Friday, July 03, 2015

Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015

Please welcome S.K. Dunstall to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Linesman was published on June 30th by Ace.

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

Hi. We are so happy to be here.

Sherylyn:  I have never known a time when I didn’t write or tell stories. Even in primary school, Karen and I wrote stories for each other. I used to tell stories at night to my younger sisters to send them to sleep – or until I fell asleep. During the day, I would tell stories to other kids at primary school. I just loved telling stories.

Karen:  Being one of those younger sisters, I was obviously indoctrinated at an early age. Like Sherylyn, I’ve been telling stories ever since. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been writing.

TQAre you a plotters, pantsers or hybrids?

S. K.:  Pantsers, without a doubt. Although we came across George R. R. Martin’s ‘gardeners and architects’ (via a You Tube lecture by Brandon Sanderson) and think gardener suits us better. We’re constantly rearranging the garden and trying out new plants. Rewriting parts of the book, moving things around. And weeding. My goodness, weeding words.

We plot by talking ideas. We don’t actually write these down, just get the ideas and let them percolate.

We have found that we can over-talk things and when that happens we don’t write it. So we have to balance the talking and the writing.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you both about writing? What is your co-writing process like?

S. K.:  The most challenging thing? Time. We like to leave our writing sit for as long as possible and come back to it fresh. Ideally, we like to write one book, put it aside and write another. Then go back to the first book and rework the whole thing. Having a contract—as wonderful and fantastic as that is—means you can’t do this. We are not fast writers, and both of us work full time.

Co-writing is so much fun. We spend hours talking stories and ideas. We’ll try different ways of co-writing, too. Sometimes we each write a different character, sometimes we write the same chapter and pick out what we want to keep. Other times one writes the first draft while the other edits.

We always talk about a story as it progresses and if one of us doesn’t like something, we talk and come up with new ideas until we can both agree.

For Linesman, we wanted to keep the voice the same across all three books, so we wrote/are writing all of them the same way, as the person who writes the first draft sets the tone for the whole book.

Every day we’ll discuss what has happened so far, and what we think might happen next. Then Karen writes a rough first draft, with Sherylyn following behind, adding comments and rewriting sections.

Once the first draft is written Sherylyn takes over the bulk of the edits, while Karen comes along behind and works on what Sherylyn has edited.

As we fine-tune the story, Sherylyn takes over more of the work. In the end, for every one time Karen reads the book and makes changes, Sherylyn re-reads it at least five times.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Sherylyn: I read anything I could get my hands on; school adventure stories, Australian stories, science fiction, westerns. Anything except horror. Some of my favorite authors today are Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Diana Wynne-Jones, Robin Hobb, Anne Bishop, to name a few. There are so many writers I love. The list would fill the page.

Karen: Likewise, anything. We’d both read out the library at our primary school years before we moved on to secondary school, and ditto there. As a child I remember reading my way through every one of those yellow covered Gollancz science fiction books I could get my hands on. Some of my favourite current authors today are Diana Wynne Jones, Robin Hobb, Vernor Vinge, Connie Willis. We both read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. We also read mysteries and thrillers. And anything else that takes our fancy.

TQDescribe Linesman in 140 characters or less.

S. K.:  A guy who repairs ships gets caught up in the discovery of an alien spaceship and the fight between two warring factions who want possession of it.

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

S. K.:  Is it cheating if we say ‘sentient spaceships’? It’s not part of the description, but one of the blurbs mentions it.

TQWhat inspired you to write Linesman? What appealed to you about writing Science Fiction, especially Space Opera? What is a 'Space Opera'?

S. K.:  Space opera is science fiction action adventure in space. There’s usually a war, or fighting, and it’s not too heavily scientific, although it can be. Most importantly, it is based around the characters. Star Wars (the original) is the classic space opera. Guardians of the Galaxy is also space opera.

We love both science fiction and fantasy. There’s something about creating worlds, and making everything fit, that’s so much fun. Plus, it allows us to write things we can’t if we’re restricted to our own world. Equality, for example. A world where anyone can be an admiral and no-one cares whether they’re male or female, or white or black or purple or green.

And to explore ideas. Linesman, for example, started as a “what if” dinner-table conversation. What if humans found alien technology in space? Would they know what to do with it? What if they worked out how to use part of it, but not all of it? It’s a bit like using a Swiss army knife. Suppose you learned to use the corkscrew to open bottles of wine, but didn’t even realise anything else on the knife existed? Then, as time passed, how would what they learned about the original technology diverge into something else?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Linesman?

S. K.:  The brain is a fascinating part of the body and there’s so much we don’t know about it. For Linesman we looked at how the brain worked—particularly how it interpreted music. Plus a bit about synaesthesia, and handedness.

We also looked at spaceship design, and realised that provided a ship didn’t need to land on a planet it isn’t constrained aerodynamically. The limitations are air and power. Thus we came up with the idea that the ships in our universe will be large, any shape, with lots of levels, and modules that can be attached as required. And anyone who’s been following Commander Chris Hadfield (excellent source of research, by the way), would know that null-g in space is undesirable if you’re going to be on a ship for long periods of time, so we had to have gravity too.

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

S. K.:  Jordan Rossi was easy to write because he could be unpleasant and it didn’t matter.

Hardest character? That’s difficult. Each character had a life of their own and wanted to be written.

Ean was fun to write because he is such an unreliable narrator (and because he’s great), but he was probably the hardest to write too, because he could be such a wimp. He isn’t helpless, but he lets things happen to him. We had to be careful because that’s very frustrating for the reader, who just wants him to do something. It was a hard balance. We hope we got it right.

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


Q. Will Rossi have his own book?

A. I’d like to think so. I would love people to want a Rossi story.

Sherylyn: You wish. I might let him take part in another book, but he will not have a book to himself. You will have to work hard to sell me on this one.

Karen: Jordan Rossi is an unpleasant man. Confident, arrogant, always putting other people down, but I love him. Most people hate him.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Linesman.

Sherylyn: “The lines were crying out to be heard and no-one was listening.” Karen wrote that line and when I read it, I went cold. It held so much emotion for me.

Karen: I love the clever lines. The ones they say you should get rid of, because they’re not in the book to further the story but simply because you think they’re good. For example, after Michelle tells Ean that Abram likes him, and Ean thinks, ‘yes, and everyone sang to the lines too’. Which is a lie, because no-one except Ean sings to the lines.

TQWhat's next?

S. K.:  We’re contracted for three books in the Linesman series.

We just got the editor’s feedback on book two (Alliance), so we’re about to start working on those. Before that we were in middle of the first draft of book three. The next six weeks we’ll concentrate on Alliance, then it’s back to book three.

After we finish book three? Who knows?

There are so many books to write, so many ideas. We have a couple of science fiction stories we would love work on. One set in the Linesman world, the other a separate series. We also have an Australian fantasy we would love to finish, but that is for a distant future.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

S. K.:  Thank you for having us. It was a pleasure to take part.

Linesman 1
Ace, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

First in a brand new thought-provoking science fiction series.

The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…

Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.

Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.

The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.

About S.K. Dunstall

Andrew Kopp ©2015
Karen (left) and Sherylyn (right) Dunstall
S. K. Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who have been telling stories—and sharing them with each other—all their lives. Around five years ago, they realised the stories they worked on together were much better than the stories they worked on alone. A co-writing partnership was born.


Twitter @SKDunstall


Thursday, July 02, 2015

Interview with A.F.E. Smith, author of Darkhaven - July 2, 2015

Please welcome A.F.E. Smith to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews and the Darkhaven Blog Tour. Darkhaven is published on July 2nd by Harper Voyager (UK). You may read a Guest Blog by A.F.E.Smith - City as character: building Arkannen - here.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

AFES:  I’ve always been a writer. I wrote my first book when I was six (it was about a super-powered rabbit). Because it was that long ago, it’s hard to remember why. I think writing always just seemed like the natural consequence of reading. I was a voracious reader from a very early age and when I didn’t have any new stories to hand I would make up my own.

I vividly remember creeping down from my bunk bed when I should have been asleep, to write down a story idea I’d just had. I must have been about seven or eight. And my life has pretty much gone on like that ever since, except these days I don’t sleep in a bunk bed.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

AFES:  When I started writing, I was a total pantser. I’d just write and see what happened. And sometimes I’d end up making really cool connections with other things I’d already written, and everything would come together organically. But sometimes it wouldn’t. It was a fun way of doing things, but slow and not always productive.

These days, I don’t have time to completely pants it. Which might sound strange, because plotting takes more time up front than pantsing. But it works out quicker in the long run, because I don’t wind up going down too many dead ends.

Having said that, my plotting is only ever outline plotting – chapter by chapter. It’s a basic framework upon which the characters clamber around and do their own thing. So there’s still quite a large element of pantsing. They seem to prefer it that way.

As for the most challenging thing about writing … it sounds clichéd, but at the moment, it really is finding the time to do it. I have a full-time job, a three-year-old son and a baby daughter. Writing has to squeeze in around the edges.

TQYour bio states that you work as an editor. How does that affect your own writing?

AFES:  In good and bad ways. It means I provide pretty clean copy to the publisher (though, of course, even at the copyediting level, no two editors will ever make exactly the same changes). And I’ve had a lot of practice at revising and refining text, from the top level right down to individual words and sentences. But at the same time, it also means I’m forever tempted to revise as I go along – and that spoils the flow. I’ve had to train myself to simply keep writing in a first draft and not polish as I go along. Because if you polish details too early, that extra investment of time and effort means it becomes harder to change them for the sake of the big picture.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

AFES:  I hesitate to claim that my writing is influenced by anyone, lest I appear to be comparing myself to them, but my favourite authors – those whose talent I would aspire to – are Diana Wynne Jones, Robin Hobb, Jacqueline Carey, Juliet Marillier, Patrick Ness and Ursula Le Guin. I don’t think I write like any of them, though. Maybe one day.

TQDescribe Darkhaven in 140 characters or less.

AFES:  Shapeshifter accused of father’s murder fights to clear her name. Love, obsession, swordfights & a unique city all combine in a twisty plot.

I know I kind of cheated with the ampersand there, but Twitter would allow it :-)

TQPlease tell us something about Darkhaven that we won’t find in the book description.

AFES:  Book descriptions tend to focus on one or maybe two main characters, but in fact Darkhaven has seven point-of-view characters. It’s really more of an ensemble piece.

TQWhat inspired you to write Darkhaven? What appealed to you about writing a genre bending “fantasy whodunit”?

AFES:  Inspiration is a funny thing. It comes from many different places and although I might point to one idea or experience as the starting point for a novel, I could give a handful of other answers that would be equally true. I think really it’s the synthesis, the coming together of ideas and external influences, that is the real inspiration. It’s as much about serendipity as it is about anything else.

Still, I usually say it was the opening scene that came to me first and inspired me to write the rest, and that’s as true as anything.

As for genre bending, I think one of the nice things about fantasy is that it combines easily with any other genre. So you can have fantasy crime novels. You can have fantasy romances. You can have historical fantasy and action adventure fantasy and … I dunno, sports fantasy. Is that a thing? It should be a thing. Anyway, I didn’t set out to bend genre as such; I just wrote the story I wanted to tell. Along with speculative fiction, I’ve always enjoyed the classic crime writers like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, so I guess murder is in my blood as much as magic. Though I wouldn’t say Darkhaven is a traditional whodunit, much as it isn’t a traditional fantasy.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Darkhaven? When and where is the novel set? Where can we find out more about the city of Arkannen?

AFESDarkhaven is set in a completely different world, so ‘when’ is hard to identify. However, the entire novel takes place within an industrialised city (Arkannen) that I see as being approximately equivalent to eighteenth-century England in terms of technology, but with more steam power. (Darkhaven isn’t steampunk, but it has a steampunkish flavour.) So there are gas lamps, airships, factories, trams, clockwork. Lots of bladed weapons, but firearms are beginning to creep in too.

Research-wise, I had to know what sort of technologies had been around in the eighteenth century so I could give the book that kind of background consistency where the details just seem right to readers. Because even though it’s a fantasy world, people come to it with certain expectations and so it’s worthwhile making the unimportant details similar to our own industrial history. That frees up their suspension of disbelief for the big, important differences, like people who can change into flying unicorns.

There were also a few things I had to research in more detail. I know far more than I want to know about traditional leather-making.

You can find out a bit more about Arkannen on my website – though I should warn you, the page is rather a work in progress. There’s a rudimentary map, though. Maps are always good.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Did any of the characters surprise you?

AFES:  The easiest was probably Tomas Caraway, my failed Helmsman (bodyguard to the royal family) – because if I’m allowed to have a favourite character, he’s probably the one. There’s just something satisfying about writing the kind of personal redemption arc he goes through.

The hardest … Owen Travers, Captain of the Helm, who is in pursuit of Ayla to lock her up for her father’s murder. He does some awful things, but he’s not capital-e Evil. Very few people are. So although I don’t want readers to like him, I do want them to understand him a bit. It was rather like arguing passionately for a position I don’t believe in.

And yes, my characters surprise me all the time, because they insist on going their own way despite my attempts to prevent them. A bit like my children, really.

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

AFES:  “Hey, A.F.E. Can we pay you big money to make Darkhaven into a movie?” “Why yes, of course you can.”

Just kidding.

I suppose the questions I’ve been waiting for are whether the book is diverse, and whether it has strong female characters in it – because those aspects of literature are kind of in the social media consciousness at the moment. So for what it’s worth, two of my characters are gay; four out of seven are women; the people of my fantasy world don’t have direct analogues with our world as far as ethnicity goes, but Arkannen is a multicultural capital city and the characters certainly vary in skin colour and appearance. But I can’t claim that any of these aspects were conscious attempts at diversity so much as they are just the way I write – and in fact, some of them are barely touched on in the book, because I don’t tend to give long descriptions of my characters. So I don’t know if that counts as diversity or not. As for strength, I daresay people’s opinions will differ on that, but certainly my female characters are no less complex or interesting than the male ones. (Whether any of them are complex and/or interesting is a matter for the reader to decide.)

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Darkhaven.

AFES:  Oh, I find this very difficult! Hmmm … OK. Here’s a little snippet of conversation between Myrren, the elder of the two Nightshade siblings, and Serenna, the priestess who is helping him investigate his shapeshifter father’s murder.

‘Tell me about him,’ Serenna said softly.
‘Who, my father? He was fully thirty feet long from nose to tail-tip. Scales like polished bronze. Vast wings tipped with spikes, and four sets of truly vicious talons –’
‘I meant as a person,’ she chided him, though she was smiling. Myrren lifted a shoulder. How could he explain that to him, his father was his Firedrake self? That Myrren’s personal acquaintance with those talons had made it hard to see beyond them?

I guess I like this because it seems light-hearted to begin with, but it turns out to be dark underneath. Which is fairly typical of everything I write, for some reason.

TQWhat’s next?

AFES: My second book, Goldenfire, is currently with the publisher. It picks up with some of the characters from Darkhaven a few years down the line, only they’re dealing with an assassination plot rather than a murder this time. And a third book is due to follow six months after that.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

AFES: Thank you for having me!

Harper Voyager (UK), July 2, 2015
eBook, 400 pages

Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

About A.F E. Smith

A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter @afesmith

DARKHAVEN on Goodreads

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Interview with Camille Griep, author of Letters to Zell - July 1, 2015

Please welcome Camille Griep to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Letters to Zell is published on July 1st by 47North. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Camille a Happy Publication Day!

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

Camille:  Thanks so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be able share my very first book with you and your readers.

I started writing very early in life. I was one of those children who liked to soothe myself with stories, whether I was lamenting a fruitless wish for a Pegasus of my very own or a failed friendship. Growing up with my grandparents and no siblings, I read a lot to keep myself company, to fill the hours of my persistent childhood insomnia, and to attempt to understand my own imagination. I wrote books in school, but kept writing when I was out of school, too – journals and notebooks and diaries. I wrote for myself, for my parents, and for my friends. I was lucky to have friends who indulged this behavior well into our teens: in high school, we passed fairy tales instead of notes for a while. Telling stories is something that has always been a part of who I am, whether or not I’ve been actively writing.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Camille:  Definitely a pantser. I would so like to be a plotter – almost as much as I (still) want a Pegasus. Both are about as likely to happen.

Ideally, I write a book as I did Zell: starting with the beginning, moving to the end, then creating a bridge in the middle. I’m a visual writer and that lends itself to more surprises than is often healthy for an outline.

I know this because I sold my second novel on spec, so I had to submit full outline. While the plan itself was difficult to wrangle, it was even harder to stick to it. I prefer a much more organic process of creation, and, of course, I ended up having to rewrite the outline as I got deeper into the text and made new decisions based on how I’d moved the characters through their environment.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Camille:  My attention span is very short. I am easily distracted and that is directly in conflict with my needs for novel writing – long, uninterrupted stretches of time. I work constantly to schedule my days and weeks efficiently, so that I can chop up some into small pieces for small projects and spend long days to do immersive projects. I’m not very good about saying no and tend to get a bit over my skis with commitments. With one major exception, all of the writing-related projects, groups, and publications I’ve been involved with have been worth every stressful minute.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Camille:  I think I’m influenced by everything I read. That said, my writing has been most shaped by those whose work can be read a variety of ways. Frost has this nice, pastoral reputation these days when in actuality, his writing is much darker. I’m trying to put my own spin on using humor to diffuse the utterly heartbreaking, like Pamela Ribon and Libba Bray. I love Dorothy Parker and Fran Lebowitz, whose writings are true and awful and funny all at the same time. Finally, I’m under the spell of whimsicists like Walter Moers and CS Lewis. The Horse and His Boy changed my life when I stumbled upon it in my grandparents’ library all those years ago.

It’s hard to whittle down a list of favorite contemporary authors, but if I had to add to the ones above, I’d add fiction writers: Yannick Murphy, Jandy Nelson, Chad Simpson, Stephen Graham Jones, Annie Proulx, and Kent Haruf. There are so many more, but we’ll say these are my favorites right this very minute.

TQDescribe Letters to Zell in 140 characters or less.

Camille:  Fairy tale princesses discover Happily Ever After isn’t the Happy they’re After.

TQ Tell us something about Letters to Zell that is not found in the book description.

Camille:  While the book is indeed a paean to the epistolary form, it’s a tribute to many other things close to my heart. One of those things is Los Angeles. When the characters emerge Outside, they find themselves in present day L.A., their portal exiting at the famed, door-less magician’s hangout The Magic Castle. This was an amazing solution in my mind, L.A. being the home of all sorts of strange things, a few overdressed women popping out of thin air would be within the realm of normal at a place like the Magic Castle.

TQWhat inspired you to write Letters to Zell? What appealed to you about re-imagining the fairy tales of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel?

Camille:  This book really came about as a result of my grappling – as many of us in our mid 30s do – with expectations. No matter what kind of life path you align yourself to, there are a lot of societal pressures telling you whether you’re acceptable or not. A woman really never gets it right. The singletons are doing it wrong, mothers are doing it wrong, the childless are doing it wrong, the stay-at-homes are doing it wrong, the work-around-the-clock women are doing it wrong, the. I guess it’s fair to say that I’d been on the receiving end of things for too long, and I was tired of hearing friends lament their shortcomings and how their lives failed to measure up.

A friend remarked that instead of the life she had, she wanted the fairy tale. I thought darkly, what if the fairy tales wanted reality?

At first I meant to simply turn the concept into a short piece. But I couldn’t fit the expectations of Cosmo, Vogue, TMZ, and Dr. Ruth into a bite-sized portion of fiction. I dug into the well-known princess stories, trying to choose whose might fit best, when it dawned on me that perhaps all of them, in a wider world of imagination, could find freedom and acceptance from each other. Combining their stories took patience, but allowed me to create a very unique, character-driven narrative.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Letters to Zell?

Camille:  Most of the research required for LTZ was reading. In order to ensure I’d grounded myself in the Grimm versions of the fairy tales instead of the Disney versions, I carefully read each of the main and minor characters’ fairy tales, whether they were Grimm, or Christian Anderson, or otherwise. I threw the kitchen sink into the Realm of Imagination. This will undoubtedly annoy some readers, but it was a conscious allusion to the fact that everything we write for readers is influenced by other imaginative works, whether we like it or not.

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

Camille:  The easiest character to write was probably Bianca aka Snow White. Even though CeCi’s voice is likely closer to my own, Bianca’s reactions to most things boiled down to what would someone say if their patience ran out five minutes ago.

Conversely, Rory (Sleeping Beauty) was the toughest. I worked really hard to make her anachronistic in a setting (Grimmland, the Realm of Imagination) that is already pretty strange. In order to offset much of her passive voice and fervent romanticism, I layered in as much humor as I could. The downside here, of course, is that humor isn’t universal. Readers who don’t perceive that the women begin the narrative as caricatures will miss the way the women gradually break free as they find their own space in the world.

TQWhich question about Letters to Zell do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Camille:  How did you choose the personalities for each princess?

I like to say the characters begin the book with their personalities turned up to eleven. Because the book is satire, it’s necessary for us to encounter them at their most obnoxious in order to have the character arc I was aiming for, whereupon they begin to soften and take on the best qualities of one another, as old friends often do.

Zell became the letter recipient because her life seemed to be most complete in the traditional sense. In the Grimm version of Rapunzel, she is pregnant with (gasp, illegitimate!) twins when she is evicted from the tower. Since she ends her tale with a life that looks the most like what is considered “normal,” I decided to upend it as the catalyst for the book.

CeCi is the most practical of the bunch she’s used to running a large household. Used to being useful, her recognition of the loss of her own resourcefulness causes her to closely examine her own life, wants, and needs. She does, however, retain a fair bit of whimsy, as she really didn’t have much of a childhood.

Rory is antiquated and dreamy because of her long sleep. But her inability to see things for what they really are isn’t so much stupidity as avoidance. Rather than lose anyone else or any more time, Rory clings to the fragile latticework of her own optimism.

Bianca is unfiltered because she was raised for a time by a bunch of rough diamond miners. She’s embittered because she so desperately wanted her stepmother’s love. As with most prickly beings, her defense mechanisms are largely a smokescreen of her own tender heart.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Letters to Zell.


1. “You couldn’t shut up about [yoga] a few weeks might want to give it a try. Maybe you’ll get flexible enough to pull your head out of your ass.” (CeCi, after telling Bianca, “Namaste, bitch.”)

2. “Humans can’t all be assholes, right? Head of Soufflés herself can’t be responsible for techno music, Chia Pets, and pies in a jar.” (Bianca/Snow White)

3. “You would be proud of me, Zell. I feel much braver these days. Bravery is exhausting, though, so I do have to drink a good deal of coffee.” (Rory/Sleeping Beauty)

TQWhat's next?

Camille:  Next spring I’ll be releasing my 2nd novel. In New Charity Blues, two women struggle with cultural expectations, their own motivations, and friendship in the midst of a streamlined, reimagined Trojan War set in a post-plague western country rife with prophecy and magic.

Ex-ballerina Cressyda (Syd) Turner joins the effort to rebuild her unnamed City after a pandemic plague decimates the country’s population – all except for that of her hometown, the rural backwater community of New Charity. Yearning to be an influential voice in her City, Syd is embittered by the irrelevance of her art and her inability to find a purpose. When the opportunity to return to New Charity arises, she jumps at the chance to open the hydroelectric dam the town has shut down and restore power to the city.

Cassandra (Cas) Willis, a Seer and Acolyte, is a pensive cowgirl, quietly wishing to be more than just a voice in New Charity’s strict Sanctuary. Her ability to see into the future is her greatest gift, but when she learns that Syd’s father, Cal, was killed by the Sanctuary's Bishop, she strives to find a justification so as to maintain her perception of the institution she grew up in.

Syd – used to being seen and not heard – and Cas – used to being heard and not seen – each balk at the expectation that they will fulfill supporting roles in whatever the men in their communities decide. Disowned by her powerful family, Cas aligns herself with Syd, and a careful respect emerges as each begins to understand the pressures put upon the other, until Cas receives a vision of her town’s utter destruction.

Though these women are minor characters in older narratives, they are remembered primarily as representative symbols of womanhood – Cressyda the pandering, inconstant floozy and Cassandra, the helpless, crazed prophetess. I want to explore the choices that bring them to their decisions, their loves, their families, and most importantly, their friendship with one another.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Letters to Zell
47North, July 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Everything is going according to story for CeCi (Cinderella), Bianca (Snow White), and Rory (Sleeping Beauty)—until the day that Zell (Rapunzel) decides to leave Grimmland and pursue her life. Now, Zell’s best friends are left to wonder whether their own passions are worth risking their predetermined “happily ever afters,” regardless of the consequences. CeCi wonders whether she should become a professional chef, sharp-tongued and quick-witted Bianca wants to escape an engagement to her platonic friend, and Rory will do anything to make her boorish husband love her. But as Bianca’s wedding approaches, can they escape their fates—and is there enough wine in all of the Realm to help them?

In this hilarious modern interpretation of the fairy-tale stories we all know and love, Letters to Zell explores what happens when women abandon the stories they didn’t write for themselves and go completely off script to follow their dreams.

About Camille

Photograph by Jackie Donnelly.
Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

She wrote her way through corporate careers in marketing, commercial real estate, and financial analysis before taking an sabbatical to devote more time to her craft in 2011.

She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. She is a 2012 graduate of Viable Paradise, a residential workshop for speculative fiction novelists.

Her first novel, Letters to Zell, will be released July 1st from 47North.

Website  ~   Twitter @camillethegriep  ~  Facebook

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - Botanicas - July 1, 2015

Please welcome Juliet Blackwell to The Qwillery.  Spellcasting in Silk, the 7th Witchcraft Mystery, will be published on July 7th.


What’s a botanica, you might ask? If you’re ever in a major city, check one out. They’re usually located in the Latino area of town; ask anyone local, they’re bound to have a favorite.

As the name indicates, these stores specialize in botanicals; but botanicas are so much more than that. The shopkeepers often serve as informal folk pharmacists; they are wise women dispensing herbs and advice, from how to get rid of warts to how to improve one’s love life or soothe one’s nerves or exact psychic revenge upon an enemy.

You’ll see packets of herbs and teas; candles for specific uses such as Homework Help or Lucky Lottery; little resin pyramids with Buddha figures inside; tiny metal “milagros” in the shapes of different body parts – leg, head, heart—which are meant to help heal those areas; bells and incense and books. The inventory usually depends on the origin of the shopkeepers; they might hail from Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, or elsewhere in Latin America. Those from Central America often include a good amount of Santeria, a Caribbean tradition derived from beliefs of West African slaves, indigenous religions, and Catholicism.

What I enjoy most about botanicas is the blending of so many different belief systems. When I write my Witchcraft mysteries, I love to pick and choose different aspects of magical beliefs or folk medicines from all over the world, bringing them together in a coherent system. Throughout history and in every part of the globe, humans have developed special ways of looking at and interpreting and manipulating the world – part science, part faith, part magic.

So if you get a chance to wander the aisles of a botanica, choose a few meaningful items. Even if you’re not a believer in magic, sometimes a stone with “Strength” carved into it, given to you by a friend, can bring solace in hard times. A soothing tea might help you drift off to sleep. Lighting a candle for good luck can help you focus your concentration and ace that test or job interview. My little silver milagro helps me fend off headaches…I think. I hope. I want to believe.

And isn’t that what magic is all about?

Spellcasting in Silk
A Witchcraft Mystery 7
NAL, July 7, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Vision in Velvet comes more spooky sleuthing with Lily Ivory, vintage boutique owner and gifted witch…

Lily would like nothing better than to relax, enjoy her friends, and take care of business at her store, which is booming thanks to San Francisco’s upcoming Summer of Love Festival.  But as the unofficial witchy consultant to the SFPD, she is pulled into yet another case.

A woman has jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, and her apparent suicide may be connected to a suspicious botanica in the Mission District. When the police investigate the shop, they ask Lily to look into its mysterious owner, whose granddaughter also appears to be missing. As Lily searches for the truth, she finds herself confronted with a confounding mystery and some very powerful magic…

About Juliet

Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series, featuring a powerful witch with a vintage clothes store in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. She also writes the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series, about a failed anthropologist who reluctantly takes over her father’s high-end construction company…and finds ghosts behind the walls. As Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated Art Lover’s Mystery series, in which an ex-art forger attempts to go straight as a faux finisher. She is currently working on a novel about a woman who takes over her uncle’s locksmith shop in Paris, entitled The Paris Key. A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France.

Visit her at, join her on Facebook (JulietBlackwellAuthor) and on Twitter @JulietBlackwell

Click 'Read more' to see the previous novels in the Witchcraft Mysteries.

2015 Debut Author Challenge - July Debuts

There are 10 debuts for July. Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.

The July debut authors and their novels are listed in alphabetical order by author (not book title or publication date). Take a good look at the covers. Voting for your favorite June cover for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will take place starting on July 15th.

If you are participating as a reader in the Challenge, please let us know in the comments what you are thinking of reading or email us at "DAC . TheQwillery  @  gmail . com" (remove the spaces and quotation marks). Please note that we list all debuts for the month (of which we are aware), but not all of these authors will be 2015 Debut Author Challenge featured authors. However, any of these novels may be read by Challenge readers to meet the goal for July. The list is correct as of the day posted.

Rob Boffard

Redbook (Orbit), July 16, 2015
eBook, 368 pages


Our planet is in ruins. Three hundred miles above its scarred surface orbits Outer Earth: a space station with a million souls on board. They are all that remain of the human race.

Darnell is the head of the station's biotech lab. He's also a man with dark secrets. And he has ambitions for Outer Earth that no one will see coming.

Prakesh is a scientist, and he has no idea what his boss Darnell is capable of. He'll have to move fast if he doesn't want to end up dead.

And then there's Riley. She's a tracer - a courier. For her, speed is everything. But with her latest cargo, she's taken on more than she bargained for.

A chilling conspiracy connects them all.

The countdown has begun for Outer Earth - and for mankind.

Robert Brockway

The Unnoticeables
Tor Books, July 7, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages

From Robert Brockway, Sr. Editor and Columnist of comes The Unnoticeables, a funny and frightening urban fantasy.

There are angels, and they are not beneficent or loving. But they do watch over us. They watch our lives unfold, analyzing us for repeating patterns and redundancies. When they find them, the angels simplify those patterns and remove the redundancies, and the problem that is "you" gets solved.
Carey doesn't much like that idea. As a punk living in New York City, 1977, Carey is sick and tired of watching strange kids with unnoticeable faces abduct his friends. He doesn't care about the rumors of tar-monsters in the sewers or unkillable psychopaths invading the punk scene--all he wants is to drink cheap beer and dispense ass-kickings.

Kaitlyn isn't sure what she's doing with her life. She came to Hollywood in 2013 to be a stunt woman, but last night a former teen heartthrob tried to eat her, her best friend has just gone missing, and there's an angel outside her apartment. Whatever she plans on doing with her life, it should probably happen in the few remaining minutes she has left.

There are angels. There are demons. They are the same thing. It's up to Carey and Kaitlyn to stop them. The survival of the human race is in their hands.

We are, all of us, well and truly screwed.

Camille Griep

Letters to Zell
47North, July 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Everything is going according to story for CeCi (Cinderella), Bianca (Snow White), and Rory (Sleeping Beauty)—until the day that Zell (Rapunzel) decides to leave Grimmland and pursue her life. Now, Zell’s best friends are left to wonder whether their own passions are worth risking their predetermined “happily ever afters,” regardless of the consequences. CeCi wonders whether she should become a professional chef, sharp-tongued and quick-witted Bianca wants to escape an engagement to her platonic friend, and Rory will do anything to make her boorish husband love her. But as Bianca’s wedding approaches, can they escape their fates—and is there enough wine in all of the Realm to help them?

In this hilarious modern interpretation of the fairy-tale stories we all know and love, Letters to Zell explores what happens when women abandon the stories they didn’t write for themselves and go completely off script to follow their dreams.

Logan J. Hunder

Witches Be Crazy
A Tale That Happened Once Upon a Time in the Middle of Nowhere
Night Shade Books, July 14, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Real heroes never die. But they do get grouchy in middle age.

The beloved King Ik is dead, and there was barely time to check his pulse before the royal throne was supporting the suspiciously shapely backside of an impostor pretending to be Ik’s beautiful long-lost daughter. With the land’s heroic hunks busy drooling all over themselves, there’s only one man left who can save the kingdom of Jenair. His name is Dungar Loloth, a rural blacksmith turned innkeeper, a surly hermit and an all-around nobody oozing toward middle age, compensating for a lack of height, looks, charm, and tact with guts and an attitude.

Normally politics are the least of his concerns, but after everyone in the neighboring kingdom of Farrawee comes down with a severe case of being dead, Dungar learns that the masquerading princess not only is behind the carnage but also has similar plans for his own hometown. Together with an eccentric and arguably insane hobo named Jimminy, he journeys out into the world he’s so pointedly tried to avoid as the only hope of defeating the most powerful person in it. That is, if he can survive the pirates, cultists, radical Amazonians, and assorted other dangers lying in wait along the way.

Logan J. Hunder’s hilarious debut blows up the fantasy genre with its wry juxtaposition of the fantastic and the mundane, proving that the best and brightest heroes aren’t always the best for the job.

J. Dalton Jennings

Solomon's Arrow
Talos Press, July 14, 2014
Trade Papeback and eBook, 400 pages

It’s the mid-twenty-first century. The oceans are rising, the world’s population is growing, terrorist organizations are running rampant, and it has become readily apparent that humanity’s destructive nature is at the heart of the matter.

When all faith in humanity seems lost, a startling proposal is announced: Solomon Chavez, the mysterious son of the world’s first trillionaire, announces that he, backed by a consortium of governments and wealthy donors, will build an interstellar starshipone that will convey a select group of six thousand individuals, all under the age of fifty, with no living relatives, to a recently discovered planet in the Epsilon Eridani star system. His goal is lofty: to build a colony that will ensure the survival of the human race. However, Solomon Chavez has a secret that he doesn’t dare share with the rest of the world.

With the launch date rapidly approaching, great odds must be overcome so that the starship Solomon’s Arrow can fulfill what the human race has dreamed of for millennia: reaching for the stars. The goal is noble, but looming on the horizon are threats nobody could have imaginedones that may spell the end of all human life and end the universe as we know it.

Filled with action, suspense, and characters that will live on in the imagination, Solomon’s Arrow will leave readers breathless, while at the same time questioning what humanity’s true goals should be: reaching for the stars, or exploring the limits of the human mind?

James Kendley

The Drowning God
Harper Voyager Impulse, July 28, 2015
eBook, 240 pages

To uncover modern Japan's darkest, deadliest secret, one man must face a living nightmare from his childhood

Few villagers are happy when Detective Tohru Takuda returns to his hometown to investigate a string of suspicious disappearances. Even the local police chief tries to shut him out from the case. For behind the conspiracy lurks a monstrous living relic of Japan's pagan history: the Kappa. Protected long ago by a horrible pact with local farmers—and now by coldly calculating corporate interests—the Kappa drains the valley's lifeblood, one villager at a time.

As the body count rises, Takuda must try to end the Drowning God's centuries-long reign of terror, and failure means death…or worse.

Brian Kirk

We Are Monsters
Samhain Publishing, July 7, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 312 pages

The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum. 

He’s the hospital’s newest, and most notorious, patient—a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side.

Luckily he’s in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don’t have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.

Rhonda Mason

The Empress Game
The Empress Game Trilogy 1
Titan Books, July 14, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat isn’t won by votes or marriage. It’s won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament, the Empress Game, has been called and the women of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds. Kayla Reunimon, a supreme fighter, is called to battle it out in the arena.

The battle for political power isn’t contained by the tournament’s ring, however. The empire’s elite gather to forge, strengthen or betray alliances in a dance that will determine the fate of the empire for a generation. With the empire wracked by a rising nanovirus plague and stretched thin by an ill-advised planet-wide occupation of Ordoch in enemy territory, everything rests on the woman who rises to the top.

Natasha Pulley

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
Bloomsbury USA, July 14, 2015Rhonda
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.
Google Play : iTunes : Kobo

A.F.E. Smith

Harper Voyager (UK), July 2, 2015
eBook, 400 pages

Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.