eSpec Books interviews Michelle D. Sonnier, author of An Unceasing Hunger, the sequel to The Clockwork Witch, which is currently funding on Kickstarter.
eSB: It has been a while since we looked at the Clockwork Witch universe, can you give us a little recap to bring readers up to speed?
MS: In the first book, we have Arabella, who is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. Her mother thought she would be the fulfillment of the great Cagliostro Prophecy, but year after year, Arabella showed no magical talent at all and she became the embarrassment of the family. That is until she saw a machine. At that point, Arabella’s magic did blossom but rather than being nature-based magic it was technomancy. She fought to be accepted and endured The Trials so she could be recognized as a full witch by the English Council of Witches, with all the benefits and responsibilities thereof. But Arabella isn’t safe yet…. There are people who want her dead because they think she is an abomination.
eSB: How long after the first book ended does An Unceasing Hunger takes place?
MS: An Unceasing Hunger picks up three days after The Clockwork Witch ends. We’re still in the thick of it and Arabella is still in danger, even if she doesn’t realize how much danger.
eSB: What is the biggest change for your character, Arabella? What change has been fostered by the first book that will carry over to the second?
MS: The biggest change for Arabella so far is finding her backbone. She’s been so downtrodden for so long, constantly told what a disappointment she is, so it was hard for her at first to defend herself or even raise her voice. But now she has to figure out how to stand up for herself or risk becoming someone else’s very powerful puppet. In the new book, I’ve been very excited to see how moving out into the world and discovering new people and places changes Arabella. Her mother kept her very sheltered and she really has no idea about how a lot of things in the world work. Arabella is in for a lot of shocks.
eSB: Do we see a change in fortune for Arabella, or has the development of her unique power caused more conflict for her to resolve? If so, please give us an idea what pitfalls lay ahead of her.
MS: Arabella is still growing into her powers, still figuring out what she can do. So, that’s one major pitfall. She has no map to guide her, no curriculum laid out for her to know where she is in her own development. A fire witch has generations of witches before her who have explored the bounds of that power and what it can and can’t do. Arabella doesn’t have that. Also, Arabella is going to be on the run for a long time. There are witches who think she’s an abomination, and Westerfeld is still out there and he still has an axe to grind with Arabella. He’s also linked himself up with a shadowy group steeped in anti-witch sentiment called the Ilhexerai. Many of these people want her dead, and some of them want her subdued and under their control so they can use her power. She needs to stay at least one step ahead of a lot of different people if she wants to maintain her freedom and her life.
eSB: Are you working on any other projects in this universe that you would like to share with us?
MS: Oh yes! I have so many more stories to tell in the universe. Arabella’s arc alone will be seven books. If you remember the gold bands she removed from the grand clock in the first book – each one of those is another novel. I know what the central theme is for each upcoming book, but I only have serious plotting done through Book 3, and I have some exciting thoughts about Book 4. I don’t like to hem myself in with too much detail too early, because I learn so much about my characters as I write them and I want there to be room for the story to grow organically.
And then I’d like to follow Arabella’s daughter (yes, she’s coming at some point) when she becomes old enough for an adventure of her own. I imagine her heading into the less-developed area of the world now known as northern Mexico and the southwestern US. She’s searching for new ways of doing magic and she becomes a bit of a “spell slinger” in the wild, wild west.
And then there are the stories of the less central characters in the mainline books – There are twelve Houses in the English Witches Council alone, and each House is full of interesting women. I think I’d also like to write more about Guardian witches and how they are selected and trained. And then there’s the Ancient Sidhe Wars…. But that’s a bit down the line. I need to finish Arabella’s arc first!
eSB: You have a prequel novella set in this same universe, Death’s Embrace. Could you share a bit about that with us?
MS: Macaria’s story started as a simple character sketch for a major secondary character appearing in Book 3 of Arabella’s arc. But she just kept talking to me, and I kept writing. It was so interesting for me to investigate a different part of this world and learn new things about the wider back story. The Witches Councils throughout this world are not monolithic. They each have their own traditions and ways of doing things. But they do have some things in common, like keeping strict control over any woman with magical power.
eSB: Do you have plans for more adventures featuring Macaria?
MS: Indeed I do… Macaria will get pulled into the hunt for a dangerous wild, unbound witch. She still needs to figure out nyxies and how to deal with them. She’s going to fall in love and have a daughter of her own, even though that’s highly discouraged by the Polish Witches Council. Every member of the Council holds her breath until they can bind Macaria’s daughter and assure themselves that she hasn’t been taken by madness, which is a significant risk with daughters of death witches. And she’ll need to be ready to appear in Book 3 of Arabella’s arc, much older and wiser, to help Arabella deal with the Ilhexerai and whispers of dangerous dream magic.
eSB: Could you tell us about one of your most amusing or joyous experiences promoting your books?
MS: I think one of the most satisfying moments I’ve had so far was at Balticon right after we released The Clockwork Witch. I saw one of the security staff who was stationed at the Dealer’s Room and she was reading The Clockwork Witch. She looked absolutely engrossed in the book like she was really enjoying it. Another wonderful moment was when a book club chose me for their monthly read, and they asked me if I’d come to the meeting where they were discussing The Clockwork Witch. To hear right from them how much they enjoyed it was a real thrill, especially the one gentleman who said he usually doesn’t like this genre but he liked my book. It’s one of the best feelings in the world when someone enjoys your work. That’s all I want to do really, is to tell interesting stories that people enjoy.
Read an excerpt from An Unceasing Hunger
Michelle D. Sonnier writes dark urban fantasy, steampunk, and anything else that lets her combine the weird and the fantastic in unexpected ways. She even writes horror, although it took her a long time to admit that since she prefers the existential scare over blood and gore. She’s published short stories in a variety of print and online venues and has upcoming projects with eSpec Books and Otter Libris. You can find her on Facebook (Michelle D. Sonnier, The Writer) or at http://www.michelledsonnier.com. She lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a variable number of cats. The Clockwork Witch is her first full-length novel.
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