Tag Archives: Q&A

Author’s Couch: Q&A with Brenda J. Pierson

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.

-Nicole

Soul of the BladeSynopsis

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.

Q&A

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.

 

BrendaMore About Brenda

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.

More About SOUL OF THE BLADE

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Author’s Couch: Q&A with K.A. Stewart

JJD1When I stumbled upon the cover of K.A. Stewart’s first Jesse James Dawson novel–A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS–several years ago, I knew it needed a home on my shelves. A demon-fighting Samurai-sword wielding Midwestern father? What’s not to love about that main character?! 

I devoured the other Jesse James Dawson books, including Stewart’s most recently self-published fourth in the series. Turns out, it’s not just JJD that I love. I also enjoyed Stewart’s steampunk-mythology mash-up SECOND OLYMPUS. You can find my full review here in the archives, and we’re thrilled to have her on the blog today to share a little more about it.

-Nicole

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00025]Synopsis

The war amongst the Greek gods lasted over three decades and when it was ended, the sun was snuffed from the sky, Artemis sat on the throne, and the muses were murdered.

Without the power to create or invent, the human race languished for generations, trapped within the walled city of Elysia, their lives governed by the steady tick of the great world clock and the watchful eye of their increasingly erratic goddess.

But in the lower wards, far from the shining beacon that is Olympus Tower, a crippled boy named Geoff has grown to manhood, unaware of the legacy contained in his own mysterious bloodline. When his loved ones are threatened, the world will finally wake under the power of the muse, and the insane goddess Artemis will remember the very dangerous power of human imagination.

Q&A

1. What’s the story behind the story? Tell us a little about where you got the idea for your book.

SECOND OLYMPUS came about when a friend of mine was lamenting that he seemed to be able to inspire others with great ideas, but he wasn’t good at creating anything himself (his opinion, not mine). That got me to thinking about what a world without inspiration would be like, and I was watching the movie Dark City at the time, and so a world of perpetual night seemed logical to add to the mix. Which then begged the question, what happened to the sun? It just kind of went from there.

BFF: Isn’t it funny how things come together to spark that inspiration? I loved the perpetual night angle – it added the perfect ambiance for your world.

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.

Even eight years after I first set down words on this story, there are still pieces that give me chills and bring tears to my eyes. I hate to say too much, for fear of spoilers, but the scene where Geoff finally exercises ALL his power is… Yeah, that’s my scene. Goosebumps, just thinking about that last heartfelt cry.

BFF: Love hearing this! It’s all about making us readers weep with you. 🙂

3. What do you hope readers take away from your story?

Really, I just hope the reader comes away with a sense that they’ve visited another world, and they had a good time. I’ve never been one for deeper meanings, or lessons to be taught or anything. I just want to entertain people.

4. Who/what are some of your favorite authors or books? Can you share how they’ve inspired you?

My absolute favorite author is Jim Butcher, and most people know him for his DRESDEN FILES series (which I adore). But my true favorite series is also his, the CODEX ALERA, and I’m just in awe of the world building that went into that. I’m kind of a world building junkie, it’s my favorite part of the writing process, and with every new book, I try to push and challenge myself to come up with a world that is truly my own.

BFF: We should share bookshelves! Jim Butcher has a hefty portion of mine too.

5. What is most likely to draw you in to a book?

Like I said above, I’m looking for unique worlds. Give me something with unusual rules, but make them work. If your character has an odd trait, give me a crazy, but totally plausible, reason why. I want to spend time in another world too. 😉

6. What do you wish authors would do more of?

This one was hard. We’re currently in a time in publishing where more things are possible than ever before, both with traditional and self-publishing. I think maybe I would just say that I want authors to take more risks. Not sure a book will sell traditionally? Write it anyway. Someone, somewhere, will love it.

BFF: Fantastic advice! We might need to turn it into a bumper sticker.

7. Tell us a little about your publishing journey.

I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil (literally), but I didn’t actually try to get anything published until I came up with A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS (JJD Book 1). I got an agent in 2008, sold the book in early ’09 and it came out in 2010. Since then I’ve had three more books traditionally published, and two books self-published, and I’m loving every second of it.

8. What’s next on your plate?

I am currently writing the fifth book in the Jesse James Dawson series (BFF: Pause for excited dancing!!), to be self-published hopefully toward the end of this year, and my agent is shopping around something else unrelated but that I’m very excited about.

BFF: And, of course, the fun stuff…

Favorite dragon: Ruth, from the Dragonriders of Pern series
Favorite Shakespeare: Sonnet 29 – “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes…”
Favorite fantasy food: Klah, also from the Dragonriders of Pern series. Get the recipe!

BFF: What we’re hearing is we basically all need to visit Pern together. Done! Thanks so much for joining us on the Author’s Couch, and best of luck on your upcoming projects.

More About K.A.

KA StewartK.A. Stewart has a BA in English with an emphasis in Literature from William Jewell College. She lives in Missouri with her husband, daughter, two cats, and one small furry demon that thinks it’s a cat.

More About SECOND OLYMPUS

Author’s Couch: Q&A with Kate Elliott

I grew up loving Kate Elliott’s CROWN OF STARS series and more recently devoured the first book of her SPIRITWALKER trilogy. Elliott crafts characters and worlds with exceptional detail, and we’re excited to talk with her about her latest series, COURT OF FIVES. 

Enjoy!

-Nicole

Court of FivesSynopsis

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test Kal’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

BFF: On her website, Elliott says: “I call this ‘Little Women meet American Ninja Warrior in a setting inspired by Greco-Roman Egypt,’ while the publisher has pitched it as ‘Little Women meets Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games.'”

Either way, we’re onboard!

Q&A

1. What’s the story behind the story? Tell us a little about where you got the idea for COURT OF FIVES.

First, my spouse is an archaeologist, currently co-director of an excavation at the site of Tell Timai in the Delta region of Egypt. Timai was an important port during the period when first the Greeks (Macedonians) under the Ptolemaic kings and queens ruled and, after them, the Romans. The period has such an interesting dynamic with a dynasty of rulers who came from outside the country that I began to wonder how I would weave a fantasy out of it without setting it directly in historical Egypt.

Second, I wanted to write about what it means to grow up in a country where the indigenous culture has been suppressed, and how the main character slowly learns she has been taught only one way to view her own background.

Third, I love sports; I’ve always played sports, and I particularly love watching girls and women compete today because, when I was a child, sports weren’t seen as “proper” or “natural” for girls and yet I personally wanted nothing more than to play. So I really really wanted to write a story about a girl who is a serious athlete and fierce competitor.

Fourth, and finally, I wanted to write an epic fantasy story that revolves around four sisters and how they figure out how to make a place for themselves in a world with rigid social divisions where they literally don’t legally fit anywhere.

BFF: Wow, I love the mix of history, culture, and competition as your sources of inspiration. And I’m a little jealous of your husband’s archaeology gig!

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.

I love the ending. I wanted to set up a situation that has impact because of what the reader has learned and experienced along the way, and I think (I hope!) I managed that.

King's Dragon3. Jumping back to one of your older books, that final scene with Sanglant in KING’S DRAGON has stuck with me for years! It’s incredibly powerful, and I remember holding my breath leading up to it hoping you hadn’t actually killed my favorite character. Any backstory to share about the writing of that scene?

I guess this technically counts as a spoiler, but since the book was published in 1997 I figure there is some kind of statute of limitations.

As I wrote the “doomed defense” scenario in which soldiers ride to their death in an effort to save civilians, I knew Sanglant wasn’t going to die because of the geas laid on him by his mother. I also knew he was going to go through his own terrible nightmare (just as Liath has suffered hers). So thematically I wanted to create a situation in which two traumatized characters heal each other. However, that thematic element aside, I love the drama implicit in the hierarchy of dog eats dog, in this case literally, and I wanted to show Sanglant as a truly bad-ass fighter even or especially in the most desperate and inescapable circumstances. Strange as it may seem, scenes like that write easily because they are so emotional and so clearly defined.

BFF: You definitely accomplished the bad-ass part! And the thematic emotional depth and healing as well. It’s such a powerful scene (Clearly. It’s stuck with me for close to 15 years!). Anyone for whom that was an actual spoiler – go get your hands on KING’S DRAGON! It’s a great read.

4. What is most likely to draw you in to a book?

Characters whose lives and conflicts I want to follow.

5. What’s next on your plate?

The first volume of my next epic fantasy, BLACK WOLVES, will be published in November. Meanwhile, I am working on final revisions for the next COURT OF FIVES book while outlining the second BLACK WOLVES novel.

BFF: Talk about busy! It’s great to hear you have new series forthcoming. Now for the fun stuff…

Favorite dragon: For biology, I adore the life cycle of Robin Hobb’s dragons. So brilliant conceptually, and with such inherent drama. For character, very hard to choose because there are many. I love Smaug, of course, prototypical as he is of the old implacable dragons of yore. I also love Haku, the shape-changing River Spirit from Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away.

Favorite Shakespeare: I tend to identify favorite Shakespeare’s by productions rather than plays. This is a hard call because I have seen many great productions of many of the plays but I think I have to tip my hat to a Shakespeare Santa Cruz production of Henry IV Part I that was designed for a contemporary setting, with King Henry to all intents and purposes the dictator of a small nation whose first speech is given with other actors surrounding him with cameras and microphones. Prince Hal made his first entrance dressed as Boy George (for those who remember the 80s), Falstaff was an aging hippie who carried around a five pack of beer by the empty plastic ring, and Hotspur looked–well–hot in camo gear with a rifle slung over his back. The way Shakespeare can be transformed in so many ways always amazes me. My other favorite Shakespeare is Akira Kurosawa’s tragic film RAN, a brutal adaptation of King Lear that has one of the most searing and hopeless endings I have ever experienced in any narrative.

Favorite fantasy food: My favorite fantasy food is always a meal cooked for me by someone else where I don’t have to do the dishes either.

BFF: Ha, great answers all around! Thanks so much for joining us on the Author’s Couch, and best of luck with the COURT OF FIVES launch. 

Kate Elliott author photoMore About Kate

Kate Elliott has been writing stories since she was nine years old, which has led her to believe that writing, like breathing, keeps her alive. She is the author of over twenty science fiction and fantasy novels, including Cold Magic, Spirit Gate, King’s Dragon, Jaran, and her short fiction collection, The Very Best of Kate Elliott. Forthcoming books include YA debut Court of Fives (August) and epic fantasy Black Wolves (October). She lives in Hawaii with her spouse, paddles with outrigger canoe club Ka Māmalahoe, and nurses along an aging schnauzer.

 

More About COURT OF FIVES

Watch for Part 2 of our Kate Elliott interview in the coming weeks, where we talk more details on worldbuilding!