Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Author Spotlight: Kat Ross

Today I'm happy to welcome author Kat Ross:

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Why is this question always so hard? I guess I find my characters more interesting than I am, which I why I like living in their heads! But let's see…I live a bit north of New York City—close enough that I can hop on a train when I'm in the mood for crowds and dirt and good Thai food, but far enough that raccoons regularly break into my kitchen. I write a lot at my local library, just to get out of the house and be forced to wear pants and shoes. This is sadly necessary. I love movies but don't watch much TV.

2. When did you start writing, and why?

I loved to write fiction as a kid, but ended up in journalism for many years (I still do some part-time work as an editor). About six years ago I was dreaming out loud to a friend about going back to it, and she encouraged me to just set aside 15 minutes a day. That quickly turned into hours, and I wrote a middle grade manuscript that landed me an agent. My next book was YA, but the new series veers a bit more adult, especially as it progresses. I just feel incredibly lucky to be doing what I love.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

My latest series is epic fantasy with a historical twist. It's a genre I've always devoured and I knew I would want to try my hand at it someday. I enjoy writing anything with lots of world-building. My first book, Some Fine Day, is set about 80 years into the future at a time when Earth is almost unrecognizable from extreme climate change. I did a ton of research for that one, including into the class of storms dubbed hypercanes (which could theoretically exist). The Midnight Sea is set in ancient Persia at the end of the Achaemenid Empire—so nearly 3,000 years earlier! But for both stories, I spent a huge amount of time just working out all the details of the time and place, which is a lot of the fun. I love many different genres (in fact, I'll have a mystery coming out later this year), but the one I will probably never touch is contemporary realism.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?

The Midnight Sea, the first book in the Fourth Element series, released in May. The second, Blood of the Prophet, comes out on September 12, with the third in the trilogy set for November or December. I also have a Gilded Age mystery called The Daemoniac—that will probably be an October release. So lots coming up this year!

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.

So it's not quite alt history, but a few true events do play a large role in the plot, like the invasion of Alexander the Great. Fundamentally, the story is about the things we do for love—and hate. When the first book, The Midnight Sea, opens, the wealth and military power of the empire is intimately connected to the slavery of creatures called daevas. They can wield magic and make deadly soldiers. The priests teach that they are Druj—impure. But as the protagonist trains with her own daeva, she protagonist comes to question everything she has been taught about them. So the first book focuses on her evolution and eventual rebellion, while the next two develop conflicts in the larger setting. I mean, what's epic fantasy without a diabolical demon queen?

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

Nazafareen is the main character of the series. I like her because she's so different from me. Reckless and hotheaded with almost zero filter between mouth and brain. But deep down, a very moral person who will do what's right whatever the cost. Her daeva, Darius, is more of a slow burner and has his own ghosts, so their relationship is complicated. But frankly, it's the bad guys in the series that are some of my favorites. I don't want to give any spoilers for the first one (where there's a major betrayal), but there's a necromancer who starts to get his own POV as the series goes on. His name is Balthazar and he's bad but not pure evil. I think of him as morally grey—something he surprises me with his decency, other times he's utterly repugnant. Those unpredictable characters are the ones I enjoy writing best.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.

I actually wrote an entire manuscript with the major elements of this story, but set in contemp times, and ended up throwing it in a drawer and starting again. I realized I needed the origin story, and that meant going way back in time.

The Midnight Sea:
They are the light against the darkness.

The steel against the necromancy of the Druj.

And they use demons to hunt demons….

Nazafareen lives for revenge. A girl of the isolated Four-Legs Clan, all she knows about the King's elite Water Dogs is that they bind wicked creatures called daevas to protect the empire from the Undead. But when scouts arrive to recruit young people with the gift, she leaps at the chance to join their ranks. To hunt the monsters that killed her sister.

Scarred by grief, she's willing to pay any price, even if it requires linking with a daeva named Darius. Human in body, he's possessed of a terrifying power, one that Nazafareen controls. But the golden cuffs that join them have an unwanted side effect. Each experiences the other's emotions, and human and daeva start to grow dangerously close.

As they pursue a deadly foe across the arid waste of the Great Salt Plain to the glittering capital of Persepolae, unearthing the secrets of Darius's past along the way, Nazafareen is forced to question his slavery—and her own loyalty to the empire. But with an ancient evil stirring in the north, and a young conqueror sweeping in from the west, the fate of an entire civilization may be at stake…

The Midnight Sea is available at Amazon
Preorder Blood of the Prophet at Amazon

My eyes flew open at the crack of dawn. I groaned and rubbed my forehead. My scalp tingled, an icy, unpleasant sensation. I knew right away where Darius was and what he was doing. It was another side effect of the bond, I'd discovered. I could feel his heart beating. I knew that one of his boots was too tight. I could shut my eyes and tell you exactly where he was, even if he was hundreds of leagues away.

Why had no one told me what it would be like? I supposed Tijah did, but this was much worse than I'd expected. Much, much worse.

I threw on my new scarlet tunic and marched down to the river. Tendrils of mist swirled through the dead reeds at the edge. It was late autumn and the air had a dank chill that promised snow.

My da─ôva stood there, stripped to the waist, pouring water over his head with his right hand. He wore a gold faravahar on a chain around his neck, its eagle wings spread wide. His left arm lay at his side, grey and dead. I stared at his shoulder, at the juncture where smooth skin met rough. His Druj curse.

It slowed me for a moment, seeing that pathetic arm, but I wasn't yet ready to forgive him for waking me. That was my excuse, anyway. Of course, what really angered me was the terrible realization that I was burdened with a sorrow not my own, but that bled me nonetheless. What really angered me was him—everything about him.

He was calmer this morning, but I wasn't. I stopped about twenty feet away. He didn’t turn around although he knew I was there.

"It's nice that you're so pious," I said. "But don't you think it's a little early to be down here performing the morning rites?"

He paused, then dumped the last of the water from the bowl. I felt the cold trickle down my spine and my lips tightened.

"I was taught by the magi to come at first light," Darius said. "Did you expect to sleep in? I'm afraid that's not the way it works for Water Dogs." He smiled, and we both knew it was fake. "I'm sorry if I've offended you in some way."

I stared at him, at the dark hair plastered across his forehead, his stubborn mouth. He looked so human. And yet there was something in the way Darius held himself, perfectly at ease in his own skin. Still but coiled, like the wolves I'd seen in the mountains.

"You haven't offended me in the least," I said. "I suppose you need the blessing more than I do."

I spun on my heel and walked away, knowing I had wounded him. A small stab to my own heart. And I felt slightly ashamed. But that wasn't the end of it. Then I felt his satisfaction at my shame. And my own anger that he knew and was glad.

And then his amusement at my anger!

I stalked off, determined to think nothing, to feel nothing, ever again.

If only it were that easy.

About the author:
Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.

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