Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Edward Willett Author Interview

Photo Content from Edward Willett

Edward Willett is an award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy and non-fiction for both children and adults.

Born in Silver City, New Mexico, Willett lived in Bayard, New Mexico and Lubbock and Tulia, Texas, before moving to Weyburn, Saskatchewan with his family when he was eight years old.

He studied journalism at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, then returned to Weyburn as a reporter/photographer for the weekly Weyburn Review, eventually becoming news editor. In 1988 he moved to Regina, Saskatchewan, as communications officer for the Saskatchewan Science Centre, and in 1993 he became a fulltime freelance writer. He still resides in Regina.

Willett is now the author or co-author of more than 40 books, ranging from computer books and children's non-fiction books to science fiction and fantasy for both adults and young adults.

His science fiction novel Marseguro (DAW Books) won the 2009 Aurora Award for best English-language science fiction or fantasy book by a Canadian author. He has also won a Saskatchewan Book Award for his YA fantasy Spirit Singer. He has been nominated for the Aurora Award and Saskatchewan Book Awards multiple times.

His most recent novels include the Masks of Aygrima trilogy, YA/adult crossover novels published by DAW books and written as E.C. Blake, and the five-book YA fantasy series The Shards of Excalibur, published by Coteau Books. He's also the author of the Peregrine Rising duology for Bundoran Press (Right to Know and Falcon's Egg).

Other novels include SF novel Lost in Translation (DAW Books), Terra Insegura (sequel to Marseguro, DAW Books), Magebane (DAW Books, written as Lee Arthur Chane), YA SF novels Andy Nebula: Interstellar Rock Star, Andy Nebula: Double Trouble, and The Chosen; and YA ghost story The Haunted Horn. 2016 will see a new YA fantasy, Flames of Nevyana, from Rebelight Books.

His non-fiction titles run the gamut from science books for children on topics as diverse as Ebola Virus and the Milky Way to local history books like Historic Walks of Regina and Moose Jaw for Red Deer Press, awarded a Municipal Heritage Award by the City of Regina in the education category and A Safe and Prosperous Future: 100 years of engineering and geoscience achievements in Saskatchewan, published by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS). He's also written biographies for children of Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Andy Warhol, Orson Scott Card, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Ayatollah Khomeini.


Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I think the defining moment was when, on a rainy afternoon when I was 11, for something to do, a friend and I decided to write short stories. I don’t think he finished his, but I finished mine. It was called “Kastra Glazz: Hypership Test Pilot” (which also shows how early on I was infected with the science-fiction bug, thanks to two older brothers who read SF). My mother typed the story for me, and I showed it to my Grade 8 English teacher, Tony Tunbridge, who did me the honor of taking it seriously and suggesting ways it could be better. (“I don’t understand why your aliens act the way they do…”) That was the spark. I wrote longer and longer things (including three novels in high school), and I’ve never stopped. Which is why The Cityborn is dedicated to Tony Tunbridge!

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
There seems to be something hard-wired in humans that makes us construct narratives, of our own lives, of the lives of others, of the way the world has come to be the way it is. Storytelling has played an important role in human cultures ever since there were human cultures, serving as a collective memory, a way to impart important lessons about survival and community, and, yes, as entertainment.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
When I was about 14, having read that Isaac Asimov answered all his fan mail, I wrote to him care of his publisher, Doubleday, explaining that I was also a writer, but I had a question: how can you tell when a piece of writing is good enough to be published? I still have the postcard he sent me in response, with his answer: “Dear Mr. Willett: When it is published. Sincerely, Isaac Asimov.”

In your new book; THE CITYBORN, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
The Cityborn is set in a place called the Heartland, ringed by impassible mountains, and split down the middle by the great Canyon. Astride the Canyon, at the center of the Heartland, stands the City: a vast metal structure with thirteen levels, called Tiers, ruled with an iron fist in the name of the semi-mythical Captain (who supposedly lives in the top Tier) by the First Officer, whose laws are enforced by the ruthless Provosts. The ruling class, the Officers, live in the Twelfth and Eleventh Tiers, while the poor scrabble for whatever they can get in the First and Second Tiers. (The middle class lives, appropriately enough, in the middle Tiers.)

The City has stood there so long that the Canyon beneath it has filled with rubbish, creating a dangerous, gang-ruled wasteland called the Middens. The lowest of the low are trapped there, criminals and others who have fled the City and now scavenge and squabble for survival.

When Alania, a young woman raised by a cold and distant Officer in luxury on the Twelfth Tier, flees an unexplained ambush, she is literally dumped into the Middens, where she is rescued by Danyl, a young man who has lived his whole life in the the Middens and dreams only of finding something so valuable he can barter it for entry into the City. He thinks Alania may be his ticket out—but almost at once they find themselves pursued by Provosts, for reasons they can’t imagine. The secrets they uncover, and how they react to them, determine not only their fates, but the fate of everyone in the Heartland.

So why should you read The Cityborn? Great characters, fascinating setting, and a fast-paced story that’s a ton of fun. (Don’t take my word for it—the DAW copyeditors even commented on how much fun the story was to read!)

For those who are unfamiliar with Alania, how would you introduce her?
She’s a smart young woman of unknown parentage who feels like a prisoner. Though she has been raised in luxury, her guardian is an Officer who has never offered her anything approaching fatherly affection. The closest thing she has to a mother is her maidservant, Sala. Her wealthy friends, daughters of other Officers, are free to travel outside the City to resorts and retreats in The Heartland: she is not. She has no idea who her parents really were. She longs to escape her cosseted life.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Danyl?
I think Danyl surprised me in the end with how selfless he proved to be, despite his upbringing as a scavenger. His relationship with Alania is not what I thought it would be when I first started thinking about this story, either, but I can’t say anything more about that without spoiling the story.

Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
Like many of my novels, The Cityborn began with an image: in this case, the image of a boy scavenging for survival on a giant trash heap outside a great city. I wanted to know who that boy was, why he was outside the city and not inside it, how the city came to be there, what kind of city it was, how it was ruled…question after question. The answers I came up with pointed toward a story I thought would be fun to write and fun to read. That seemed reason enough!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d like to introduce either Danyl or Alania to Richard Hansen from my earlier DAW science fiction novels Marseguro and Terra Insegura (collectively known as The Helix War). They’d have interesting things to talk about regarding being destined for things before they were even born.

  • 1. The trashslide struck without warning.
  • 2. Alania stared gloomily down from the head table’s dais at the elaborately coiffed heads of twenty-three young women more or less her own age.
  • 3. And from the middle of that falling mass of cloth, Danyl heard the last thing he’d ever expected to hear, the one thing that could make him forget about ’tronics or jewelry or all the other possible riches this fresh Drop from high atop the City might contain: he heard a girl’s scream.
  • 4. Mouth bitter with bile, eyes streaming, throat raw as sandpaper, stinking like a sewer, Alania Beruthi staggered with Danyl and Erl through the teetering, slimy piles of the Middens and promised herself that if she ever made it back to Twelfth Tier, she would never leave it again.
  • 5. Sitting there quivering like one of the gelatin desserts at her birthday party—had that really just been yesterday?—wouldn’t accomplish anything.
  • 6. Then they rounded the shaft for the thirty-third time, and with a groan and a bang and a squeal of tortured metal, the stairs fell away beneath their feet and pitched them forward into darkness.
  • 7. Three figures covered head to toe in shining black, gloved, booted, and helmeted, eyes encase in bubble-like goggles, had clambered out onto the netting from the eastern wall and were swiftly approaching, looking for all the world like four-legged spiders…
  • 8. “You can do anything if you hate enough.”
  • 9. “So,” she said. “We have the rest of the afternoon and all evening to wait. Anyone for bridge?”
  • 10. “You are the Cityborn.”
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
A few months ago Door into Faerie, the fifth and final book in my young adult fantasy series The Shards of Excalibur, came out from Coteau Books. (The other books in the series are Song of the Sword, Twist of the Blade, Lake in the Clouds, and Cave Beneath the Sea.) That was great fun to write: it’s a modern-day fantasy in which a 15-year-old girl named Ariane inherits the power of the Lady of the Lake and, with her slightly younger friend Wally Knight, must find the five pieces of King Arthur’s legendary sword before Merlin can. (Merlin is the villain, in his modern-day guise as a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates-like computer magnate named Rex Major. His magic has infiltrated the Internet, which makes things difficult for my young heroes!) Their quest takes them all over the world, from the Northwest Territories to the south of France to New Zealand to the Caribbean, but always ends up back here in Saskatchewan.

My other recent YA release was Flames of Nevyana, from Rebelight Publishing. It’s a more traditional fantasy tale, about three young people from very different cultures (one of whom is essentially a humanoid cat) must work together to prevent a devastating war that could destroy them all. (The magic in the story, called Blue Fire, is based on electricity, so the publisher has dubbed Flames of Nevyana “voltpunk,” which is kind of catchy.)

Up next: I’m currently writing (almost finished!) the first book in a new fantasy series for DAW Books called Worldshapers. It’s set in a universe in which there are many worlds, each designed by an individual Shaper (rather like the worlds in novels are designed by authors). A powerful Shaper called The Adversary has broken out of his own world and is taking over others, one by one. Shawna Keys, a Shaper from a world very much like ours, is recruited by a mysterious traveler to journey from world to world to protect them. Every step of the way, she’ll be pursued by the forces of The Adversary. I’ve sold the first two books in the series, and hope to write many more.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I have a teenaged daughter, so I think I’d choose this one. She’s had so many more opportunities to do terrific things than I did in my own teen decade (which was the 1970s) that I’m jealous of her. But I enjoyed my decade, too. Although, in retrospect, the clothing choices were…odd.

Two young individuals must uncover the dark secrets of their stratified city in this suspenseful sci-fi standalone

The metal City towers at the center of the mountain-ringed Heartland, standing astride the deep chasm of the Canyon like a malevolent giant, ruled with an iron fist by the First Officer and his Provosts in the name of the semi-mythical Captain. Within its corroding walls lies a stratified society, where the Officers dwell in luxury on the Twelfth Tier while the poor struggle to survive on the First and Second, and outcasts scrabble and fight for whatever they can find in the Middens, the City's rubbish heap, filling the Canyon beneath its dripping underbelly.

Alania, ward of an Officer, lives on Twelfth. Raised among the privileged class, Alania feels as though she is some sort of pampered prisoner, never permitted to explore the many levels of the City. And certainly not allowed to leave the confines of the City for any reason. She has everything a young woman could want except a loving family and personal freedom.

Danyl, raised by a scavenger, knows no home but the Middens. His day-to-day responsibility is to stay alive. His sole ambition is to escape from this subsistence existence and gain entrance to the City--so near and yet so far out of reach--in hopes of a better life.

Their two very different worlds collide when Alania, fleeing from an unexpected ambush, plunges from the heights of the City down to the Middens, and into Danyl's life.

Almost immediately, both of them find themselves pursued by the First Officer's Provosts, for reasons they cannot fathom--but which they must uncover if they are to survive. The secrets they unlock, as they flee the Canyon and crisscross the Heartland from the City's farmlands to the mountains of the north and back again, will determine not only their fate, but the fate of the City...and everyone who lives there.

Praise for EDWARDS WILLETT's Science Fiction

“Their moral dilemma is only one of the reasons this novel is so fascinating. The Selkie culture and infrastructure is very picturesque and easily pictured by readers who will want to visit his exotic world.” —Midwest Book Review

“Mr. Willett blends science fiction with heavy religious beliefs into a well-written storyline that’s filled with dramatic scenery and character detail. Sci-fi and fantasy fans should find this story full and entertaining.” —Darque Reviews

"An intriguing take on genetic modification.... A very good read." —Night Owl Reviews

“The author was constantly surprising me, which doesn’t happen often, twisting the usual sci-fi conventions into more than just a shoot ‘em up space opera. Edward Willett has created people, personalities with belief systems and misguided judgments who make mistakes in trying to do what they believe is right.” —Boomtron

"Terra Insegura is an action-packed thrill-ride...a novel that knows it is good science fiction and isn't afraid to show fiction at its best." —Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews

You can purchase The Cityborn at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you EDWARD WILLETT for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Cityborn by Edward Willett.


  1. "What cartoon character best describes you?" Daffy Duck.

  2. Tricky question! I can't think of a cartoon character, but I was always called 'Wednesday' as a teenager. :-)