Thursday, April 1, 2021

E.C. Blake Interview - Blue Fire


Photo Content from E.C. Blake

E.C. Blake is a pseudonym of Edward Willett, the award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages. Based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Willett won the Aurora Award (Canada’s top science-fiction award) for Best Long-Form Work in English for his 2009 novel Marseguro (DAW Books), as well as a Saskatchewan Book Award and others, and has been shortlisted for these and other awards many times. His latest novel under his own name, The Moonlit World, Book 3 in his Worldshapers series, came out from DAW Books in September. Willett is also host of The Worldshapers podcast (theworldshapers.com), which features interviews with other science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process. More information about E.C. Blake can be found at: Edward Willett | Award-winning science fiction/fantasy author

        
  


Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
It’s a rather indirect experience, but a teacher friend of mine told me that she had to get after a student for reading in class when he should have been something else. He said, “But teacher, this is the best book ever!”—and it turned out to be one of mine. Reader feedback is always rewarding because writing is a solitary occupation, and you have no way of knowing if the story you poured so much into is having the kind of impact you hope for—or any impact!—on readers unless they tell you.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
It’s an innate human need. Humans have told stories since cavemen were painting records of their hunts on the walls—and probably embellishing the facts as they did so. It’s a mode of communication, a way of both understanding the world as it is and imagining how it might be different—better, or worse, but different. And, of course, stories take us out of ourselves and let us imagine, for a time, that we are other people. That, too, is an important part of understanding the world. We’re all trapped inside our own skulls. How else can we know how others think and feel unless we experience other lives through stories?

Tell us your latest news.
In March, I’ve been busy a) writing The Tangled Stars, my next novel for DAW Books, under my real name, Edward Willett, and b) running a huge Kickstarter campaign to fund Shapers of Worlds Volume II, an anthology featuring science fiction and fantasy from authors who were guests during the second year of my Aurora Award-winning podcast, The Worldshapers. Last year I successfully funded Volume I, featuring first-year guests. This year’s anthology will feature eighteen original stories and six reprints from some of the biggest names in the genre, so it’s very exciting. If it funds, the anthology will be out this fall.

Can you tell us when you started BLUE FIRE, how that came about?
I was driving from my hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan, up north to Meadow Lake—a five-and-a-half-hour drive—and I started thinking about Arthur C. Clarke’s famous dictum that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Electricity, it occurred to me, would certainly seem like magic to those unfamiliar with it. And then I thought, “What if electricity could be controlled by magic?”

That was the seed, and after that, I followed my usual process of asking myself questions: who would have the magic to control “blue fire,” how did they get it, how would they use it, who would want it, who would fight for it…and by the time I got to Meadow Lake, I had the general outline of the story in my head.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I just hope they’re enjoying visiting the world I’ve created and getting to know the young people whose adventures the book details.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d introduce Jinn—who’s a humanoid feline because the goddess his people follow changed his kind to be that way—to my genetically modified Kimonomimi in my earlier space opera Terra Insegura (written as Edward Willett), who are humanoid felines because a genetic engineer changed their kind to be that way. They’d probably have a lot to talk about. Like, how their author is the worst for treating them the way he does…

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
There is only one distraction that keeps me from writing any book: all the myriad other things I have to do that aren’t writing, like email, and writing non-fiction to make a few books, and doing freelance editing (ditto), and let’s not forget the siren song of the Internet, always just a click away…

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I enjoyed introducing them to each other since their respective people have reason to hate and fear each other. Getting them to, eventually, be friends and allies was fun.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Well, read my books, obviously.

Best date you've ever had?
The one where my wife agreed to marry me. It wasn’t the same as the one where I asked her, but eventually, she came around.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
University. I’d study something else and possibly—just possibly—play a little less Dungeons & Dragons and focus a bit more on the other things university has to offer.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Cell phone, reading glasses, wallet, keys.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
Not in the house, but out front: an AstroTurf lawn. (Not weird, I gather, in that part of the world, but weird to me.)

First Heartbreak?
I liked a girl. Awkwardly, my friend liked her, too. Even more awkwardly, she chose someone else entirely. Nothing worse than a love triangle that’s actually a quadrangle, and you don’t know it.

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
When I thought my toddler-aged daughter had somehow gotten out of the house and gone missing. In fact, she was sound asleep—just not visible.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
I went on two European tours with my university choir, the Harding University A Cappella, as an adult alumnus. Both were amazing: four weeks the first time, six weeks the second. I particularly remember visiting Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall and realizing just how fortunate we were to live in the West.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
The very one I was, in the 1970s.

Where can readers find you?
Websites: edwardwillett.com, edwardwillettshop.com, ecblake.com Twitter: @ewillett or @AuthorECBlake Instagram: @edwardwillettauthor Facebook: @edward.willett

My podcast, where I interview other science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process, is at theworldshapers.com, on Twitter @TheWorldshapers, and on Facebook @TheWorldshapers.

My publishing, company, which published Blue Fire, among others, is on the Web at shadowpawpress.com, and on Twitter @ShadowpawPress

TEN QUOTES FROM BLUE FIRE
  • 1. As Petra dumped the vegetables into the wagon bed, he gave Cort a glare that should have called down Blue Fire from Vekrin and fried the other boy on the spot. But Cort, his fellow Priest-Apprentice, his roommate, and supposedly his friend, remained disappointingly unfried.
  • 2. With a crackle, the Fence sprang to life, and a wall of glowing blue light surrounded the Freefolk camp. The hair on Amlinn’s head and arms stirred as though alive, and a sharp smell assailed her nostrils.
  • 3. The night dripped, and Petra dripped with it.
  • 4. Amlinn spun across the stage to the wild, wailing music of the Sun Organ, finger cymbals ringing, bare feet and arms and legs flashing in the light. The ruby in her navel, the coins hanging from her scarlet breast band and headband, and the silver bracelets on her wrists and ankles glittered with every turn. The wide-eyed faces of Citydwellers spun in and through and out of her vision, pale blotches in the light of the sparkglobes hanging above the stage.
  • 5. Blue Fire flashed.
Agony blazed through Petra’s body. His muscles snapped rigid. Clutching his knife, unable to release it, unable to move, unable to breathe, he toppled like a felled tree.
The black mud swallowed him whole.
  • 6. Petra found himself acutely aware of Amlinn’s hand around his waist, acutely aware not only of the fact that she was a girl but that she was a Freefolk girl, a follower of Arrica.
I shouldn’t have anything to do with her!
  • 7. An unearthly howl raked Petra’s ears, raising fresh goosebumps on his arms and the back of his neck. He froze. A second, higher-pitched howl sounded from a different direction, followed by a third, lower-pitched and more distant.
  • 8. Jin took a good look around at the wooded valley in which he had once played and more recently patrolled for so many nights. He knew every tree and rock in it. He wondered if, after tonight, he would ever see it again. Then he smiled. Who cares?
  • 9. A dozen men on horseback burst from the trees like a pack of wolves. Armed with longswords, helmeted, and clad in black-crossed forest-green surcoats over mail shirts, they charged the caravan. Amlinn grabbed her crossbow . . .
  • 10. A searing flash of light made him cry out and throw his arm over his eyes. The loudest crack of thunder he’d ever heard shook the wagon and his very bones. Ears ringing, he jerked his arm down to see smoldering chunks of wood raining down on the boulevard and the buildings all around it. Nothing remained of the tower but a few shattered, blackened logs, a vast circle of glowing flinders, and a rising cloud of blue-grey smoke.
Journey to writing Blue Fire
I’d already written and had published several novels when I set out to write Blue Fire. Although my first four novels were all young adult (Soulworm, The Dark Unicorn, Andy Nebula: Interstellar Rock Star, and Spirit Singer), my books after that, published by my major publisher, New York’s DAW Books, were science fiction, starting with Lost in Translation and then Marseguro and Terra Insegura. Somewhere along in there, I decided I wanted to write a YA novel again. That meant I needed an idea, and as I mentioned elsewhere in this interview, that idea came when I was driving north to Meadow Lake for an author’s event in the public library. I had five and a half hours in the car to think, and what I thought about (as I often do, while driving) was story ideas.

Arthur C. Clarke famously said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” My original idea for Blue Fire was to take that very literally and set a story in a world where people know how to generate and transmit and utilize electricity by non-magical means but believed it to be magic. But that quickly mutated to a world where electricity itself may not be magic, but it’s controlled through magic.

I don’t remember where the idea came from, but at some point, I decided to set up three different segments of society, each of which had a different attitude toward or connection with Blue Fire. Each of them, I decided, also had a different god or goddess—and continuing thinking about that led me to the back story, which is that in the old land across the sea, there was a war among the twelve gods, so devastating that it rendered the land uninhabitable and led to the people in my story having fled across the ocean to a new land a long time ago, where they founded the Kingdom of Nevyana in a long river valley.

Only three gods survived that war, and they agreed to no longer meddle in the affairs of ordinary humans. Before they abandoned them to their own devices, however, they were each allowed to give one final gift.

Vekrin and Arrica, allies in the War, chose to give their followers Blue Fire, though through different means. Vekrin, God of the Earth, placed twelve Blue Fire-generating Godstones along the length of the kingdom. These were the seeds from which sprang twelve cities. Behind their walls, the followers of Vekrin use Blue Fire to generate heat and light and protect the holy order of priests.

Arrica, Goddess of the Sun, gave her followers knowledge of the sunscales, to harvest Blue Fire from the sun; firejars, to store it for use at night; and the Fence, a glowing barrier of Blue Fire that protects them each night as they wander the land, no more bound to one place than the Sun itself. They are led, not by priests, but by an order of wise women.

The third surviving deity, Ell, Goddess of the Moon, fought against Vekrin and Arrica in the War of the Twelve Gods. She changed her followers into humanoid felines with claws, fur, and tails. They became the Nightdwellers, spending their days in hidden caverns in the forests of the wilderness, roaming the land at night—and killing any Daydwellers they found abroad after sunset.

From that background came my characters, one teenager from each of these very different cultures. Petra is a Priest-Apprentice of Vekrin, Amlinn is the daughter of one of the clan leaders of the gypsy-like Freefolk, and Jin is a Nightdweller.

When someone steals the secrets of Blue Fire from the priests and the Freefolk alike, the plot is set in motion. The three teens, who have no reason to love each other to begin with (and, indeed, every reason to hate each other), have to find common ground and work together to save Nevyana from destruction when someone finds a new way to use Blue Fire and tries to use it to seize power.

With DAW Books, I’ve gotten used to simply writing a synopsis and then, once offered a contract, writing the book. But I had no contract for Blue Fire. I wrote it the old-fashioned way, “on spec,” with no home for it guaranteed.

This still predated the real taking-off of the myriad of self-publishing options available now, so I looked for a traditional publisher—and, in 2016, Blue Fire was published, but not under that title. Called Flames of Nevyana, it came out from Rebelight, a fledgling publisher in Winnipeg, under my real name, Edward Willett.

Rebelight, unfortunately, did not last long. With it gone, rights to Flames of Nevyana came back to me, and I decided to republish it under my new publishing imprint, Shadowpaw Press (named after our black Siberian cat, Shadowpaw).

But I can never resist the opportunity for one more rewrite, and so I went through the whole manuscript from start to finish first, editing, fixing, tweaking: nothing major, but things that I judged needed doing.

I commissioned a cover (by Hampton Lamoureux on Reedsy)…and then delayed a while because I had one more place in the traditional publishing world I wanted to run the book by. When they said no, I published it through Shadowpaw Press—and chose to do so under my pen name, E.C. Blake.

The reason? E.C. Blake wrote the Masks of Aygrima trilogy for DAW Books. Masks, Shadows, and Faces, while not published as YA (because DAW doesn’t have a YA line), really are: the main character, who is also the only viewpoint character (except for the prologue), is a fifteen-year-old girl. Blue Fire had always “felt” like an E.C. Blake book to me, and now I got to make it one.

So, it’s been a long journey from that road trip to Meadow Lake most of a decade ago now to this release of Blue Fire, under its original title and under the penname I always thought should be attached to it. I’m hoping more readers will find it now and enjoy getting to know my three characters and their magical, frightening world as much as I enjoyed creating them and it.

From the author of the acclaimed fantasy trilogy The Masks of Agyrima, published by DAW Books, comes another epic YA fantasy adventure

Centuries ago, the people of Nevyana were forced to leave their old kingdom across the sea after it was devastated by the War of the Twelve Gods. The only three gods to survive that war, Vekrin of the Earth, Arrica of the Sun, and Ell of the Moon, agreed they would thenceforth cease to meddle in the affairs of humans – but first, each of them gave their followers a final magical gift.

In different ways, Vekrin and Arrica gave their followers the gift of Blue Fire, a force that could provide light, heat, and protection – or be turned into a powerful weapon. But Ell, who had fought against the other two in the war, chose instead to utterly transform her followers into the Nightdwellers, nocturnal creatures with fur, teeth, and claws.

Enmity quickly arose among the three groups. Now, the Nightdwellers rule the night, killing any ordinary humans they find after sunset. Vekrin’s followers became the Citydwellers, sheltering each night behind stout walls of stone, guarded by the Blue Fire-powered firelances of the priests. And Arrica’s followers became the Freefolk, travelling the wilderness, camping within a fence of Blue Fire but always in danger of Nightdweller attack.

When sacred objects for channelling Blue Fire are stolen, three sworn enemies, Petra of the Citydwellers, Amlinn of the Freefolk, and Jin of the Nightdwellers, set out to find them, and their paths converge on a collision course with the truth. Can they bridge the centuries-old divisions among their communities? Or will Blue Fire, turned to destruction, bring Nevyana crashing down in chaos and bloodshed?


You can purchase Blue Fire at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CREATIVE EDGE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a $15 Dollar Amazon Gift Card.

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12 comments:

  1. "What is your greatest adventure?" The time I was at the Newark airport.

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  2. My greatest adventure was taking a cross country road trip for 3 months by myself.

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  3. Anytime I travel it's my greatest adventure - until the next time.

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  4. My greatest adventure was traveling to Israel in 2018.

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  5. My greatest adventure so far was a trip to Norway, home of my ancestral roots.

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  6. My greatest adventure was living through the year of the pandemic.

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  7. My greatest adventure was driving up the Pacific coast highway. So beautiful and sometimes scary.

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  8. My greatest adventure was going on a cruise to the Bahamas.

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  9. My biggest adventure was moving across the country in 1984.

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  10. My greatest adventure was taking the Amtrak to Texas with a friend.

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