Author Interview - AMY BAI

We have our tenth interviewee today! Amy Bai is the author of SWORD, a high fantasy novel that's currently out on submission. She is represented by Shana Cohen at Stuart Krichevsky. I had a great time getting to know Amy. She is super nice and productive! I can only think great things are in store for her.

The illustration here is of MC, Kyali Corwynall. She is a 20-year-old redhead with a modified claymore and a talent for offending people. Doesn't she look tough?! I enjoyed drawing her glowering expression.

1) What is your novel about?

Sword is a coming of age high fantasy about a girl pretty much at odds with everything, including and especially herself. It's set in a fictional kingdom called Lardan, one with a long history of magic and war, and a population so complacent they've forgotten that either one ever applied to them. They learn differently when history begins to repeat itself: there's an uprising, the kingdom is thrown into civil war, and the royal family, of which my main character Kyali is a satellite member, is murdered. Kyali, her brother, and the princess are forced into exile with a small army of refugees. Kyali was badly hurt during the uprising, and comes out of that a changed person; unfortunately for her she's now the only person with the training to command what is left of the army, and her friends need her. 

Sword i
s her story, how she learns to deal with what happened to her without shutting out the people she loves, and with the responsibilities she has to shoulder now that the older generation is dead and the kingdom is overrun. It's about loyalty and love, fate and family and politics. It's also violent, occasionally sarcastic, and unabashedly sappy. 

2) What inspired you to write the story?

I had a very sullen young woman with a battered old sword and no patience kicking my frontal lobe. As motivators go, it was a pretty good one.

--Ok, so that's a little dramatic, but really not too far from the truth (except the part about the frontal lobe, of course). Kyali Corwynall started out as a patchwork of some of my favorite characters from books like 
Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and Patricia McKillip's Cygnet, going all the way back to Barbara Helen Berger's Gwinna, which I read when I was seven. My brain is like cosmic flypaper: the stuff I like (or hate) sticks, accumulates, eventually acquires a gravitational field, and before I know it light's bending around it and I'm up at 3 am mainlining coffee and my keyboard's broken. Sword was like that. One day I had scattered pieces, and the next I had a character with layers, flaws, goals, scars, and a complicated history. Stories always start that way for me, no matter how cool my premise may be (or how cool I may think it is, anyway) --my characters inspire and drive it, start to finish. 

3) Since your novel is medieval-influenced, can you tell us a bit about your researching journey?

Wow. How I'd love to give you a list of planned, organized steps I took. It would make me feel so much smarter! 

But no. I stumbled into the research for
Sword much like I did the story itself. I think my research began the moment I realized I had no idea how heavy a sword really was, or how hard it might be to wear armor and, you know, walk at the same time. I remember thinking writing fantasy would be easy (yes, feel free to laugh at me). It didn't take long before I realized it was very, very obvious when I didn't know what I was talking about. So I went from looking up Irish baby names online to running to the library after work to find the Focloir Scoile or The Book of the Sword. I eventually learned to restrain myself, because research can be a wonderful excuse for not writing when you're stuck-- but overall, it was great fun.

4) What's your best revision tip?

Remember basic dramatic structure when you're reading your draft(s). It definitely doesn't always apply, and definitely 
shouldn't always apply, but I've found it can be a great lens: I can look at the whole story, each subplot and character arc, each chapter, and each scene with that structure in mind, and I'll always find something to tweak. Or mangle. Or outright kill.

...Revision is a slightly violent process for me. 

5) You write very productively, having finished your second book already and tackling multiple projects. Do you have advice for authors on how to be productive?

This question makes me sound much more competent than I feel. I like it. :D

1.) Come up with a routine that fits into your life and stick to it. I get up 1-2 hours before work and I spend them at the keyboard come hell or high water. During these hours I will write 
something, even if I end up deleting it all later. 

2.) Program your router to turn off at certain times. I wander in and out of this plan because I'm not as disciplined as I want to be, but I find if I have no internet access, I'm a lot more likely to actually get some work done.

3.) Invest in an espresso maker. Glorious, glorious things.

I second the advice about espresso! If it weren't for caffeine, I'd probably be living in a box right now. Thank you, Amy for your fabulous advice and telling us about SWORD!



Enjoyed this interview? If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more info.


  1. Gorgeous. Picture.

    Well done, both of you!!!

  2. She looks more than tough: she looks perfect! I swear, you're psychic. This is absolutely spot on. WOW.

    Thanks, Realm, for the opportunity, and for the amazing drawing!!!

  3. I third ont he espresso maker! Can't live (or write) without a fix. AWESOME picture, and agreed, great job to the both of you!

    I can't wait to get in on this when I have my agent. Realm, you rock.

  4. great interview, Sunna! :) and you forgot to add "chocolate" ;)

  5. Realm, just awesome!! Amy, no wonder you fell off your chair!! I really love this!! Very intense!!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  6. Great interview. Love the illustration.

  7. Great interview and a fantastic book, which I have had the pleasure of reading! Be jealous! :D

  8. I love her expression. Great job guys!

  9. Great interview, guys. I just love the expression on her face!

  10. Fabulous interview ladies! I love the pic, Realm. And Amy, I can't believe that you're disciplined to wake up 2 hours early every single day. I always end up cramming in my writing right before I go to bed at night. Ever the procrastinator.

  11. Wonderful interview (I particularly enjoyed the details on Amy's process) and great illustration! These have been so much fun to read!

  12. I have also read this book, and believe me, it is fantastic!! There's no doubt in my mind that I will see it some day soon on the store shelves and I'll have to do some serious wrestling to get the last copy out of someone else's hands. I hope for all your sakes that you get there before I do. ;)

  13. Great interview--Shana Cohen has impeccable taste, so I'm not surprised this sounds so good.

    The illustration rocks--very dramatic!

  14. Oy. My betas are making me blush. *wave* I heart you guys.

    L&L, I'm a morning person. I know this is an evil beyond the compass of mortal man, but it does give me an edge sometimes. ;-) Writing at night is what I struggle with. I just want to be a three-toed sloth after work.

    Shana is indeed fabulous. I love her. And thank you!

    --Ok, I have to stop staring at this picture now. Bless me, Realm, if I do get pubbed I'm going to sniffle and bat my eyes and *beg* to have you do my cover. You are marvelously, enviably, wonderfully talented.

    There goes my adjective quota for the month...

  15. Thank you for visiting and your comments! So glad you liked the interview and illustration!

    Christa -- I can't wait! Be sure to email me when you are on submission! I'm wishing you the best of luck finding your perfect agent!

    J.F. -- Chocolate! That is also important!

    Amy and Lisa & Laura -- I used to write or illustrate two hours in the morn before I went off to work...The prob with that was I felt a bit rushed during those hours. Now I switched over to night, but it does tend to get crammed, since I do illustrations first, then writing. Seems like a major bulk of writing gets done on the weekend. (I'd like to have a perfect schedule down one of these day. Kudos to you, Amy!)

  16. Sunna (Amy) -- Haha--I'm so glad you liked it! Hint at your editor! You know I would totally love to get to design the cover of Sword! *dreams*

  17. Beautiful! And Amy, I've said it before, but I envy you your writing routine, I really do. And this is definitely a book I want to read.

  18. The book sounds very interesting, Amy, and woot on the artwork!

    I'm always interested to hear about other writers' processes. Mine sounds similar to yours. I heart character-driven novels. :)

  19. Great interview and exceptional art. Exactly the kind of talent I need for my second book. Alas, not within my grasp.

  20. I totally loved reading this interview. :)

  21. Thank you, Sarah, hope101, ralfast, and gypsyscarlett!

  22. This sounds fantastic, Amy! Great questions and drawing, too! Good luck, hon!!


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