The Writer’s Desk with Gillian Bronte Adams
Gillian Bronte Adams writes epic fantasy novels, including the award-winning Of Fire and Ash and The Songkeeper Chronicles, and loves strong coffee, desert hikes, and trying out new soup recipes on crisp fall nights. Her favorite books are the ones that make your heart ache and soar in turn. When she’s not creating vibrant new worlds or dreaming up stories that ring with the echoes of eternity, she enjoys bringing life to the words on the page as an audiobook narrator. At the end of the day, she can be found off chasing sunsets with her horse or her dog, Took.
More about Of Fire and Ash:
She rides a fireborn, a steed of fire and ash, trained for destruction.
Ceridwen tal Desmond dreams of ruling like her father over the nation of Soldonia, where warriors ride to battle on magical steeds—soaring on storm winds, vanishing in shadow, quaking the earth, and summoning the sea. After a tragic accident claims her twin brother, she is exiled and sworn to atonement by spending her life—or death—for her people.
But when invaders spill onto Soldonia’s shores and traitors seize upon the chaos to murder her father, Ceridwen claims the crown to keep the nation from splintering. Combatting overwhelming odds and looming civil war, she begins to wonder if the greatest threat to the kingdom may, in fact, be her.
With fire before her and ash in her wake, how can she hope to unite instead of destroy?
Flames rage and oceans rise in this explosive first installment of The Fireborn Epic as the exiled heir, a novice priest, and a reluctant rebel wage war against a hidden power that threatens to shake the world.
More about The Songkeeper Chronicles:
Music is magic and her song could shape or break the world—a YA fantasy adventure where a girl with a powerful song teams up with a streetwise thief, a traveling peddler, and a host of fantasy creatures to stop the warlord oppressing her land.
Book 1: Orphan’s Song
Her solo is a death sentence.
Deep within the world of Leira flows a melody that was sung at the beginning of time by Emhran, the Master Singer. Now it is broken, buried, forgotten. But in each generation, a Songkeeper arises to uphold the memory of the Song against those who want it silenced forever.
When Birdie first hears the Song coming from her own mouth, her world shatters. She is no longer simply an orphan but the last of a hunted people. Forced to flee for her life, she must decide whom to trust—a traveling peddler, a streetwise thief, or a mysterious creature who claims to know her past.
With enemies at her heels and war threatening to tear her homeland apart, Birdie soon discovers an overwhelming truth: the fate of Leira may hinge on one orphan’s Song.
Book 2: Songkeeper
War ravages Leira and the Song has fallen silent.
Freed from the hold of a slave ship, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, and Ky, a street-wise thief, emerge to a world at war. Hordes of dark soldiers march across Leira, shadowed by whispers of plague and massacres, prompting Ky to return to his besieged home city in hopes of leading his fellow runners to safety.
Desperate to end the fighting, Birdie embarks on a dangerous mission into the heart of the Takhran’s fortress. Legend speaks of a mythical spring buried within and the Songkeeper who will one day unleash it to achieve victory. Everyone believes Birdie is the one, but the elusive nature of the Song and rumors of other gifted individuals lead her to doubt her role. Unleashing the spring could defeat the Takhran once and for all, but can she truly be the Songkeeper when the Song no longer answers her call?
Book 3: Song of Leira
The song bids her rise to battle
Reeling from her disastrous foray into the Pit, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, retreats into the mountains. But in the war-torn north, kneeling on bloodstained battlefields to sing the souls of the dying to rest, her resolve to accept her calling is strengthened. Such evil cannot go unchallenged.
Torn between oaths to protect the Underground runners and rescue his friend from the slave camps, Ky Huntyr enlists Birdie’s aid. Their mission to free the captives unravels the horrifying thread connecting the legendary spring, Artair’s sword, and the slave camps. But the Takhran’s schemes are already in motion. Powerful singers have arisen to lead his army—singers who can shake the earth and master the sea—and monsters rampage across the land.
As Leira falters on the verge of defeat, the Song bids her rise to battle, and the Songkeeper must answer.
Q&A with Gillian Bronte Adams
TG: Everyone always asks for an interesting fact, we’re going to flip the question. What is one boring fact about yourself?
GBA: One boring fact about me is that my ideal Friday night involves a massive book, a delicious cup of coffee (and maybe a tasty baked good), and absolutely nowhere to go and nothing to do but settle in and read. On Saturdays, I’m more up for adventures, but on Friday nights, I am definitely a hobbit at heart.
TG: Where did you get the inspiration for Of Fire and Ash?
GBA: I was working as the Head Wrangler at a summer camp the year the first Avengers movie came out (so … ten years ago now), and one night, after spending all day in the saddle teaching kids to ride, I found myself thinking about horses and superpowers, and suddenly I was scribbling notes about magical breeds of war-horses that could breathe fire, cause earthquakes, and vanish into shadow. I was instantly captivated by the concept and couldn’t wait to write it, until I realized that I didn’t have a story to go with it, and certainly not any ideas epic enough to exist in this world that I had imagined. So I reluctantly shelved it for a bit, and it wasn’t until months later that I recalled another idea I’d shelved a while back (one that was all story and no world) and wondered what would happen if I combined the two? And the answer was … Of Fire and Ash!
TG: Do you have any habits or rituals as a writer?
GBA: Whenever I can, I enjoy writing outside. For some reason, when I’m at my desk, I often catch myself becoming distracted by admin tasks – emails, social media work, marketing, etc. But when I take my laptop outside, even during the heat of summer, somehow the change in settling helps me to focus, dismiss distractions, and just dive deep into the story. Why can I get more done outside in 110-degree weather than I can in my nice comfy chair and air-conditioned office space? Maybe it’s the endless sky above me, unlocking my imagination? Maybe it’s the creative inspiration of being out in nature? I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why it works, but it’s proven effective often enough that I just chalk it up to suffering for my art and do it.
TG: What habits would you encourage others to take up to be a more productive writer?
GBA: Working in time blocks has been so helpful for me as a writer. On days when I’m struggling to engage my brain, setting a timer for 20 or 30 minutes, and focusing solely on the page until the timer goes off helps me to break into the flow. On days when a project feels especially overwhelming, setting a goal to complete a set number of 20-30 minute focused sessions can be really helpful. Often I end up going above and beyond and getting more done than I thought I would! I also struggle with perfectionism as an author and can catch myself obsessing over one specific element of a scene, and if I have that timer going, it can help me catch when I’ve been working on one thing for too long and reset to move ahead.
TG: What do you snack on or drink while writing?
GBA: I love drinking coffee while writing, especially in the evening, which can be slightly detrimental to my sleep schedule. I keep telling myself I need to switch to decaf at night, but just haven’t done it yet. During the mornings, it’s always coffee, and in the afternoon, just water.
TG: How do you overcome writer’s block?
GBA: I sit and pound my head against it until it goes away. Just kidding. Often, writer’s block means that I’m missing something, whether that’s a character motivation or emotion that should be driving the scene or an important piece of the plot that I need to move things forward. So I’ll often settle down with a notebook and brainstorm out very stream-of-consciousness-type questions and answers for what I think might be missing. Sometimes, I’ll jump ahead to the next scene or plot point and try to brainstorm my way backward to make sure that the right pieces are in place. Other times, I need to simply step away for a bit. Get out for a walk. Do something active. Give my brain a chance to relax enough to escape the “thought rut” that I’m in.
TG: Are you an “edit-as-you-go” writer or do you wait until the very end before you do any editing?
GBA: I do edit as I go. Otherwise, I find myself getting discouraged and dissatisfied with the state of the story. If something feels off, if I think I’ve taken a wrong turn, I want to recognize it before it sends me veering wildly off course a hundred pages down the road. That said, I do think there is a lot of wisdom behind pressing forward as much as you can to get that first draft on the page so you can see the entire shape of the story and edit with that big picture in mind. So even in editing as I go, progress is the goal, and if it causes me to get so bogged down that I’m not actually “going,” then it’s become a hindrance and not a help. So, I do believe that balance is necessary, and it’s important to keep an eye on the end goal.
TG: What would you say is the most common mistake new writers make?
GBA: One mistake that I think it’s easy for new writers to make is to pin all their hopes and dreams on one project. Because writing is such a time-consuming art, from the moment you have that first concept to the time you finish writing, revising, and editing the manuscript, it can feel like it is your one shot at getting an agent or a publisher or self-publishing or fill in the blank. Even if that first project is ready to sell, so much of publishing is about having the right book fall into the right hands at the right time, and that’s as true for selling your tenth novel to readers as it is for querying agents for your first. That first project may not be what makes you a published author, but it does make you an author, and no piece of writing is wasted. The more you write, the more you grow, the more your imagination stretches and strengthens, and the more you’ll learn about repeating the process, which will set you up well for publishing and writing on deadline.
TG: What is the best piece of writing advice you’re ever received?
GBA: I honestly can’t remember where this came from (it feels like something that might have come from The Writer’s Sanctuary) but it was an encouragement to make a really specific and detailed list of the things that excited me about my current project as well as my hopes for what the book would feel like and the emotions that it would awaken in the readers. It could include anything from specific elements of worldbuilding to a certain dynamic between characters, to something more abstract like the overall pacing. That list was meant to capture that initial vision for the book which I could then look back at whenever I felt stuck in the drafting process or before jumping into heavy revisions. I love that idea, and I do it now for each project, and it reinspires me, reminds me of what is important, and helps me to stay focused for the long haul.
TG: What is coming up next for you?
GBA: The sequel to Of Fire and Ash will be released next year, with one more book to come in the series. This trilogy really is an epic with all of the plot complexity and soaring character arcs and cinematic action you could want, which means it’s claiming all of my focus right now. But there’s so much of my heart in this series and I can’t wait for readers to see where this story is headed in book two.