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Of Sea and Smoke Interview and Giveaway

About the Book

Book: Of Sea and Smoke

Author: Gillian Bronte Adams

Genre: YA Epic Fantasy

Release Date: November 21, 2023

He rides a seablood, a steed of salt and spray, born to challenge the tides.

Six years ago, the wrong brother survived, and nothing will ever convince Rafi Tetrani otherwise. But he is done running from his past, and from the truth. As civil war threatens Ceridwen’s tenuous rule in Soldonia, Rafi vows to fight the usurper sitting on the imperial throne of Nadaar, even if it means shouldering his brother’s responsibilities as the empire’s lost heir.

The stolen shipload of magical warhorses offers just the edge he needs. But the steeds have been demanded in ransom by the emperor’s ruthless assassin, and if Rafi hopes to raise a band of riders, he must first outwit his brother’s murderer.

Yet when his best efforts end in disaster, and an audacious raid sparks an empire-wide manhunt, even forging an unexpected alliance might not be enough to help Rafi turn the tides, let alone outrace the wave of destruction intent on sweeping them all away.


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About the Author

Gillian Bronte Adams writes epic fantasy novels, including the award- winning Of Fire and Ash and The Songkeeper Chronicles. She 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 can be found off chasing sunsets with her horse, or her dog, Took.




More from Gillian

One of my favorite things about writing epic fantasy is not actually what you might expect. It’s not the fantastical elements, although I absolutely love creating worlds filled with magical warhorses, sosswyrm tangles, and stone-eye tigers who can paralyze their prey with a glance. It’s not the intensity of the action or the world altering stakes, although there’s nothing quite so thrilling as throwing your characters into a do-or-die situation, and the pulse-pounding, breathtaking, heart-aching battle sequences that follow.

Instead, one of my favorite things about writing such wild and epic stories is the opportunity to ground them in very real, very human characters, with very real, very human emotions, and in the complexity of those characters’ relationships with others. Mentor relationships, deeply loyal friendships, and especially sibling relationships.

I am the second-born of five siblings, and I love and admire each of my siblings. Each one encourages and inspires and awes me in his or her own unique way. But growing up, if you had told me that my older sister had hung the moon, I would have believed you. She was two and a half years older than me—and yes, that half year mattered to both of us, though for opposite reasons; she because it meant she was that much older, me because it meant we were that much closer. Somehow, everything she touched seemed golden, and I wanted to be a part of it too.

She was a force of nature—a foaming ocean tide—and I was caught up in her wake.

She took up horseback riding, and so did I. She picked up books, and I had to read them too, even if it meant sitting beside her in the car with my own book open on my lap, surreptitiously reading hers over her shoulder. (Needless to say, that drove her crazy, and older siblings everywhere can probably commiserate.)

She dove into creative writing, and out of nowhere, I developed a passion for the written word. But always, within her, there was this spark of imagination and creativity that I felt I could only ever aspire to. Whatever I did, she had done first and better.

And I could only hope to one day achieve her level of greatness.

Rafi, one of the main characters in Of Sea and Smoke, also has an older sibling, a brother he has always looked up to. While Rafi and his relationship with his brother is not based on my relationship with my older sister—we’re all four of us wildly different people—there were some aspects of my experience as a second-born that I was able to draw upon. Rafi admires his brother’s strength and confidence. His assurance and rightness. His nobility and leadership. By the time we enter the story, his older brother is no longer around, but Rafi has spent his whole life setting his brother up on a pedestal and then trying to measure up to that ideal.

Is it any wonder, then, that he has always found himself wanting?

Now, Rafi finds himself having to step into the role that should have been his brother’s, and the only way he can contemplate facing that challenge is by stamping out the things he looks down upon in himself—many of them, the things that make him himself—and trying to be his brother instead.

Growing up, I can’t tell you how many times I looked at my older sister and wished that I could be more like her and less like myself. More confident. More brilliant. More vibrant. More her. But it wasn’t until my older sister’s interests began to drift into new additional avenues, while mine stayed mostly the same (horses, books, writing), that I finally began to grow into myself. To recognize my strengths, my unique skills, the things that only I bring to the table, and to acknowledge that even when they are different from hers, they are still good.

These days, my older sister and I are best friends. She was the first person I trusted to read Of Sea and Smoke before it went out into the world. I still look up to her in so many ways, and yes, I think I’ll always feel a bit like she hung the moon. But I have grown to appreciate the beauty of what I can learn from my sister’s strengths, while also recognizing the value of my own. And without revealing any spoilers, I think I can safely say that part of Rafi’s journey in Of Sea and Smoke wraps around learning that too, all while he’s raising a band of rebel fighters, trying to outwit an infamous assassin, and plotting to overthrow the empire’s oppressive rule.

Wild, epic stories, grounded in real, human experiences, and honestly, can reading get any more fun than that?

I hope you enjoy the ride!

Gillian Bronte Adams

Interview with the Author

How do you select the names of your characters?

Honestly, I just feel it out. Sometimes, I’ll know generally what I want the name to feel or sound like or what letter of the alphabet I want it to start with, and I’ll just start searching baby name sites based on those parameters. Interestingly enough, two of the main characters in Of Sea and Smoke both started out with different names when I first started brainstorming the story, and then as I focused in on who they were and the cultures they lived in, those original names just didn’t fit anymore. Gwen became Ceridwen. Ronan became Rafi. And now, it’s so hard for me to envision them with any other names!


What was your hardest scene to write?

The climactic sequence towards the end of the book definitely forced to me work hard. It’s very intense, fast-paced, high action, and (according to early readers) impossible to put down, and writing it put me through the wringer. I had originally outlined what I thought would be seven scenes for this particular sequence, but when I went to write each scene, it blossomed out, until I wound up with seven chapters instead. Those chapters are some of my favorites now, and both the action and what’s going on internally with the characters feels so powerful, so I’m very proud of that sequence, but when I was writing it, there were more than a few times where I wondered if we were going to make it to the end!



What is your favorite childhood book?

My parents started me on The Lord of the Rings at a very young age. My dad read the story aloud first and then gave me my own copy when I was seven. So as odd as it may sound, The Lord of the Rings is my favorite childhood book. I carried it everywhere with me (to the great amusement of every adult who saw me and repeated comments of “Wow, it’s almost as big as she is!”), slept with it at the foot of my bed, and read it all the way through three times before I was eleven. That story holds a very special place in my heart and honestly helped shaped me into who I am today.



What comes first, the plot or characters?

Both come fairly intertwined for me, so it’s a little hard to separate the two. I write stories that have somewhat complex plots but they’re also very character driven, so the choices the characters are making constantly redirect and redefine the plot. Oftentimes, I start with a bit of the premise for the story—in the case of this series, it was with the idea of an aspiring warrior queen who has to return from exile to save her people. Then as I dug more into who that warrior queen was, both the character and the plot started to fall into place. Because Of Sea and Smoke is the second book in a series, the three main characters were already established, and while I knew some of the plot points we were going to hit, it was their choices and growth journeys that guided the story from page one!


What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing, I do love to read, but I also adore getting outside. I’ll go hiking with my pup, Took, or take my kayak out for a day at the state park. I also love spending time with my horse, who actually provided the inspiration for the main female character’s horse in Of Sea and Smoke. Being outdoors always feeds my imagination, so sometimes, I’ll just sit outside and observe and see what catches my attention, whether it’s the way the golden grasses shiver in the wind or the intricate webbing of veins in a single fallen leaf. There’s so much beauty in the tiniest details of creation that I can only hope to imitate as I dream up my own fantastic fictional worlds.


If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be and what would you cook?

Could said person be a fictional character? If so, I would love to invite Rafi from Of Sea and Smoke over for dinner. There are few things he enjoys more than cooking (and eating) good, flavorful food, and he’s a very relaxed person with a great sense of humor, so I’d have him join me in the kitchen to chop and roast vegetables for a massive pot of soup with some fried saga crisps for dessert. Granted, since saga fruit doesn’t actually exist in our world, we’d have to substitute in another juicy, tangy fruit, like nectarine, perhaps, instead. Batter it up, fry it in oil, and enjoy!

Thank you for letting us get to know you better!

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To celebrate her tour, Gillian is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card and hardcover copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.