Friday, April 16, 2021

2021 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - April 2021 Debuts

Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the beginning of 2022 the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2021 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on  May 3, 2021, unless the vote is extended. If the vote is extended the ending date will be updated.

Vote for your favorite April 2021 Debut Cover! free polls

Cover by Rohan Eason

Cover design: Stephanie Ross
Cover illustration: Misha Gurnanee Gudibanda

Interior and cover design by Elizabeth Story

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Interview with Marina Lostetter

Please welcome Marina Lostetter back to The Qwillery. The Helm of Mindnight, the first novel in the The Five Penalties series, was published on April 13, 2021 by Tor Books.

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery! When we first chatted in 2017 you answered the questions regarding the most challenging thing for you about writing as follows:

"The upside to plotting for me is the focus it brings to drafting a story--the words flow well once I know where I'm going and what I'm trying to say. The downside is my tendency to try to bend the characters to fit the plot. I often write myself into corners because I want events to happen a certain way, but it doesn’t make sense for the characters to make the choices I want them to. " [Interview here.]

What has changed as far as writing challenges for you?

Marina:  Everything above still holds true. There is one new challenge I've encountered now that I'm five novels into my career, and that's coming to terms with the fact that each novel writing experience is completely different. I'll start out thinking, I can write this really quickly--draft it efficiently--because I've written a novel before, I know exactly how this will go, but then, inevitably, each book has its own nuances that make drafting completely different process than before. Either I'm trying to tackle a structure that's different, or I'm writing a character that just won't "behave," or thematically things just won't fit together easily. Each creative project is unique unto itself.

TQ:  What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when your first novel was published that you know now?

Marina:  Book releases are exhausting! There's a lot involved in a writing career besides butt-in-chair writing time. The more writing you do, the more "authoring" you do as well.

TQ:  Your prior novels have been Science Fiction. The Helm of Midnight is your first fantasy novel. What appeals to you about writing fantasy?

Marina:  I love the freedom of magic. The ability to create in-depth histories and versions of "physics" that have very little to do with reality. I can make monsters, I can make gods, I can built impossible cities.

TQ:  Describe The Helm of Midnight using only 5 words.

Marina:  I'm going to steal five words from some of the wonderful authors who blurbed the book: Bloody, ambitious, mind-ripping, beautiful, and vicious.

TQ:  Tell us something about The Helm of Midnight that is not in the book description.

Marina:  The valley of Arkensyre, in which the story takes place, is sealed off from the outside world. It's protected by the gods from the wastelands, where all manner of monsters roam. Only one kind of monster can make it past the god-barrier, and that's varger--hulking creatures that look half-bear, half-dog, which are covered in boils and only have a taste for human flesh. They can't be killed, just reduced to a fog and bottled away in enchanted glass.

But they might not all be as monstrous as they seem.

TQ:  Does The Helm of Midnight, the first novel in The Five Penalties series, share anything thematically with your Noumenon SF series?

Marina:  I tend to write about characters trying to do their best and be better people, even when their "best" is sincerely awful. Also, in the Noumenon series, the characters start out thinking physics is behaving one way, when really it's behaving very differently. Similarly, the magic system in The Helm of Midnight appears to function a certain way, but there are layers to its functionality that have yet to be discovered.

TQ:  Please tell us about the cover for The Helm of Midnight.

Marina:  Sam Weber is the cover artists. On the front we see a Regulator (essentially a lawperson in charge of overseeing enchantments) in a very specific version of their uniform. White is reserved for a special occasion. I play a lot with color meaning in The Helm of Midnight.

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

Marina:  Melanie came the most naturally to me, but that might be because I've "known" her the longest. She featured in the original short story The Helm of Midnight is based on, which I wrote a decade ago now. Individually, Krona and her sister, De-Lia, weren't that difficult to write, but I'd say their relationship was one of the toughest to get right. They have a very push-and-pull kind of sisterhood. Sometimes they're rivals, sometimes they're codependent, but there's a lot of love and respect between them, even when their relationship is rocky.

TQ:  Does The Helm of Midnight touch on any social issues?

Marina:  Part of The Helm of Midnight deals with being a cog in a bad system, and how society can push us to do things we might not otherwise do. Thematically it asks things like, what are our individual roles in upholding broken systems? In what ways can we use bad systems to try to do good things regardless? At what point are we truly bad people, and the system doesn't matter? Does intent matter? Do the ends ever justify truly terrible means?

There's also a lot of focus on bodily autonomy.

TQ:  Which question about The Helm of Midnight do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Marina:  I wish more people would ask about the deities, because the Valley's creation myth and the gods' roles aren't just set dressing or back story. They're extremely integral to the plot of the first novel, as well as the over-arching plot of the trilogy. Essentially, the Valley has five gods, which correspond to the five kinds of magic: Time, Nature, Knowledge, Emotion, and the Unknown. But there's also a sixth deity, the Thalo. The Thalo created the world and the monsters, but not the humans. It sees humans as unfit, poorly formed abominations. Its sinister influence is a constant drive in The Five Penalties series.

TQ:  What's next?

Marina:  I have another book coming out this year! ACTIVATION DEGRADATION is releasing on September 28, 2021. It's a thriller-esque sci fi novel set in Jovian space, featuring soft robots, queer space pirates, action-adventure, and unreliable narration.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Marina:  Thank you so much for having me!

The Helm of Midnight
The Five Penalties 1
Tor Books, April 13, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages
Hannibal meets Mistborn in Marina Lostetter’s THE HELM OF MIDNIGHT, the dark and stunning first novel in a new trilogy that combines the intricate worldbuilding and rigorous magic system of the best of epic fantasy with a dark and chilling thriller.

In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power—the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city.

Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question.

It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

About Marina

Marina J. Lostetter (she/her) is the author of Noumenon and Noumenon: Infinity. This is her first foray into fantasy. Originally from Oregon, she now resides in Arkansas with her husband, Alex. When not writing or drawing she can often be found reading spec-fic, or playing it (she enjoys a good zombie-themed board game now and again). And she does it all while globetrotting. Visit her online at or follow her on Twitter @MarinaLostetter.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

2021 Hugo Awards Finalists

Finalists for the 2021 Hugo Awards, the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult book, the Astounding Award for Best New Writer have been announced. The winners will be announced at DisCon III taking place from December 15 - 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. For more information about DisCon III please visit the website:

2021 Hugo Awards Finalists

Best Novel
  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom)
  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)
  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
  • The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books)

Best Novella
  • Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)
  • Finna, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom)
  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)
  • Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tordotcom)

Best Novelette
  • “Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine, May/June 2020)
  • “Helicopter Story”, Isabel Fall (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
  • “The Inaccessibility of Heaven”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny Magazine, July/August 2020)
  • “Monster”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
  • “The Pill”, Meg Elison (from Big Girl, (PM Press))
  • “Two Truths and a Lie”, Sarah Pinsker (

Best Short Story
  • “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020)
  • “A Guide for Working Breeds”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, ed. Jonathan Strahan (Solaris))
  • “Little Free Library”, Naomi Kritzer (
  • “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020)
  • “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots – 2020, ed. David Steffen)

Best Series
  • The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
  • The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor Books)
  • The Lady Astronaut Universe, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books/Audible/Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
  • The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (
  • October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work
  • Beowulf: A New Translation, Maria Dahvana Headley (FSG)
  • CoNZealand Fringe, Claire Rousseau, C, Cassie Hart, Adri Joy, Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan, Alasdair Stuart.
  • FIYAHCON, L.D. Lewis–Director, Brent Lambert–Senior Programming Coordinator, Iori Kusano–FIYAHCON Fringe Co-Director, Vida Cruz–FIYAHCON Fringe Co-Director, and the Incredible FIYAHCON team
  • “George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, Or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)”, Natalie Luhrs (Pretty Terrible, August 2020)
  • A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, Lynell George (Angel City Press)
  • The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy, Jenny Nicholson (YouTube)

Best Graphic Story or Comic
  • DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party, written by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)
  • Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over, Author: Seanan McGuire,  Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosi Kämpe (Marvel)
  • Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything, Author: G. Willow Wilson, Artist: Christian Ward (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild, Author: Marjorie Liu, Artist: Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead, written by Kieron Gillen, iIllustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, lettered by Ed Dukeshire (BOOM! Studios)
  • Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Harry N. Abrams)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
  • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), written by Christina Hodson, directed by Cathy Yan (Warner Bros.)
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, written by Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele, directed by David Dobkin (European Broadcasting Union/Netflix)
  • The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Netflix / Skydance Media)
  • Palm Springs, written by Andy Siara, directed by Max Barbakow (Limelight / Sun Entertainment Culture / The Lonely Island / Culmination Productions / Neon / Hulu / Amazon Prime)
  • Soul, screenplay by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers, directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers, produced by Dana Murray (Pixar Animation Studios/ Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Tenet, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner Bros./Syncopy)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
  • Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon, written by Vinay Patel and Chris Chibnall, directed by Nida Manzoor (BBC)
  • The Expanse: Gaugamela, written by Dan Nowak, directed by Nick Gomez (Alcon Entertainment / Alcon Television Group / Amazon Studios / Hivemind / Just So)
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Heart (parts 1 and 2), written by Josie Campbell and Noelle Stevenson, directed by Jen Bennett and Kiki Manrique (DreamWorks Animation Television / Netflix)
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 13: The Jedi, written and directed by Dave Filoni (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 16: The Rescue, written by Jon Favreau, directed by Peyton Reed (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)
  • The Good Place: Whenever You’re Ready, written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group)

Best Editor, Short Form
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • C.C. Finlay
  • Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form
  • Nivia Evans
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Sarah Guan
  • Brit Hvide
  • Diana M. Pho
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist
  • Tommy Arnold
  • Rovina Cai
  • Galen Dara
  • Maurizio Manzieri
  • John Picacio
  • Alyssa Winans

Best Semiprozine
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edotor Scott H. Andrews
  • Escape Pod, editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney, hosts Tina Connolly and Alasdair Stuart, audio producers Summer Brooks and Adam Pracht and the entire Escape Pod team.
  • FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, publisher Troy L. Wiggins, executive editor DaVaun Sanders, managing editor Eboni Dunbar, poetry editor Brandon O’Brien, reviews and social media Brent Lambert,  art director L. D. Lewis, and the FIYAH Team.
  • PodCastle, editors, C.L. Clark and Jen R. Albert, assistant editor and host, Setsu Uzumé, producer Peter Adrian Behravesh, and the entire PodCastle team.
  • Uncanny Magazine, editors in chief: Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor: Chimedum Ohaegbu, non-fiction editor:  Elsa Sjunneson, podcast producers: Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky
  • Strange Horizons, Vanessa Aguirre, Joseph Aitken, Rachel Ayers, M H Ayinde, Tierney Bailey, Scott Beggs, Drew Matthew Beyer, Gautam Bhatia, S. K. Campbell, Zhui Ning Chang, Tania Chen, Joyce Chng, Liz Christman, Linda H. Codega, Kristian Wilson Colyard, Yelena Crane, Bruhad Dave, Sarah Davidson, Tahlia Day, Arinn Dembo, Nathaniel Eakman, Belen Edwards, George Tom Elavathingal, Rebecca Evans, Ciro Faienza, Courtney Floyd, Lila Garrott, Colette Grecco, Guananí Gómez-Van Cortright, Julia Gunnison, Dan Hartland, Sydney Hilton, Angela Hinck, Stephen Ira, Amanda Jean, Ai Jiang, Sean Joyce-Farley, Erika Kanda, Anna Krepinsky, Kat Kourbeti, Clayton Kroh, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Catherine Krahe, Natasha Leullier, A.Z. Louise, Dante Luiz, Gui Machiavelli, Cameron Mack, Samantha Manaktola, Marisa Manuel, Jean McConnell, Heather McDougal, Maria Morabe, Amelia Moriarty, Emory Noakes, Sarah Noakes, Aidan Oatway, AJ Odasso, Joel Oliver-Cormier, Kristina Palmer, Karintha Parker, Anjali Patel, Vanessa Rose Phin, Nicasio Reed, Belicia Rhea, Endria Richardson, Natalie Ritter, Abbey Schlanz, Clark Seanor, Elijah Rain Smith, Alyn Spector, Hebe Stanton, Melody Steiner, Romie Stott, Yejin Suh, Kwan-Ann Tan, Luke Tolvaj, Ben Tyrrell, Renee Van Siclen, Kathryn Weaver, Liza Wemakor, Aigner Loren Wilson, E.M. Wright, Vicki Xu, Fred G. Yost, staff members who prefer not to be named, and guest editor Libia Brenda with guest first reader Raquel González-Franco Alva for the Mexicanx special issue

Best Fanzine
  • The Full Lid, written by Alasdair Stuart, edited by Marguerite Kenner
  • Journey Planet, edited by Michael Carroll, John Coxon, Sara Felix, Ann Gry, Sarah Gulde, Alissa McKersie, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, Steven H Silver, Paul Trimble, Erin Underwood, James Bacon, and Chris Garcia.
  • Lady Business, editors. Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan.
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, ed. Adri Joy, Joe Sherry, The G, and Vance Kotrla
  • Quick Sip Reviews, editor, Charles Payseur
  • Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog, ed. Amanda Wakaruk and Olav Rokne

Best Fancast
  • Be The Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
  • Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel, produced by Claire Rousseau
  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe, Jonathan Strahan, producer
  • Kalanadi, produced and presented by Rachel
  • The Skiffy and Fanty show, produced by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink,  presented by Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Alex Acks, Paul Weimer, and David Annandale.
  • Worldbuilding for Masochists, presented by Rowenna Miller, Marshall Ryan Maresca and Cass Morris

Best Fan Writer
  • Cora Buhlert
  • Charles Payseur
  • Jason Sanford
  • Elsa Sjunneson
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Paul Weimer

Best Fan Artist
  • Iain J. Clark
  • Cyan Daly
  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Maya Hahto
  • Laya Rose

Best Video Game

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Publisher and Developer: Nintendo)
  • Blaseball (Publisher and Developer: The Game Band)
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake (Publisher Square Enix)
  • Hades (Publisher and Developer: Supergiant Games)
  • The Last of Us: Part II (Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Developer: Naughty Dog)
  • Spiritfarer (Publisher and Developer: Thunder Lotus)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book
  • Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)
  • A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
  • Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (Margaret K. McElderry/ Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)
  • Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet / Hot Key)
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions)

Astounding Award for Best New Writer
  • Lindsay Ellis (1st year of eligibility)
  • Simon Jimenez (1st year of eligibility)
  • Micaiah Johnson (1st year of eligibility)
  • A.K. Larkwood (1st year of eligibility)
  • Jenn Lyons (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Emily Tesh (2nd year of eligibility)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Interview with Caroline Hardaker, author of Composite Creatures

Please welcome Caroline Hardaker to The Qwillery as part of the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Composite Creatures is published on April 13, 2021 by Angry Robot.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Caroline a very Happy Book Birthday!

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

Caroline:  When I was very young, maybe 6 or 7, I wrote a series of mystery stories involving a group of kids, solving crimes. The main character was named Lime, and looked strangely like me… It was all very Famous Five inspired – lots of caves, smugglers, and picnics in the woods.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Caroline:  Definitely a hybrid. I couldn’t just write without a rough idea of where I was going, a nd I couldn’t write creatively with a really strict structure of where I needed to get to! During the writing process unexpected things happen and new themes appear. So I tend to plan an outline but amend it as I write the first draft. Most often, the ending is completely different to how I planned it but I quite like that, it means the story has taken on a life of its own.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Caroline:  It’s knowing where to stop, and feeling at peace with a finished manuscript. I could easily copy edit and proofread until my eyeballs fall out, tweaking syntax and word choices. I suppose that’s the poet in me, I’m always trying to get the rhythm of a sentence ‘just so’. But there comes a point – especially when you’re working to a publisher’s deadlines – when you have to turn away and say “I think it’s done now.” I still find that hard. A part of me doesn’t even want to open the book now because I’ll still be searching for things to improve. At some point I’ll look, and hopefully I’ll be as at peace as I’d like to be.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Caroline:  Everything! Every book I read influences me in some way, from graphic novels through to the classics. Even when I haven’t really enjoyed a book there’s still something to learn from them, whether it’s plotting or even just some new vocabulary.

But I’m also very much inspired by films. I’m a very visual person, and imagine the story playing out like a film when I’m writing it, complete with camera angles and close up zooming shots of characters faces. I often make music playlists for different stories and play those on repeat while I write too, and they instantly get me into the right mood. It drives my husband mad though!

TQDescribe Composite Creatures using only 5 words.

Caroline:  Thoughtful. Haunting. Relatable. Speculative. Shocking.

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

Caroline:  In some ways, I think of the novel as a meditation on introspection and retrospection. The whole story is told by Norah, from an undisclosed time in her later life. She’s telling us things that happened a long time ago, and a reader should wonder WHY she’s even telling us at all.

I’m just so interested in the psychology of memory. How many of our memories are as we recall them to be? And why do we look backwards at all? Who are we trying to convince by replaying these scenes in our heads?

TQWhat inspired you to write Composite Creatures? What appeals to you about writing dystopian fiction?

Caroline:  No matter what I write, it often ends up having a dystopian twist. When I was younger, I wrote a lot of fantasy stories, but when I picked up prose again in recent years I realised that I was far more interested in stories that were based in reality but had a speculative twist. Stories that could be real, or you could imagine happening very soon. Those were the ones that haunted me the longest.

As for what inspired this novel, I was asked to write several science fiction poems for a magazine in Edinburgh and was desperately looking around my living room for ideas. The stories and poems that affect me the most are the ones that twist elements of reality just a little – so that they’re strange but familiar. So I wrote one poem based on my pot plant, one on a tax bill, and then my giant cat waddled in and inspired the poem that ended up becoming Composite Creatures.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Composite Creatures?

Caroline:  I read a lot about modern advances in genetic research and – to a degree – artificial intelligence. The novel takes place in a world poisoned by plastics, so I did a fair amount of online research into the future consequences of microplastic pollution and global warning. Quite a lot of bleak, doom-laden stuff!

Throughout drafting and redrafting, I kept up the research as the scientific landscape changes so quickly. And it’s a good job I did – as it started to look like the direction I was taking Composite Creatures in could almost be a possibility in the near future. But there’s a huge moral question there, and whether humanity goes down that road is still up for debate, thank goodness.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Composite Creatures.

Caroline:  Angry Robot was amazing at getting me involved with the cover design. From initially creating a Pinterest board together to choosing a concept for the cover – I became a real part of the process. Once we knew roughly what we wanted, the team sent me a selection of illustrators to choose from, and when I saw Rohan Eason’s sketchy, twisty, surrealist style I knew he was the one who could bring the cover to life.

The cover does depict something from the novel, yes. It’s more than a single scene, and the reader will recognise it immediately from only a few chapters into the book. It’s a very important place in the story, for sure.

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

Caroline:  The main protagonist and voice of the novel, Norah, was the easiest I’d say. She’s a very everyday woman – in her early thirties, has a relatively dull job, and is just trying to keep her head down and get on with life. She’s relatable. She also struggles with some elements of her past that keep coming back to haunt her, and even though she tries to shake them off, they still follow her wherever she goes.

I wouldn’t like to imagine that I’m anything like Norah, or that I’d make the morally dubious choices she makes, but everything she does is understandable to me. It was easy for me to find reasons for her to justify what she’s doing.

As for the most difficult characters, I didn’t find any of them particularly difficult, but writing about the doctors at the private healthcare organisation had their challenges. It would have been easy to make them seem like cartoon villains, but the truth is that they aren’t. They’re real people too, just like Norah, with families and hopes for the future. They believe what they’re a part of is changing the world for the better. So I had to think about their dual nature whilst interpreting their behaviour through Norah’s eyes.

TQDoes Composite Creatures touch on any social issues?

CarolineComposite Creatures definitely tackles environmental issues in society. The novel explores a future where microplastic pollution and chemical contamination are years ahead of where we are now. The sky is lilac, and the soil burns the soles of your boots. But it’s also a world that functions similarly to our world today, only tweaked to compensate for these things. Through Norah’s eyes, we see how society struggles to relate to nature that poisons us. Imagine – if you lived in a world where wildlife was mostly found stuffed in community museums, how would you think about life that wasn’t human? Would you see it as just as worthy as ours, or less so?

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

Caroline:  The irony is, I really wish they’d ask about the character ‘Nut’ but you’d have to read it first to understand the question, and unless you’ve read it, I can’t really answer it either due to spoilers! But the question would be, “What does Nut look like?” And I’ll have to leave that one there…

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Composite Creatures.

Caroline:  Here’s an extract from near the beginning of the story…

“Mum looked up to the sky for things I couldn’t understand, always through her old binoculars; heavy black things, held into shape by stitched skins. She liked to shock me with little facts, things like, “When I was little, the sky was full of diamonds that you could only see at night,” and “Me and your Gran used to lie on our backs and watch fluffy clouds go by. You could see shapes in them, and if you asked the sky a question, it sometimes told you the future.” The more stories she told, the less I believed her, and would gently push my hands in to her belly and say, “You’re fibbing, tell the truth.” But Mum would just shake her head so her red curls bounced over her face and promise that it was real, she’d seen it with her own eyes. One night, she even told me that, “the moon used to be as white as a pearl.” At the time, I didn’t know what a pearl was, which seemed to make her sadder. She pulled me to her side and pressed the binoculars to my face. “Keep looking, Norah. Up there in the dark. The birds – they might come back. They might.”

TQWhat's next?

Caroline:  My second poetry collection, Little Quakes Every Day, was published a few months ago, so I’m at the clean slate stage with regards to poetry. After recently watching the film ‘The Lighthouse’ I’ve been getting stirrings to write a collection based on stories from isolated lighthouses around the world. I recently suggested it on Twitter and people seemed very keen to read it, so at some point I’ll be starting on that. It’ll be quite the escapist venture!

I’m currently working on my next novel, which should hopefully be finished later this year. I can’t say too much about it, but it’s a little more surreal than Composite Creatures but is still a haunting piece. I have no idea what readers will think of it, but it’s going to be exciting to find out!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Caroline:  Thank you for having me!

Composite Creatures
Angry Robot, April 13, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook 400 pages
How close would you hold those you love, when the end comes? And what would you do for your own survival?

In a society wher self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur are learning how to co-exist in domestic bliss. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.

But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. The earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in.Fortunately, Easton Grove have the answer, a perfect little bundle of fur that Norah and Arthur can take home. All they have to do to live long, happy lives is keep it, or her, safe and close.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Teratoma for One | Nine Lives | Cell Patchwork | Till Death ]
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

About Caroline

Caroline Hardaker is a poet and novelist from the northeast of England. She has published two collections of poetry, and her work has appeared worldwide in print and on BBC radio. She is Writer in Residence for Newcastle Puppetry Festival and is currently collaborating with the Royal Northern College of Music to produce a cycle of songs to be performed throughout the year. She lives and writes in Newcastle.

Website ~ Twitter @carolinehwrites

Monday, April 12, 2021

The View From Monday - April 12, 2021

Happy Monday!

There are 4 debuts this week:

Becoming Leidah by Michelle Grierson;

Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker;

The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club by Doug Henderson;


Malice by Heather Walter.

Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

From formerly featured DAC Authors:

Gifting Fire (Stealing Thunder 2) by Alina Boyden;

The Worldbreaker Saga Omnibus by Kameron Hurley;

The Girl and the Mountain (The Book of the Ice 2) by Mark Lawrence;


The Helm of Midnight (The Five Penalties 1) by Marina Lostetter.

Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

Debut novels are highlighted in blue. Novels, etc. by formerly featured DAC Authors are highlighted in green.

April 13, 2021
Westside Saints (h2tp)
W.M. Akers HistM/GH - A Gilda Carr Tiny Mystery 2
The Immortals of Tehran (h2tp) Ali Araghi LF
Love in Color Bolu Babalola FairyT/FolkT/LM/SS
Gifting Fire Alina Boyden F - Stealing Thunder 2
Vicarious Rhett C. Bruno SF
Multispecies Cities: Solarpunk Urban Futures Priya Sarukkai
Chabria Taiyo Fujii
hweta Taneja
SF/GenEng/PA - Anthology
Trial of the Wizard King Chad Corrie F - The Wizard King Trilogy 2
Trafik Rikki Ducornet SF
Mortis John French SF - Horus Heresy: Siege of Terra
Becoming Leidah (D) Michelle Grierson F
Composite Creatures (D) Caroline Hardaker SF
Near the Bone Christina Henry H
The Worldbreaker Saga Omnibus (e) Kameron Hurley F - The Worldbreaker Saga
Savage Gerry John Jantunen SF
Voices in the Darkness David Niall Wilson (Ed)
DF - Anthology
The Girl and the Mountain Mark Lawrence F - The Book of the Ice 2
The Night Library of Sternendach: A Vampire Opera in Verse Jessica Lévai HistF
Breath by Breath Morgan Llywelyn SF - Step by Step 3
The Helm of Midnight Marina Lostetter F - The Five Penalties 1
Litany of Dreams Ari Marmell F - Arkham Horror
Nightbringer Graham McNeill SF - Black Library Masterworks
My Mother's House (h2tp) Francesca Momplaisir MR/CulH/LF
Vampire Genevieve Kim Newman H - Warhammer Horror
Monstrous Affections: Stories (ri)
David Nickle H
Before the Devil Fell (h2tp)
Neil Olson LF/M/Occ/Sup/Th
The Anthill (h2tp)
Julianne Pachico LF/H
Space Marine Conquests: Masters of Shadow Thomas Parrott
The Devil's Pawn Oliver Pötzsch
Lisa Reinhardt (Tr)
Medieval/HistF - Faust 2
Crooked River (h2mm)
Douglas Preston
Lincoln Child
The Light of the Midnight Stars Rena Rossner FairyT/FolkT/LM/Jewish/HistF
Stormland John Shirley SF/CyP
The Book of Speculation (h2tp) Erika Swyler LF/F
Luther: First of the Fallen Gav Thorpe SF/SO - Horus Heresy
The Ancestor (h2tp)
Danielle Trussoni Gothic
Savage Legion (h2tp)
Matt Wallace F - Savage Rebellion 1
Malice (D) Heather Walter F/FairyT/FolkT/LM
Lady of Sorrows C L Werner F - Warhammer: Age of Sigmar
Otherland: Mountain of Black Glass Tad Williams SF/CyP/HSF - Otherland 3

April 15, 2021
The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club (D)
Doug Henderson LBBTQ+/Fantasy/HU

D - Debut
e - eBook
Ed - Editor
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
Ke - Kindle eBook
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade Paperback to Mass Market Paperback
Tr - Translator

AB - Absurdist
AC - Alien Contact
AH - Alternative History
AP - Apocalyptic
BHU - Black Humor
CF - Contemporary Fantasy
CM - Crime & Mystery
CoA - Coming of Age
Cr - Crime
CW - Contemporary Women
CyP - CyberPunk
DF - Dark Fantasy
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
FairyT - Fairy Tales
FL - Family Life
FolkT - Folk Tales
FR - Fantasy Romance
GenEng - Genetic Engineering
GH - Ghost(s)
GothicR - Gothic Romance
GW&CC - Global Warming and Climate Change
H - Horror
HC - History and Criticism
Hist - Historical
HistF - Historical Fantasy
HistM - Historical Mystery
HistR - Historical Romance
HistTh - Historical Thriller
HSF - Hard Science Fiction
HU - Humorous
LC - Literary Criticism
LF - Literary Fiction
LM - Legend and Mythology
M - Mystery
Med - Medical
MR - Magical Realism
MTI - Media Tie-In
MU - Mash-Up
NF - Near Future
Occ - Occult
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PCM - Paranormal Cozy Mystery
PF - Paranormal Fantasy
PNR - Paranormal Romance
Pol - Political
PolTh - Political Thriller
PopCul - Popular Culture
PP - Police Porcedural
Psy - Psychological
R - Romance
RF - Romantic Fantasy
ScF - Science Fantasy
SE - Space Exploration
SF - Science Fiction
SFR - Science Fiction Romance
SFTh - Science Fiction Thriller
SH - Superheroes
SO - Space Opera
SP - Steampunk
SpecFic - Speculative Fiction
SS - Short Stories
STR - Small Town and Rural
Sup - Supernatural
SupM - Supernatural Mystery
SupTh - Supernatural Thriller
Sus - Suspense
TechTh - Technological Thriller
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
TTR - Time Travel Romance
UF - Urban Fantasy
VM - Visionary and Metaphysical
WS - Women Sleuths

Note: Not all genres and formats are found in the books, etc. listed

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Interview with Erik Hoel, author of The Revelations

Please welcome Erik Hoel to The Qwillery as part of the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Revelations is published on April 6, 2021 by The Overlook Press.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Erik a very Happy Book Birthday!

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

Erik:  A novella called Homecoming was probably the first good piece that I wrote, back in high school. It was filled with thinly veiled friends and acquaintances and quickly made the rounds, much to my chagrin.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Erik:  Hybrid. Individual scenes come out at least somewhat resembling their final form, but the ordering of scenes and the shifting around of things within scenes is constant. For every two steps forward in writing, I take one step back to edit everything else once again.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Erik:  Writing is easy, breaking into the publishing industry is hard. Especially if you don’t have an MFA. And I say that as someone who had a number of both fiction and nonfiction awards going in.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Erik:  All sorts of writers, like Bruno Schulz, Karen Russell, Dow Mossman, or Richard Powers. Far too many to name. A lot of classic authors as well. I read Moby-Dick five times during the writing of The Revelations, along with all Melville’s other works. What attracted me was how much nonfiction Melville put in his fiction: entire chapters just devoted to describing whaling, which is indeed a fascinating, almost metaphysical, enterprise. I was trying to do the same thing, but with how science works rather than how whaling works. And of course, the richness of Melville’s language. Obviously by modern standards Melville’s pacing is insanely slow, but some things he does are just pure magic that contemporary authors can only hope to partially replicate.

TQDescribe The Revelations using only 5 words.

Erik:  Brains investigating brains investigating brains.

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

Erik:  What’s not discussed is that this is very much a novel about New York City. The city is described in mind-like terms, as if the city has its own consciousness, which is evinced in its psychogeography. The subway system, as well the city’s homeless denizens, act as the city’s unconsciousness and show up at important plot points.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Revelations?

Erik:  This is a novel about science, but not futuristic technologies or theories like traditional science fiction. It’s about the process of science, about scientists as humans. Pretty much everything that is described: the brains in vats, monkeys with holes in their heads, animal research, how science itself progresses, are all based on real things, things I’ve witnessed. So it’s inspired from my own experience. Very originally it was simply an idea I had when I was young, an idea of wanting to write a novel about science. But back then it was pretty formless, and it took years for the actual mechanics of the book to assert itself.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Revelations?

Erik:  The book is all about the search for a scientific theory of consciousness. As I said, I’d had the idea for a novel that took place in the world of science since before college. Eventually I realized the most interesting aspects of science are when things are unknown, when there’s still work to be done. So I received my PhD in neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, helping develop aspects of the leading scientific theory of consciousness, Integrated Information Theory. I went on to become a professor at Tufts University. Certainly in the back of my mind during my scientific career I was always researching the novel, so this is something based on more than ten years of research. And it is research of the most in-depth kind one could imagine, since I was living it.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Revelations.

Erik:  The team at Overlook Press and Abrams Books did an incredible job. It’s a gorgeous look that captures the chromatic nature of the novel itself. This is a novel that contains almost every genre within it: romance, murder mystery, science fiction. But at the same time, it constantly shifts and frustrates the more traditional aspects of those plots. The cover even kind of looks like the helix of DNA, but again, not quite.

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

Erik:  All major characters I found easy to write. The hardest to write for me are always the minor characters. There are a significant number of characters in The Revelations, as it centers around a program at NYU with eight young scientists, and that’s not counting the professors and students and staff, and of course other New Yorkers. Having a person not be a caricature while only appearing for just a moment or having a few minor lines is always difficult, since their bandwidth to express themselves is so low.

TQDoes The Revelations touch on any social issues?

Erik:  I’ll mention an issue relatively underexamined in literature, which is the plight of the graduate student and the difficulties of academia. Perhaps this seems specific or niche, but almost 15% of Americans now get a graduate degree. The sciences, and academia in general, are filled with complex and extremely hierarchical relationships. If you get on the wrong side of someone higher up in the hierarchy than you, like a professor when you’re a PhD student, they can make your life hell. Graduate programs can be great, but they also put a person in a position of powerlessness. This plays a big part in the novel.

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

Erik:  There’s a bunch of hidden references that I’m interested if readers get. Certainly, they don’t have to in order to enjoy the book! But it can be an extra little jolt of fun for a reader when they do get one. Every classic philosophical thought experiment shows up at some point, hidden in characters’ backstories. Some are more obvious ones: e.g., there is a character Carmen who faces a “mind-body problem.” Her character’s backstory is moving from the world of appearances to the world behind appearances when she starts to study consciousness and becomes a scientist. Others are more subtle, like references to Kierkegaard’s philosophy and life.

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

Erik:  Some of the most fun parts to write were excerpts of Kierk’s journal. Most of the book is traditional in its third-person narration, but on occasion the reader gets a glimpse into what he’s writing. The journal contains his frenetic musings about a scientific theory of consciousness, which is always something like:

“Yes, the history of the world has been, and ever will be, written in consciousness, and they are the only words that matter! Imagine then what that final theory will entail, what it will give us: a sensorium syntax as pristine as mathematics, a dialect of pure consciousness. Imagine what type of alien utterances it will allow, for to write in such a language, to speak in such a language… No poet has ever come close. Words blow away as empty signs next to the white-hot heat of it! There is something it is like to be!”

TQWhat's next?

Erik:  I have several ideas for future novels that I’ve been playing with. One is a mystery set at Burning Man, the other is a novel about my childhood that contains a lot of magical realism. But I don’t write books unless they feel necessary. The one thing I can’t stand is art that appears needless, like it’s a career exercise for the author and there’s nothing at stake. It’s just another book they’ve put out. In order for me to write I need everything to be at stake. And other people’s time is valuable, so if someone gives me a few hours I want to give them an experience that’s actually, you know, novel.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Erik:  Thanks for having me here, it’s been fun!

The Revelations
The Overlook Press, April 6, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages
An edgy and ambitious debut about neuroscience, death, and the search for the theory of human consciousness, by a powerful new voice in contemporary literary fiction

Monday, Kierk wakes up. Once a rising star in neuroscience, Kierk Suren is now homeless, broken by his all-consuming quest to find a scientific theory of consciousness. But when he’s offered a spot in a prestigious postdoctoral program, he decides to rejoin society and vows not to self-destruct again. Instead of focusing on his work, however, Kierk becomes obsessed with another project—investigating the sudden and suspicious death of a colleague. As his search for truth brings him closer to Carmen Green, another postdoc, their list of suspects grows, along with the sense that something sinister may be happening all around them.

The Revelations, not unlike its main character, is ambitious and abrasive, challenging and disarming. Bursting with ideas, ranging from Greek mythology to the dark realities of animal testing, to some of the biggest unanswered questions facing scientists today, The Revelations is written in muscular, hypnotic prose, and its cyclically dreamlike structure pushes the boundaries of literary fiction. Erik Hoel has crafted a stunning debut of rare power—an intense look at cutting-edge science, consciousness, and human connection.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

About Erik

Erik Hoel received his PhD in neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a research assistant professor at Tufts University and was previously a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University in the NeuroTechnology Center and a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Hoel is a 2018 Forbes “30 Under 30” for his neuroscientific research on consciousness and a Center for Fiction NYC Emerging Writer Fellow. The Revelations is his debut novel. He lives on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Website  Twitter @erikphoel