Author Interview: Brandi Elise Szeker

Today I am interviewing Brandi Elise Szeker, author of the new novel, The Pawn and The Puppet, first book in The Pawn and The Puppet series!

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DJ: Hey Brandi! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Brand Elise Szeker: Thanks for having me, DJ. I’m 27, for the last five years I’ve worked as a social media marketing specialist, but have been writing The Pawn and The Puppet for the last ten years (on and off, of course.) And I have four rescue dogs that are my babies, Louis, Stella, Cali, and Nova. 

DJ: What is The Pawn and The Puppet about?

Brandi: The Pawn and The Puppet is a New Adult Dystopian Romance set in a problematic, tortuous asylum. We follow our main character, Skylenna, as she tries to change the ways of the asylum treatments (simulated drownings, chair binding, electroconvulsive therapy.) and tries to understand the patients and their traumatic pasts. But she’s given the ultimate challenge, the thirteenth room. The most dangerous patient in the asylum, with a split personality, genius mind, and a master manipulator. 

During her time getting to know him, she learns of the mystery of his sinister past, and realizes he might know more about her than she does. 

This book has extensive trigger warnings. Please take them seriously as they are not suitable for anyone under the age of eighteen. 

DJ: What were some of your influences for The Pawn and The Puppet and the series? 

Brandi: The show Criminal Minds played a big part in the complexity of each case. I did thorough research for asylum cases that would match the extremity of the asylum, but I was originally drawn to the idea by the cases in Criminal Minds. 

I also loved the dystopian world of The Hunger Games and Divergent, hence, why I pictured Theo James when I wrote Patient Thirteen. LOL

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Author Interview: Chelsea Abdullah

Today I am interviewing Chelsea Abdullah, author of the new fantasy novel, The Stardust Thief, first book in The Sandsea trilogy!

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DJ: Hi Chelsea! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Chelsea Abdullah: Hi DJ, thanks for having me! My name is Chelsea. I’m an American-Kuwaiti SFF writer who loves writing found family dynamics, exploring innovative storytelling structures, and twisting fantasy tropes and archetypes.

DJ: What is The Stardust Thief about?

Chelsea: The Stardust Thief is a quest narrative about a merchant, a prince, a thief, and a jinn who travel the desert in search of a mythical magic lamp. It’s an epic fantasy filled with stories-in-stories, chaotic misadventures, and…ghouls? So many ghouls.

DJ: What were some of your influences for The Stardust Thief and the series? 

Chelsea: The central inspiration behind The Stardust Thief are the stories I grew up listening to, both Arab oral tales and stories from the 1001 Nights collection. I was born and raised in Kuwait and, when I left home to go to university in the U.S., the first thing I latched onto as a writer were those stories. It was my nostalgia for those tales, and my pride in my heritage, that inspired me to write the Arab-inspired fantasy that would eventually become The Stardust Thief.   

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? 

Chelsea: Love this question! How about…

Loulie: Loulie al-Nazari is a legendary merchant who keeps her secrets close and her heart hidden. I fondly refer to her as a being of chaos because she always manages to stubbornly carve her own path forward. She’s a bit of a wild force, a storm cloud of emotion that is difficult to predict.

Mazen: Mazen is a prince whose head is filled with more daydreams than common sense. Soft-hearted and empathetic, he’s a bit of an untraditional hero; no combat skills, no adventuring experience—but he’s incredibly passionate about storytelling, and perceptive of those around him. Also: he’s the comic relief character. I’ve always wanted to write a comic relief POV character! 

Aisha: A stab-first-ask-questions-never thief, Aisha is a jinn hunter and one of the legendary forty thieves—a woman who single mindedly pursues her revenge against jinn. Aisha’s mind is filled with a bunch of closed doors, even to herself. But in the story she’ll be forced to open some of those doors…and face her prejudices in ways she never expected.

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Author Interview: R.W.W. Greene

Today I am interviewing R.W.W. Greene, author of the new science-fiction novel, Mercury Rising!

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DJ: Hi R.W.W. Greene! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

R.W.W. Greene: Hi, DJ. Thanks so much for inviting me. 

Once upon a time, I was a Teacher Who Writes, but in recent years, I’ve made the pivot to Writer Who Teaches. These days I mostly work with college students, but I returned to the high-school classroom this spring for a brief encore. Before I started teaching, I did a decade as a print journalist. I’ve a couple dozen published sci-fi shorts to my name, and two prior novels — The Light Years and Twenty-Five to Life — with Angry Robot Books. I am an amateur beekeeper, and I collect manual typewriters. I drink my coffee black.

DJ: What is Mercury Rising about?

R.W.W. Greene: It’s about a small-timer named Brooklyn Lamontagne who gets caught up in things way above his pay grade and skillset. Imagine an extra from the film Taxi Driver or Saturday Night Fever who wakes up one day on Mars in the midst of an alien invasion.

DJ: What were some of your influences for Mercury Rising

R.W.W. Greene: The Seventies — the entire decade — played a huge role. The music, the movies, the politics, the attitudes, the clothing … I listened to a lot of music, read a lot of history, and wrote from photo references for this one. Add a strong desire not to think too hard about the future for a little while and my regard for the Apollo program. Bake at 250F for a few years.

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?  

R.W.W. Greene: Brooklyn is so far out of his depth it is or isn’t funny, depending on your attitude to such things. He just wants to pay his bar tab, help out his ma, and keep the personal drama to a minimum. He swears a lot, has some regrets, and once lit his cousins’ tent on fire. 

I feel like there are a lot of interesting characters in the book, but I’m likely biased. None of them are perfect. Some are smart. A few are well-educated. They’re all really, really outclassed by what they’re facing. There are no heroes in Mercury Rising, just people trying to figure it out and doing what they can in response. 

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Author Interview: Terri Favro

Today I am interviewing Terri Favro, author of the new science-fiction novel, The Sisters Sputnik, the sequel to Terri’s 2017 novel Sputnik’s Children!

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DJ: Hi Terri! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Terri Favro: Hi DJ, thanks for your interest! I’m a Canadian writer based in Toronto but I grew up on the U.S.-Canadian border in a rural-industrial town called St. Catharines. (Yeah, it’s really spelled that way.) It’s not far from Niagara Falls. In addition to being what we’d now called a ‘rustbelt’ town, the Niagara region in Canada is home to a microclimate that makes it a good wine and fruit growing area, so it attracted a lot of immigration from Italy including my who were from the mountains of northwestern Italy. I grew up in a two acre vineyard. My father and grandfathers were enthusiastic winemakers, but Dad was also a bit of a techno-geek, an amateur inventor. He made his living as an electrician in a car parts plant and was eventually given the job of looking after the first industrial robot, UNIMATE. This was in the late sixties. Dad became completely enamored with UNIMATE (which he called “Robby”, short for “Roberta”, because in his mind the robot was a female). He started writing the odd purchase order for spare robotic parts that he’d bring home and use to build working robots in our home. I loved hearing stories about “Robby” from him and imagined her as a humanoid robot, rather than a gigantic robotic arm. We were the only kids on the block with a self-mowing lawnmower in 1970. So science, machinery, space flight, robots and sci-fi were big interests in our house (along with comic books, which I loved). My family was also obsessed with oral storytelling, which influenced me from an early age to start creating stories of my own. I was storytelling before I could read or write. I’m a fabricator of tales of the fantastic going back to my childhood. (That’s what my last name means in English – ‘fabricator’.) In addition to writing novels (four to date), stories, essays and one book of nonfiction (about robots of course), I’ve made my living as a freelance writer, mostly copy and content for ad agencies. I’ve worked on campaigns for technologies, like mobile phones, when they were still emerging.

DJ: What is The Sisters Sputnik about?

Terri: It’s an odyssey through the multiverse, crossed with a love story. At its heart it’s  about what it means to be human in the unpredictable future we’re hurtling toward. Are robots and AI assistants capable of being as human as we are? Are humans becoming more like machines? Is storytelling the ultimate test of what makes us human?

To  give a quick sketch of the storyline, three itinerant storytellers (a comic book writer, her unpaid intern and an AI)  are wandering the multiverse, telling stories for anyone willing to pay. As quantum voyageurs, they’re able to jump from one time continuum to another. In The Sisters Sputnik, the multiverse isn’t infinite: new continuums are only calved when a nuclear detonation occurs in our reality, referred to as Earth Standard Time. That’s  2,058 worlds, to date, including all the test detonations since World War II. The book opens with the Sisters in the Coordinated Universal Time Zone, better known as Cozy Time, a world that has forgotten how to tell stories. Very profitable territory for storytellers-for-hire! The senior storytellerDebbie Reynolds Biondi ends up in bed with an old flame from another continuum, and  spends one long night telling him the story of how the Sisters started to wander the universe, in particular their run-ins with  a race of robot-people who want to send humans back into their own pasts and change the history of Earth Standard Time.. 

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Author Interview: Khan Wong

Today I am interviewing Khan Wong, author of the new science-fiction novel, The Circus Infinite!

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*This interview was originally posted on MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape on March 22, 2022

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DJ: Hi Khan! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Khan Wong: Thanks for having me! I’ve been a creative person my whole life, and over the years I’ve published poetry, played the cello and ukulele, been a firedancer and hula hooper. I worked in the nonprofit arts for a long time.

DJ: What is The Circus Infinite about?

Khan: The elevator pitch is: it’s about a circus that takes down a crimeboss on the galaxy’s infamous pleasure moon. The longer more nuanced answer is, it’s about chosen family, community, the acceptance of people different from us, and art. With a dash of superpowers and lots of aliens and partying.

DJ: What were some of your influences for The Circus Infinite

Khan: The Wayfarers books by Becky Chambers and that slice-of-life approach to space opera was a big influence on this project. The Sol Majestic by Ferrett Steinmetz was also instructive for me. And my experiences in the realm of circus arts.

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? 

Khan: The main character, Jes, is an asexual empath with gravity powers. The gravity powers drive the plot, but his sexuality and empathic ability drive the character and how he relates to the world – particularly an overtly sexual world such as a pleasure moon. He’s essentially a gentle person who hasn’t experienced much kindness in his life, and struggles with some of the things he feels he has to do in the course of the story. His BFF is Esmée, who is an aspiring singer who learns to assert her identity against the cultural expectations of her people. Jes’s romantic interest is Bo, an acrobat in the circus who is fiercely loyal and protective, and devoted to his art and community. The main antagonist is Niko, the local crimeboss who has his hooks in the circus, who presents himself as being cultured and debonair, but is capable of great cruelty and violence.

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Author Interview: Robin Kirk

Photo by Jenny Warburg

Today I am interviewing Robin Kirk, author of the new YA fantasy novel, The Mother’s Wheel, final book in the The Bond Trilogy. She teaches human rights at Duke University, where she also started a class on speculative fiction and human rights.

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DJ: Hi Robin! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Robin Kirk: Thank you for having me! Briefly, I’ve always been a writer and enjoy working in many genres: fiction, essays, poetry, opeds, etc. But the genre I love best is speculative fiction especially when it engages young people. Some of my best reading experiences have been as a kid devouring science fiction and fantasy.

DJ: What is The Mother’s Wheel and then the The Bond Trilogy about?

Robin: One day, my daughter asked me why I wasn’t writing books for kids. At the time, I was a full time researcher for Human Rights Watch and covered Peru and Colombia. The kinds of stories I was hearing, I thought, really weren’t appropriate for kids (even for most adults, to be frank). But then my daughter told me that I had to read her current favorite book, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. I was utterly blown away. Here was a YA book written by Death, during the Holocaust. And it was one of the most beautiful and exciting stories I’ve ever read, for young people and for adults. The Book Thief made me want to write about human rights for kids in a powerful way that used story to get at tough issues. On a long walk down a mountain, I started to wonder if I could write about genocide, when one group sets out to exterminate another. I wondered how I could do that in a way that many readers would accept. In other words, I wanted readers, at least at first, to kind of support genocide, as often happens in the real world. What group of people, I thought, had done a lot of damage to the world and would be easy to “sell” as the targets of genocide? Well, the answer came pretty easily: men. Men have done a lot of harm, including starting most of the wars. That’s essentially the story of The Bond and the dilemma my heroine, Dinitra, faces. Get rid of men and guarantee peace? Or acknowledge that men are human and, like women, capable of both good and evil. In Book 2, The Hive Queen, I wanted to make these ideas more complicated by really humanizing males and making them more sympathetic. I switched narrators, to the character Fir, a male warrior who Dinitra falls in love with in The Bond. He was genetically engineered for one purpose, to fight under his mother’s command. But he wants to free himself and free his brothers. That journey puts him in the path of the Hive Queen, Odide, a beautiful and dangerous mutant, or draft. The story of how he copes with that and finds his way back to Dinitra sets up Book 3, The Mother’s Wheel. A third narrator takes charge, a mutant frog-human named Sil. The real question in The Mother’s Wheel is who gets to be human–who gets that dignity and respect? And what does having a family mean when we are all constructs of one sort or another? That’s an especially important question at a time when we are seeing humans that are increasingly “engineered”: through IVF, gene therapy, modern medicine, bionics, etc.

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Author Interview: Jonathan Maberry

Today I am interviewing NY Times bestseller and 5-time Bram Stoker Award-winner and Inkpot Awardwinner, Jonathan Maberry, author of the new epic fantasy novel, Kagen the Damned, first book in the Kagen the Damned series

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DJ: Hi Jonathan! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Jonathan Maberry: I’m a NY Times bestselling author in a number of different genres —horror, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, mystery and others. I write for adults and teens, and I write comics for Marvel, Dark Horse, and IDW. I’m also the editor of WEIRD TALES Magazine. I’ve written 45 novels so far, about 135 short stories, 20 runs of comic books, edited 20 anthologies, and before that sold over 1200 magazine feature articles and a dozen non-fiction books on topics ranging from martial arts to supernatural folklore.

DJ: What is Kagen the Damned about?

Jonathan: The story deals with the return of magic to a world where it has been forced out of existence for a thousand years. The Witch-king brings it back and uses the magic to conquer the Silver Empire. Kagen Vale, captain of the palace guard was oath-bound to protect the imperial children but fails in a bloody and spectacular way. His own gods turn their back on him for his failure, damning his soul. Now Kagen wants to tear down the Witch-king…for revenge and to save his own soul. Things do not go as planned and he is embroiled with wild magic, mercenaries hunting him, love with a sorceress, and constant battles. It’s the first of a new series, and the second book, SON OF THE POISON ROSE, will be out in January.

DJ: What were some of your influences for Kagen the Damned and the series? 

Jonathan: I grew up reading what was called swords and sorcery back in the 60s and 70s. I read every Conan the Barbarian story, as well as the Eternal Champion novels by Michael Moorcock, the Kane stories by the late Karl Edward Wagner; as well as Tolkien, Stephen R. Donaldson and others. More recently I’ve devoured everything by Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martin, Andrezi Sapkowski, Robin Hobb, James A. Moore, and others whose books have evolved the genre in marvelous ways.

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Author Interview: Jennifer Estep

Today I am interviewing Jennifer Estep, author of the new fantasy novel, Tear Down the Throne, second book in the Gargoyle Queen series

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DJ: Hi Jennifer! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Jennifer Estep: Thanks for hosting me! I appreciate it.

I am a New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author. I have written more than 40 fantasy books, along with several novellas and short stories. 

In addition to the Gargoyle Queen series, I am also the author of the Crown of Shards, Elemental Assassin, Section 47, and other series.

Basically, I write all kinds of fantasy books – epic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and young adult fantasy. 

In my spare time, I enjoy hanging out with friends and family, doing yoga, and reading fantasy and romance books. I also watch way too much TV and love all things related to superheroes.

DJ: What is Tear Down the Throne and then the Gargoyle Queen series about?

Jennifer: TEAR DOWN THE THRONE is book #2 in my Gargoyle Queen adult epic fantasy series, which focuses on Gemma Ripley, a princess who secretly moonlights as a spy.

In TEAR DOWN THE THRONE, Gemma is trying to get to the bottom of a dangerous plot, so she goes to a Summit between the various kingdoms. While there, snhe encounters far more problems than she expects, and she has to figure out how she really feels about Leonidas Morricone, a handsome, charming prince from an enemy kingdom. 

DJ: What were some of your influences for the Gargoyle Queen series

Jennifer: I’ve always loved stories with a little bit of everything in them – action, adventure, danger, magic, and romance. So writing epic fantasy lets me put all those elements into my books and tell the stories that I want to tell. 

TEAR DOWN THE THRONE features a strong heroine, enemies-to-lovers, epic battles, an evil queen you love to hate, and gargoyles (obviously!).

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 sympathize with them?

Jennifer: Gemma Ripley is a bit of a Robin Hood-type character. Everyone thinks she is a spoiled, pampered princess, but she is really using that persona to hide how strong she truly is. Gemma witnessed a royal massacre as a child, and she is still dealing with that trauma as an adult, as well as trying to figure out who she wants to be as a person and how she can make her own mark on her kingdom. 

Leonidas Morricone is also trying to make his own mark and step out of the shadow of his other family members, many of whom have done horrible things. So in some ways, Gemma and Leo are a lot alike, and in other ways, they are completely different and have very different goals. 

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