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The Bird's Word

The Bird's Word

Mortis by Hannah Cobb

Posted by Cindy on April 3, 2014 at 3:25 PM

You lucky humans! You get my avian input 4 times this week!  This time, I'm sharing a book with you. I'll let the author tell you all about it.

What is the premise for Mortis?

An underground school steals orphaned infants and trains them to be assassins.

Where did you come up with the premise for Mortis?

This is a tricky question to answer. As a writer, my ideas come from everywhere—my mind is a sort of bubbling stew made of bits and pieces of things I’ve read and watched, phrases I’ve overheard people say, places I’ve been. I can remember exactly when Jane and Felix and Willy first popped Athena-like into my head, though. My college was on spring break and I was sitting in the back of my family’s twelve-passenger van on the way home from visiting my grandparents, trying not to be carsick or yell at my rowdy siblings, entirely unable to record this first glimpse of a story I really wanted to write. As soon as I got home I raced for pen and paper.

Which came first—the premise or a character?

Character always comes first for me. I need to know what sort of a person my protagonist is, and how she will approach a problem, before I can try to write her through that problem. In Mortis, the problem turned out to be that my protagonist’s home is a school that trains assassins. Jane is getting ready to graduate when she stumbles across dark secrets about her school. She has to decide if she will keep quiet, and stay safe, or if she will betray her school and fight against its evil.

Who’s your favorite character from the book and why?

Jane, the protagonist. I like her quiet strength. It takes a long time to write a book, though, so I am invested in all the characters, even the villains.

Who do you say needs to read Mortis? Why?

I wrote this book for a teen audience, or for anyone who likes fantasy/adventure stories.

Tell us about the villain.

There are quite a few antagonists in Mortis. When Jane chooses to set herself against the school that raised her, she makes enemies of all her teachers and classmates, even people who had been her friends. The person Jane fears the most is Kade, one of her teachers. Kade is creepy because he represents what Jane is afraid she could become: an assassin who kills without compunction, who has no loyalty to anyone except himself, who will do anything to acquire power.

Tell us about the MC. What is she like?

Jane grew up in a school that trains assassins, so she has a wide range of martial skills; to keep safe she has always tried to hide these skills, so her classmates and school masters won’t single her out as either an enemy or a pet project. But her curiosity keeps pulling her out of the safe, quiet shadows she likes to hide in. She wants to understand the world around her, but while she is exploring she discovers some hard truths about what her school is and what kind of person she is about to become.

What is she afraid of?

Jane is afraid of becoming a pawn in the game her school is playing, and she is afraid of losing the people she loves. She has to make hard choices between supporting the people she cares about, or standing against the evil of Mortis.

Why are the villain and main character at odds with each other?/What is the main conflict?

Jane grew up learning how to become one of the world’s best assassins. When she decides to destroy Mortis, the evil school that trained her, she has to find allies who will help her fight Mortis.

How is your book different from other YA fantasy?

This is an exciting time for teen fiction in general; there is wealth of great books out there. Readers who enjoy Mortis will probably also enjoy books like Kristin Cashore’s Graceling or Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series.

What was your favorite part about writing Mortis?

I love surprises in a story. I don’t write an outline before I begin, so I discover new things about my characters and their world as I write. In Mortis there is one character in particular who begins the story as Jane’s friend. He becomes one of Jane’s most dangerous enemies when she decides to fight back against Mortis. I didn’t know till close to the end of the story if this character would end up being a good guy or a bad guy.

What was it like when Taegais Publishing offered you a contract? What was your reaction?

I was surprised and delighted. At that point in my life I had just embarked on my career as a librarian, and though I was still writing, I was mostly focused on the “real” world. I had written Mortis several years before and pretty much shelved it for the time being. I am truly grateful to Amy at Taegais for remembering a book she’d helped me work on years before, and calling to ask if I was still interested in publishing.

What surprised you about the publishing process?

Getting your work published is a big commitment. There’s a lot of back-and-forth in the editing process between the writer and the editor, with the end goal of a much better (and publishable) manuscript. I’m really blessed to have gone through this process for the first time with Amy, who is a very patient editor.


Author Bio

Hannah Cobb lives in Maryland, where she maintains a cover identity as a librarian by day and moonlights as a writer. When she isn’t writing, Hannah enjoys designing elaborate period costumes and collecting swords. Mortis is her first novel. You can find Hannah online.


Get your own copy of Mortis on Amazon.

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