FROM UNSEEN FIRE (Aven Cycle #1)
Author: Cass Morris
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Publisher: DAW Books
The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.
whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie
for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the
Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal
talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous
men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may
have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the
people -- if only she can find the courage to try.
siblings--a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a
frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a
treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition
in the province of Iberia--will be her allies as she builds a place for
herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her
husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.
intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator
harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold
high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a
life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the
provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing
Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to
secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.
politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona
and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven's fate. But
when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their
efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?
was the value of firsthand site research for FROM UNSEEN FIRE?
the things I most wanted to bring across in From Unseen Fire was the
sense of an active, bustling, diverse city, and taking a research trip
to Rome really helped me envision the ancient city as it would have
been. So much is still the same, from the pathways of major roads to the
open-air markets that flourish in every piazza. My favorite part was
walking home from Trastevere (which the Romans/Aventans would know as
Transtiberium or the Janiculan Hill, on the far side of the river from
the main city) after dinner one night and discovering a night market
happening on the banks of the Tiber. Bright lights, colorful tents and
stalls, wine sellers plying their wares, musicians playing festive tunes
-- It was not hard at all to feel like I was having a very similar
experience to one I could’ve had two thousand years ago.
did you devise the magical elements in FROM UNSEEN FIRE?
When I started
writing From Unseen Fire, I knew I wanted to attach the magical system
to the pantheon of gods. The ancient Romans believed in magic and
petitioned the gods for it, so it made perfect sense to have the magic
of Aven be a literal blessing from those gods. And it made sense, too,
that different gods would bestow different gifts, based on their spheres
of influence. The system of nine Elements grew out of something my
friends and I developed while we were growing up, a component of lots of games and communally-told stories that we had.
I love thinking
about the different manifestations and applications that can occur even
within one Element: Latona’s Fire magic, for example, derives from
Venus, so it’s highly emotional and a little more metaphorical -- the
fire of the heart, if you will, whereas someone blessed by Vulcan would
have Fire magic, too, but it might manifest as a talent for
blacksmithing and a career as a Fire-forger. The overlap of elemental
magic and divine blessing is just so much fun to explore.
did participating in NaNoWriMo affect the writing of FROM UNSEEN FIRE?
My method of Nanoing is highly chaotic. I write whatever scenes occur to
me without much worry about how they fit together. As a result, during
that initial drafting, I ended up with way more material than was
useable. Aside from the things that ended up getting ditched entirely in
rewrites or things that got moved from Book One to Books Two and Three,
there were also stray plotlines taking place in Abydosia (Egypt) and
Armorica (Gaul/France) that I really loved, but which ended up not
fitting the main narrative. I was trying to cram too many plotlines into
too few pages! So I’ve ended up editing a lot of that out of From
Unseen Fire and perhaps from the entire Aven Cycle, but I’m very much
hoping I’ll have use for it at some other time.
4.Since you have a
background in Shakespeare, did you ever debate setting a series in the
world of Shakespeare?
I’ve definitely thought about it! I would really
love to write something someday that’s set either in his world or in the
world of his plays. Elizabethan and Jacobean England fascinate me and
always have. In addition to having an MLitt in Shakespeare and working
for seven years at the American Shakespeare Center, I also spent a few
years working for the Virginia Renaissance Faire, so it’s something I’ve
steeped in quite a bit. The theatrical world of early modern London was
an utterly bonkers time and place, filled with a wealth of over-the-top
personalities, so it’s certainly rich with potential story fodder. I
just haven’t quite hit upon the right idea yet.
have any advice or words of wisdom for writers?
First, just keep at it.
Determination counts for as much or more than talent and craft in this
business. You have to be able to take a hit, shake yourself off, and
Second, the best wordcrafting advice I’ve ever gotten: “but
then”. When you’re summarizing scenes, you should always be able to do
so with a “but then” phrase, rather than an “and then” phrase. It’s so
simple, but it can make such a difference. Think about what changes for
your brain between reading, “Sally got up to make breakfast, and then
there was a knock at the door” and “Sally got up to make breakfast, but
then there was a knock at the door.” Immediately you have a sense of
stakes and drama, because that knock has become unusual and unexpected
rather than routine.
Third, make friends. Writing can be a solitary
business, but it doesn’t have to be a totally isolated one. The magic of
the internet can connect you with so many people that are sharing your
experiences, whatever stage of the publishing journey you’re on.
is work, yes. Sometimes it’s painful work. The publishing process has a
lot of hurdles to clear. It can feel like the goalposts are always
moving on you, like everything happens simultaneously too fast and at a
glacial pace, like you never know the expectations and yet feel
compelled to do everything you can to succeed. It can be rough, so if
you don’t still have joy in writing itself, it’s not worth doing. When
things get hard, remind yourself why you love the story you’re telling.
Morris lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with the
companionship of two royal felines, Princess and Ptolemy. She completed
her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she
earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in
history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads
voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.
Find out more about Cass Morris online at cassmorriswrites.com.