Today I am interviewing Sunyi Dean, debut author of the new fantasy novel, The Book Eaters!
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DJ: Hi Sunyi! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Sunyi Dean: I’m a biracial autistic author and separated mother of two kids. I was born in the States and grew up in Hong Kong, but I now live in the north of England, specifically inner-city Leeds. When not reading or writing, I like running, hiking, swimming, boardgames, video games, and table-top RPGs.
DJ: What is The Book Eaters about?
Sunyi: TBE has a kind of dual-story happening. On one hand, it’s about a secret society of people who eat books and how they survive in the world. On the other hand, it’s not about those people at all, but one specific woman who is trying to escape that society. The stakes are small and personal, and I chose to focus on the arc of an individual rather than a broad-scale conflict.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Book Eaters?
Sunyi: The Victorian fairytales of George MacDonald, the Brontë sisters, ‘classic’ English literature, 90s culture, and various landscapes in England and Scotland (both urban and rural).
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Sunyi: Devon’s one goal is to protect her son, who is a little (lot) different from the other ‘eaters in their society. She’s not a good person, and does increasingly bad things in pursuit of her goal, but her actual motivations are not evil, and come from a heartfelt place.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?
Sunyi: Ramsey is probably my favorite character hands-down. He doesn’t get as much space as I’d have liked because the plot couldn’t support that, but his two chapters
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Book Eaters like?
Sunyi: TBE is set in an alternate 2000s Britain, mostly in the north. It features many locations I know well or have visited, and I tried to infuse that sense of setting into the book. London is beautiful, but most UK-centric fantasy books are based in London, and there’s so much more to this country than one single city.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Book Eaters?
Sunyi: Deep-diving into fairytales, lore, and stories from this country, for sure. I also went on a fact-finding trip to various places in the UK and that was lovely.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing The Book Eaters? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Sunyi: Honestly, my goal was just to write a book that people enjoyed, using material I know a lot about, and sell it for some money. I wanted to have a single mother as a main character because we’re not very common in SFF, and I wanted to build the story around a reader’s journey rather than a hero’s one, but other than that I try to let any themes or topics speak for themselves.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Book Eaters that you can share with us?
Sunyi: “For here was the thing that no fairy tale would ever admit, but that she understood in that moment: love was not inherently good.
Certainly, it could inspire goodness. She didn’t argue that. Poets would tell you that love was electricity in your veins that could light a room. That it was a river in your soul to lift you up and carry you away, or a fire inside the heart to keep you warm.
Yet electricity could also fry, rivers could drown, and fires could burn; love could be destructive. Punishingly, fatally destructive.
And the other thing, the real bloody clincher of it all, was that the good and the bad didn’t get served up equally. If love were a balance of electric lights and electric jolts, two sides of an equally weighted coin, then fair enough. She could deal.
That wasn’t how it worked, though. Some love was just the bad, all the time: an endless parade of electrified bones and drowned lungs and hearts that burned to a cinder inside the cage of your chest.
And so she looked down at her son and loved him with the kind of twisted, complex feeling that came from having never wanted him in the first place; she loved him with bitterness, and she loved him with resignation. She loved him though she knew no good could ever come from such a bond.”
DJ: Now that The Book Eaters is released, what is next for you?
Sunyi: I’m contracted to write two more standalone novels for Tor / Harper Voyager, and my next book will be a sort-of ghost story set in 1980s Hong Kong, inside the Kowloon Walled City.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B08J492BFZ
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Book Eaters that we haven’t talked about yet?
Sunyi: I can’t promise you’ll like this novel, but I can promise that it’s weird as hell and, hopefully, pretty different!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Sunyi: Thanks for having me!
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***The Book Eaters is published by TOR Books and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
Truth is found between the stories we’re fed and the stories we hunger for.
Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.
Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories.
But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.
About the Author:
Sunyi Dean is an autistic fantasy writer and busy mother-of-two. Born in the States and later raised in Hong Kong, she now lives in inner-city North England. When not reading, running, falling over in yoga, or rolling d20s, she will escape the city to wild swim in lonely dales.
Her debut novel, THE BOOK EATERS, is scheduled for release on 2 Aug 22 through Tor