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Title: Memories of Ash
Series: The Sunbolt Chronicles, Book Two
Author: Intisar Khanani
Cover Designer: Jenny Zemanek
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: May 30, 2016
Publisher: Purple Monkey Press
In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.
Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.
If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.
Before me the water lies smooth, no ripple disturbing its crystalline surface. Upon that polished expanse gleams the spell-cast image of my mother. Dressed in a pale pink kimono embroidered in shades of rose, she kneels before a tea tray, hands on her lap and face raised toward me. I have her eyes, though my skin has the desert tint of my father’s people. Her lips, neither too full nor too thin, grace her face in harmony with the gentle roundness of her cheeks, while my own features remain hollowed by the fire that once consumed me from the inside out. By her very stillness I know she has detected some trace of my spell, the ties of blood and kinship that I have used to seek her out through the shields that surround her.
“Let it go, Hitomi,” Stormwind says gently.
I release the tenuous thread of my casting with unexpected relief. I have attempted this spell half a dozen times now, but not once have I taken it to completion. I could have done it today had I not paused to observe her. The bitterness on my tongue has the singular taste of cowardice to it.
My mother’s image breaks apart, replaced by the faint reflection of trees overhead. I watch the water’s movement over the multi-hued stones covering the lake bottom. In the early morning light, they’re every color of the earth: the burnished yellow of evening sunlight, a dreamlike lavender, grays dark as storm clouds and light as hope, reds both as bright as blood and as dark as death. The colors of life lie beneath the water, calling to me as if I might reach out and recover the memories I lost in ash nearly a year ago.
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OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:
The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.
When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you begin writing? What inspires you to write?
I’m one of those people who was always writing something. I stapled my first books together when I was three or four, and never stopped. I’ve always had stories and characters in my head; even if I wasn’t actively writing, I was still telling myself stories as I went through my days. I didn’t get serious until my final year in university when I decided to write a novel in addition to my overload class schedule, 20 hour a week job, and multiple clubs and groups. (I’m still not sure what I was thinking.) I chose my favorite Grimms’ fairy tale, The Goose Girl, as my basic plot line to make it easier on myself, and wrote a chapter a week. By the end of the year, I had a complete draft of what would eventually become my debut novel, Thorn. I’ve kept writing since then, and have a wonderful backlog of stories to awaiting revision. It isn’t so much what inspires me to write, as that I would be miserable if I weren’t writing. I love living in these worlds, watching stories unfold, and taking that away from myself would make me a pretty miserable person. Believe me, I’ve taken time away from writing, and I speak from experience when I say that!
Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
I write young adult fantasy, so clearly teens and adults who enjoy that genre are my general audience. But more specifically, my stories have strong women, difficult situations, and very real issues at heart. These are stories for people who are looking for both adventure and depth, excitement and sorrow. They are also stories that are set in a diverse world—in a world that is built on races and cultures that exist in our own world, but have been erased from the fantasy worlds we have traditionally been fed. So these books are also for people like myself, who grew up looking for a smart, capable heroine that looked even just a little bit liked them, or traveled through a city that might feel like home. These books are for the people like me who grew up twenty years ago, and needed a world that included them in more ways than one—and they’re for the girls growing up now who are still looking for that.
How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
Sunbolt references a spell that my heroine, Hitomi, casts toward the end of the first book. She gathers the latent sunlight slumbering in the things around her—the leaves, the earth—and transforms it into a bolt of lightning. The spell has severe ramifications for her, but it’s also a heckuva powerful spell, and so once she recovers, “sunbolt” becomes her mage-name, and will follow her through the remaining books.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
The cover for Memories of Ash was designed by Jenny over at Seedlings Design Studio. She is incredibly talented and I cannot stress how much I love working with her. For Memories of Ash, we discussed the different elements of the story. There are a lot of references to fire and ash, and there is a phoenix in the story. More than that, Hitomi is rising from the ashes of her old life, and of her memories, and so a bird of flame seemed the perfect image. With that to work with, as well as the design template from Book 1, Jenny started working through designs and color palettes with me. She has an amazing eye for design, and I couldn’t be happier with how this cover turned out!
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
It’s hard to play favorites, but if I had to, I’d say Hitomi herself is my favorite. She’s spunky, and smart, and strong, and she never gives up. She has her flaws, but she’s a bit more self-aware, and so she can even see herself doing things she shouldn’t ought to do. I love her for it, love how she struggles with herself, and can’t wait to see how she grows in the next book.
How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
This is a tough one! I guess I’d have to go with Hitomi’s nemesis, Arch Mage Blackflame. Although I suspect I understand his motivations better than Hitomi does, he’s still very cold-blooded in his pursuit of his goals, and his intrinsic racism makes me feel a bit sick.
If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?
The release date. I’m a perfectionist, so in a non-existent world where readers could wait forever and I could be some kind of non-vampire immortal who would live forever, I would go on tinkering with the story for another couple of years. Living in the real world, and finding I need to be realistic, I’m happy with the book as it stands. But you did ask…
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
When Hitomi heads off to save her mentor in Memories of Ash, she journeys to a city called Fidanya where a massive celebration called the Festival of Guilds is taking place. Fidanya is modeled around Ottoman-era Istanbul, and there actually was an annual Festival of Guilds that was quite likely much more awesome than I managed to depict, complete with sporting competitions, parades, “the burning of the fortresses,” and fireworks. I only wish I could have seen it myself!
What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?
My fairy tale retelling, Thorn, has been compared to fairy tales by Robin McKinley and Mercedes Lackey, both in terms of the writing and the approach to storytelling. The Sunbolt Chronicles are somewhat less traditional in scope—because of the diversity of setting, Hitomi’s own heritage, the lack of a major romance line, and the tendency for the story to take unexpected twists and turns, the series really stands on its own. Not to suggest that I’m my own special snowflake—I think this points much more to the ridiculous lack of fantasy that does these things than anything else.
How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
You can stop by my blog, subscribe to my monthly (or less) author newsletter, say hello on Twitter, or visit my on Facebook.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ll be working on the next book in The Sunbolt Chronicles, as well as a companion trilogy to my debut novel Thorn. The trilogy follows the adventures of Rae, introduced in my free short story, The Bone Knife.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Readers make an indie author’s world go round. When you read an indie book you enjoy, leave a review! Even a short one (“I liked it!”) makes a huge difference in places like GoodReads and online e-retailers, especially Amazon. Without a marketing department behind us, we depend on our readers to help us get the word out there about our books. So next time you read something you love, take a moment to say so! 😀
Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?
Pick a project and finish it—finish the first draft, and then the second, and on until you’re completely finished. Because until you take a project all the way through, you haven’t taught yourself key aspects of your craft. And once you’ve done it, it’s no longer half as intimidating as it used to be. Also, if you’re interested in indie publishing, now is the time! 😉
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you so much for the interview!
And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:
I start forward, my eyes on the bundle ahead of us. I cannot quite make out what it is. Something sticks out from the bulk of it, reaching across the floor like an errant branch, dried twigs.
Filled with foreboding, I draw closer, straining to make out the thing in the light of the glowstone. The mage slows beside me. My throat closes up. I stare, frozen mid-step, at the shape stretched out before me: a body that is nothing more than papery skin curled over the brittle bones within. A mummified corpse, preserved by the endless heat, untouched by nature, its clothing long since dissolved away. Its bones protrude obscenely: each rib tracing a line around its chest, the pelvic and hip bones encased so tightly in skin that the gaps, the natural spaces formed by the bone, seem translucent, as if the light were shining through thin parchment.
My stomach tightens into a ball. I swallow hard, forcing down the bile in my throat. The skull bears no expression, dull teeth showing through leathery lips, the eyes long since shriveled away. But that hand, outstretched… A plea. Or a single, hopeless attempt to escape death.
Beside me, the mage breathes a curse.
About the Author:
Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters.
Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, following the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles, an epic series following a street thief with a propensity to play hero when people need saving, and her nemesis, a dark mage intent on taking over the Eleven Kingdoms.
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