In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.
Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.
Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?
What inspired you to write this book?
I happened to be watching an episode of Alphas one day on the Syfy channel and was intrigued by the idea of people with superhuman abilities being targeted and used for government purposes. I was already a huge X-Men fan and familiar with the idea of extraordinary humans hiding to avoid persecution. So I thought, why not turn the tables and give those people with special abilities absolute power over the normal population? That idea prompted me to start writing, and the story unfolded from there.
Can you give us an interesting fact about your book that isn't in the blurb?
Gambit is set in a futuristic Great Britain, beginning in what was previously Glasgow and ending up in a rebuilt version of London (now called the Core).
How did you choose your title?
I actually changed the title after signing with REUTS Publications. A best-selling author had just published a book with same title I’d chosen, so we decided it was best to pick something else. We chose Gambit because of the book’s game elements and theme of sacrifice, and also as a nod to the X-Men series. Then I worked the title and its concept into the book to bring everything together.
Tell us about the cover and how it came to be.
When Ashley, the lead graphic designer at REUTS, initially asked me what I wanted on the cover, I gave her a few elements and told her I’d love to see something dramatic with lots of texture. She nailed the concept right away, and a few versions later, the cover was finished. I fell in love with her design—not only is it visually stunning, it’s also incredibly symbolic of Gambit’s main character, Willow. Her innocence (the butterfly), her skill (the tiger stripes on the wings), her destiny (the dagger), and her DNA (the drop of blood) are all brought together in one powerful image. I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.
Did you self-publish or publish traditionally and why?
I wasn’t 100 percent comfortable self-publishing, so my original intention was to query agents and see if I could publish traditionally. Before I could start that process, though, fate stepped in and introduced me to REUTS. I knew very little about Indie presses, but I liked the REUTS philosophy and the idea of being an active part of the publication process. They offered a lot of flexibility, along with many of the same benefits as a traditional publisher, and that middle ground was the perfect solution for me.
What do you consider the most important part of a good story?
For me, it’s relatable characters. I can handle a lukewarm plot or events that strain credibility as long as I’m invested in one or more of the characters. My favorite books are ones with characters that I love as much as the real people in my life.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was very young, actually. My grandmother kept a drawer with all the stories and poems I wrote for her, some as early as my kindergarten years. I loved making up stories and kept up my creative writing until college put a damper on my free time. I picked it up again a few years ago, when I became a stay-at-home mom.
What part of the writing process is the hardest for you?
Not being able to express myself when inspiration hits. My schedule is a bit restrictive at the moment, and my muse doesn’t always appreciate being swept aside for mundane activities like laundry or cooking. She’ll pick the worst time to tease me with an idea, then turn around and abandon me when I need her most. Sometimes I just have to wait until we’re on the same page.
Who is your favorite character from a book?
I don’t really have a favorite, but the character I most relate to is Emily Starr. She’s the protagonist in L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon series. Montgomery’s books played a significant role in shaping my thoughts as a teenager, and Emily definitely had the most influence. She’s a writer who lives mostly inside her imagination. She’s fiercely independent and usually misunderstood by the people around her. I identified with that plight early on and often drew on her strength to get through rough spots in my own life. Emily’s secret love, Teddy Kent, is where I got Willow’s last name.
What is your favorite book?
Narrowing down one favorite book is impossible for me. I have a small collection of books that I would consider my absolute favorites, though, mostly because I can open any of them to any page and get sucked back into the story immediately. Watchers by Dean Koontz and Firestarter by Stephen King are particularly mesmerizing for me because of their intriguing plots and moral complexity. If I pick either of those books up, I’m lost for hours.
Have you had anything else published?
Yes, thanks to Project REUTSway. REUTS holds an annual short story competition and publishes the winners in an anthology. Last year’s theme challenged writers to put a bone-chilling twist on common fairy tales. I couldn’t resist writing “Cry of the Windwalker” (a bloody version of Rumplestiltskin), and to my delight, it was accepted. The story was published in their 2014 horror anthology, Fairly Twisted Tales of a Horribly Ever After.
What's your next project?
Right now, I’m focusing on new adventures for Willow. She has a challenging path ahead of her, and it’s going to be tricky getting her through it. I just hope the little butterfly is ready!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.L. Denault is a speculative fiction writer who loves dreaming up tales of adventure and intrigue. A former systems analyst, she gave up her nerdy code-writing skills to care for her family (including a son with special needs), and currently lives among the vast stretches of cornfields in Illinois.
Writing stories and posting on The INFJ Café are her biggest passions, along with drinking coffee and watching sci-fi. When she’s not hanging out with her husband and kids, she can usually be found at a library or tucked away in the shadowy corner of a hip coffeehouse. She’s also been glimpsed sneaking into her garage, late at night, to work on her time machine.
Her debut novel, Gambit, is the first in a Young Adult dystopian series.