Author: Constance Cooper
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Clarion Books
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Yonie Watereye lives in the bayou. The water there is full of guile, a power that changes people and objects. Yonie, 16, makes a living investigating objects affected by guile, but in fact it’s her talking cat, LaRue, who has the power to see guile.
Yonie becomes aware that someone is sending harmful guile-changed objects to certain people, including herself. Her investigation becomes entwined with her hunt for the secrets of her mother’s past and leads her to discover dangers hidden within her own family.
In the suspenseful adventure that follows, Yonie and her furry sidekick face challenges that could end their adventuring forever.
Constance's fantasy novel Guile will be published March 1, 2016 by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Guile is set in the Bad Bayous, where the water makes strange and unpredictable changes to things (or animals, or people) that soak too long.
Constance's short stories have appeared in Asimov's, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and various other publications. Her work has been podcast, translated into Swedish and Hebrew, and included in “Best Of” anthologies. She also writes sf poetry, and has twice been nominated for the Rhysling Award.
Constance grew up mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area, with one year spent in Surrey, England and a chunk of another spent in Newfoundland, Canada. She studied journalism at UC Santa Cruz, where she hiked to class through redwood forest, explored secret caves, and helped edit the college newspaper. Later she earned an MA in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, and stayed on in Philadelphia working on a linguistic research project before getting sucked into the brand-new world of website design.
After Constance met her husband, they moved to Edinburgh, Scotland for two years, where she morphed into a software engineer. Just as she'd acclimated to saying “beeta testing” and “proh-cessor,” she and her husband returned to the Bay Area to work for a natural language search company.
Now Constance lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two children, and is enjoying ever-increasing time to write the kind of stories she's always loved. Her published science fiction so far has all been set on alien planets, and often told from alien viewpoints (including reptilian, mammalian, and crustacean analogues.) In writing fantasy, she's attracted to inventive, nonstandard settings, light touches of humor, and just pure adventurous fun. Constance's writing also shows the influence of her love for mysteries.
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1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I started with the idea of a witch and her cat familiar, and mixed it up. What if the cat was the one with the powers? What if the witch was young? What if I didn't let myself use the words “witch” or “magic”? I'd been reading some books set in New Orleans, so I got inspired to create a swampy setting where the “guile” was in the water and the water was pretty much everywhere. What would it be like to live surrounded by this mysterious substance? What if its effects were unpredictable—sometimes helpful, sometimes sinister, sometimes humorous?
2. Who is your favorite character in the book?
It's a tie between Yonie Watereye, the main character, and her cat LaRue, who has the power of speech (does she ever!) I loved writing their conversations, with sixteen-year-old Yonie being extremely intelligent but slightly naïve and LaRue being more worldly and cynical.
3. Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel, by a mile! My editor and I were in the last stages of editing and still struggling to find a title. My working title was “Wily Things,” but that doesn't make sense unless you already know the special meaning that the word 'wily' has in the book. We tried out several versions of “Yonie Watereye and the” something-or-other, but that made the book sound like it was meant for a younger audience. Then one day my editor emailed me: “Finally, the light bulb! What about GUILE for a title?” I loved it instantly.
4. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
There's one where Yonie's temper gets the better of her and she hideously embarrasses herself in a very public situation—that was really fun for me, if not for her. There's also a scene where two characters are reunited. As I recall, I actually made myself cry while I was writing it, though maybe that says more about what a softy I am than about the actual scene.
5. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer
from then to now?
How to leave out the boring parts! It took awhile for me to figure out that I could magically zap from one place to another without having to describe the route that the characters took. Or I could summarize things like people greeting each other or updating each other on events, instead of having some blah dialog. Now I know that if I'm not enjoying writing a particular chunk of text, it's a sign that probably I can shorten it or get along without it.
6. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I like the impression you get of deep water, with darkness and mystery below. That's an image that's important throughout the story. On a more practical note, I like how the cover can appeal to a wide audience—male and female, teens and adults—just as I hope the book will.
7. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2016?
I can't wait to read The Bands of Mourning, the new Mistborn novel by Brandon Sanderson.
8. What was your favorite book in 2015?
Oh boy, there were so many! I have to mention The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett, the final book in his Tiffany Aching series (and, sadly, his final book altogether.) I also loved The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher, which tells the story of an airship captain in a world where humanity is surviving in tall towers far above the lethal surface of their planet.
9. What’s up next for you?
My current project is a YA fantasy novel set in Gold Rush San Francisco. Its main character is a young woman who manages to transport a colony of honeybees to the city. But her plans to be California's first beekeeper start to go wrong, and she realizes there's something very strange going on in the city involving bees, gold, and dangerous magic.
10. Is there anything that you would like to add?
I have a short story coming out in April in To Shape the Dark, a science fiction anthology themed around women scientists and edited by Athena Andreadis (author of The Biology of Star Trek). My story is called “Carnivores of Can't-Go-Home” and features two botanists on an alien planet where insects are enormous, and carnivorous plants are too.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of GUILE, US only.
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