The Author Visits Presents a Week with J. Kathleen Cheney
Calendar of Events
Sunday, September 21: Author Introduction; Kick-off Giveaway
Monday, September 22: Interview with J. Kathleen
Tuesday, September 23: The Author Visits Reviews The Seat of Magic
Wednesday, September 24: An Excerpt from The Seat of Magic
Thursday, September 25: J. Kathleen’s Guest Post
Friday, September 26: What’s Next for J. Kathleen
Saturday, September 27: Announce Giveaway Winner
This winter I’ll turn in the first book in a new series, Dreaming Death.
Here’s the blurb:
Shironne Anjir is a sensitive; the emotions of others continually batter her senses. Her skin is sensitive as well; even the smallest stain or hint of blood is unmistakable to her fingers. Her augmented senses allow her to know things that others don’t, but those talents came with a price–she’s now blind. Determined to put her talents to better use, Shironne has gone to work for the Larossan army’s investigative offices, helping out in investigations that require her special touch. She’s worked hard to make a place for herself there.
Mikael Lee is a member of the Family, the people who form the royal family’s guard. He has a rare talent as well. He’s a broadcaster, his emotions so strong that they can overwhelm others minds, influencing their thoughts and actions. But it’s his dreams they fear the most. He dreams his way into others’ deaths–vague dreams that leave him with few details and sympathetic injuries. He broadcasts those dreams into the minds of any nearby sensitive. For years he’s tried to smother those dreams to keep from inflicting nightmares on others.
A killer has come to the city, taking a life in a manner that can only be blood magic, meant to appease a foreign god. Mikael dreams of the murder, but with Shironne in close proximity in the palace itself, the result is unexpected. Instead of finding his dreams vague, Shironne can actually walk into them, witnessing the crime itself. Despite Mikael’s reluctance to drag someone into his nightmares, it’s an opportunity they can’t afford to ignore….
I’ve actually worked with this setting before, in my short story “Touching the Dead” where Shironne is introduced. (It was published back in 2007 by Jim Baen’s Universe. but it’s up free on my website, too.) So in a way, I’m going back to an older world, one that I built years ago.
If I’m fortunate, this single book will turn into a series, but that contract’s a long way off…
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Guest Post – Wrapping It Up and Letting Go
As I type this, I’m actually supposed to be working on the edits for the third book in my Golden City series, The Shores of Spain. The manuscript is open in another window. Yes, I’m playing hooky.
This is the first time I’ve written the final book in a series. And it’s been a little scary.
If you’ve read the Harry Potter series, you might have noticed that practically every character from the first six books, if not dead, appeared in that final book. Her insistence on including every character seemed a bit heavy handed. She even managed to squeeze in a mention of the bus driver from Book 3. The bus driver! (That was the spot that made me think she was trying too hard.)
Now that I’ve written the final book in a series myself, I understand that impulse better. I felt I needed to let you check in on every character one last time, just so you wouldn’t think I’d forgotten them. I had a plan for almost every one.
But the truth is that I just can’t cram everything into a novel–not without it getting large and unwieldy–so I’m having to pick and choose. It’s often like that when you’re writing….you put things in, hoping that they’ll work, but then end up taking them out when you decide there are too many words. Some just don’t move the story forward. In fact, some even hold the story back.
Even knowing that, I still stressed endlessly over the last few chapters, desperate to finish out the series properly. I tried to tie up every last loose end. I did the best I could…I hope.
And now? I have to let it go.
This is equally weird. My next novel has a totally different setting; I’m leaving the Golden City behind. That doesn’t stop me from hearing about a book on Portuguese history or culture and thinking, “Oh, I should find a copy of that!” Then I have to remind myself that I can’t spend all my time (or money) researching my former setting. I have to focus on the new one.
It’s surprisingly difficult.
I have quibbled a bit. I have a novella that I’ll be putting out sometime over the winter that will go back to the Golden City. I have a couple of others planned out, although not written. I suspect most authors have trouble truly letting go. After all, we put so much time and work into a series. It’s hard not to play in that sandbox forever.
But for writers it’s always on to the next thing, always with a prayer that the next thing will be even more fun, and more successful. Fingers crossed!
Excerpt from The Seat of Magic
Inspector Joaquim Tavares perched on a stool at the far end of the barren stone cell. It was chilly in these rooms. This row of cells with their unadorned granite walls, once dedicated to prayer and meditation, was perfectly suited for preparing the poor of the city for burial. The Monastery of the Brothers of Mercy had once stood on the Street of Flowers not far from where Duilio’s house was now, but had been moved to this spot high above the river, outside the Golden City’s medieval walls. That placed it close to the city’s seminary for orphans. When the city had set a new cemetery in this area in the mid-nineteenth century, the brothers had been the natural choice to handle the final disposition of paupers.
The girl on the stone slab was destined for one of those pauper’s graves marked with a small stone cross. Slim and pretty, with her dark hair trailing off to one side, she lay on the slab as if asleep. Joaquim knew her name—Lena Sousa—but little more. It likely wasn’t her real name anyway. She’d been found Saturday, crumpled in a doorway on Firmeza Street by the elderly woman who owned the home. There had been no blood, no sign of any injury, and her small coin purse had still been in a pocket sewn into the seam of her skirt. If Joaquim hadn’t been notified, she would have gone to her grave nameless. Her disappearance had been reported to the police by another prostitute the afternoon before. Her life had come down to a few lines written on a report and a tattered photograph, quickly forgotten, one of too many dead in a city of this size. The paperwork had been handed off to Joaquim but he had no way to find her family, not without her true name or hometown, so the police turned the body over to the brothers.
But something had told Joaquim not to let this one go.
The girl hadn’t been dead long so there was surprisingly little smell, but watching a doctor take apart a young woman and put her back together always bothered Joaquim. He had never developed the strong stomach he needed for this job.
A discreet tap at the door preceded portly Brother Manoel opening it to allow Duilio inside. Joaquim gestured him over to another empty stool, and Duilio came, looking winded as if he’d run all the way from his house. Likely he had. He shifted his morning coat as he settled atop one of the other stools, then adjusted his well-tied necktie. Joaquim might accuse his cousin of being a dandy if Duilio’s up-to-the-mark garb didn’t make him self-conscious about the shabbiness of his own brown tweed suit.
“So what has he found?” Duilio asked.
“Nothing. Not yet.”
“No sign of it,” the doctor intoned without glancing over.
Duilio got to his feet and crossed the room to where the doctor was replacing the last of the organs he’d removed. Not willing to miss anything exchanged there, Joaquim followed, doing his best not to look at the body lying on the table.
“There are, of course, poisons we can’t trace,” Teixeira added, “but we usually see some damage in the affected organ. Nothing here looks out of the norm except for the heart.”
Duilio leaned closer to peer down at the body, probably looking inside, which was a ghastly thought.
“Is there a poison that affects only the heart?” Joaquim asked.
The doctor shook his head. “Not this way. Not that I’ve ever seen before. It’s possible one exists, but . . .” He exhaled and said, “If you look at the damage to the heart and the tissues around it, it resembles damage done by a bolt of lightning. But that’s not what happened to her.”
“Why not?” Duilio asked.
The doctor laid his hand somewhere on the body and Joaquim forced himself to look. The doctor had pulled the sheet back up to cover most of the girl’s body and her skin had been pulled closed, saving Joaquim from casting up the nonexistent contents of his stomach, but the long incision running down the center of her chest and up to each shoulder was grisly enough. The doctor pointed to the skin above the girl’s left breast. “No evidence of an entry or exit. When lightning strikes, the electricity passes through the body and usually leaves a burn on each end. This is localized to the tissues directly around the heart.”
Joaquim looked up at him. “And what would do that?”
Teixeira glanced over at Duilio and then back. “How familiar are you with healers?”
“A healer did this?” Duilio asked before Joaquim had the chance.
While Duilio continued questioning the doctor, Joaquim gazed down at the girl’s peaceful face, trying to ignore the neat incision just past the edge of her scalp. She hadn’t been more than eighteen. She’d come to the Golden City from the country—unfortunately, her friend hadn’t known from what town—looking for work. It saddened him that prostitution was the only work she’d been able to find. He should stop by a church tonight and light a candle for her. Since her family couldn’t know she was dead, he doubted anyone else would be praying for her soul.
Interview with J. Kathleen Cheney
If you haven’t heard of J. Kathleen Cheney or read any of her books, then I hope this interview sheds light on an incredibly original book by a truly interesting author. Enjoy my interview with J!
Veena: Welcome J! It’s great to finally sit down with you! I have so many questions about the The Seat of Magic!
J: Thanks for inviting me. I am glad to be here.
Veena: Let’s jump right into the interview then. How did you come up with the concept for the series, Tales from the Golden City?
J: My original concept for the story was one of a woman who witnesses a crime, but can’t report it because she’s illegal. It took months for that to flesh out in my mind, the idea that she was illegal because she wasn’t human. So I decided that she was a siren instead, and had to figure out exactly what a siren was and how their magic worked.
Veena: And how did the idea for the sea people (Sereia, Selkie) evolve?
J: The sereia are sirens; sereia is just the Portuguese word for siren. I never have really liked the tail idea, but I wanted to have some logic for why humans would think they had tails, so I came up with the idea of protective coloring instead. I figured that to live in the sea, they had to have gills and some sense that allowed them to read vibrations, which gave me the webbing between their fingers. The selkies are stolen more directly from folklore, but in order to flesh out their culture I looked to actual seal behaviors. They vary widely from species to species, so I stole the traits that work for me, especially the large harems. That helped explain why we see so many more stories about female selkies than male selkies.
Veena: You’ve set your books in Portugal – what inspired the selection of the location? Have you traveled to Portugal?
J: I picked Portugal at first because the geography suited my water needs. However, the more I researched it, the better the country’s history seemed to fit. Their literature fit in well with my story (especially The Lusiads), and I just kept finding little historical tidbits that would work for me (like the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed Lisbon in 1755). Along the way, I fell in love with the place. And yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel there. My husband kindly agreed to go there for our first vacation in five years. We spent a couple of weeks there and got to see a lot of things that are in the books. (Sadly, the Titan on the southern breakwater at Matosinhos had been taken in for refurbishment, so I didn’t get to see it up close. We couldn’t get anywhere near the northern one.) Portugal is quite friendly toward English speakers, by the way, so I highly recommend it as a starting point in Iberia.
Veena: And why the early 1900s as a period to set the book in?
J: I really enjoy this time period, and also set a series of novellas in 1905 (in Saratoga Springs, NY, though.) It’s an interesting time, one in which people were beginning to question their governments, their religion, and the role of women in the world. It’s a pivotal time in Europe.
Veena: How much research went into world-building? Did you build your world first then write The Golden City?
J: Tons and tons of research. I do my research while I’m writing. I generally have about nine months to write a book. That doesn’t allow me to take time off for the research. Once I’m writing, a great deal of my spare time goes to research of one kind or another. I continue researching after the books are turned in because I can make necessary changes when the edits come around.
Veena: What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals?
J: No rituals. I prefer quiet, but can rarely get that with two very loud dogs, so I often head off to the bagel shop to hide from them for a few hours.
Veena: What do you do for downtime from writing?
J: Chase dogs. Watch TV series on DVDs (I’m perpetually a few seasons behind.)
Veena: How many books will be in the Tales from the Golden City?
J: At this point, there are only three planned. There should also be a novella coming out before the next book, though.
Veena: What are some of your favorite genres and who are some of your favorite authors?
J: Well, I’ve always loved F & SF, and from that pool I would pick out C.J. Cherryh and Ansen Dibell. Mystery is also a favorite, where I prefer Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Margaret Miles. From Romance, I would choose Georgette Heyer, Mary Balogh, and Julia Quinn.
Veena: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
J: Yep. I always had stories in my head that needed to get out.
Fun facts about J.
Favorite band: HEM
Favorite snack: Chips and salsa
What’s on your nightstand? Books (so many books!), a kindle, reading glasses, table lamp, timer, and a bottle of water.
Favorite gadget: Kitchen timers.
A place you’d like to visit? Hmmm….so many choices…Seattle. I’ve never been up there.
#1 on your bucket list? Doing the Camino de Santiago (pilgrimage across northern Spain.)
Favorite quote? Never, never, never give up. Winston Churchill
Advice to aspiring writers? Good ideas are a dime a dozen. To be a writer, you have to sit down and actually pound out that good idea. It’s work. Nice work if you can get it, but still…work.
Thanks for stopping by and getting to know J!
Book Title: The Seat of Magic
Series: Tales from the Golden City
Author: J. Kathleen Cheney
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Publisher: Roc Trade
Date: July 1, 2014
Where to buy:
Blurb: Magical beings have been banned from the Golden City for decades, though many live there in secret. Now humans and nonhumans alike are in danger as evil stalks the streets, growing more powerful with every kill…. It’s been two weeks since Oriana Paredes was banished from the Golden City.
Police consultant Duilio Ferreira, who himself has a talent he must keep secret, can’t escape the feeling that, though she’s supposedly returned home to her people, Oriana is in danger. Adding to Duilio’s concerns is a string of recent murders in the city. Three victims have already been found, each without a mark upon her body. When a selkie under his brother’s protection goes missing, Duilio fears the killer is also targeting nonhuman prey.
To protect Oriana and uncover the truth, Duilio will have to risk revealing his own identity, put his trust in some unlikely allies, and consult a rare and malevolent text known as The Seat of Magic….
About J. Kathleen Cheney
Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, “The Golden City” was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). The sequel, “The Seat of Magic” came out July 1, and the final book in the series, “The Shores of Spain” will come out July 2015.
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