Author Chat with Susan Forest (Bursts Of Fire), Excerpt, Plus Giveaway!
Today we're excited to chat with Susan Forest author of
Bursts Of Fire.
Read on for more about Susan and her book, plus an excerpt and an giveaway!
Meet Susan Forest!
Susan Forest grew up in a family of mountaineers and skiers, and she loves adventure. She also loves the big ideas found in SF/F, and finds fast-paced adventure stories a great place to explore how individuals grapple with complex moral decisions. Susan is also an award-winning fiction editor, has published over 25 short stories, and has appeared at many international writing conventions. She loves travel and has been known to dictate novels from the back of her husband's motorcycle.
Meet Burst Of Fire!
Bursts of Fire begins an epic political fantasy of revenge, addictions, and redemption in an empire where magic has become suspect and where love and loyalty—for one's lover, one's family, one's country—are tested. If Heaven desires the very earth be burned, what place can those below hope for, when the flames come for them?
To survive. To fight. To restore balance.
The Falkyn sisters bear a burden and a legacy. Their mother, the imperial magiel of the kingdom of Orumon, protects her people from the horrors of the afterlife by calling upon the Gods with a precious Prayer Stone. But war among the kingdoms has brought fire and destruction to their sheltered world. When a mad king's desire to destroy the Prayer Stones shatters their family, the three girls are scattered to the wilderness, relying on their wits and powers they don't yet master.
Assassin. Battle tactician. Magic wielder. Driven by different ambitions, Meg, Janat, and Rennika are destined to become all these and more. To reclaim their birth right, they must overcome doubtful loyalties within a rising rebellion; more, they must challenge a dogma-driven chancellor's influence on the prince raised to inherit his father's war: a prince struggling to unravel the mystery of his brother's addiction to Heaven.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
OMG, this is like asking which is my favorite child! I love them all, and for different reasons. But I guess for this question, I'll talk about Meg. She is the central character of Bursts of Fire because she demanded it. She is strong minded and won't back down when things get tough, which makes her admirable in some ways, but she also earns herself enemies because sometimes she can't see her own pig-headedness. But although she becomes wiser through the series, she is still tough as nails, even as she becomes an old woman.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The book, by far. The title has undergone a number of changes as the book morphed. The book, introducing the topic of addictions, focusses primarily on new discoveries: the three sisters (and other characters) are thrown into a new world where they face things they never dreamt they would ever face, including first tastes of alcohol, first kiss, first love, first discovery of a passion to obsess over, first use of magic spells. So, in terms of the series subject matter of addictions, Bursts of Fire looks at the initial, euphoric effects of substances (and addictive behavior), and the thrills, excitement, and seduction they bring. I think Bursts of Fire captures that underlying theme perfectly.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
In addition to my own writing, I teach creative writing at a local community college, and I also read books on writing and attend writers' conferences and belong to writers' organizations, so I am always learning new things about the craft. I've been a planner forever, but over time I have become quite taken with examining the elements that shape an exciting story, particularly the causal chain of character motivation. Something I have begun using in my planning process is what I call "becauses" or "why now?"s. For each scene, I make note of its "because." I have headed off problems with middle sections that make no sense by realizing a certain character might NOT do that thing, or that if they did, an earlier scene needs to be set up differently. It makes creating the first draft a lot easier.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Didn't Samantha do a beautiful job of this cover? The covers of the seven books of the series reflect the seven prayer stones that connect the people of Shangril with the seven Heavens: The Amethyst (purple), Azurite (indigo), Chrysocolla (blue), Emerald (green), Citrine (yellow), Amber (orange), and Ruby (red). Samantha created a canvas with a single, swooping texture divided into seven colors as a template on which to then add details that reflect each book. Once all seven books are out, readers will be able to place them on a shelf, spine out, to see those seven colors reflected. Isn't that awesome?
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2018?
In the YA category, this would be Tess of the Road. Tess is a wonderful character caught in a difficult place, partly her own doing (because of her rebellious nature and how she was raised), and partly out of circumstance (the society she lives in and the needs of her family). So her adventures are deeply rooted in who she is and the world she lives in. The book explores thought-provoking themes about who we are and the decisions we make, in a really inventive world, and with lots of action and adventure to keep the pages turning.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I am super-enjoying working on the stories of the Addicted to Heaven series. Book 2, Flights of Marigolds, throws Meg, Janat, and Rennika into intense adventure spiced with politics, military action, and thievery. It brings in some new characters I absolutely love (ask me about Raoul!), and develops ideas around the effects of industrialization on society. The addictions theme examines the dilemmas of the caregiver, as Meg tries to grope her way through a morass of conflicting courses of action with little guidance. There are no easy answers, only choices with consequences. I've completed a draft of Scents of Slavery (Book 3), and I hope to get into revisions for that this summer and fall. And I want to find some free time to add interesting stuff about the Falkyn sisters and Delarcan brothers on the http://addictedtoheaven.com site.
YABC: Is there anything that you would like to add?
The mountain setting for the series was a joy for me to write because I come from a family of adventurers. My father was the first person to climb all the mountains in the Canadian Rockies over 11,000 feet (53 peaks) and my sister is a full Mountain Guide. I ski, hike, and ride on my husband's motorcycle regularly, but I have also built and slept in snow caves, igloos, and lean-tos; done archery, canoeing, fire arms, horseback riding, wildlife identification, and ax throwing, as well. So writing about the girls' back country travels is something that comes naturally to me.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Okay, I have to say: revision. I do love drafting, too, but sometimes a first draft just has to get recorded on the page, flaws and all, before an idea or thread is lost. But revision! This is where I can take something I basically like, and work at it, and it gets better! I find connections I might not have seen the first time, and the prose just gets deeper and richer. It is super-satisfying.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with my publisher, Laksa Media Groups. My politics tends to the liberal end of the spectrum and I have worked in the helping professions all my life, so Laksa Media, with its emphasis on topics such as mental health/mental illness, care giving, the plight of migrants, and the complexities of addictions—among other issues—is a good fit for me. It is Laksa Media's—and my—belief that by opening such topics for discussion through story, people will come together to address these issues and find solutions. I want to live in a world where people care for themselves, each other, and our planet, and I hope that by bringing these topics to people's attention, we as a society will continue to move in that direction. It's all about hope.
~ Excerpt ~
The door, crafted of Arcan valley oak and inlaid with exotic woods imported from warmer lands—some from as far away as Aadi-of-the-Valley—gleamed in the light of Talanda Falkyn’s candle. Though the hour was late, the door was unguarded. After all, these were days of peace and prosperity in the seven realms of Shangril.
A page admitted her into a dimly lit room. She was expected. Taking her candle, the boy departed and closed the door.
Dwyn Gramaret, King of Gramarye, stood at a generous, glass-paned window. The high tower looked out over his castle’s courtyard and walls, over the dark streets of his city to the peaks and vales of his country, and beyond, to the Gods’ star-spattered heavens.
The king turned and smiled a greeting as she entered. He was a tall man, powerfully built, and he wore a plain robe of fine, Gramarye yak wool. The prayer stone of the Chrysocolla, if he wore it, was not visible.
Yolen Barcley, the only other occupant of the room, rose from his seat before the fireplace. Like Talanda, he wore the simple, unbleached robes of a magiel, and his skin shimmered, a blur of time shifts identifying him as a magic weilder. A scarf was wrapped about his neck, for though it was summer, the high mountains were cold at night and the wind poked chill fingers through chinks in the stone.
“Magiel Falkyn,” Barcley acknowledged her. “Please. Come sit by the fire.” He gestured to a deep chair padded with fleece cushions. “King Dwyn and I are most curious to learn more about what brings you all the way from Orumon.”
“Sieur.” She bowed her head in respect and took the seat he’d indicated. Good beeswax candles and crackling spruce firewood scented the air.
“It is not often two magiels of the Great Houses meet face-to-face.” Barcley poured each of them a glass of wine. An old red, likely from Arcan. “At dinner, you mentioned your retinue has been on an extensive journey.”
King Dwyn took up his goblet. “How can we be of help? I gather you do not merely while away the long summer days?”
Barcley set the wine bottle on the table where it caught the glint of the fire’s glow.
“I have a puzzle,” Talanda said. “My king sent me to resolve it. It . . . may be nothing.”
“Not nothing,” King Dwyn reassured her. “Not if it sent you on such a long pilgrimage.”
“I’ve seen an event in my future that disturbs me.” She let the fingers of her left hand slip up to her throat, to touch the death token hidden in her neck band. “I’ve visited all the kingdoms of Shangril, from Teshe to Pagoras. No magiel of any of the Great Houses has seen what I have seen. Though . . . I haven’t told King Artem’s magiel yet.”
King Dwyn peered at her with sharp eyes.
Barcley cradled his goblet in his lap. “Describe what you saw.”
“First, I must tell you what I haven’t seen.” She rubbed at the fabric on the arm of the chair. “I have seen no future beyond . . . I’m guessing, a year, maybe two, from this summer.”
The king shot Barcley a troubled look.
The magiel’s eyes narrowed. “You suspect your untimely death?”
The words, so plainly spoken, sent a wave of agitation through her stomach. “What I have seen is King Artem’s troops outside Castle Archwood’s walls. In siege.”
King Dwyn set his wineglass down. “How many times have you seen this?”
His lips tensed to one side. “The kingdoms of Shangril have been at peace for five hundred years. We are prosperous. There is no reason for King Artem to attack Archwood.”
“I cannot explain it.”
“You’re certain?” Barcley asked. “Glimpses of the future are fleeting, and by their nature difficult to interpret.”
She knew he did not mean to insult her. “There’s no mistake. The future is the future. I stood on Archwood’s battlements watching archers in the king’s colors shoot flaming brands at our walls, as my king ordered our own soldiers to return fire. By my estimation, this
event will take place soon.”
“You cannot tell how long into the future your travels take you,” Barcley pointed out.
But in this case, Talanda could. “My king’s daughter was present. She was not more than eight years old.”
“And how do the other magiels of the Great Houses interpret what you have seen?” the king asked.
“None has seen evidence of war.”
“Perhaps your king in Orumon will anger King Artem.”
“My king has no cause to provoke Artem. Doubly none, now. In fact, he would make great concessions to avoid trouble.” Talanda leaned forward, resting her wineglass on the table. “I have reason to think the conflict I witnessed is not confined to Orumon.”
“What proof?” the magiel asked.
“The other magiels I spoke with as I toured Shangril this summer,” she said. “Like me, they witness no future beyond a few short seasons.” Kraae, her lover, father of her three daughters, had remarked as far back as fifteen years ago that he’d never seen his old age. He’d dismissed the observation at the time, and so had she. Moments of a life lived out of sequence
were meaningless . . . until over long life, patterns began to emerge. But when Kraae gave her the seed of her second child, his remark came back to her and, as precaution, she’d altered
her second daughter’s heredity. She’d used her magical ability to chose certain bits of her unborn daughter’s makeup; made her less magiel in appearance. Why? She could not have said. A boding. Five hundred years of peace, but . . . talentless worldlings filled Shangril now, in greater numbers.
Magiel Barcley’s face grew somber in the candlelight.
“Many magiels of the Great Houses are advanced in age,” the king pointed out.
“So . . .” Talanda shook her head in disbelief. “All the magiels of the prayer stones will die? Through natural causes? Within the next year?” She held him in her gaze. “Sire, I’m not yet forty years old.”
“These are times of peace,” the king protested. “What event could be heated enough to throw Shangril into the chaos of war?”
“King Artem Delarcan called upon my services, not four weeks past. Did he not make the same request of each magiel of the Great Houses?”
The two exchanged glances. “No magiel acceded—fully—to his demand.”
“But could his unsavory ambition be related to my riddle?” Ambition. Power. Fear of the strength of magiels.
Talanda had pondered her impetuous choice again, long and hard, when Kraae gave her the germ of her third child. This time . . . she removed all hint of the wavering skin that would
mark her youngest a magiel. And the babe had emerged, to the gasp and consternation of all her midwives, fully worldling. In appearance.
Talanda turned to Magiel Barcley. “Sieur. You have lived no longer than I. Your health is good. What futures have you seen, beyond this year?”
The magiel licked his lips, his nostrils wide as he drew breath, and the tendons stood out on the side of his neck above the collar that held his death token.
The fire snapped.
Bursts Of Fire
By: Susan Forest
Release Date: August 2nd, 2019
Publisher: Laksa Media Groups
Two winners will each receive a signed copy of Bursts Of Fire (Susan Forest) ~ (US/CAN Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*
~ Praise for Bursts of Fire ~
Publishers Lunch Buzz Books 2019 Selection
"An emotional story of familial love, tension, and mistrust among three sisters and three brothers . . . devastated by conquest and fanaticism. Readers who relish adventure mingled with a message will be engrossed in the plights of the two sets of siblings."—Publishers Weekly
"Forest depicts strong female characters, with varying motivations and personalities adding plenty of action in daring raids, battles with war machines, and magical time walking, though equal attention is given to exploring relationships between the sisters and their allies. This exciting new series will have fantasy fans eagerly awaiting the next installment."— Library Journal
"The first book in the Addicted to Heaven series promises an exciting political fantasy with realistic representation of mental illness and addiction and is sure to entertain fans of epic adventures."—Booklist