You’ve entered Army of the Cursed into SPFBO 7 — who do you think your target audience is, and what would be your elevator pitch?
My target audience? Epic fantasy readers who enjoy stories with high stakes and don’t have problems with multiple POVs and different locations (I learned the hard way that not everybody enjoys reading with an atlas).
My elevator pitch:
The people of Gorania are on the brink of extinction. Crouching at their borders is an army of demon-possessed immortals that will never stop until every Goranian city is wiped off the face of the earth. While all Goranians realize that their doom is just a matter of time, their fate could be resting in the hands of a hapless trio: a mage’s apprentice who relies on her wits rather than magic; a princess who seeks the ultimate weapon against demons, but first, she has to survive the turmoil of civil war; and a warrior whose swordplay could prove more useful against a threat graver than the bandits infesting his village. Would the three unite before it is too late?
If you’ve read other SPFBO entries in the past few years, which ones did you enjoy?
The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson (if I remember right, it ranked second in SPFBO 2017?). An immersive story with a beautiful prose that I read word-by-word to enjoy every bit of it.
I know the one below is a 2021 entry, but I can’t ignore this SPFBO semifinalist. I’m really glad I came across Zamil Akhtar and his masterpiece Gunmetal Gods. A must-read for grimdark fans.
Who was your favorite character in Kings of the Wyld?
The five old comrades were exquisitely portrayed, so it was hard for me to pick a favorite. While I could easily connect with Clay and sympathize with Gabe, I laughed at Matrick’s reactions and liked Ganelon’s badass moments. But you know what? If I am to hang out with only one of them, it will be Matrick. His company will be fun, I believe.
If someone were to visit Cairo, where/what would you recommend they see/do?
Whether you are into history or not, it’s a shame if you come to Egypt without seeing the only World Wonder still standing.
And yes, expect a sunny, dusty day there, but it’s definitely worth it if you haven’t seen them before.
If you are interested in seeing Egypt’s most famous Pharaonic mummies, in addition to +5000 artifacts that represent the entire story of Egypt’s human history, then your next destination should be the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
Want to know how a bazaar (like the one you saw in Aladdin) looks like in real life? Try not to get lost in Khan El-Khalili
And that’s not everything. It’s nearly impossible to mention every place you should see in a city that has a rich history like Cairo.
Also, to get the full ‘Cairoan’ experience, you must try some Egyptian food. Start your day with falafel, have kebab for lunch and shawarma for dinner (btw we pronounce it kabab and shawerma), and of course, get a taste of oriental dessert.
What’s your current favorite dessert?
Yeah, you asked this question right when you said ‘current.’ Because, you know, the search for the perfect dessert is a never-ending quest.
Last year I discovered a new plate created by a known local restaurant called ‘Antika.’ Simply, it’s a mix of everything I love: vanilla ice-cream, sponge cake, chocolate chips, caramel, custard AND bananas.
And that’s how I feel when I see my ‘Antika’ served. Believe me, I didn’t even notice the camera.
Do you have plans to enter SPSFC, or have you already?
No, I haven’t, but I will surely try my luck there if I write a new sci-fi.
Do you have any coping mechanisms to deal with insomnia? Anything you find that helps?
Recently, I’ve stopped checking my phone in bed, and that helps me fall asleep faster. But still I can’t stay asleep for long, and I refuse to take any kind of medication for that purpose. Power naps surely help me survive the day; however, there is a little catch…
I never get a chance to get that nap because…
What does it mean to be a brand manager?
It means that you are the one who analyzes the market of your brand (in my case, it’s neuropsychiatric products), sets the brand business & marketing strategy, and follows the tactical implementation of that strategy.
A simpler answer: I make a living by persuading people to buy more antipsychotics.
How long do you think you would last if you were sucked into the world of Army of the Cursed?
Hmm…that needs a quick analysis of the facts we have in hand:
Fact #1: Nothing kills the demons roaming the kingdoms of Gorania except silver arrows
Fact #2: I proved in practice that I suck at archery.
(No human beings were harmed during the making of this picture. Fortunately, nobody was behind the target board within a range of 1 kilometer)
Conclusion: I’m done once I set foot there.
What made you go with a six year old protagonist?
In my defense, I wrote that novella “Oath of Blood” just for fun in the beginning 🙂
Alright, let me give you some background to explain why I did this:
Masolon, the protagonist of my first series Tales of Gorania, is an outsider who fled from his barbaric homeland to the more civilized lands of Gorania. In one particular scene in The Warrior’s Path (Book 1 in ToG), he is talking about his harsh childhood, and that he had to make his first kill when he was six.
At a random moment during my break between finishing Tales of Gorania and starting War of the Last series, it came to my mind that the story of the child who learned how to kill when he was six would be an interesting one. Also, writing a child’s POV was something new I was excited to try.
And that’s how Oath of Blood came to life. Later, when I decided to start a newsletter, I set that 28K word novella as a free reader magnet.
By the way, the current version follows the upbringing of Masolon by his cold-hearted father until he turns nine. I really want to reach that point in the future when Masolon and his father face off, but when will I resume writing that tale? I still don’t know.
Thanks a lot for this interview, Esme! Your questions were really interesting, and I did have fun answering them 🙂
Thanks for taking the time!!!