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Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Charlotte Ashe, author of The Heart of All Worlds Book 2: The King and the Criminal.
Hi Charlotte, thank you for agreeing to this interview and welcome to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Thank you so much for having me! I’m excited to be here!
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, and it has always been a passion of mine. Recently, I decided it was time to dust off that old dream and seriously pursue it. My first novel, The Heart of All Worlds, Book 1: The Sidhe was published in 2015, and The King and the Criminal is the second book in the series. It is a love story at its heart, about an elfin king’s uneasy alliance with a criminal he was supposed to bring to justice, against a backdrop of political upheaval.
- Why did you choose to write LGBTQ stories?
As a queer person myself, I grew up wanting to read more stories about people like me, so that is definitely part of it. I also love speculative fiction, and I believe it is the perfect genre for really exploring issues of gender and sexuality in the social structures of fictional worlds. Fantasy can be an amazing escape, but it can be difficult to sink into that escape as an LGBTQ person when it’s just an escape to another homophobic and rigidly gendered world. LGBTQ stories are the stories of myself and the people in my community, even when those stories are set in completely fantastical worlds.
- What inspired you to write your first book?
Basically, I set out to write something that I’d always wanted to read but hadn’t been able to find. While many published works of science fiction and fantasy do explore issues of gender and sexuality, high fantasy tends to stick to stories told in rigidly heterosexist and patriarchal worlds. I started writing The Heart of All Worlds trilogy because I wanted to write a work of high fantasy that really felt like high fantasy, while breaking a lot of the traditional rules of the genre.
- When and why did you begin writing?
I can’t remember a time that I didn’t write! I really started writing probably around age 8, and I would create “books” of photocopied stories. I especially loved writing horror stories as a kid, and that ended up progressing to fantasy and science fiction by the time I was in middle school. I always had a ridiculously active imagination—my mother kept audio tapes of me spinning stories as early as 3 years old. I came up with all sorts of things—one of my favorites was that there were apparently purple people with flat bodies that lived between the inner and outer walls of our house. I even made up some words in their language. I was 4. If I hadn’t started writing, I don’t know what I would have done with an imagination like that.
- What are you current projects?
Right now I’m working on the final book in The Heart of All Worlds trilogy, which will be coming out sometime in 2017. I am also plotting out my next trilogy, which will be set in the same universe as The Heart of All Worlds and will feature some of the same characters, but with a particular focus on the women in the Keshell family. And I’m always thinking of new ideas for future books—I keep a little notebook in my purse that is brimming with ideas.
- Off topic: What secret talents do you have?
That’s a tough one! I’m really good at Tetris, does that count? I’m also pretty fantastic at making those little origami stars out of strips of magazine pages. More seriously, though, I am very good at crisis management. It is a skill I have honed in my day job working with homeless teens, but it has always come naturally to me. For whatever reason, I am able to stay very calm, with laser focus on what needs to get done, when a crisis occurs. I think it’s just how I’m wired. It has been vitally helpful in many situations throughout my life.
The Heart of All Worlds series continues with Sehrys and Brieden living in Khryslee. But when King Firae is trapped by an ancient pact and Sehrys is forced to rule in his absence, Firae relys on an exiled criminal to get home. Meanwhile, a more urgent truth confronts them: Their world is in grave danger and they all play a part in its fate.
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The King & The Criminal ~ EXCERPT
It came back to Firae like a cold fist slowly squeezing his heart, so slowly that he didn’t realize it was happening until the pain was overwhelming. He swallowed. They couldn’t avoid the truth. And he couldn’t bear another dishonest moment between them.
“Five months,” Firae said.
Tash made an inquisitive noise; his eyes never left Firae’s.
“I have five months to complete my mission. I promised to help Brissa, and I intend to keep that promise, but…”
“But we don’t know if we will fulfill the prophecy in time,” Tash supplied.
“The Doctrine has been compromised. The Border is unstable.”
Tash nodded. “I know.” His voice had grown very soft.
“If I don’t return with the elf responsible…” Firae forced himself to maintain eye contact rather than close his eyes and cower in the face of reality. For, whatever Tash might think, Firae was king of Yestralekrezerche, and The Border and its surrounding lands were his responsibility. “I can sacrifice tens of thousands of lives or I can sacrifice you, Tash. I—I don’t want to, but—”
Tash closed his eyes. “I know,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper. He swallowed thickly. “I know.”
Firae searched for anything else he could say, but everything that came to mind sounded hollow. It was true that the Council might show Tash mercy for his pure intent, but the amount of blood and essence they would need from him to restabilize The Border would likely be more than his body could withstand, even if they did wish to spare him. So Firae just watched Tash until he opened his eyes again.
“I know,” Tash said one final time, looking at Firae with such resignation that it was painful to witness. And then Tash turned to face the wall with his arms wrapped tightly around himself. Firae moved to fit behind him and wrapped an arm tentatively around Tash’s waist.
“I would like you to go back to your own quarters now,” Tash said firmly.
“Tash—” Firae began to protest.
“Just go, Firae. Please.”
Firae swallowed around a lump that had found its way into his throat and slowly removed his arm. “Of course. I…” There was nothing left to say. “Goodnight, Tash.”
Tash didn’t say anything.
* * *
The doctor waved them through the house and into the back garden without even offering a pot of tea; he seemed quite aware of the urgency of the situation.
Tash and Cliope inhaled sharply at the scene that greeted them.
The sidhe lay on his stomach in the soft grass with a thin blanket draped over his buttocks and back. His features were illuminated by the moons, and he was—
He was lovely: long dark hair and full pink lips; skin pale but warm-hued, smooth as marble; sweet, lean muscles. The boy—man, he was a man, but he couldn’t have been one for long—was as perfect as a sculpture. Tash could barely breathe at the sight of him.
“Well,” Cliope whispered on an exhale. “That—that is a good-looking man.”
Tash laughed softly and looked to Dr. Lasceli, who nodded his assent for Tash to approach the other sidhe.
Tash walked to the unconscious elf and bent down beside him. He knew nothing about the man; he could be friend, foe, or someone to whom Tash would be indifferent if they’d met under different circumstances. But he was sidhe and he was in need of assistance, and Tash—
Well. Tash was different now. At least he was trying to be.
Tash settled cross-legged in the damp grass beside the other elf and took the man’s cool, limp hand in his own. Up close, the man was even more striking. He looked younger than Tash, perhaps by fifty years or even a century, and his dark hair was a glossy near-black. His eyelashes were equally black, sweeping to dramatic lengths against his fine cheekbones. His long, slender ears were dotted with small hoops and cuffs of copper and silver all the way up to their points. Some of the earrings were connected to one another with tangled chains.
Tash closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He could feast upon the other man’s beauty like the greedy, touch-starved celibate he was, or he could do what he could to save the man’s life.
Centering his own power, Tash released the man’s hand and checked the four points of his body.
His midsection gave no response, which didn’t surprise Tash. If the man wielded water, being submerged would probably have revived him, even if he had lost consciousness before falling into the water. His forehead pulsed warm but not hot—probably low-grade compulsion, healing, or telekinesis, but not the center of his power, unless he wielded an even weaker expression of the Common caste than Tash himself. If this was the man’s only point of power, his chances of survival were slim.
Tash moved his hands to the tops of the other man’s feet and felt warmth again, which was a relief—two points of power made his survival that much more likely, after all.
Tash wet his lips nervously before proceeding to the final point. He hadn’t dared to hope that the one way in which he was most likely to help would be available to him, but as he gently lifted the man’s shoulder so that he could slip his hand below the sidhe’s chest and hold it over his heart, Tash’s entire body gave a jolt and he gasped. His eyes slipped closed at the heat that shot up his arm and into his own heart.
* * *
About the Author
Charlotte Ashe works in the nonprofit world by day and writes romantic fantasy by night. A long-time fan of speculative fiction that skews feminist and features LGBT characters, Charlotte loves writing stories that are sexy, heartfelt, and full of magic and adventure. She has put her BA in literature and creative writing to use over the years as a writer of fan fiction, and her most popular work has drawn more than one million readers worldwide, been translated into several languages, and been featured in online publications including The Backlot. Her first novel, The Sidhe, was published in 2015 by Interlude Press and named a finalist for a Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.
The King & The Crikminal will be published by Interlude Press on December 8, 2016. Connect with author Charlotte Ashe at CharlotteAshe.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/charlotteashewrites and on Twitter at @CobwebsandAshes