Ash and Quill + EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR RACHEL CAINE

Surprise! It’s Ash and Quill’s release day, so fans of the Great Library series can finally know what happens next in this exciting series. I had the opportunity to read Ash and Quill, and reviewed it just last week – you can read it here. But today, just in time for the launch, the amazing Rachel Caine dropped by to answer all of our questions!

15292R: I bet you get this question a lot, but where did the inspiration for The Great Library series come from?

RC: Various pieces of this story have been kicking around in my head for near on 15 years; I’ve renamed characters, changed historical periods, added magic, removed it, shifted genres … and it wasn’t until I saw a news story on TV about a man carrying a stack of books out of a city being bombed that I realized what I was really looking for was him … a man dedicated to saving knowledge. At first, I thought he was fleeing the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria, but then I realized that he was from the Great Library, saving books instead of people. And then it all came together.

R: The series won’t be a trilogy, but five books – so exciting! That ending was so exciting, and threw the entire series on its head. Any clues you can give us about what to expect from the next two novels?

RC: It really was a head-spinner, wasn’t it? Sorry about that, but then again, I think it definitely takes the whole story in a brand new direction. If the first volume was Boarding School, and the second was This is War, then the third is Escape Death, and the fourth is Spy Game, with the fifth and final being Save It All. That’s as broad as I can make it, but I think that’s pretty accurate!

R: The world is quite different in this series than our world that we know. As an author, you’ve probably imagined quite a few details to the worldbuilding that never made it into the books. Are there any you’d be willing to share with us?

RC: Absolutely! Yes, I did quite a bit of back-end worldbuilding that only exists for my own entertainment, to be honest, and to help build out the world in my imagination. I did end up using some of it two short stories I’ve posted on Wattpad, “Stormcrow” (about Scholar Wolfe’s earlier years) and “Tigers in the Cage” (about his Obscurist mother and father). I had built in a history of the Library of Pergamum (in Turkey), which was a key rival to the power of the Great Library at Alexandria; they were rivals in almost everything, including acquisition of key scholars and their works. I got to slip in a bit of it in Ash and Quill as a story that gets told to illustrate the lengths Scholars will go to, to save knowledge. I’m still building the world, adding inventors and suppressed discoveries, satellite libraries, all manner of stories that help keep things interesting.

R: How do you see exploration in this alternate universe? Has Australia been 309563561discovered, for example? If you could explore one country in your world, which one would it be?

RC: That’s an amazing question, and I think exploration would be more aggressive, not less; the preservation of knowledge means that word of discoveries gets quickly disseminated, innovations in regard to shipbuilding and sailing and navigation all become easily discovered. Trade becomes more important. But, of course, the Great Library is also at the same time suppressing information, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some key places might never be revealed at all.

I’d love to visit Alexandria. I’ve always loved the history of Egypt, and to see it preserved and modernized at the height of its innovation and power? That’s a can’t-miss trip.

R: The duality of the library is really important in the third book. Our little crew are lovers of books and learning, but the institution they work for has become corrupt. If you lived in this world, would you work for the library, or side with the burners? Or something entirely different?

RC: I like to think I’d be a Librarian. I wouldn’t know anything about the knowledge that’s being held back, but I would care deeply about the preservation of knowledge. I’m certainly not cut out for High Garda work, and certainly if I got information about the Black Archives and the vast discoveries the Library was holding back, I might certainly defect along with Jess’s group! But I can’t see myself on the sidelines.

R: Morgan is starting to become a little scary in this last book. Or, at least, leading towards something dark. Just how powerful can Obscurists really become?

RC: I think that’s the question: how dangerous is she going to be? Because Obscurists have been circumscribed by layers and layers of rules and rituals, and Morgan’s rogue gift was already very strong. Now that she’s gone places that Obscurists are expressly forbidden not to touch, what’s she going to become? And how does that change the Iron Tower, and the Obscurists inside it?

I know I’m answer questions with questions, but it’s such an interesting journey, and certainly dangerous, that I believe the answers will be murky for a while. Morgan’s heart is good. But I’m not sure it can hold out against the power she’s wielding now.

R: What place do fiction authors have in your world?

RC: They have a fantastic life. The Great Library pays their salaries and provides them with living quarters in Alexandria, should they wish to move there. There’s quite an author community there. But, of course, the Library also controls fiction, just as they control non-fiction. So there’s certainly a tradeoff, if you as a fiction author venture too close to forbidden territory.

R: What is your favorite part of writing? And what’s you’re least favorite part?

RC: I love the process, even though it can be physically tough on the body (it’s very desk-bound!) and it’s also kind of hell on your social life. But I wouldn’t trade for the opportunity to create these worlds and live in them for a while, all by myself. That’s just sheer fun. (And agony, when it isn’t working. But mostly fun.)

Getting to hang out with readers and other authors is also fantastic fun. Tours can be exhausting but they’re so rewarding.

I guess the only least favorite part of writing for me is the time I don’t get to do normal social things. My friends all know I try to keep up, but often I go weeks without seeing anyone but my husband and the people living in my head.

Okay, sometimes being able to time money coming in and out is aggravating, because there are no such things are regular (or even predictable) paychecks in the writing business. But still. Such freedom!

R: Any tips for readers out there who might want to become writers and authors?

RC: Mostly, I tell people to just write. There’s no better way to start than to just … start. Write something. Then write something else. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s publishable, because it almost certainly isn’t when you first start out. Entertain yourself. Passion shines through.

When you’ve reached a level where you feel you’re ready to get feedback, start with friends, then graduate to strangers. Then move on to a writer’s conference or groups to get semi-pro or professional feedback, and learn more about the business you’re entering … because it is a business, not just an art. You’ll need to understand the industry, and how you fit into it, to really make your way and make good decisions.

But never stop writing.

R: If you could meet any of your characters (from the Great Library series) face to face for coffee, who would they be?

RC: Without a doubt, Scholar Wolfe. He’d probably bring Captain Santi, which is also fine. They’d have amazing stories to tell, though Wolfe would probably insult me half the time. They seem like good people to get to know.

Thanks so much for letting me talk about The Great Library! I’m off to read … and probably write.

 Rachel Caine

Thank you, Rachel Caine! Her latest book, Ash and Quill, hits shelves today, July 11th! And if you want to start at the very beginning, pick up Ink and Bone anywhere books are sold.

FIRST LOOK: An interview with R.R Virdi, Author of Grave Measures and The Grave Report

What? Another self published Saturday? Can life get any better? Well, it just might. This is the first official interview we’ve ever had on Readcommendations, and we’re so proud to have R.R. Virdi as our guest. He’s even willing to share with us the first page of Grave Measures! 

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reading R.R. Virdi’s debut novel, Grave Beginnings (check out our review of it here) and was blown away by the fast paced and fun atmosphere of such a complex novel and brilliant universe. The concept alone was enough to make my mind race: a soul without a body, solving supernatural crimes by taking over the recently dead? Sign me up right now! And now, the eagerly awaited sequel is just about to be released. In Grave Measures, the stakes are even higher, and nothing is as it seems…

Summary

Grave MeasuresWhat do shadows darting across the walls, cryptic writing, black fog, and a little girl who can see ghosts have in common? Paranormal investigator and soul without a body, Vincent Graves, has forty-four hours to find out. To make matters worse, his years of body-hopping and monster-hunting are catching up with him. He’s losing his mind. An old contact has shut him out. To top it all off, something’s skulking through an asylum, killing patients. Three guesses who might be next, and the first two don’t count. The writing on the wall is not so clear. But one thing is: if he doesn’t figure this out he’s a dead man—well, deader—and a strange young girl might follow. Vincent’s got his back against a wall, and that wall’s crumbling.

Some days it’s not worth it to wake up in someone else’s body.

I have to say that the sequel is even better than the first: Graves might have a bit more time this round, but there is so much more going on than meets the eye. There might even be other worldly things involved… as well as other worlds, too. It’s got suspense that’ll get your heart racing, and twists that will make you jump out of your seat (I know I did, and no, I’m not exaggerating).

Graves also must face the consequences of the first novel, Grave Beginnings. A certain character is back – I won’t spoil who it is, but fans of the first novel will be in for a pleasant treat – and they’re not too happy about what they were put through. We also get to see a softer side of Graves, as well as get a few more hints about his past.

One things’s for sure: there’s so much happening in this novel, that I’m afraid to spoil a single part of it. Suffice to say it’s even more epic than the first, and for fans of the Grave Report, a must read. And if you haven’t read any of the Grave Report yet? Then you can find Grave Beginnings on amazon, right here!

We sat down and had a quick chat with R.R. Virdi, who told us a bit about the past, present, and future of his books.

Q: So let’s start at the very beginning. Where did you come up with the idea for the Grave Report?

A: I’ve always been a paranormal and urban fantasy buff with a huge love for mythology and anthropology. I didn’t know how to include all of that in a series until I came up with the idea of a character not limited to being in a certain place or body at any time. That meant I had a lot more options for stories, places, creatures and more. It sated my desire to tackle as many mythologies as I could. Enter the body hopping soul as my way to do it all!

Q: How did you come to the decision to self publish?
A: I had actually queried before in my life, not this novel, but older works. I had grown scared and reluctant to continue that process over and over. I figured under self-publishing, no matter what, my novel would be out there forever. It would give me the time and ability to grow, improve and nurture my series. That decision is doing wonders for me. Since then I have gotten a few trad publishing offers that I might look into for the future. For the moment, The Grave Report is continuing as an indie series.

Q: Your sequel is coming out in just a week. What do you have in store for us in Grave Measures?
A: Grave Measures debuts April 15th 2016. It’s going to follow up in the months after Grave Beginnings. Vincent’s choices and actions have had consequences, we’re going to see the fallout of those. And of course many new characters—good and bad.

Q: There’s a lot of questions we have about Graves that’s we’re dying to know the answers to… any idea how long this series will go? Do you have it all planned out in your head, or are you writing it as it comes?

A: I know where the series is going and it’s slated for around 20 novels with short stories and hopefully a few standalone novels in there as well separate from the main works. I have the important parts planned in my head, but the fun bits, the how I get there, is all written as I do it. I love it that way. I love the freedom, the creative surprises and evolution a story undertakes as it builds momentum.

Q: Now there are whispers of a new series you’re going to be breaking soon… something very different from the Grave Report series.

A: There are 😉
Q: You’re a very active member of the Nanowrimo community. How much of an impact does that have on your writing?

A: A great impact on getting my writing done. I’m part of a wonderful community that encourages me and I don’t want to let them down. They keep me writing.

Q: Your blog is probably one of the most motivational blogs for aspiring writers there is on the internet. If you had to pick just one piece of advice you could give to every writer out there, what would it be?
A: Keep writing! That will take care of everything else on its own. Improving your skill, building your works/bibliography, building your career and having you seen. Keep writing. It will make you believe in yourself and your ability to write. Keep writing. If you can write a novel, you can do the rest of the stuff in the business! It’s the same. Lots of hard work, but at the end of the day, just getting it done!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the first page of Grave Measures, appearing for the first time right here, right now!

There’s no good way of waking up in a dead body.

For starters, you feel like six pounds of crap in a three-pound bag. You have no idea where you are, you’re nauseated, and everything is disoriented. It’s like a bad hangover—with a dead man thrown in.

I blinked several times. Haziness and columns of white greeted me, peppered with the odd spot dancing across my eyes. The warmth spreading across the back of my neck prompted me to turn. “Ackh,” I sputtered as rays of sunshine shone onto my face, forcing me to squint.

I wriggled my body in an attempt to loosen it up and discovered another reason why it sucks to wake up in a dead body. My arms were bound.

And not in the fun and kinky way.

They were stretched across my chest in an awkward self-hug. Now I’m all for healthy self-esteem and loving yourself—straitjackets—not so much. I struggled with the restrictive coat, thrashing like I had been tasered. Nothing came of it. The durable canvas held together. Of course it would. I mean, that’s what it’s made for right?

My efforts succeeded in, first, exhausting me and, secondly, producing a trickle of moisture on my upper lip. A moment later, the stream of liquid trickled into my mouth. I tasted salt and copper. I let my gaze drift over my coat-covered chest. The muscles in my neck strained as I stretched and brushed my nose against the coarse canvas. Crimson blotched with darker hues of garnet smeared across the fabric.

Dead man’s blood.

A huge thanks to R.R. Virdi for allowing us to feature him on this blog, and to allow us to read his novels. Grave Measures might be out next week, on April 15th, but it is available up for preorder. Read it and get blown away!