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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Interview with Krystle Matar, author of Legacy of the Brightwash


Legacy of the Brightwash is scheduled to be released on February 18, 2021! Pre-order it here

Thank you for joining us, Krystle, and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks for having me! I write, I parent, I farm, I drink whisk(e)y, I eat chocolate and copious amounts of marshmallows… In all seriousness, though, I’ve been writing for a long time and it feels AMAZING to finally have my debut ready for the world! 

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

I’m home full time with my kiddos--we’ve been homeschooling for a few years due to some learning challenges with my eldest twins. We also moved to our little hobby farm about a year and a half ago and that keeps me pretty busy. Oh and this writing side hustle, of course!

How have you been holding up in the pandemic? Has it affected your writing process?

Not a lot changed for us, at least in our daily routine… Since we were already homeschooling, we were used to being pretty self-reliant. There’s certainly a weird distance between us and the rest of the world now, and I miss my IRL friends and family. I think the kids lost more from their routine than I did, because they’re social or something, the odd-balls. And I can’t teach broadswording! 

Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influencers?

There are some AMAZING writers in the self-published community right now. I can’t possibly keep up! Angela Boord has been a big influence, how she blends dark elements into romance and hope was super inspiring. Quenby Olson's writing is gorgeous; I love her period romances and her beautiful fantasy. On the flip side of that coin, Clayton Snyder’s grimdarkest of grimdark really messes me up in the best ways. I’d hate to see the inside of that guy’s brain! 

In the trad publishing world, I’m a sucker for Anthony Ryan. His debut got me back into the fantasy genre after a long hiatus away. I have to tip my hat to him. Picking up his book after reading in other genres for nearly 10 years felt an awful lot like coming home! While I was on hiatus, I devoured Dennis Lehane. He writes PI mysteries and thrillers and some great historical fiction, and I know some of his style leaked into mine. And, of course, the late great David Gemmell. His books were the ones that really got me off chasing this writing business!

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

YIKES good question. I hope it’s the intersection between hope, humanity, pain, and the burdens of the past. Taking a fun trope and examining it deeper, pushing it to its boundaries, flipping it on its head. I’ll always, always be character driven. 

What was the inspiration for the story? Where did the idea come from and what compelled you to see it through to the end?

This book got started when I was thinking about the cost of things. The cost of convenience, mainly. The MC, Tashué, has been with me for a long time now, and I was really searching for the right story for him. The world was already built for a different idea that didn’t take off, so I tinkered with the time period some so it fit him better. I think what made this one different than all my other past attempts was that Tashué and I had found something important to say, about parenting, about trying to navigate a world when right and wrong isn’t always as clear as we think it as, about how standing up for what you believe in doesn’t come as easily as we want it to. What saw me through to the end this time was friends and support. If you’re reading this and you’re trying to get your writing feet under you, make writing friends! They make SUCH a big difference! 

Where would you say you spent the most time writing your book?

In my head! Something that I learnt over this journey was I needed to give myself time to really think about the story. This one was much more complex than anything I’ve ever attempted before, so I had to spend a lot of time daydreaming to get it sorted. So, in the truck, running errands, doing farm chores, at the grocery store, when I was supposed to be socializing with friends… (#sorrynotsorry Dan & Amy)

How would you describe the plot of Legacy of the Brightwash if you had to do so in just one or two sentences? 

Brightwash is a murder mystery wrapped in fight-the-system epic fantasy. Tashué wants to know who killed the girl from the river, but to figure it out, he has to stand against the very system he used to believe in. 

How did you come up with the title?

This was challenging! I went through a lot of flop titles on this project. But the more I went through revisions, the more it became clear that this book wasn’t about The War that I’m trying to set up for later, this book was about the girl from the river and all of the ripples that her death set off in so many people’s lives. 

How does it tie with the plot of the book?

Oh man, it ties in so many ways! The Brightwash is the name of the river running through the city--so the whole city is part of the Brightwash’s legacy, as a shipping and trading route. Characters talk about the legacy they received from their families, and the legacy they’ll leave for their progeny. The Rift--the prison where Tashué’s son is being held--is on an island in the middle of the river. And of course, the girl from the river. Tashué finds her body right on the riverbank. 

How many books have you planned for the series? 

WELL! The very first draft of this book was a hot mess, as first drafts are, since I was trying to figure out my world, my people, and what I was trying to say. The first draft has now been cut into three separate books, and I’m working on revising Book 2 right now. So the story arc of everything that happens in Yaelsmuir will be told over the course of 3 books. But this 3-book arc is kind of the spark that sets off the powder keg, as it were, and there’s that War I mentioned earlier… All I can say is I expect to exist in this universe for a while. 

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Legacy of the Brightwash’s protagonists and antagonists?

I’ll go with the POV characters and see if I can keep this short!

The main protagonist is Tashué Blackwood. He’s been a Regulation Officer for 19 years, and before that he served as a cavalry Captain in the Dominion military. I think he would say his most important traits are that he’s a father, that he loves his son, that he tried his best.

Stella Whiterock tells a portion of this story. She works in hospice care for the critically ill, using her Talent to help people escape pain in their last moments. Stella has some secrets, though… You’ll have to read to find out what she’s hiding. 

Of course, there’s Jason, Tashué’s son. His relationship with his father has been tumultuous, and now he’s in the Rift--a prison for people with Talent who refuse to register with the National Tainted Registration Authority. 

Lorne Coswyn is… what can I say about Lorne? He’s a fantastic mess. He fights in bare knuckle boxing tournaments for Yaelsmuir’s top crime boss, because it’s all he knows how to do--but he’s smarter than he lets on. 

Last but definitely not least, Illea Winter. Her husband is the Governor, but she’s rather tired of him and funding his career… Some of that legacy I was talking about? It’s on her mind a lot. 

And then the antagonist… Well, Tashué finds himself facing off against the National Tainted Registration Authority, against politics in Yaelsmuir, against the deeply-ingrained prejudices of the world he lives in. Against himself, and the things that he was taught, and how they don’t seem to match reality. But the real mastermind behind the scenes, pulling on the strings to accumulate power? Well… you’ll see. 

Do any of your characters have a fun story behind their inception?

Most of them do! I’ve been writing about Tashué for 18 years. I don’t even remember what his first story was, but he was one of my earliest original characters (I started writing with mostly fanfiction!). A lot of the characters in this book kind of popped up in his orbit along the way, although Illea is a new addition just for this story. She kind of walked into the first draft and told me, “I’m going to--” uh… actually that’s kind of a spoiler. 

The most FUN has to be Ishmael. He’s kind of in the background in Brightwash, waiting for his time to shine. But the first time he popped into a story was about 10 years ago, when Tashué lived in our contemporary world. I needed someone to drive Tashué around for various things, and this guy I wrote was just so spontaneously funny and snarky and startling (and he flirted with everyone, all the time) and I just knew I needed to learn more about him. He has not disappointed. (I believe he threatened to electrocute someone with a car battery in that first book…)

How did you select the names of your characters?

This implies that I have some control! 

Sometimes the names come first. Stella, for example. The name stuck in my head and I started building her up around the name. Lorne is another one that was name first. I don’t remember how Tashué got his name. He just kind of moved into my head. 

Otherwise, I like to poke around on various naming websites. When I’m coming up with a character and their personality comes first I look for sites that will list the meanings of the names, so I can scan that and see what jumps out. For example, Stella’s daughter, Ceridwen. According to my research, and I apologize to anyone Welsh if I got this wrong, Ceridwen means “poetry or song” + “white, fair or holy” and is often associated with a goddess of poetry and inspiration. Anyone reading will understand why this fits sweet Ceridwen perfectly. 

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

Yes! In my world, magic is referred to as Talent, the ability to exert your will on the world around you, to shape energy and matter. I don’t go too deep into the theory of it all, but characters are limited by the strength of their Talents and their strength of will, and by the complexity of their tasks. Healers can’t just wave their hands and make wounds disappear; they can only speed the natural process. But if they use their Talents improperly, they invite the Wrath, and that’s a whole other problem…

The important thing to know is that people with Talent aren’t trusted. They’ve been made into second class citizens by bigotry and systematic oppression. They’re called tainted by most people, and they’re forced to register with the Authority. Follow the law and you’ll stay safe… 

How did you choose a point(s) of view for this story and why?

It was always going to be Tashué’s story. This book was built around him and who I knew him to be. The side POVs were a little trickier to figure out! 

A rule of thumb I try to follow is always to go with the character that has the highest stakes in a scene. But I have a big cast and a lot of stakes! Sometimes I used a POV section to figure a character out, but once I had a handle on who they were, I switched the scene to Tashué’s POV because really he demanded to be present in most moments. Some places he wasn’t present--Illea gets to have some of the big political moments. Lorne gets his fights. Jason is in the Rift. And Stella was a great opportunity to explore how Talent works. 


Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Legacy of the Brightwash? 

I knew from the beginning that it was important to hint at my time period, and also the tone of the story. It starts with the body of a child, washed up on the riverbank… it’s not a light read. Brad & I bounced some ideas around and I sent him loads of reference photos as far as mood and typography and setting, and we talked about Tashué a lot, and the city at large. There was a lot of conversation between finding the balance between fantasy and crime drama, of letting the reader know it was heavy without getting too dark on the cover. It was my husband that reminded me (after my conversation with Brad was over, I might add!) that Tashué makes a sketch of the girl in the first chapter. I shot the suggestion off to Brad and he made magic!

How this artwork matches the spirit of your story?

I’m so impressed with what Brad came up with! This is a book about details, and Brad layered them in so well. I can’t believe how much visual weight the tattoo has. Such a tiny detail, but it takes up so much attention! I think he hit the spirit really well, with the typography, with the charcoal, with the creased, bent page, with Tashué’s NTRA badge in one corner. I hope we suck a lot of people in with this cover! 

What was your proofreading/editing process?

It was a long process! The first original draft got cut up, and then revised a few million times (this might be an exaggeration, but it doesn’t feel like it). Then I sent it to beta readers, just to see if I was on the right track. They were super helpful with their feedback, their thoughts, so cue another million revision passes. I sent it back to them about six months after they read it the first time, and they gave me some big thumbs up about the progress. Next, off to sensitivity readers, which I highly recommend. The people I worked with were able to help bring so much depth to my characters that I wouldn’t have been able to reach on my own. Revision, revision, revision… and then I had no more reason to stall? The thing I had made was almost ready. So I hired an editor through a great service called Salt & Sage Books and she helped with the final fine tuning. Upon writing up this interview, I’m reading my chonky proof copy one last time, to catch any last typos that have slipped through!

Have you written Legacy of the Brightwash with a particular audience in mind? Who’ll enjoy it? 

The dream is always that everyone enjoys it! I’m looking to catch the cross-section of people who like grimdark and people who like romance. This story is rough, but it’s also about love. Not only romantic love, either, but the love of family, the bonds between friends. Found family, sacrifice, and devotion. 

What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?

Definitely the people. I really love these characters. I write because I can’t bear the thought of not spending time with them. I hope that’s translated to people who are deep, complex, flawed, and lovable (or the sort of people you love to hate, depending on the character!)

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

OH BOY. Okay, let me look for something… clean. 

This is probably the most challenging question…

Okay I’m totally cheating here and doing two sentences, but it’s worth it.

“How did you get so much of another man’s blood on your jacket?” 

“I broke his jaw with an ashtray.”

How are you going to celebrate Legacy of the Brightwash’s release day?

I have a beautiful bottle of 18 year old whisky to toast 18 years with Tashué. I’m not an especially social person to begin with, and with all the lockdowns in Ontario there aren’t a lot of options. Maybe I’ll share some of the whisky with my husband, ha. Maybe there’ll be pizza. 

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022? 

With Legacy of the Brightwash landing February ‘21, I’m looking to be on track to release Legacy of Brick & Bone in February ‘22. I would also like to get some smaller books out in between. I’ve built a big world and I love exploring it. There may or may not be a novella for Jason & Lorne upcoming in the future, as well as an untitled project about a healer for the diplomatic division… We’ll see!

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers? 

Thank you for having me here to talk about my world! It’s been a long journey, getting to this point, and I’m really looking forward to all the next steps. A big thank you to everyone participating along the way, from the bloggers, to reviewers, to fellow writers, to readers. I’ve been blown away by how enthusiastic and supportive this community is, and I’m so grateful for all the ways we lift each other up. I grew up thinking that writing was a solitary hobby, and I’m so glad to be wrong--getting to know other readers and writers on Book Twitter has brought my skills to the next level, and I know this book wouldn’t exist now without all the incredible people I’ve met along the way. Thanks for being amazing, Book Twitter! 

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