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Book Tour Q&A: The Sword of Mercy and Wrath by NC Koussis

Today we're taking part in the book tour organized by Escapist Book Tours for The Sword of Mercy and Wrath by NC Koussis! Continue reading for the book blurb and a Q&A with the author.

About the book


In a cathedral at the south of the Istryan Empire, young men and women are trained to be killers. The Order of the Golden Sword’s inquisitors are feared for their brutality masked as piety. Masters of blade and crossbow, their quarry is the god-cursed werewolf, whom they hunt with impunity to herald the return of their god.

Betrayed by her monstrous father, Selene loses her left arm and nearly her life when she’s saved by a traveling inquisitor. Scarred and broken, she swears vengeance on the cursed beasts and joins the Order. It takes all her will to overcome her limits, only for her violent past to drag her back into blood.

With the fabric of the empire at stake, Selene must master her hatred, hone it to a sharp point, then let it loose on her enemies.

The stunning fantasy debut from "One of Australia's most promising young writers." Perfect for fans of Andrzej Sapkowski and Mark Lawrence.

On to the interview...!

Thank 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 just re-published my debut novel, The Sword of Mercy and Wrath, and it seems to be going quite well. I’m very enthused by the response, it’s been really fantastic.

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

I’m currently reading The Return of the Knights, by Gregory Kontaxis, who sent me the book and asked me to read it, though I was already very hyped about it because I know Mark Lawrence helped edit it. The author compares it to Game of Thrones, which is very laudable or very stupid (haha), but reading it now, I’m really enjoying it, and I’d say the comparison to Game of Thrones isn’t an overreach. It’s quite good!

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

I was born in Western Australia to an Anglo-Indigenous woman and a Greek dad, so I’m a bit of a mix. A mongrel, haha. I’ve been writing stories since I could write, basically, in the margins of my notebooks at school and such. My first story was about a triceratops (my favorite dinosaur) and his family trying to outrun the meteor (I think my penchant for dramatic stories started young, haha). As for what inspired The Sword of Mercy and Wrath, I wanted to reflect societal ills in the way that The Witcher does really, really well. The monsters of the story are really unclear, and not at all the ones you expect.

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 a seven-month-old son, so I have absolutely zero free-time hahaha. Any free time I can scrape between nappy changes and feeds and work (we need to eat, of course) is made up of reading and writing haha.

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

Currently, I’m loving Michael R. Fletcher and Kian N. Ardalan’s Eleventh Cycle has really broadened my imagination for what you can find in the indie space. I’m really excited to see where the series goes. My greatest influences are Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, and Guy Gavriel Kay. I’m really loving Marlon Jones and Fonda Lee at the moment as well.

If you could collaborate with any one author, who would it be and why?

I’d love to collaborate with Clayton Snyder or Michael R. Fletcher. Their Norylska Groans was an absolute triumph and absolutely insane, and I’d love to be on the cutting-room floor of a similar project even just to enjoy the ride. I’m also really excited about Krystle Matar’s work, especially in the Alchemy of Sorrow and Anatomy of Fear projects, so I’d love to work with her as well.

What is one thing that you love about the current state of SFF and what is one thing that you wish you saw more of?

I love that the walls of publishing are slowly crumbling to the indie world, and many bloggers and authors are mixing among them. Big publishers are (slowly) waking up to the huge amount of talent that exists outside of their narrow window driven by capitalism and, ultimately, fear. Fear of marketers and advertising directors losing any of their immense quarterly profits. I hope this trend continues. One thing that I wish was more common is more support for disadvantaged groups in both the indie and the trad spaces. For example, more support for women (and men) who take breaks to raise children, support to get them back into an industry that favors quick release schedules. More monetary support for indie and trad authors (the Indie Fantasy Fund is an amazing example of this, I can’t praise Zack and his wife enough) and more equitable publishing arrangements. Audible offering only 40% revenue for indie authors is pathetic, especially when all they’re literally doing is hosting an .mp3 file.

What are your favorite types of stories? Of characters?

My favorite kinds of stories are those that I don’t expect or don’t think I need, and they surprise me with how good they are. A fresh take on an old trope. A shocking plot twist, defying genre expectations. Blending genres. My favorite kind of character is a character with agency, and an author who knows that agency doesn’t always mean they have to be shouting or killing people. A quiet moment of defiance or a flicker of hope in the face of overwhelming odds will make me turn to jelly and I’ll fall in love with your character.

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

I don’t like to plan much at all, if I can. I’ve had to recently put together a series bible to keep everything straight as I’m writing the sequels, but I go where my mood takes me, generally. I think it’s like how, recently, Mark Lawrence put it (I’m paraphrasing): the character takes you on a dark path through a garden, where the path splits into many different avenues, and you’re just taken by the hand and run full pelt down one, but you don’t know which one until you get there.

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?

This is my first book. I wrote the draft so long ago that I’ve largely forgotten what it was like to write, but I do remember as I edited it (I like to self-edit a few times before I send it to the editor), I realized that I improved drastically. Since then, I’ve written four more books (including the sequel), and I just remark on how much I’ve improved with each one. I’ll likely improve drastically in the future, too.

I’m a very visual writer who tries very hard to suppress that urge. Mark Lawrence comments that aphantasia has made him a very mood- and tone-driven writer, and he barely spends any time on description at all, letting the reader paint a picture for themselves. I prefer this approach. When I first started writing, I was all description, no character reaction or emotion or tone. When I read it back, it felt very hollow and lifeless. Like the world was pretty, but ultimately dead. Like a museum, where you can’t touch anything, can’t experience anything up close, can’t hold anything. So that’s one thing that I constantly try to improve. I’ve often just started chapters with a character mood, completely internally, and don’t describe anything about where they are or what they’re doing until like two or three paragraphs down. I think that hits harder, and it’s just my favorite way of writing now. Some call it “authorly voice” and that’s maybe mine.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

Well, I just described it haha. Very internal, always filtering the world through the character’s senses.

How much of yourself do you write into your stories?

I want to say not very much, but I think that’s impossible. You write what you know, right? You can’t write about something, with any sort of confidence, unless you’ve experienced it yourself. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t write about flying a dragon or fighting a titan, because those things don’t exist, but what I’m saying is that you should experience what it’s like to be in a life-threatening situation or a tragic situation or spend a lot of time learning from people who have. Otherwise, nothing of what you write is going to feel genuine. I really do think that a writer needs a few life experiences under their belt before they try their hand at a novel.

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

I usually just start with a theme question – a burning question that I need answered. The characters come next (usually one, then the others grow out from that), someone who typifies the theme question in its entirety. Then the storyline and the world comes after, but they all come out of the theme question, exploring different aspects and possible answers to it.

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?

Absolutely, covers are incredibly important. We’re bombarded by so much media these days, especially online, where marketing is done. A good cover, especially from an unknown author, is pretty much the only way to get noticed these days. As for my cover, I wanted to turn the old version into a grimdark version, and no one is better at grimdark art than Nino Is (who I knew from doing my second book’s cover, and from Kian N. Ardalan’s Eleventh Cycle). I wanted to make Selene a haunted beauty, someone who might’ve been beautiful once, but the world and experience has taken that from her. But there’s strength in that, and she’s found a grim determination that has made her a survivor.

Can you give us an elevator pitch for your book?

It’s the Justice of Kings meets The Witcher with a heavy dash of Red Sister.

Describe your book in 3 adjectives.

Brutal, Vengeful, Action-packed.

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

Quite different. It’s almost unrecognizable. From the first iteration, it was a coming-of-age story in the vein of Red Sister, though Tristain was the main character. From the first edition to this one, it’s almost doubled in length, and Selene’s descent into a killer is much more fleshed out in a way that I haven’t really seen much of in fantasy. Tristain and Leon’s stories are really explored, too. She’s truly a grimdark protagonist by the middle of the book (almost a villain POV), and you can’t help but root for her.

Can you tell us a little bit about your characters? What are your favorite kinds of characters to write?

My favorite kinds of characters are those which are a little twisted, selfish, corrupt, and you’re never quite certain how they’re going to react next. A character that’s broken by their circumstances and their past, and they have to desperately claw their way to survival. I like to have fun when I write, and that involves toying with the reader.

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

Someone who loves to see a disabled grimdark protagonist. I loved Sand dan Glokta in The First Law series, because he was still insanely capable and clever despite his circumstances, and I think he’s quite often the favorite from that series. But it’s really something you don’t see that often, despite suiting the genre quite well. Other than that, someone who loves dialogues of colonialism and religious indoctrination, and how cults can exploit people. Someone who loves corruption arcs.

What would you like readers to take away from this book?

I want people to be excited and feel good about werewolves in fantasy again. I think it’s been a long time since we’ve had a good werewolf novel, and we’ve left them to the romance writers, which is a tragedy. They’re great monsters. But I also want them to think about the parallels that the story has with our world – that a people can be erased from history, or assimilated and demonized until they forget their own stories, and how it can happen far quicker than you think. It only took 250 years in Australia for many indigenous peoples to lose their language and their history.

Do you have a favorite quote from your book that you can share with us? What about this quote in particular makes it your favorite?

This is perhaps a tiny spoiler, but this one from Selene: “All those terrible things I’ve done… the people I’ve killed. Mother, I’ve become as horrible as the demons I tried to stop. And worse: I liked it.

It’s very easy to think that we’d never do horrible things if pushed to the brink, but as history and psychology tells us constantly, that’s what the horrible people think, too. I think this quote summarizes that feeling – Selene realizes she liked killing, she liked her transformation into a killer. It was something she wanted.

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

I’ve just finished writing the sequel, The Pyres of Vengeance, and it’s with the editor now, actually. So that’s exciting. I’m just taking the week, then I’ll be back working on another project that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, that I think a lot of people will be really excited about, because it’s not something I’ve ever seen before in fantasy (and it’s inspired by something that a lot of people love).

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?

Read more books by people that have different perspectives than you. Trans people, minorities, women, but also the working class. Read more indies. All these different perspectives add up to new experiences, and experimentation with story, character, worlds that you just don’t see enough of. I’m really excited about the indie space, there’s some really awesome things happening there.

And buy my book, of course. It’s available on Kindle now. The paperback and hardback will be released on April 25th.

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

You can find me on Twitter, of course, at @NCKoussis, and on every other social except Mastodon (never got into that haha), at @NCKoussis as well. My mailing list is also where I keep people updated and you get little tidbits and extra things, like short stories and world-building bits and pieces, as well as the first look at covers and illustrations. You get a free book by signing up as well, and you can find that on my website at It’s just my way of giving back to those people who support me!

Where to buy the book:

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Amazon AU:

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