the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘interviews’ Category

author_kss_fullKarina Sumner-Smith is a fantasy author and freelance writer. She is the author of the Towers Trilogy from Talos Press: Radiant (2014), Defiant (2015) and Towers Fall (2015), which just hit bookstore shelves last week.

Prior to focusing on novel-length work, Karina published a range of fantasy, science fiction and horror short stories, including the Nebula Award nominated story “An End to All Things,” and the ultra short story “When the Zombies Win,” which appeared in Ellen Datlow’s The  Best Horror of the Year, Vol 3.

Though she still thinks of Toronto as her home, Karina now lives in a small, lakefront community in rural Ontario, Canada, where she may be found lost in a book, dancing in the kitchen, or planning her next great adventure.

Karina was kind enough to chat with me a bit about the Towers trilogy, how plotting can sometimes be a plot-killer, her Sci-Fi filled youth, and her dance troupe.

Towers-Fall- Karina sumner Smith


Little Red Reviewer: The big idea in your Towers Trilogy is that magic is currency (you even wrote a Big Idea post at Scalzi’s Whatever!). How did you get the idea to develop a story around naturally occurring magic that is used as a currency of sorts? Once you got the idea, how did you develop the plot of the books around it?

Karina Sumner-Smith: It seems like the idea should come first, shouldn’t it? The idea that magic is currency—that magic is the driving life force of this entire society—is central to the novels, and shapes the two main characters’ lives in very different ways. Yet the idea actually stemmed from an entirely different source.

The Towers Trilogy began as a short story, “An End to All Things,” which garnered me a Nebula nomination back in 2007. I had an idea to write about a girl who can see ghosts; I sat down at my computer, and this world just opened up before me. The first scene of the short story is very similar to the opening scene in Radiant, and that’s where everything came from: the world, my entry to the story, the magical concepts, all of it. It’s all there in seed form in that tense exchange between a homeless girl, Xhea, negotiating with a distraught man who had a ghost tethered to the center of his chest.

The importance of magic-as-currency came to the fore, though, with a deeper understanding of that ghost, Shai, and why great powers were willing to go to such lengths to retrieve her, dead or alive. The idea, at its base level, is really looking at the idea of value in society, and how we decide the worth of a person. All of which makes it sound very constructed, as if this book was an intentional rant on the role of privilege in society. While that’s definitely a thematic core, the books themselves are about people: a homeless girl with no magic, living in the abandoned tunnels beneath the city; the ghost of a girl who generates magical fortunes unthinkingly; and what happens when they save each other. Xhea and Shai. Those two are where the plot came from, and (for me, at least) the source for all the book’s thematic resonances.

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Bradley Beaulieu, author of the Lays of Anuskaya (The Winds of Khalakovo, The Straits of Galahesh, and The Flames of Shadem Khoreh) is about to release a brand new epic fantasy novel called Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.  The first in a new trilogy, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai follows the story of Çeda, a young woman who flaunts the laws of immortal kings and finds herself drawn towards the secrets of her own origins. A sprawling, complex story in a vibrant and richly drawn world, the new novel hits bookstore shelves on Sept 1st. Click here for a preview.


Brad was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the new series. Also, I’ve got not one, but two copies of this book to give away to two lucky readers! See the fine print at the bottom of this blog post for details.

Let’s get to the interview!


Little Red Reviewer: This is the second time you’ve written of ships that don’t sail on the water. In your Lays of Anuskaya trilogy, the multi-masted ships sail the winds. And in Twelve Kings, the ships sail the dunes of this desert land. It’s even possible to surf over the dunes. For this non-ocean environment, what  made you decide that ships with sails should be the primary method of long distance travel?


Bradley Beaulieu: What made me decide on ships? Well, when it comes down to it, I just love ‘em. I’ve taken several sailing tours on tall ships on Lake Michigan, a few out of Milwaukee harbor and once out of Navy Pier in Chicago. I think it’s such a cool time in our history, the age of sail, being trapped in such a tight community for weeks or months at a time, then stopping in a new, unexplored land, then hopping back to go back to the place you know. I’ve got a very romantic view of it, I’ll admit.


And, well, I also just wanted to weird the world up a bit. I wanted some unique aspects to the great desert in which Sharakhai sits. I wanted there to be a unique flavor to the commerce of the world, how people communicated over long distances, and so on. It’s essentially the same reason I did it in The Lays of Anuskaya, though the specific incarnations of ship travel, as you mentioned, are different. It’s been a lot of fun exploring this aspect of the world. (And I’ve yet to have a really rousing ship-to-ship battle, but believe me, that’s coming!)


bradley B


LRR: I love the world of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. This is a desert culture, so staying protected from the sands and winds is a big deal, as is ensuring water and food supplies, and the clothing and activities of the characters reflect this. The terminology has an Arabic feel, with characters wearing turbans, thawbs, and hijabs, and visiting the bazaar. Can you tell us about the research you did the ensure the terminology and contextual activities matched the world and culture you built within the novel?


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chris bucholzIf you’re a regular reader at, you’re sure to recognize the name Chris Bucholz. Over the last seven years he’s written over 300 humor columns at Cracked, touching on everything from Halloween costumes to confusing toys, customer feedback at McDonald’s, zombie movie mash-ups, and the history behind some really weird rock band names.   Chris’s debut science fiction novel is Severance (published by Apex Books) and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.  Let’s get to the interview!


LRR: Congratulations on the publication of your new novel, Severance! What’s the quick pitch for the novel?

CB: Severance is a comedic science fiction adventure set on a generation ship populated with stupid, stupid people. Severance is a warm fire on a cold day, and a cold drink on a hot day. It’s the son you never had, and now there he is, standing in front of you, arms wide, waiting to hug you. It is a masterpiece.

That may be overselling it a bit. It’s my first novel, ok? I tried really hard and I think it’s pretty great.


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The World Fantasy Convention was held earlier this month, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  Her name will be familiar to fans of historical fiction, as she’s the author behind the famous Saint-Germain Cycle. The first novel in the Cycle, Hotel Transylvania, was published in 1978, and there are now over 25 volumes.   She’s written over 80 books, and over 70 works of short fiction. No stranger to awards either, she’s received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, the Grand Master award from the World Horror Association, and she was the first woman to be enrolled as a Living Legend of the International Horror Guild.



Chelsea was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy day to answer a few of my questions on her famous series, music, and the occult.  Wanna learn more about this amazing author? I do! let’s go!

LRR: Your bio briefly mentions you are also a musical composer. Could you tell us a little more about this? Personally, I believe there are a lot of connections between music and other means of communication. Have you found any similarities between writing music and writing fiction?

CQY: There are many things that cannot be said with words, and it seems to me that’s where music comes in. When I get worded – out, I do music to deal with all the things that words cannot express. Words and music are powerful communicators, but they communicate different kinds of things. So while composition and writing are at the opposite end of the communication scale, they serve the same basic purpose. At least that’s my opinion.

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I’ve been lucky enough to interview some pretty cool people over the years.  But Ellen Datlow takes “pretty cool” to a whole new level. An editor of short fiction for nearly thirty years, Ellen holds four Hugo awards, ten World Fantasy awards, five Locus awards, three Bram Stoker awards, and I’ll stop there even though I could happily continue to list her achievements for the next hours or so. She’s co-edited twenty one Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror volumes, edited six Best Horror of the Year volumes (through Nightshade Books), and most recently was the editor for Lovecraft’s Monsters and The Cutting Room for Tachyon.

To say she is a rock star of the industry is quite the understatement.

Last weekend at the World Fantasy Convention, Ellen Datlow was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award, along with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.

I was first introduced to her work through one of many anthologies she co-edited with Terri Windling, Snow White, Blood Red, which has since become a beloved paperback on my bookshelf.  That collection would become the first in a series of six, and many of them recently become available as e-books through Open Road Media.  If you are interested in fairy tale retellings, dark fantasy, or the short fiction of acclaimed authors such as Joyce Carol Oates,  Jane Yolen, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Charles deLint, Gene Wolfe, Storm Constantine and many others, this is an anthology series you should consider.

Datlow Windling fairy tale anthos

Ellen was kind enough to answer a few of my questions on her lifetime in the field and the joys and challenges of putting anthologies together.  Let’s get to the interview!

ellen datlow

LRR: I remember reading Snow White, Blood Red in the late 90s, it was a collection my soon-to-be husband and I bonded over. That was your first Fairy Tale anthology with Terri Windling, and it would become a series of six anthologies. When you start a new anthology, how do you know it will be a “one of”, such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells or a series, like the Fairy Tale or Best Horror of the Year volumes?

ED: That’s really lovely to hear!

One rarely knows in advance if an anthology will sell well enough for the publisher to offer a contract for a second, although for a year’s best one always hopes it will become a series as that’s its purpose. Snow White, Blood Red was intended to be a one-shot but it did well enough that our editor commissioned another (or two that time). I don’t think we ever got more than a two-book contract at a time for what became a six book series. It just ended up that way. And by the time the sixth came out the publisher had changed hands (possibly twice) and I was burned out on retold fairy tales — for a time.

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You read their book, and you thought it was really cool.  Why not learn more about the author?  Here’s some recent interviews online of authors whose work has received rave reviews.  Check ’em out!

apex book of world SF 3

SFSignal has an ongoing series of interviews of the authors found in the Apex Book of World SF. So far they’ve interviewed Karin Tidbeck and Athena Andreadis, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Myra Cakan and Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, and Fadzlishah Johanabas and Ika Koeck. You can check this link for updates!

Also over at SFSignal, Neil Clarke (editor and creator of Clarkesworld Magazine) gets interviewed about his new anthology Upgraded.

fiefdom dan abnettMy Bookish Ways interviews Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent about Fiefdom

Amazing Stories interviews Hal Duncan

Adventures of a Bookonaut interviews Michelle E. Goldsmith

Ebon Shores interviews Cheryl Morgan

Liberty Voice interviews Michael West

Dab of Darkness interviews David Lee Summers

Words and Pictures interviews Liz De Jager

The  Black Library interviews David Annandale

Randomly Yours, Alex, interviews Kathleen Jennings

Bloody Cake News interviews Sebastien De Castell


Francesca forrest photoI recently read and reviewed Pen Pal, a most extraordinary novel by Francesca Forrest.  Click here to read my review of Pen Pal, but the super quick summary is that this epistolary novel focuses around the relationship between a girl named Em who lives in a floating community off the Gulf Coast, and Kaya, a political prisoner. Through Em’s letters and descriptions of her life, Kaya realizes she may have more in common with this girl than she thought.  This is a powerful and profound story of marginalization and empowerment.

Francesca was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the novel, living in Japan, indie publishing, and her passion for helping preserve native and minority languages.

Let’s get to the interview!

LRR:  The novel is written in an epistolary fashion, with letters, diary entries, e-mails, even newspaper articles. Why did you decide to present the story that way?

FF: The novel grew out of a story that evolved on Livejournal. Em’s message in a bottle, was just as an idea that came to me one morning, and people wanted more. I had had the idea of Kaya in my head for years, and I thought, what if she were the one who answered? So a few days later I posted her response. And then, every few days, I’d post another letter. I really loved the format and thought it worked well for a serialization because the wait for the next post gave the readers the experience of waiting for the next letter, just like the characters.

When I decided to turn it into a novel, I decided to supplement the letters with diary entries and other “evidence” so I could tell a richer story. I think it’s interesting to think about what people choose to reveal where, and to whom, and I tried to play with that with the characters’ letters to different people, and with how what they write in their diaries differs from what they say in their letters.

LRR:  Can you tell us a little about how this story came together, and what your inspirations were?

FF: Kaya’s story grew from two dreams I had: one in which a witch, or maybe a goddess, asked me to resurrect a defunct festival in her honor, and one in which a priestess was held prisoner in temple over a volcanic crater. I asked myself how those situations could be tied together, and that got me thinking about cultural suppression and why and how it happens—and then I could see how there’d be parallels to the situation of Em, whose community floats alongside, but keeps apart from, dry-land society. Other inspirations: I was enchanted, long ago, when I heard of jubilee, an event that happens fairly regularly in Mobile Bay, Alabama, and occasionally elsewhere: fish flood the shallow waters near shore so thickly that you can go out and just scoop them up by the armful. This became the dawn of seagifts in Pen Pal. And I was inspired, too, by the story of the pen pal correspondence I mention on the Pen Pal website, between Manuel Noriega, back when he ruled Panama, and Sarah York, a young American girl. That story raised so many questions about adult and child interactions, ulterior motives, and the intersection of the personal and the political.


artwork by Kelsey Michele Soderstrom

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.