Interview with Nicki Pau Preto (BONESMITH)
Nicki Pau Preto is a fantasy author living just outside of Toronto—though her dislike of hockey, snow, and geese makes her the worst Canadian in the country. She studied art and art history in university and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer full-time. She is the author of the Crown of Feathers trilogy, and the forthcoming Bonesmith.
Welcome to the Hive, Nicki. Let’s start with the basics: tell us about Bonesmith – why should readers check it out?
Bonesmith is Gideon the Ninth meets Game of Thrones meets The Witcher, featuring a disgraced ghost-fighting warrior who must journey into a haunted wasteland to rescue a kidnapped prince.
Give us an insight into your characters, who can we expect to meet? Do you have a favourite child?
Honestly, Wren is my favourite child. She’s our heroine, and she’s bold, brash, arrogant, and funny, and I absolutely adored writing her. She has a lot to learn, so this book is like a crash course of adventure and intrigue as she fights her way through.
Her enemy-turned-reluctant-ally, Julian, is an excellent foil—strong and silent and unimpressed by her posturing, but the two of them have the potential to make a great team, if they can stop fighting with each other long enough to realise it.
And Leo, our prince, our damsel in distress. He is funny and charming and roguish, but there’s more below the surface—if only people would see it!
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
I am a thorough outliner; I love to prep and plan and brainstorm, it’s the most magical part of the process for me! That being said, I never stick to my outline—things change during the writing process, and I always want to let myself pursue cool and exciting ideas as they come to me, so while it comforts me to know I have a plan and I’ve thought things through, I have to remain flexible as well.
Speaking of worlds, what inspires your worldbuilding? Do you have a magic system/s? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?
World building is one of my favourite parts of writing, so I spend a lot of time thinking about my world—its history, its politics, and its magic, which informs everything else. I used to study art history in school, and I think my interest in the past definitely informs how I build my own worlds.
As for my magic, I was definitely inspired by elemental magic systems, but I wanted to do something slightly different. I knew I wanted to use metal, and I played with other naturally occurring materials that come from the ground, like stone and wood, but it wasn’t until I thought of using bone as a material that the world and the magic system really started to take shape.
If you were transported into your own fictional world, how do you think you would fare?
Oh boy, probably not well! Hopefully I’d wind up with some useful magic, but I would not want to be a bonesmith, dealing with ghosts and rotting bodies. Make me a rich goldsmith, and I’d be happy 🙂
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
For me, editing the book is where the story really becomes what it was meant to be, so I find it the most rewarding part of the process. I also enjoy it the most, but it can be super painful (maybe I’m a sadist). Deadlines are particularly hard for me, because I love to really dig into the story and tear it apart to make it better, and that takes time! It’s messy, but with each round, it always gets closer to the thing I was imagining in my head, which is super exciting.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped the artist would portray?
I was not super involved in the cover design, besides giving my opinion on some things, but as soon as I learned who the artist was—Tommy Arnold, who I am a huge fan of and who has done other gorgeous, skeletal covers like Gideon the Ninth—I knew I was in good hands, and boy was I right! The cover is absolutely stunning and matches the feeling I had in my head perfectly.
Just for fun, how would you pitch your book as a 1-star review?
The female character is too bold, brash, and reckless. The love interest is too brooding. The prince is too golden.
Also, there’s too much world building.
(These are all good things if you ask me, but reading is subjective!)
Can you tell us anything about any upcoming projects? Or can you tell us a few teasers for your sequel?
The sequel is not yet finished so I can’t really give too much away there, but it definitely delves deeper into the darker side of some of the magic I’ve introduced in book 1. We also visit some new places in the Breachlands, which are particularly haunted and creepy.
Besides the sequel to BONESMITH, I have a contemporary fantasy middle grade book coming out next year, called THE LAST HOPE SCHOOL FOR MAGICAL DELINQUENTS. It’s about a magic school for outcasts and misfits—basically the kids who wind up expelled from regular magic school. It’s been so much fun to write and I can’t wait to share with everyone!
Who are the most significant women in SFF who have shaped and influenced your work?
Tamora Pierce was the first female epic fantasy author I’d ever read, and her female-led worlds were hugely inspiring and formative to me as a reader and a writer. Cassandra Clare introduced me to urban fantasy and Holly Black introduced me to the fey. Martha Wells made me fall in love with science-fiction (and Murderbot), and Robin Hobb broke my heart with the Farseer Trilogy, from which I’ve still not recovered.
Who is a great woman in SFF who we should be reading? Any hidden gems?
I’ve really been enjoying horror-leaning SFF lately, like The Year of the Witching or House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson. Conversely, I’ve also loved some cosy fantasy recently, like Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett and The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I hope the world feels real and the characters like friends, and that the story is exciting and fun, so it’s a place you can escape to again and again. There’s nothing more flattering than when a reader says they can’t wait to re-read my books!
Thank you so much for joining us for Women in SFF!
Bonesmith is out today! You can pick up your copy from Bookshop.org