Category Archives: Interviews

Blog Tour Interview: Jessica Cluess on A Shadow Bright and Burning


Author Jessica Cluess joins today to talk about her novel A Shadow Bright and Burning!

Tell us a bit about Henrietta.

Henrietta is a sixteen-year-old schoolteacher who is desperately trying to keep her secret magic fire power under wraps. As you do when you’re a teenage girl in the Victorian era. That changes when she’s declared the prophesied one, destined to save England from its longstanding war against seven monsters. So she’s whisked off to London, where she makes another alarming discovery: she’s not the prophesied one after all. All of this makes Henrietta intelligent, brave, someone who is a little too comfortable with lying, and deeply untrusting. However, she also yearns to look after the people in her life, so that’s one very positive quality.

What is this fantasy world like?

Magic is out in the open and very much accepted in this version of Victorian England. The three main branches of magic are sorcerers, who are predominantly wealthy and powerful, magicians, who are scattered and have been relegated to permanent second-class citizen status, and witches, who are killed outright when they’re found. The sharp class division has come about because a decade before the story begins, a magician named Howard Mickelmas and a witch named Mary Willoughby opened a portal to another dimension and let seven horrible monsters through. That stared the war, and got both their magical races imprisoned and killed. There is a reason that sorcerers want to kill witches and only keep magicians downtrodden, but that reason will be revealed later on in the series, so I can’t say too much now.

Can you tell us about your journey in publishing?

My first time querying a manuscript was hell. I’d spent two years teaching myself to write and edit a novel for publication, and after six months of querying I’d had maybe two full requests. It was so dispiriting, and I stopped writing for adults and decided to write for the YA market. I found an idea that I loved, spent a year working on it, and then queried again. This time, the process was pretty much a dream. One week after I queried the man who became my agent, he offered to represent me. A few months after that, we went on submission, and less than two weeks later we had an offer. In some ways, the grueling and painful first attempt at publishing made the later success so much sweeter. I’m extremely grateful that I had that challenging beginning.

This will publish a few days after, but how do you plan on celebrating release day?

I’m going to force myself to sleep later than seven o’clock! Also, I’m planning on getting together with a group of friends that evening, and even though it’s a Tuesday we’re going to have a few drinks. You can’t go too crazy. Everyone has work the next day!

Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?

The big inspiration for this series, and for me in general, is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I call that book my Lord of the Rings in terms of its influence on me, and my writing. Growing up, my parents didn’t keep many fantasy books in the house, but my dad was a big horror guy, so I was weaned on Stephen King. It is the kind of book I didn’t appreciate as much when I was younger, but now that I’m an adult I see its power. Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury were two of my biggest influences as an adolescent, and nowadays I love Diana Gabaldon. There are some great YA fantasy books from up and coming writers like Alwyn Hamilton, Traci Chee, Tara Sim, Audrey Coulthurst, and Roshani Chokshi. And even though I’m not a huge sci-fi person, Dune was one of the most important reads of my life. It was the book that made me want to write speculative fiction professionally, and I’ll always be grateful to it.

Author Interview: Barry Lyga / The Secret Sea

Secret Sea Banner

Author Barry Lyga joins today to talk about his latest release: The Secret Sea!

1. Can you tell us a bit about The Secret Sea in your own words?

The Secret Sea is the kind of book I imagined myself writing when I was a kid: crazy science, super-powers, alternate universes, a real mash-up of genres, but with a core of strong characters at its heart. It’s about family and friendship and what survives death and how far you’d be willing to go to save someone you love…and what could make you not save them.

2. Who is Zach Killian?

Zak is the book’s main characters, a 12-year-old New Yorker with a heart condition and a voice he hears that sometimes warns him of danger. He totally trusts it…which may or may not be a good idea!

3. Is your alternate reality universe more science fiction-based or fantasy?

It’s definitely science fiction, but so advanced that it seems like magic. The kinds of things we think of as supernatural in our world — voodoo, ghosts, etc. — are just highly evolved sciences over there.

4. What are some books/authors you enjoy?

Oh, so many! In comics, there’s Alan Moore and Paul Levitz. In classic literature, there’s John Milton and Edgar Allan Poe. More recently, there’s Libba Bray, Paul Griffin, and Emma Donaghoe.

5. What inspires you?

So much! I always say that inspiration is like carrying around a magic blender into which falls all sorts of random things: snippets of overheard conversations, the sound of a bird, a mural on a wall, a thought, a notion. And then the blender goes off and what comes out is a story, whether you’re ready for it or not!

6. What has your publishing journey been like?

As with so much of life, it’s been a bizarre and unpredictable series of ups and downs. I’ve been fortunate enough to publish for a full decade now, with something like 16 books out there in the world. Some of them were longshots, but someone believed in them (and in me!) and they got to find their audience. Some took off; some didn’t. And in both cases, I have no idea why! I’ve given up trying to figure out how this business or this journey works — I’m just holding onto the roller coaster for dear life!

Twelve-year-old Zak Killian is hearing a voice. Could it be a guardian angel? A ghost? No, that’s crazy. But sometimes the voice is so real. . . . It warns him of danger.

One day Zak is standing on the subway platform when the tunnel starts to fill with water. He sees it before anyone else. The voice warns him to run. His friends Moira and Khalid believe this is more than a premonition, and soon all three find themselves in an alternate universe that is both familiar and seriously strange. As Zak unravels the mystery behind the voice, he faces decisions that may mean the end of their world at home―if they can even get home!

In his most propulsive and heartfelt book yet, acclaimed author Barry Lyga explores the depths of friendship, the bonds of family, and the nature of the universe itself.

Arabella of Mars: Q&A, Excerpt, and Giveaway!

Blog Tour Banner

Q&A with David D. Levine

How do you make world-building choices when writing alternate history?

All of the pieces have to make sense together. Given the alternate-history premise, how would economics, politics, and warfare change? How about fashion and sports? How would these changes affect each other? I try to think through the implications of the initial change, and every change that results from it, until I come up with a fully-realized world where the reader can say “ah, of course that would follow.” I also pull in a lot of unexpected details from real history, which is weirder and more surprising than anything I could make up.

What inspired you to write Arabella of Mars?

Like many great successes in life, this one came from failure. I was shopping my first and second SF novels and working on a third, but editors and agents kept telling me categorically that “SF doesn’t sell.” I didn’t really believe it, but if the editors and agents did that was a sufficient obstacle. So I looked through my ideas file for something that was sufficiently SF for my own self-respect (and to hold my interest through the two years it takes me to write a novel) but close enough to Fantasy to match the market’s tastes. The idea I settled on was this: “What if the sky were full of air?” The answer, eventually, was Arabella of Mars.

What is your favorite quote from the book?

Wow, that’s a toughie. But I’m quite fond of this paragraph from the prologue:
Some day, Arabella thought, perhaps she might take passage on such a ship. To sail the air, and see the asteroids, and visit the swamps of Venus would be a grand adventure indeed. But to be sure, no matter how far she traveled she would always return to her beloved Woodthrush Woods.


ARABELLA OF MARS Continue reading Arabella of Mars: Q&A, Excerpt, and Giveaway!

Author Interview: Larry Correia

Author Larry Correia joins today to talk about his latest audio book for Audible: Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent! The book is narrated by Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Chuck)!

– Can you tell us a bit about The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent in your own words?

It is a comedy about colliding universes, and the insurance agents who have to put things right.

– Who is Tom Stranger?

He is number one in customer satisfaction, three years running. Tom’s life is insurance. His home universe was totaled because it had insufficient coverage, so he’s pretty hard core about helping his clients. He’ll do absolutely anything to provide good customer service, and in the multiverse that means everything from zero-G kung-fu to dinosaur wrestling.

– Where did this idea come from?

I was driving down the street one day with Mike Kupari (who is also a novelist) and we passed a sign for Tom Stanger Insurance. Mike read Stanger as Stranger, and said out loud what kind of insurance would you buy from a guy name Stranger? And it kind of spiraled out of control from there. Authors are weird like that.

– What is this universe like?

That is the fun part. It is all the universes, smooshed together. If you can think of something, it is out there somewhere. And when two universes collide, Tom will be there (well, unless neither one is covered, because then it isn’t his problem).

– What book genre do you prefer to read?

My main genres are science fiction and fantasy, but I read pretty much everything. I love westerns, thrillers, mysteries, and I read a ton of non-fiction.

– Is writing for a strictly audio book any different than writing for print?

Yes and no. I write the same for both, but I feel that listening to my own work in audio has made me a much better writer over the years. It teaches you to make your dialog and descriptions better, it helps with the pacing, and really drives home the unnecessary bits that you should have edited out. Above all, it teaches you to quit saying He Said or I Said or She Said too much. That drives me nuts.

– What are you working on next?

I’m currently putting together an anthology of short stories set in my Monster Hunter International universe, featuring writers like Jim Butcher, Jonathan Maberry, John Ringo, Faith Hunter, and Jessica Day George.

Order now, for free from Audible!

Author Interview: Catherine Egan

Catherine Egan author photo

Author Catherine Egan joins us today to talk about her latest release, Julia Vanishes!

Can you tell us a bit about this world where Julia lives?

Julia lives in Spira City, which is a sort of alternate version of late-Victorian-era London or La Belle Époque in Paris. The Prime Minister, Agoston Horthy, has outlawed all forms of magic and superstition, and witches are drowned in public Cleansings. The city is still reeling from a failed revolution and a terrible plague that left Julia’s brother scarred and crippled. It seems that magic has been virtually stamped out, but scratch the surface and the city is teeming with hidden powers and what Julia’s friend Liddy calls Something Elses.

What are these witches like? What are their abilities?

Witches can only work magic by writing it down, so an illiterate witch would essentially be powerless, and a witch with a pen is considered armed and dangerous. While they can alter nature in some small ways, the larger the spell, the greater the physical toll it takes on the witch. Julia’s mother never fully recovered from using magic to save her son’s life when he was ill as a child. Witches are also physically much stronger than ordinary people. They cannot be burned, and so fire is the test for a witch, and they cannot swim or float, so they are killed by drowning.

What do you have planned next after JULIA VANISHES? Any other stories on the horizon?

My horizon is made of stories! Right now I am still working on the sequels to JULIA VANISHES, but I confess that every now and then I guiltily spend my writing time making notes on my next planned book instead of tending to Julia. I’ve loved writing these books, but I am very ready for the next thing, and it is ready for me!

What is your favorite genre to read?

I don’t know if I have a favorite genre. I suppose the majority of my books are literary fiction, SFF, or historical. If you mix those three together, like in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I’m in heaven.

Can you tell us about your journey to getting published?

I think I’ve been stumbling blindly for a long time without a clear idea of what I wanted to write or what I wanted to do with it. I published short stories in journals for many years – I thought I was writing magic realism for adults, but if I’d noticed earlier that half my stories had teen protagonists and a ghost or a troll or a fairy godmother it might not have taken me so long to come around to YA fantasy.

I wrote a novel for adults that nobody wanted, but I had a long exchange about it with the editor of Coteau Books, a small indie press in Saskatchewan. He gave me excellent feedback for a very thorough rewrite. When I told him I was going to take a break and write a children’s book, he told me to send it to them when I was done, and so I did. This “break” turned into me feeling like I’d found my genre, and Coteau Books published my three novels about a young Sorceress finding her place in the world.

While those books were coming out, I was working on JULIA VANISHES, which I sent by standard query to four agents when I was done (or: when I thought I was done!). Steve Malk thought it was promising and asked if I was willing to revise it. I said OF COURSE and we spent about a year reworking it. He would send me (excellent) notes, I’d rewrite the book, send it back, and he would send more notes. The result was a much better book, of course, and it sold quickly once it was done.

What are your plans for book release day?

I haven’t thought about it yet! It should probably involve chocolate, don’t you think?

About the Book:
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers invites readers to meet a heroine like no other in JULIA VANISHES (on sale June 7, 2016 / $17.99 / Ages 14 up), the first book in the Witch’s Child trilogy by Catherine Egan. Filled with murder, magic, mystery, and betrayal, this captivating read will have teen readers and fantasy lovers hanging on every page as they become acquainted with Julia and the things she needs to do in order to get by—even if it leaves a mark on her conscience. Even as the line between good and evil seems to become more blurry every day. . . .

Julia lives in a city terrorized by a serial killer. A city that witnesses the drowning of anyone deemed a witch, and that has outlawed all forms of magic. With no biological family to call her own, Julia and her brother have taken up with a group of thieves who steal in order to survive. And Julia makes a great thief and spy, thanks to her unusual ability to remain unseen. Not invisible exactly, but just beyond people’s senses. In her world, it is a valuable trait to have.

Now a teenager and fully immersed in the life that has been handed to her, Julia finds herself being paid to spy in the house of Mrs. Och, a woman known to aid witches and associate with a cast of mysterious characters. It seems as if suspicious activities are happening both inside and beyond the house’s walls, too and Julia’s boss wants her to report back with every detail.

As Julia becomes more entrenched in the Och household, she realizes that the job she has been paid to do is a conflicting one. If she delivers the information required of her, she can harm some of the very people she is starting to care for. But if she doesn’t, she won’t receive her payment, and she puts herself at risk for some very unpleasant consequences. A traitor no matter how she looks at it, Julia now faces the ultimate dilemma and the results will both surprise and stun readers.

About the Author:
CATHERINE EGAN grew up in Vancouver, Canada. Since then, she has lived on a volcanic island in Japan (which erupted while she was there and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband), in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Beijing, on an oil rig in the middle of Bohai Bay, then in New Jersey, and now in New Haven, Connecticut. She is currently occupied with writing books and fighting dragon armies with her warrior children. You can read more about her at Follow her on Twitter at @ByCatherineEgan.

Exclusive Author Interview: Sarah Beth Durst


Author Sarah Beth Durst joins today to talk about her latest book, The Girl Who Could Not Dream!

  • Tell us a bit about THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM in your own words.

It’s about a girl whose family owns a secret dream shop where they buy, bottle, and sell dreams, and the adventures that she and her best friend — a loyal and cupcake-loving monster named Monster — go on when someone starts kidnapping dreamers.

  • Who is Sophie, and why are dreams so important to her?

Sophie is a twelve year old girl who can’t dream. When she does dream — which she can only do by drinking someone else’s bottled dream — the creatures in her dreams come to life. (Hence her best friend, Monster. He was from a classic monster-in-the-closet dream.)

Because her parents own a dream shop, she is surrounded by other people’s dreams — a constant reminder of what she can’t have. Not having her own dreams makes her feel different and lonely and like she’s missing out on something magical, beautiful, and vital.

I love dreams. I always try to think about something awesome right before I fall asleep, in hopes I’ll dream about that instead of a boring missed-the-train or can’t-find-the-bathroom dream.

  • Each of your novels seem to have a vastly feel, despite all being in the fantasy genre. Do you read a variety of different books? Does this influence your writing style?

Um… no. ducks head in embarrassment I know every writing teacher will tell you it’s important to read a wide variety of books. But honestly? Life is short. I read what I love. And what I love is fantasy. My favorite kind of book is one that takes you on an adventure, one that introduces you to new friends, and one that makes you feel as if the world is just a bit larger and more magical than you thought it was before.

And yes, this absolutely influences my writing style, because I try to write the kind of book that I would want to read. Really, that’s my primary criteria for every idea, for every character, for every scene: Would I want to read this?

  • What are you working on next?

Next, I’m working on an epic fantasy trilogy for adults about bloodthirsty nature spirits and the women who can control them. The first book, THE QUEEN OF BLOOD, will be coming out in fall 2016 from Harper Voyager. I’m really, really excited about it!

  • What’s your strangest dream that you remember?

I was Cindy Brady’s invisible best friend. I lived in the corner of the square between Cindy and Alice. I was there when the football hit Marsha’s nose. I was there when the boys put itching powder in the sleeping bags. And I flew for help when Bobby and Greg get trapped in the meat locker — but no one could see me because I was invisible.

Absolutely no idea why I had this dream, but for days afterward, I couldn’t get the Brady Bunch theme song out of my head.