Please welcome Amy Raby to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Assassin's Gambit (Hearts and Thrones 1) is out today! Happy Publication Day to Amy! You may read Amy's Guest Blog - Dangerous Women - here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Amy: Thanks, it's great to be here!
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Amy: I started writing about 6 years ago for what I think is an unusual reason: my marriage was falling apart. I was lonely and sad, and writing gave me comfort. I started off writing fantasy and later, after my divorce, switched to fantasy romance. Writing about relationships helped me process the confusing emotions I was dealing with at the time. And writing about heroes who were faithful and loving to their heroines helped me steer clear of cynicism.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Amy: I like TONS OF FEEDBACK on my work. Most writers I know have a handful of beta readers. But for Assassin's Gambit, I had about twenty! I like to hear a variety of opinions on each chapter from people from all different backgrounds, including people who don't like romance in general and even people who specifically don't like my work. Feedback from those who like my writing helps steer my novels in the right direction for my target market, while feedback from those who don't like it tends to be harsher and often fussier about locating plot holes and other errors in execution.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Amy: Both. I'm right in the middle. I don't start writing my novel until I have most of the major structural pieces worked out in my head (inciting incident, turning points, black moment, climax, etc.). I remember that when I started Assassin's Gambit, I knew all the novel's turning points but hadn't figured out the ending. That came later, toward the end of the drafting process. I don't write a detailed outline. Instead, I write a quick, skeletal first draft, and then I edit that into a second draft that will be pretty close to final. The final draft may have almost no resemblance to the first draft.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Interleaving storylines. I always have at least two major threads in a novel, an adventure thread and a romance thread. I like to balance these, placing about half the story emphasis on each. But I usually have a few subplots going on too, and I like my stories to have a lot of twists and surprises. Organizing all of this and massaging it into a coherent story such that the different threads support and build upon each other is always my biggest challenge.
TQ: Describe Assassin's Gambit in 140 characters or less.
Amy: It's a fantasy romance novel about an assassin who falls in love with the man she's supposed to kill.
TQ: What inspired you to write Assassin's Gambit?
Amy: I had written another book in which the hero, Lucien, had appeared as a minor character. He stole every scene he was in, and I knew I had to feature him in a novel of his own. And then I had to invent a heroine to pair him with. The heroine, Vitala, needed to be a strong character, otherwise he would overshadow her. I figured that since Lucien was an expert at the game Caturanga, the heroine should be good at it too, maybe even better than he was. And then I came up with the idea of having her be an assassin sent to kill him, using a Caturanga game to get close.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Assassin's Gambit?
Amy: I did a lot of research on both assassins in history and secret societies in general. I knew I needed Vitala's training and origins to be convincing, because so much about her character was shaped by those early experiences. I also read several books about PTSD. I read a book about prosthetics, because Lucien is an amputee and his difficulties with his prosthetic leg are a minor subplot of the novel. And I read books about battlefield strategy, including Sun Tzu's "Art of War," just to make Lucien's dialogue more convincing. I'm the sort of writer who does research almost constantly throughout the drafting of a novel. It always deepens the novel, and it often inspires new ideas.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Amy: Vitala was the easiest because she has such a deep backstory. I always knew how she would react to things, and what her emotional state would be. Lucien was the hardest, but only because, among other things, he's an orator, and he gives several short but important speeches throughout the course of the novel. Writing those speeches was difficult. I read a lot of classic speeches from history to get a sense of the appropriate style.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Assassin's Gambit?
Amy: I'll chose one from the beginning so I don't spoil anything major. I like the scene where Vitala and Lucien meet for the very first time and play a game of Caturanga. Vitala is supposed to be seducing Lucien, but she gets so involved in the game--because Lucien is such a challenging and fascinating opponent--that she forgets herself. She's supposed to seduce and kill him. Instead, she discovers that she likes him. And that's not a good thing for an assassin.
TQ: What's next?
Amy: I have another book in this series coming out in October. It's called SPY'S HONOR, and it's the story of Lucien's cousin Rhianne. It's actually a prequel, so we back up a few years to the time when Lucien's father was emperor and Lucien was the heir. The emperor is controlling and impossible to please. Lucien and Rhianne both suffer under his rule, and when Rhianne falls in love with a Mosari spy rather than the man the emperor has chosen for her to marry, all hell breaks loose.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Amy: Thanks so much for having me!
About Assassin's Gambit
Hearts and Thrones 1
Signet, April 2, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
Vitala Salonius, champion of the warlike game of Caturanga, is as deadly as she is beautiful. She’s a trained assassin for the resistance, and her true play is for ultimate power. Using her charm and wit, she plans to seduce her way into the emperor’s bed and deal him one final, fatal blow, sparking a battle of succession that could change the face of the empire.
As the ruler of a country on the brink of war and the son of a deposed emperor, Lucien must constantly be wary of an attempt on his life. But he’s drawn to the stunning Caturanga player visiting the palace. Vitala may be able to distract him from his woes for a while—and fulfill other needs, as well.
Lucien’s quick mind and considerable skills awaken unexpected desires in Vitala, weakening her resolve to finish her mission. An assassin cannot fall for her prey, but Vitala’s gut is telling her to protect this sexy, sensitive man. Now she must decide where her heart and loyalties lie and navigate the dangerous war of politics before her gambit causes her to lose both Lucien and her heart for good.…
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