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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

SPFBO Finalist Interview: Trudie Skies, the author of The Thirteenth Hour



Book links: AmazonGoodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Trudie Skies has been living inside fantasy worlds ever since she discovered that reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Through the magic of books, she wishes to share these worlds of hope and heroes with other weary souls. Living in North East England, Trudie spends most of her free time daydreaming about clouds, devouring whatever fantasy books or video games she can get her hands on, and chasing after her troublesome dogs, who would like to reassure you they are very good boys.

You can chat with Trudie on Twitter @TrudieSkies

Publication Date: October 13, 2021 Publisher: Trudie Skies Page Count: 535 Formats: audiobook, ebook, paperback

INERVIEW

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

Hello! I’m Trudie from North East England. I’ve previously published a YA Fantasy series through a small press, and I’m now branching out into self-publishing adult fantasy. I’m a big fan of fantasy, especially indie fantasy, but also indie games as well. I have a degree in video game design and a lot of my story ideas and world-building are inspired by my favourite RPG’s.

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

I work in IT admin, which is a fancy way of saying I copy and paste data. All that typing is a nice warmup for writing! Or it’s going to eventually cripple me.

Who are some of your favorite writers, and why is their work important to you?

I grew up on Tamora Pierce and Philip Pullman, and there’s definitely some His Dark Materials influence in The Thirteenth Hour. Though my favourite YA to adult author and biggest modern influence is Leigh Bardugo.

Nowadays, I take inspiration from some of the incredible indie and self-published authors out there and aim to become as good as they are! Authors such as H.L. Tinsley, Krystle Matar, L.L. Macrae, Michael R. Fletcher, Rob J. Hayes, and Sarah Chorn, to name a few. I’ve read and loved their books, and each author has taught me what I can improve in my own work.

It's also important to me, as a new self-published author, to see these amazing authors recognized! Every win for a self-published author is a win for us all.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

I used to write in third person but I found my ‘voice’ when I started writing in first person. I’d say my style is heavy on character voice and full of British humour, as well as a penchant for evil exclamation marks and italics.

What made you decide to self-publish The Thirteenth Hour as opposed to traditional publishing?

Honestly, I consider The Thirteenth Hour to be my best work to date, but I didn’t think it would be worth querying it due to the length being over 120k words, and the book itself being quite chaotic and complex in places. I wasn’t even sure what genre it was at first! But also, I’ve always admired the self-publishing scene because self-published authors have the freedom to be creative and innovative, to write books beyond what marketing budgets dictate. And so I wanted to get involved myself and learn how to self-publish a book.

What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is?

Definitely the freedom to write what you want and market how you want while bringing in your own royalties, though of course that freedom comes with limitations. Yes, you can write what you want and design your own cover, but you also have to bear in mind the market if you’re hoping to sell books.

On the other hand, is there anything you feel self-published authors may miss out on?

Self-published authors are at a disadvantage when it comes to marketing. It’s not impossible to climb Amazon’s ranks or get your book into bookstores, but it’s harder. It’s also harder to get recognition, but that’s where competitions like SPFBO come in to help make self-published authors more visible.

So Far, The Thirteenth Finalist is one of three SPFBO finalists available in audiobook format. Can you share your experience producing it and a reflection if it was worth it?

I never actually planned to produce an audiobook so early in my self-publishing career because it sounded quite complicated and expensive. But then a friend of mine introduced me to the charming RJ Bayley, the narrator of other SPFBO finalist H.L. Tinsley, and he was able to describe the various paths to creating an audiobook and answer my questions regarding the process. He was so lovely, that I thought sod it, I’ll take a chance.

And I’m glad I did! Working with RJ was a delight and he put a lot of emotion into the audiobook version, as well as created individual voices and accents for the characters. It was definitely worth it to me, and I hope to work with him again!

Why did you enter SPFBO?

As a reader and fan of indie fantasy, I’ve been following SPFBO for a while. To me, entering SPFBO was always a goal, and one of the reasons why I wanted to self-publish instead of going with a small press. My dream was to become a semi-finalist, because to me, it felt like a badge of honour. That I’d ‘made it’ as an author. I never expected to make it this far! I’m still not entirely sure I’m not hallucinating.

What would you do if you won the SPFBO?

I’ll invite the other finalists, semi-finalists, and bloggers for afternoon tea and cake. Mark Lawrence is also welcome to come, naturally!

How would you describe the plot of The Thirteenth Hour if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

Cruel gods rule the steam-powered city of Chime and demand worship from their mortal subjects, but when soul-sucking creatures prey on Chime’s citizens, it’ll take godless heathens to save them—before the gods take matters into their own hands.

What was your initial inspiration for The Thirteenth Hour? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

My original idea behind The Thirteenth Hour came when I was twelve years old. I loved creating my own worlds, and came up with a fantasy based on elemental worlds accessible via portals and a main character who worked against the forces of chaos. Throughout the years, I kept coming back to that idea, but felt it wasn’t good enough to turn into a story, so I shelved it.

Then during the pandemic, I started playing more Skyrim, and became inspired by the Daedric gods and how they each ruled their own realm. I went back to my old idea and reworked it into domains created by cruel gods, and then I also took inspiration from the steampunk-like Dwemer which became the city of Chime and the clock-like system of accessing the domains via a magical portal.

So you could say I’ve been working on this book for a long time! Though really, the story it evolved into didn’t take much time at all.

If you had to describe it in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Atmospheric, British, Charming.

Is it part of the series or a standalone? If series, how many books have you planned for it?

The Thirteenth Hour is book one in a planned trilogy. The sequel, The Children of Chaos, is out now, and I plan to start drafting the third soon for release in 2023. Though I’m not done with this world yet, and hope to write a spinoff or two!

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to The Thirteenth Hour’s protagonists/antagonists?

The Thirteenth Hour is told from the perspective of two characters; Kayl and Quen.

Kayl is a member of the Godless, an organisation who tries to help protect mortals against the whims of the gods. Quen is a Warden, a police force who act as the gods’ eyes and ears and arrest sinners like Kayl.

The two of them are complete opposites – Kayl is a playful sinner and a walking disaster with no sense of time, whereas Quen is a gentleman dork who can manipulate time. They’re thrown together and forced into an unlikely partnership to discover the source of mysterious soul-sucking creatures stalking their city…

There’s no single antagonist in this book as there are morally grey and selfish characters out for themselves, as well as the gods who rule over their mortals and punish those who sin. There are twelve gods in all, and we’ll meet them all throughout The Cruel Gods series.

How did you select the names of your characters?

The main character of Kayl stayed the same from my original twelve-year-old self’s story, though I think the name suits her and what she is! As for Quen, I’m not entirely sure where he came from – I liked the name Quentin as a British-sounding name, and Quen just fit him perfectly.

Many of the names in The Thirteenth Hour are somewhat on the nose as they’re based on their domains. The fiery Ember have names like Sinder and Fira, the Umber have natural or rock-sounding names (Like Druzy Smith), the musical Seren have names like Harmony, Sonata, etc. I spent a lot of time looking at baby name websites for ideas, that’s for sure!

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

There’s more of a soft magic system. Basically, each of the twelve gods create mortals in their likeness, and these mortals have abilities based on their god or domain. For example, the Ember can summon fire, the Umber can control plants, the Seren can manipulate people through song, and so on. There’s no real limit to these powers beyond a mortal’s own stamina – maintaining magical abilities can take their toll – but there are rules against using them to abuse mortals.

The most powerful are probably the Diviner, who can manipulate time by rewinding, fast-forwarding or pausing time. But controlling time tends to drain them, so they often can’t hold it for long.

The gods themselves are all-powerful. It is their existence which keeps a domain afloat, and which gives mortals their lives. Without the gods, mortals would not exist, though the gods can make or break mortality with a snap of their fingers.




Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of The Thirteenth Hour and the artist?

The book cover was designed by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design. I went to them with the idea of having the two main characters on the cover in front of a clock and they delivered.

Well, initially I said I wanted a blue-skinned elf girl, and they weren’t sure about that – they thought it might look a bit daft. So I was pleasantly surprised when they pulled it off! I made sure that Kayl was taller than Quen on the cover, as she is in the book, and you’ll notice that Quen is holding a pocket watch, which is quite important to his character. I did want Kayl to hold a mirror with her reflection – indicating the ‘secret’ character hidden inside – but it looked a bit like a magnifying glass, so I thought it would be best to remove it and not confuse readers!

Which question about the book do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

If you could create more domains, what would they be:

BEES! I want a bee domain with bee mortals! Can you imagine a bee in a top hat?

I’d also like to create more non-animal or non-humanoid gods and mortals.

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2022/2023?


The Children of Chaos has just come out, so I’ll be working hard on the third and final book in the series for summer 2023, titled The End of Time. After that, I’m thinking it’ll be nice to take a break from writing a series and write one of the many fantasy standalone ideas I have!

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?

I’d like to offer a big thank you to my readers and the bloggers taking part in SPFBO for their enthusiasm and support. None of us authors would be here without you. Please keep on reading and raving about self-published books!

If you’re planning on picking up The Thirteenth Hour, then it’s best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a handful of biscuits.

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