If you loved Sally Green’s ‘Half Bad’ series, you’re in luck. She’s back with the first book in a new historical fantasy series, ‘The Smoke Thieves’. If you’re yet to pick up a copy, allow us to tantalise your reading tastebuds as we sat down for a chat to discuss all things fantasy and ‘Wounded, not lost’ tattoos.
For those who haven’t yet picked up a copy of ‘The Smoke Thieves’ how would you describe it?
‘The Smoke Thieves‘ is a fantasy story set in an old world where kings rule, women are second-class citizens and demons kill anyone who goes into their territory. It’s a story told by five characters; Tash (13 and a demon hunter), Ambrose (21, a gallant soldier, in love with Princess Catherine), Princess Catherine (16, in love with Ambrose, and about to be married to a prince she’s never met), March (17, a radicalised servant) and Edyon (17, a student, lover and thief). The protagonists are brought together because of a bottle of stolen demon smoke, but will they discover the real power of the smoke?
You’ve already had success with your ‘Half Bad’ series, how does ‘The Smoke Thieves’ differ?
‘Half Bad’ has witches, ‘The Smoke Thieves’ has demons. The themes of ‘Half Bad’ were bullying and labelling and there was one male protagonist who had a lot of anger issues. For ‘The Smoke Thieves’ the issue of female power is what I keep returning to, but also friendship and trust is part of it all too. Both stories have a lot of violence and swearing but I think there are lighter moments in ‘The Smoke Thieves’, as Tash and Edyon provide some relief from all the power struggles and pain. And ‘The Smoke Thieves’ has a map.
The book is told from different points of view if you had to live the life of one of the POV’s which would it be?
It has to be Princess Catherine because she is so determined and ambitious. I’m fairly sure I’d not be as brave as her, but the other upside is she has the most handsome of lovers – Ambrose – and actually – SPOILER ALERT!!! – Prince Tzsayn (her husband to be) is pretty wonderful as well.
There are the beginnings of a LGBTQ+ storyline in the book, was this a conscious decision and how do you see that developing in future titles?
I started writing Edyon’s character and I couldn’t resist making him gay – his story is wonderful to write as he’s basically a nice, gentle person with a bad habit of stealing things, who gets into increasingly awful situations because of his impulsive behaviour. So I had to find a lover for him! His story – including love, stealing, bad luck and bad choices – will probably continue through the series but I hope that one day he finds true love.
If you could bring one thing from your fantasy world into our world here today, what would it be and why?
It’s got to be a bottle of purple demon smoke. The purple smoke has special powers – no more spoilers here, but it’s a lot better than the red demon smoke which is merely a pleasure drug.
What is the best response you’ve gotten from a reader about your books? How about the strangest?
I get lots of wonderful messages, some very personal, and they all have an impact on me. I get a number of presents too and on a book tour in Mexico, I was given a wonderful knitted Nathan (the hero of ‘Half Bad’), which I adore and have on a shelf in my office so that he can watch me while I write.
I was asked to write the words ‘Wounded, not lost’ in my handwriting and send it to a reader so it could be tattoed on his arm. A few people now have a ‘Wounded, not lost’ tattoo! (I don’t.)
What’s one book you could read over and over again and not get bored?
I’m reading ‘Circe‘ by Madeline Miller at the moment – I haven’t finished it and I want to read it again. I think it’s because her writing is so beautiful and lyrical almost poetic at times – ‘The Song of Achilles‘ is one of my favourite books.
Can you describe what your typical writing day looks like?
I get up around 7.30 and work at home in my office overlooking the garden. I have lots of coffee breaks and I go for a run every other day (outside rather than at the gym, unless the weather is really awful). I set myself word count targets when I’m writing a first draft – 1500 words typically. Sometimes they’re good words and other times they’re not quite so good, but at least they’re words, and I can change the bad ones in the editing process.
Lastly, what advice would you give to people looking to write their own fantasy novels?
Do be clear about the world you are creating and the rules that govern it but then push your imagination to the max – you are the creator, make it amazing.
Try reading history books for inspiration.
Don’t try writing your story it from five different points of view – that way lies madness!
‘The Smoke Thieves‘ by Sally Green is out now.
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