The Stars That Rise at Dawn
Šehhinah Book 1
By Ivana Skye
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Meanwhile, his one previous friend Elīya is still not over the loss of the third member of their friend group, Tamar. She disappeared one day to become one of God’s Holy, and as far as Elīya’s concerned, nothing’s ever been the same. It doesn’t help that her university philosophy program is turning out much less interesting than she’d hope.
It could be that Yenatru’s weird new friend has just the skills she needs to solve all her problems. But in order to get Lucifer’s help, she’ll have to confront parts of herself she’s never dared to.
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Lucifer clutches a hand to her chest. “Ow, don’t go implying I don’t have pride. I like being prideful! ’S fun.”
“You are attempting and failing to banter with some really shy boy you met in a university library,” Yenatru says, deadpan.
“I did say I was pathetic,” Lucifer says with a smile. “Do you believe me now?”
Yenatru thinks about that for a moment, then nods. “Yes. Yes, I believe you.”
Lucifer’s smile turns harder, almost determined. “Good.”
The Birds That Fly at Dusk
Šehhinah Book 2
Celyet finds nothing more terrifying than the idea of being misued or misinterpreted by people. That’s why she hasn’t been talking to anyone for half a year. But when she challenges herself to visit somewhere in town she’s never been, she ends up making a terrible mistake, bringing her time spent hiding to an abrupt end.
Sän may work at a coffee shop, but that doesn’t mean they know how to comfort people. But they really want to find a way to make a difference for that sad-looking demon who keeps coming in.
And just because the shop’s owned by the angel Jibril doesn’t mean that they’re going to stop by anytime soon and start flinging puns at people … right?
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Everything she is meant to be, and she is meant to be so much.
The Lives That Argue For Us
Šehhinah Book 3
Everyone knows God is made of fire. So of course no one would ever suggest that the easily-overwhelmed Teśena try praying to Them. Then why, when Teśena tries to do exactly that in a moment of desperation, do they seem to get along so well?
On the other side of the world, Kjorel’s dealing with a loneliness of his own. That is, until he starts his visit to the city of Ēnnuh, and finds a boyfriend within a few days. With no way to contact Teśena, he can only hope their previous agreements stand … or that Teśena will improbably find a way to communicate with him anyway.
After all, what’s a few thousand miles when you have God on your side?
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A thousand wings shift again, eyes made of fire open and close, wheels made of fire turn and turn. And the fire of God’s wings moves as if closer to aer, almost as if laughing, understanding, something like a mirror wrapped in one of the wheels reflecting.
Teśena has made terrible, impulsive decisions, ae understands.
And God seems to respect that in the way God respects Themself.
Despite currently being in the middle of multiple months of travel through various countries she is not from, she still retains a strong connection to the state of Colorado, where she will probably permanently live. Eventually.
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I feel like literally any response I give is just going to be me talking around how autistic I am, so…
(Yes, I am autistic. So are Elīya, and Yenatru, and Celyet, and Kjorel, and Teśena, and God … and Jibril and Sän have ADHD.)
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you?
I once got lost in the woods in Germany with a self-identified sociopath who proclaimed his undying love to me.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Boulder, CO, though I never technically lived there, but in some suburbs in the rough area. My parents eventually moved to Portland, OR, when I was like six and a half, but Oregon is like only maybe 0.5% as cool as Colorado, if that, so it didn’t really work out that well for me. I’m definitely a mountain girl.
What inspired you to write this book?
At the very end of 2015, I was bored one night and thought to myself, “Hm, it sure is weird that I enjoy reading Abrahamic fantasy so much when I’m not of an Abrahamic faith! I wonder what it is about it that I like?” And then I wrote a bullet-pointed list of stuff I like about it … and accidentally started coming up with ideas for how to worldbuild something that had only the parts I like, and none of the parts I don’t like.
Half an hour later, I’d ended up with a cool magic system, and the idea of the Holy and my version of demons…
Then the Spring semester of my junior year of college started, but there was this dissatisfaction in me that I couldn’t quite figure out. Writing was important—that much was clear. But what to do about it? So I started giving myself little writing challenges—like, “do five paragraphs of body language description”—that I could easily fit into my school schedule.
That worked for about a week. But I wanted more.
So when I had a Monday off from school (MLK Day), I decided to spend it writing. Like, seriously writing. Like “trial of what it would be like to be a professional writer” writing, which meant for some reason that I decided to do approximately nothing but write from 9am to 5pm, because that’s what Real Professionals do, right? (Wrong.) It actually wasn’t the best setup for my productivity—in eight hours I “only” drafted 6000 words, which I now know I can do in about four hours total if I actually let myself have real breaks and talk to people and have good coffee and stuff—but it was still more than I had ever done in one day before.
And what I ended up writing was a short story set in that Abrahamic fantasy world I’d accidentally came up with less than a month before.
That short story was Stalking and the Glory of God, the prequel to The Stars that Rise at Dawn featuring Tamar, which you [can download for free here/can find as part of the short story collection].
And then in the next week and a half or so, I was realizing that I actually had a hard time focusing in my first class of the day … because I just wanted to write, darn it. So I decided to wake up early (7:40!) and give myself an hour at a coffee shop before my 9:30 class every day…
…And during that daily hour, I started outlining The Stars that Rise at Dawn.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Well, I already started releasing my next series, Evocation, which is about a bunch of disasters who have just become adults in their respective cultures and are trying to figure out what to do with their life—at the same time that magic has, apparently, started existing in the world. (Spoiler alert: some of the characters also discover that they can in fact do magic.) It’s a lot of fun, and each book is novella-length, so it’s not too long.
I’m also seriously considering doing a standalone fantasy Western novella when I’m done writing those … and there’s a sequel series to Evocation planned already…
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Yup! That’s what my ongoing giveaway is all about…
I’ve got a short story collection of three short stories about various characters, all taking place before the series. There’s the Tamar short story I’ve already mentioned, but there’s also one about how Lucifer fell, and one about how Lilith became the mother of demons.
They’re all readable and understandable to people who haven’t read the Šehhinah series!
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Stars that Rise at Dawn?
Well, Elīya’s an ethics-obsessed college student who is really disappointed by the low level of her philosophy classes, and is determined to get her friend group from high school back together.
That friend group includes Yenatru, who still meets up with her occasionally, but they’ve drifted apart, and don’t have much in common. He’s a shy boy who really just wants a friend, and maybe—ideally—a boyfriend.
Then he meets Lucifer, and though he’s not romantically attracted to them, they do seem to have something going on…
Meanwhile, Tamar, the third member of that high school friend group, has gone off to become one of God’s Holy—basically, someone with cool fire and mind-reading powers and constant communication with God, who also has been physically burned by that connection to God—and hasn’t been seen for like, two years.
Elīya thinks that she can somehow leverage Yenatru’s new friend Lucifer to get Tamar to talk to her again … and this is just turning into a summary, isn’t it?
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Well, Tamar’s name was the first I came up with, and I ended up just using a Hebrew name for her. Then I decided that for the rest of my naming system for characters and places in the Ēnnuh region, I wanted to go for things that sounded vaguely Akkadian (for those not in the know, Akkadian was the second-ever language to use a writing system, after Sumerian, and was a Semetic language—like Hebrew and Arabic.)
So I looked up the Akkadian phonetic system and decided to stick to it, but also make sure to focus on sounds and diacritics that looked ‘prototypically’ Akkadian and would most convey the feeling I was going for: for example, by using a lot of “š”. That’s just pronounced “sh”, by the way, but it’s the way that sound is spelled in Latin-alphabet transcriptions of Akkadian words, for some reason.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The entire drafting portion, really … especially some of the more intense scenes with Theurgy. It was much more enjoyable than the college classes I was dealing with for the rest of the day during the time I wrote it.
How did you come up with name of this book?
I wanted to reference Lucifer with the whole “morning star” thing, and then I just brainstormed a bunch of ideas until I found something that both sounded cool and wasn’t already a title of some other book. Then I just formatted the other names the same way, with The Birds that Fly at Dusk referencing Lilith (who sometimes in mythology is depicted as having wings and/or being associated with screech owls), and The Lives that Argue for Us referencing something in-series.
Who designed your book covers?
I actually used the free online program Canva for it, which I think might often be considered “lowballing”, but I somehow came up with covers I really liked out of it, so…
If you could spend time with a character from your book, whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I mean, I’d say Lucifer—and we’d probably just hang at a coffee shop or practice aerial moves or something—but they’re also significantly more chill than me, to the point where we have less in common than you might expect.
So I’d probably pick Jibril from The Birds that Fly at Dusk, and okay, logically that would also involve coffee, but also nonstop chatter—which I’m good with. We’d probably talk about intense matters of selfhood, and I might brainstorm how to handle one of these next books I’m writing, while they’d brainstorm how to actually make God listen to them. Heh.
What did you edit out of this book?
There was a lot more conflict between Hannuša and Elīya in the first draft, actually. Which I then decided wasn’t that interesting, so I toned it down, and I think I ended up with Hannuša having much more interesting religious beliefs than in the original, where she just thought everyone should go to Heaven.
How long have you been writing?
My typical response to this is “since before I could hold a pencil,” which is actually true. I dictated stories to my mom when I was three or four, and didn’t have great fine motor control, but did know how to read, and was obsessed with books.
Then eventually I started writing stories in pen-on-paper format, with such subject matter as a … six-year-old fairy slave? I’m not sure what was quite up with that.
Eventually, I transferred to typing-on-a-computer writing with a story about a girl who was a double agent in the fight between the Gods of Life and Death.
…Yeah, actually, it’s safe to say that my writing has only gotten less dark with time…
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I write with music, but I prefer general coffee shop noise to silence. I don’t like silence.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
It used to just be one at a time…
Right now, it’s relatively common for me to have one that I’m drafting, one that I’m editing, and one that I’m outlining, all at the same time, so I always have something to work on, no matter what kind of work I’m in the mood for.
A day in the life of the author?
Well, my physical location is extremely inconsistent—seriously, I was in Guatemala just last week as of this writing—but my writing itself is relatively consistent.
For one, I write every day. When possible, which is most of the time, this takes place in a coffee shop, because I am a living stereotype. I prefer writing in the morning, but sometimes my schedule is more full in the morning—like if I’m taking language classes or something—and in those cases I’ll go ahead and do it in the afternoon. But still with coffee. The coffee part is important.
I tend to have a pretty good mental picture of what exactly I need to do when. Like, right now I’m drafting the fourth Evocation book, and in a large part prioritizing that, because I’ve been working on this series for a while and am ready to work on something else. Because I currently have a lot of free time, I can manage a chapter a day, but on busier days, that might not happen. I have no idea what my average daily wordcount is, but I have some days when I struggle just to get 1000, and other days where I ‘accidentally’ end up with like, 5000.
But not everything is drafting. I also right now have to finish the edits on The Lives that Argue for Us before it—and all this book tour stuff—goes live. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll switch gears from drafting onto that, but I might try to outright finish Evocation 4 though. I do tend to like having one main gear at any moment.
I’ve also got some things lying around that I could definitely work on outlining or worldbuilding.
Advice you would give new authors?
Try a bunch of different things, in a way that’s low stress for you and lets you play around! For me, I got this from participating in three years worth of Flash Fiction Month—a yearly event that takes place in a small corner of DeviantArt every July, where you have to each day write a story between 50 and 1000 words. There’s a bunch of optional challenges, which in many cases pushed my out of my genre and style, and were really fun.
The best way to get better at writing is to write, and the best way to write a lot is to not stress about it, and not feel super judged for it. I think fanfic is also a good place for this, and of course, there’s always NaNoWriMo.
I also find that challenges and prompts and format restrictions help with creativity if you’re struggling, because that prevents you from getting overwhelmed by there being this blank slate where you can do anything.
A community or fellow writer friend can help a lot too: again, events like FFM or NaNo are great for this, as are fanfic.
Also, if you can identify specific things you want to work on or haven’t tried yet, set challenges for yourself! The ones I did in the lead-up to writing Stalking and the Glory of God are copied without edit below, and they might serve as an interesting guideline [for reference, Cradle and Mateyakenata were preexisting settings I’d had running around in my head for a while at the time]…
Write out descriptions of actions and physical postures you have noticed people taking; be specific. Go ahead and develop these into a larger description of a person (not necessarily based on the real-life inspiration). Shoot for 4-5 sentences for these descriptions. If so inspired, go ahead and make one even bigger.
Do the thing: describe your room/wherever you’re physically writing. Yes, it’s boring, do it.
Then do the other thing: describe a place from memory.
Seriously, give details.
Go harder-core: hit up a place from Cradle, put a character there, and for every major aspect of the place and every character shown, get 4-5 sentences of information in. Get a good sentence in describing every action (that’s bothered to be described at all). Do anything you darn well feel like to offset information density, but make sure it has that mass. 500 words or so would be fine.
Write a flash fic, fantasy. Develop the setting as you go; again, detail.
Write a flash fic set in Cradle; in a part of Cradle you know well, even. Don’t aim for comparing it to ground-up world building; if you like how the previous exercise turned out, try to find a way to make this one come across as spontaneous/understandable. If you didn’t like it, make use of your knowledge of Cradle to do something better.
Plotting hell: yes, write a plot. No seriously. Do it. Set it in one of the kinda-developed worlds: Matekeyanata or the abrahamic one. Any setting/character stuff that needs to be decided for/as part of the plot, do. Aim for it to be something that can be handled in about 5000-8000 words.
1/18/16 (monday, MLK day)
Now, write the thing. Literally. Outright get up at 8 (eat!! make sure you’ve bought some foods ahead of time), and work on from literally about 9 to 5 (taking breaks for foods).
Describe your writing style.
So, when I was eleven, my two favorite authors were Mark Z. Danielewski (of House of Leaves fame) and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (a YA paranormal author).
I still think that my style contains elements of being some unholy combination of the two: the dramatic playing with language of the former and the direct, to-the-point clarity of the latter.
I try to be able to vary up my style with project and PoV, but one thing that’s pretty consistent is that I use more parallel structure in my sentences than is probably healthy. I tend to do it in threes, where the third iteration of it is longer or spills into another part of the sentence or paragraph structure, and maybe grows a parallel structure of its own. Here’s an excerpt from the prologue for The Stars that Rise at Dawn that shows this, not once or twice but at least three times I can count:
No, not light. More than light. It’s a brightness less like the sun and more like certainty, it’s an I am, I am, I am echoing and rippling and forming waves of light that should be far too intense to see, and yet Tamar almost can, surrounded by and in it.
What makes a good story?
That can be a change in the main character, a change in the world, maybe even just a change in circumstances—but there should be change from the start of the story to the end, in my opinion.
I think that’s a lot more important than conflict, actually. If a story is super-high conflict but it gets resolved to the status quo being exactly the same as it was at the beginning of the story, I’m not interested.
The stories I tend to write are very low-conflict, but have a large deal of change in the characters—or in the relationships between them—from the beginning to the end of the story.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
Lately, I’ve been doing super in-depth outlines first, which has mostly worked. They’re scene-by-scene outlines, and they sometimes even have dialogue; as I said, in-depth.
I always write in chronological order, from the first scene to the last—actually, I outline like this too, and often (always) when I start outlining, I don’t know what the exact end of the book is going to be.
Then I do a first editing pass, which is mostly just reading the thing over to myself: I’ll actually do some line-editing at this point as it occurs to me, which you’re not “supposed” to do before structural edits, but whatever. This can be good for catching parts that are super un-understandable, and if I’ve contradicted myself, but I mostly use it to just take notes on what kind of more detailed editing I’m going to need to do: “chapter 2 needs serious line editing,” “the subplot that starts in chapter 17 wasn’t paced well for these reasons and I’m going to have to change it somehow”, that sort of thing.
Then I go through and actually do those things. Which might take multiple passes.
And then I do a last pass to line-edit.
I mean, the editing process doesn’t always follow exactly that format, but close enough … and no matter how it goes, it’s always at least somewhat annoying, heh.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The average time has been going down super rapidly—drafting was about four months for The Stars that Rise at Dawn, but outlining + drafting was about four months for The Lives that Argue at Dawn, which was long. All the books in this series were edited on and off over a fairly long period of time after they were written, so it’s hard to estimate time on that.
Due to already having a bit of a backlog to publish, working on multiple projects at a time, and a number of my books being novella-length (the Evocation series), I’m probably on target to publish 12 books this year, which might tell you something about how fast I can be…
Do you believe in writer’s block?
At least for me, writing isn’t a matter of waiting for inspiration to strike. Sometimes there’s super-inspired days, great, but that’s not always what happens: and in order to write a lot, you have to be able to find a way to make it interesting and to get into it even when you’re not super inspired in that exact moment.
More importantly, maybe, is that the feeling of inspiration is probably a developable skill, and something you can make happen more commonly by working on it: e.g. by figuring out how to choose projects that keep your interest and to chase the stuff you really like in your writing.
I know that if I get stuck on a scene or chapter, one of the best things I can do is sit back and figure out what I kind of wish it would be, sometimes even what would be self-indulgently fun to have in it—and then find a way to incorporate that! Maybe that means adding in more over-the-top dialogue … and if one of my characters is exactly the type of person to say something overdramatic, and then maybe be slapped for it by another character, I’ll just do that. And that’s just one example.
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