Hello everyone! Today I have a post I have been looking forward to publishing for a long time – an author interview with my favourite author, Olivie Blake all about the Atlas Six! I had a great time talking to her and I hope you enjoying reading the interview too!
The Atlas Six
By Olivie Blake
Age Group: Adult
Trigger Warnings: psychological trauma, blood, death of a parent, mass-shooting (in a place of religious practices), death of a loved one (off-page), drug use, anxiety, kidnapping, suicide and suicidal thoughts, emotional/mental abuse, manipulation, blood, gambling, cheating, degenerative disease, incest, sacrifice
The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation.
Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person’s inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications.
When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society’s archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will.
Most of them.
Hello, thank you for for coming over to talk to me about your books! Could you introduce yourself for everyone here?
I’m Olivie Blake, a novelist. I’m bipolar and I started writing one day when I was super manic and couldn’t sleep and I started writing fan fiction. I realised that writing helped me much more than medications and creativity helped me channel all my energy into something that was worthwhile and soothed me. Eventually, I started writing my own books. I came to writing later in my life, when I was already in my mid twenties since it was more like a compulsion for me and something that I had to do, but now I feel very lucky to be able to do it!
The first version of the Atlas Six was one of the first books I had written and finished but when I finished it, I wasn’t very happy with it and completely scraped it. Two years later I had a better idea for th secret society and them competing with high stakes and takes how this book came about!
Why led you to write the Atlas Six?
When I initially wrote it, it was a different world. It was a portal fantasy, sort of like Narnia, and you came out in a different world. I completely threw away that initial draft.
By the time I came around to writing this version of the Atlas Six, I had written a lot in many different genres and essentially changed it to be a contemporary fantasy which I had found by then was what I was most comfortable with. As we will see moving forward, it is just our world with a few changes.
I adored the magic system and how it was easy to understand as a sort of extension of science! How did you come up with it?
I don’t like a generic magic system – I like when each character has their own speciality that says something about who they are and determines who they are in a sort of way. So, I knew there would be physical magic and it would be Nico and Libby who would have these powers. I had been reading a lot of quantum books for research for my other book, Alone With You In The Ether and that gave me the idea of using it. Quantum theory felt very magical to me, with how you could manipulate quanta, manipulate things down to the atoms and use force and make a magic system that was not too fantastical – it’s not the Force, or an unexplained magic but rather something you can easily understand.
How your experience researching for the book?
My husband is a physics teacher – he teaches high school physics and reads a lot of science books. I asked him if he could have an answer to any of the world’s mysteries where would you start? He is into space and he wanted to know how black holes and worm holes work and that is what got me started. However, I stumbled into quantum theory on my own. He doesn’t really like quantum theory, but I thought it was really interesting.
I started with Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time and I read more of that school fo thought – I read Reality Is Not What it Seems and are of his Einstein books. Now, I’m reading a lot more psychology, evolutionary biology and the very early creation myths – like the Mesopotamian mythology.
Now that we have talked a bit about the magic system. let’s talk about the characters! Which character came to you first and how?
The first four were Nico, Libby, Tristan and one more character who isn’t there anymore. Callum and Parisa were background characters and Reina didn’t exist at all. I was always knew Nico and Libby were going to be there – they’re the characters that work the big magic. I also had an idea about Reina – specifically the plants talking to her and her being very annoyed about it.
Libby is a pretty standard archetype. She’s the moral compass who’s looking at the world and trying to figure out what’s right and wrong and what people deserve, and then I wanted someone who didn’t care about that at all. I wanted someone who understood people but didn’t like them and so I came up Callum.
Which character changed the most through the drafts?
Parisa. She didn’t exactly change but she was a background character in the beginning and made only one appearance. I saw how magnetic she was so she got to come into focus and have more development.
Was it hard to manage the different relationships in the book and write them? Which was your favourite relationship to write? How did you differentiate between the characters and what was your writing process for them?
No, that is the easiest part for me! I can hear the voices of the characters in my head and who they are is very clear to me. I think it is because I spend a lot of time daydreaming the characters before I ever write them down.
Often what comes first to me about a scene or a plot point is a conversation or a line – what is someone going to say, who is going to say it and how it’s going to take us to the next scene.
Will we be getting more character POVs in the next book?
There will be one more major character that you’ll get to know more about as we move forward but the book will still be primarily about the 6. As for more POvs, we will see.
What are you looking forward to exploring in the next book?
Libby is the moral compass, but mostly because she is young. A lot of her anxieties are about being young and inexperiences and now, she has had this enormous experience that will change the person she would’ve been without it. She’s been betrayed by someone who was very close to her and if she hadn’t been, what reason would she have to be angry? And moving forward, she is going to be defined by her rage and how she deals with it.
Also, Libby being removed from the fabric of the other five will also change things , because who will become the new Libby? Who will be the moral compass? Or, what happens to them if they don’t have a moral compass? What’s interesting is that when you remove a thread, everything comes apart and things will drastically change. It’ll be very interesting to see what alliances and motivations lead them from here on.
Callum has also been deeply betrayed and a big question when reading the book is what will Callum do next? He’s more unpredictable than the characters and there’s a sense of foreboding to see what will he do next.
How many drafts did it take for you to finish this book? And what were some of the changes you made during editing?
This book was actually one of my lightest my drafts. I threw out the entire last act for my other book, One For My Enemy and rewrote it completely differently. I wrote Masters of Death out of order so when I tried to put it back together, it was very messy. So, by the time I got to the Atlas Aix, I had had some practise. I threw out the first draft and rewrote it all from top to bottom in just one draft.
There was only change because when I gave it to my husband he mentioned that there was a part in the middle of the book when no one had done any magic and so the part where Nico is reinforcing the house with magic is added in. So, there were just a total of three drafts: the initial one, the one with the scene added in and the typo draft.
It was also in the editing that the foreshadowing comes in so that I can make sure that things are being set up for the future events and don’t come as an extreme surprise to the reader. I don’t want the plot twists to be blind, but for the reader to think that “I knew that was important” or “I knew that meant something!” because I feel it’s an exciting way to read!
If the six of them had met under different circumstances, what do you think their dynamic would be with each other?
If not for the society, I think none of them would’ve developed a relationship with anyone else. Nico and Libby would’ve gone their separate ways as they had said in the beginning of the book. If the other four met any of the six, they wouldn’t have given the other another glance and would’ve just moved on. It was them being forced together in these circumstances that led them to have any relationship to each other.
We’re all very excited for the next two books in the trilogy! Do you have tentative release timelines for them?
The Atlas Paradox will be out sometime in 2022. I will also start writing the third book as soon as I’m finished with The Atlas Paradox so I don’t think there will longer than 6 months between books 2 and 3.
Let’s play a fun game with the main characters of the book and get to know them and how you see them better!
– Your boat is drowning, who would you give up your place on the lifeboat for?
Nico since everyone loves Nico and some of the other characters wouldn’t respect me if I did that, like Parisa and Callum.
– Your boat is drowning, who’re you throwing off of it?
Probably Nico again since he wouldn’t have any hard feelings!
– You are going to the beach, who are you taking with you?
Parisa! She’d read everyone’s mind and we’d sit in the corner and talk shit about everyone probably.
– You’re stressed about something, who are you asking for help?
Tristan would be fun to commiserate with! He hates everything and you can just wallow with him.
How has your experience with traditional publishing been? How different has it been from self-publishing and what aspects are you liking/not liking about it?
The big difference is the access. I did everything for The Atlas Six on my own, which is taking on a lot of liability and stress. I’m not that good at marketing, and all I did was write the book and hope people will like it. So, when people ask em about audiobooks and hardcovers – it’s a lot for me to do and I’m just one person managing it all.
However, when it comes to traditional publishing, all of those things are taken off of my plate and all I have to do is what I am good at – wiring the book. So, while I love the freedom of self publishing, there is the uncertainty of whether it will get into he hands of the people who will love it and if I’ll make enough to pay the rent so I like that the money part is taken out of my hands with traditional publishing.
Which book of yours do you think has the most general appeal for a wider audience?
I think the book with the most generic appeal would be One For My Enemy, which I think I was proven right with the success of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. They both have similar themes – the Romeo and Juliette tale put in a different world with magic and people love that!
If you couldn’t write contemporary fantasy books anymore, what genre would you choose to write in?
Literary fiction. I like quiet books where nothing really aspens and you just get embedded in a person’s head and see the world as they do. I love reading these quiet family drama where nothing really happens. One of my favourite books is The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. These books are really good but nothing really happens as you’re just going through a person’s life.
What book would you recommend to someone who enjoyed The Atlas Six?
I think it is really similar to The Secret History by Donna Tart. It’s also like If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio, but it is also really like If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha which is a completely different subject matter – it’s about four women in South Korea but the mechanics of the book are very similar to the Atlas Six where it jumps from character to character and all of them have complex back stories.
Thank you so much for coming over and talking to me about The Atlas Six! I can not wait to read the next two books in the trilogy!
And if you want to take a quiz to see what character from the atlas six you are? GO take the quiz and let me know in the qrts!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexene Farol Follmuth, also known under the pen name Olivie Blake, is a lover and writer of stories, many of which involve the fantastic, the paranormal, or the supernatural, but not always. More often, her works revolve around the collective experience, what it means to be human (or not), and the endlessly interesting complexities of life and love.
Have you read the Atlas Six or any other of Olivie Blake’s books? What did you think of them? If you haven’t, are you planning to read them?