Today I am interviewing Amanda Cherry, author of the new contemporary fantasy/super villain novel, Rites & Desires.
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DJ: Hi Amanda! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Amanda Cherry: I’m a Gulf Coast native and UNLV alum who’s spent the last dozen or so years trying to keep warm in the Pacific Northwest. My first career was as an actor & entertainer, and I’m still an active member of SAG-AFTRA and can be found performing in variety shows throughout the region. I’ve been happily married to my husband for eleven years and we have a four-year-old son who’s gearing up for Kindergarten. I’m a staff writer for the Star Wars and geek culture site ToscheStation.net and contributed to the 2018 Role Play Game Acute Paranoia. I love Star Wars, Star Trek, DisneyBounding, and a well-crafted villain. I’ve written as a hobby all my life and have an intense love for fanfiction—a fact which has served me well as I join the broad and incredible Cobalt City universe as a professional author.
DJ: What is Rites & Desires about?
Amanda: By Day, Ruby Killingsworth is the billionaire CEO of Goblin Records—a multi-million-dollar worldwide entertainment conglomerate. By night, she’s a magic wielding super villain. Her worst day happened in Cobalt City Christmas, Christmas Harder when a ritual gone wrong robbed her of her power. Rites & Desires is the story of how she will stop at nothing to get it back. With the help of Loki (yes, that Loki!) and the band of supernatural minions he sends to her aid, Ruby sets out to unlock the secrets of an ancient African gem—a task that proves easier said than done.
She takes on this monumental undertaking while also working to seduce her neighbor, Jaccob Stevens; also known as Stardust, the Cobalt City’s preeminent super hero, also known as the City’s least eligible man. Did I mention he hates magic?
And she’s dealing with it all while having to manage the unwanted attentions of a certain Lyle Prather—one-time avatar of Loki, notorious former reality TV star, and recently inaugurated President of the United States.
What could possibly go wrong?
DJ: What were some of your influences for Rites & Desires?
Amanda: I fell in love with the Cobalt City universe thanks to the work of fellow authors Dawn Vogel, Jeremy Zimmerman, Erik Scott De Bie, and Nathan Crowder. I was so excited to get to play in this delightful sandbox. I love the women-centric voices of authors like Fannie Flagg and Delilah S. Dawson, and I love prose that’s beautiful-but-approachable, which I think Claudia Gray is a real master of.
I love a good villain with their own story and motivations.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them? (aka What makes them compelling?)
Amanda: Oh, what can I say about Ruby…? She’s the kind of villain we don’t always recognize as wicked—because she’s so much like all of us. Readers will find themselves rooting for her, even *liking* her, and then she’ll do something that jerks them back to the reality that she isn’t really a good person. She’s compelling and interesting and very self-sufficient. She has a kind of agency that a lot of people aspire to. Ruby can be easy to identify with—she’s unapologetically the worst in all of us. And although it’s nice to see someone so unashamedly themselves, her selfishness and lack of empathy can be a touchstone for self-reflection.
Also: she’s a hell of a lot of fun!
DJ: What is the world [What is the name of the universe] and setting of Rites & Desires like? ((the environment, weather, people, religion, technology, architecture, government, etc; is it violent, peaceful, patriarch/matriarch, etc.))
Amanda: Cobalt City is home to heroes and villains. The world in which it sits is a near-to-true world where the supernaturally super powered live alongside ordinary citizens and perform feats of super-heroism alongside tech-powered fellow heroes. In Rites & Desires, we discover that an infamous reality TV personality and one-time avatar of Loki has been elected President of the United States (you can read more about that whole kerfuffle in Cobalt City: Resistance coming this October from author Nathan Crowder) so we have a direct analog to the current US administration and a way to both seriously examine and snidely lampoon the man in charge of it.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Rites & Desires?
Amanda: I love this wicked lady. I love having a character who can say or do anything she wants and almost always get away with it. Getting into the head of someone so unabashedly hedonistic is delightful. And introducing her to some of Cobalt City’s known stalwarts (the precious love interest didn’t stand a chance!) has been a former fanfic writer’s dream come true.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Amanda: I got a review on Goodreads that began with something to the effect of, “how dare you make me root for the villain?” and that’s the most on-the-nose comment I could imagine. Everyone is the protagonist of their own story, and Ruby is very relatable. So I think the bog conversation piece will be how much she resonates with people, and how they feel about that when they step back and remember she’s not the good guy.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Rites & Desires? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Amanda: Mostly I was just excited to write a book from the point of view of a villain. That’s not something you see a lot in superhero fiction, and something that hadn’t been done at all in Cobalt City before. I think the world at large is a good example of how not all villainy is moustache-twirling eeeeeeeevil, and that a person’s motivations, although perfectly right and proper from their perspective, can be insidious and terrible. Taking readers into the motivations and machinations of this wonderful, wicked lady puts a bright-but-ugly spotlight on how easily any of us can fall into our own brand of villainy.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Rites & Desires that you can share with us?
Amanda: Ruby, supervillain that she is, is an absolute master of eloquent insults. And Lyle Prather, the aforementioned new President, gets referred to by a few fantastic ones (“bloviating tick” comes to mind). My favorite quote in the book is when Ruby dares to insult him to his face. He’s followed her out of danger and wants to keep following her. She’s having none of it and says, “Get back aboard that fancy helicopter you pusillanimous cretin and go run the country!”
DJ: Now that Rites & Desires is released, what is next for you?
Amanda: I have recently completed a Middle Grade novel about ordinary kids squaring off against the King of the Sidhe that’s currently being shopped around to agents and I am about a quarter of the way through drafting a Dieselpunk political intrigue book that’s had a nibble of interest from a publisher I am very excited about.
I had the awesome opportunity to contribute to the Acute Paranoia role play game this year, so keep an eye out for that! And I’m scheduled for appearances at several conventions in and around the Seattle area. Keep an eye on my website for updates.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Rites & Desires that we haven’t talked about yet?
Amanda: That it’s just a big, giant heap of fun. From magical plots to romantic schemes to naughty gods and back again, this book is a ball.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add? (Or add your own question).
Amanda: Because Rites & Desires takes place in an existing, established super hero universe, some people have been leery of picking it up for fear a lack of context knowledge could diminish their enjoyment. I promise, this isn’t the case! Rites & Desires is absolutely a great introduction to Cobalt City. Although there are definitely Easter eggs in the book for longtime fans of these heroes and their home, I can assure you there’s no need for background knowledge in order to fully understand and enjoy the book.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Rites & Desires is published by DefCon One and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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Ruby Killingsworth relies on magic to keep her entertainment empire on top. When a ritual gone wrong robbed her of this magic, she wasn’t about to take it lying down. Enlisting Loki’s aid and commanding the band of supernatural henchmen he’s proffered, Ruby embarks to capture the magic of an ancient African gem.
While endeavoring to regain her powers, Ruby must also contend with the daily business of Goblin Records, her romantic designs on her billionaire neighbor, and the unwanted attention of the newly elected U.S. president. The return of her power and a relationship with the city’s most prominent citizen would give Ruby all she ever desired. But magic comes with a price, politics are a dirty business—doubly so when a trickster god gets involved—and Loki is never on anyone’s side but his own.
About the Author:
Amanda Cherry is a native of Pensacola, FL and an alumnus of UNLV who hasn’t been thoroughly warm since moving to the Seattle area in 2003. Amanda’s first love was performing, and she has had a successful career as a theatre, television, and film actress.
Amanda’s first book was penned in her family’s den and published by her father in time for Christmas in 1985, she was six years old. After the limited success of that first outing, Amanda turned to writing stories for fun. She spent the next twenty-odd years doing just that.
A lifelong nerd, Amanda joined the staff at her favorite Star Wars site, Tosche Station, as a contributing writer in 2016 and discovered that letting other people read what she’d written was actually pretty fun. Thanks to the encouragement of a friend, she was invited to submit to a Superhero anthology in 2016 while living overseas in Berlin, Germany. When she learned that her story was bought, she cried.
Capitalizing on the success of that publication, Amanda’s pitch for a follow-up novel was accepted. The rest is, as they say, history. Rites & Desires debuted in March of 2018 to audience acclaim and author giggles.
Amanda’s short fiction has appeared in Cobalt City Christmas: Christmas Harderand multiple issues of Mad Scientist Journal Quarterly. She was part of the writing team behind the 2018 Role Play Game release, Acute Paranoia and was a finalist in the 2018 NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. She is an associate member of SFWA and enjoys collaborating with other genre fiction writers on stories, events, and public relations.
Amanda once again lives in the Seattle area with her husband of ten years and four year-old son. In her free time, she enjoys driving her little blue convertible and officiating flat track roller derby.