If you’re like me and enjoy discovering new authors and reading debut novels, then 2011 has been a very good year. Especially for fans of fantasy. In just eight months I’ve read over a dozen fantasy debuts, with more debuts yet to be published! Interestingly, four of the year’s debuts have been released by Night Shade Books, one of my favorite publishers. These include The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu, Courtney Schafer’s The Whitefire Crossing, Stina Leicht’s Of Blood & Honey, and Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock. As a fan of these four very impressive novels, I wanted to give readers a chance to learn more about the authors and their debuts, so I invited Bradley, Courtney, Stina and Teresa to participate in a roundtable interview. The results were better than I imagined. So read on for compelling thoughts on e-books, HBO’s Game of Thrones and cover art; the authors’ future plans for their respective series; and much more...
Q: Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! For starters, could you please introduce yourself, tell us what inspired you to write in the first place, and describe your journey to becoming a published author for Night Shade Books?
Bradley: I got into reading fantasy (and science fiction, but mostly fantasy) at a young age. I never thought much about writing during high school, though I did write a few fantastic stories for school assignments during that time. I also gamed a lot. I played a metric ton of role playing games like D&D, Villains & Vigilantes, RoleMaster, James Bond, GURPS, and on and on. I loved playing them, but I really gravitated to running the games, coming up with the world and the characters and the scenario the players would go through. It was a lot of fun for me, and it was where my storytelling skills first started to blossom.
Still, I never really thought about becoming a writer. It was more of a “what if,” something so distant from where I was that it never felt like something I could reasonably pursue—like becoming an astronaut, or a world class gymnast. Also, I was in love with computers. I started programming in junior high school, and I never looked back. I got a degree in Computer Science and Engineering, but during that time, writing was still at the back of my mind. I took my first stab at writing a novel in those college years, and I still have those pages. Somewhere. They're truly horrible, but it was a start.
After college, I started writing a new novel, and this time I finished it. The only problem was it took me seven years to complete, and I thought: if I'm going to do this, I'd better dedicate myself to it or just drop the idea altogether. At that point I'd been going to the Gen Con gaming convention for a long time—since my grade school days, in fact. I'd gone mostly as a gamer, but I saw some writing seminars, so I started to attend those. This is where I first met Kij Johnson, and she talked about a lot of things to help a young writer get started—going to writing conventions (I started with WorldCon in San Jose in 2003 and World Fantasy in D.C. in 2004), entering contests (I entered Writers of the Future for six straight quarters until I won in 2004), writing every day (a routine I still use today), and many other bits of advice. What you'll find is that your knowledge and your network will expand like ice crystals, and soon I was attending four or five conventions per year, selling some short fiction, and participating in panels.
By the time I finished The Winds of Khalakovo and was ready to see if it could find a home, I had been making steady progress in short story sales. I had attended a number of workshops, and I think my name had at least some recognition by editors, either from short stories I’d published or personal connections I’d made at conventions. Some people will say that you shouldn’t go and sell yourself at conventions. If an opportunity comes up, they say, and an editor or agent asks you what you’re working on, go ahead and take advantage of it. I don’t doubt that that’s good advice for some. Just not for me. I believe that editors and agents are at cons not just to sell books, but to see who’s coming up in the field. They’ll get to know a certain percentage of the newcomers from their short sales, or even novel sales, but they can’t read everything. They can’t even read a small percentage of the fiction that comes out each year. So, frankly, it’s up to me to make them aware of who I am.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should be pushy. You should be friendly and businesslike. Keep things short and sweet and as casual as you possibly can. And that’s exactly what I tried to do. I approached Jeremy Lassen at World Fantasy in San Jose (2009) and told him I had an epic fantasy that he might like. I pitched it as “The Song of Ice and Fire meets Earthsea.” He asked me if I had an agent. I said no. Night Shade doesn’t normally take unagented mss, but he said he liked the cool pitch and said to send it his way. Roughly five months later, I got an email from Jeremy, offering to publish the book.
The story seems a bit short and sweet if I focus on the sale, but believe me, it was a long time in the making.
Courtney: I’m an engineer, mother, mountain climber, figure skater, skier—and a voracious reader of all things science fiction and fantasy. That’s why I took up writing; I read fast, and I got frustrated with waiting for new books to come out from my favorite authors. That said, I messed around writing little bits of things for years, never making it beyond a couple pages of story, until some friends of mine from work invited me to do NaNoWriMo with them in 2007. I’d been too much of a perfectionist, assuming a writer shouldn’t move on from a scene until it was flawless; NaNo cured me of that silly idea, thank goodness. I wrote about 65K of the first draft of The Whitefire Crossing that November, finished the draft in Feb 2008—and thought, hey, this turned out better than I thought; with enough revision, it might be publishable. Well, it took a LOT of revision—I ended up pretty much rewriting the book from scratch in 2009—and the help of a terrific critique group, but in Feb 2010, I got an agent (the awesome Becca Stumpf of Prospect Literary), and she sold The Whitefire Crossing in a 2-book deal to Night Shade Books that August.
Stina: I was a shy, skinny kid who used to hide in the coat closet with a good book and a flashlight. I’ve dreamed about being a writer almost, but not quite, that long. However, it wasn’t until 2003 when I came down with cancer that I got serious about it. As it happens, facing that kind of thing tends to make you rethink your priorities a bit. (I’m cured. No worries.) I became *very* focused, attended Sci-Fi/Fantasy conventions, joined a writing group, started working at a bookstore () and finished my first novel. Then I signed up for the , and my third ever short story got noticed by Jim Minz (then at .) That was my first near-miss, and I’m very grateful for that experience. It taught me that you can do better, and that missing one chance isn’t the end of the world. Anyway, to fast forward a bit, I met my agent Joe Monti through who I’d met at years before. Joe read Of Blood and Honey and loved it enough to ask me to rewrite 66,000 words of it. At the time it was set mostly in modern day Austin, Texas with flashbacks to Northern Ireland. We both knew the heart of the novel was in 1970s Northern Ireland. So, I scrapped and rewrote the novel without hesitation. OB&H landed at because as it turned out writing about the Troubles in the way I did was pretty controversial. Thankfully, Jeremy Lassen was willing to take a big chance. He’s one smart cookie, and I think he’s pretty wonderful in general.
Teresa: I’m Teresa Frohock, and I am the author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale. My day job is in a library where I am NOT a librarian. The reason I say it that way is to avert the assumption that I have a Master of Library Science, which I do not; however, I do catalog books and work closely with the librarians in managing our collection. I write fiction in the evenings and on weekends; I read every spare twenty seconds I can.
As to what inspires me to write? I could be flip and say that I write to get the voices out of my head, but the real truth is simply this: I write to entertain. I want people to pick up any novel or short-story by me and, for however long they are immersed in that story, I want them to forget about their problems.
That was my desire when I wrote professionally back in the eighties. Back then, I made a lot of contacts, but I was never published; I was too smart for my own good. My life got redirected for a while and although I never stopped reading, I stopped writing novels—I never have been much of a short-story writer. A few years ago when I was between curriculum courses, I took an online creative writing course and that reignited my love of storytelling.
It started as a lark. I just wanted to see if I could do it, but the more I got into the story and the more I bounced around online, the more I realized how much I really wanted to do this. I figured I should give myself one more shot at publication before officially pulling my hat out of the ring. So I started a blog and continued to write Miserere while I scoped agents and publishers.
I didn’t have a local critique group that I could join, so I went online and discovered the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. I really think I learned as much from the critiques and from critiquing other people’s works as I did from the writing courses that I took.
While all this was going on, I hired an editor to help me put together a submission package, and Kristin was super. She helped me come up with a blurb for Miserere, a query letter, and she also proofed the first five pages of the manuscript for me. I started submitting to literary agents last July and connected with Weronika Janczuk. Weronika sold Miserere right out the door to Night Shade Books on the first round of submissions.
Q: 2011 saw the release of your debut novel through Night Shade. Could you each tell us a bit more about your book and what readers can expect?
Bradley: Well, let me start with the blurb we developed for The Winds of Khalakovo:
Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo's eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo's future.
When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo…
Winds is an epic fantasy in the vein of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and by that I mean I hoped to capture the scope of the world, the politics at play, the grim reality of the story, and the subtlety of the magic. I’ll also share my favorite blurb for the book, written by friend and fellow writer, Greg Wilson, because I think it captures the heart of the book quite well:
If Anton Chekhov had thought to stage The Three Sisters onboard a windship, with a mix of Arabian Nights and Minority Report thrown in for good measure, the result would have been Bradley Beaulieu's The Winds of Khalakovo—a startling combination of fantastic elements which seems at once both comfortably familiar and refreshingly new. It's a wild ride well worth taking, and an exceptional debut from an author who takes risks and consistently delivers.
Courtney: I like to call The Whitefire Crossing an adventure fantasy. It’s got the tight character focus and adventurous feel of a sword-and-sorcery novel, but with pitons and ice axes instead of swords (one of the protagonists is a mountain climber). In short, it’s the story of two young men—one the aforementioned climber, the other a runaway apprentice mage—who get caught up in a deadly war of intrigue between rival mages. If you like books with plenty of magic, clever schemes, narrow escapes, and characters in shades of gray, I think you’ll like Whitefire.
Stina: Of Blood and Honey is one part old school Urban Fantasy and one part Irish Crime novel. It’s set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The main character, Liam Kelly, is a Catholic who thinks his father is a Protestant he never met. Actually, his father is a shape-shifting Fey named Bran who might be the nephew/cousin of the legendary Fionn mac Cumhaill. Liam is wrongfully arrested twice and eventually joins the IRA as a wheelman for a bank-robbing unit. In the course of the book, Liam is pulled into three conflicts—the Troubles, the war between the Fey and the Fallen, and the war between the Church and the Fallen.
Teresa: Miserere: An Autumn Tale is about an exorcist named Lucian Negru, who deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina's soul, but his sister doesn't want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen’s hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven’s frontline of defense between Earth and Hell.
When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina's wrath isn’t so easy to escape. In the end, she will force him once more to choose between losing Rachael or opening the Hell Gates so the Fallen's hordes may overrun Earth, their last obstacle before reaching Heaven's Gates.
That’s the official run of it. People can expect an adult story that’s about real people in extraordinary circumstances and how they deal with their past and possible future. It’s a story of redemption with what an author friend of mine called “deliciously creepy moments.” I wouldn’t grace it by saying it is in the horror category, but it is not a light fantasy. There is an exorcism, for heaven’s sake, and Catarina is . . . well . . . Catarina.
Q: What did you think was the most challenging part about writing your debut novel? What about the easiest or most rewarding?
Bradley: The most challenging part for me was developing the confidence to write a book like this. While it doesn’t turn the field on its ear, I think it pushes some boundaries, brings some new things to the genre. I’d written three books before this, and each of them was rather straightforward. That is, they didn’t really step outside of the typical fantasy fare (or steampunk, in one case). But with Winds I wanted to bring something new, and that takes a bit of boldness. This can sometimes be daunting, though, because you fear that no one will accept it.
The easiest part would probably be the world building. As a starting point, I used a mapping program to generate the world. It’s a program called Fractal Terrains, and it allows you to specify all sorts of parameters like the size of the world, water coverage, rate of erosion, and so on. And you can generate it any number of times. If you don’t like one world, you just tell it to generate it again. I did this until I had something that I liked. It was a world in which the archipelagos, each of them one of the Duchies in the Grand Duchy, jumped out at me. Once I knew that I wanted to loosely base the ruling culture after Muscovite Russia, and the indigenous peoples off of Medieval Persia, the rest fell into place fairly quickly.
The most rewarding was related to the world building. I didn’t have a sense that the world of Erahm was complete when I started writing, but it certainly felt complete by the time I was done. It felt like it lived on even after the pages were done, and that is a very gratifying feeling.
Courtney: The most challenging part was the massive rewrite I did in 2009, after my son was born. He was a very difficult baby (screamed 24/7 for the entire first year of his life, poor kid!), and I was half dead from sleep deprivation and a total basket case from stress. Some days I only managed to type a single coherent sentence. Yet despite the difficulty of writing while my brain felt like cold sludge, I don’t know if I would have survived that year without the release that writing afforded me. And though crawling through that second draft was far more challenging than breezing through the first, I also found the process far more rewarding. I love revising; there’s such a deep satisfaction in taking a raw mess of words and shaping it into a coherent novel. As for the easiest part, that was writing the climbing scenes. I found writing them a little too easy, in fact. Part of my big revision involved forcing myself to throw out all the scenes that did nothing other than show off how much I love mountaineering! I might take my favorites and put them up on my website as “deleted scenes,” but yeah, the book is much better without them.
Stina: Most challenging aspect for me was accurately and/or thoughtfully portraying a foreign culture I’d never experienced. It can be done, but it’s best not to only rely on what you read. That kind of research can lead you astray. You bring your own perceptions with you to written materials. When you’re face to face with a person or speaking with them remotely through a telephone or email, you’re more likely—if you actually listen to what they have to say—to see the world through their eyes. That’s vital, that shift in point of view. Most Americans don’t think of Irish culture as foreign. Hell, most Americans aren’t even aware that Ireland has its own language. For some Americans of Irish decent, it’s difficult to see the distinction between Irish American culture and Irish culture, but not allowing for that is a big mistake. (So in a way, not being of Irish decent worked in my favor.) The Troubles are a very divisive issue. Each side has their agenda. The truth lies somewhere in between. So when it came to my research, I had to take into account the author’s point of view in addition to everything else. Often, I read information recorded on both sides—when it was available—and made my own interpretations. And that’s another thing, availability of information. You’d think that wouldn’t have been a problem when dealing with something that happened only thirty years ago, but it was. There is no way I’d have been able to get a large part of the information I needed without Brian Magee’s help. He forwarded books and other materials that I’d have never known about otherwise.
I get a big kick out of hearing how much readers feel for the characters, by the way. The best stories make you laugh out loud on one page and cry the next. The idea that I might have written something that achieves this even for an instant makes me incredibly happy.
Teresa: What I found most challenging about Miserere was keeping the story tight, keeping it all about Lucian, and avoiding all those tangents I wanted to pursue. You know how it is, you’re writing along and suddenly it’s . . . ooo, this character is interesting! Let’s do five or six chapters about her whether it pertains to the story or not!
Those were the mistakes I made with my first novel, which was never published, because it sucked. By avoiding all those looping digressions, I have to say the best part was crafting that final draft of Miserere and seeing the results of my labors emerge in a real story. I was able to trace each character’s growth, and I really enjoyed crafting Miserere into the novel that it is.
Q: For each of you, your debut novel is the first volume in a series. Could you give us a progress report on the next book, offer any details about the sequel, and outline your plans for the series as a whole?
Bradley: The second book is called The Straits of Galahesh. It’s the second book in the trilogy and I’m trying hard to make this my “Empire Strikes Back.” Many trilogies suffer from middle-book syndrome. I’ve been conscious of that, and I’ve tried to make it stand on its own just as much as Winds did.
Straits begins five years after the events of The Winds of Khalakovo. In the first book, I only hint at the power to the west, the Empire of Yrstanla, but in the second book, the Empire and its leader come front and center. I also start to explore the Empire’s lands to the west of the Grand Duchy, particularly the island of Galahesh, where much of the story is centered.
I’ve just turned in the second full draft for the second book, and I’ll be going through the final production stages this fall. The release date is set for April of 2012. The third book, which completes the arc, will come out in April, 2013, and it will continue the trend set in Straits. The story will move even deeper into the Empire’s lands, bringing the conflict between the Grand Duchy and the Empire to new heights.
Courtney: I’m hard at work on The Whitefire Crossing’s sequel, The Tainted City. It’s scheduled for publication in 2012—I’m not sure yet exactly when, most likely in the fall. Much of The Tainted City takes place in the city of Ninavel; readers will get to find out more about the city’s politics and inner workings, as Dev and Kiran confront enemies both new and old. But for anyone who loved the mountaineering scenes in The Whitefire Crossing, don’t worry—Dev’s climbing and wilderness skills still play an important role. The Tainted City will resolve many of the plot threads left over from The Whitefire Crossing, but it’ll raise some new questions as well. I’ve always thought I’d want at least three books to complete my two protagonists Dev and Kiran’s character arcs and come to a fully satisfying conclusion, but right now I’m only contracted for two novels, so it’ll depend on how well those sell.
Stina: The first draft of the second book is finished, and I’m editing/fact checking/rewriting now. It follows Liam and Father Murray as they attempt to get a peace agreement solidified between the Church and the Fey as well as certain aspects of the punk rock scene in Belfast. If you don’t know anything about Northern Irish punk, it’s facinating. They had little in common with the London scene which politically was in favor of anarchy. The Northern Irish punks were up to their necks in anarchy. So, they rebelled by promoting peace. is an interesting character. Look him up. We wouldn’t have bands like and without him. It’s possible that Irish punk wouldn’t have happened at all at that time without him actively nurturing it.
Teresa: If Miserere is successful and readers want to see more of the characters and Woerld, I have a sequel planned, which is entitled Dolorosa: A Winter’s Dream. I’m currently in the planning stages and working from an old synopsis I had for Rachael’s story. Dolorosa will essentially pick up right where Miserere left off, only through Dolorosa, you will see the story predominantly through Rachael’s eyes, or eye, as the case may be. We’ll go to the Citadel and see more of the inner workings of Woerld, in addition to more of the politics between the various bastions. We’ll go to Hell, and there will be demon lords, a new Seraph for the Fallen, and if you think Lucian had a happy ending in Miserere, I’ll show you how wrong you are, because his life is about to become very complicated and uncomfortable in many ways.
But mostly, Dolorosa will be about mothers and fathers and how you can never escape the past if you don’t release it.
I have four books planned for the Katharoi series as a whole: Miserere: An Autumn Tale; Dolorosa: A Winter’s Dream; Bellum Dei: Blood of the Lambs; and a fourth novel as yet untitled. I intend to bring the reader to a good stopping place at the end of each novel so the books can be read separate or all together, depending on the reader’s preferences.
Books one through three will lead up to another massive war between the Fallen and the Katharoi in Woerld, and book four will deal with the aftermath of that war. Whether those plans will come to fruition will depend largely on what happens with Miserere.
Q: For some authors, it’s easier writing their second novel. For others, it’s more difficult. What has it been like for each of you compared to writing your debut? Have you done anything differently the second time around?
Bradley: I like to say the second book is the “muddle in the middle” on steroids. This term refers to the difficulty of writing the middle of a novel. It’s somewhat easy to take the threads you’ve shown to the reader in the beginning and complicate them so that there are more. The story begins to expand like a point in time expanding to a “cone” of possibilities. The tough part comes when you have to start pulling those threads in. (Here the cone starts to draw in to more of a football shape.) You have to begin preparing for the end of the book pretty early on in the process or you’ll find that too many things are going too far afield. If you don’t watch it, you’ll have a gnarled mess of mismatched threads instead of a tapestry.
Well, the same is true of a middle novel in a trilogy. The first book is “the beginning,” and in many ways the second book is “the middle.” It’s a challenge to continue to complicate the threads left over from the first novel while building in a satisfying way toward the third book.
So for me, the second book was quite a challenge. I’m sure the third book will have its own challenges, but I hope it’s not quite as hard as the second one was.
Courtney: Well, you’d think it’d be easier this time around—after all, my son is now a happy, perfectly normal toddler who sleeps all night long (hallelujah!). But although my brain is a lot more functional these days, I’ve found that life as a published author brings a whole new challenge to the table: time management. Between my day job (I work part time) and taking care of my son (who’s just as active as his mother!), I don’t have much free time to write. In the pre-book-deal days, when I got a precious hour at the keyboard, I could focus entirely on writing Whitefire. Now, I’ve got all the business and promotional duties of a writing career to handle, which means I’ve got emails to answer, blog posts to write, interviews and giveaways to arrange, admin duties for the Night Bazaar blog, all that jazz. I’m not complaining—after all, this is a wonderful problem to have, and besides, lots of the promo tasks are fun!—but it certainly cuts into my time for actual writing. Thankfully I did have about 3/4 of a first draft of The Tainted City written before the books ever sold, which means I know the major signposts of the plot, and the ending—but my first drafts are pretty awful, and enough changed in Whitefire in the meantime that my 2nd draft of The Tainted City has to be a white-page rewrite just like I did for Whitefire. That’s okay, though—like I said, I love rewriting. I just wish I had Hermione’s Time-Turner pendant!
Stina: The second book was more difficult to write, I’m afraid. There were many outside factors I hadn’t counted on for one thing. The shift from amateur to professional is quite a big one, and it was nothing like I’d expected. (Both in good ways and bad.) Still, I’m very excited about the second book. Of Blood and Honey covered a longer period of time because Liam had so much growing up to do. And Blue Skies From Pain is a different journey. It takes more effort rebuild a life than it does to destroy it and some parts just never get rebuilt. Anyway, the second book takes place in a much shorter time period.
Teresa: My next novel is The Garden, and it is not part of the Katharoi series. It is an entirely new book with new characters and a new setting. It’s been difficult gathering resources about the Iberian Peninsula in 1348, especially in regards to military history. I’ve had a lot more cold research with this novel and it’s made for some initial slow going, but the story is finally falling into place with clarity for me.
I think writing The Garden has proven difficult, because I somehow expected it would be easier, if that makes any sense at all. I thought that with all the lessons I learned from Miserere, I would by-pass what another author (somewhere in Twitter-land—I want to say it was Lilith Saintcrow) called the zero-draft and put out a more polished version on the first round.
Zero draft still applies to me after all. I finally quit fighting and I’m running with it. My zero drafts usually run about 60-70,000 words, and I’m madly making notes all along the way—what works, what doesn’t; which characters to kill fast and which can stand to linger; and of course, what works plot-wise and what doesn’t. First polished draft will go to my agent, then once I’ve worked out whatever bugs she finds, the next draft will be circulated through my critique group.
Since I’m not writing under a deadline at this time, I’ve given myself room to breathe, and that has really helped. I have to work my writing life around my day job so it’s going to take me a little longer. Now that I’ve removed a lot of the internal pressure, I’m feeling better about the novel.
Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting on your debut novel, what advice would you give yourself?
Bradley: I would say: self, lose yourself in the writing more. I tend to write on a schedule. One hour a day is what I set aside so that I can stay on track. While I try to write with some sense of abandonment, there are times when the act of writing feels somewhat mechanical. That’s not to say that the end result is mechanical—that’s what second and third drafts are for, after all—but it’s important to try to capture the magic in the first writing, because some pretty special things can happen if you’re open to it. This “losing yourself in the story” can certainly happen on subsequent drafts as well, but you’re somewhat constrained at that point because there are things written that are starting to solidify, so it’s more of a challenge to fall into the right frame of mind.
Courtney: Heh. Take up meditation, or zen gardening, or SOMETHING to make the glacial pace and bizarre business practices of the publishing world more bearable. (Yoga hasn’t been enough. Patience and mellow acceptance are, er, not among my virtues. Plus, I’d been used to the aerospace industry, which is lightning-fast and a model of well-oiled efficiency in comparison.) Oh, and don’t wait so long to get involved in the online writing community. I had this idea that if Whitefire ever did sell, I might want to publish under a pseudonym, so I should wait to get involved online until I was sure what name to use. But that was silly of me. Not because I didn’t end up using a pseudonym, or even for reasons of professional networking, but because other writers are awesome. It’s wonderful to have a group of friends that understands the particular craziness of the aspiring author, and can celebrate successes with you and cheer you up in the hard times.
Stina: Just write what you love already. Stop avoiding it because, in this case, it’s okay to write what you don’t know. It’s more important to write what you love. Sometimes there are exceptions to good advice. Also? Get out more. Sheesh.
Teresa: I’m not sure I would do anything differently. I think I needed to go through Miserere exactly the way I did to draw out the most in each character. I needed every harsh critique that I got and each lesson to make me the writer I am today.
After watching several reviews, I think I would also try to find some ways to insert more of the world-building so long as it didn’t bog the story down. That was where I had some problems. I’ve found it very interesting so far (this could all change tomorrow), but so far, the female reviewers hardly mention the world-building; however, my male reviewers seem to feel that Miserere is lacking in world-building. The responses are almost identical across the board from both genders and the likes/dislikes fall along gender lines.
The whole thing intrigues me to no end, and I’m not sure if there is anything that I could do to please everyone in future novels, because everyone has had so many different questions about Woerld. I don’t believe I’ve had two questions alike.
The novel would turn into a concordance if I answered everything everyone has asked and there would be no room for a story. However, I am sensitive to what people are saying and will definitely try harder to find ways to weave some of those answers into future novels that I set in Woerld.
Q: Each of your novels can be described as fantasy, but they all offer very different reading experiences. Of Blood & Honey combines historical fiction with the supernatural. Miserere: An Autumn Tale is set in a dimension caught in a war between Heaven & Hell. And The Winds of Khalakovo and The Whitefire Crossing are more traditional epic fantasy novels, except the former is heavily influenced by Russian culture, while rock climbing is an important element in the the latter. Was it a conscious effort on your part to try and write a fantasy novel that offered something unique? If so, why? On a related note, what are your thoughts on the current state of fantasy literature?
Bradley: I was definitely conscious of trying to create something unique when writing Winds. When I talk about the creative side of writing, the brainstorming, I often say that I like to have two or three unique elements for a short story (be they part of the world, the characters, the cultures, or the magic), and I like to have something like five or six for a novel. The trick, after you’ve got some of those things created, is to meld them together into something that feels internally consistent. I worked hard at this, because to me, the world building is the bedrock upon which I’m building the story, so I want it to be solid.
It’s important for a young writer to stand out nowadays. I think the editors and agents are looking for those things, but also, today’s readers are pretty sophisticated. They’re looking for things that stretch boundaries, too. That’s not to say that everyone is willing to accept and read a crazy re-invention of epic fantasy (though who knows?). What I mean to say is that I think the modern reader wants some of the familiar aspects of traditional fantasy along with a few new twists so they’re comfortable with the story but still feel like they’re getting something new.
I like the way the field of fantasy is shaping up right now. It’s certainly fractionalizing more and more, which in many ways is good. It means there’s a market for just about any kind of story. Again, that’s not to say that it will be a blockbuster, but if you have solid chops, your book will find an audience. I also like the rise in steampunk stories. One of my trunk novels was steampunk, and while I don’t think I’ll return to the genre any time soon, I do enjoy reading it quite a bit.
Courtney: Not really a conscious choice—when I wrote The Whitefire Crossing’s first draft, I wasn’t thinking at all of publication, just of what I wanted to read. At the time, I was particularly missing the eastern Sierra Nevada (my favorite mountains), so I thought it’d be fun to set a city in a similar landscape to that of the Owens Valley and eastern Sierra—an area of incredible geographical contrast!—and make some of the characters climbers. That way I could write about a landscape and activity I love, right along with all the cool magic and ethical dilemmas I wanted to explore. As for the current state of fantasy literature…I confess that as someone who’s not much of a romance reader, I’ve been a little frustrated by the massive influx of paranormal romance onto fantasy shelves. I like urban fantasy, but I prefer it Jim Butcher style (or Emma Bull, or Charles de Lint, or Stina Leicht!). I don’t begrudge romance fans their fantasy novels, I just wish a little more market share remained for other flavors of fantasy. But that said, seems like the tighter market has sparked a whole new wave of creativity amongst secondary world fantasy authors. I’m loving the new, grittier epic fantasies and the resurgence of sword-and-sorcery, and I’m thrilled that YA fantasy is such a powerhouse—I think it’s a great sign for the future of the genre.
Stina: I deliberately set out to do something that others hadn’t. Everyone said Celtic mythology was played out. But it occurred to me that what hadn’t been done was to examine the Fey as they originally were in a modern setting. As with anything, the Fey in literature have changed a great deal over time, but largely those changes have been all based on the previous variations on a theme. What most Americans think of as the Fey is a million miles away from where they started. I wanted to examine them as they are thought of by the Irish in the context of modern Ireland. I wanted to explore the concepts of conflict, war, hate and revenge. Much as I enjoy Action Films (and I do) they tend to treat very complicated subjects in a simplistic way. I can’t help feeling that a steady diet of that style of story creates more problems than it solves. Mystery writer references something called “the psychology of sanction” in her book Beneath the Bleeding. It’s the concept that the more often law enforcement is shown in media as justifiably participating in extreme behavior, the more often certain sectors of the public will accept it as necessary in reality. I’ve no idea where she came up with that, but it’s certainly an interesting idea. I do know that a steady visual diet of violence is known to desensitize subjects to violence. (The effects aren’t permanent, by the way.) That said, I feel the psychology of morality is a facinating and important subject. It’s one of the big issues we face these days when even religious organizations encourage their flock to think selfishly. From its earliest days, Fantasy has dealt with the subject of morality after all. It’s almost pre-built into it. Anyway, I felt it was time to stop treating complicated issues as easy to define binary states.
I’m of the mind that Sci-fi and Fantasy is the thinking person’s fiction. At least, that’s what we geeks like to tell ourselves. That said, I believe urban fantasy has grown a bit too... fluffy –not that there’s anything wrong with fluffy escapism. It has its place, but if that’s all there is, well, it isn’t healthy for the genre long term. There’s more to life than escapism. There has to be. If Fantasy is to be effective as a genre, it’s going to have to become more sophisticated again. Everything cycles.
Teresa: I was so tired of novels that were all about world-building and little else that I quit reading fantasy for a very long time, but I never lost my love for genre fiction. I credit Patricia McKillip with bringing me back to fantasy. Odd that. The very first fantasy I read and connected with was The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and almost thirty years later, she brings me back to the fold with In the Forests of Serre. It’s a story about grief, and McKillip so skillfully layers her symbolism within the story that the casual reader will simply enjoy the book, but oh my God, if you know what to look for it will tear your heart out.
Or maybe it was just me and what I read into it. Sometimes it’s like that.
I tried to implement that kind of symbolism in Miserere. For example: Rachael’s possession serves a dual role; one is to be entertaining for the readers who enjoy a little horror mixed in with their fantasy, but it’s also symbolic of how another person can damage someone’s life, leaving them with a scar that never heals. Lucian was the cause of her affliction and only Lucian can alleviate her misery and purge her soul with an act of selflessness. It’s meaningless for anyone else to express sorrow for her condition, but if the person who committed the transgression offers to make amends, well, that has meaning. So Lucian winds up performing the actual exorcism, which is symbolic of the spiritual restitution he must perform to win Rachael back. He hurt her; therefore, he is the only one who can heal her.
I wanted Miserere to be different, layered. I wanted to see the people beneath the plot and world-building. Just because there are monumental events transpiring around people doesn’t mean they stop loving or wanting to be loved. Real life is messy and unpredictable and often it’s horrific. There are definite repercussions for the choices we make, and those consequences lead us into new and unexpected adventures.
I think that’s why I’ve always loved Guillermo del Toro’s works so much, and I adore the Spanish horror films, which don’t rely on splatter-punk or torture porn but on a much more cunning layering of horror. I loved Stina’s Of Blood and Honey because she did a lot of the same things—weaving the symbolism of Ireland’s 1970s Troubles through her novel.
I’m currently reading The Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams (publication date December 2, 2011 / Night Shade Books). Williams’ is extremely deft at creating characters with depth and weaving symbols throughout a tale. This is the kind of storytelling I live to read.
I think it’s an exciting time for genre fiction. I don’t think the choices between all the different novels labeled (and sub-labeled ad nauseum) stifle or redefine one aspect of the genre for another. I’ve seen a few blog posts on the hero’s journey and the anti-hero. They talk about how some of the newer fantasy novels with anti-heroes are somehow changing the genre in unsavory ways. I disagree with that.
Some readers will always enjoy and read the heroic fantasy based on Tolkien’s vision, but nowadays, for people like me who love their fantasy with heavy doses of realism, there is something different. I doubt I would have stopped reading fantasy for as long as I did if there had been more variety. I think we should celebrate it, not go to war with one another over placing our expectations of the genre into one oversimplified category or another.
Today, I can pick up an epic fantasy like Brad or Courtney’s novels, or dip into Urban Fantasy a la Stina, or McKillip’s fairytales, or if I’m in the mood for something more realistic, I can pick up a Joe Abercrombie novel. Nnedi Okorafor writes beautiful magical realism; I’ve got The Folding Knife by K.J. Parker and Alex Bledsoe’s Dark Jenny on my to-read list. I just love that there are so many different aspects to the genre now. It keeps me close to home, near the genre I love best.
Q: Cover art is a very important aspect of speculative fiction. Personally, I think Night Shade did an amazing job with the covers to all four of your debuts. How do you feel about your covers? Did you get to provide any input? Any thoughts on cover art in general?
Bradley: I loved how my cover turned out. However, that’s speaking from the point of view as an observer of the art. There’s been some talk about my cover and whether or not it codes correctly for the epic fantasy reader, and in fact the covers may move to more character-oriented artwork for the mass-market version of Winds and the subsequent volumes in the trilogy. So while I adore Adam Paquette’s windship on my cover, I readily admit that I’m no marketing expert. That’s Night Shade’s job, and if they feel like a different sort of cover will allow the book to reach more readers, then I’m all for it.
I had no input into the cover design, and I’m perfectly fine with that. As I said, I’m no expert. If I was asked, I’d gladly provide input, but to me it’s one hundred percent acceptable if I’m not involved. Now, that’s not to say I would never balk if a bad cover came along. I like to think I know a bad cover when I see one, but Night Shade Books is so good at packaging, I know I’m in good hands.
The cover is still extremely important. Tom Doherty will often rattle off figures of why people buy the books they buy. Something around 25% of book purchases are made based on the cover. I know I’ve done that before while browsing a book store. And it will continue to happen as people browse online. It’s the first indicator of the level of professionalism and investment in a book, and if you have a knockout cover, it subconsciously gives the buyer a hint that this is something the publisher really believed in.
Courtney: I love my cover! David Palumbo did a wonderful job capturing the spirit of the book. Not only does the “mountain adventure” part come through loud and clear, but all the little details are just right (the charm dangling from Dev’s wrist, the rope connecting the two men, the tree turning black from Kiran’s touch). Speaking of the tree turning black, the original version of the art didn’t have the red glow on the tree, just the blackened bark. But while the blackened-bark art was more accurate to the text, I worried it was a little too subtle. I thought it might be good to indicate to potential readers that the book had a strong magical element, and wasn’t historical fantasy. My agent and I brought it up to my editor, and he agreed; so David added the red glow to the tree to play up the magical element. I’m very happy with the result; I think it’s more important for a cover to give the right feel for a book than be perfectly accurate. Cover art can certainly catch my eye and pique my curiosity about a book from an unknown author—though reviews and recommendations hold far greater weight in terms of convincing me to buy. And as far as fantasy art in general, I’ve gotta say I wish the “hooded guy” trend would hurry up and die already. I roll my eyes every time I see another one.
Stina: I love my cover. Love it. At first, I wasn’t sure about the overall design, but that painting was love at first sight. is an amazing artist. It turns out he read the whole book and loved it. You can see it in the final painting as well as the sketches. But I’m a bit of an art nut. So, there you are. Having worked in a bookstore, I know darned good and well that the cover art sells the book. It can be the best book ever but a bad cover will kill it outright. I’ve seen it happen.
Is that true of eBooks? Probably not as much. If everything switches to digital (which I doubt) then the format will have a bad effect on cover art. Like album covers, we may have seen the end of the glory days. If that ever happens it would make me sad. The fewer venues we have for every day art, the more civilization dies a bit if you ask me.
Teresa: Michael C. Hayes’ artwork got Miserere on the end-cap at our local B&N where it was referred to as the book with THAT COVER. Keep in mind that Miserere debuted just ahead of George R.R Martin’s A Dance With Dragons . . . for the record, Martin had his very own display. Still, for Miserere to make the end-cap along with The Winds of Khalakovo and Never Knew Another by J.M. McDermott when a well-known author such as Martin is releasing a tsunami of a book such as A Dance with Dragons says a lot about cover art, especially for debut authors.
I seriously doubt that any of us would have made that end-cap without Night Shade’s covers. I had no input on the Miserere’s cover art. I did ask Michael about the process. He told me that Night Shade told him which characters they wanted on the cover, then they gave him a synopsis and the book.
I knew he had read Miserere by looking at the art. Michael took my characters, drew their stories in their faces and put the Citadel walls behind them. He confirmed my suspicions and said he did read the book. I was so delighted with his representation of Lucian, Rachael, and Catarina, I will always see them just like he drew them.
Q: After finishing your respective series, whenever that might be, what do you hope to write next? Do you see yourself trying out different genres? Different formats?
Bradley: Actually, I’ve written a comic script that I hope to pursue further some day. But in terms of novels, I’m going to be pretty ensconced in epic fantasy for some time. I already have two series roughed out. And in my heart, these are the stories I love to tell. This is my niche, and in some ways I’m glad I’ve found it. I’m comfortable here and I think there are some interesting stories I can tell.
Courtney: I’ve got a few ideas kicking around. I harbor a deep fondness for spy novels (and TV shows, and movies), so I’d love to try writing a fantasy spy thriller, perhaps in a steampunkish setting so I could play with both technology and magic. I’ll stick to writing novels, though; I love graphic novels and SF&F in other media, but I quail at the thought of facing a whole new learning curve for another style of writing—my time’s scarce enough already!
Stina: I’ve a friend who was in the comic book industry, and he and I are thinking about working something up. I’ve been hooked on graphic novels since Sandman, and I think it’d be great fun. Although, my friend definitely wants me to lighten up. We’ll see if anything comes of that. Also, I’ve another fantasy series in the works. It’ll be another historic-flavored fantasy but YA/Teen since that’s where I worked for six years. Anyway, I’d feel better having more than one plate spinning.
Teresa: I’d love to do comic books and graphic novels. I’ve long had a love affair with graphic novels. I think if I could draw, it would have been my chosen technique for storytelling. It’s about that economical use of words and art to convey a story that appeals to me. I love everything from Elf Quest to Sin City. That is one aspect of writing that I would like to try someday.
I’d also like to try script-writing too, just for the challenge of it.
I do know that if I slid over to a different genre, I would cross over more deeply into horror. I’ve loved horror since I read my first Poe story. I’ve always been drawn to the grotesque and twisted lives; my favorite story by Poe is “Hop-Frog, Or, the Eight Chained Ourangoutangs.” Death has always intrigued me; I was a morbid child.
There is just some little sick thing within me, and writing horror gives me a safe outlet for it. That’s all I’ll say for now; it’s best if I don’t incriminate myself.
Q: Nowadays, it’s very common to see novels adapted into movies, comic books, TV shows, and even video games! Just for fun, how would you like to see your respective novels adapted?
Bradley: Funnily enough, I have a friend who’s a video game developer and he has an Age of Sail ship warfare game that he’s thinking about adapting for windship battles. Whether or not he’ll actually do it, I don’t know, but it’s a real kick just thinking about the possibility.
I’d love for there to be a movie adaptation. Wait. Check that. A series like HBO’s Game of Thrones would probably be a better format in the end since it’s a longer book. I’m not sure how well a movie based on Winds would translate when they can only fit about 100 pages of novel ms into a movie. It would feel choppy and odd, like the Dune movie, and I’d hate to see that happen to this story.
Courtney: I’ll take HBO for a thousand, Alex. (Haha, I can dream, right?) For actors…hmmm. I always imagined Dev as a male, somewhat darker-skinned version of the green-eyed Afghan girl in that famous National Geographic picture, and I don’t know an actor who matches that description. I do know who’d make a great body double for Dev’s climbing scenes: Indian climber Jyothi Raj. Kiran’s a little easier—he’s black-haired, blue-eyed, and fair-skinned with high cheekbones, so perhaps a younger version of Cillian Murphy, or maybe Nicholas Hoult. Though I suppose the priority should be acting ability, not looks! Okay, maybe I’d rather have an animated version with Hayao Miyazaki directing and Neil Gaiman writing the screenplay. (Hey, I said I was dreaming!)
Stina: Oh! Fun question! Only I worry a little about ruining it for readers. (Since I believe their ideas of what the characters look like are just as valid as mine.) I’ll play anyway, though. Because... fun! Let’s see. Film or TV series. Definitely. A friend of mine said he thinks would be ideal as a director. I have to say that would be pretty amazing. Liam could be or . is probably closer to how I see Liam. (It’s the hair.) But Cillian plays the wounded soldier type really well. So, it’s kind of a tie. It’d be fun to see and play Bishop Avery and Father Declan Thomas. (They’re two of my favorite actors.) would make a great Father Murray. Mary Kate? (with lighter hair). Bran could be , and Kathleen, . Although, I think she’s far too pretty for Kathleen, but I’ve a hunch she’s a great enough actress that she could totally pull off a middle-aged housewife. would be dead perfect for Haddock. He’s exactly how I imagined Haddock. But then, maybe I’ve been watching too much lately.
You can tell my friends and I play this game a lot, can’t you?
Teresa: I’d want Guillermo del Toro to do the movie version, and then I’d let go and let him do everything. When you have someone whose creative vision is that astute, you stand back and let them work. He always knows just what actor to choose for what role; and his casting is always dead on. I would just watch with total fangirl love. I’m not kidding. He’s the one director who has YET to disappoint me.
Q: Speaking of adaptations, HBO’s Game of Thrones is a very hot topic. If you’ve seen the show, what did you think of the adaptation? With Game of Thrones being such a huge success, do you think that will help or hinder fantasy literature in the future?
Bradley: I’ve yet to see the show (lacking cable, I’m patiently waiting for the Blu-Ray version to come out), but I’ve heard great things about it, and I’ve been watching the news and a few of the reviews as well. I follow George’s blog, and it’s really fun trying to figure out the riddles he poses for the new actors they’ve chosen for the various roles. All in all, they’ve done a wonderful job. It’s great that George had the experience he had in Hollywood, because it really prepared him for this well. Were I in his shoes, I’d have no idea how to handle myself. I’m sure I would have given away the farm to the first studio that came along asking for movie rights. But not George. He took his time and did it right, and good for him.
I’m thankful that it’s out, not just as a fan, but because it’s creating a bit of a Renaissance in epic fantasy, a wave that I hope to ride for a little while. The wave is just rising, I think, so I’m not too worried about overexposure yet. All things are cyclical, anyway, so I’m just glad to have a spotlight shining on the genre for a little while (because, let’s face it, sexy vampires have had it quite long enough, thank you). Hopefully it doesn’t go away too soon.
And I’m also glad that it’s happening to such a worthy property. I think George has succeeded at creating a true epic as no one has before. If anything deserves this kind of attention, it’s the Song of Ice and Fire. So kudos to him. I wish him only the best.
And remember: George R.R. Martin is not your bitch!
Courtney: Alas, we don’t have cable, so I’ve totally missed out on Game of Thrones so far. I’ll be first in line when the DVDs come out, believe me! (I’m just hoping the wait won’t be as long as it was for Carnivale, another HBO fantasy series I was dying to watch.) I can only imagine that the show’s success will help the genre as a whole by bringing in more readers and attention, much as the Harry Potter movies helped contribute to the boom of YA fantasy.
Stina: I read all but the last two books in the series, and I’ve been a fan for a long time. A Game of Thrones was influential for me as a writer. Very meaty stuff, that—politics, world-building, realistic characters, a dense plot based on actual history. It combined all the things I wanted to do in a Fantasy. He showed me it was possible and that there was a market for it. For the most part, I like what has done. They’ve retained the craftsmanship for the most part. TV and film are distinctly different storytelling media from literature. I understand well that there will be differences—even in how I experience the story. Martin says there was every bit as much sex in the books. I believe him. However, “any excuse for a naked woman” schtick gets pretty old with me really fast. That scene with Littlefinger? (You know the one. We all do.) [rolls eyes] Gimme a damned break. If we’re going that route, then I want more full frontal male nudity. Fair’s fair. Unfortunately, Sci-fi and Fantasy already have a sexist reputation. has to realize that they can’t treat like Rome and avoid a negative reaction. I’m not the biggest fan any longer. (With the were-panther plot this season, the gross-out factor has hit the point of no return for me, I think.) But you can say this much about —it is equal opportunity in the naked department. Anyway, I think HBO has done us a favor by widening the audience.
Teresa: I haven’t seen the HBO series. I live in the house of instant gratification, so when we hear a new series is coming out, we wait for the DVD set, then sit down and gorge ourselves on the entire series in a week or two. However, based on the reviews I’ve read, I will definitely be buying the DVDs when they come out. I usually don’t judge too harshly between the novels and television/movies. They are two completely different mediums and I always try to take that into consideration.
I don’t know how the series can hinder fantasy literature. I think there will always be people who believe that all fantasy is young adult or Tolkien or Martin. Or if you don’t write like China Miéville, your book is too simplistic, or all science fiction should be up to Asimov’s level in The Foundation series. You’ll never be rid of expectations like that from the casual reader.
And what if Martin has raised the bar? Miéville has raised the bar; Tolkien raised the bar. We should raise the bar—we should be continually raising the bar, not just for the reader, but to make ourselves better writers or storytellers. Martin is a master storyteller. I can’t see anything bad about that. I think he has done for fantasy what Stephen King did for horror back in the seventies and eighties. We should celebrate his success with him and strive, not to write like him, but to write better, tell better stories, build better worlds. I think it’s wonderful, and I think we should carry it forward.
Q: Another hot topic is with e-books and their growing popularity. What are your thoughts on e-books and e-readers in relation to traditional print?
Bradley: I fully welcome e-books. I’ve made the leap myself. Only on rare occasions will I buy a print book now. I just don’t find them enjoyable to read. My eyes aren’t as great as they used to be. I hate holding books when I’m reading, because I generally read just before going to sleep in bed. I’ve read on an iPod touch, but now I have a Kindle and I quite like it, certainly much more than trying to wrangle with a paperback.
The economics of print books were already becoming difficult to manage, and now with print runs going down, it’s going to get even worse. So I’m glad for the e-book revolution. It means we can get our books into more readers’ hands at a more reasonable price while still bringing me a higher net per book. I’m not so crazy about the piracy issue, but really, those folks were probably not going to pay for books anyway. Print books will be around for a long time, so for those who like them, they’ll still have that option. But as e-book readers become more and more advance, and cheaper, fewer and fewer people will be able to resist the change. All in all, I think the option to buy e-books is a wonderful thing.
Courtney: I LOVE ebooks. So convenient, so wonderfully easy to buy, and no worries about shelf space or packing them when you move. I can’t help but think ebooks are a good thing for authors in the long run, because the convenience and lower price point make readers more likely to buy books from unfamiliar authors. I know that’s been true for me. I used to get all my books from the library; the only ones I bought were books I’d already read and loved, or else books from authors on my vanishingly small “must buy in hardback” list. But ebooks seem so cheap, and it’s so easy to hit that “buy” button when you come across a book that sounds intriguing…seriously, I bought more books in the first 3 months after my husband gave me a Kindle than I’d bought in three years beforehand. I do still buy my favorite books in paper as well. As someone who works with computers, I know all too well how formats change and files get corrupted. If I love a book, I want it available in a more permanent form. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way, so I don’t think physical books are going anywhere.I think publishers will just end up going to a POD model, or printing limited-run collectors editions.
Stina: If you study graphic design, you know that traditional print evolved over two thousand years and is an elegant, superbly efficient design as a result. So, I feel the same about eBooks that I do about audiobooks. It’s another medium for literature and knowledge. Frankly, I hope for everyone’s sake that eBooks won’t replace traditional print. Just as audiobooks didn’t replace traditional print. You see, the broader effects on an economic and social level wouldn’t be good. Not everyone can afford an eReader any more than everyone can afford a computer. To categorically state that it should replace print is, I think, a touch classist. But that’s me. Add to this the issue of security. has already had multiple instances of “vanishing book” syndrome—that is, purchased books being removed from customers’ libraries without their knowledge or permission. (Five times, I believe. Once with 1984 no less. Oh, the irony.) That makes me extremely uncomfortable. It’s a tiny leap from removing an entire book to altering the text itself. Libraries, being humanity’s collective of information, are the backbone of education and knowledge. Studies have repeatedly shown that education is key to combating crime. Removing access to knowledge from the lower classes would be a disaster. It widens the gap between haves and have-nots. It shuts down all possibility of mobility between the classes. The American myth of Horacio Alger becomes just that, a myth. I suppose I think this way because I’m largely self-educated. Therefore, my personal library is very important to me—so important that I’d never want to hand control of that to someone else—especially a faceless, nameless group of people who’s main motivation is greed. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Right? That’s particularly the case if that power allows human beings to hide their face. Also, books aren’t software. The concept of literature and knowledge being reduced to a software product model gives me the heebie-jeebies. Lastly, if traditional print does go away and the zombie apocalypse arrives, electronic devices will be less useful than paperweights. Without traditional print, civilization will be reduced to reinventing the wheel. Literally. Hello, Dark Ages. Think about it.
Paranoid, I know, but hey, I’m a Sci-fi/Dark Fantasy writer. We’re paid to think like that.
Teresa: You know, my friend Jan O’Hara said something on her blog one day: ebook reader, you’ll always be the consort but never the husband.
That’s me. I have a Nook and I love it, but it usually only gets turned on to read unpublished novels that I’m asked to blurb or novels my critique partners have asked for input on. I love it for vacations. It’s especially wonderful at airports where your plane will someday come. I love being able to store my research papers on it, but…
When it is a piece of research that I need to make notations on, I print it out and put it in a three-ring binder, and when it is a book I love, I buy it in hardcopy. Primarily because after using electronic sources for as long as I have, I can attest that for me, I always find what I’m looking for faster in a hard copy. I can speed read faster than most ebook readers and computers can play find a word.
However, ebooks are the way to go for authors who want their backlist available for their readers. I think it’s like paperbacks in the seventies; ebooks provide authors another way to reach their readers. I don’t think they’re the great Satan, nor do I think they should be fluffed off as insignificant either.
Q: It’s kind of rare to see so many new authors making their debut at the same publisher at around the same time. Because of this situation, it seems like the four of you have developed a bond with one another, with three of you regular contributors at The Night Bazaar blog. How much of this relationship with one another has impacted your adjustment to life as a published author, promoting your book and improving your craft?
Bradley: It’s been terribly nice to have the Night Bazaar crew to rely on. First of all, Courtney has been great in getting us organized and focused with the site. We all chip in, but have no doubt; Courtney is the heart of this operation. Having others that are at your level helping you along, trading information, rooting for you—it’s all been a big help. Plus, simply talking about writing and the business, as we do on the Night Bazaar, helps me in the simple sharing of the information. It helps to crystalize some of my thoughts on writing, and that for me is one of the biggest pluses of getting a group like this together.
Courtney: One of the reasons I started the Night Bazaar was because I’d seen authors on other group author blogs talking about how wonderful it was to share experiences and brainstorm about promotional ideas together. For someone like me who knew very few other writers, that sounded like heaven! After accepting Night Shade’s offer for The Whitefire Crossing, I’d originally thought to try for a slot on The Debutante Ball blog—but I found they’d already chosen their participants for 2011. No problem, I thought; I’ll start my own version, focused on SF&F. Thanks to Night Shade having so many debut novels slated for 2011, it was easy to find a group of interested authors; and oh gosh, it really has been a wonderful experience. Everyone’s been so generous with advice and support—both the Night Bazaar gang, and Teresa, who I first met through asking her to do a guest post for us. It’s great to be able to ask questions, compare notes, and chip in together for the occasional shindig (like the suite party we had at WorldCon, which was awesome!)
Stina: was Courtney’s idea, bless her. We were at and eating lunch with Jeremy when she came up with the idea. I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical, but it’s helped me quite a bit in the marketing end of things. I’m not sure certain reviewers would’ve heard of me otherwise. All in all, it’s a good thing. We each have our strengths and interests and bring those to the website. Teresa, in particular, has been a big help in promoting my novel. She’s a wonderful, funny human being to begin with, and I’m really glad I met her.
Teresa: Courtney has invited me twice to the Night Bazaar to post and it’s just been wonderful. I think those invites really helped put Miserere on the radar. She has been great in advising me where to go to spread the word about Miserere, and while everything hasn’t quite panned out (definitely not her fault), I really appreciate all of her advice. She’s had the opportunity to be out at a lot of the genre conventions and conferences that I’m unable to currently attend, and she’s really kept me up to speed with what’s going on in genre fiction.
Stina and I have chatted via email and Facebook and I’ve really enjoyed watching Brad’s success too. I love how Brad set up his web site and I used some of his pages as go-bys for my web site. He didn’t even know he was helping. That goes for all the Night Shade authors. I think I’ve learned more by reading their blogs and web sites, but it’s very nice to connect with them personally via email, Twitter, and Facebook. I have an intense respect for their writing and for their professionalism.
Q: I’m always interested in seeing what other people are reading J So what books have recently impressed you the most, what are you currently reading, and what titles are you most looking forward to?
Bradley: I’m currently reading The Wise Man’s Fear. I’m a slow reader, so this one is taking me a while to get through. Books that have recently impressed me include Mark Hodder’s The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and Doug Hulick’s Among Thieves. I’m really looking forward to Seed, by Rob Ziegler, and also The Coldest War, the resumption of Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed Triptych that began with Bitter Seeds. Oh, and although it’s already been published, I’ve heard great things about Daniel Abraham’s The Dragon’s Path, and I’m curious to read it.
Courtney: In addition to Brad, Stina, and Theresa’s books (all of which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I’m not just saying that to be nice!), recent favorites include Daniel Abraham’s The Dragon’s Path, Douglas Hulick’s Among Thieves, Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic, Martha Wells’s The Cloud Roads, Carol Berg’s The Soul Mirror, Genevieve Valentine’s Mechanique—and on the YA side, Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, and Holly Black’s Red Glove. I’m currently reading Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief, and waiting on the TBR list are Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns, T.C. McCarthy’s Germline, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Erin Hoffman’s Sword of Fire and Sea, and fellow Night Bazaar blogger John Hornor Jacobs’s Southern Gods. Longer term, I’m looking forward to Catherynne M. Valente’s The Folded World (sequel to her achingly beautiful The Habitation of the Blessed), Carol Berg’s The Daemon Prism (3rd and final book of her Collegia Magica series), and Night Bazaar bloggers Kameron Hurley’s Infidel and Thomas Roche’s The Panama Laugh.
Stina: Recently read and loved: Push of the Sky, short story collection (lush prose and fantastic sense of story); The White Cat by (so many things to adore, including the Grifter Magic System(tm)); The Windup Girl (the science, the world-building, the culture and history were all amazing); Instructions by and (it made me cry—did I mention I’m a sap?); and Just Kids by (it’s magnificent).
I’m currently reading two non-fiction books. One the causes of terrorism and the other about everyday life during the Black Death.
What I’m looking forward to reading: Honestly, I’ve an entire bookshelf of fantastic books that I’ve been anxious to read since Ross sent me my very first goodie box. The Loving Dead, Miserere, The Whitefire Crossing, God’s War, The Winds of Khalakovo, and Southern Gods are among them.
The Red Glove, and The Poison Eaters and Other Stories; all of works; Beauty Queens by ; Side Jobs by ; A Twisted Ladder by ; Lady Lazarus by ; The Ring of Solomon by ; Wolfsangel by ; Who Fears Death by ; and well, of course the last three novels in the Song of Fire and Ice series by .
Teresa: The two books that I’ve read lately are unpublished. One I am not at liberty to talk about, but I really hope it is published, because it was a fun romp. The other is The Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams (publication date December 2, 2011 / Night Shade Books). I was asked if I would be interested in blurbing Williams’ novel and after three pages, I begged for it. It is captivating—story, world-building, writing, characterization. Put it on your wish-list.
I am also currently reading Armando Maggi’s In the Company of Demons for research purposes for my novel The Garden. I love Maggi’s fascinating thoughts on Renaissance demonology. I’m also reading The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. I’ve never read a book by Jon Ronson before, but now I think I’m going to go out and read everything he’s written. He’s delightfully witty and tongue-in-cheek with his observations.
Based on a review I recently encountered, I’m going to place The Folding Knife by K.J. Parker on my next-book-to-read list. I understand it’s a very character oriented novel, and that’s the kind I like to read.
Q: In closing, is there anything else you’d like to say?
Bradley: Only that this has been a wonderful opportunity. As I said above, it’s been fun “coming out” with my fellow Night Shade authors, and this is another part of that journey. Thanks so much for having us on to talk about the things we love.
Courtney: Thanks so much for having us, Robert, and for all the hard work you & your fellow reviewers do at FBC. Speaking as both an author and a reader, I deeply appreciate it.
Stina: Thanks so much for doing this, Robert. It’s pretty wonderful of you.
Teresa: First I’d like to say thank you, Robert, for allowing me to be a part of this interview and for your review of Miserere. And thanks to Brad, Stina, and Courtney for all their guidance and help.
A special thanks to the book bloggers, and to all the people who read genre fiction. You guys rock.
ABOUT BRADLEY P. BEAULIEU:
Bradley P. Beaulieu is a winner of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award, while his short story, “In the Eyes of the Empress’s Cat”, was voted a Notable Story in the 2006 Million Writers Award. Other stories have appeared in Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future 20, and several anthologies from DAW Books. The Winds of Khalakovo is his first novel. For more information, please visit the following links:
Official Bradley P. Beaulieu Website
Order “The Winds of Khalakovo” HERE
Read the First Fifteen Chapters HERE (ePub) or HERE (PDF)
Order “The Winds of Khalakovo” HERE
Read the First Fifteen Chapters HERE (ePub) or HERE (PDF)
ABOUT COURTNEY SCHAFER:
Courtney Schafer attended college at Caltech where she obtained a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and also learned how to rock climb, backpack, ski and scuba dive. She then earned her Masters at the University of Colorado. Courtney now works in the aerospace industry and is married to an Australian scientist who shares her love for speculative fiction and mountain climbing. The Whitefire Crossing is her first novel. For more information, please visit the following links:
Order “The Whitefire Crossing” HERE
Read An Excerpt HERE (PDF)
Read FBC’s Review of “The Whitefire Crossing”
ABOUT STINA LEICHT:
Stina Leicht is a fantasy author based out of central Texas. Of Blood & Honey is her first novel. For more information, please visit the following links:
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Of Blood & Honey”
ABOUT TERESA FROHOCK:
Raised in a small town, Teresa Frohock learned to escape to other worlds through the fiction collection at her local library. Miserere: An Autumn Tale is her debut novel. For more information, please visit the following links:
Order “Miserere: An Autumn Tale” HERE
Read An Excerpt HERE (PDF)
Read FBC’s Review of “Miserere: An Autumn Tale”
Watch the Book Trailer HERE