SPSFC Author Interview: Kyoko M., Author of “Of Cinder & Bone”

I’m a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and wanted to spotlight some of the authors in the contest! Specifically, I’ll have interviews from my team’s semifinalists. Without further adieu, to the interview!

Kyoko M., Author of Of Cinder & Bone

See my review of Of Cinder & Bone

First off, tell us a bit about your background. What got you into science fiction? 

It’s a combination of my own interests and my parents during my childhood. My parents used to read to me as a kid, so I grew up with a love of books. I read things on my own and then as a family, we were definitely into science fiction movies and TV shows. There are the standard things we watched as kids like the DC Animated Universe written and/or directed by Bruce Timm (i.e. Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Static Shock), and then the Marvel animated shows like the 90s Spider-Man and X-Men, and then things like Transformers: Beast Wars and pretty much anything on WB Kids or Toonami at the time.

I also loved anime as a kid and into my teens, so pretty much most of the 2000s Toonami anime lineup, I grew up watching every day. I am a huge Batman fan, first and foremost. I’ve met Kevin Conroy and gotten a photo op and autograph from him and I have the Bat signal tattooed on my right shoulder in his honor. All those different things are what got me into science fiction and I still enjoy it very much to this very day. 

It’s incredible to see how you got into science fiction and how much of that journey we share. Batman: The Animated Series is one of my all-time favorites, and I recently bought the whole series to re-watch it all. Toonami was my jam and got me into anime and certainly some flavors of sci-fi I didn’t know existed. Thanks for that trip down memory lane! 

Your work includes a lot of diverse main characters, both protagonists and antagonists, like Dr. Kamala Anjali, Kazuma Okegawa, Yagami Sugimoto, and Misaki Fujioka. Is their inclusion in the story related to being a BIPOC (Black Indigenous Person of Color) in the science fiction genre?

Yes, certainly. One of the first things I did before I even decided to write Of Cinder and Bone was survey the science fiction landscape. One thing that I think is distinctly lacking in American science fiction is people of color as the main leads instead of simply rounding out a mostly white cast cast or being the Token Minority. And those times you do have POC, it’s often only black characters in anything mainstream, and they’re often still in the minority (no pun intended) in the stories. I noted that Indian and Middle Eastern characters in particular don’t show up that much in American mainstream science fiction, so that motivated me very much with Dr. Kamala Anjali. I feel extremely passionate about writing her because the American lens of India and Pakistan (Kamala is biracial) is extremely skewed and I thought she would be an excellent main character. I also took great care to make sure Kamala was also not just The Love Interest. She is her own person with her own agency and her own important to both Jack and the story. 

As for the Japanese characters, I noticed that from an American perspective, Japanese characters really only ever show up in American mainstream fiction in the context of martial arts films and sometimes in crime dramas. While it’s true I did lean a bit into the yakuza stereotypes for Kazuma Okegawa, overall, I wanted to dive into the richness of what Japan has to offer by setting half of the book in Tokyo and its surrounding areas. I especially find the Japanese language absolutely fascinating. It’s one of my favorite languages, hence why my pen name is Japanese, and I featured it heavily in the book to give it some more exposure in the science fiction genre, but in a way I hope is organic. 

The end goal of having Kamala and the others as main leads is to avert some common stereotypes about people from those cultures and backgrounds and to show the world from another perspective. 

I think that one of the biggest strengths of Of Cinder and Bone is its characters, and it’s wonderful to see your inspiration for them. What inspired you to write the book itself, and how did you think about the background for dragons?

Thank you! Famously, I’ve said in interviews before that the two biggest inspirations for the Of Cinder and Bone series are film-based: Jurassic Park (1993) and Reign of Fire (2002). 

I’m sure the inspiration from the classic, amazing Jurassic Park is pretty apparent. I have seen that film so many times not only for the action-horror elements, incredible practical effects, and all around incredible atmosphere, but what I found over the years that I really liked was the conversations that they have about Man vs. Nature and Man vs. God. The lunch scene in particular is one of my favorite exchanges in the movie, even with there being more awesome, iconic moments in the rest of the film. I liked the argument that just because you have the ability to create life from something selected by nature to be eliminated doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it. Especially not for the sake of profit. I love the theme being discussed so well by the characters. I decided to play with that idea in another sense–exploring what happens if we instead tried to create life for an extinct creature that was unfairly hunted to extinction, not chosen by nature not to continue. As always, though, greed and disregard for life took over and there were horrible consequences, but the series also explores that there were some good things that come of Jack and Kamala’s resurrection project as well.

The other inspiration is from a rather ridiculous, over the top, largely forgotten movie called Reign of Fire. Few people remember it, but it always stuck out to me even 20 years ago as being one of the only times a Hollywood film explored dragons in the context of actual science fiction and not fantasy. We all know famous fantasy dragons like Draco from Dragonheart or Smaug from The Hobbit movies, but Reign of Fire took an actual scientific approach to their dragons and I was intrigued by the idea of what it would be like to have these enormous invasive species walking around in modern times. At first, I had planned to do a post-apocalyptic story like the one in Reign of Fire, but as I began writing the first book, I realized I actually didn’t want to do it. In Reign of Fire, the dragons are essentially monsters. They do not coexist with any other species on the planet, not even their own, as we see them later cannibalizing one another when food begins to run out after they scorched the Earth. The conversation I wanted to have in my series is summed up by a line from Jack later in the first book: “Just because something’s dangerous doesn’t mean it has no place in the world.” And so I scrapped the idea for a dragon apocalypse and wanted to write about the idea that dragons were indeed invasive, but not necessarily evil or deserving of being hunted to extinction. I thought approaching it from a conservationist angle would be a cool idea to explore. 

As for the background of the dragons themselves, oh boy. I did a mountain of research before I began the first draft and I’ve done several more mountains of research as the books continue. Hell, just for the fifth book coming out April 22nd, the research document is a whopping eighteen pages long. Single spaced. The dragons in the books are all put within the context of reptiles, so I studied alligators, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, komodo dragons, chameleons, you name it. For the later books (mild spoiler alert), feathered dragons with more avian traits are introduced, so then I had to do research for birds of prey. I studied to see the different physical traits they’d have if they were real, the types of foods they’d eat, their mating habits, and then I added in some environmental science to study the most likely place each type of dragon would inhabit. That’s how some of the dragons ended up with endemic names like the Nordic sea serpent or the Japanese viper dragon. It is a lot of hard work, but I honestly love it. I’ve learned so many cool things about reptiles and birds of prey and I truly hope it comes through in the books. Especially with Of Claws and Inferno. My sister-in-law, who reads the advanced copies before my books come out, joked that this book is the most National Geographic of the series. I really went hardcore on the animal and environmental science with this book, trust me. 

You can definitely see all the research and inspirations you cite throughout the first book. At this point, I’m sure readers are eager to sink their teeth into it! How many books do you have planned for the Of Cinder & Bone series, and do you have an end in mind? And, for our readers, what are the best ways to follow you and find out about your works?

It’s very unlike me, but I actually don’t know when the series is going to end? Of Claws and Inferno ends in a sort of open-ended way for that very same reason. I have a three book deal with Falstaff Books with the first book tentatively scheduled for February 2023, so I know I’ll be working on those until 2025. With my debut urban fantasy series, I knew for certain it would be a trilogy and then the short story anthology and the novella were added on later as bonus content. I’m going to take some time as I write the new science fiction novels for Falstaff Books to decide if the series will end with Of Claws and Inferno or if it will continue. My early hunch is that it will continue, but it might be after a time jump of a substantial amount. The first two books in the series occur back to back, but then Books 3-5 take place close to a year apart each. If I write another one, I think it would be with a larger time skip of multiple years to catch up with the gang to see what’s changed, but we’ll see. All I can say is stay tuned for now. Once I figure it out, I’ll definitely be forthcoming about my plans. 

As for wanting to keep up to date, my website is http://www.shewhowritesmonsters.com and that has all the books and any news or relevant things about my upcoming events. My Twitter handle is @misskyokom. My Facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/She-Who-Writes-Monsters-161227150647087.

Other Works by Me:

-The Black Parade series: The Black Parade is my debut urban fantasy/paranormal romance novel. It tells the tale of Jordan Amador–a cranky waitress with a drinking problem who lives in Albany, New York–who happens to be a Seer, or someone who can see and hear ghosts, angels, and demons. She accidentally killed a Seer and has to help 100 souls crossover into the afterlife in two years or she’s going to Hell. Her hundredth soul comes in the form of a handsome but annoying poltergeist named Michael. His peculiar ability to touch things and interact with his environment tips her off that there’s something special about him, and as she starts solving his case, she stumbles across a much bigger plot by the archdemon, Belial, to take over the free will of innocent people. 

There are five books in that series: The Black Parade, The Deadly Seven: Stories from the Black Parade series, She Who Fights Monsters, Back to Black, and The Holy Dark. All of them can be found here and on all other sales platforms as well. The first book has been positively reviewed by Publishers Weekly and by New York Times and USA Today bestselling urban fantasy author, Ilona Andrews. It is also permanently free to download on all sales channels.   

-Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda anthology: This is a 2021 release by Marvel Comics and Titans Books featuring yours truly and 17 other incredibly talented black and African/African-American authors writing about the world of Wakanda. My story is called “Ukubamba” and it’s about Okoye searching for a kidnapped girl. Go here to get a copy in ebook or hardcover: https://titanbooks.com/70432-black-panther-tales-of-wakanda/

-Terminus and Terminus II anthologies: There are both anthologies with science fiction and fantasy stories based in Atlanta, Georgia published by MV Media LLC. My stories are “My Dinner with Vlad” and “Hunted,” both about a werewolf named Cassandra Moody, who is the original Wolfman’s daughter. In the first story, she’s taking Dracula, known to her simply as Vlad, out into Midtown Atlanta for a night on the town and they both run headlong into trouble. The second story, “Hunted,” is Cassandra about five years later out for a midnight stroll through the woods and she realizes she’s being stalked. Grab copies here: https://www.mvmediaatl.com/all-products

 All other works by me can be found here: http://shewhowritesmonsters.com/my-books/

Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s been a pleasure! 

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The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC): Team Red Stars Semifinalists

It’s a hugely exciting day, because today we get to announce our team’s top 3 books. That means we’ve gone as a group from 31 books down to 10, then down to 3. These are the best of the best, folks. And, as a bonus, I have my own personal choice for a book that didn’t make it based on our group’s votes but that I personally would include.

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

My full review of this one is still pending, but suffice to say this is an absolute masterwork. It’s got all the thoughtful brilliance of The Forever War, but asks even more questions and has better characters. Fans of military sci-fi will love it, and those interested in thoughtful science fiction should consider it a must read.

Age of Order by Julian North

It’s a dystopia in a school with enough twists and turns that it had several judges swooning. The emphasis on justice is strong, and the characters are fantastic. My full review.

Of Cinder & Bone by Kyoko M.

It’s like Jurassic Park but with dragons, better characters, and a bigger plot happening behind the scenes. My full review.


The Trellis by Jools Cantor

Unfettered capitalism meets a murder investigation in this surprising novel. The group didn’t choose this one for its top 3, but this would have been one of my personal top 3. I think it is superb. My full review.

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The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– Check out all of my posts related to the SPSFC here!

Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


SPSFC Book Review: “Of Cinder and Bone” by Kyoko M.

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

Of Cinder and Bone was one of only three books that my group unanimously selected to go into our round of full reads. The group was intrigued by its strong, fun characters and hints of a dragon plot mixed with some sci-fi. I personally thought it was a kind of Jurassic Park with dragons and stronger characters scenario and was all in from the get-go.

Now I’ve finished the book, and I think the strengths that were clear at the beginning didn’t let me down. The characters in the novel are real, living people that you want to root for or smack upside the head by turns. Even minor characters get significant development, with a few of them almost supplanting the core three characters to take over the story. That last bit hints at my main problem with the novel, but more on that later.

The main story follows Jack and Kamala, two scientists struggling to bring back the long-lost dragons from the grave. Alongside them is Faye, a fireball of a woman who carries the plot in every scene in which she appears. Although she’s “just Kamala’s roommate,” she steals the show time and again as her interactions with the others move the character development in sometimes surprising ways. The scientists manage to get a dragon in a very Jurassic Park-esque manner, but then it’s promptly stolen, thrusting our mains into a dark world of Yakuza and more to figure out what’s going on.

This is where I have a minor gripe–the story gets pretty drawn out at times in this major middle section, as Jack, Kamala, Faye, and many, many side characters hop in to create a sometimes dizzying narrative of hard science fantasy, dragons, and corporate intrigue. It becomes necessary to truly slow down and concentrate on the flow of the story for fear of missing major plot points. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it did detract from my personal enjoyment as the novel moved from an expected fun, easy-to-read romp to a jungle of names, locations, and people each with their own motivations. Some of the major points about dragons that were raised early on disappeared into the background until they were suddenly thrust at readers again towards the end. I found myself almost experiencing whiplash with how quickly big movements happened in the last quarter. All of this is to say, don’t let the first fun impressions fool you–this book requires some thinking and effort. But lighthearted humor and great moments are found all the way through.

The bulk of the enjoyment comes, again, from the characters and their interactions. Yes, dragons are cool. Yes, there’s some hard sci-fi and made up history of dragons thrown in there. I honestly wanted way more fake paleontology related to dragons. I would have eaten that up. But the core of the novel’s strength is in these characters, and there are some major side characters who direct the plot along. These feel like real people, with some true development happening between chapters. I loved them.

Kyoko M. has created a truly fascinating alternate now that is carried by some of the strongest characters I’ve encountered in this contest. While it didn’t maintain the tone I personally hoped for all the way through, the plot was satisfying and the conclusion has me wanting more. Of Cinder and Bone is a great story with fantastic characters.

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Science Fiction Hub– I have scores of reviews of Hugo nominees, Vintage Sci-Fi, modern sci-fi, TV series, and more! Check out my science fiction related writings here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


Announcing Team Red Stars SPSFC Round of 100 reads- The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest

We’ve done it! Team Red Stars has narrowed our 31 selections for the SPSFC down to 10. 10 groups have done so, which means the remaining books are the top 100 out of about 300 entries into the SPSFC! Without further ado, here are our 10 books for the round of 100, along with some comments on each!

Of Cinder and Bone by Kyoko M.

Our whole group was enthused about this read from the sample we read. We loved the character-driven drama and the hints at science-y, dragon-y plot. I have since finished the book and will have a review coming… eventually!

The Shepherd Protocol by Fowler Brown

The group was sold on this AI/Robot mystery that seemed to get deeper the more we read of it. I personally quite enjoy the cover art–it’s not often you see art in this style, which looks like a kind of advanced colored pencil drawing.

The Trellis by Jools Cantor

I may as well say it: I’m a sucker for the mashup of science fiction and mystery. The Trellis has that from the get-go, and Cantor also sprinkles in some commentary on unfettered capitalism and more as the novel gets going. I am about halfway through and it’s captured me completely.

Zenith by Arshad Ahsanuddin

Another character-driven drama, with this one set in space. I found the characters compelling, and it was exciting to see representation of characters outside the norm for science fiction.

Refraction Wick Welker

This story takes place in three different time periods spanning from our past to a future a few hundred years from now. The group was into the main characters, as well as intrigued by the way the plot hinted at bigger things to come.

Age of Order by Julian North

Our group had a bunch of dystopias, and this one was one that stuck out from the crowd with its setting and potential for big implications about its world. We also liked the main character, for whom we’re all rooting!

Wherever Seeds May Fall by Peter Cawdron

I couldn’t stop reading this first contact/hard sci-fi novel by Peter Cawdron. It just kept getting bigger and more intriguing as it went on, and I think it’s just a wonderfully told and timely story. Others in the group enjoyed the tone and were interested to see where the plot goes.

Dog Country by Malcolm F. Cross

Our group enthusiastically selected this no-luck military sci-fi drama that intensely focuses on character-driven plot. I have finished it since, and I’ll save my main thoughts for the review; for now, let’s just say the story is as good as its cover.

Extinction Reversed by J. S. Morin

Artificially intelligent robots are trying to revive the human race in this touching novel about robots. I wasn’t entirely sold on it until I got about 20% in, but it truly starts to ramp up from there. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Above the Sky by J.W. Lynne

Our group dug this dystopia (maybe–it’s not clear if it’s a dystopia or simply playing on the subgenre’s tropes yet) about a looming threat that lingers above the sky. I admit I’ve been sitting on it, waiting for a good moment to start truly diving in. I anticipate savoring it based on the sample I read.

First Round Status

As a group, we’ve determined our final 10 books. I have several posts in the docket to show how I came to my personal top 10, as well. 8 of my personal top 10 made our quarterfinalists, which is pretty exciting for me. So what’s next? More book reviews and discussions. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you think in the comments!

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The Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC) Hub– my hub post with links to all of my other posts related to the SPSFC.

Announcing Our SPSFC Round One Top Ten!– Red Star Reviews has his own write-up related to our group’s reads.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!