Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Escapist Book Tours virtual book tour for Astrid Knight’s Portal Fantasy novel Perception Check! Today, I am excited to join the tour by sharing an interview with the author!
You can find our Q&A below, along with all of the info about the book, the author, links to purchase a copy of Perception Check for yourself, as well as an opportunity to win either an ebook or physical copy of the book! Also, be sure to take a look at the schedule at the bottom of the post and follow along to see the stops from our other awesome hosts!
Perception Check by Astrid Knight
Series: The Mages of Velmyra Saga #1
Genre: Portal Fantasy
Intended Age Group: New Adult
Published: May 24, 2022
Publisher: Self Published
Her favorite tabletop roleplaying game is real, and her kidnapped childhood best friend is trapped in a far off land. Will she be able to save her? Let’s roll initiative!
Violet Spence wants nothing more than to have a normal life. After witnessing her childhood best friend get abducted by monsters, that’s easier said than done. At twenty-three years old, Violet cannot seem to move past that fateful night ten years ago. Her only solace is Mages of Velmyra, a tabletop roleplaying game filled with goblins, fairies, and all-powerful magicians. But of course, that’s all fantasy.
Or so she thought. As it turns out, the land of Velmyra is very real and the home of the monsters that took her best friend.
With the help of her friends (and the creator of the game itself), Violet must navigate the once-fictional creatures and powerful mages of Velmyra to retrieve a set of ancient relics—all in the hopes that the journey will lead her back to her friend. But for Violet, fighting monsters and magic workers doesn’t seem nearly as terrifying as confronting her own demons. And she’ll soon realize fighting the battle within herself can be just as tough as those fought against demigods.Perception Check is the magical first installment of the Mages of Velmyra Saga, great for fans of Dungeons and Dragons, Critical Role, and The Magicians. With endearing and hilarious characters, an exploration of mental health and trauma, LGBTQ+ representation, gut-wrenching twists, and a whirlwind of an ending, you will never want to leave the world of Velmyra.
Panic! In the Forest • Strange Magic • Burn, Baby, Burn
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/perception-check-astrid-knight/1141296927
Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Perception-Check/Astrid-Knight/9780578395838
Thank you so much for joining us for this short Q&A! Before we get going, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Astrid (she/they). I’m from Michigan, and I’m the author of Perception Check (The Mages of Velmyra Saga: Book One). When I’m not writing, I’m usually snuggling my two dogs, impulse shopping on Etsy, or ranting about a mid 2000’s anime with my friends.
I want to start things off by asking: what is a great book that you’ve read recently and why should we give it a go?
I am a serial book hopper (thanks, ADHD!) so I have several! I have been OBSSESSED with Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree. Such a great book to sit in my hammock in my backyard with. Other honorable mentions go to Heroes and Harbingers by A.R.K. Horton, Untouched by Jayme Bean, Devil House by John Darnielle, and The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of reading/writing? Do you care to elaborate?
I’m mostly interested in storytelling, in any format. I love movies, TV, podcasts. Outside of that, my husband and our friends love trying out weird snack foods, debating what the best Marvel movie is, and attending any comic convention/renaissance faire we can find. I also dabble in crafty things like crochet and cross stitch, though my talents in those are pretty rudimentary.
Tell us about your road to writing. What made you want to become an author?
I’ve been writing basically ever since I was able to write. My mom says that I was teaching myself to read by age three, and when I figured out that anyone could write one of the books that I loved so much, I was addicted. My penmanship might be terrible, but it’s never stopped me from voraciously filling up every notebook I can get my hands on.
Writing is a hard and lonely affair in the best of circumstances. How do you achieve a good work/life/writing balance?
I’d love to say I have that figured out, but I’m still working on it! I work a day job as well as writing books, so I usually work all day, eat a little dinner, then work on writing until I’m too tired to produce anything worth while. I do use a little bit of time at the end of the day to watch mindless things on YouTube, cuddle with my husband and dogs, those sorts of things. I’ve also been better about realizing when I need a break. If I’ve been going at it for a while and I feel myself physically getting worn down, I’ve been doing better about stepping away and taking a breather for a day or two. It’s something I think a lot of writers struggle with, but it is necessary to producing quality work.
Is this your first book? If so, what lessons have you learned from writing it? If not, what lessons did you learn from writing earlier books that you brought into this one?
This is the first book I’ve published, but I’ve finished a couple manuscripts before. This one is the first one I’ve gone through the whole editing process with, which was a learning experience in and of itself. I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is that nine times out of ten, the first words you put down on the page are not going to be brilliant. They just aren’t. Editing is key, and recognizing that you’re not the gods’ gift to publishing is even more important. You have to be willing to butcher your first draft, part with things you like, rearrange, regurgitate, all that fun stuff. It’s hard work, and you’ll go a little nuts, but the end result is bound to be worth it.
Do you usually write to background noise, music, etc. or do you prefer silence?
I’m a silence person myself. If I do have noise, it needs to be white noise (I actually love going to coffee shops and bookstores to write. The low hum of conversation is actually quite nice.)
What made you want to write in Fantasy? Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
Fantasy has always been my go-to genre, and I can’t put my finger on why! For much of my childhood, I think the idea of a escaping to a far off land of adventure was enticing to me. Still is, sometimes! I do love good literary fiction, though, and I think Perception Check is a good mix of modern realistic fiction and fantasy. A good blend of my interests!
What is one thing that you love about the current state of SFF and what is one thing that you wish you saw more of?
I love how much more inclusive it is getting! When I was growing up, it was mostly white guys writing the stories I loved, but now we see so many different perspectives and people being brought to the table. Even though it’s becoming more prevalent, though, I wish there was even more! So many queer, BIPOC, disabled, and otherwise marginalized authors are out there trying to get their stories out, so the industry should be doing even more to help them out!
Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influences?
Everyone who writes fantasy says Neil Gaiman, but I mean, come on. The guy is the best at what he does. I’ve also really been loving N.K. Jemisin lately. Her style is so fresh and complex, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. Other influences of mine are John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Patrick Rothfuss, and so many more that I just can’t think of off the top of my head right now!
What do you think characterizes your writing style?
As you can tell from my influences, I really like a blend of modern storytelling and voice along with the more traditional style. I’d say that reflects in my writing, as well. I strive to be a hybrid of modern and classic, and I hope it shows!
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m the third type of writer called a “plantser.” I have thought out plot with an outline, but I also give myself grace to change things if need be. There was a lot in Perception Check that I absolutely KNEW I was working toward, but also a lot of plot points and even whole characters that I didn’t anticipate until I got to writing them.
What are your favorite types of characters?
Oh, so many. Probably my favorite is a character who starts off unsure of themself or an aspect of their life at the beginning of the story, but end up confident and take charge of their life and circumstances. I’m going to be playing with that a lot over the course of Mages of Velmyra. I also love the golden retriever types—the ones who are loyal to the end with a smile on their face.
How much of yourself do you write into your stories?
I’d say every character I write has a little sliver of me in them. Some slivers are bigger than others, but I also feel like writing your own thoughts and experiences into your characters makes them come off as more real. You at least know one person on Earth has had those feelings, so it’s more likely that someone else will resonate with them too.
For those who haven’t read Perception Check, give us the elevator pitch.
What if you found out your game of Dungeons and Dragons was real? Perception Check is a portal fantasy that’s a good mix of TTRPGs along with heartfelt, existential works like The Magicians. DND! Direwolves! Disco music!
Describe your book in 3 adjectives.
Fiery, introspective, semi-amusing.
What do you think is the overarching theme?
Accepting that feelings are normal and should be embraced. Only then can you learn to control the unwanted ones.
Were there any specific challenges with writing Perception Check? Or, did you find anything to be easier?
The book is set between modern day Grand Rapids, Michigan and the mythical land of Velmyra. I did find it particularly challenging having to worldbuild Velmyra right after doing so much work to establish GR, which I’m already really familiar. I also mess around a little bit with perspectives, as well, so going from predominantly one character’s voice to another’s was a fun little challenge.
If you had to do so in just one or two sentences, how would you describe the plot of Perception Check?
College student Violet Spence wants to move past the violent kidnapping of her best friend she witness ten years ago. But when she finds out her favorite tabletop roleplaying game might hold the key to saving her friend, she must travel to the land of Velmyra, where the fight against demi gods might just be easier than the one against her own demons.
They say to never judge a book by its cover and maybe that’s true in the philosophical sense, but it certainly happens with books. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Perception Check?
I wanted something modern and colorful that still reflected the high fantasy feeling. I hired a wonderful artist named Jay Pillerva to do the work, and she really took my incoherent scribbles to the next level. She even kind of made the font and the style look like an old school DND cover! I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was exactly the feel I wanted.
One of my favorite things is highlighting quotes that really resonate with me and sharing them in my reviews. Do you have a favorite quote from Perception Check that you can share with us?
So many of my favorite quotes are spoilers! I’d say as far as a non-spoiler quote: “My thoughts and feelings are the things that allow me to create. Why would I ever deny myself that?”
What can you tell us about what’s coming up next for you?
I’m currently working on Mages of Velmyra Book Two, entitled Rules As Written. I’m also working on a project with my good friends Blake R. Wolfe and Taiylor R. Wallace as we turn our DND campaign into a novel series. The Wayward and the Wanderer (The Obsidian Archive: Book One) should be out sometime in the next couple of months!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us! I always enjoy this little peek behind the curtain. Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to leave for our readers?
Thanks so much for reading! May your rolls always be twenties!
About the Author
Astrid Knight is an author and storyteller with a love of fantasy and all things strange. A graduate of Adrian College, she has served as a contributing writer for anthologies such as In the Wake of the Kraken and Welcome to Simmins, Detective Spencer. They are also a co-founder and player on the RPG Twitch channel, Atlaran Adventuring Company. Perception Check is her first novel.
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