Today we’re celebrating the release of Renee Collins’ fascinating debut, RELIC, which comes out tomorrow!
After a raging fire consumes her town and kills her parents, Maggie Davis is on her own to protect her younger sister and survive the best she can in the Colorado town of Burning Mesa. In Maggie’s world, the bones of long-extinct magical creatures such as dragons and sirens are mined and traded for their residual magical elements, and harnessing these relics’ powers allows the user to wield fire, turn invisible, or heal even the worst of injuries.
Working in a local saloon, Maggie befriends the spirited showgirl Adelaide and falls for the roguish cowboy Landon. But when she proves to have a particular skill at harnessing the relics’ powers, Maggie is whisked away to the glamorous hacienda of Álvar Castilla, the wealthy young relic baron who runs Burning Mesa. Though his intentions aren’t always clear, Álvar trains Maggie in the world of relic magic. But when the mysterious fires reappear in their neighboring towns, Maggie must discover who is channeling relic magic for evil before it’s too late.
RELIC is a thrilling adventure set in a wholly unique world, and a spell-binding story of love, trust, and the power of good.
And now…it’s time to pelt the author with questions from the rest of the group!
Sharon Biggs Waller: What inspired you to write a story based in the Old West?
Renee Collins: Actually, it started with a book, (as most good things do.) The book club I’m in read These Is My Words by Nancy Turner. I was captivated by the harsh and wild setting of Old West Arizona, and immediately fell in love. I live in Western Colorado, near gorgeous red rock cliffs, and it all kind of took off from there.
Jessica Spotswood: What kind of Wild West research did you do? What’s one fun tidbit you learned?
RC: I did quite a bit of research, especially in regards to the Apaches. I wanted to be very careful that my portrayal rang true, even though these Apaches are set in an alternate history world, and are therefore somewhat different from true Apaches.
I often had to research terminology. There’s a character at The Desert Rose saloon who I refer to as a “bouncer.” My editor questioned the word choice, but I had done my research! In fact, bouncers were very important in the Old West, in the brothels and saloons, to keep order and manage the crowd. And they were called bouncers. It’s where the term originated.
Jenn McGowan: Your book creates an extraordinary Wild West-meets-Magic world for readers to explore. What was the best part of building this world for you — imagining it, researching it, or writing it — and why?
RC: For me, the best part was blending the fantasy world with the history. I made the deliberate choice to use some of the iconic characters and settings of the Old West, but I tried to give each one a fantasy related twist. It was challenging, but also very fun!
Katherine Longshore: What was the most difficult part of combining the Old West and fantasy? What was the easiest?
RC: The most difficult part was using the tropes, but avoiding cliches. Adelaide, for example, is a theme on the “Whore with the Heart of Gold.” But I didn’t want to make her only that. So, I had to be very careful to give each of my characters their own unique layers. And as any writer will know, that’s not easy!
What *was* easy was describing the landscape. I live in the West! In the shadow of gorgeous red rock cliffs, just like Maggie. So, when I needed some inspiration in describing the dusty, sun-baked atmosphere of Burning Mesa, all I had to do was look out my window.
Jillian Anderson Coates: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from another author?
RC: Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. It took me a while to really take this advice. And it’s still hard not to compare sometimes. But, truly, nothing good comes from it.
Cat Winters: When you’re not writing novels, what do you like to do for fun?
RC: I’m a very social person, so I love hanging out with family and friends. I love playing board games. Settlers of Catan? Anyone? So fun! I also love movies. In another life, I would have been a filmmaker. I studied it a little in college, but now I’m happy to just watch and enjoy.