I’m so excited to have Brenda with us today! She’s a crit partner, conference bestie, and self-published author, plus co-editor of the forthcoming solarpunk anthology, WINGS OF RENEWAL. She’s on the couch today talking about her debut novel, SOUL OF THE BLADE, her insights on self-publishing, and what she’d love to see on the shelves.
Humanity has been prey to the Entana for centuries, their thoughts and emotions fed upon by the spiritual parasites. Once taken, only death can save someone from the torment of the Entana’s feeding. And only the Taronese warriors and their enchanted sword, the Bok’Tarong, can give them that death.
But the Bok’Tarong has been taken by the selfish assassin Aeo, and the sword has devoured his soul. He now exists within the blade, only able to experience the world through his new bearer Dragana. She would do anything to cast him out of the blade and restore its sanctity. But Aeo alone may hold the key to stopping the Entana once and for all … if Dragana can learn to work with the assassin who has cost her people so much.
1. What’s the story behind the story? Tell us a little about where you got the idea for your book.
For a long time, the project name of what would become Soul of the Blade was The Vicodin Child. I had recently had wrist surgery and was still on periodic painkillers when my family went to the mountains for vacation. I found a piece of driftwood that looked neat so (naturally) I kept it. In a Vicodin dream-fog that piece of wood became the Bok’Tarong, a sentient sword with a bit of an attitude. Things got a little out of hand from there but eventually that story became the heart of Soul of the Blade.
BFF: Haha, love this backstory!
2. What’s your personal favorite part about the story? A character you loved writing, a scene that gives you shivers in all the best ways, etc.
Oh goodness. There are so many parts I’m really proud of. I love the climax, of course, and the scene where they go to the -taken sanctuary has always been special to me. But I think one of my most favorite things is a single line: “They don’t call me the Keeper of Secrets for nothing.”
3. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
I tend to write a lot about overcoming darkness inside yourself, and about having the freedom to become the person you want to be instead of who you should be. I always want to show readers that just because you struggle with something, or you’re forced to play a certain part in life, that doesn’t have to define you. You can break free of that.
BFF: This is such a powerful and important message. It’s part of what helps us relate to characters and want to follow them through their adventures.
4. Who/what are some of your favorite authors or books? Can you share how they’ve inspired you?
It’s a very dangerous thing to ask a writer about favorite books. More often than not you’ll get more than you bargained for. Well, the first name to always make it onto my list is Brandon Sanderson. The man is a fantasy god. Mistborn is one of my top ten novels of all time, because it has everything—neat magic, amazing characters, tension, drama, romance, sacrifice, twists, and a world that is so alive you get lost in it. Other authors on my list are (in no particular order): Patrick Rothfuss, Kevin Hearne, Jim Butcher, Ilona Andrews, Scott Lynch, R.A. Salvatore, Terry Pratchett, Brent Weeks, and Peter V. Brett.
BFF: Have you been sneaking peeks at my shelves again?! An excellent list for sure!
5. What is most likely to draw you in to a book?
I love complex characters and interesting plots. I know, doesn’t everybody? But I’ve put down books that were fascinating but I didn’t like any of the characters (sorry GRRM), or where the world was amazing but nothing happened in it, or where the characters were so real but the plot was boring. A book has to have that magical combination where interesting things happen to interesting people. I’m also a sucker for unique magic systems. Take Allomancy, again from Mistborn. Certain people can “burn” metals and get powers from them. Seriously, how cool is that?
BFF: Pretty darn cool! But, then again, I’m a character-person too. 🙂
6. What do you wish authors would do more of?
Authors should always do what’s important to them. I love finding novels that were clearly not written to follow trends or to sell lots of books, but are beautiful and exciting and intriguing because the author was passionate about it. Those quirky little stories are almost always my favorites.
7. Tell us a little about your publishing journey.
I was never, ever going to self-publish. I was going to go New York traditional houses all the way, do or die. My stack of rejection letters piled up, for one novel after another, year after year after year. During this time I’d gotten connected with several other writers, but one in particular: Matt Larkin. I critiqued his first novel, and he hired me on as his editor. After a while he edited a draft of Soul of the Blade. Then he asked if I would consider letting his company, Incandescent Phoenix Books, publish it. I politely said no, I’m going through literary agents and big houses. We did this dance for a year or two before finally I sat down with my husband and asked why. Why insist on big publishing? I didn’t have a good answer, so the next morning I talked business with Matt and here I am. I still say it was one of best decisions I’ve ever made.
BFF: So great to hear your perspective on this. Sounds like you’ve landed right where you need to be!
8. What’s next on your plate?
I’m working on a novel I initially wrote several years ago called No Hill Without Treasure. It’s about a man who accidentally releases horrible creatures called Shahadán into the world, and in order to set things right he has to reassemble a shattered magic and learn to master his own, before it destroys him. It’s another epic fantasy, but in a completely new world. I’m a stand-alone writer, so (much to some peoples’ dismay) it won’t be a sequel to Soul of the Blade.
BFF: On to the fun questions…
Favorite dragon: Of all time? Paarthurnax from Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. From a book? Black Kalgalath from Dennis McKiernan’s Dragondoom. Fabulous book. Honorary mention to any dragon written by Terry Pratchett.
Favorite Shakespeare: Othello. Iago is one of the best villains ever written.
Favorite fantasy food: Lembas! Personally I’d love to have something that I could take one bite of and not have to worry about eating for the rest of the day. Talk about convenient! Plus it’s Elvish so you know it has to taste like honey or something.
BFF: How very practical of you! Thanks so much for joining us on the Author’s Couch, Brenda, and good luck in all your upcoming projects.
Brenda J. Pierson wrote her first book at the age of six, in order to convince her parents to buy her a pet bunny. (She drew a picture of walking the bunny with a leash. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.) Since then she’s cultivated a love of literature and all things fantasy. Now she lives her life surrounded by books–writing them, editing them, and shelving them at her public library. It’s fairly close to heaven. She lives in her hometown of Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and two cats.