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Thursday, December 7, 2023

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL Q&A: The Storm Beneath The World (Children Of Corruption #1) by Michael R. Fletcher

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic Michael. How are you doing since the release of A WAR TO END ALL, the end of your Manifest Delusions saga?
MRF: Welcome back? Yeah, I guess this place does look kinda familiar. Er…if anything went missing after my last visit, it wasn’t me. And if anything was broken, it was like that when I got here.

How am I doing? I don’t know.

There’s this weird thing that happens after you release a book where you wander around feeling empty for a while. But then this itch grows down in the deepest recesses of your obsidian soul and at some point, you end up sitting in front of a computer again.
There was this mad flurry around the release, then the emptiness, and now I’m writing again. Which is good. Writers are like sharks; if we stop moving forward, we can’t afford to buy groceries. Or something.
Q] What was the main inspiration for THE STORM BENEATH THE WORLD & the world within? Where do you think the idea came from and what compelled you to see it through to the end?
MRF: Oh man, where do the ideas come from? No idea!

Wait, that’s a lie. I kinda remember this one.

So, I am a bit of a cardio junky. My brain is, apparently, extremely efficient at creating endocannabinoids. Basically, if I do 40+ minutes of cardio I get high. It’s kind of awesome. Funny thing though, it’s super easy to eat and drink back the calories you burn in 40 minutes, so I’m nowhere near skinny. Just high. I’m fat and high and my basal heart rate is under 60BPM.

But that’s not all of it. I also get a high from writing. When a book is going well, when it’s tumbling out of my brain faster than I can two-finger type the words, that same awesome brain starts dumping those lovely endocannabinoids.

I am a word junkie.

Well, I started thinking about that. I wanted to use it as part of a magic system. I believe that all great magic systems include a cost. The characters in The Storm Beneath the World can develop incredible talents, but the more they use them, the more addicted they become to using them. Eventually, they starve to death, using their talent over and over, forever getting that little bit better, until they starve to death. Much like a word-junkie writer who isn’t selling enough books.

After that, I decided I wanted a story without any humans because I wanted to look at hive instead of tribe (for reasons). And thus, my insectile ashkaro were born. And then I thought it would be cool if I wrote a fantasy book that took place in the upper atmosphere of a mega gas giant world. So…

Yeah, it was probably a bad idea, but you go where the muse leads.
Q] Let’s talk about the stunning cover for THE STORM BENEATH THE WORLD. How did you come across Andrew Maleski’s work? Can you tell how it all came together?
MRF: Back when I was looking for an artist for A War to End All, Zack Argyle (who invented socks, and also wrote the Threadlight trilogy) introduced me to Andrew. It was love at first sight. Mostly for me. I bombarded Andrew with increasingly insane demands (More blood! More insanity!) and he kept smashing it.

When it came to find and artist for The Storm Beneath the World, Andrew was my first call. He grudgingly agreed to do the art as long as I promised not to be crazy this time.

I promised.

I lied.

Q] What was your first reaction when you saw it? How does it hold up (in your opinion) to what the main story is about?
MRF: I love the cover. While it’s not a specific scene this time, it definitely captures the feel of the world.
Q] Let’s talk about THE STORM BENEATH THE WORLD, there are so very few fantasy books written about non-humanoid races/characters? This is a completely different type of story as compared to all your previous works. How was the writing experience for you? How difficult was it?
MRF: They’re not humans but they’re still people, if that makes any sense. 
I’m in love with themes, the story beneath the story. Whether or not anyone notices or cares, all my books have one. It makes me happy, and that’s all that matters.

I was thinking about humans and our monkey heritage. We pretend like we’ve moved past that, but we haven’t. At all. We’re chimps with slightly more advanced brains. That led me to thinking about what it would be like if hive insects evolved intelligence and then began discovering individuality.

Don’t tell anyone, but the book is actually a sneaky hive = tribe thing and what I’m really picking at is people. Shh!
Q] Can you tell us more about the world that The Children of Corruption saga is set in and some of the story’s major characters? What are the (many) curiosities of this world?
MRF: One of the root ideas for this (and why oh why can’t I just write a normal fantasy book?) was that I was going to write alien fantasy. I wanted to write a fantasy novel as if it had been written by aliens for aliens. And so, no humans. At all. Anywhere.

I started with the world. What if this fantasy novel took place in the upper atmosphere of a mega gas giant world? After that I saw these colossal living islands—balloon creatures—that lived for millions and millions of years, forever floating there. I saw smaller creatures living on their backs, growing and evolving. Look up, and there’s no sun—the atmosphere is too dense—and all you see is a lighter spot that traverses the sky. Look down and there’s the boiling maelstrom of the lower atmosphere, the storm beneath your world.

Then, the magic system discussed above, a caste system based loosely on insect structures, sentient praying mantises, and war!

It’s that tired old trope.

Q] So for someone who (still) hasn't read any of your novels, what would be your pitch for THE STORM BENEATH THE WORLD?
MRF: Read my fucking books!
Q] So what can readers expect from THE STORM BENEATH THE WORLD and what should they be looking forward to according to you?
MRF: There will be things and stuff and events. There will be moments of selfless sacrifice and utter self-serving greed.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.

Then you’ll go have a snack.

Fuck, I dunno.

Q] THE STORM BENEATH THE WORLD is book 1 of The Children of Corruption saga. How many books are you planning to write in this series? 
MRF: Two, though that might change.

The second book, The River of Days, is one third written. I want this to be a duology, but in the end the story will decide what it needs to be. I’m just there for the ride.

Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?
MRF: Existence is simultaneously far simpler than we think it is and yet so complex we will never understand all of it.

That’s what makes it awesome. —Mike Fletcher



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