Interview with Amy Raby, Author of Assassin’s Gambit

Amy Raby is our special guest today! Amy’s here to talk about her book Assassin’s Gambit. Please give her a warm welcome!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Amy Raby] I’m a software developer turned writer with interests in science, the Roman Empire, dogs, and horses.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Assassin’s Gambit?

[Amy Raby] It’s the story of an assassin who’s spent most of her life in training to kill just one man: the emperor of the country that’s oppressing her people. But when she actually meets this man, she ends up liking him. Eventually she falls in love with him.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Amy Raby] Lucien, the emperor, had been a minor character in a book I’d written previously, and he stole every scene he was in. Lucien is a disabled but ridiculously smart tactician who’s obsessed with the war game Caturanga. In writing Lucien’s book, I struggled at first with what sort of heroine to pair him with. She couldn’t be bland–if so, she would never shine on the page when paired with charismatic Lucien.

I figured she had to be a Caturanga player too, maybe even a better player than him. And then I came up with the idea of making her an assassin sent to seduce and kill him. At first I thought the idea was hilarious. I floated it jokingly to my critique partners, and one of them even mocked up a fake cover. But the more I considered it, the more I began to think that if I gave the story a serious treatment, it would actually work. So I wrote it. And now it’s my debut novel.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Vitala?

[Amy Raby] Smart, strategic, ruthless

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Lucien had a theme song, what would it be?

[Amy Raby] Wow, this is a tough one. I don’t know of any songs about being hated by your father because you have a disability, or about loving battlefield strategy and war games. I’ll go with "Anthem" by Tommy Korberg, a song about loving your country even when your country has problems.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Vitala is never without.

[Amy Raby] Vitala is never without her deadly shards. These are her tiny hidden weapons, concealed by magic, that she can carry anywhere. They are small but armed with a lethal death spell that she releases upon impact.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Lucien’s pocket?

[Amy Raby] Another tough one! One thing Lucien will never have in his pocket is something smelling of lemon or lemon balm. Those are scents he assiduously avoids. Another thing he wouldn’t carry: a Caturanga strategy guide, because he’s an expert at the game and has reached the point where the only way he can improve is by playing against other experts. And you’ll never find his riftstone in his pocket, because that’s the source of his magic, and he wears it around his neck for safekeeping.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Lucien’s greatest regret?

[Amy Raby] Lucien’s greatest regret is that he’s a disappointment to his father. When he was a teenager, he was attacked by a group of assassins. He survived, but the lower half of his left leg had to be amputated. Lucien’s father admires physical strength and athleticism; he couldn’t cope with having a disabled son. And while Lucien has a sharp mind and is a brilliant strategist, his father has never been able to appreciate these assets.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Amy Raby] A couple of authors: Barbara Hambly, whose books I read extensively as a teenager, and Lois McMaster Bujold, whose Vorkosigan series I devoured later. Both of these authors combine romantic elements with a fully realized SFF world. Barbara Hambly wrote wonderful strong heroines, which is why I loved her books so much–not many authors did that in the 80′s. And Bujold wrote fascinating characters of both sexes, demonstrating that SFF novels didn’t need to be all about the gee-whiz technology or fantasy elements. They could be about those things but also be character pieces.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Amy Raby] Just my computer, an internet connection for quick research, and my books when more extensive research is needed. Because I write with kids in the house, and always have, I’m used to tuning out distractions.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Amy Raby] I have read so many great books! I’m going to go with Unlocked, by Courtney Milan. It’s a novella, and I found the story of a woman confronted by the man who used to bully her years ago to be both fresh and compelling.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Amy Raby] Barbara Hambly’s The Silent Tower. I read this book and its sequel over and over again as a teenager. Strong heroine, fascinating and unforgettable hero, and a fantasy world that was atypical in that it was set in the early Industrial Age, not the Middle Ages.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Amy Raby] I have kids, so I’m pretty busy with them. But what I like to do in my free time (which I sadly have very little of) is play computer games. Over the past decade, I’ve been known to frequent Warcraft III, World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and Starcraft II, plus any and all tower defense games, including Plants vs. Zombies.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Amy Raby] My website: http://www.amyraby.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amy.raby.94

Twitter: @amyraby

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order The Assassin’s Gambit from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

Vitala Salonius, champion of the warlike game of Caturanga, is as deadly as she is beautiful. She’s a trained assassin for the resistance, and her true play is for ultimate power. Using her charm and wit, she plans to seduce her way into the emperor’s bed and deal him one final, fatal blow, sparking a battle of succession that could change the face of the empire.

As the ruler of a country on the brink of war and the son of a deposed emperor, Lucien must constantly be wary of an attempt on his life. But he’s drawn to the stunning Caturanga player visiting the palace. Vitala may be able to distract him from his woes for a while—and fulfill other needs, as well.

Lucien’s quick mind and considerable skills awaken unexpected desires in Vitala, weakening her resolve to finish her mission. An assassin cannot fall for her prey, but Vitala’s gut is telling her to protect this sexy, sensitive man. Now she must decide where her heart and loyalties lie and navigate the dangerous war of politics before her gambit causes her to lose both Lucien and her heart for good.

About the author:

Amy Raby is literally a product of the U.S. space program, since her parents met working for NASA on the Apollo missions. After earning her Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of Washington, Amy settled in the Pacific Northwest with her family, where she’s always looking for life’s next adventure, whether it’s capsizing tiny sailboats in Lake Washington or riding dressage horses. She is a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist and 2012 Daphne du Maurier winner.

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