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Book Tour Q&A: Solace Lost by Michael Sliter



Today we're taking part in the book tour organized by Escapist Book Tours for Solace Lost by Michael Sliter! Continue reading for the book blurb and a Q&A with the author.

 
About the book

Fenrir de Trenton, a disgraced guardsman-turned-ineffective-criminal, is accustomed to taking orders. So much so that, despite the danger, he finds himself neck-deep in the politicking of his current superiors as well as the rulers of the country. The fact that Fenrir’s father would rather see him dead doesn’t help matters.


Emma Dram, a handmaiden of the great Lady Escamilla, hates Fenrir with a fiery passion and with good reason: he lopped off most of her hand. Nonetheless, she finds herself in close proximity to her former lover as she seeks to serve her lady liege in fomenting her own rebellion.


Hafgan Iwan is a Wasmer, a race reviled by humans, who serves the same masters as Fenrir. His efforts to assimilate with human culture only earn him the derision of his own race, and he seeks to find belonging amidst the escalating conflict.


Meanwhile, Merigold Hinter, a serving girl with an unusual power, lives a simple existence, hoping for love, adventure, and to see the world. Her life should be untouched by political maneuvering and war. However, her world becomes a crucible—how much can one woman bear before breaking?


A story of love lost and family destroyed, of bigotry and belonging, of suffering and strength, and of religion and magic, SOLACE LOST grows from a character-driven tale to something grand in scale, perhaps even involving the gods, themselves.

 
On to the interview...!

TThank you so much for joining us for this Q&A! We’ll start off with one of our standard podcast opening questions–tell us something great that’s happened recently.

I consider that the little things in life are the great ones. I’ll share a few. My awesome daughter, Maddie, just started first grade and describes each day as “amazing.” My wife got a horse a few months ago (always wanted one as a kid) and she keeps exceeding her goals. And, I’ve cobbled together internet knowledge and build a fireplace that seems quite fireplace-like. Nothing like winning the lottery, but all fun stuff!


What are you currently reading or what’s up next on your TBR? What made you pick up this book?

I just cracked open Peter McClean’s Priest of Crowns, the final book of the War for the Rose Throne series. Thomas Piety, and his unapologetic drive for power, has quickly become one of my favorite characters in modern fantasy. I don’t know if the series is underrated, but it is certainly underread!


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start writing?

Well, I’m Mike! Foremost, I am a husband to Katie and father to Maddie (6) and Garrett (2), as well as servant to a dog and a cat. In work life, I am a workplace psychologist/leadership consultant, where my job routinely puts me in the position of trying to understand people and behavior. In my home life, I’m a writer, racquetball player, gamer, builder, etc. I prefer to do many things pretty well than any one thing superbly.


I’ve been reading fantasy since I was a kid and found a well-handled copy of the Magic of Krynn (Dragonlance) in the back of the classroom. I was hooked, and my birthday money would always be spent at bookstores until I had amassed quite a collection. I had always wanted to write, but I had made excuses why I didn’t start. When my daughter was born, I decided to set those excuses aside and started within two weeks. Some people consider my books to fall into the grimdark category, but I see a lot of hope in them.


How do you spend your free time when you’re not reading or writing? Do you have any hobbies or interests that you can talk to us about?

I have two kids, so as you can imagine, that takes up most of my time. But, I have been systematically getting them into fantasy, and in fact, we have a fantasy portrait painted of our family each year since we announced our son’s birth.


Sliter Family Portrait 2021


Aside from that, I play racquetball fairly competitively and I enjoy building things. An example is the giant Halloween display that we build every year, with rotating themes (Carnevil, Creepy Fairy Tales, Pirates/sea). I attempt to do some gaming, and I’m a Soulsborne fan. I get pretty bored when games lose their difficulty; my wife often asks why I keep playing games that I’m cursing at as a method for relaxation.


Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influences?

I would say Joe Abercrombie is my biggest influence. I remember finding the First Law series at a Border’s Books, with a handwritten “employee recommended” tag hanging below it. My jaw had dropped at the end of the series, and I was just in love with the world and the writing. It was the first series I had read that didn’t have a happy ending, but instead had a realistic ending, where some got what they wanted and others got what they deserved.


I’ve otherwise really enjoyed writings from Peter McClean, Evan Winter, and Rob Hayes, of late.


What is one book you want to shout about to the world? What about it makes you love it so much?

READ RAGE OF DRAGONS BY EVAN WINTER! Seriously. That, along with the sequel, are my favorite books in recent memory. I can hardly describe it—action and emotions, never overused, coupled with a fascinating world. I have to say—even slaying demons could get old, if done wrong. I never, ever felt that way with RAGE or FIRES of VENGEANCE.


How much do you plan when you write? What’s your writing process like?

I am very much a pantser. The characters drive the story, and sometimes surprise me by the choices they make and the emerging plotlines. Not that I don’t have an overall story in mind, but there are definitely deviations from what I would have originally expected. I also just do a lot of thinking about the characters, about the world, so that when I do write, I can be productive.


The time spent writing is pretty slim. I write in 500 word bursts, typically 30 minutes a day. With books ranging from 150-200K words, it is a tricky process to keep track of the vast worlds. I have a pretty good memory, and probably rely overmuch on that.


Is this your first book? If so, what lessons have you learned from writing it? If not, what lessons did you learn from writing earlier books that you brought into this one?

SOLACE LOST is my first book, and the entire thing was a learning experience! I’m almost certainly I would approach it differently if I were to incorporate what I now know, both about my writing and my writing process. First, I would probably step out of my characters heads a bit sooner. I think, though there is some action up front, I could have incorporated more dialogue early on. In subsequent books, I have done a better job at balancing thinking, feeling, and doing. The second biggest lesson, or change, in my writing is that I tend to be less influenced by bad reviews or negative feedback. Certainly, constructive feedback is always welcomed. But, early on, a couple of nasty reviews would have sent me questioning why about pretty much everything. Now, if a two star review pops up, I just think “well, at least I have more stars total, now!”


What do you think characterizes your writing style?

I’m a psychologist, so I tend to take a very character-driven perspective. I think about personality models and frameworks, leadership and leadership derailers, and interaction styles when writing my characters. People can behave very differently—or sometimes exact opposite of their normal personality—when under stress, and I try to encapsulate that. Maybe I spend too much time “in the heads” of the characters, and I think I’ve gotten better at balancing that versus action as I’ve written more books.


The second is reality. In my books, wounds linger, both physical and emotional. It always bothered my when, say, a warrior was shot with a crossbow bolt, and it doesn’t even knock him down or affect a battle the next day. Here, Fenrir has chronic knee issues. Hafgan gets clipped by an arrow and a thousand pages later, he still feels the ache from it. Or, if someone loses a close friend; they feel that loss and it affects them. Sometimes, this results in less rational behavior, and that’s fine.


How much of yourself do you write into your stories?

Plenty! I think about my own experiences of relationships, of pain (I’ve had a dozen joint surgeries, so I feel like I can describe it pretty well), and views of the world. I think there is a piece of me in many of the main characters. My friends who have read SOLACE LOST will say “Fenrir is you, eh?” Well, certainly his knee issues are something that I can relate to!


What comes first to you when you’re writing, the world, the characters, or the storyline?

Characters always. When I was younger, I tried writing from the perspective of the world and the storyline, and it just didn’t work. With characters, you can know what they know and see what they see, which lets you slowly reveal (to yourself and the others) what the storyline and world are like.


They say to never judge a book by its cover, but a cover is still a marketing tool that helps sell books. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of your book?

When I started out, I did nothing to engage in the community or search for help. I very much felt my way through the self-publishing process, which was a terrible mistake. Now, I know that the community is supportive and fantastic (and I try to be that for others). But, when I started, I had a cover dilemma. I didn’t know where to start!


So I took to Upwork, an elancing site, and found a cover artist who seemed decent enough. Unlimited revisions for 350 bucks? Why not? I provided the prompt (very different from what it was now), along with a selection from the book to emphasize the mood, feel, and setting. The first draft of the cover came back with powerlines, a basketball, and copy-pasted corpses all over the cover. It wasn’t even remotely the right era. It took three revisions for him to actually get rid of all of the powerlines, and I eventually just gave up, paid the guy, and thought about throwing in the towel.

But, I was reading through Brian McClellan’s blog, and saw that he had a cover artist that he used for his self-published books. I loved Brian’s work, and thought—why not? I’ll reach out. That’s how I found Rene Aigner, who has illustrated these fantastic covers.


I had four planned books and four main characters. I wanted each character to be front and center on a book, starting with Merigold, who is probably my favorite character. She is struggling with massive loss, including wresting with her faith. I wanted to incapsulate that, and so her praying amidst a battlefield, with the flags of the warring duchies in the background, really was perfect. Rene did better than I could have imagined. I’ve heard others talk say they like the covers for WISDOM LOST and FAITH LOST better, but SOLACE will always be my favorite.


Can you give us an elevator pitch for your book?

Four normal-ish people get caught up in a civil war, and each has to overcome their pasts and presents. Also magic, gods, and dismembering.


How different is the final version of this book from the first draft?

Very! The beginning, especially, changed significantly. I had first sought representation and submitted SOLACE LOST to agents. I got little feedback, but was able to donate to charity to get feedback from an actual agent on the first two chapters. He didn’t think the book started in the right place, and I ultimately agreed and ended up ditching quite a bit of work. Ultimately, I like where SOLACE starts now, but that was the biggest change.


If you could choose one worldbuilding detail (a place, ability, or creature, for example) from your book to exist in the real world, what would it be and why?

The Wasmer are a race of peoples who would be really cool to interact with in real life. They a mountain folk (at least on this side of the world) who are generally larger than humans, have fuzzy faces, and elongated fingers. Humans think they simple, but they have a complex belief system, and many have a dry, wicked sense of humor. In fact, if you look closely, they are about as different from one another as anyone else.


Plus, a few have developed a skill called the hedwichhen, which I won’t spoil for you…


In your opinion, what kind of reader would like this book?

The book has been categorized as Grimdark, so certainly fans of that genre. I think that people who like realistic characters, difficult decisions, and some level of grit and violence will enjoy these.


Is there anything you can tell us about any current projects you’re working on?

The biggest one is Courage Lost, the final book of the Pandemonium Rising series. I’m not nearly as far along as I’d like, about 53K words. Pandemic, new kid, etc. Writing is hard, and making time is hard. But, I’ve found my momentum, threw out a bunch of writing that I didn’t like, and feel good about the progress.


Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us! Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to leave for our readers?

I wish I had some wisdom to spout, but I don’t really. I would say that, if you decide to read any of my books, I hope you enjoy them. If they are not for you, that’s fine, too! I’m self-published, and I would say give another self-published author a shot, like Rob Hayes, Sean Conley, or Dyrk Ashton. This is such a fantastic community, and I’m thankful to be part of it.


And finally, where can you be found on the internet if our readers want to hear more from you?

Though I do really need to bolster my online presence, you can find me on Twitter https://twitter.com/MikeSliter and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/authormichaelsliter/)

 
Where to buy the book:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Solace-Lost-Michael-Sliter-ebook/dp/B07BGW6BDP

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