Author Exclusives
Author Exclusives

Q&A: Marc J Gregson & 'Sky's End'

November 30, 2023
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A passionate middle school English teacher and debut Young Adult Fantasy author, Marc J Gregson candidly answers a few questions about his new book, Sky's End. Full of intense battles and ferocious beasts, Marc talks to us about the book's setting and characters, sure; but also, how he channeled his own frustration with writing into marvelous stories about the limitless power and reward of never giving up.

Book one in this dystopian fantasy trilogy releases on January 2nd. As a special treat, we are offering 20% off Sky's End pre-orders! Use coupon code SKYSEND, valid online until the release date, to jumpstart your New Year's TBR!

Sky's End book cover, Marc J Gregson, dystopian, fantasy, young adult
Buy HERE for 20% OFF! Use code: SKYSEND

Let's start at the beginning. What is Sky’s End about?
Sky's End is a living, breathing world in the clouds. A diverse world of floating islands filled with charming and treacherous characters, powerful weapons, and an entire ecosystem centered around gigantic beasts. It's fast-paced and action-packed.

If you're a fan of games like Zelda and classic JRPGs like Final Fantasy VII and Skies of Arcadia, you will notice several callbacks! Fans of post-apocalyptic works like The Hunger Games, Red Rising, and Attack on Titan will have plenty to talk about, too.

So cool! Can you tell us more about the trilogy's worldbuilding and plot?
Sky’s End
is the first book in the Above the Black trilogy. These Skyland islands exist above beds of toxic, black clouds that act as a wall, shielding the sky from whatever is below. These islands are under constant assault by gigantic, steel-scaled monsters. Sky serpents have been destroying cities and taking down the Skylands’ ships for centuries.

It centers around Conrad of Elise, a former High-born who lost everything when his treacherous Uncle murdered Conrad’s father and exiled him to live as a Low. So, to regain his lost status, Conrad enters the Selection of the Twelve Trades. And the Trade that Selects him? Hunter.

Hunter is the deadliest of all the Trades. Their responsibility is to hunt the gigantic monsters that haunt the skies.

Similar to Attack on Titan and The Hunger Games, it features a deadly competition where Conrad must endure training that includes sixteen skyships full of Hunter trainees who are sent to hunt the giant monsters. The ship with the most kills at the end of the tournament wins. Problem is, it’s not just the monsters the crews have to worry about. Every trainee wants to rise to Captain of their ship, and mutinies come aplenty!

How did you get your idea for Sky’s End?
Honestly, I’ll stay quiet about my first idea for Sky’s End because it is a MASSIVE spoiler. I wanted to write this book to discover what would happen to teens who lived in a world where it feels like there are only winners and losers and explore the challenges they’d face.

Each time I finished a chapter, I left a note for myself about what I’d write next; I found myself thinking about Sky’s End all the time. I’m hoping my readers become just as obsessed with the Skylands as I am, and that they are eagerly flying through the pages. Hearing that someone stayed up past their bedtime because they couldn’t put my book down? That’s the greatest compliment I can get as an author.

As a debut author, what was it like trying to get Sky's End published?
Well, I wrote Sky’s End because I felt frustrated as a writer. I’d written five books and couldn’t seem to get published. I got a particularly disheartening rejection from a literary agent that made me give up on my fifth book. When that happened, I got angry. And I sat down and started writing a character who was frustrated and would never give up. From that opening chapter, Conrad came alive and the whole book grew from there. Something about Sky’s End transcended everything else I’d done. And everything I’d learned over my first five books just coalesced together. Things that used to be tough for me as a writer started to become second nature.

I find writing to be a cathartic exercise. It helps me express myself in healthy ways. If I have a bad day, I can always go to my computer and escape into my writing and my worlds. After I write, I feel accomplished, almost like a rush of endorphins that runners get. Rather than being angry in life, I can write angry characters and live vicariously through their experiences. Their triumphs become my triumphs. One of my favorite strategies for writing is putting my characters into a corner, where it appears they’ll never succeed, and then figuring out how they do. Those “ah ha!” moments are some of the best feelings I ever get.

What's it like being a middle school English teacher these days?
It’s a great job. The kids are hilarious, and it’s wonderful watching them learn and grow throughout the year. It’s a busy job, with a lot of responsibilities socially, mentally, and emotionally, but the kids are the best part of the job.

I’m continually amazed at how quickly trends come and go with my students. Just a few years ago, all my students would say, “It’s lit.” Now, they’re saying, “Bet.” Things like, “That’s sus” are already starting to fall out of fashion. Teens are known to have a “creative” vocabulary. So, I tried to match their creativity by coming up with some new curse words in Sky’s End.

Want to know what those curse words are?! Pre-order your copy now! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Marc. We thank you for being an enthusiastic teacher and a fantastic writer!

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