FRIDAY SF & FANTASY – A Circle of Firelight
A Circle of Firelight
by Curtis Edmonds
Genre: NA Fantasy
Release Date: February 20th 2020
Scary Hippopotamus Books
On the battlefield of dreams, the strongest weapons are imagination–and love.
Ashlyn Revere is a bright, determined and resourceful college graduate trying to get a job in publishing. When Ashlyn and her sister Penny are left comatose after an automobile accident, they find themselves in Summervale, a beautiful and perilous realm straight from the pages of fantasy novels–which is ruled by a mysterious Dark Lord.
When Ashlyn discovers that Penny is being held captive, she enlists the help of a talking black rabbit and a scarlet knight to save her sister. She learns that Penny is deep within her own fantasy of Regency romance—and that she sees being in a coma as a way to escape from her daily struggles with cystic fibrosis. Ashlyn tries to rescue her anyway, but a fire-breathing dragon and a real-world seizure complicate her plans.
As Penny recovers from her injuries and leaves Summervale, Ashlyn is rescued by a servant of the Dark Lord who promises to show her just how precarious her own medical situation is. In the real world, Ashlyn’s medical condition has worsened, forcing her doctors to consider risky surgery. Ashlyn rejects an offer from the Dark Lord to remain in Summervale forever, and chooses to raise an army of knights to fight for her freedom and independence.
Penny must face a choice of her own. As Ashlyn hovers between life and death, Penny learns that Ashlyn would be a good match to provide the donor set of lungs that Penny needs to free her from the constraints of cystic fibrosis.
As doctors battle to save Ashlyn’s life, she leads her forces against the Dark Lord in a desperate conflict in the streets of an imaginary Manhattan—while Penny must find the answer to her own destiny in a dying circle of firelight. Can the sisters rescue themselves—and each other?
A CIRCLE OF FIRELIGHT blends postmodern fantasy and real-world emotional conflict in a daring tale that will delight adult and young adult readers alike.
Interview with the Author
What initially got you interested in writing?
For most people, the answer for this question is usually high-minded (and, not coincidentally, designed to make them look good in the process). I am not ashamed to say that the person who initially got me interested in writing was Jackie Chan.
Okay, maybe I should explain that.
In my early twenties, I was very enthusiastic about Rumble in the Bronx, a laughably goofy action movie where the great martial arts actor Jackie Chan chases a hovercraft through a New York borough that looks amazingly like Vancouver, because it is. And, for reasons that, given the passage of time, I do not adequately remember, I wrote a movie review and posted it to a Usenet group. (Google it; I don’t have time to explain.) And then I wrote more movie reviews, and put up a little movie review website, and then posted them on a site called Epinions (which was a venture capital start-up that was Yelp before Yelp). I met a lot of friends there, and they encouraged me to continue writing.
What genres do you prefer to write in?
Comedy! The most fun I have writing anything is when I get a good idea for a McSweeney’s piece – I’ve been published ten times there, which is really something for someone who’s not a celebrity. I like to think that there are comic elements in all my writing—sometimes that’s more obvious than others. You can’t write just comedy – it doesn’t sell, unless you’re good enough to go on TV, which I am not. But having a little comedy in your voice helps the reader stay with you, or I’ve always thought so.
Are there any authors you prefer to read and why?
I read a lot of historical fiction, although I am much too lazy to write any of it myself. I enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s work immensely; he’s written two sprawling series about the Napoleonic Wars and the founding of England, both of them first-rate. Patrick O’Brian is another favorite; you really can’t praise the Aubrey-Maturin novels enough. You really can’t pigeonhole Mark Helprin as a historical fiction writer, but when he writes historical fiction, it’s astounding.
For something lighter, I prefer comic fiction—I just finished Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, and it’s fantastic. I plowed through all of Jodi Taylor’s novels about a British time-travel institute; she came up from self-publishing and has deserved her success.
How did you make the move into being a published author?
Depends on how you define “published author.” Everything I’ve written has been self-published. Outside of one disastrous job interview at a New York publishing house, I’ve never been able to come within sniffing distance of actual publishing. And at my age, I’m too tired to make the effort anymore. I’m not willing to truckle to agents just to get a traditional publishing deal; it’s too nerve-wracking. If traditional publishing ever wants me, I am not that hard to find.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Writing is a tremendous pain in the posterior. I am literally only sitting here writing this because it’s only slightly preferable to walking on the God-blessed treadmill, which I have to do as soon as I finish this. I talk a little in A CIRCLE OF FIRELIGHT about physical therapy (which I haven’t had to do myself, you understand) but writing is like that, in a way. You have to work really hard at something painful, with someone constantly prodding you to do that. But in therapy, you can direct your negative feelings at the therapist. For writing, the only thing that is making you do it is you, and where do you go to escape from yourself? You can’t do it. The only reward is at the end, and everyone knows that the reward for a job well done is another job. I have my brain right now constantly nagging me to write the next book, and it’s painful.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Writing is easy. Really, it is. My dad spent his summers pouring concrete in the Texas heat. That’s difficult. I am sitting here, in my library, in a comfortable chair, listening to Bob Dylan on a Bose sound system, typing happily away. That’s easy. I am not saying I enjoy it, mind you, but it’s not physically or emotionally difficult.
What’s challenging is editing. Look, anyone can write. Read some of the dregs of the Amazon self-publishing sphere if you want proof of that. What’s hard to do is to spot the places in your own writing that are weak, or don’t make sense, or that need to be better. That’s difficult—not like pouring concrete, you understand, but you have to confront your own limitations. And then you have to hire an editor—you have to, literally, pay someone to point out what an idiot you are. That’s even worse.
Do you have any tips for writers who find themselves experiencing writer’s block?
Write something else, and listen. The secret is to understand that the part of your brain that wants you to write doesn’t care, necessarily, what you write. Write a letter to the editor. Write the shopping list you would need if you were going to live on Mars for ten years. Write a letter to yourself when you’re ninety. Don’t stop the habit of writing—and that’s what it is—but redirect yourself into something that you can handle.
And then listen. Can’t say when it will happen, or how it will happen, but—eventually!—you’ll hear the voice that tells you what to do next. I know this, because it’s happened to me. In my first book, RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY, I wrote a scene where the main character was comforting his daughter, who had just miscarried, and I didn’t know where to take it from there. And then, in the shower, I heard it, the still, small voice that said, “she didn’t have a miscarriage, she had an abortion,” and that’s all it took. (I had something similar happen in A CIRCLE OF FIRELIGHT, but it was literally something that was so obvious that I am too embarrassed to say what it was.)
What advice would you give to people that want to enter the field?
Understand this; writing, in and of itself, won’t make you happy. The person who sold the most books in the history of the world was Agatha Christie, and she was so miserable that she faked her own death just to escape from a bad situation. Finishing a book is a relief, but it won’t necessarily make you happy. Getting an agent or a publisher can be a great thing, but it’s not the royal road to happiness. (All I want is the chance to prove that getting an agent won’t make me unhappy.) Good reviews and good sales are wonderful, but they won’t always make you happy. Figure out what makes you happy, and do that—and if you can still write, then you’ve been given a gift.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I have a bit of a difficult time answering this. I was once in a very political Facebook group for writers, and every one of them (me included) about political messaging in literature, and then every one of them (and, yes, me included) went out and wrote stuff with political messaging, but the other way. (Mine at least was very specifically political; I wasn’t trying to do anything sneaky.) So I am allergic to messaging in novels; I’m not trying to get readers to think a certain way about anything. But there are themes, you know, and one consistent theme I tend to harp on is suffering – how to cope when things go horribly, spectacularly wrong. The protagonist in A CIRCLE OF FIRELIGHT has to cope with the fear and uncertainty that comes with a brain injury—but is confronted by a character who has endured far worse, and has to reevaluate what her reaction to that is. Housman confronts his critics who complain about the suffering in his poems by saying that reading about suffering helps readers get through their own pains—“And I will friend you, if I may, / In the dark and cloudy day.” That’s a pretty good takeaway, I think.
Is there anything else about you that you think readers might find interesting?
Goodness, no. I am dead boring. Even the fact that I write is not very interesting, to go by the reactions I get from my neighbors. “Oh, you wrote a new book, that’s nice,” they say, as they walk away in the direction of the punch bowl. I worked in politics for years, but now politics are so toxic that it’s worth your sanity not to mention that. I ran an assistive technology program for ten years, but most people don’t care about helping people except in the most abstract way. I won my fantasy football league last year, but talking about that annoys everyone who didn’t. You can’t win, sometimes.
About the Author
Curtis Edmonds is a writer and attorney living in central New Jersey. He is the author of two novels, WREATHED, a humorous contemporary romance set in the beach resort of Cape May, New Jersey, and RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY, a literary romance set in the mountains north of Atlanta.
His work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Untoward Magazine, Liberty Island, The Big Jewel, Yankee Pot Roast, and National Review Online. His book reviews appear on the Bookreporter website.