Exclusive Interview: “Tinderbox” Author W.A. Simpson


Usually when fantasy writers discuss their influences, they mention J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, R.A. Salvatore — y’know, the usual. But in the following email interview with writer W.A. Simpsons about her post-modern / second world high fantasy novel Tinderbox (hardcover, paperback, Kindle), the person she cites — rather ironically — is someone who didn’t use his initials.

W.A Simpson Tinderbox Tarotmancer Tales Of The Riven Isles

I always like to open with a plot overview. So, what is Tinderbox about, and what kind of a world does it take place in?

The dreaded question! Tinderbox begins with Isbet, a witch skilled in the craft. The only family she ever knew is murdered, the old witch’s prized possession, stolen — the Tinderbox. A common man has used it to seize a throne. The same man who conquered Prince Bram Greyward’s land and forced Bram to become his heir. Isbet’s goal is revenge and to retrieve the Box which is rightfully hers. For Bram, it is to free his homeland. When both are summoned to an underground kingdom, their personal desires must be set aside as they discover an ancient source of magic, long dormant, is being brought to life by beings unnatural and it threatens to destroy the land.

As my brother once said, Tinderbox takes place in a “post-modern fantasy world.” There is a touch of the usual medieval, but also some Victorian and modern elements.

What inspired this story, and how, if at all, did the basic plot change as you wrote it?

Tinderbox takes a page from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Tinderbox. I rediscovered the story a few years ago. I had many questions after reading. Did the old witch see justice? What happened to the kingdom after the soldier killed the monarchy and married the princess? And what of the Tinderbox itself? From there I figured if a certain type of man had something that powerful, he would continue to use it. The plot points changed with the story involving the two main characters, Isbet and Bram. They must put aside their own wants and needs to protect the citizens of the Riven Isles from dark fey.

And is there a significance to Isbet being raised by a witch as opposed to a warlock or a soldier or a tax accountant?

If you’ll recall in the original story, the witch asks the young soldier to fetch the Tinderbox for her although she doesn’t say why. Because of this he kills her. When I conceived my story, I thought there must be someone to avenge the witch’s death. A protégé made sense because she would be greatly invested in doing so.

Your brother called Tinderbox a “post-modern fantasy world.” Others have called it a second world fantasy tale. What do you call it?

I consider Tinderbox high fantasy. I would agree however, a second world fantasy story is a good way to describe my work as well. I like to think it is only twice removed from our world. It doesn’t have the advanced technology.

Tinderbox is your first published novel, though it’s not the first you’ve written. Are there any writers who had a big influence on Tinderbox but not on anything else you’ve written?

It really all goes back to the Andersen story. He was my main influence.

What about non-literary influences? Was Tinderbox influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?

I am inspired by the works of Hayao Miyazaki. I wanted to write a work not completely removed from our modern world but with its own story and history. I absolutely adore his style.

And what about your two cats, Cinnamon and Spice, who, you say, “own the house”? What influenced did they have on Tinderbox?

Not too much except to keep me company when I’m writing. Sometimes I stop and look at them and smile. Cats have a relaxing influence. It’s said there purring is good for your mental health.

Spice, Cinnamon


Also, why did you let them put their name on the deed to your house? Cats are notoriously bad at building equity. Or did I just answer my own question?

Cats get whatever they want. Have you ever said “no” to a cat? He gives you that look, like they’re thinking, “Yeah, right hooman.” After all, they are Cat. So far, they are doing exceptionally well.

Now, you’ve said that there’s already a sequel to Tinderbox in the works called Tarotmancer. What can you tell us about this series?

I fully intend for Tinderbox and Tarotmancer to be the first two books in a series called Tales Of The Riven Isles. Each work will continue the fight against the dark fey and the Rot and the characters various interactions with the enemy. How they discover the Rot and its plans and how they are introduced to the Celestial Vine which is the source of all magic for the Isles. So far, I have two more books in the series planned. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be more.

Do you know yet when Tarotmancer will be released?

I’m afraid I don’t know the release date for Tarotmancer…yet.

Earlier I asked if Tinderbox had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But I’d like to turn things around and ask if you think Tinderbox could work as a movie, show, or game?

I have always thought the Tales Of The Riven Isles would make a fantastic anime series. I may be the only one who thinks this about a book, but I don’t believe it would make a good live action movie. Perhaps an animated one…if Miyazaki could write the screenplay. Do you get the impression I greatly admire him? But I feel a series would be much better. The stories and the world could be completely explored that way.

Tales Of The Riven Isles would also make a good action RPG, which are my favorite kind of games.

So, if Miyazaki wanted to make Tinderbox and the other books into an anime, who would you want to do the voices of Isbet, Bram, and the other main characters?

For Isbet, Regina King [Watchmen]. Seriously do we even need an explanation? She’s a phenomenal actress and can play any role. Certainly, a badass witch.

For Bram, Taye Diggs [The Fast And Furious movies]. I don’t know what it is, but he’s got that whole boy next door look about him.

For King Wilhelm, it’s a toss-up between [the Kingsmen movies’] Colin Firth and Ewan McGregor [Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi]. They both have the look I want and the voice.

For Queen Aimeli Galith, Angela Bassett. Again, no explanation needed. Look at her performance in Black Panther…and pretty much everything else she has done.

For Lady Briwyn Galil, [Firefly‘s] Gina Torres. Another actress who has played strong warrior types. Confident in her power and talent. Perfect for a royal sorceress.

For Queen Calla, Lupita Nyong’o, another Black Panther alumnus. Beauty, intelligence, and an iron will.

And for Prince Serval, another toss-up. I found Timothy D. Stickney [One Life To Live], but I don’t know much about him. Again, he has the look. Or Aldis Hodge. Loved him in Leverage.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Tinderbox?

You will love it! Pre-order so you can get your copy right away. Get lost in and get to know my world!

W.A Simpson Tinderbox Tarotmancer Tales Of The Riven Isles

Finally, if someone enjoys Tinderbox, what second world high fantasy novel by someone else would you suggest they read while waiting for Tarotmancer to come out?

My works have been compared to Sarah J. Maas, Andrea Hairston, and Holly Black. Their books Throne Of Glass [Maas], Master Of Poisons [Hairston], and Book Of Night [Black] are currently sitting on my shelves, and I can’t wait to read them. I of course, don’t get to do as much reading as I like but I’m hoping that will change soon. I wrote Tinderbox not only for my readers but for myself as well, as something I would normally enjoy reading.



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