Author feature: Beneath a Stone Sky by A.E. Lowan

Out today, Beneath a Stone Sky by A.E. Lowan is the third instalment in the dark urban fantasy series, The Books of Binding. It follows the lives of Winter Mulcahy, Seahaven’s potion addicted wizard physician, Etienne Knight and Cian the Glorious Dawn, the sidhe lords who share her home and her son, and Alerich Ashimar, Seahaven’s newest wizard with the soul of a poet and the heart of a demon…

Politics was a deadly business.
Winter set a careful foot out on the ledge and leaned into the braced spear, letting it carry her weight into the next step, glittering death hissing below her. Tap, step, step. Tap, step, step. Lactic acid burned in her limbs the further she went, and she remembered that she had nearly died from potion abuse in October. She was still recovering. She was pregnant, and that took even more resources. She took in a breath and pushed herself harder.
Keep focused on the faerie light. On Brian. She could do this.
Her arms began to shake.
The tip of the spear slipped a hair’s breadth.
Her heart lunged into her throat.
Brian leaned out further and offered his hand. “You can do this. I’ve got you.” He turned his head and said something to Aodhán that she couldn’t hear.
She was going to die.
Tap, step, ste— Her foot slipped and abruptly she was falling.
The sudden pain of a bruising grip on her arm took her breath away, and she was yanked forward so fast her sight dimmed. She felt rapid taps against the sole of her shoe and braced for agony, but it didn’t come. And then she was secure in Brian’s arms.
How had he reached her? She looked over Brian’s broad shoulder and saw Aodhán holding Brian by his belt, arm stretched to its furthest possible extension. With a soft grunt that was more for balance than effort, the Unseelie prince reeled them in to the safety of the far ledge.
Winter sat where Brian put her, her limbs shaking so hard she couldn’t get up. Her foot tingled along her sole as if still panicked about imminent pain, and she breathed in little, trembling gasps.
Brian laid a hand on her shoulder. “You’re going to be okay.”
Winter gave him a shaky smile that was worlds away from what she was actually feeling. She opened her mouth to reassure him, but what came out was, “I should have died.”
Brian gave her a single nod. “Yeah. But you didn’t. You’re a survivor, like I am.” He glanced at Aodhán as he watched them. “So’s he. And we’ve got you. You’re going to be okay.”
Aodhán made a small sound of agreement and tossed the spear back to the other side of the pit. “It’s just scorpions. We can handle scorpions.”
Brian flashed a grin in the dark. “We can handle pretty much anything.”
Aodhán chuckled. “Well, maybe you.”
Winter felt a smile find her mouth, and she was glad that if she had to be in this Stygian tenebrosity, that she was here with these people.

A Bite of… A.E. Lowan

Q1:Hero or villain? Which is the more interesting to write?

KV: Villain because villains define their own limitations. They don’t allow societal expectations to limit their choices. I saw a discussion some time ago about the difference in being in a love story with a villain or a hero. With a hero, their lover must always come second because everything must come after the hero’s duty. In a love story with a villain, the villain can absolutely let the world burn for one last kiss. I love writing that passion and lack of constraints.

JS: It honestly depends on the story, and my mood going into it. To spare you a long “if X, then Y” type of explanation, let’s just go with I love variety.

JV: My favorite characters are what we call monkeys-in-the-middle. Sometimes these characters are protagonists and other times antagonists. You never know quite what side of the fence they will come down on in any particular story. Monkeys-in-the-middle allow us to explore the idea that sometimes we do the wrong thing for the right reason or the right thing for the wrong reason. People are complicated and I love that complication.

Q2: Having created a fictional world for your novels, is there any moment in the process where you actually find your brain inhabiting that place?

KV: Moment? I thought I lived there.

JS: Quite often, actually. While you can’t quite method act when it comes to the settings with science fiction and fantasy, picturing the impact of the environment on the individual does go a long way towards shaping the story. This pseudo-method route usually ends up producing some side-stories for the same setting for me, too.

JV: We consider ourselves method writers. Like method actors, when we are working on development, plotting, or outlining, we slip into the skin of our characters and act out scenes through role play before we finalize what the action and dialogue should be. Sometimes that is done through text exchanges and sometimes that means staging swordfights in the living room to get the choreography right. It is a process that looks a little strange from the outside but allows us to really get into the heads of the denizens of Seahaven.

Q3: Can you pin down the time when you decided to be a writer? Or have you always written?

KV: I’ve always written. My mother was a writer before me, and I was seen as the heir apparent. There has never been any point in my life where writing didn’t feature.

JS: I’ve always written, but when I found Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series at the age of eight, I decided I wanted it to be a career and not just a hobby.

JV: I came to fiction writing a little later than KV and JS. Growing up in a family of musicians, I started writing songs and poems as soon as I could hold a pen. It wasn’t until a teacher gave me a copy of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong that I started writing stories more often than songs. McCaffrey’s Pern taught me that I could hold entire worlds in my head and that I could tell much larger and more complex stories in prose. I was eleven and have been writing series stories ever since.

A.E. Lowan is the pseudonym of three authors who collectively create the dark urban fantasy series, The Books of Binding. Born in Texas, Jessica Smith brings a passion for science to tame the physics of Seahaven. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer Vinck is a former bookseller who brings a love of theatre and linguistics to breathe life into the characters. A Navy brat, raised in Washington, California, and Missouri, Kristin Vinck is a recovering medievalist who brings an obsession with history and folklore to paint a detailed cultural canvas for The Books of Binding. You can follow their collective consciousness on Facebook, Twitter or A. E. Lowan’s website.

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