KNIGHTS OF RILCH Release Day: Interview with Rachel O’Laughlin

Hello gentle reader,

KNIGHTS OF RILCH, the sequel to COLDNESS OF MAREK, and the second book in the SERENGARD Series, is out today!


Add it on Goodreads

Buy it on Amazon or on Barnes & Noble

Win it! Giveaway here

To celebrate this release, I’ve interviewed Rachel O’Laughlin about the process of writing a second book in a trilogy…


Did you always know Serengard would be a trilogy or not?

Awesome question! I actually had no idea it would be a trilogy. When I drafted Coldness of Marek, I thought I was writing a standalone. Several months later, I felt like there was so much more to tell in order for the story to be understood. I went back to the drawing board and fleshed out a sequel. After drafting Knights of Rilch, I had so much more world building and character development that I wanted to incorporate into Coldness of Marek, so I went back and rewrote it from scratch. That’s when I knew the sequel wasn’t going to be enough and it needed to be a whole series. It’s quite a commitment, but I am thankful I made it. There’s so much more to Serengard than the short adventure I started with.

How did you go about writing this second book?

I made a rough outline via notebook and Scrivener in the month leading up to NaNoWriMo 2012, then I fast-drafted 70k that November. One of the unique things I did with this novel that I haven’t done before or since was having two non-writer friends read each chapter as I wrote. I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again, but it definitely gave me a lot of extra perspective. Early revisions were actually a joy with this book. I loved exploring how a scene could become deeper and darker, even if I had to cut some of it later. I had multiple writer friends and critique partners look at it after each revision — so many I can’t count — and they all had useful feedback for me. From first draft to final draft was exactly one year.

Is your final draft very different from your first one?

Very, very different. (As actually EM can attest! I think you read the second draft, didn’t you?) I had a major epiphany after my third or fourth revision — I chopped off the last half of the book and went an entirely different direction. It turned out to be the best decision ever. The villains are twice as strong, and the action builds up to a point at the end that I could never have envisioned with the first version. I did end up cutting several scenes and chapters from the first half. It was a lot of battle and build-up, and the detail was just bogging it down. My CPs and my editor helped me unsnarl some of the most complicated, touchy scenes, in addition to being total heroes on the line edits. I love how clean and snappy the finished novel turned out.

Would you say writing this second book was harder or easier than writing your first?

Harder. The story centers very much on the brother/sister bond, and that’s a relationship I’ve been driven to write ever since I was fourteen. The action is more complex and intense than the first book, the death toll higher by far. All of that contributed to me shredding scene after scene and reworking my timeline again and again whenever something just wasn’t working, but even more so, I felt this whole novel far deeper than the first. A couple of scenes always make me cry like nothing in Coldness of Marek has. Over all, Knights of Rilch was full of a lot of growing pains, and I think I pushed myself far harder than I have before.

As Knights of Rilch is coming out, is your state of mind different from when Coldness of Marek came out?

I am way less nervous about looking like an amateur, that’s for sure! Coldness of Marek was well received, and that’s made me pretty excited to see what everyone has to say about its sequel. But I’m still a little scared, to be honest. It’s hard to explain why, because having my work out there to be loved or hated is my ultimate dream. I guess it’s a good scared, because there’s really nothing awful that could happen. I appreciate “liked” reviews as much as “disliked”. I’m queasy and thrilled and desperate to hear how readers feel about my sophomore baby.

Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories in which heroines tend to get their hands dirty, bad guys sometimes win, and someone always gets kidnapped. Her passion for history morphed into a love for fantasy in her mid-teens, when she took a brief pause from reality for immersion in the arts and a hands-on education in sustainable living. She lives in New England with her husband and two boys, listens to The Fray, and drinks too many lattes. Two novels in her SERENGARD fantasy series have been released, and a third is scheduled for October 2014.

Author Website:



Book of the Week – 20

Hello gentle reader,

My choice for Book of the Week is Coldness of Marek by Rachel O’Laughlin. It’s an Adult Epic Fantasy book and the first book in the Serengard Series. It was released on 6th August 2013 and I received an ARC from the author for review.


I’ll start by saying that I fully enjoyed this book. I love Epic Fantasy and this is a very well written and engrossing read.

The story is divided into two parts: the first part takes place before a political upheaval which is going to overthrow the reigning monarch and introduce a new regime. The second part takes place ten years later and deals with the aftermath of the rebellion.

I loved how effortless the world building was in this story: Serengard and its political, social and geographical features are introduced slowly and smoothly, making it very easy to get immersed  in this world.

The characters are rich and complex, with Trzl at the center of it all. She is a wonderfully multifaceted woman, clever yet passionate, cold yet loving. Around her, a web of men with their own agendas creates a great cast. I only wished there were more female characters.

The plot is well-paced and compelling, although I did enjoy Part II more, because the action and scheming really picked up then and I couldn’t put the book down after hitting the halfway mark.

Although this first book in this series has a satisfying ending, I finished the story longing to dive into Book 2 straight away. But Knights of Rilch will only be released in February 2014…

In the meantime, I recommend Coldness of Marek for lovers of Epic Fantasy!

What are you reading this week?


Hello gentle reader,

One of my good friends and fellow There And Draft Again blogger, Rachel O’Laughlin, has an Epic Fantasy novel debuting on 6th August 2013: COLDNESS OF MAREK. I’m really excited for her book to be out, and I’m even more excited to reveal her beautiful cover art!

Here’s the book blurb. Scroll down to check out the cover!

Serengard has been under Orion rule for centuries. Centuries of insufferable adherence to laws and traditions that none of its people ever asked for or agreed to. Raised by her scholarly grandfather in the fiery southern city of Neroi, Trzl is out to turn the monarchy into a free society where knowledge is king and no one has to be subject to the whims of an Orion.

As the rebellion escalates, her choices have an eerie impact on the revolution at large, elevating her to a position of influence she has only dreamed of attaining. But there are downsides to her power: appearances and alliances that must be upheld. One of them is Hodran, a rich rebel who wants to aid her cause, and another is Mikel, a loyalist farmer who wants to destroy it… and who just might be winning her heart at the same time.

By the time Trzl realizes she is in too deep, she has an infant son and a dark mess of betrayal and lies. She runs, to the farthest corner of the kingdom, in hopes she will be left alone with her child. But she has a few too many demons. Someone she once trusted takes her captive among the chilling Cliffs of Marek. She is thrown back into the political mess she helped create… at the mercy of a man she never wanted for an enemy.

Author Bio


Obsessed with all things history, Rachel grew up reading adventure stories the caliber of Rafael Sabatini and only recently fell in love with fantasy as a genre. She lives in Maine with her husband and children, grows roses and tweets often. In addition to reading and writing, she loves coffee, spy series, and alternative rock.

And… here is the cover!


Isn’t it gorgeous?!

Add COLDNESS OF MAREK on Goodreads


Find Rachel O’Laughlin on her website, Twitter and Facebook

Visit the other participating blogs here:

There And Draft Again (with an excerpt from COLDNESS OF MAREK!)

Darci Cole

Serena Lawless

Lauren Garafalo

Mara Valderran

K.L. Schwengel (with an excerpt as well!)

M. Andrew Patterson

Joshua David Bell

What is Gritty Epic Fantasy?

Hello gentle reader,

When people ask me what genre my WIP The Last Queen is, I usually reply “Fantasy”. But if I wanted to be precise, I would say “Gritty Epic Fantasy”. Usually I’m not that precise, because then I would have to explain what Gritty Epic Fantasy is and I would end up talking for 15 minutes…

So today I thought I would explain what Gritty Epic Fantasy is, just this once.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

According to Wikipedia,

Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common.

Epic Fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in invented or parallel worlds.

NB: Because they share so many similarities, Epic Fantasy and High Fantasy are often used as synonyms. In this post, I will not differentiate the two subgenres, although I do think there are some differences that distinguish them.

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are seen as the founders of the Epic Fantasy subgenre. Both authors invented imaginary worlds where their characters go on a great adventure. Their books focus on a good-versus-evil story and they were published during the first half of the 20th Century.

These books are all about escapism and heroism. In The Hobbit, Bilbo is on a quest to find a treasure guarded by a dragon. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf comes back from the dead. In The Chronicles of Narnia, children protect the fictional realm from evil and restore the throne to its rightful line. In these first Epic Fantasy books, there are talking animals, mythical beasts, sword fights, magic at every turn and people rarely die.

As many other readers out there, I love those stories. But Fantasy literature is about being a metaphor for the world we live in. And this is 2012. Since the 1950s, society has changed. Readers have changed. They’ve grown up watching people getting killed live on TV, hearing about horrific cases of child abuse and reading about human trafficking in the paper. When they read Fantasy books, they want to read about characters who face similar challenges to the ones they do.

And that’s what Gritty Epic Fantasy, also known as Realistic Fantasy, has to offer.

The trend was started by Glen Cook’s Black Company series in the mid 1980s. Then George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series followed in the mid 1990s. And in the last ten years, this subgenre has grown exponentially, with authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, K. J. Parker, Mark Lawrence, Steven Erikson and Brent Weeks.

In these books, the setting is still imaginary worlds. But instead of relying on complicated magic systems and weird creatures, these stories show us a world in shades of grey, where the characters are as flawed as we are, with the same emotions and reactions. These books touch on concepts which echo in our real world. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire tackles politics and relationships, Week’s Night Angel trilogy mentions child abuse and moral ambiguity.

In Gritty Epic Fantasy, there is no old grey-bearded wizard in robes to save the day. No quest to find a hidden treasure. No talking lions and children more powerful than kings. No brave knights who defy death. No world in black and white.

“There’s no guarantee that justice will win out or that a noble sacrifice will make any difference. But when it does, there’s something that still swells my chest. There’s magic in that…. It tells me that’s the way things are supposed to be.”

Brent Weeks, Beyond the Shadows

So maybe Gritty Epic Fantasy is not for you. But I find that this Fantasy subgenre is the one that echoes the most in me and this is what I write.

Some reading recommendations:

Black Company series   (Glen Cook)
A Song of Ice and Fire series  (George R.R. Martin)
Malazan Book of the Fallen series  (Steven Erikson)
The Deed of Paksenarrion  (Elizabeth Moon)
Prince of Nothing series    (R. Scott Bakker)
Acacia  (David Anthony Durham)
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant  (Stephen R. Donaldson)
First Law series  (Joe Abercrombie)
The Lies of Locke Lamora  (Scott Lynch)

The Night Angel trilogy (Brent Weeks)

Prince of Thorns (Mark Lawrence)

 On the web:

Gritty fantasy

Painting With Grey: The Development and Popularity of “Gritty Fantasy”

Why the Turn Towards Gritty Realism In Epic Fantasy?

So what do you think? Do read or write Gritty Epic Fantasy? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!