Without further ado, here's Alexis!
As far as the ordinary people are concerned, mystech is a gift from the gods to make their lives better and easier. It represents the real, ongoing, and obvious presence of a divine being for them, so it bolsters their faith rather than weakening it. But you're right that even gifts from the gods lose their sheen of wonder after a few decades of widespread use. People in Ghavarim have grown complacent in the everyday use of divine power. This will play heavily into the next volume, when the momentous events of the first two volumes will have dramatic and lasting impacts on how the people view their relationship with the gods.
Which scene or character was your favorite to write?
I love Atandre Teneri, the tortured Lord Commander of the Crimson Fist. He doesn't even get that much time on the stage, but he touches so many of the characters, both directly and indirectly, in ways that are going to ripple through society and change the course of their history. There's a scene early in the book where Nole tells Jason that Atandre Teneri doesn't strike him as a legendary figure, and by the end of the series I expect that readers will wholly disagree with that assessment.
All of the scenes with Nilya and Verse were also a lot of fun to write. I love their banter, and their interactions felt very real and easy for me to get down. Jason was a lot harder. As you (and others) have noted, he comes off as a little bland and dense at times in the book. He was a challenge for me because I was trying to portray him as being out of his depth in Adaron to set him up to be awesome later, and I might have succeeded a little too well with that. The events at the end of this book will have lasting and profound changes on him, though, so I'm excited to see how people react to the character arc I've got planned for him in the next few volumes.
I enjoyed the way you bounced between two major POV characters and two minor ones. Are you going to pull in more eyes—maybe a different Westerner after we’ve seen so many of them act with greed?
I do plan to introduce a few new POVs as the story unfolds, and I think that 4-5 total POVs is just the right number for a book of this size without being overwhelming. It's important to remember that Nilya is a Westerner, though she might not seem like it at times. She's a lower/middle-class Westerner, and the lens through which she views her world is very distinctly Istkherian.
I'd like to get more women into the story as pivotal characters, too. Kinsey is an obvious choice with how involved in Adaron politics she is, and the Lady Sil Valkor has a younger sister who's going to be very interested in what happened to her older sibling. We also haven't heard much at all about Jason's mother, who is going to be more involved in the next volume.
Tell us more about the social systems of sexuality in this society. People take same-sex bedfellows in adolescence, apparently don’t have sex in early adulthood, and then graduate into opposite-sex marriages—people who retain homosexual preferences in adulthood are seen as childish, while those having heterosexual sex outside of marriage are scorned as “breedlusts.” It’s a fascinating dynamic, and I’d love to hear more about how you came up with it, or how you see it developing in future books.
So many people ask about this! It's actually been really fun coming up on a take on this that I hadn't seen done before. The whole social system hangs on one simple idea: That any sex which could result in a child is sacred, and should only occur with the blessing of the gods. In this society, they've never developed strong cultural mores against same-sex relationships because there's no chance of procreation there, and sexual encounters between two people of the same sex are looked upon as sort of akin to masturbation. This is why teens, with their raging hormones, are encouraged to seek a same-sex partner out (though of course many don't). It developed as kind of a "safe" societal alternative which allows them to explore their bodies, learn to navigate relationships, and address their need for intimacy without risking a pregnancy. Most people play along because there are strong social taboos against out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Then, there's also a culture of arranged marriages. People come to love their significant other with time and work, because it's the thing that's expected of them.
Obviously, people's lived experiences don't always match up with society's expectations, though. Girls sometimes get pregnant, men and women are labeled as "breedlusts" and ostracized. Some people (strongly attracted to the same sex) chafe at the idea of leaving their bedfellows. And some never do. I think future books will continue to play with this idea of how individuals within a society often step outside society's approved mold and have to find a way to make their life work anyway. The social framework is one of the things that makes this world really unique, in my opinion.
You obviously put a lot of work into publicity for the novel and got lots of reviews. As an editor, I have a lot of authors asking me how to do that. What advice do you have for great writers who aren’t quite sure how to promote self-published work?
The hardest thing to do, in my opinion, is to get over your fear of reaching out and asking people for help. I think people are so afraid of being seen as desperate, or pushy, or of just getting rejected in general. But if you're an indie, you need to get over that and be willing to pitch your book to a lot of people for the sake of your business. People might turn you down, and some people might even be rude about it, but plenty of people won't. Some of them will help you, whenever and however they can. And the ones who don't or won't might have a million reasons not to other than the self-conscious ones you're probably afraid of. Amanda Palmer talks about this in great detail in her book The Art of Asking.
I'd also suggest that you really need to roll up your sleeves and get ready to work. I'm extremely active on social media, and I reached out to hundreds of bloggers and reviewers to talk about my book directly. It's not easy to drum up a list of reviewers and book bloggers in your genre. I hunted leads for hours each day for almost an entire week, until my hands were cramping and my eyes were blurry. You need to be professional, be courteous, and have a great pitch. You also need to respect their preferences, book tastes, and their policies. And then you also need to be okay with it if they say no, and courteous even if they don't like your book.
What are you writing next? A Vanishing Glow is obviously begging for a sequel or three, but do you have something else waiting in the wings?
Oh my gosh, Laura. There's so fun stuff coming that I can hardly keep up with my own schedule! I have a short horror collection coming out soon, titled "Click and Other Stories." If you check out my Wattpad account (@Lexirad), I have the first one of those up for people to read right now: a creepy story about a blind, echolocating hiker in the mountains of Montana. Then I also have a novelette planned in the same universe as A Vanishing Glow which gets into more of the history of the Federation. There will be lots of familiar faces in that, and I expect readers will enjoy it quite a bit.
I'm planning the next volume of the Mystech Arcanum series, tentatively titled "A Reaping of Souls," I'm almost finished working on another novelette which is a modern scifi love-story revolving around virtual reality and immortality, and in 2016 I expect to roll out the first book of a completely different series I'm starting which will be about superheroes in a comic book-type setting. Oh! And I almost forgot about the audiobook version of A Vanishing Glow, which is in production now and should be out before Christmas. So yes, I'm a busy lady, haha.
Thanks again for joining me today! We'll be look forward to those other projects, and with all that cross-genre writing, it sounds like there's something for everyone.
Alexis Radcliff is an author, gamer, unashamed geek, and history junkie who spent the better part of a decade working in tech before dedicating herself to her first love, literature. A VANISHING GLOW, her debut novel, is the opening book in her MYSTECH ARCANUM series, an exciting blend of steampunk and flintlock fantasy with mature themes.
Alexis lives and works in the Portland area with her adorable (if surly) cat and her equally adorable husband. When not writing, she spends her time reading, running, playing way too many videogames, and thinking too much about everything.