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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Cover Reveal: Spit And Song by Travis Riddle + Q&A with the author (by Justine Bergman)



Official Author Website
Order Spit and Song HERE (US) and HERE (UK)

Travis M. Riddle's Balam, Spring was a read so remarkably distinct and unlike anything I had read before, so I was beyond excited when he reached out to us to help him present the cover of his upcoming novel Spit and Song. Balam's in-depth character-centric plot, ability to convey such strong tones of both sorrow and hopefulness, and its impeccable worldbuilding were such standout traits that left me craving more. In fact, I pulled this directly from my review: "I'm really looking forward to exploring more of this world in the future." And guess what! We finally get to continue our journey through this weird and wonderful world Travis has created! He was also kind enough to stop by give and us a sneak peek along with some details on the content behind the cover, which we're thrilled to share with you all today.

Without further ado, may we present
Spit and Song



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Spit and Song by Travis M. Riddle
Thank you for joining us, Travis, and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! Tell us a little about yourself and how you began your writing career.
TMR: Thank you all for having me! As everyone has probably surmised by now, my name is Travis Riddle, and I’m a writer living in Austin, TX. I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid, ripping off all my favorite stuff and writing a novelization of Final Fantasy IX. I published my first book Wondrous in early 2017, then followed that up with Balam, Spring and The Narrows last year.

Give us an idea of how Spit and Song came to fruition? What was your inspiration for this story?
TMR: My original idea for the story came from a seed planted at the end of Balam, with one of its main characters Aava going off to see her brother Svend, who requests her help. There were some bones of this story that ended up staying the same, but in the initial version Svend was a POV character and Aava was supporting, with a few other characters that never came to be. Eventually as I kept writing I realized the story was going in a far different direction, and I ended up excising Aava and Svend completely and setting the story 30 years after Balam, in a totally different country. But there are certain (spoilery) elements from that version that carried over! In fact, Svend’s storyline was part of the original idea that became Balam, so…maybe someday I will finally get to divulge what’s going on with Svend.

Aside from that, I really wanted to write about a topic that’s been plaguing me for the past year or so, which is a struggle I’m sure a lot of artists deal with, especially those who are trying to break out independently. It’s always such an uphill battle, and I find myself flitting back and forth between feeling super driven, determined to do everything possible to accomplish my goals, and…just thinking it’s futile and wanting to chill at home playing video games or watching a movie or something. Have fun with my free time rather than continue grinding.

Spit and Song by Travis M. Riddle

Alright, we need the details on that gorgeous cover. Who's the artist/designer, and can you give us a little insight into the process for coming up with that incredible scene? And is...is that a giant armadillo?!
TMR: The artwork is done by the amazing Amir Zand (www.amirzandartist.com), who also did the artwork for Balam! Since up to this point all of my books were standalones taking place in different worlds, I felt it was important to work with different artists to give them each their own distinct aesthetic and style, so because I was returning to this world I wanted to keep that same art style, and thankfully Amir was able to slot me into his busy schedule.

I like to let the artist follow their own instincts as far as exact design and colors and all that, so all I told Amir was that it needed to be in the desert, with two people and a mount looking out at a crashed airship. I described what the characters and mount looked like, but let him do whatever else he wanted with the piece, including the airship’s design. I think it turned out fantastic, and it’s one of my favorite pieces Amir has ever done.

And that is indeed a giant armadillo! Basically, anyway; in Ustlia, that’s a creature called an ayote, the primary mount for desert travel.

Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
TMR: There’s a lot of weird stuff in this book. I was really going for weird, and I’m hoping I delivered on that front haha. Going into it, I knew I wanted to explore something that I feel like I don’t see terribly often in fantasy, oddly enough, which is totally non-humanoid races.

In this book I introduce three races that aren’t in Balam at all (I guess four if you count qarms, since they technically weren’t in that book but they were mentioned once or twice), and I wanted them all to be very un-humanlike to set the world of Ustlia apart from others you’ve read about before. That was also why I wanted both POV characters to be non-humans.

The first new race are faifs, the most humanoid of the three. They look like humans, but their skin is different shades of swirling pastels and they sustain on sunlight and sugary foods rather than normal food—essentially, they’re flower-people. One of the main characters, Kali, is a faif.

The second are centripts, who are essentially giant centipedes who speak a language called Carsuak. They’ve built up most of the cities and other architecture throughout the desert country of Herrilock and are currently suffering from a disease called the mold, which infects different segments of their bodies, eventually causing them to burst and knock their carapace pieces off, eventually ending with the same thing happening to their heads. The third are ujaths, and we only meet one of them in the novel, but I’ll not spoil that moment for you because it’s one of my favorites.


I understand Spit and Song is set in the same world as your novel Balam, Spring. When you were writing that did you know you'd be returning here again in the future?
TMR: When I set out to write Balam, I knew from the start that it would be a standalone novel, and that I wanted to design the world in such a way that I could jump back into it whenever and tell more standalone stories. I love the idea of just having this huge sandbox to play around in, hopping in at any point in the timeline and in any part of the world to tell whatever specific story I want to tell.

Balam, Spring is an incredible example of slice-of-life fantasy; what made you decide to write a more adventurous story infused with comedy?
TMR: Thank you, I really appreciate that! Truthfully, I didn’t really write Balam intending for it to be slice-of-life and in fact I never thought of it in that genre until reviewers and readers started to call it that, so now I’m rolling with it. I just wanted a large focus on the characterization and interpersonal relationships, and that’s what ended up coming out.

Spit and Song was the same way. I just started writing what felt natural for the story—again, a focus on characterization and the relationship between these two characters, so that combined with some of the pacing might lead some to call this semi-slice-of-life as well—and so a lot of the comedy ended up coming from this character Puk, who just ended up being a much more absurd, stupid, strange individual than I thought he’d be, and writing comedy around him just felt right.

As for why it’s more adventurous, since Balam was very deliberately set in one single location, I knew that when I revisited this world I didn’t want to just repeat myself. One approach could have been to craft a new story taking place in one setting, and that could be the “gimmick” for all the books set in this world, but I wanted each book to feel distinct and fresh, so I wanted to check out a lot of different locales and meet lots of varied people. I think all four of my books now are pretty hugely different from each other, aside from my focus on character, and I’m striving not to write the same book twice.

Was the writing process different and did you face any challenges with this subgenre shift?
TMR: The overall process wasn’t too different, but it did take a lot longer. Ironically (or maybe not?) I found myself struggling a lot with the same issues as Puk as far as lack of inspiration, and so there were a few long stretches of time when I just didn’t write.

What I struggled with a lot, and was kind of inspiration for the story’s themes, was the self-imposed pressure of the indie publishing community and this sentiment out there that you have to be writing, writing, writing constantly in order to find any sort of success, which I wrote about a bit in a blog post (http://www.travismriddle.com/blog/2019/5/1/a-song-of-guilt-amp-pressure) when it was really weighing me down. I had to tell myself that it was alright to take a little time off and just enjoy myself, and eventually the story got out!

Can Spit and Song be read as a standalone, or would it benefit readers to be familiar with the events of Balam, Spring?
TMR: Yeah, Spit and Song is written to be 100% standalone. There are some minor connections to an event during Balam and some other subtle references, but it’s a case of the reader getting a slightly deeper experience or understanding if they’ve read that book already—you’ll still get every piece of info necessary to enjoy this book within its own pages. No prior knowledge necessary!

How did you come up with the title Spit and Song?
TMR: The title was actually one of the hardest parts of this thing, hahah. Honestly I did not fully decide on a title until the day before I fired off the first ARC to a reviewer. For the entire writing process it was called Shipwreck in the Sandswept Sea, which I thought had a neat sort of adventure-y alliteration to it and also conjured a weird image, but I was always unsure of it and it got mixed reactions from beta readers.

While revising, I was trying to come up with new titles. I came up with a few that were okay, but I settled on Spit and Song because it sounds weird and gross, which is what I want and fits the world these characters explore, and it also illustrates the dichotomy of the book’s themes pretty well, that feeling of being torn between your passion—song—and just wanting to ignore it all and enjoy yourself—spit, which is a reference to a drug in the book called fire-spit.

What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
TMR: I hope they walk away feeling the same love for Kali and Puk as I have, and had a fun, weird, unique experience along the way in a world that’s hopefully unlike any they’ve ever seen before. And if they’re an artist, I hope they can—well, maybe it’s rude to say I hope they relate hahah, but I at least hope they can empathize and see themselves in these characters and be inspired and amused by their story.

Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us, Travis. When can we get our hands on Spit and Song? Anything else you have going on right now that you'd like the world to know about?
TMR: Thank you, Justine! Spit and Song will be available on November 19, and you can preorder the e-book now for 99 cents for a limited time. For more updates you can sign up for my newsletter on my website (www.travismriddle.com) and follow me on Twitter/Instagram, both @traviswanteat.


Order Spit and Song HERE (US) and HERE (UK)

Official Blurb
Kali is a merchant who yearns to leave the harsh deserts of Herrilock and travel across the sea, trading goods and soaking in the sights and cultures. With a new potion on the market undercutting her profits, though, her seabound dreams are put on hold indefinitely.

Failed musician Puk hits rock bottom after yet another catastrophic performance. Wandering the city streets in search of any sip of booze or whiff of fire-spit he can get his hands on, he resigns to the fact that he’s stuck in the desert with no way back home to Atlua.

Until one day, their paths cross with an illicit job opportunity. With its hefty payday, Kali and Puk could afford to finally escape the desert heat and set sail across the gulf.

The black market job would see them travel endless dunes on a road made from a massive dead beast’s ribs and out to a mythical city in the sea, scuffling with monsters and thugs in search of a long-lost book that might be the most dangerous object in the world.

How hard could it really be?

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