Book Title: City of Shattered Light
Author: Claire Winn
Publisher: Flux Books
Release Date: October 19, 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, LGBT
Content Warnings: violence, death, blood, mild gore, emotional abuse/manipulation, mild body horror (cybernetics), references to suicide, terminal illness, drug and alcohol references
As darkness closes in on the city of shattered light, an heiress and an outlaw must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other.
As heiress to a powerful tech empire, seventeen-year-old Asa Almeida strives to prove she’s more than her manipulative father’s shadow. But when he uploads her rebellious sister’s mind to an experimental brain, Asa will do anything to save her sister from reprogramming—including fleeing her predetermined future with her sister’s digitized mind in tow. With a bounty on her head and a rogue A.I. hunting her, Asa’s getaway ship crash-lands in the worst possible place: the neon-drenched outlaw paradise, Requiem.
Gun-slinging smuggler Riven Hawthorne is determined to claw her way up Requiem’s underworld hierarchy. A runaway rich girl is exactly the bounty Riven needs—until a nasty computer virus spreads in Asa’s wake, causing a citywide blackout and tech quarantine. To get the payout for Asa and save Requiem from the monster in its circuits, Riven must team up with her captive.
Riven breaks skulls the way Asa breaks circuits, but their opponent is unlike anything they’ve ever seen. The A.I. exploits the girls’ darkest memories and deepest secrets, threatening to shatter the fragile alliance they’re both depending on. As one of Requiem’s 154-hour nights grows darker, the girls must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other before Riven’s city and Asa’s sister are snuffed out forever.
Claire Winn spends her time immersed in other worlds—through LARP, video games, books, nerd conventions, and her own stories. Since graduating from Northwestern University, she’s worked as a legal writer and freelance editor. Aside from writing, she builds cosplay props and armor, tears up dance floors, and battles with boffer swords. City of Shattered Light is her first novel.
I am so excited to host Claire Winn on A Court of Coffee and Books today! Thank you so much, Claire, for stopping by and don’t forget to order a copy of City of Shattered Light!
Congratulations on your debut book! What inspired you to write City of Shattered Light?
Thank you! City of Shattered Light started with a few different pieces of inspiration. I envisioned a runaway space-princess, hiding her identity on a rickety transit ship, with a stolen alien heart beating inside her backpack—and I wanted to find out how she’d gotten there. Then, as a contrast to her, I wanted a female Doc Holliday-inspired space gunslinger. Plus, something I frequently think about is the damage a superhacker could wreak as more devices go online, and I imagined a nasty, sentient A.I. that had taken over a high-tech city and could hack anything as it pursued the main characters.
The setting and aesthetics were inspired by lots of video games and anime, but the emotional basis for the character arcs was a bit personal. Asa’s arc is about fiercely resisting what the world expects of you and finding happiness on your own terms, while Riven’s is about finding something to fight for despite an uncertain future.
What was your favorite part of writing City of Shattered Light?
The world-building and character dynamics were my favorites. This was a book I wrote for fun, without many expectations. It was amazing to build a found-family team, weave together some striking action sequences, and then watch it become a little deeper and more intense with every subsequent draft. I fell in love a little more with every revision, as I discovered more about these characters and their world. It was a tough process, but I’m happy with how it turned out.
What can readers expect from your main characters, Asa and Riven?
They’re polar opposites, in the best way. Asa is sheltered and a bit naïve, but brilliant and fiercely determined when she’s out of options. Riven is cocky, morally-gray, and a bit nihilistic—but when it comes to protecting her friends, she’s ferocious. Both of them are bisexual, are both of them are strong in different ways. I love their push-pull dynamic of trust, secrets, and betrayal as they move from reluctant allies to something more.
What has been your favorite part of being a debut author so far?
Definitely reader reactions. So many reviews have been incredible and have made me tear up. I keep seeing people spreading love for the characters on social media, and ARC readers have been sending me DMs thanking me for writing the book. It’s been overwhelming in the best way. Despite all the stress that goes into debuting, the reader responses (even before release!) have made it all worth it.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
This might sound cliché, but you really do need to write what you love. Writing a book is a long, uncertain, and lonely path, and the only guaranteed fan you’ll ever have—and the one spending the most time with the story—is you. When you’re dedicated to the story in your head, you’ll find yourself motivated to tackle writing challenges and improve. Plus, a story you’re in love with will feel authentic, and it means there’s a greater chance it’ll find readers who love it. So, write a book you’re passionate about and pour your heart into it. If you love it, you’ll be willing to fight for it.
What do you hope readers take away from City of Shattered Light?
I hope Riven’s and Asa’s character arcs resonate with readers—the themes of breaking away from societal and parental expectations even when it’s scary, and discovering your own adventures and found families.
Something that’s gotten a lot of love from readers so far is the casual LGBT+ rep. I think it’s important to normalize queer identities and relationships, and to present hopeful futures where gay kids can go on adventures and fall in love without their sexualities creating obstacles for them. I hope readers will also enjoy the range of female and LGBT+ characters with various strengths, aptitudes, and flaws.
5 Reasons to Read City of Shattered Light
- Sapphic science fiction YA debut? Sign me right up!
- Action, action, and more action! YES!
- The plot is amazing and very well paced.
- Captivating characters, with some that definitely steal the show.
- This story easily grabbed my attention from the first page and was one I did not want to put down!
Check out the amazing bloggers on this book tour!
Thank you, TBR and Beyond Tours, for having us on this book tour!