THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US, a series by Emily Skrutskie

I first met Emily Skrutskie at this year’s YALLWEST, and the premise of The Abyss Surrounds Us series was too fascinating to pass up. Have a look for yourself:

Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart.

But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers that Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect?

Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

According to your website bio, you dabble in film as well as writing. What do you love most about both mediums?

I love shared experiences. I love going to a theater and watching something—and for two hours, everyone in that room with me is watching the exact same thing, bringing their own selves and their thoughts and opinions and emotions to the table. Something about that has always felt super powerful to me. Plus I love spectacle, and with the wizards in the industry nowadays, the only limit is your imagination.

Well, and what makes it through review and testing and every level of production—which is part of the reason I love writing, too. Because much as I love experiencing shared experiences, I also love constructing them for people, and writing affords you a degree of control that simply doesn’t make it through a film pipeline. I love working collaboratively at my day job, but I also love having authorship in my writing. It’s a daunting thing, being responsible for someone’s entire experience with your story, but it makes it so worthwhile when you pull it off.

Indeed. THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS expands on the world you created in THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US. In what ways did the story grow in ways you didn’t expect?

It’s hard to say what I didn’t expect because I planned both books concurrently and knew how the story would end before I started telling it. But I think the way I planned it was incredibly focused on Cas’s development as a character, so one of the surprises was getting to explore Swift, Santa Elena, Varma, and the rest of the cast.

Yet another reason to plan stories thoroughly! You also write short stories. What, in your opinion, is the hardest part about writing a short story and why?

Anton Chekov once suggested that, in paraphrased terms, a short story is less about answering a question and more about stating it correctly. I have a brain that’s wired for problem solving. Allowing myself to leave a question stated, but unsolved, is very, very difficult for me, and it’s one of the reasons coming up with short stories is so much harder for me than figuring out novel plots.

Nonetheless, I’ll bet that makes for some interesting plotting twists.  What are some of your current projects?

My next novel, HULLMETAL GIRLS, is due out next summer! It’s the story of two very angry girls who become two very angry jacked up cyborgs and are very angry at each other—but maybe have to stop being angry at each other and start working together if they have any hope of saving the wandering fleet of spaceships they call home.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound