Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your book, Smoke and Summons! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the novel’s premise?
Charlie N. Holmberg: Sandis is an enslaved vessel used to host ethereal demons—specifically a fire-horse named Ireth. When her master starts killing vessels in an attempt to summon an all-powerful demon, Sandis makes a run for it. But she’s incredibly valuable, and her master uses every resource he has to hunt her down—mortal and immortal alike.
Sandis runs into Rone, a thief-for-hire reeling from the sudden imprisonment of his mother. He owns a device that grants him immortality for one minute each day. His device, along with his cunning, may be enough to aid Sandis’s escape, if she can convince him to be her ally.
BD: Given the combination of the fantasy, supernatural, and romance genres in this story, how would you describe your approach to melding the genres, and did you find any specific challenges in doing so?
CNH: The great thing about fantasy is that it can be anything. Mystery, thriller, romance, horror. It’s this magical genre that encompasses all else, while making it literally “fantastic.” Because of that, it wasn’t difficult to meld the different flavors of the book. I always have at least a little romance to my writing, because I adore romance and it’s a natural page-turner.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working on this book, and what do you hope that readers will take away from the story?
CNH: This book was a bit of a Frankenstein. I was getting pressure from both my editor and agent to do another series, and my brain tends to think in standalones. So, I sat down (while on vacation) to figure out how to make a story BIG enough to encompass three books. And I started stealing from past, dead novels of mine, as well as other ideas I’d previously brainstormed. The rest of my process is pretty standard: I write down ideas until I can see a story starting to form, and then I storyboard what I have with sticky notes on my office wall. Once I fill in the gaps, I type up an outline and go to town. I have a lot of notes for this series!
I hope readers will have an adventure with this series. I really think it’s my best story to date, and I hope readers enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
BD: Were there any previous creators or works that impacted your approach to the story?
CNH: Is it funny if I say Final Fantasy? ;) The whole summoning aspect of the magic system was inspired by those video games (specifically 8, 9, and 12).
I’d also add Brandon Sanderson. I love his books, and he was a mentor to me when I was still in college. I aspire to be as creative as he is.
Studio Ghibli is an inspiration, in some part, to everything I write, as well. Their creativity and ability to think outside the box is astounding.
BD: As this is the first book in a new series, what can you tell us about your plans for the mystical, new world that lies ahead for readers?
CNH: Certainly! There will be much emotional trauma up ahead, as well as an expanding of the magic system and deepening of the history of Kolingrad. New characters, new relationship, and lots of secrets revealed.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
CNH: Yes! Right now I’m editing The Will and the Wilds (title may change), a standalone romantic fantasy. It’s my spin on the enchanted forest trope and is the most heavily romantic story I’ve written so far.
I’m also working on the first book of a duology called Spellbreaker, which is more in the vein of The Paper Magician. Magic-laced society, alternate Victorian England. I’m really excited for this one, and I hope my editor will be, too!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Smoke and Summons?
CNH: For the most recent news, they can follow me on social media (@cnholmberg on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter). Admittedly, I give the most attention to Instagram. Big announcements will also be shared on my website, charlienholmberg.com. Interested readers can also sign up for my newsletter on my site to get updates straight to their inbox.
Information about the book and its series are, of course, on Amazon and Goodreads, as well!