SM Blooding lives in Colorado with her pet rock, Rockie, and Ms. Jack, who’s a real bird. She’s still learning to play the piano and guitar, which is going marginally better, and for those of you looking for an Arabic update, she has successfully learned one word, “Yalla, people yalla!”
She’s dated vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, weapons smugglers and US Government assassins. Yes. She has stories.
Her latest book is the YA steampunk, The Hands of Tarot.
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This book was about me finding the courage to stand up for myself. I could stand up for anyone else, but for me? Oh, no. Over the past few years, I’ve really grown a lot through my characters, their lives and their mistakes. I’ve learned to deal with a lot, but I still hadn’t mastered the art of defending myself.
I’m not the only one. There are a lot of people out there like me. Take the election. There are a lot of people with opinions that aren’t heard because they don’t feel their voice matters, or because others disagree very loudly. We’re in a day and age where everyone has an opinion and everyone has a voice and no one is being heard. We’ve lost the respect of listening because it’s more important to be heard. In so doing, a lot of voices are shushed. They don’t want to speak up.
The people of the United States really are a caring lot. We’re really not a bunch of whiners. We don’t necessarily sit around and complain without taking charge, but we’re not as active as the generations before us.
When I was studying our history, brainstorming The Hands of Tarot, the thing that got me about the generation of the 20th century was that they were fearless! They were undaunted as they changed the world we now live in.
I wanted to delve into that, to remember what it was like for them, the courage and the fear they had to have lived through. They did so much with so little!
What was the experience like writing The Hands of Tarot?
Daunting! I blended our own history into an entirely different planet. Yes, things are different. The planet shaped the people differently, for one thing. But by doing so, it was lot less for me to remember, and a lot less for the reader to remember.
There was still a lot to keep straight. So there was a lot of note taking while writing, a lot of re-reading, and a lot of head scratching.
It was also a lot of FUN! OMW (Oh My Word), I really let my geek out. Now, I did try to keep the geek off of every single page. That would just be overwhelming and ridiculous, but if you pay attention, there will be little tid-bit #SuperGeek nuggets that will be fun to unravel. I’ve been informed that it’s almost more fun to read the second time through because that’s when a lot of the #SuperGeek nuggets come out.
This book is also unlike any other book I’ve ever written. It’s almost pure action, which is the hardest thing for me to write. I typically write character driven stories. There’s usually a lot of interaction, puzzle unraveling, and usually a little romance. Action is at a minimum unless there’s a bedroom.
Not this story. Uh-uh. There’s still a lot of interaction, but there’s just so much more! The action is off the charts for me. We’re jumping from airships, climbing through jellyfish cities (letharan cities), shooting down bi-planes, blowing up sphynctor bug heads with a lightning lava pistol. Just—wow! Lots and lots of stuff! It was a hoot, but INTENSE!
How did you come up with the title?
I was playing with a new tarot deck and my brain was just exploding with ideas! I was playing around with different plot lines. I mean, the plot itself isn’t unique, but I said to myself, “Self, let’s not go the really traditional route and have a monotheistic society try and decimate the world. What’s the safest ‘religion’ we have here? Well, there’s Buddhism, but can you really see Buddhists up in arms trying to take over the world? No. Who else?”
Then it just hit me, with the tarot cards in my hands. So the Hands of Tarot was created, with the same hierarchy as the tarot deck. I love tarot. It’s amazing and beautiful. There are a lot of intricacies there that are just amazing, yet simple.
Can you tell us more about your main character, Synn El’Asim?
Synn fascinates me. He’s born during a time when you have to be an adult a lot sooner than we would, which is a quandary. Young people don’t have a lot of experience. So, it was interesting for me to watch him. He has all the confidence of a teenager, but no knowledge of how the world really operates. He’s just starting to grasp the concept of true responsibility and it’s terrifying.
He’s very close to his El’Asim family, which is his father’s side. He grew up in the sky, on the airships. They are these gloriously beautiful ships that float in the sky by way of an air jellyfish who resides in the nets above the sails. He knows next to nothing about how the letharan (picture a Medusa jellyfish the size of…a sprawling suburb) cities work, and has no clue how the land dwellers survive. He’s pretty clueless for someone who’s as cocky as he is.
He only has one other sibling that travels with the fleet. His other three siblings grew up with his mother’s Family. His mother is the matriarch of the Ino Family and they reside in a lethara (the sea jellyfish) city. Man, she’s tough and demands a lot! She’s also very hard to read. Thankfully, his siblings aren’t anything like her. They’re all very likable and loveable.
It’s a very odd situation. His mother calls him “my husband’s son” early in the book. That shows that he is of the El’Asim Family, or tribe, and not one of her own. It’s a very strong statement, and something that you’ll see change as the other books come out. I’m very excited to bust through that line.
What are his strengths and what are his weaknesses?
His strength is that he so self-assured. He literally doesn’t think that anything can or will stop him.
His weakness is that he’s…well, he’s a teenage boy who’s a little too self-confident, and doesn’t always listen. He has great friends, though, and they’re quick to remind him of his failings.
What about Queen Nix? Can you tell us more about her?
Oh! She’s wonderfully, fantasmically evil and I love it!
She’s an orphan. Each Family has their Mark of power. The El’Asim Mark is storm (wind, rain, lightning). The Ino is fire. Well, the Shankara Mark is air. Nix was born with the rogue Mark of fire, and was cast out. No one’s really sure who her parents were or if they’re still among the living.
The Hands are a religious order, and took her in, inducting her into the House of Wands, whose Mark is also fire. There, she excelled in everything and eventually rose to the rank of Queen.
Once she became queen, she showed her dominance by destroying her Family. When she was done, she discovered what it felt to be so supremely powerful, so she decided to control the world. That’s always fun. She destroys anyone who stands in her way, which includes the major Families. She decimates them, and takes their children to be raised in her city under her influence.
She’s not what I would call damaged. She…has a sense of over self-importance, and no one has been able to stand up to her yet. She’s manipulative, gorgeous, sexy, conniving, vindictive, and unafraid of a little blood on her hands. She welcomes collateral damage.
Are there any supporting characters we need to know about?
I love supporting characters! Haji is Synn’s best friend before everything happens with Nix. He’s of the Umira Family, who are land dwellers. Think of the best friend who has the key to your house so he doesn’t have to climb through the window. Yeah, that’s Haji. He’s probably spent half of his life on an airship, but you can’t tell it! He’s a born and bred land lover.
Joshua is my geek hero. You’ll be seeing him a lot more in coming books. He’s snarky, has a great sense of humor and knows exactly how to defuse Synn. His Family was destroyed when he was pretty young. He’s spent most of his life with the Hands, in Sky City. He’s got a lot to learn about the world, but he’s learned a great deal as a prisoner of the Hands, developing their technologies.
Keeley is the heart of their little band of friends. She’s Joshua’s younger sister. She doesn’t remember anything, really, before the Hands. She’s sweet, is a lover, not a fighter, and is so hesitant. She can be a bit frustrating only because I know she could do so much more if she just believed in herself a little.
Yvette is her total and complete opposite. Her Family was destroyed by the Hands, too, but she’s influenced by Queen Dyna who took her into the House of Swords. Yvie (pronounced Ee-vee) has a sharp intellect and a fierceness that is refreshing. However, all of my readers so far find her to be mean and blonde (think Mean Girls). She’s not. She’s just blunt and knows how to hide well behind the “I’m a girl” card.
Can you open to page 25 and tell us what’s happening?
Synn and his father have stepped into Queen Nix’s trap. She’d captured the Umira Family. They’re currently being taken care of. It’s gruesome and not pleasant. Synn tries to defend them, to save at least a few. They’re his best friend’s family.
However, in doing so, he breaks the flag of truce. They’re surrounded, outnumbered, and out-gunned. They brought swords to a gunfight. His father tells him to run. Synn’s not good at following orders, but when your father tells you to run, you run. This is the first turning point in the book.
What about page 65?
This is almost the second turning point of the book. Synn is talking to Keeley and they’re discussing the possibility of escaping. Haji had contacted Synn earlier that day. He’d snuck aboard Sky City and has a plan to get Synn out of there. However, Synn is having a hard time leaving without Keeley.
There’s no real love story here. Keeley was just the person who reminded Synn what it felt to be human after Nix broke him. I think Synn would have turned into a very ugly person if it hadn’t been for Keeley. I would like to see them get together someday, but I just don’t see it happening quite yet. There’s just so much other stuff going on.
Now that The Hands of Tarot has been published, what’s your next project?
The Nightmare, which is Book 2 of the Dreamland Stories. I’m writing it now, and, boy! Is it fun! It’s a completely different world than Hands, a totally different voice. I’m having so much fun! It should be ready to launch around Christmas.
Then I will be writing The Knight of Wands because that book is SCREAMING at me to be written! There’s a lot of research I need to do before I start writing it, but OMW! I’m excited!!!
Thanks again for this interview, SM (Frankie). Do you have anything you’d like to tell our readers that hasn’t been discussed?
I’m such a blabber. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me or leave a message on my site. I’m easy to contact and I love hearing from you!