Today I’m thrilled to welcome Virginia McClain to the blog as we kick off the Sairō’s Claw Book Tour presented by Storytellers On Tour! This upcoming week we’ll be showcasing Virginia’s Fantasy tale of seafaring adventurers and a grumpy wolf spirit, Sairō’s Claw, book one of the Gensokai Kaigai series. I’m super excited to hear what people think of this one! Stay tuned for some fantastic features from our Roadies across blogs and social media – it’s going to be a great week.
Virginia stopped by for a chat about how this story of hers has come to fruition, the research involved, what she believes makes for an amazing story, what lies ahead, and more! So, keep scrolling to learn more about the book and author, and check out the awesome interview.
Also, don’t forget to take a quiz to find out which kind of kisōshi (elemental magic folk) you would be!
We’ve enlisted a group of wonderful and talented bloggers and Bookstagrammers to help us feature Sairō’s Claw. 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.
JULY 7TH – THE KICKOFF
Whispers & Wonder (IG: @whispersandwonder)
Fantasy Book Critic
Betwixt The Sheets (IG: @theink.slinger)
Brinns Books (IG: @brinnsbooks)
The Speculative Faction
The Pufflekitteh Reads (IG: @pufflekitteh)
Beneath A Thousand Skies
OllieSpot SFF Book Reviews (IG: @olliespotsffbookreviews)
JULY 13TH – THE ENCORE
Queen’s Book Asylum
For more info, visit the official tour page at Storytellers On Tour.
An action-adventure fantasy romp featuring sword lesbians, sea battles, and a grumpy wolf spirit.
Torako has done many things to protect the valley that she calls home, but she’s never looted a corpse before. So when the katana she steals off the still-cooling body of a bandit turns out to be possessed by a grumpy wolf kami, she can only assume it’s because she’s somehow angered the spirits. An impression that’s only reinforced when she returns home to find her wife abducted and her daughter in hiding. But angry spirits or no, Torako isn’t about to let bandits run off with the love of her life, even if it means taking their 3 year old on a rescue mission.
In all Kaiyo’s years as Captain of the Wind Serpent she has never once questioned her admiral’s orders. So when she receives the command to abduct a civilian scribe with the help of fifteen felons, she registers her objections, but does as she is bid. Yet, as the mission unfolds, Kaiyo finds herself questioning everything from her loyalties to her convictions.
As Torako and Kaiyo’s fates cross like dueling blades, their persistence is matched only by their fury, until they uncover a series of truths they may never be ready to accept.
Virginia McClain is an author who masqueraded as a language teacher for a decade or so. When she’s not reading or writing she can generally be found playing outside with her four legged adventure buddy and the tiny human she helped to build from scratch. She enjoys climbing to the top of tall rocks, running through deserts, mountains, and woodlands, and carrying a foldable home on her back whenever she gets a chance. She’s also fond of word games, and writing descriptions of herself that are needlessly vague.
Meet the Author
Thanks so much for stopping by for a chat, Virginia. Since we already have your official bio, care to tell us about yourself in ten words or less?
Nomadic multilingual adventurer; now with tiny, homemade adventure buddy!
Give us an idea of how Sairō’s Claw came to fruition.
Hmm… Sit. Type. Stand. Type. Walk on Treadmill. More typing. Woah, WAY more typing. Why didn’t anyone tell me that typing on a treadmill would result in SO MUCH TYPING! Sit, type some more. Send to editor. Fix previous typing. Print.
Um, but in all seriousness, Sairō’s Claw came about because I finally let myself write so many of the things I love to read but hadn’t let myself write yet for fear of “it’s been done before” and “I can’t improve on that” or “everyone thinks this is overdone.” Of course, I also combined that with, “why do we never see jaded women warriors?” and “why aren’t moms ever the main characters in fantasy books?” So, the result was a cocktail of my favorite tropes (Talking wolf companion, anyone? Myriad chase scenes, friends? Jaded sea captain, fam?) but with my usual favorite flavor added which is women kicking ass.
It also is a book that I wrote joyfully to get me through some very hard times.
Can you share with us something about Sairō’s Claw that isn’t in the blurb?
David Green described it as “If Fury Road were a fantasy novel” and I take that as an enormous compliment.
Was there any specific research you’ve done or inspiration you’ve pulled from for this story of yours?
I had to spend quite a lot of time looking at diagrams of tall ships just to figure out which bits needed to be accurate and which bits I got to ignore completely because “this is a fantasy book not an historical novel.” I enjoyed it immensely as I love tall ships, and sailing, and am always pleased to learn more about them. I have a fair bit of sailing experience, but none on tall ships, and all of it almost 20 years old.
Inspiration for both including the ships and ignoring a lot of the reality for “but magic skews all of this” came from both reading RJ Barker’s Tide Child series and also talking to him about the very topic of making up all the technical bits vs. keeping parts accurate. Spoiler alert, RJ just makes his up and does it so skillfully you don’t even notice.
What do you hope your readers take away from Sairō’s Claw?
Oh gosh. So much. But it’s not really up to me what they take away from it. There’s what I meant for folks to take away from it, and there’s what each reader actually will take away from it, and the two things are sadly, and wonderfully, unrelated. Mostly I hope folks take away a sense of adventure and fun, and an enjoyment of reading.
What comes first, the plot or the characters?
For me? Characters. I like to know whose story I’m telling and I never want folks to feel like something happened because the author needed it to happen instead of because it was what the characters’ choices led to. Hopefully I accomplish that. I want my characters to feel like real people. Mostly good people, because I think most people try to be decent, not saying they mostly succeed, but… I don’t think worlds or people have to be awful to be realistic. I think more evil occurs out of laziness than spite. And I think that there are lots of people who consider themselves the heroes of their own stories and are trying to do the right thing even if they’re horribly wrong about what that is.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? If so, who? What about them sets them apart from all the others?
I really struggle to pick a favorite, especially in this latest book. But I’ll say that both Kaiyo and Torako’s willingness to put a blade into someone who opposes them was quite cathartic to write. But to be honest I had a huge amount of fun writing every character in Sairō’s Claw, which is largely why I wrote it and how it kept me going throughout some really hard times.
What do you think makes a good story?
It depends on the story. The thing that makes any of the stories I love “good” is as different as each of the stories themselves. But I’d venture to say something that sweeps me away and immerses me is something that they all share. All my favorite books have made me forget that I was reading at some point. They’ve swept me up and taken me on a ride and I’m always a bit sad when they’re over.
If you could go back and change how you approached writing your debut novel, what’s the one thing you’d do differently?
Oh gods. So many things, and yet, maybe nothing. Mostly I wish I had written it now instead of seven years ago, but that’s a silly wish. Because then I’d just be starting out and would make the same mistakes all over again. I’m very pleased with my debut, all in all. It wasn’t the first book I’d written. It was the 3rd, and by the time I actually published it, I think I’d written five complete manuscripts besides it. So, the rewrite of Blade’s Edge was more like the sixth book I’d written (and it was a complete rewrite, barely 10% of the original text made it into the final draft). So, it was already better than my first foray into novel writing. But, in my opinion, I’ve grown a lot as a writer, and a person, in the seven years since I wrote the final draft of Blade’s Edge, and so there’s lots I am tempted to go back and “correct” in it. But it’s my debut, and I rather like the idea of the growth I’ve shown since then. If it were trad pub I would have no choice to fix anything, so aside from actual typos I’ve mostly left it alone.
Writing can be a stressful pursuit. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Hmm… mostly, don’t listen to any of the writing advice that doesn’t work for you. There is no “one way.” There’s not a single universally true piece of writing advice that everyone must follow. So, don’t worry if you read someone else’s advice and it’s completely different from what you’re doing.
But my advice which you are welcome to take or leave is: write a story you love, let yourself write all the things that you love to read, let the story be what it needs to be. Life is too short to write books you don’t love.
Ok, let’s see what kind of person you truly are.
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee until 3pm then tea
Winter or Summer?
Physical books or Ebooks?
eBooks but only because I would not have room for furniture otherwise
Mountains or Oceans?
How dare you make me choose! Mountains. Gah. I feel awful. I love you, oceans. I didn’t mean what I said.
Beer or Wine?
Beer unless someone who knows a lot about wine is choosing, then wine.
Books or Movies?
Cowboys or Aliens?
Pie or Cake?
This was the easiest one. Pie. Always pie.
Rural or Urban?
Rural I guess. I mean, I prefer actual wilderness to either one so…
Work hard or Play hard?
Thank you again for taking the time to have a chat, Virginia. Tell us what lies ahead for you!
I am currently on a true writing break. I haven’t done this since… I’m not sure when. But I have lots of plans for future projects, anyone who has read Sairō’s Claw knows that there is another book coming, and I plan to work on that soon. But I also have some other projects lined up, some web serials, and a top secret pen name project that I can’t really talk about. But all will be revealed eventually via my newsletter, and then via my blog. https://virginiamcclain.ca/blog So, lots of things to look forward to, but absolutely no definite timelines because my mental health can’t handle the hard deadlines anymore.
That’s all I got for ya! Be sure to keep an eye on the official Sairō’s Claw tour page over at Storytellers On Tour to see what the other bloggers and Bookstagrammers have to share!