Author Spotlight Double Feature
Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Today I'm joined by the amazingly talented Carol Berg *AND* Cate Glass, who just happen to be the same person. ;) I've been fortunate enough to attend a few of Carol's writing workshops, so I can say with certainty that she knows her stuff. But if my word isn't enough for you, she's also received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, been honored as the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' "Writer of the Year" twice, and earned the Colorado Book Award FOUR TIMES, including the most recent one on May 2020 for An Illusion of Theives. Thanks Carol, for taking the time to share some background on yourself and your books!
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
When my kids were all in school, and I was halfway through a software engineering career! I had never believed I could write a whole story, much less a story like those I loved reading. Then a friend teased me into exchanging letters with her “in character”. I was hooked on day 1. I was a late bloomer!
What does literary success look like to you?
Of course I love good royalty checks, good reviews, and awards. But success is hearing from happy readers. Readers who say they reread all my books once a year. Or the time a young man came up to me at a convention autographing and told me that he wanted to thank me. He had pulled one of my books out of a box of donated books when he was serving in Afghanistan—a place he didn’t want to be—and that it made him look at his situation differently and get through his time there. And a young woman who wrote to me that one of my series helped her through a really tough time in her life, and another who said they made her start reading again. Stories like that are priceless.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer? Do you like it?
Not any more. I took an early out from my software engineering career – which I liked very much – when I started writing under deadlines. I still miss those paychecks, but I don’t miss the work!
How many hours a day do you write? Or how many words?
Anywhere between -1000 and +3000 words and all day (when I am in the middle of a book). Even the -1000 word days can be very successful days, because it usually means I’ve figured out where something went astray and I’ve fixed it.
Who are your favorite authors?
Dick Francis, Jane Austen, Ellen Kushner, Roger Zelazny, Robin Hobb, Tony Hillerman, Charles Dickens… Many.
What books have influenced your life the most?
All of them together. I didn’t leave the state of Texas until I was 19. There was no internet, no Google. We had no TV until I was 12. All my adventures and travel and encounters with people unlike those I knew were from books – mostly fiction! Even as the other things came into my life, I always ranged farther and deeper through stories. I would say that Lord of the Rings, though not my most favorite book, was powerfully influential, in that it transformed fantasy from the realm of Alice in Wonderland and Edith Hamilton mythology into a world that felt real, complete, and believable, and encompassed issues like courage and commitment, the costs of war, and the meaning of friendship. When eventually I did start writing, I wanted my very different stories to reflect that same completeness (no I did not create my own linguistics!!), believability, and depth.
How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Very little besides time and brain cells, because otherwise they would be totally boring! But, of course, it is impossible to keep my own opinions about what courage is, what truth is, and such like important considerations out of my stories. I do have one character in Daughter of Ancients who is good at math, bothered by heights, and very opinionated. She is probably the nearest to me of all my creations!
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you? (plotter or pantser)
I call what I do organic story development. To me the word “pantser” implies that you sit down with a blank page with no end in mind except the end of the book. Instead of that, I start with a seed: a character, a setting, and an event in mind. I need to get the slave back to the prince’s house. I need to get the librarian into the king’s service to investigate a murder. I need Anne to see the place where her sister was found dead. Whatever. I have more or less knowledge of the world I’m in. (Certainly not all of it, even when I am writing sequels.) Then I start writing. As I write I set the event in motion and think – at that moment – how does this character react? What does that reaction tell me about that character? Who else is there and why? As I write the scene, I decide what else I need to include in this setting to make the scene more sensory. More vivid. And then, how do those details inform the world that includes the setting? Etc. Etc. That isn’t flying by the seat of your pants. That is growing new things from known things.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
Extremely important. Many people believe that writing secondary world fantasy exempts you from research. Not true! If you want to make your story and your world believable, you have to make sure that the elements you choose, from geography and current technology, to food and transportation, to the logical underpinnings of magic fit together seamlessly. I’ve written my own versions of the Age of Reason, the Italian Renaissance, the 12th century, and other time periods. I use maps, herbals, science timelines, books about ships, about tidepools, about manuscript illumination, and ink making, and men’s societies of Florence. It’s all part of the fun. I believe that you can make anything happen in fantasy, but if you fail to build in logic, the reader will feel cheated.
Do you try more to be original or deliver to readers what they want?
I started out writing stories that I love and never found any reason to quit doing that. If I’m going to live with characters for a year or more and read their words dozens and dozens of times, I want to love them! Plus, I know I do better work on a book if it’s a story I am passionate about. Among the best things I can hear from a reader are, “I never read anything quite like your books” or “I had given up reading fantasy, until I read your work.”
What have you edited out of your books?
Extra words. Lots of words. I tend to write descriptions and my protagonist’s musings very completely as I am figuring out where I am in the world and what exactly is going on. Once I have a good understanding of those things (ie. when I reach the end) I can strip out a lot of verbiage. My books range from 90K to 190K words in size. The most I ever stripped out from a finished manuscript was 23,000 words (but it was one of the longest of my books.) Sometimes I introduce plot threads that don’t end up going anywhere, so those are ripe for stripping, too. For A Summoning of Demons, I didn’t actually have to remove much of anything (except a few extra words). Almost all of my revisions were clarifications of what was there.
What was your hardest scene to write?
For Summoning, it was the climax. My heroine’s particular magical talent in the Chimera world is the ability to immerse herself in an impersonation so completely that she thinks and acts as that person. She is totally convincing. She has to build that character so that the actions she needs will flow from that persona. But still she tried to maintain a “presence” inside that persona so that she can be sure to influence her “character” in complex situations. Essentially there were multiple narrative streams that I had to keep clear to the reader during the climactic events: what the false character thinks and observes, what is actually happening around her, and what Romy herself is trying to accomplish…well it could easily be very confusing. But I think I managed it! We’ll see.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Strong, complex characters from the major to the minor. And the choice, rhythm, and flow of the words themselves. I think that most of them end up in a different place than the reader expects when starting out, but the endings are always hopeful.
What did you enjoy most about writing the Chimera series?
The first book of the Chimera series was the story of how my little group of outlaw sorcerers got together and became the agents of their city’s strongman. The second was how a simple assignment from their employer led them into a dangerous conspiracy that took all their magical capabilities to unravel. And for this third one, I loved that I was able at last to explore some of the truths behind the mythology of the world – the mysteries that have caused the powers-that-be to try to eradicate sorcerers.
How do you come up with your titles?
A Summoning of Demons is my eighteenth book. Most of my earlier titles were inspirations derived from the plot as I was writing the book or beginning the series. For some reason the first two Chimera series’ titles were a little harder. But after much gnashing of brains, trying to capture the heist/caper/adventure flavor of these books with the magical overtones – a genre a bit lighter than the epic/mythic character of my Carol Berg books – my editor came up with An Illusion of Thieves. I knew it was perfect when she suggested it. Tor is big on series title similarities, thus when my small group of magical spies got involved in an assassination plot, we came up with A Conjuring of Assassins. And I informed her that once I had gotten into the meat of book three A Summoning of Demons was the only possibility. After she read it, she agreed wholeheartedly.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
I would like to think that it is a fun, absorbing adventure with great characters and some unexpected twists.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I spend my writing days designing demons and investigating all those topics I listed above. What could be more quirky than that?
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Get more sleep.
Here are links to a couple of Carol/Cate's books to whet your appetite:
National bestselling author Carol Berg returns to the world of her award-winning Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone with an all-new tale of magic, mystery, and corruption....
How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her....After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries—beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.
But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad—and mad sorcerers are very dangerous....

Find in on

Amazon or Indie Bound
A Conjuring of Assassins is Cate Glass's second adventure with the Chimera team, a ragtag crew who use their forbidden magic for the good of the kingdom.
Romy and her three partners in crime—a sword master, a silversmith, and her thieving brother—have embraced their roles as the Shadow Lord's agents, using their forbidden magic to accomplish tasks his other spies cannot.
Now, the Shadow Lord needs them to infiltrate the home of the Mercediaran Ambassador and prevent him from obtaining information that would lead to all-out war with Cantagna's most dangerous enemy.
To succeed, they will have to resurrect long-buried secrets, partner with old enemies, and once again rely on the very magics that could get them sentenced to death.

Find in on

Amazon or Indie Bound

About Carol

Carol Berg’s eighteen fantasy novels have won four Colorado Book Awards and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, both under her own name and her pseudonym Cate Glass. Carol is a regular presenter/panelist at writers conferences and fantasy/sf conventions and is a two-time Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Writer of the Year. All of this is amazing to a former software engineer who majored in math at Rice University and computer science at the University of Colorado in part to avoid writing papers. Carol’s newest work is A Conjuring of Assassins by Cate Glass, from Tor Books. A Summoning of Demons arrives in February 2021.