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Thursday, January 7, 2021

Daughter of Flood and Fury by Levi Jacobs Cover Reveal and Q&A

Today, we have the immense pleasure of hosting the cover reveal for Levi Jacobs’s  Daughter of the Flood, the first book of Tidecaller Chronicles

Thank you for joining us, Levi, and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! It’s truly a pleasure to host this cover reveal. How have you been? 

Busy! On top of finishing up the Resonant Saga last May and starting two new series, my wife and I had a second baby who’s been a wonder--and made me super efficient at using my free hours to write. 

It seems you’ve landed a publishing deal since last we spoke, can you share details and publications dates?

Yes! The deal is with Aethon Books, a smaller house specializing in fantasy and SF, that has proven itself savvy with marketing in a way that few traditional publishers are (and the reason they enticed me away from being fully indie). We are starting with a relaunch of my Resonant Saga series, now titled Empire of Resonance, which means new covers, new edits of all the books, and a professional audio version done alongside. It also means I’m masquerading as LW Jacobs, to give the series a fresh start.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your new series? We have so much to look forward to when this book hits shelves in January! In your own words, what is Daughter of Flood and Fury about? 

It’s about a girl born with a man’s magic, who survives only being the best in the male-only temple that sees her as a heresy. That all falls apart when her father, head of the temple and the reason she’s there at all, is deposed and murdered. The killers come after her next, pushing her into an underworld of magic and politics and identity in her quest to expose them. At its core, the book is about unlearning social constructions and defeating the people who exploit them for power—mainly gender and religion in this book, though the series will get into more as it goes on.

Also, bloodmad zombies and a magical theocratic panopticon feature prominently.

What inspired you to write this story? Was there one “lightbulb moment” when the concept for this book popped into your head or did it develop over time?

Hm. More like a lot of little lightbulbs, and then I started breaking them to see which made the most dangerous messes. I get inspiration from everywhere—books I read, people I talk to, epiphanies while trucking long distance—but usually it’s only in the process of writing it that I realize what’s actually driving me. Daughter of Flood and Fury started out with a completely different main character, plot, and setting—then one of the side characters from that story stole the spotlight and I realized I needed to tell her story. There are still little shards of the original book still in there—a theocratic city-state, a post-apocalyptic world haunted by catastrophic floods, and a rebellion against a violet-eyed monarchy. But mostly it’s another light bulb that shattered in interesting ways. 

Any plans to actually write that book?

Not anymore! But what started as an interesting side project has grown into a nine-book epic, with the sequel already well underway. I’ve buried the original one—called All the King’s Bastards—deep in my hard drive, never to be seen again. This book is better.

How did you come up with the title?

Full disclosure, I hate titles. What I usually do is make a giant word salad of anything related to the story, then mash it together in different ways until something sounds decent. The series title, though, is thanks to some late-night brainstorming by friends from SPFBO 5, who took my not great Deluge Sequence and turned it into the much snappier Tidecaller Chronicles.

How does it tie with the plot of the book?

Pretty well, despite it being basically word salad. I wanted a gendered word in there, like ‘daughter’, because it features so much in the worldbuilding, and ‘flood’ because, as mentioned, this world is plagued by epic floods that kill 99% of humanity every few centuries. ‘Fury,’ well, let’s just say there are a lot of people getting furious in the course of the novel. The word ‘tidecaller,’ from the series name, ties into the larger arc that I probably shouldn’t get into here… but I feel like basically the best titles are semi-spoilers kept vague enough that they end up being trolley-clickbait to get you to read the book, without sounding too generic. It’s a hard balance to hit.

Tell us about Daughter of Flood and Fury’s protagonists. Who are they? How would you describe them to someone meeting them for the first time?

I kept the cast in this one pretty tight, as I think it will spread out in the later books. Aletheia is the daughter of the deposed monk described earlier, reviled as a heretic for her magic and determined to rise above it by being stronger than everyone she meets, despite her ‘heresy.’ Someone who is talented to a fault, which the reason people love and hate her. She’s probably the only one that counts as a protagonist here, though we get a lot of a one-eyed thief with a smoking habit and some ancient witches who practice midwifery to get control over people’s blood…

If I had to describe Aletheia to my friends, I would say she is the person I should have been, like a deep alter-ego or spirit animal with more sass and a violent kind of vulnerability. She’s the character that kept coming up in other forms in other books until I accepted that I just needed to write her… and now (as I also work on a separate series) am going to have to try hard to not let her into all my books.

Maude from Inception, maybe?

How do you select the names of your characters? 

I have two answers to this. The first is through true philosophical geekery, like Aletheia--a Greek word often translated as ‘truth,’ but what the phenomenologists (whose work is kinda esoteric, but had a big impact on later thinkers whose theories have mattered, like Foucault and Agamben) translated as ‘disconcealment.’ Making knowledge and truth an action felt right for this character, so I stole it (though she usually shortens it to Theia). That, and the name sounded cool. 

Which is the second answer: in crafting peoples and cultures I usually combine sounds from a few different languages to make theirs, then once I get a feel for it just riff on them with whatever comes into my head in the moment. Which is where most of the other names in the book come from--Gaxna, Dashan, Urte, etc. 

TLDR: either esoteric nerdery or straight make-believe. 

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

Always! In this case, this first book has a magic system divided by gender, with men and women having mirrored but very different powers--monks who study watertight can read minds through any kind of water connection, and learn a high degree of control over their emotions--skills they use to police the city-state, counsel the citizens, and relay messages up- and down-current through messaging outposts. Women who study bloodwork gain insight into bodies and the ability to manipulate them, as well as a special kind of control over their thoughts. Of course, both of these powers have darker sides--watersight becoming a kind of panopticon, and the healers having the ability to turn everyone into zombies--but more importantly, they’re based on made-up definitions of gender, so when our protagonist busts in, a girl with a man’s magic, she calls the whole system into question. And that always leads to interesting things. 

If you had to describe Daughter of Flood and Fury in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Quick, intense, and bittersweet. A slammed espresso of a book.

Have you written it with a particular audience in mind? Who’ll enjoy it?

I think I write all my books primarily for myself, for the reader in me that loves intricate worldbuilding and philosophical-while-badass main characters. But the more my books get out there, the more I discover (mostly through my newsletter) what kind of Actual People connect with my books. And the more I get to know them, the more I think I’m writing for them too.

Plus, sometimes, I just actually ask them what stories they want me to write.

All right, 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? How does it tie to the book?

This cover went through as many revisions as the book itself. I started off with the artist who did the paintings for The Resonant Saga, the uber-talented Mateusz Michalski, before deciding this needed a different kind of vision than his, much as I love it. So this cover was designed by Damon Freeman at Damonza, and I can’t really say enough about how wonderful his crew is, how they spawned a cover straight from my imagination, and how easy they were to work with.

In terms of the cover itself, I needed it to say a lot without being too busy. I think a lot of authors end up wanting their covers to portray an actual scene, or be loaded with symbolism, or get the character’s face just right, but what I wanted was something simple and evocative. To give you a sense of the story without hitting you over the head with it (kind of like the title). This did that just right for me (and my newsletter, who I polled multiple times in the process of designing it!): a sense of a fantastical city of fountains and towers, a main character who is fierce but also undercover and running from assassins, and a hint of the water-based magic (and dire floods) that underpin the worldbuilding. It also felt important to cue that this is non-Western fantasy, because I think that setting has been over-written, and there are a lot of expectations that go into fantasy about elves and knights and castles.

What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

I always hope they take away is a lot of sleepless nights and grief that the book is over already. On a deeper level, I hope my stories are thought-provoking, but never come off as pushing any particular idea or viewpoint. Entertaining and meaningful, in that order.

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

I was actually just going over a scene late in the book and a couple of sentences stood out to me. So I’m going to break the rules and give you three:

“It’s always struck me as a contradiction, that the main weapon of a water-worshipping people should need oil, should need to repel the very element we see as holy. That water, when it gets inside anything—wood or iron or stone—destroys it, eventually. I wonder if I am like that, if the deeper I get into this game of religions and guilds, the more destruction I bring.”
What’s your publishing schedule for 2021?

It’s full! Daughter of Flood and Fury is up for prerelease right now, and comes out January 18th, with books two and three projected to be ready late March and late May, all in ebook, paperback, and audio. While that’s happening, Aethon will be relaunching my Empire of Resonance series (the first book of which, Beggar’s Rebellion, was a SPFBO finalist thanks to you lovely folks), with two books in March, then the third in April and fourth in May--and all of those will have audio as well as the standard formats. Sooo… seven books in five months? Should be fun. 

Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us, Levi. Anything else you have going on right now that you'd like the world to know about?

Yes! In conjunction with all my books coming out in audio, I’ve launched a podcast! The Beggars and Brawlers Podcast is me talking off-script about what I’m working on, sharing background sketches and deleted scenes, running polls for which cover to use or character to kill off, etc. I also geek out on the books I’m reading, and let people know if there are any good sales going. Subscribers get access to an exclusive audiobook set in the Empire of Resonance series, with another coming (as soon as I write it) in the Tidecaller world. If that sounds good you can sign up here, or find links on my website and the socials (fb, twitter).

Thanks for having me on y’all. We don’t say it enough, but dedicated reviewers like you are the best, not just for helping authors like me signal-boost, but helping readers like me figure out what to read next. You rock.



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