life into turmoil and plunges him into an even deadlier mission: evade the submarines of hostile foreign powers, escape assassins, and forge through the world’s oceans at breakneck pace on a daring quest to survive, with more lethal secrets than he thought possible in his pocket.

The future of the city depends on McClusky . . . if he can make it back home.

About Timothy

Timothy S. Johnston is a lifelong fan of thrillers and science fiction thrillers in both print and film. His greatest desire is to contribute to the genre which has given him so much over the past four decades. He wishes he could personally thank every novelist, screenwriter, filmmaker, director and actor who has ever inspired him to tell great stories. He has been an educator for twenty years and a writer for thirty. He lives on planet Earth, but he dreams of the stars. Visit to register for news alerts, read his blog and reviews, and learn more about his current and upcoming thrillers. Timothy is the author of THE WAR BENEATH and THE SAVAGE DEEPS. His futuristic murder mystery/thrillers include THE FURNACE, THE FREEZER, and THE VOID. Follow Timothy on Facebook @TSJAuthor and Twitter @TSJ_Author.

Author Giveaway

What: 3 prizes / 3 winners:
1. A signed copy of the trade paperback of THE WAR BENEATH + TSJ pens and bookmark.
2. TSJ Pens and Bookmark package.
3. TSJ Pens and Bookmark package.

  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “Beneath“ with or without the quotation marks.
  • In the body of the email, please provide your name and full mailing address. The winning names and addresses are used only to mail the giveaway items and is provided The Qwillery and to the author only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted by The Qwillery once the giveaway ends.
Who:  The giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a United States or Canadian mailing address.

When:  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on April 14, 2019. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

ASCENDER Coming in April from Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen


“[Ascender is] a complete joy… both familiar and new all at once, and opens up a new playground reader will be hungry to see them delve into.” —Comic Book Resources

PORTLAND, ORE. 03/27/2019 — From the powerhouse creative team behind the bestselling, award-winning DescenderNew York Times bestselling writer Jeff Lemire (Gideon Falls, Sweet Tooth, The Underwater Welder, Black Hammer) and artist Dustin Nguyen (Batman: Little Gotham)—comes an all new, ongoing fantasy series set in the same universe, Ascender. This new chapter launching from Image Comics on Wednesday, April 24 is set to recapture fans’ hearts and imaginations as well as provide the perfect jumping on point for new readers with no knowledge of the previous Descender series.

“Dustin and I love the world of Descender and we're re-energized by this new direction, which has opened all sorts of new storytelling possibilities for us,” said Lemire. “Ascender will feel like a continuation of the Descender saga and like a brand new book all in one."

Nguyen added: “Plus, it'll be fantastic to switch from drawing machines and metal all day, to all flesh and fantasy for a while!”

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Nintendo Download, March 28, 2019: Get Crafty with Yoshi

This week’s Nintendo Download includes the following featured content:
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch
    • Yoshi’s Crafted World – Jump into a new Yoshi adventure in a world made of everyday objects, like boxes and paper cups. As Yoshi, you’ll leap up high, gulp down enemies and set out on a treasure hunt to find all the different collectables. On the flip-side, certain stages can be played backward, providing new perspectives to explore and new ways to locate some of the more craftily hidden items. The Yoshi’s Crafted World game is available on March 29.
    • The World Next Door – A mix of lightning-fast puzzle battles, powerful storytelling and immersive visual novel elements. The World Next Door follows Jun, a rebellious teen girl trapped in a parallel realm inhabited by magical creatures, who must find her way home before time runs out.
    • Darksiders Warmastered Edition – Deceived by the forces of evil into prematurely bringing about the end of the world, War – the first Horseman of the Apocalypse – stands accused of breaking the sacred law by inciting a war between Heaven and Hell. In the slaughter that ensued, the demonic forces defeated the heavenly hosts and laid claim to the Earth. The Darksiders Warmastered Edition game is available April 2.

Interview with Dan Stout, author of Titanshade

Please welcome Dan Stout to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Titanshade was published on March 12, 2019 by DAW.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Dan:  The very first thing I remember writing was an epic fantasy called Castle Doom. I think I was eight years old. It’s filled with sentences like, “And then he slew a peasant.”
Let’s just say I don’t think it’ll ever be published.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Dan:  I’d describe myself as a hybrid. My short stories are often pantsed, although I sometimes plot out longer pieces. Novel length work definitely involves plotting, but I prefer to use story structure as a diagnostic tool rather than a road map. I really do love the editing stage, and that’s partially because it’s when I get to break out the structural toys.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a journalist affect (or not) your fiction writing?

Dan:  The most difficult thing for me is the gap between starting and completing the first draft. I only get through that Initial first draft by lying to myself about how fast I can get it done and a stubborn refusal to give up.

I think my non-fiction work is a real help when it comes time to edit. It’s not that I’m less emotionally attached to my prose than other writers, but writing for a day job means that I don’t have the luxury of overthinking a problem. I jump in and start cutting and rewriting, because I know that if I don’t get it done, I’m not getting paid.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Dan:  Absolutely everything! I’m a big believer in the idea that all art and media is in dialogue with everything that came before. The great, gritty crime dramas of the 70s are certainly an influence, but so are the more recent fantasy mashups—everything from Fonda Lee’s JADE CITY to Marshall Ryan Maresca’s beautifully realized Maradaine novels.

TQDescribe Titanshade using only 5 words.

Dan:  Men in Black meets Chinatown.

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

Dan:  I think it has a lot of heart. The risk in writing a noir detective fantasy novel is that it could easily come across as especially bleak and nihilistic. If I did my job right, Carter’s worldview is that of a disappointed idealist, rather than a cynic who sees corruption as the natural state of the world.

TQWhat inspired you to write Titanshade? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?

Dan:  I wrote the first chapter as part of an online flash fiction challenge. I had 90 minutes to come up with a story based on a prompt, and while I didn’t get a full story written out, I did at least get the rough outline for the book. That site was called Liberty Hall and although it’s sadly no longer around, at one point all kinds of great ideas were born there.

As far as the appeal of Urban Fantasy, the ability to use fantasy and science fictional imagery and tropes is a huge draw for me. I love finding ways to examine the many weird ways we interact with one another, and speculative fiction gives me a huge treasure trove of tools to highlight and distill all these human interactions. Plus, magic is awesome!

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Titanshade?

Dan:  The advantage of doing a secondary fantasy world is that I can make my own rules and history. But that also carries the burden of making sure that everything hangs together on its own internal logic. I spent a lot of time tracking down original sources for descriptions of 70s era police procedures and arctic living. Again, I had the ability to pick and choose somewhat, because police training and technology varies wildly from one part of the world to another, so the Titanshade PD uses policies I’ve lifted from police forces. But with each element that gets described, that system becomes that much more set in stone.

And of course there’s a ton of research that doesn’t appear in the books. Things like how are building foundations and sewer lines dug when the life of the city could be threatened if a warming geo-vent is damaged? I’ve talked through things like that with architects and engineers, but unless it directly impacts the story, it’s never going to get more than a passing reference.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Titanshade.

Dan:  Collaborating on the cover was one of the real joys of seeing this book come to life! DAW is amazingly open to author input on the cover. They work with a ton of fantastic artists, but I thought Chris McGrath had the perfect eye for the gritty realism and elements of wonder that were needed to pull off this illustration.

The cover is a bit stylized, in that it doesn’t depict a specific scene, but man, does it ever capture the feel of the book! I thought Chris really hit it out of the park. It was so much fun collaborating on the cover, and we compared notes frequently to make sure we staying true to the book while also giving him room to flex his wings artistically.

Once Chris’s work was done, Katie Andersen and the team at DAW did a fantastic job of designing the jacket. The distressed cover, the title font, the slight tilt to the world… all of that came together in the final package. I love seeing art that hews close to the source material while still bringing the artist’s touch to the page, and I think we all worked together as a team to pull it off.

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

Dan:  For me, writing a 1st-person POV is all about finding the rhythm. Once I get into that voice, that character is pretty easy to write, as it just flows outward. So Carter was the easiest person to write.

The hardest would have to be one of the secondary characters, because their voice needs to come through as unique, and their actions reasonable, even when seen only through the filter of Carter’s observations. I have to stop and ask myself if their actions are honest more often. So I’ll say Ajax, since he shares so much time “on stage” with Carter.

TQDoes Titanshade touch on any social issues?

Dan:  Yeah, absolutely! The city of Titanshade is an oil boomtown whose wells are running dry. In addition, the world’s first industrial revolution was spurred by magic, until the source of manna was hunted to extinction. So the question of resource management and income inequality is an ever-present backdrop to the story.

I’m also very interested in how working class people are portrayed in fantasy and sci-fi. Sometimes it seems like speculative fiction has two categories of income: the ultra-rich and those with absolutely nothing. That ignores the huge swath of the population who are getting by, but with no safety net. To me, that’s the really interesting area to explore. The orphan living in squalor has nothing to lose by going off on a quest to save the world, but a single parent working two jobs to pay the rent just doesn’t have the time!

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

Dan:  Sure! I wish more people would ask how to get it from their library. I think that a lot of people are interested in a range of books, but aren’t able to purchase a copy at full retail price. But most libraries have a way for patrons to request a book, either for order or through inter-library loan. And that goes for almost any format—print, ebook, and audio.
Libraries are a way for readers to discover books and authors at no cost, while still supporting those authors and publishers. I was a library rat growing up, and I’m always happy to help people find out more about their local library system, and how to request a copy of their favorite book (mine or someone else’s!).

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

Dan:  One of my favorites is “Know the city and you’ll know the victims. Know the victims and you’ll know the killer.”

It’s not uncommon to see the victims in crime mysteries portrayed almost as props, while the hero and villain are fully fleshed out characters. I do my best to bring a sense of humanity to the victims of the crimes as well, to make them sympathetic, even if they weren’t likable people in life.

TQWhat's next?

Dan:  I am hard at work on the next book in the Carter Archives, trying to make it as multi-layered and mysterious as possible, while still keeping the sense of fun and adventure that fuels the first book. I can’t wait for it to be out in the world a year from now.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Dan:  Thank you! It’s so much fun to be here and talk about this crazy noir fantasy book!

The Carter Archives 1
DAW, March 12, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

This noir fantasy thriller from a debut author introduces the gritty town of Titanshade, where danger lurks around every corner.

Carter’s a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It’s also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city’s future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.

But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. The pressure’s never been higher to make a quick arrest, even as Carter’s investigation leads him into conflict with the city’s elite. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.

About Dan

Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His prize-winning fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan's stories have appeared in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Nature, and Intergalactic Medicine Show. His debut novel Titanshade is a noir fantasy thriller available from DAW Books. To say hello, visit him at

Twitter @DanStout  ~  Facebook

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Interview with K. A. Doore, author of The Perfect Assassin

Please welcome K. A. Doore to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Perfect Assassin was published on March 19, 2019 by Tor Books.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

K. A.:  A story about a girl who climbs rainbow mountain and becomes a ballerina – with illustrations and everything. I’m sure it made a lot of sense to me at the time in 2nd grade.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

K. A.:  I’m a pantser, through and through, to the point where I can’t even write a synopsis until I’ve at least written a draft zero.

I did try plotting, once. And that story is still just an outline somewhere, which only proves I should never do that again. Know your process, folks.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

K. A.:  That first draft. It used to be the easiest thing, and the most fun, but now that the gap between my final drafts and my first drafts has widened so much, it’s hard to look past the hot, steaming mess that is Draft Zero and just get it down. But alas, as much as I’ve tried, you can’t edit a blank page.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

K. A.:  I love Annie Dillard’s lyrical writing style and I love Seanan McGuire’s fast-paced and tight plots, so please blame both for my continuous attempts at writing both lyrical and fast-paced. Whether or not I ever actually achieve that goal is up to the reader, but I’m going to keep trying!

TQDescribe The Perfect Assassin using only 5 words.

K. A.:  Oh, I can do one better and describe the whole trilogy with five words:
Queer! Assassins! Saving! The! Day!

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

K. A.:  It’s gay!

No really, I’ve tried to be very clear that I’m a queer author writing books with queer characters in the hopes that readers looking for that will find it. It’s not always obvious in the descriptions – which I absolutely 100% get – so I’ve been looking for other ways to make it obvious. Which has mostly involved a lot of shouting and waving my arms.

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

K. A.:  My editor.

Okay I guess I should explain that one, huh? Fun fact: even though TPA is my debut, it’s not the first book I wrote in the trilogy. I’d originally written a standalone and when Tor expressed interest in acquiring it, they also expressed interest in turning it into a trilogy. I couldn’t see a way to write two sequels from that starting point, but my editor suggested I write a prequel instead and specifically about Amastan.

That was all the inspiration I needed. Amastan pretty much told me his story himself and here we are.

As for what appeals to me about writing fantasy, it’s the freedom to make and explore a whole world. You can do anything, be anyone, explore any concept – it’s limitless and vast and breathtaking. I’ve tried writing other genres, but fantasy always creeps back in. A little bit of magic, I think, is necessary to keep things interesting.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Perfect Assassin?

K. A.:  I spent a solid chunk of months living in the university library. Thank the patron saints for inter-library loans. I also lived in the Sonoran Desert for six years which, while not quite the same sort of desert as Ghadid is set in, still helped me understand and write the extreme heat and weather.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Perfect Assassin.

K. A.:  It’s very striking – literally, hah. Larry Rostant is the cover artist, and he did both the photography as well as the design. He’s kind of amazing.

As you can probably guess, it shows the main character Amastan. But what most people tend to miss is that, while the red is pretty, yes, it’s actually plot-related. There are spirits in the story called jaan, which, left unattended, quickly become deadly. Most of the time they’re invisible and you wouldn’t even know they were there until it’s too late. But when they’re particularly new and strong, they look like a smear of red.

Which means technically there are two characters on the cover.

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

K. A.:  The easy: Tamella aka the Serpent of Ghadid aka Amastan’s teacher. I had a pretty good idea of her as a badass woman who did amazing stuff in her own time, but has since been forced to keep a low profile. It was just so easy to channel her frustration, but also her acceptance of her new role.

The hardest was Yufit. I had to write several scenes from his point of view just so I knew what was going through his head. It’s always been hard for me to write the love interest, because the main character is so infatuated that they can forget the other person has a life of their own. So balancing that self-centeredness, but also making certain Yufit still has his own character moments, was a hard line to walk.

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

K. A.:

Q: Which character in TPA could you beat in a fair fight?

A: Literally none of them. Barag is the closest, but he’d probably offer me tea and then his wife would shank me. Which would be her version of a fair fight, so.

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

K. A.:  Let’s go with weather-related, because weather plays a big part in the story:

“Dusk fell like dust, coating the world in a darkness that accumulated in one continuous, ever-thickening, layer. The clouds hadn’t broken yet, but they were denser now, billowing and dark. They hunched on the horizon like a brooding crow, flashes of light briefly illuminating their depths.”

TQWhat's next?

K. A.:  The second book – The Impossible Contract – which follows Thana on her own adventures, will be out next November, and I just turned in edits on the third book – The Unconquered City – which will be out summer of 2020. After that, I’ve got a few projects bubbling on the back burner, so we’ll just have to see!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

K. A.:  Thank you for having me!

The Perfect Assassin
Chronicles of Ghadid 1
Tor Books, March 19, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

A novice assassin is on the hunt for someone killing their own in K. A. Doore's The Perfect Assassin, a breakout high fantasy beginning the Chronicles of Ghadid series.

Divine justice is written in blood.

Or so Amastan has been taught. As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, he’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs.

Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed.

Every life has its price, but when the tables are turned, Amastan must find this perfect assassin or be their next target.

The Perfect Assassin is a thrilling fantastical mystery that had me racing through the pages.” —S. A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass

“Full of rooftop fights, frightening magic, and nonstop excitement and mystery, I absolutely loved it from start to finish!” — Sarah Beth Durst


The Impossible Contract
Chronicles of Ghadid 2
Tor Books, November 12, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Second in K. A. Doore's high fantasy adventure series the Chronicles of Ghadid, a determined assassin travels to the heart of the Empire in pursuit of a powerful mark, for fans of Robin Hobb, Sarah J. Maas, and S. A. Chakraborty

Thana has a huge reputation to live up to as daughter of the Serpent, who rules over Ghadid’s secret clan of assassins. Opportunity to prove herself arrives when Thana accepts her first contract on Heru, a dangerous foreign diplomat with the ability to bind a person’s soul under his control.

She may be in over her head, especially when Heru is targeted by a rival sorcerer who sends hordes of the undead to attack them both. When Heru flees, Thana has no choice than to pursue him across the sands to the Empire that intends to capture Ghadid inside its iron grip.

A stranger in a strange city, Thana’s only ally is Mo, a healer who may be too noble for her own good. Meanwhile, otherworldly and political dangers lurk around every corner, and even more sinister plans are uncovered which could lead to worldwide devastation. Can Thana rise to the challenge—even if it means facing off against an ancient evil?

About K. A.

K.A. Doore grew up in Florida, but has since lived in lush Washington, arid Arizona, and cherry-infused Michigan. While recovering from climate whiplash, she’s raised chickens, learned entirely too much about property assessment, photographed cacti, and now develops online trainings.

Website  ~  Twitter @KA_Doore

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Interview with Seth Fried, author of The Municipalists

Please welcome Seth Fried to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Municipalists was published on March 19, 2019 by Penguin Books.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece that you remember writing?

Seth:  When I was ten I decided I was going to write an epic novel about the Civil War. I’d been working on it for about three days when my mom, who was supportive of the project, asked me if I’d finished it yet. I remember being very offended by the question. Of course my sprawling Civil War novel wasn’t finished yet. Though, to be fair, I ended up abandoning the project later that same week.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Seth:  Up until recently I’ve been very much a pantser. Though coming out of this project I’ve started to incorporate some elements into my process that probably make me more of a hybrid. For a project that’s as plot-driven as this I think it can be helpful to write a scenario before a chapter. That’s where you basically write a summary of what will happen within the chapter. I feel like that’s a nice compromise between outlining and winging it. Enough is left out of the summary that there are still lots of opportunities for discovery in the draft. But the summary also acts as a compass, keeping me from the sort of organic digressions and missteps that I would eventually have to cut anyway.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Were the challenges different while writing a novel than while writing a short story?

Seth:  My short answer is just that it’s all pretty tough. But I’ve always loved this quote from Thomas Mann, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” It makes me feel okay about the fact that pretty much every aspect of writing can be perennially intimidating. A lot of aspiring writers assume that feeling is because they’re doing something wrong, but really I think it’s a pretty natural result of the fact that the work is important to you and that you’re expecting a lot out of yourself.

The specific challenges involved in moving from short stories to a novel were unique in that my short stories were what would probably be called experimental, whereas this novel is (though weird in content) pretty traditional in terms of storytelling. It was difficult not being able to rely on the idiosyncratic skill set I’d developed as a short story writer, but also a lot of fun to give myself permission to explore character, scene, plot, and all that fun stuff.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Seth:  Something that’s had a big impact on me is the notion of lightness in literature that’s explored by Italo Calvino in his book Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Calvino furthers the notion that, although many associate lightness with frivolity, there is also such a thing as a lightness of substance. That’s something that’s evident in his stories and novels. They’re all light and playful, but incredibly substantial. That idea has really informed my values as a writer. I want the strength of my books to derive from a thoughtful lightness. In this book I’ve framed my very serious thoughts, hopes, and concerns about modern cities into a brisk adventure that I hope will be as fun as it is meaningful.

TQDescribe The Municipalists using only 5 words.

Seth:  PG Wodehouse meets Jane Jacobs.

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

Seth:  It has an awesome book trailer:

The Municipalists | Book trailer from Julia Mehoke on Vimeo.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Municipalists?

Seth:  I lived in Ohio for most of my life, then moved to NYC in my late twenties. Writing a book about cities was a way for me to process that culture shock and explore my curiosity about the new world in which I found myself.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Municipalists?

Seth:  I got to read lots of great books about urban planning and infrastructure. Some of my favorites were The Death and Life of Great American Cities by the aforementioned Jane Jacobs. I also really enjoyed digging into the writing of Edward Glaeser, Richard Florida, and Kate Ascher.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Municipalists.

Seth:  The cover was illustrated by an artist named Matthew Taylor ( It was designed by Elizabeth Yaffe. They’re both geniuses and I love this cover. It depicts our two heroes, Henry and his AI partner OWEN, walking down the streets of the great city of Metropolis, where the majority of the novel takes place.

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

Seth:  Henry and OWEN were easy to write. The tension between them and their burgeoning friendship felt very real to me and was fun to watch unfold. I think the hardest to write was probably Sarah Laury, since she and I are different from one another in a lot of respects. When you find yourself in a situation like that, I think it’s important to seek out some commonality between you and the character and build out from there. Later, when you’re revising, you should listen closely to your privileged readers and/or sensitivity readers to make sure you’re doing that character justice.

TQDoes The Municipalists touch on any social issues?

Seth:  It does! It deals with what’s great about cities, but also things like gentrification, inequality, and class conflict.

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

Seth:  Great question! No one has asked if the book contains a series of subtle clues leading to an actual hidden treasure in southern France that was once guarded by the Knights Templar. The book, in fact, does not contain a series of subtle clues leading to an actual hidden treasure in southern France that was once guarded by the Knights Templar, but it would still be nice to be asked.

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


OWEN unsheathed the katana and raised it over his head before letting out a blood-curdling howl. He kept the sword overhead for a moment, observing Biggs for any sign that his resolve had weakened. When Biggs only looked confused, OWEN frowned and put the sword away again.

TQWhat's next?

Seth:  I’m currently finishing up a collection of short stories and am in the middle of working on the next novel. If you’d like to check out what my stories are like, some of them can be found here:

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Seth:  Thank you!

The Municipalists
Penguin Book, March 19, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

A novel about an unlikely pair of lonely outsiders–one human, one AI–on an adventure to save the great American city of Metropolis written by “one of the most exciting new voices in fiction” (Charles Yu)

*Named Library’s Journal‘s “Debut of the Month” and one of NYLON‘s “50 Books You’ll Want to Read in 2019″*

In Metropolis, the gleaming city of tomorrow, the dream of the great American city has been achieved. But all that is about to change, unless a neurotic, rule-following bureaucrat and an irreverent, freewheeling artificial intelligence can save the city from a mysterious terrorist plot that threatens its very existence.

Henry Thompson has dedicated his life to improving America’s infrastructure as a proud employee of the United States Municipal Survey. So when the agency comes under attack, he dutifully accepts his unexpected mission to visit Metropolis looking for answers. But his plans to investigate quietly, quickly, and carefully are interrupted by his new partner: a day-drinking know-it-all named OWEN, who also turns out to be the projected embodiment of the agency’s supercomputer. Soon, Henry and OWEN are fighting to save not only their own lives and those of the city’s millions of inhabitants, but also the soul of Metropolis. The Municipalists is a thrilling, funny, and touching adventure story, a tour-de-force of imagination that trenchantly explores our relationships to the cities around us and the technologies guiding us into the future.

About Seth

Photo by Julia Mehoke
Seth Fried is a fiction and humor writer. He is the author of the novel The Municipalists (Penguin Books) and the short story collection The Great Frustration (Soft Skull Press). He is a recurring contributor to The New Yorker’s “Shouts and Murmurs” and NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” His stories have appeared in Tin House, One Story, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Kenyon Review, Vice, and many others.

Website  ~  Twitter @Seth_Fried