Today I’m thrilled to share a Q&A and excerpt from bestselling author Sally Green’s upcoming fantasy novel, The Smoke Thieves. The Smoke Thieves is the first book in a new trilogy said to be perfect for fans of Game of Thrones. Check out the excerpt below and let us know what you think!
Q&A With Sally Green:
Where did the idea for The Smoke Thieves come from?
The Smoke Thieves took a few years to get going and had a bit of a false start. I had an idea of a father and son demon hunting team (still a great concept in my opinion), and started to write but it never properly got going. My heart wasn’t in it and I wasn’t sure what I was trying to say in the story. It took me a while to realize that the problem was that I wasn’t really interested in demons and I’d done a father son relationship in my last trilogy (Half Bad), but what I was interested in was writing my version of a strong female character.
So I changed the son in the father/son team to a girl, Tash, and made her demon hunting partner her ‘owner’ not her father. But I still wasn’t satisfied so I introduced the character of Princess Catherine and she transformed the story. Catherine is privileged as she’s a princess, but she’s also a second-class citizen with few rights as she’s female. In The Smoke Thieves Catherine is being married off to a prince she’s never met by her father who is a violent and ruthless king. And Catherine begins to realize that she’s being used by her father to do more than just form a marriage. This first book is the start of Catherine’s journey, as she tries to work out what her father is really up to and why there is a mystery about the demon smoke.
When I started writing about Catherine I instantly went from ‘I can’t think of anything to write’ to ‘let me at that keyboard’.
Do you consider yourself a pantser, plotter, or something in between? What was your process while writing The Smoke Thieves?
I’m definitely a pantser. I’ve tried to plan on paper, charting steps out, but it just doesn’t work for me at all – I find it a real turn-off. But I do have a plan though it definitely remains in my head for the start of the book and when I feel that I know what the characters are up to I will write the plan down as a sort of synopsis. I tweak it virtually every day when I’m writing my first draft.
I start with a character and a theme. The theme for The Smoke Thieves is a female ambition and leadership. And of course I made the story harder for myself by starting with five protagonists rather than just one. I kept thinking of someone else who I wanted to involve!
The Smoke Thieves follows a princess, a traitor, a hunter and a thief, and includes some fantastically intricate world building. Did you have to do any research to write this novel? What did you find most challenging in building the world?
The world building wasn’t that hard and it’s something I enjoy doing and I try to use places I know or have visited as influences. The hardest part was conceiving of the demon world – though it doesn’t feature that much in this first book it will do in the next one and I had to figure out how it would work and how you’d get from the human world into that of the demons. I didn’t really do research for the demons or the worlds but did spend a lot of time thinking about them and what I was trying to say.
The most research I did wasn’t into the worlds but was into people as I wanted to understand female rulers. I knew a bit about Elizabeth I (I’m English, and we’re taught about her in school) but I also read about Catherine The Great of Russia, who was a real surprise and quite influential on my storytelling. I wanted to get a feel for women who were intelligent, ambitious and who took power rather than having it thrust upon them.
What did you enjoy most about telling this story?
Well, I do love all my characters but some I love a little more than others, and I definitely preferred to write Tash’s and Edyon’s stories.
Edyon is the student with a bad habit of stealing things on impulse. He’s wonderful as a character because he’s basically a nice, harmless guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly, but who makes a series of wrong choices that get him into progressively more serious and dangerous situations. The challenge for me was to think of increasingly awful things to happen to him!
Tash is the lively, confident teenage partner of the demon hunter, Gravell, and they have great and silly conversations where Tash can seem more adult than Gravell.
I had the best fun writing the bathhouse scene which Tash and Edyon are both in though I can’t say more for spoiler reasons.
If you had to sort your main characters into Hogwarts houses, which houses do you think they would be in?
Ha ha, that’s a good question…
Princess Catherine – my immediate reaction was Gryffindor for her bravery but actually she is Slytherin for her ambition, which is her overriding trait.
Tash, the demon hunter, is Gryffindor for her bravery, daring and nerve.
Ambrose, the soldier, is Gryffindor – chivalry is his raison d’être
March, the servant, is Hufflepuff as he’s hardworking, dedicated and extremely patient. And though some may say he’s not loyal he is actually loyal to his ancestry and his roots.
Edyon the student is Ravenclaw for his intelligence and knowledge, but mostly for his wit. I think his thieving tendencies fit well here too.
If you could spend a day with a character from The Smoke Thieves, who would it be and why?
Actually, it would be with Prince Tzsayn, the man Catherine is going to be married to. He is a bit of mystery, but he is charming, witty, clever, extremely well dressed and can be a lot of fun if he’s in the mood. He’d be great to spend the day with – chatting during the day and partying in the evening.
What were your favorite books when you were a young adult? Did that influence your own writing at all?
That was so long ago – before the invention of YA! I did seek out books with strong female characters but there seemed to be so few and mainly the ones with strong girls such as ‘Swallows and Amazons’ were for slightly younger readers. But I loved things with adventure and travel and brave characters. There’s so much more choice now – I’d have enjoyed reading a lot more. When I write I try to imagine what I would have loved to read when I was a teenager.
About the Book
A princess, a traitor, a hunter and a thief. Four teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Four nations destined for conflict.
In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a loveless political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town. And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell.
As alliances shift and shatter, and old certainties are overturned, our four heroes find their past lives transformed and their futures inextricably linked by the unpredictable tides of magic and war. Who will rise and who will fall? And who will claim the ultimate prize?
About the Author
Sally Green lives in northwest England. She has had various jobs and even a profession, but in 2010 she discovered a love of writing and now just can’t stop. She used to keep chickens, makes decent jam, doesn’t mind ironing, loves to walk in Wales even when it’s raining, and will probably never jog again. She really ought to drink less coffee. She is the author of the Half Bad trilogy. Follow her @Sa11eGreen.
The Smoke Thieves will be for sale on May 1, 2018!