Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest book, Empire of Air and Shadow released recently. Can you tell more about the book and the series?
Thanks so much for having me at Uncaged! Empire of Air and Shadow, released in the summer of 2021, is the first in a YA speculative duology. Set in an alternate world, the story follows two girls struggling to survive. I just typed “The End” for book two, titled An Oath of Blood and Secrets. After revisions, I’ll send that book off to an editor. I hope to release it in May.
What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest?
This story especially had been in my head for several years, so the characters kept developing and acting out scenes until finally I had to start writing. I generally have no trouble with first drafts. Revisions can be fairly painful.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? Has there been a character that’s been hard to write about?
That’s like trying to choose a favorite child! I am finding the characters of Empire of Air and Shadow challenging but their journey is so gratifying. I like to round out every character with positive and negative traits to make them relatable, and the two main characters of this story have to deal with extremely difficult situations, some pulled from real life. For instance, wives in Papua New Guinea are often beaten or maimed by disapproving husbands, so Mina’s mother is a healer who treats such women.
How do you come up with the title to your books?
With great difficulty. Honestly, titles are often the last thing I write because they have to hint at the genre and encapsulate the story. Only one story started with the title, which simply popped into my head one morning: Death Is A Bitch.
What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?
I’m very private, but nothing too shocking. I’ve loved to write since I turned double digits. I wrote romance as Cate Masters for several years. I do tend to get grumpy if I can’t fit in writing time. Stories demand to be let out of my head.
Read the rest of the interview in the issue below.
Award-winning author C.A. Masterson loves stories of any genre. Multi-published in contemporary to historical, fantasy/dark fantasy to paranormal/speculative, she sometimes mashes genres. Visit her at http://paintingfirewithwords.blogspot.com or look for her romance stories as Cate Masters at http://catemasters.blogspot.com and in strange nooks and far-flung corners of the web.
Atop the Kabellak Mountain, in The Blessed Heights, Tayari Thorne trains to become a Favored One, a title of distinction bearing no freedom. A man would choose her, keep her, provide for her—until he tired of her. Home was one privilege she would not know.
Below in The Dregs, in the shadow of the mountain, Amina Emezi readies for the day when she can escape her parents’ home, and escape the Dregs, dependent on no one else. Home would be the place of her choosing.
Neither realizes the fragility of her existence.
Neither could guess how their lives would intersect, and change course unalterably on the same day.
When Tayari Thorne stepped out of her family home for the final time, Kabellak Mountain trembled beneath her feet.
The thunder in the mountain echoed the thunder in her heart. She couldn’t tell if she was causing the mountain to shudder, or its rumblings were shaking her to the bone. She only knew her world was shattering.
Her body’s every sinew braced for the crack she was certain would follow. The goddess who ruled Kabellak would split the ground beneath her feet and swallow her hard, swallow her whole, swallow her endlessly. She made her footsteps as light as she could to pass without notice of the goddess, but the guards’ heavy march gave them all away.
Since the announcement days earlier, Da could barely look Tayari in the eye. Grief stiffened his face. He made excuses to move as far from Mama as he could inside their small cavern.
Mama spoke of The Preparatory Quarters in breathless awe, hand to her chest as she beamed at Tayari. Such good fortune, she said, that a spot had unexpectedly opened up just as Tayari had passed twelve summers. Such an honor, she said, for Tayari to be chosen. At Da’s glance, Mama went back to her sewing with a defiant little smile. When Tayari argued she’d rather they had chosen someone else, Da repeated that it was an honor. Who, she asked, would teach her what she needed to know? Tell her stories of the Time Before? Tuck her blanket around her?
This morning the Guide appeared at their domed entry, and Tayari saw something else in Da’s face.
Fear. As if he, too, had thought of Tayari’s leaving as a distant possibility, but payment had come due on their promise. A hard truth.
The woman in a silken dress of grey fog made no greeting, didn’t introduce herself, but Da recognized her.
“You’re the Guide.” He spoke as if he hadn’t quite believed she’d appear.
“It’s time.” That’s all the woman had said, her face a mask of steely indifference though her gaze swept over Tayari, but lingered on her long, unruly hair.
One glimpse of the two guards who flanked her, both identical in expressionless demeanor, and Da’s fear became contagious to Tayari. She trembled as the pair looked past her as if she were invisible.
She threw herself into her father’s arms, whimpers blocking his murmured urges to be happy. He held her away from him and nodded, but locked behind his grim smile was a well of sorrow so deep, if he loosed his tears, she would drown.
The Guide repeated with greater urgency, “It’s time.”
Read the rest of the excerpt in the issue below