Friday, May 06, 2016

Interview with Ruth Vincent, author of Elixir

Please welcome Ruth Vincent to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Elixir was published on May 3rd by Harper Voyager Impulse.

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

Ruth:  Well, I suppose technically I wrote my first 'book' at the age of 4. It was called "The Birds," and bore no resemblance to the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. (It was about a family of birds, and their adventures.) (I think my parents still have it in the attic somewhere.)

I've been trying to write professionally since college - first as a freelance journalist (since that seemed like a more 'legitimate' career than novelist - though in truth it's just as difficult.) I also tried my hand at literary fiction. In the end, I gave them both up and switched to writing genre fiction - because I found it much more fun!

Fantasy was always my favorite genre to read, and so I wanted to write in the same genre that had brought me so much joy!

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Ruth:  I'm a plotter, if only out of necessity! I started writing as a pantser, and I would write these horrible, completely unreadable drafts that kept devolving into tangents that never went anywhere. I realized I would never finish a book that way. So I learned to plot in self-defense! I 'pantse' individual scenes sometimes, if I'm feeling stuck, but never an entire book. Now that I'm published and have to stick to a deadline schedule, an outline (with coinciding word-count goals) is the only way I know to ensure I meet my due dates!

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ruth:  Honestly, just finding the time! Day jobs, family obligations, and all the 1001 daily details of adult life can easily hijack one's writing schedule. I try to be hyper vigilante about blocking the time out in my calendar and sticking to it!

Also, I think we all have a little voice in our head that's mean to us - meaner than any critic would be. I do whatever I can to try to shut that voice up - at least for long enough that I can get my word count!

TQWho or what has influenced/influences your writing?

Ruth:  I've always been an avid reader, and I think that sum total of collected knowledge from a lifetime of reading probably provides the foundation for everything I write. For specific influences related to writing urban fantasy, I must say Kim Harrison's "The Hollows" series was a huge inspiration to me. That was the series through which I discovered urban fantasy as a genre, and I've still rarely seen it done better.

I also read a ton of 19th century classic literature and poetry as a young person, and I think that continues to influence me. Even writing commercial fiction, I still care a lot about the beauty of the individual sentence, its musicality, and the richness of the images. I want to write lines that will linger in the reader's mind, as well as great characters and plots of course!

TQDescribe Elixir in 140 characters or less.

Ruth:  Humans drink bootlegged fairy magic Elixir - what could possibly go wrong?

TQPlease tell us something about Elixir that is not found in the book description.

Ruth:  The Fairy Queen is a much more complicated and interesting character than you'd know from the book jacket. I love to write complex, empathetic villains, who - if things had gone a bit differently - could have easily been the hero of the story.

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

Ruth:  The seed inspiration for Elixir came from the bedtime stories my dad told me as a child. These "Super Fairy" stories were a mash-up between the fairy tales I loved and the 1960's era Superman TV show plots my dad remembered from his youth (I was raised without TV - so for years I thought my dad had cleverly made up all these superhero stories!) "Super Fairy" was a changeling of sorts - a fairy who goes to live amongst humans, disguised as a human child. Elixir is a more grown up take on those stories.

I've always loved urban fantasy as a genre, because it's simultaneously the world we know, but also has some weird twist. I find urban fantasy more accessible than a completely invented fantasy world, because it does play upon the familiar. As such, I think good urban fantasy can also offer interesting social commentary, disguised as a rollicking fantasy tale.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Elixir?

Ruth:  I did background research into Celtic fairy folklore (reading such books as Walter Evans-Wentz's "The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries.") However, ultimately I chose to just make up my own vision of the Fey world!

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Ruth:  The easiest character was probably Mab's P.I. boss, Reggie - a native New Yorker, gruff on the surface, but deeply caring beneath. He is somewhat based on people I know and love, and I can hear his thick New York accent in my head as I write!

The hardest was probably Mab's love interest, Obadiah. In the first draft I wrote of this story, I had a completely different character be Mab's love interest. He was noble and brave and tortured...and boring. At that time, Obadiah was a side character - this quirky bootlegger of magic. But he was so much more fun to write, so in the end I made him the romantic lead!

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

Ruth:  Elixir is not an overtly political novel. However, it is about a society (fairies) utterly dependent on a non-renewable resource (Elixir) which powers all their magic and their way of life. It's about the increasingly unethical and exploitive things they do to produce and control that resource, and the innocent children who get caught in the crossfire of a conflict they know nothing of, who pay the ultimate price. I tried to never hit readers over the head with a particular message - it would be easy to read Elixir purely as an adventure story - but the metaphors are rich.

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

Ruth:  I'd like to be asked what makes for a good villain in fiction? I've always thought a story is only as strong as its villain, and I've always found villains the most interesting characters to write. The two dimensional villain has always been my bane - I wanted to write an antagonist that was almost as empathetic as the heroine/hero. When we find out the real reasons behind my villain's evil actions (no spoilers here!) they make so much sense that I think the reader could easily imagine themselves doing the same thing under the circumstances. But they are still some pretty evil deeds! That's what makes it an interesting moral quandary!

TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Elixir.


"Eva fell in love with boys the way moths fall in love with light bulbs."

"Walking through Times Square, I might as well have been back in Fairyland," he said, his voice full of bitterness. "It certainly was no longer home."

TQWhat's next?

Ruth:  I'm hard at work on the sequel to ELIXIR, the second book in the Changeling P.I series, which will be coming out with HarperCollins Voyager Impulse this October!

I'm really excited about it - writing a second book has given me the chance to go deeper, darker, even more morally ambiguous places with my characters, and really force them to grow!

I also have a gaslamp fantasy novel in the works. It's about fairies too, but the Victorian variety. I look forward to seeing where that story goes!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Ruth:  Thank you so much for having me!

A Changeling P.I. Novel 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, May 3, 2016
eBook, 384 pages

Mabily "Mab" Jones is just a twenty-something, over-educated, under-employed New Yorker trying to survive as a private eye's unpaid intern . . . or is she? Once a powerful fairy, but tricked by the Fairy Queen into human form, Mab is forced to face her changeling past when investigating a missing person case at a modern speakeasy.

Obadiah Savage bootlegs fairy Elixir to human customers thirsting for a magical fix. But when Mab and Obadiah become joint suspects in a crime they didn't commit, the only way to prove their innocence is to travel back to the fairy realm. And when Mab confronts the Fairy Queen and learns the depth of her betrayal, she must decide if the fate of the fey world is worth destroying the lives of the humans she's come to love.

About Ruth

Ruth Vincent spent a nomadic childhood moving across the USA, culminating in a hop across the pond to attend Oxford. But wherever she wanders, she remains ensconced within the fairy ring of her imagination. Ruth recently traded the gritty urban fantasy of NYC for the pastoral suburbs of Long Island, where she resides with her roguishly clever husband and a cockatoo who thinks she’s a dog.

Ruth Vincent is the author of the CHANGELING P.I series with HarperCollins Voyager Impulse, beginning with her debut novel, ELIXIR.

Ruth loves to hear from readers. Get in touch at, or Twitter @ByRVincent.

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Root by Na'amen Gobert Tilahun

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.

Na'amen Gobert Tilahun

The Root
A Novel of the Wrath & Athenaeum 1
Night Shade Books, June 7, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 420 pages

A dark, gritty urban fantasy debut set in modern-day San Francisco, filled with gods, sinister government agencies, and worlds of dark magic hidden just below the surface.

When a secret government agency trying to enslave you isn’t the biggest problem you’re facing, you’re in trouble.

Erik, a former teen star living in San Francisco, thought his life was complicated; having his ex-boyfriend in jail because of the scandal that destroyed his career seemed overwhelming. Then Erik learned he was Blooded: descended from the Gods.

Struggling with a power he doesn’t understand and can barely control, Erik discovers that a secret government agency is selling off Blooded like lab rats to a rival branch of preternatural beings in ’Zebub—San Francisco’s mirror city in an alternate dimension.

Lil, a timid apprentice in ’Zebub, is searching for answers to her parents’ sudden and mysterious deaths. Surrounded by those who wish her harm and view her as a lesser being, Lil delves into a forgotten history that those in power will go to dangerous lengths to keep buried.

What neither Erik nor Lil realize is that a darkness is coming, something none have faced in living memory. It eats. It hunts. And it knows them. In The Root, the dark and surging urban fantasy debut from Na’amen Tilahun, two worlds must come together if even a remnant of one is to survive.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Interview with Peter Tieryas

Please welcome Peter Tieryas to The Qwillery. United States of Japan was published in March by Angry Robot Books.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Peter:  Every story has a different challenge. With United States of Japan, many of the issues and ideas explored are still contentious in Asia, so I had to be extra careful with any of the speculative elements I took. That meant months of research, as well as continual editing and fact-checking to make sure I wasn’t getting battle names mixed up or chronologies twisted (unless that was an intentional choice meant to distort the past for propaganda reason).

I am definitely a hybrid of the two, though I do like to plot a lot before I go wild with the narrative and my drafts undergo a whole lot of revision. I’m always trying to improve my craft, the emotional connection with characters, and convey personality through dialogue as much as possible.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Peter:  Philip K. Dick is an obvious influence for United States of Japan. But I also draw on Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth and Rieko Kodama’s brilliant work on the Phantasy Star series as I love her storytelling in the Sega Genesis space operas. Food is also important in my books as I refer to Asian, American, and fusion dishes, adding in some of my favorite restaurants in the alternate history. So is music and the tracks that form the ambient choir for the strange adventure the characters undergo. I really feel some scenes in USJ would have played out a lot differently had I been listening to different music.

TQDescribe United States of Japan in 140 characters or less. 

Peter:  United States of Japan is a spiritual sequel to Man in the High Castle focusing on the Asian tragedies of WWII, gaming, & mechas.

TQTell us something about United States of Japan that is not found in the book description.

Peter:  There’s a scene where the Kempeitai, the secret police of the Japanese Empire, are investigating one of the characters. Parts of the dialogue and sequence pay tribute to Orson Welles’ cinematic vision of Kafka’s The Trial, which thematically connects it with another inspiration for USJ, 1984.

TQWhat inspired you to write United States of Japan? What appeals to you about writing Alternate History?

Peter:  I’ve mentioned The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I was also motivated because I’d heard so many stories about what happened in Asia during WWII that weren’t known here in America and I wanted to share that history. At the same time, it’s a love letter to many of the aspects I love about Japanese culture. There are the mechas, but it’s also about the hard-boiled detectives, cyber yakuzas, and of course, samurai and ronin. How would they fit into a world combined with American ideals? United States of Japan was about sating my curiosity and fascination for the world of High Castle, finding out what happens after the end of the events in the book. Not just 1-2 years later, but decades later. What will people who grew up in the USJ think of that world (especially considering Nazis are undertaking all sorts of wild enterprises)? Would technology progress in the same way?

The best alternate histories help us see our own world in a very different light. I remember one of the first alternate history movies that moved me was Planet of the Apes which at first doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with Earth, before I realized, it’s all about humanity and our society at that time.

The scary part of United States of Japan isn’t how different it is, but how similar.

TQWhat sorts of research did you do for United States of Japan?

Peter:  That’s an interesting question because it was very hard for me to find works about WWII from the Asian perspective. Almost everything was American-centric, which makes sense being in America. But I really wanted to know what life was like for the average Asian, from the Japanese citizens in Tokyo finding out about the war on the news, to those living in an Asia occupied by the Empire. History skews very differently depending on who does the telling, and I read everything I could get hold of. I also watched a whole lot of war documentaries, interviewed people where I could, and asked people to translate various works for me when I couldn’t find English versions. Some of the books I depended on for the history are The Rising Sun by John Toland, Japan’s Imperial Army by Edward Drea, A Modern History of Japan by Andrew Gordon, Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer, and Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert Bix to name just a few (there’s a more complete list in the acknowledgements).

TQIn United States of Japan who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Peter:  The easiest character to write was one of the background civilians that gets killed in the mecha battle in San Diego and only shows up as a scanner blip. Easy because I only devoted one sentence to him. The hardest was a background civilian that gets killed and only shows up as a scanner blip because I had a hard time envisioning his motivations, his family background, and what he felt when he died in that one sentence. =)

TQWhich question about United States of Japan do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Peter:  Why?

Changes every day. I saw a flock of crows flying in circles and I wondered what they were chasing. There was one morning I craved strawberry ice cream and shortcake and made that the impetus for evolution. The digital blips on my clock strike visual chords that subconsciously subjugate my every thought, a prison to arbitrary dishes of time. I am more bound by those numbers than any ideal which scares me. Is there a way to flip the relationship? Is there an alternate history where we don’t have to worry about the list of lists with empty aspirations and dreams?

TQWhat's next?

Peter:  A multimedia project called United Chocolates of Japan about a world where candy takes over the world. =)

Seriously though, with United States of Japan, I wanted to pay tribute to PKD and bring light to the dark past of the Pacific Front. I’m hoping now that I’ve done that (or at least done my best), I can take the world set up in the first novel and weave my own story into further adventures.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Peter:  Wait, Qwillery? I thought these were questions for the Kempeitai. Who are you all? Where are you taking me? Hold on, wait a second, the wntgkltf----

Note:  No Authors were harmed seriously in the making of this interview.

United States of Japan
Angry Robot Books, March 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
    North American Print and eBook
Angry Robot Books, March 3, 2016
    UK Print

Decades ago, Japan won the Second World War. Americans worship their infallible Emperor, and nobody believes that Japan’s conduct in the war was anything but exemplary. Nobody, that is, except the George Washingtons – a shadowy group of rebels fighting for freedom. Their latest subversive tactic is to distribute an illegal video game that asks players to imagine what the world might be like if the United States had won the war instead.

Captain Beniko Ishimura’s job is to censor video games, and he’s tasked with getting to the bottom of this disturbing new development. But Ishimura’s hiding something… He’s slowly been discovering that the case of the George Washingtons is more complicated than it seems, and the subversive videogame’s origins are even more controversial and dangerous than the censors originally suspected.

Part detective story, part brutal alternate history, United States of Japan is a stunning successor to Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.

File Under: Science Fiction

About Peter

Peter Tieryas is a character artist who has worked on films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Alice in Wonderlandand Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.

His first novel, Bald New World, was listed as one of Buzzfeed’s 15 Highly Anticipated Books as well as Publishers Weekly’s Best Science Fiction Books of Summer 2014. United States of Japan, his second novel, was featured in io9, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Lit Reactor, The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog and Popular Mechanics’ most anticipated lists for 2016.

You can find Peter Tieryas online at his website and @TieryasXu on Twitter.

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Silent Hall by N.S. Dolkart

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.

N.S. Dolkart

Silent Hall
Angry Robot Books, June 7, 2016
   North American Print
   Mass Market Paperback, 528 pages
Angry Robot Books, June 2, 2016
    UK Print and eBook
Cover Ilustration: Andreas Rocha

Five bedraggled refugees and a sinister wizard awaken a dragon and defy the gods.

After their homeland is struck with a deadly plague, five refugees cross the continent searching for answers. Instead they find Psander, a wizard whose fortress is invisible to the gods, and who is willing to sacrifice anything – and anyone – to keep the knowledge of the wizards safe.

With Psander as their patron, the refugees cross the mountains, brave the territory of their sworn enemies, confront a hostile ocean and even traverse the world of the fairies in search of magic powerful enough to save themselves – and Psander’s library – from the wrath of the gods.

All they need to do is to rescue an imprisoned dragon and unleash a primordial monster upon the

How hard could it be?

File Under: Fantasy [ Ravens of Revenge / The Great Flood / Dragon Boy / You’re the Prophecy ]

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Interview with Sean Danker, author of Admiral

Please welcome Sean Danker to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Admiral was published on May 3rd by Roc.

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

Sean:  Not that long ago. I actually didn't have a say in it; I'm the last descendant of an ancient race of writers, and my ghost ancestors hassled me. Like in Mulan. They want me to travel the globe and find the secret entrance to the ancient lost writer city. So you could say there's some pressure.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Sean:  I'm pretty good about having a full outline these days.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Sean:  Sticking to one genre.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Sean:  Mostly the struggle.

TQDescribe Admiral in 140 characters or less.

Sean:  Don't take oxygen and/or being alone and safe for granted, especially on unexplored planets: The Musical

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

Sean:  It's safe to take on an airplane, and your ghost ancestors will love reading it over your shoulder. I guarantee it.

TQWhat inspired you to write Admiral?

Sean:  Given my level of nerd street cred, I was long overdue to do something with space.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Admiral?

Sean:  I'm in the dim basement of a crumbling, gothic, downtown library, hunched over a microfilm reader. There's a storm, and you can hear the rain pounding on the building. My glasses are on the table next to a scrap of bloody cloth, and a piece of stone covered in mysterious carvings. One of my Mr. Rogers cardigans is draped over the chair. The lights flicker, and somewhere in the basement a door slams. I sit up and look back at the door. There isn't supposed to be anyone else here. A moment passes, and something rattles down the hall. I look up; there's a sound, like something heavy being dragged across the floor above. I put put on my glasses and pick up my flashlight. Something isn't right.

Like that. All my research is just like that.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Sean:  The easiest was Deilani because she's direct. The hardest was the Admiral because he's not direct; everything he says means something, and that foreshadowing has to line up with all the twists throughout the series.

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

Sean:  Social issues are the focus of my work, so I don't really include them; they're already there, I just include some fiction.

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

Sean:  Q: Can I buy a billion copies? A: Yes, but just this once.

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


Deilani: "Shut up,"

The Admiral: "You shut up,"

TQWhat's next?

Sean:  Plenty of novels. I might also track down that lost city, but I have to reconcile with some exes and get the okay from my therapist first.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Sean:  Thanks for having me.

An Evagardian Novel 1
Roc, May 3, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages


“I was on a dead ship on an unknown planet with three trainees freshly graduated into the Imperial Service. I tried to look on the bright side.”

He is the last to wake. The label on his sleeper pad identifies him as an admiral of the Evagardian Empire—a surprise as much to him as to the three recent recruits now under his command. He wears no uniform, and he is ignorant of military protocol, but the ship’s records confirm he is their superior officer.

Whether he is an Evagardian admiral or a spy will be of little consequence if the crew members all end up dead. They are marooned on a strange world, their ship’s systems are failing one by one—and they are not alone.

About Sean

Photo by S. Morris
Sean Danker has been writing since he was fifteen. He read entirely too much Asimov in college, and now we’re all paying the price for it. His hobbies include biting off more than he can chew, feeling sorry for himself on Twitter, and telling people to lighten up. He is currently serving in the military on a base in North Dakota. Find the author online at

Twitter @silverbaytimes  ~  Facebook