Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cass Morris Author Interview

Photo Content from Cass Morris

Cass Morris lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with the companionship of two royal felines, Princess and Ptolemy. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007, where she was accepted into the Alpha Delta Gamma honor society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Cass served on the boards of student theatrical production companies at both Mary Baldwin and William and Mary. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.


What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
Persistence and resilience mean more than raw talent.

What were your inspirations for the character development?
Though none of the characters in From Unseen Fire are taken directly from history or meant to be historical analogs, many were certainly inspired in part by historical figures. Male protagonist Sempronius Tarren has bits of Julius Caesar, Tiberius Gracchus, and Germanicus in him; Latona has a lot of Agrippina Major. There are side characters who have bits of Mark Antony, Hortensia the Orator, Cicero, Cato the Younger, and all sorts of other Roman figures in them. As far as developing those bases into character arcs goes, Sempronius and Latona are moving towards each other and their common destiny, but also in sort of inverse paths. Sempronius’s life has always been very public, but his private life could bring him down, while Latona has kept herself private and is now learning how to take up the space in the public sphere that she deserves.

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that writing was not just a hobby?
I was eleven years old, sitting in a movie theatre, just having seen Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time. I was gobsmacked at this universe, so big and so magical, that had utterly entranced me, and I decided in that moment that what I wanted to do with my life was make stories and invite other people into them. I’d always been a natural storyteller, but something about that moment crystalized the instinct into something solid.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing FROM UNSEEN FIRE?
I remember figuring out that I actually had something I could finish. That had been a problem with earlier projects, so realizing I could connect all the dots and have a coherent story was a really satisfying moment.

What part of Latona did you enjoy writing the most?
The way she experiences magic. There are places in From Unseen Fire where her magic is spiraling out of control -- a result of having been suppressed and neglected for too long -- and there are places where she learns to take its reins, and both are so much fun to dive into. I love talking about feeling the magic viscerally, in her body.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
I just finished The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower by Katharine Arden, and I absolutely loved them. Dark, lush historical fantasy set in medieval Russia. And then anyone who likes that should also read Catherynne Valente’s Deathless.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Aven?
Algebra. Or, rather, I had to re-teach it to myself. I was trying to figure out the demographics of the city, so that I could figure out how many mages there were overall, and then how they were distributed across the various social classes, and there was algebra involved. Dredging up those long-neglected math skills was definitely not something I anticipated having to do.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
From Unseen Fire is the first in a series, so Books Two and Three are in progress. I’m also working on a space opera with a heroine inspired by Julie d’Aubigny, the French swordswoman/opera singer/general scapegrace, which is turning out to be a lot of fun. From Unseen Fire is epic and political, but the space opera is going to be a lot more of a romp. I also have, swirling around in my head, pieces of a secondworld fantasy using star-based magic, as well as another alternate history, this one imagining a world where the US lost the War of 1812.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Latona and Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. They would have so much to say to each other: the frustrations of being a capable woman in a world that doesn’t like acknowledging that, dealing with sisters, interactions with men of strong character, the pleasures of reading. They’re both clever in a sort of sly way, both sociable, both quite conscious of where they and their families stand in society. I think Latona and Lizzie could be quite good friends.

  • 1. She could not consider the possibility of failure, and as she spoke, the words tasted of cinnamon on her tongue. 
  • 2. Shadow and Water both moved in him, a blend that lent itself to a strange intuition, an ability to hear words unsaid and see things not yet done. 
  • 3. As she turned up towards the Caelian Hill, she saw a knot of girls giggling by a market stall, its shelves stacked high with amphorae of olive oil. Two looked to be sisters, with ebony curls and identical strong hooked noses; another was a dark Numidian with coltish long limbs; the last plump and fair with rosy cheeks. They were about Alhena’s age: common girls and all Aventans now, no matter where their families had come from. ‘The beauty of Aven, there.’ 
  • 4. “I do so enjoy edification. You must promise to tell me all about it,” she said, “especially the curses and depravities, half-naked or otherwise.” 
  • 5. “He thinks you’re the epitome of charm and grace.”
  • “Well, that can’t be right.”
  • “That’s what I told him.” 
  • 6. “Take me to Iberia with you, and you can count on me till you run out of numbers.” 
  • 7. The sky was a languid, lazy yellow, shading to purple only at the eastern edge, and the pale gold of the sun cast a queer yet captivating glow on the brick walls and vermilion rooftops of the sprawling city beyond. From this vantage, none of the buildings seemed to stand at proper angles to each other, but jutted and collided every which way, as though elbowing each other for space just as their inhabitants did in the streets. 
  • 8. Vitellius could no longer tell if the water on his face was ocean spray, rain, or tears. ‘Please. Just let me see the sun.’ 
  • 9. ‘All my life,’ she thought, ‘someone has been telling me what I must not do. Mother, father, husband, priestesses . . . How did it take me till now to realize how heartily sick of it I am?’ 
  • 10. Every Element had its dangerous aspects. Even Light could blind, after all. Time mages were at risk of madness, Shadow mages could fall into darkness— a risk Vibia watched for in her brother— ‘And Fracture mages tend to crack.’
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
I worked at a pizza parlour for three days right as I was starting grad school. I have no problem waiting tables; I’d done plenty of that. This place was an incredibly negative atmosphere. Motivation came through mockery, there was almost no training, basic restaurant procedures were nonexistent. It was just too frustrating, and then the manager topped it off by refusing to acknowledge my class schedule when assigning shifts. So I quit and got a job in the university bookstore instead and was much happier.

Can you define love in your own way?
No. Love is too boundless for any one definition. And I’m not completely sure I’ve figured out what it means for me, yet.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
The 80s. People who were teenagers in the 80s really seemed to enjoy that. Actually, just having been born ten years earlier would’ve been cool -- then I’d have started my teenager years in the 80s and ended them in the 90s, and I feel like I missed out on a lot that was great about the 90s because I was too young. Plus then I would’ve become an adult in the great economy of the 90s rather than the collapsing economy of the 00s.

Where can readers find you?
My main website, which includes my blog as well as information about From Unseen Fire and the Aven Cycle, is I’m @cassrmorris on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads, and cassmorriswrites on Facebook. And any reader who wants special behind-the-page insights, bonus material, and other goodies can join my Patreon at!

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people -- if only she can find the courage to try.

Her siblings—a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition in the province of Iberia—will be her allies as she builds a place for herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?


“‘Rome with magic’ turns out to be exactly the novel I wanted to read. The magic cleverly intertwines with religion, politics, and daily life. The characters appeal, especially the loving portrait of three loyal sisters. There are battles (of course), a budding love story of the illicit kind, some remarkably topical political maneuvering, an awareness of diverse layers of class and ethnicity, and a love of place that shines on the page.” —Kate Elliott, author of Cold Magic and Black Wolves

“A unique and well-studied fantasy take on the Roman world—an alternate world of another name, where ambition is a driving force and magic is real.” —C. J. Cherryh, Hugo-winning author of the Foreigner novels

“Cass Morris brings ancient Rome to life with all its particular details, passions, and political intrigue, and populates it with captivating characters. Then she sprinkles it with magic. Yeah, that’s the stuff.”—Kristen Britain, New York Times bestselling author of the Green Rider novels

“Morris’ epic-fantasy debut melds Roman history and elemental magic into a spellbinding tale of political machinations…. Fans of I, Claudius and Game of Thrones are in for a treat in this series starter. The combination of history, dark and light magic, family, political and religious rivalry, and military conflicts will draw readers from many genres.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Morris’ ambitious debut is rich in detail and intricate in its plotting.” —Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

You can purchase From Unseen Fire (Aven Cycle #1) at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CASS MORRIS for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of From Unseen Fire (Aven Cycle #1) by Cass Morris.