Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Sarah J. Daley!

Welcome back to the Sunday Brunch Series! Episode 19 this week features adult fantasy author Sarah Daley!  Her debut novel Obsidian just released on 1/25 and my full review is posted on the blog here if anyone wants to check that out! There are purchase links below as well

P.S. thank you endlessly to Gemma from Angry Robot Books for suggesting and facilitating this interview! 

Read on to see the motivation for Shade Nox and her tattoos, swoony casting choices, some hints about the sequel, and so much more!


🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?

🎤I’m a pretty decent skier for having grown up in the Midwest. I didn’t learn until I was almost 30, and it terrified me at first. After a few years and some lessons, I grew to love it. Although, I have had some spectacular crashes, including a freak accident where I sliced open my knee on my own ski. Ouch.

🥞Do you have a favorite brunch food?

🎤That’s a difficult question because I love brunch so it’s hard to narrow it down to one thing. If I had to choose, I’d go with something decadent like a big Belgian waffle with lots of syrup and butter, or an order of fancy French toast. No matter what, I must have a side of sausage links. Oh, and a mimosa. It’s not brunch without a mimosa! 

🥞It’s always interesting to hear about different publication journeys and Angry Robot has a knack for sussing out talent! How was the “open door” submission process? (I mean obviously it went well, congratulations!!!)

🎤Frankly, I was about to give up on the traditional route and try self-publishing. I couldn’t imagine going through endless querying to find an agent (I hadn’t tried since the days of snail mail and SASE. Yes, it was a looong time ago.) But my heart wasn’t in it; I knew my limitations and successful self-publishing is hard, hard work. Still, the restaurant where I’d been working folded, and I decided to focus on writing instead of leaping back into cooking. Basically, I decided to give it one last shot. It was do or die time. So, as I was finishing up the latest draft of this novel, Angry Robot opened their doors. The timing was too perfect; I polished the first 50 pages, wrote a query and a synopsis, and sent it to them. Once I sent it off, I told myself nothing would come of it and put it out of my mind. Two months later I got an email request for a full manuscript. I was excited, but nervous, and again told myself nothing would come of it. Two weeks (give or take) after that, I got my offer. Even then, I could hardly believe it. Finally, after decades of writing, I was going to be published!  

Obsidian_mini jacket

🥞What was the first aspect of Obsidian that came to your imagination?

🎤It all started with a girl. A friend of mine, actually. Tall and blonde and tatted up long before it was a thing, she became my inspiration for a badass wizard woman taking on the establishment. I tend to write female main characters, so it was pretty easy to put her into a story. And I wanted to make her the hero – the strongest of the strong. Not the love interest, not the supportive friend, not the ‘helper’ who makes sure the hero gets to his destination, but the hero. From there, the story grew, the setting evolved, but the hero remained who I’d first imagined. 

🥞If you’re planning a sequel, can you share anything about your plans for it? (Please say yes, I need more of Raiden’s story)!

🎤The sequel is written for the most part. Obsidian is a stand-alone book, but Shade’s story is just beginning. Her enemies aren’t going to walk away and leave her in peace. She’s upended their entire existence, and that is unforgivable. It will take everything she has and more to face what’s coming. And Raiden will be right there with her. His past and what makes him so special are explored in more depth; he’s a major player in the next installment. Obsidian was a fast-paced adventure with a clear end goal, but the sequel gets more complicated. New enemies rise from the shadows and Shade and her people will be tested as they never have been.

🥞Do you have any tattoos? A favorite or any favorite stories related to them?

🎤I don’t have any tattoos – I’m not that cool lol – but I love them on other people. I love looking at them, and I admire the artistry and beauty of good ink. Being in the culinary industry has made me appreciate them even more. Every chef, line cook and wait person I know has awesome tattoos. My friend’s tattoos inspired me to put them in my story and make them part of the magic system. I’m happy to see how ubiquitous tattoos have become among the younger generations. I’d like to think my generation (the Xers) started the trend, but millennials and gen Z took it to the next level.  

🥞 Shade was really going against the island’s gender norms in Obsidian, with the tattoos and magic, is that a theme you were focused on?

🎤 The tattoos are vital tools of a bloodwizard’s magic, and they represent power and prestige. It’s why the Corsaro parade around in gladiator skirts, to show off their impressive ink. But they’re for men, for bloodwizards, to flaunt. Women have bloodmagic in Malavita, but it’s a patriarchal society, and they don’t openly wield it. To work her magic, Shade has to dress similarly to the men in her world, revealing an immodest amount of flesh. The fact that her tattoos are extraordinary only makes her enemies hate her all the more. It’s bad enough she thumbs her nose at the Brotherhood and the Corsaro by openly practicing magic, but to be stronger than all of them while she does it is unforgivable. Her tattoos are only a problem because they are on a woman.

🥞I liked that your characters were neither true heroes or true villains, they felt believable! What do you think makes a good morally gray character?

🎤I like characters who believe they are right and act accordingly, no matter the consequences. That whatever they have to do to achieve their ends is fine because it is necessary. The Brotherhood wants to maintain their power, but some believe Shade is a threat to their world, not just to their organization. Stopping her is necessary, and right, in their minds. I don’t like bad guys who act evil just to be evil, and I don’t like heroes who never make mistakes or never act impulsively. Those are the kinds of characters I like to write about and read about. The only truly evil creatures in my story are the Unseen, but they can’t help it.

🥞With so many films and adaptations coming out these days, which actors you’d cast for your main characters?

🎤I would love to see Charlize Theron cast as Shade, even though she’s a tad older than my MC. She’s just so cool and tough. I just watched Fury Road again and she was absolutely perfect in it. Who even needs Mad Max?? I also think Brie Larson would be great. She’s closer in age to Shade and she already played a literal superhero!

marvel_10

Dante Safire is tall, dark and handsome, and I can see someone like Henry Cavill (let’s aim high lol) pulling off his bearded, brooding look.

{{Oh my. *Swoon*}}

cavill_11_a_p

As for Raiden, I think Manny Jacinto would be ideal. He has the boyish good looks I imagined for Raiden. Plus, he’s absolutely gorgeous. 

Manny-Jacinto-in-The-Good-Place-1

{{Raiden’s face when Shade laughed after he tried to arrest her}}

🥞What main idea do you want readers to take away from Obsidian?

🎤Mostly, I want them to root for Shade even though she’s arrogant and snarky and a bit reckless at times. For all her bluster and her incredible power, she’ll do anything to save her friends and her clan.  

🥞Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  favorite author? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character?

🎤It’s hard to pick a favorite author. I’ve read extensively across many genres. I’ve read everything Robin Hobb and Octavia Butler have ever written, though, and I can’t say that about any other writer/s. I always recommend Hobb’s Liveship Traders series and The Farseer Trilogy, and I’ll never stop telling people to read Parable of the Sower! It has to be one of my all-time favorite books. Her Patternist series and Lilith’s Brood trilogy are also excellent. Just, literally, pick up anything she’s written and it will be awesome.

A favorite literary character is equally difficult to choose. I love the Fool from Robin Hobb’s books (of Fitz and the Fool fame) and Tyrion Lannister from GOT (the books, although Peter Dinklage was an excellent casting choice) because both were odd and brilliant and complex. I also think Elric of Melnibone was one of the coolest swordsmen ever created. (I was obsessed with Moorcock when I was young.) Those are just the ones I can think of right now. I mean, I could list favorite characters for pages. 

🥞Thank you so much again for taking the time to interview! If you want to add or say or talk about anything else, please do so here!!

🎤Thank you for asking me about my book!


Book purchase & Author links!

Sarah J. Daley is a former chef who lives and writes in the Chicago Metropolitan area with her husband and teenaged son. She earned a degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Though she still enjoys the heat and chaos of a professional kitchen, she is now writing full-time. She enjoys traveling, creating costumes for comic con, riding the occasional horse, and streaming old sitcoms for background noise.

On Twitter: @SarahJDaley

Instagram: @sarahkennedydaley

To buy Obsidian:

Obsidian

Categories
Fantasy

Obsidian (ARC Review) by Sarah J Daley

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the free early digital copy of Obsidian by Sarah J Daley! All opinions are my own!

This is an adult (18+) fantasy novel set on a vaguely Italian feeling island; it is rich in world building and magic.  I read it fairly quickly and even though it can read as a standalone I definitely can’t wait for the next installment!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Obsidian
  • Series: yes, #1
  • Author: Sarah J Daley
  • Publisher & Release:  Angry Robot, 01/25/22
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of adult sword & sorcery fantasy

Here is the synopsis:

Shade Nox is the only witch in a land of wizards – a fiend, a rogue, a wanted criminal.

Defying those who think her an abomination, Shade wears her tattoos openly and carries obsidian blades at her hips. For years, she has protected the outcast clans who wander the blighted Wastes, but the land is growing more unstable and her blades are no longer enough.

To save her people, Shade vows to raise a Veil of protection – a feat not accomplished in over a hundred years. But the magical Veils are said to belong to the Brotherhood church; if she succeeds in raising one, it will expose their lies. They swear to see her obliterated first.

Treading a dangerous path where allies can be as deceitful as enemies, and where demons lurk in the shadows, Shade chases a vision which could lead to her people’s salvation… or her own destruction.

Let’s talk about the world building first!  I think it had a perfect amount.  Daley went pretty deep into the history of  Malavita.  She told us what we need to know about the war between the native peoples, the history of magic use, and how certain rituals were learned and eventually corrupted, and even how some of the lore and stories came around.

On a micro level she also did a great job describing the mood of various areas, the culture in different small groups, food and drink, weather and architecture.

I liked that small things were included like a character’s ambivalence toward cats because they were susceptible to the blighted magic.

What I wanted more of: the Brotherhood’s history and how the religion developed widely enough that the four faces, the hidden, and the wild are consistent across the island.

As part of the setting and atmosphere, I did feel like the tone for each area was set with lush descriptions, temperature, sights and smells, and these things were consistent.  My favorite area was the glass fields.

For all of that, the book maintains a fast pace with plenty of action too.

Character wise: The main character is Shade Nox, a witch who wields obsidian blades. She reminded me a lot of Mia Corvere because she takes crap from no one and is terrified of horses. Apparently it is not normal in this world for women to be magic users or have the tattoos so Shade was an anomaly, ostracized, and wanted for various crimes.  She was bad ass and super powerful but also vulnerable, and had a tendency to fall in love with and/or seduce like … everyone she is in intimate proximity with.

This created a weird dynamic at the end of the book and all felt very unnecessary, but it’s adult fantasy and properly advertised as such, so characters can do what they want.   

The other main character is Raiden, who was stuck somewhere between duty and having a good heart and I liked him a lot.  He definitely had some innate unnatural ability but it was never explored, just hinted at, so I definitely needed more of that and docked the star for it.

The other characters are numerous but each contributes something meaningful.  Many have interesting stories, abilities, and snark for days.

The magic system: there’s an interesting back story for the magic.  Veils are used to protect cities from the wild and corrupted magic of the wastes, and obviously there are corrupt people too, almost like a magical mafia of priests and mages that tax and tithe the people into poverty

The blood wizards (and witch) use blades of different gemstones and materials to designate how powerful they are. Tattoo magic is also incorporated as they serve as healing wards after the mage has performed blood magic. I definitely think the magic was the book’s strongest element – it tended to be over the top at times but who doesn’t love a grandiose display of elemental magic?

I feel like I did a lot of summary so here are my thoughts: The magic, characters, history, and world building all tie together and make this an enjoyable read. These story elements combine for a consistent feel where I can understand the character’s motivations and root for them within the world. It moved along quickly.  I like the theme of women defying social boundaries (tattoos, clothing choices, etc), and love that ink is making it’s way into fantasy more now.

One totally random stylistic thing that I absolutely loved was that Daley used a pretty wide range of vocab words like ‘hummocky’ and ‘cerestory’, so I was able to learn something while reading!

Overall I definitely recommend this one for fans of adult fantasy with big magic and big personality!

Lastly: the author is doing a Sunday Brunch interview which WILL feature on 1/30!!!