Storytellers On Tour Presents: Shadow Debt by William Ray

by Justine Bergman
Shadow Debt by William Ray

Today marks the official kickoff of the Shadow Debt Book Tour presented by Storytellers On Tour, and throughout the week we’ve got a great lineup helping us feature Shadow Debt, the newest entry in William Ray’s Tales of the Verin Empire! This series has been on my radar for far too long, so I hope to be getting to Gedlund very soon (I know Jason from Off the TBR will be thrilled about this!). I can’t wait to hear what our hosts have to say in the coming days, so be sure to keep an eye out for some incredible content.

William was kind enough to stop by to chat about what led to the creation of his new book, his writing process, his love of tea, and what he believes makes for the telling of a good story, so keep scrolling for the tour schedule, more info about the book, and the interview!

The Tour

We’ve enlisted a group of wonderful and talented bloggers to help us feature Shadow Debt. This is what we have going on, so make sure to check out each and every one throughout the week for some brilliant content, including reviews and more.

Storytellers On Tour Presents: Shadow Debt by William Ray

Whispers & Wonder
Off The TBR
The Speculative Faction
Jorie Loves A Story
Beneath A Thousand Skies
RockStarlit BookAsylum
Out of This World SFF Reviews
The Picky Bookworm
RockStarlit BookAsylum

For more about this tour visit Storytellers On Tour.

SERIES: Tales of the Verin Empire (#3)
PUBLISHED: September 17, 2020 (Self-published)
PAGES: 256
GENRE: Fantasy



The Blurb

Glynn Sorley is sheriff of Keat’s Field, a tiny settlement in an otherwise lawless frontier. With the discovery of diamonds, her town is flooded with fortune-hunters looking to strike it rich. It’s also a target for competing colonial powers, savage goblin tribes, and outlaws.

A rustler on the run from the law stumbles across his father’s mysterious legacy – a weapon of immense magical power. He uses it to ravage across the territory as the notorious outlaw Gentleman Jim.

But the weapon’s power comes at a terrible cost, and Keat’s Field may just have to pay the price…

This third Tale of the Verin Empire returns us to the world of Gedlund and The Great Restoration. It explores a frontier trapped between competing nations, where goblins reign and a lone sheriff fights to keep the peace.

Drawing inspiration from L’Amour’s Comstock Lode, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and our own late 19th century, Shadow Debt continues William Ray’s bold, critically acclaimed reinvention of classic fantasy in a world of memorable characters and unique perspectives, and features sketches from acclaimed illustrator Tom Parker.

Meet The Author

William RayWilliam Ray is the author of the Tales of the Verin Empire; including Gedlund (named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2016), The Great Restoration and the forthcoming Shadow Debt.

Originally from North Carolina, he currently lives in Reston, VA with his wife and dogs. A graduate of Ithaca College, and Wake Forest’s School of Law, he has worked in television, retail, patent prosecution, trademark law and other irrelevant nonsense. To paraphrase Lloyd Alexander, however, if being a life-long lover of fantasy literature qualifies one to write it, then he is well qualified indeed.


Thanks so much for stopping by for a chat, William. Since we already have your official bio, care to tell us about yourself in ten words or less?

I’m obsessed with tea, love Transformers and Star Wars. Ten.

What’s a day of writing like in the shoes of William? Do you have any quirks, routines, or rituals?

I have an infant, so the past several months have been thrown into terrible disarray. When it comes to writing, I’m an obsessive outliner who is terribly disorganized – I keep notes in a dozen places, and will juggle ideas while walking the dogs, or in my sleep, and any other time I can’t possibly write anything down. Sitting at the keyboard for me is largely the practice of figuring out what my notes meant and seeing if I missed any, then trying to stitch that all together.

Give us an idea of how Shadow Debt came to fruition.

My first book ended with a character returning home, and someone asked me what happened to her. Then I read a biography of the famous cartoonist Robert Ripley and wondered what would happen if he was the one who went to find out.

Can you share with us something about Shadow Debt that isn’t in the blurb?

My Verin Empire stories have all been about the ways the past fights the future. The main theme I wanted to explore with this novel was the sense of ownership the past exerts – the idea that we owe obedience to strictures set by our predecessors. There are two narrative perspectives, one following a character literally haunted by a demanding responsibility left him by his father, and the other observing a character who defies the expectations of the society around her.

Was there any specific research you’ve done or inspiration you’ve pulled from for Tales of the Verin Empire?

I tend to read deep when I write. For Gedlund there was a mountain of material on the Great British Empire’s military, its social roles, its fumblings in the Crimean, and South Africa. For The Great Restoration there was quite a bit of work on actual period detectives and crime… but also a host of other ramblings, like roadwork, early bicycles, architecture, art, entertainments, &on &on.

For Shadow Debt, Robert Ripley’s life was a big source of character inspiration. A lot of the setting for Shadow Debt comes from a mix of American and South African histories of colonial powers at their edges. I took a lot of setting cues from the Bass Reeves biography, Black Gun, Silver Star which really gives an impression of what it was like living in an area with multiple overlapping legal jurisdictions – a lot of westerns feel like there’s slowly expanding civilization, and chaos beyond the border, but in reality there were always competing frameworks awkwardly abutting one another, and people living among them had to navigate that maze of regulation. The legal history nerd in me finds that far more fascinating than the fictions of a lawless frontier. Wild Women of Prescott, Arizona was a great read on women in the American west. I read some interesting period writing and novels on the suffrage movement, and recommend Elizabeth Robin’s The Convert for a ground-level view of some of the era’s political battles.

What comes first, the plot or the characters?

In this case the characters, I suppose, since one of them carried over from an earlier novel. In all honesty though, it all fits together like a vast web, so it’s impossible to pull at any strand of it without tugging along all the others. The character necessitated a setting, the setting necessitated a plot, the plot necessitated characters, who necessitated this, and that, and the other thing. They’re all very demanding and have a never-ending list of complaints.

Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? If so, who? What about them sets them apart from all the others?

They each present unique joys and challenges. Glynn is always cool, but as a writer it’s a pain to get her to interact with anyone. Ned picks out interesting details of things but is so vain and self-obsessed it’s hard to get him to do his job. Elgin is comfortable, but he’s always wrong, and I just want to yell at him. In my other books, I really enjoyed writing Gus, but he’s more observant than I am, so it can be hard to keep up with him. Emily, from The Great Restoration may be my favorite – I’m not sure why I like her so much, exactly, but I always enjoy the scenes she’s in.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story requires million things arranged in such infinite variety as to make the answer to that question nearly impossible to anticipate. I love a setting that extends beyond the horizon, but I need compellingly drawn characters to show it to me, and some sort of sensible arrangement of events to demonstrate those things. I tend to think of things from a perspective of plot/character/setting, but of course brilliant prose can carry off shortcomings in any of those.

Is there one particular book you hold dearest to your heart?

The Spooky Old Tree. It’s a children’s book, with a very simple progression of events, beautifully illustrated and simply told. I loved it as a kid, and am impatient for my own son to be old enough to read it to. Actually, I’ve read it to him already, but he was impatient and only curious about how the book tasted. In slightly more adult fiction, I adore the Hobbit, which was my first real book as a very young kid. That sense of wonder, mythical scale, and innocence in the face of a dangerous world are a magical combination that came along in my life at precisely the right moment.

Writing can be a stressful pursuit. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

I am not the thunderbolt – I am the unrelenting sea. My tides will rise and fall, but mountains are not worn away in an instant.

Ok, let’s see what kind of person you truly are.

Coffee or Tea?
TEA! Glorious tea. I’ve crossed oceans to visit the finest leaves steeped in their native waters. I awake to Yunnan’s finest each morning. I’ve dazzled the master of Jia Long with my palate, gazed in wonder at the mother trees of Da Hong Pao, and been supped in the forbidden village of Tong Mu.

Winter or Summer?

Physical books or Ebooks?
EBooks. Who has the shelf-space for anything else? I’ve actually grown to enjoy being less certain of how many pages are left.

Mountains or Oceans?

Beer or Wine?
TEA! Glorious tea. I’ve gazed across Sun-Moon lake and sipped at liquid divinity.

Books or Movies?
Books AND Movies.

Cowboys or Aliens?
Cowboys. Or alien cowboys. But then, at their origin, cowboys were themselves an alien of sorts…

Pie or Cake?

Rural or Urban?

Work hard or Play hard?
f you do what you love, you’ll never play a day in your life. Wait, that sounds terrible…

Thank you again for taking the time have a chat, William. Tell us what lies ahead for you!

I wish I knew! Or had a better idea, anyway. I’ll take some bit of time to get my son to a more manageable age, and hopefully over the course of that a clear idea of my next project will emerge. I’ve had a bunch of ideas, but none that have really grabbed me. Maybe something with tea.

That’s all I got for ya! Be sure to keep an eye on the official Shadow Debt tour page over at Storytellers On Tour ( to see what the other bloggers have to say!

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Happy Reading!

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