I’m a massive fan of the Cruel Gods series by Trudie Skies. Its originality, its snarky humour and vivid characters are right in my wheelhouse. I had to interview the person who created this world.
1. Tell us about Trudie Skies.
Hello Phil and thank you for inviting me here! I’m Trudie AKA Tru, a British based author in North East England. I currently write gaslamp fantasy when my cat isn’t jumping on my keyboard. In my spare time, I enjoy playing video games, staring at clouds, eating food, and not answering my phone.
2. Tell us about your writing career.
I fell in love with books when I started skipping gym class by hiding in the library, but I didn’t start taking writing seriously until my late twenties! Before then, I’d spent years tinkering on building worlds but never writing an actual story.
Then in 2019 I published my first book, a young adult fantasy with a small press, and followed up with a sequel before the pandemic. Sadly, the pandemic forced the small press to close. As many can attest, this was a maddening time in general, so I decided to channel my madness and write whatever the heck I wanted. I threw all my unhinged and crazy ideas into what became my first self-published book, The Thirteenth Hour.
This book can be considered either ambitious or chaotic or perhaps chaotically ambitious, but people seemed to like it and it has gained more readers than I ever thought possible! The moral of the story is to go ahead and write that crazy idea.
3. I’m a huge fan of your Cruel Gods series, which you define as ‘a gaslamp fantasy described as obnoxiously British and best read with a cup of tea.’ What’s it about?
I’m so glad you enjoyed them! The Cruel Gods series is a gaslamp fantasy featuring magical portals, gothic cosmic deities, quaint Britishisms, and steampunk vibes. The story begins in Chime, a steam-powered city where the gods cannot tread. These twelve gods rule over their own unique domains, dictating their mortals’ lives, and allow their mortals to travel into Chime via a magical portal that operates at the turn of the hour.
The first book, The Thirteenth Hour, is the tale of Kayl, a chaotic clutz who is a member of the Godless, an organization who sees the gods as cruel and tries to help mortals escape the worst of their gods’ whims. We also have Quen, who is a Warden that acts as the gods’ mortal eyes inside Chime. When a spate of mysterious murders happens in Chime, both Kayl and Quen find their worlds colliding and must work together to uncover a conspiracy that could toll the end of Chime – and the gods themselves!
The sequel, The Children of Chaos, takes place after the events of The Thirteenth Hour as Kayl and Quen rekindle their partnership to help save the domains against the forces of Chaos. I’m currently working on the third and final book of the trilogy, The End of Time, due for release in early 2024!
4. Cruel Gods includes inter-dimensional portals, but you’ve turned the normal tropes on their head. Where did this idea come from?
During my teenage years, I had this story idea for a woman named Kayl (sound familiar?) who accidentally fell through a magical portal and became trapped in an hourglass-shaped city. She gained a spirit inside of her who could communicate telepathically and grant her the ability to traverse various worlds via portals that were based on elements, so a volcano world, a water world, etc. These worlds were protected by the Guardians against the forces of Chaos, and Kayl found herself torn between them. When I came back to these ideas as an adult, I felt the story was somewhat cringe. It just wasn’t good enough to work with so I shelved it.
Then years later, the pandemic happened. I began another playthrough of my comfort game, Skyrim, and messed around with a modded Dwemer character who could use time magic. Somewhere during this, I became obsessed with steampunk and clockpunk aesthetics and my old idea came back to me – what if there were twelve elemental domains based on the times of the clock? Suddenly this idea took on its own life, and the clockpunk aesthetics became a British gaslamp setting. The spirit inside of Kayl became a crazy twin sister trapped inside Kayl’s mind. The Guardians became the Wardens, and out stepped Quen.
While playing Skyrim, I also took inspiration from the Daedric Princes. Each of the Princes own their own realm (or domain) with their own rules and mortal slaves, and this formed the basis of my cruel gods.
This book was also inspired by other video games such as Final Fantasy VII. Naturally, a story that takes inspiration from Final Fantasy eventually becomes a story about attacking and dethroning the gods!
5. The same is true for the inhabitants of all the realms. That’s one helluva lot of world building! Was there a point where you wondered what the hell you were doing?
Oh yes! There were moments where I thought this book was nuts. Who in their right mind creates a fantasy story featuring TWELVE bloody worlds, races, and gods? And then tried to describe them in a single book?? The start of The Thirteenth Hour is a bit challenging for some readers as a result, though most think I managed to balance it out fairly well!
The cool thing about the twelve realms is that I have an awesome map (which you can find on my website) that shows them all. I also offer a guide to the domains too!
6. Which character in the series is most like you?
All of my characters have traits from my own personality in one way or another. Kayl has my playfulness and useless chaotic behaviour, Quen has my dorkiness and desire to do what’s right, Jinx has my rude and crude mannerisms and attitude. But the characters I most relate to are the Mesmer. These are a race of mortals who are dreamers, in more than one way. They spend most of their day napping, daydreaming, and eating candy. They are typically confused by reality while sometimes being scared of it. They have a childlike wonder about the universe that makes them occasionally act like big babies, and that is definitely me.
7. Would you say that you like to shock your readers by some of the things your characters say and do?
I never actually set out to deliberately shock anyone but my characters became the way they are. They swear a lot. Some of them are very rude and crude. The British have a lot of wonderful swear words so it would be a shame to write a fantasy British book without throwing in as many as I could. As for what my characters get up to, I hold no responsibility whatsoever.
8. Having a book in an easily categorised genre is helpful in the publishing business. I don’t think Cruel Gods fits such a thing (and that’s good!). Was that deliberate? Does it present you with any problems?
When I finished The Thirteenth Hour, I honestly didn’t know what genre it was. Here’s my confession: I didn’t set out to write gaslamp fantasy! I chose the genre (or the genre chose me) because it was the closest thing to fit! In many ways, The Thirteenth Hour straddles the genre lines. Some consider it steampunk, some consider it dark fantasy, I had one reviewer say it technically counts as grimdark. I definitely think it fits the gaslamp tropes more, though it doesn’t fit with regency-based gaslamp books. But yes, trying to market a book when you can’t quite place the genre is a nightmare, a cruel god of its own.
That said, I’ve since embraced the gaslamp fantasy genre and fallen in love with it. I plan to read and write more gaslamp in the future!
9. Tell us about your writing regime. How disciplined are you?
I have the discipline of a sloth. In fact, they probably have more discipline than me, this is very disrespectful. I set myself plans and goals and then forget about said plans and goals or otherwise disobey them entirely. Quite frankly, I don’t even understand how I managed to publish two books. Sometimes I feel like the chaotic characters of my chaotic book may have been a self-insert.
My writing regime is to stare at the screen for a few hours and then take a break. Occasionally I collapse onto a keyboard and words happen.
10. How much of your life is geared towards writing? By that I mean, would you give up your career if you had the chance? Is it a hobby? Is it a need to be addressed?
I love writing. There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not thinking about stories, characters, and writing down ideas. I also hate writing. It’s so stressful at times haha. But, I would absolutely love to become a fulltime writer and make this my life’s work. Even if that never happens, I’ll still be tinkering with stories until the day I die.
11. Introvert or extrovert?
I’m chronically introvert. If I could become a full-time hermit, you would never see me in person again.
12. If you had three wishes from a passing genie, what would they be?
To become fabulously rich so that I can focus all my free time on writing.
To learn the ability to communicate with animals so I can understand what my cat freaking wants.
To fix the planet’s health and eradicate climate change. I don’t like the heat, thank you very much, and Mother Nature deserves better.
13. What part of writing do you find the most difficult? Which part excites you most?
Honestly, I find drafting quite difficult, but I think that’s because it’s such a slow process and I’m an impatient brat. Maybe it would be easier if I didn’t write such massively long books, but I digress. I enjoy the rewriting and editing stages most because I love being able to tinker! It’s like having a jigsaw puzzle where I can move pieces around until the full picture comes out. Drafting is like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle when you’ve lost pieces down the back of the sofa and are struggling to dig them out.
14. Let us have your links so we can find out more about you and your work.
Thank you, Phil! You can find me here:
And on Bluesky: trudieskies.bsky.social