An Interview with Genevieve Cogman

Author of the Invisible Library series
With ‘The Lost Plot‘ out January 9th!

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Last week, I reviewed the thrilling latest installment of the Invisible Library series: The Lost Plot is almost here, and it’s the most exciting book yet! Here’s the short version: dragons, spies, prohibition, Tommy guns, gangsters, wolves, books, schemes… if that’s not enough to get you scrawling on your TBR list (who even are you?) then check out my full review here.

For those not familiar with the series so far, the mechanics of the Invisible Library are straightforward: the library sits in between all worlds, and a Librarian (like our beloved Irene) can use libraries or stockpiles of books to access alternate realities. They exist on a spectrum going from the more chaotic to the more controlled, with Fae in abundance on one end, and Dragons on the other. In The Lost Plot, the heart of the story takes place in an alternate 1920s/1930s America, in between rival gangs – and rival Dragons.

I’ve had some burning questions about the series, the worlds, the key players – and (much to my fangirl delight) the author has answered every single one of them! Without further ado, presenting the author of the Invisible Library series… Genevieve Cogman!


RC: I’m sure you get this question a lot, but how did the idea for The Invisible Library come to be?

119888GC: I know I’m far from the first person to have ideas about interdimensional libraries (Pratchett, the French INS/MV roleplaying game, and others) or alternate worlds with Order and Chaos at different ends (Moorcock, Louise Cooper, etc). But I’ve always loved libraries, and I really liked the idea of a secret library accumulating fiction. It was a private daydream.

RC: It’s fantastic how you integrated all these parallel worlds into your universe, which practically makes any time period and any place your playground. Did you have a favorite one to explore?

GC: Vale’s world is one of my favourites, but I’ve had fun with all of them so far. I’ve been doing some research for the one in which most of book five takes place (no details yet, sorry). I’d like to send Irene all over the place – Japan, India, Canada, Vienna, Budapest – and into time periods which would be fun for the author (if less so for the character). However, I want to keep the locations recognizable, even if I do claim “alternate history/world” and change some details, so I need to do the research.

RC: On the same note, is there a place you’d like to explore, but probably won’t be able to through the books?

GC: Outer space, maybe. I don’t think any of the alternate worlds have reached the point of extraplanetary colonization yet. (And Irene isn’t going to want to get on a spaceship if she’d be stuck without access to a library!)

RC: I would love for this to happen SO. MUCH. 

RC: I was so excited to hear that The Invisible Library was growing from a trilogy to a series of five books. Had you always envisioned writing more? (Does this mean that book 5 is truly the end, or is there a possibility of the series getting extended?)

GC: I’d hoped to write more, and I had ideas for more, but I didn’t want to leave it mid-story, so I’ve tried to tie things off at the ends of books 3 and 5 . . . well, somewhat. (See below.) And yes, there is a possibility of more after book 5.

RC: Will we see more of Alberich?

GC: He was abandoned in a burning library, in a world that was falling to pieces, towards the end of the universe where fictional tropes are likely to occur. How could he possibly have survived that? (Looks innocent.)

RC: If you were working for the library, which post would you want to have? Would you rather be a spy, or a researcher, or something else?

GC: Researcher, definitely. I don’t have the talent or desire to be an active operative. Actually, I’d rather just spend my time sitting round reading, but I don’t think that’d be an option . . .

RC: In the series, worlds can be more chaotic (under fae control) or orderly (under dragon control) – how would the Library rate our world? And will Irene or other librarians pop in for a visit?

GC: Probably they’d consider it fairly neutral. I have no immediate plans for them to drop in – though I reserve the right to steal improbable events and situations from our history and biology.

RC: If you could read any lost book from history, which book would it be?

GC: It’s not exactly a ‘lost’ book, but in the ‘Tale of Genji’, the author (Murasaki) leaves the chapter where Genji dies (or is implied to die) blank. I’d like to know what “really” happened to him. Or maybe the first, lost draft of ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’.

RC: Who’s been your favorite character to write so far? Are some characters more challenging than others?

GC: The Fae characters like Silver, Zayanna, or Lily tend to be most entertaining to write, because I can have great fun with their style. I find Vale more challenging, because he is a homage to Sherlock Holmes, and it’s difficult to get that “right”.

RC: Coffee, or Tea?

GC: Coffee. Always. (Not that I won’t drink tea, but . . . coffee.)

RC: Planner or Pantster?

GC: A combination. Some outline, and working from there.

RC: Morning Person, or Night Owl?

GC: Night Owl. (As my editors can tell you from the timing of my emails.)

RC: And finally – if you’re allowed to – can you tell us a little clue as to what to expect from book 5?

GC: I can tell you that Vale will get a bigger part than in book four. And that in some ways it’s an extension of events which occur in all the previous books. And that at the current stage of the edit, Irene keeps on missing out on her dinner. (A very nice dinner, too.) But more than that . . . I’m afraid you’ll have to wait.

RC: Thank you so, so much for answering my questions! And of course for writing this series!

GC: Thanks to you and everyone else for reading it.

The Lost Plot will be available January 9th 2018 from Ace Books
Thank you, Ace Books for providing me with the ARC copy!

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Notna + Interview with J.D. Cunegan

One of my favorite crime series is Bounty, the adventures crime-solving detective Jill Andersen who moonlights as a vigilante with cybernetic enhancements. So when the author announced he was writing a fantasy novel, I was incredibly excited. Notna is everything I wanted, and more. Action packed and exciting – it’s like Indiana Jones and Supernatural had a baby, only that baby decided the world should end.

Summary36384932

History’s most peaceful race created one of its deadliest weapons. 

Forged in the Living Flame by a long-extinct alien race, The Gem of Notna is the stuff of legends, on par with Pandora’s Box or the Holy Grail. But once archaeologist Dr. Jack Corbett stumbled upon the crystal deep in the Amazon, he triggered a whirlwind of events and found himself neck-deep in a centuries-old holy war. The Divine and the Underworld have been locked in a virtual stalemate for the past three hundred years, and the Gem of Notna could be the key to breaking it. 

With the gem in his possession, Jack discovers a world of monsters and gods, as well as an entirely different plane of existence that watches over our own. Old grudges resurface, fallen warriors are reborn in the most violent of ways, but at the end of the day, the fate of the world may well rest in Jack’s hands. 

Musings

What always gets you hooked on Cunegan’s writing (something I love about the Jill Andersen series) is how the seemingly effortless style pulls you right in. Reading the book is almost like watching a movie, with just the perfect amount of description to have you imagine intense battles right before your eyes. Unlike the Bounty series, however, the scale of this adventure is massive: we’re in the middle of a holy war, between different planes of existence, connecting different countries and even dimensions.

It’s massive. It’s epic. What’s not to love?

On top of a huge scale end of the world apocalypse scenario, we also have lovable characters you can’t help to root for, and a prologue that breaks your heart just two pages in. Jack and his girlfriend Cassandra are professors of Archeology, hired to retrieve a legendary gem from deep inside the Amazon rainforest – only to get thrown into a battle between good and evil that has lasted for millennia, culminating in an epic final showdown on earth and in hell itself. But these two loveable lovebirds are determined to save their world from destruction and will stop at nothing to protect us. Even if it means giving into a prophecy and embracing the role of Chosen One…

What’s refreshing is also having the romance portion of this adventure be between two people who have been very much in love for quite a long time. There’s no will they/won’t they, no awkward flirting: only two committed people supporting each other (quite literally) to the ends of the earth. It’s so fantastic to have a healthy relationship in an adventure novel like this!

The supporting cast is also quite amazing. Whether they’re displaced out of time, or common people embracing their role in this mess, or even those who have lived at war all their lives, they’re complex and steadfast.

And the villain(s) – what’s not to love about hating them? Vampires, demons from hell, Gods out of time, giant purple… wait, I won’t spoil it for you. How Cunegan has managed to merge so many myths and genres, I will never know. It’s masterful!

All in all, if you’re looking for fun, Notna is the book for you. Cunegan has entered the realm of fantasy with swords drawn, and you’re not soon to forget him! Brilliant and energetic, impossible to put down, treat yourself to a high stakes adventure with Notna.


And now – an interview with the author, J.D. Cunegan himself!

R: You mentioned before that Notna was an idea you’ve wanted to work on for years… where did the idea come from?

14050436JDC: It mostly came to me when my comic book tastes started expanding. When I first started reading them, I wasn’t just a “Marvel guy,” I was an X-Men guy. If it wasn’t X-Men, I didn’t read it. But once I got to high school, I started reading different comics from all sorts of companies, and two in particular – Spawn and Witchblade – stuck out to me. In reading those two, I started getting ideas for stories of my own to tell. Notna was one of those stories, even though a lot of what I created back then hasn’t survived over the years. But the bare bones of the story – the prophecy, the gem, the war – came to me once I started branching out with my reading.

The Jill Andersen books examine, at their core, what it means to be a hero – and Notna asks much the same question, but from an entirely different perspective. Whereas with Bounty, I use moral gray areas to examine heroism, Notna is more about the notion that even the most ordinary among us can achieve transcendent heroism.

R: Unlike your Bounty series, which is a crime thriller with sci-fi elements thrown in, Notna is a fantasy novel with magic and mythology. Did you find it easier or harder to write in this genre?

JDC: I thought it would be harder, but it actually wound up being easier. I wasn’t as beholden to reality as I sometimes am with the Jill Andersen novels, which gave me a lot more freedom and a lot more leeway in terms of what I could get away with. When I’m writing one of Jill’s books, I still have to keep the real world in mind occasionally; when I’m writing about monsters and gods and demons, the rules are a little more flexible.

R: Which character was your favorite in Notna? Were they also your favorite to write? Did you find any one of them particularly challenging to bring to life?

JDC: Cassandra wound up being my favorite, because there was a time when I didn’t know what to do with her. About midway through the first draft, she was little more than the romantic interest character – and I wanted her to be more than that, because I pride myself in not letting my books devolve into those common tropes. Nothing I came up with worked – one potential storyline had her dying at Demostricus’ hand, only to later return as a vampire, but I hated how that story smacked of “kill the love interest just to motivate the male lead.” I’m not sure exactly when the storyline I settled with first came to me, but once it did, I knew I had a winner and loved how it sort of turned the “Chosen One” trope on its head (and was, in an indirect way, a nice callback to Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

R: Did you feel any particular pressure when writing this novel? Either from your fans, or time, or anything else?

JDC: I did, actually. Part of it came from the fact that I was writing in a genre that was already stuffed to the gills with fantastic books – including some of my personal favorites. But I also felt pressure because as I started promoting the work, I saw it was generating the sort of excitement none of the Jill Andersen books had – so knowing there was already a fanbase for it, knowing I had to make sure I didn’t disappoint those people, added some pressure (and possibly some mild panic on launch day).

R: Coffee, or Tea?

JDC: Both. In the mornings, I have to have my cup of coffee. But at night, when the house is quiet and I’m hunched over my manuscript (especially this time of year), nothing soothes and helps me write quite like a warm mug of green tea. I bought myself a Keurig a couple years ago, and it’s probably one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

R: Planner or Pantster?

JDC: I’m a total pantser; for whatever reason, whenever I try to plan or outline, it sucks all the fun out of writing and I get blocked. Even with my current book, Betrayed (book five of the Jill Andersen series), I tried to detail each chapter to keep myself on track. Well, 10 chapters in, the story completely detoured on me. I think, as a writer, I enjoy it when my own characters and my own world surprise me – because if they surprise me, chances are they’ll surprise my readers.

R: Morning Person, or Night Owl?

JDC: I’m definitely a night owl, and I have been since I was in college. I’ve never quite shaken that habit, which is occasionally problematic now that I have a 9-to-5 job. I think I’m physically incapable of falling asleep before midnight, and most of my best writing happens after the sun goes down.

R: I was so excited to see your ‘Easter Egg’ reference to R.R. Virdi! How did that come to be?

JDC: One of the Facebook writing groups I’m in (I think it was NanOhana) had a challenge for NaNoWriMo 2016 (Notna was my project that year) daring us to include Virdi in our work somehow. Mystical bookshop owner with two otters as pets just felt like a great fit, and it was fun to write those two chapters. In an indirect way, Virdi’s work (particularly Dangerous Ways) helped inspire Notna, so it was also a hat tip of sorts to him.

R: So many mythologies are represented here… how did you decide on them? What kind of research did you do?

JDC: Religion, regardless of which one you choose, can create a wonderful backdrop to tell stories like this. And my own research into pagan traditions, while completely unrelated to writing, inevitably wound up inspiring my writing. Between my pagan sourcebooks and some of my old White Wolf tabletop roleplaying books, I had plenty of inspiration to turn to when it came to building the world these characters inhabit. My research wasn’t necessarily done to make sure I was accurate; I’m pretty up-front about the liberties I took in this book, but having that foundation there made playing with the mythology and the history a lot of fun.

R: And finally… will this be a standalone novel, or will we be returning to this universe sometime soon?

JDC: Notna is a standalone (mostly because I can’t imagine trying to juggle more than one series), but that doesn’t mean I’m done with the world or the characters I created there. You probably noticed the Bounty Easter Egg I placed in Notna, which establishes that both books take place in the same universe. So chances are, some of the characters I introduced in Notna will appear in future works (maybe even the Jill Andersen books).

Also, I’m working on an anthology of sorts, called Legend of the Gem, which will be a collection of short stories detailing the history of the Gem of Notna over the past couple thousand years. It’s very similar to the comic book series Tales of the Witchblade that was popular back in the 1990s, and just researching stuff for that book has been a lot of fun.

Catch J.D. Cunegan’s fantasy novel NOTNA here – a fantastic and thrilling adventure! 

And don’t forget to check out the newest novel in the Bounty series – BEHIND THE MASK  here – just out this week! 

No Vain Loss + Interview with M.C. Frank

Author of the No Ordinary Star series

Those of you who follow this blog know that I’m obsessed with this gorgeous YA scifi series called No Ordinary Star. Set in the year 2524, in a future where people have forgotten what it is to celebrate Christmas, enjoy food, or even kiss, a soldier and a rebel meet at the North Pole and discover secrets that will change the world they live in – forever. There is so much to love about this series, so it’s with a massive amount of excitement that today we get to interview the author of No Ordinary Star, M.C. Frank herself!

Please help me in celebrating the release of her long-awaited finale to the trilogy – NO VAIN LOSS, out today!

Summary29215280

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do.
A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.
This is the One World.
The year is 2524.

In No Vain Loss, the world is on the brink of the greatest war humanity has ever known. Lives will be lost. New truths will be revealed.

See My Review Here.

From the very start of this series, you can tell it oozes with something magical. I once said that it reminds me a little of “The Northern Lights”, but combined with “The Giver”, along with a strong foundation of dystopia. But at the same time, it’s completely unique.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll keep saying it again and again – if you haven’t read this series, you’re seriously missing out. As a YA reader, or a scifi lover, or an admirer of beautiful prose, this series is meant for anyone who needs a reminder that human nature is the most wonderful gift of all.

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An interview with M.C. Frank, author of the No Ordinary Star series

91ksiatmcbl-_ux250_R: Thank you so much for joining us today, for the release of your new book, No Vain Loss. As the third and last book of your No Ordinary Star trilogy, fans are incredibly excited for the resolution. Did you feel pressure when writing this last installment?

MCF: Thank you for having me. I did not feel any pressure, as I had written all three books before beginning the publishing process for any of them.

R: What was the hardest part, for you, when writing No Vain Loss? The ending is so thrilling and beautiful – did you always see the trilogy ending that way? Did a lot change between your first draft and the book we see today?

MCF: Yes, a lot changed, especially concerning the ending. There were three possible endings and it was hard for me to choose. In the end, I picked one that combined all my favorite elements and I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

R: Is this the last we’ll see of Felix and Astra?

MCF: I don’t know, readers are already asking for a sequel series. Never say never.

R: Now, the No Ordinary Star trilogy has a massive following of dedicated and loyal fans. But for those who have never read the series before, what would you say is the main reason they should drop everything and read it right now?

MCF: Because it’s an amazing Christmas story about a world who has forgotten Christmas. And kissing.

R: You’ve said the books are inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, and you even reference The Rocket Man on your dedication page. Can you tell us more about how exactly his work inspired you?

MCF: If you have read Bradbury, you can see his influence in my world-building, as well as in the philosophy behind the entire plot of the novel. My dad loved his books, and he was the one who introduced me to his stories. I first read The Illustrated Man when I was thirteen, and I understood little, but I understood that that was what I wanted to do when I grew up: blow people’s minds away with my stories.

R: Along those same lines, which other authors inspire you? Do you have a favorite writer?

MCF: That’s such a hard question to ask a reader or writer. I have tons, too many to name!

R: It’s a massive event, the trilogy coming to an end. Is it too soon to ask you: What’s next for M.C. Frank? Are you working on any projects right now?

MCF: I am currently writing my next book, a Robin Hood romance.

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R: Along with being an extraordinary author, you’re also a great fan of the classics. Not only have you written a Regency retelling of Jane Eyre – Ruined – you’ve also edited beautiful editions of beloved books, and even created a Jane Austen coloring book. Can you tell us more about how this all started? And what are you working on now?

MCF: It’s just something I did as a designer, mostly for myself and my friends, but people ended up loving these editions so much, that I decided to put them up for sale. You can find them at my website, mcfrankauthor.com. Another Austen might be up, I haven’t decided yet.

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R: I’ve also had the immense pleasure of reading your New Adult novel, Lose Me. [review] a contemporary romance which moved me to tears. What are the challenges with writing in this genre, compared to YA Science Fiction? Do you prefer one over the other?

MCF: I loved writing both, although there was more freedom with the world-building with the No Ordinary Star series, as I was the one creating the sci-fi world. And there was much less research, compared to what I had to learn about stunts for Lose Me.

 

R: Now to get a little more personal: when you’re not writing, what do you do with your free time?

MCF: Free time? What’s that?

R: Finally, before we go, I just want to say thank you for creating such a magnificent world for us to fall into. No Ordinary Star has to be one of my favorite Science Fiction series. But I digress! Are there any other last minute things you would like our readers to know about?

MCF: Thank you for your kind words, I’m thrilled by the response the series is getting. I never imagined so many people would read it and love it.

R: Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed! We can’t wait to see what’s next from the amazing M.C. Frank.

You can buy No Vain Loss HERE – out today! Only $0.99 per book – less than $3 for the entire trilogy!

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A Dangerous Game + AUTHOR INTERVIEW!

By Madeline Dyer
Prequel/Spin-Off to the Untamed series

If you’re not reading the Untamed series, you’re sorely missing out. It’s perfect YA dystopia, with amazing complex characters and thrilling adventure. And if you are reading the Untamed surprise, great news! Madeline Dyer has released a new standalone novel in the universe: A Dangerous Game, and it’s unputdownable.

Summary

LOVE WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE EASY. 34035695

All her life, Keelie Lin-Sykes has known what she wants: to protect her brother and sisters by killing as many of the soulless Enhanced Ones as she can. Oh, and to have fun while she’s doing it. After all, hiding in a secret Untamed community, while the group’s Seer warns them of danger, shouldn’t mean that life can only be serious, right?

But, when a face from her past suddenly—and secretly—shows up, Keelie’s catapulted back into the very world she’s been trying to escape from for the last ten years: a world full of guilt, lies, and…love. And the deeper Keelie gets into this world, the bigger the risks become.

Now, Keelie must deceive those she values most in order to protect them, even though her actions will destroy everything she knows and haunt her family forever. But she can’t ignore her feelings–not again. And Keelie will do anything to be with the man she loves.

Musings

Strap yourselves in, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. Unlike the main Untamed series – which in itself is rather action packed – A Dangerous Game is more adrenaline-filled than ever. Unlike Untamed, here we follow a new character, Keelie, who’s very different to Seven. She’s dangerously addicted to action and adventure, constantly putting her own life in danger for the thrill of it. She acts without thinking, potentially putting others in harm’s way. She’s selfish and rude, and I love her. There’s just something about well written flawed characters that just hooks you in.

And, unlike Seven, Keelie has got an active love life. There’s more focus on romance in this standalone, and love (or maybe lust) is one of the key drivers of Keelie’s instincts. Once again, unlike Seven who is thoughtful and thinks ahead, Keelie makes decisions based on gut feelings and almost animal instinct. Which isn’t always the best for her – or anyone.

We also get a different view of the villagers at Nbutai before the events of Untamed, when they weren’t yet on the run. Though under constant threat from the Enhanced, they lead lives, they work together, they survive, maybe even thrive. This makes the beginning of Untamed suddenly so much more poignant because you begin to love characters you know won’t make it out alive.

A Dangerous Game also deals with mental health, as Keelie’s mental wellbeing isn’t exactly stable, and other characters fall on the autism spectrum, which is a breath of fresh air in the stacks of YA dystopian books.

If you loved Untamed, then you need this companion novel. If you haven’t yet read the Untamed series, then you need to. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled thrill ride from start to finish, where the only time you put down the book is to catch your breath, then you’ve come to the right place. Addicting, Thrilling, Amazing.

OUT TODAY! 


Interview with MADELINE DYER, author of the UNTAMED series

R: While set in the same world as Untamed, your new book has a different protagonist, and it’s set before the start of Untamed. What prompted you to want to write a book set before your series begins?

b1ai0zybk3s-_ux250_MD: So, back in 2013 when I was writing Untamed, book one of my series, I knew pretty much straight away that I really wanted to write Keelie’s story too—I just completely fell in love with her, and the more I worked on other books in the series, the more I found other characters referring to things she’d done. She was certainly an influential force on these characters! This really fueled my desire to explore Keelie more and see how she relates to the other characters in the Untamed world, and so I knew I’d have to write a book from her point of view. And, thus, A Dangerous Game was born!

Due to events that happen at the start of Untamed (and how the focus of the series is on Seven and her struggle to win the war), I knew that Keelie’s story would have to be set before the start of Untamed in order to give her the lime-light that she deserves—and where nothing huge would be going on at the same time that would detract from her story, because it’s very much about Keelie’s struggle with mental health, identity, and her relationships with others. I really wanted the emphasis to be on Keelie, so that Seven (the narrator of the series) can just be a minor character in the background as the juicy part of her story hasn’t begun yet. And so, A Dangerous Game, became a sort of prequel to the series. But it’s also very much a standalone book in its own right. You don’t need to read the series first.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that I actually had time to really delve into Keelie’s story, and I was surprised at just how organically her story flowed—and how much it worked as a companion to the series. Writing a story set before my series has also been a lot of fun, as we get to see more of the daily life of the Nbutai villagers before they all go on the run from the Enhanced Ones.

R: In reading the book, we notice it’s very different to Untamed. What was the hardest challenge in writing this book, compared to the other novels in the Untamed series?51jqdwz0dul

MD: The hardest challenge in writing A Dangerous Game was making sure that there were no continuity errors in it or anything that jars with the first book of the series (particularly as there is a slight overlap in the timelines of the two books, though Seven and Keelie are in different places, dealing with different things, completely oblivious of each other). This also meant that I had to make sure that the end of A Dangerous Game didn’t repeat any information that the start of Untamed gives, as I don’t want to bore readers who’ve read both, and so I had to think of a way where the ending of Keelie’s story actually changes how the readers view and understand the start of Seven’s.

R: It’s so intriguing following the thoughts of a different character, who’s very different to Seven in many ways. Did you find that writing Keelie’s point of view was harder or easier than writing Seven’s? In what ways were they different?

MD: Keelie was actually a lot easier to write than Seven! Keelie’s impulsive, an adrenaline junkie, and confident (often dangerously over-confident), whereas Seven is quieter, very observant, and a lot more thoughtful. Seven is a planner, Keelie isn’t.

So, writing Keelie was definitely a breath of fresh air, as she does a lot of things that Seven would never have dreamed of doing in Untamed. But it was also really interesting seeing how these two characters view the world they live in so differently. Keelie often sees the war between the Untamed and Enhanced as almost game-like and something she can use to prove how strong she is, whereas Seven sees the horrors of it all for what it actually is and is determined to make sure her actions bring about an end for the war. Seeing Keelie and Seven interact with each other in A Dangerous Game was fun too—particularly as Seven hasn’t developed her Seer powers at this stage and is unaware of just how important she’ll be in the war, and so Keelie almost takes on the role of defender to the young woman who’ll later be the savior of their people.

R: The process of writing a book is never straightforward, is it! Did you have to make massive changes to your book, or did you know what the story was going to be since the very beginning?

MD: I knew the rough shape the story would take right from when I started writing it, but, wow, did it change a lot! The massive changes included ‘unkilling’ a character, introducing another sibling for Keelie (which completely changed the direction of the plot at several points), and increasing the level of romance A LOT.

R: One a more personal level, what would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

MD: Before I start a writing session, I generally make a cup of tea. Then, I invariably lose my cup of tea and make another one. At the end of my writing session, I either find the lost cup of tea or realize I’ve completely forgotten to drink the replacement one.

R: What’s your writing ritual, and what do you like to do when you’re not writing?

MD: I love writing outside, so I do that as often as I can. In general, I write first thing in the morning and keep going until lunchtime. Afternoons are for catching up on admin or editing—unless I’m at the beach, because then I’ll write at the beach.

When I’m not writing, I can be found out on our farm, with my herd of Shetland ponies, reading, or trying out new coffee shops.

Follow Madeline Dyer on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, or her website!

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!