Interview with C.L. Denault: Gambit (+ GIVEAWAY)

C.L. Denault is a speculative fiction writer who loves dreaming up tales of adventure and intrigue. Her debut novel, Gambit, was released on March 31, 2015 and is the first part in a Young Adult dystopian series (that will, according to Shealea, definitely kick ass).

Cary graduated from the University of Central Missouri with honors and a degree in Computer Information Systems. However, she was prompted to leave her career as a systems analyst behind in order to stay home with her children (including a son with special needs). Currently, she can typically be spotted in Illinois, usually in some obscure, shadowy corner of a hip coffeehouse, or at home.

Cary loves to connect with people (especially those from other planets, dimensions, and the future). To find her, you may refer to the social media links provided below or visit The INFJ Café. Or use a Stargate. Whichever is easiest.


Hi, Cary! I’ve heard (or rather, read) that you’re fond of reading and watching sci-fi. What are your recommendations?

Hi, Shealea! Thanks for having me on your blog!

Wow, this is tough. As an 80’s teen, I grew up with some amazing sci-fi movie franchises, so I’m sort of old school. My all-time favorite is the Terminator series, but I also have soft spots for Star Trek, Predator, and the Alien movies. It’s the same with books. I love older novels like Contact and Jurassic Park—anything by Michael Crichton, really—and the short story “Flowers for Algernon” has haunted me for years.

But I love newer sci-fi, too, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Matrix, X-Men, and Avengers series. Also, Interstellar and Project Almanac were excellent standalones. I haven’t read much new sci-fi lately, but Seveneves and The Water Knife are waiting in my iBooks library. Those look really promising!

Have you watched the X-Men: Apocalypse film? Did you enjoy it? Since we’re already on this topic, who among the X-Men characters do you like the most?

Yes, I recently saw the Apocalypse film and loved it! The timeline reset has been really cool to watch, and I love how they’re setting things up. Plus, the uniforms get better with each movie, haha.

Ultimately, my favorite character is Jean Grey, but there are a handful of others that I adore—Wolverine, Mystique, Charles, Gambit, and Rogue. Magneto also has a certain jaded charm. But I love Jean the most. Her blend of innocence and dark power is intriguing.

As a Computer Information Systems degree holder and programmer, how would you rate your prowess in mathematics?

Well, math doesn’t come as naturally to me as writing, but I can dive in and conquer it when I need to. I’m a very determined person and if math is required of me, I knuckle down and get it done. But I’d much rather be writing.


Obviously, I am in love with the way you wrote your debut novel, Gambit. There’s definitely a distinctive eloquence in your style. Would you care to tell us more about your writing process? How much and how often you write, how you edit – things like that.

Thank you! I’m so glad you like it! My process is pretty straightforward. I write as often as possible and try to get the general ideas down first. My rough drafts are skeletal, somewhat formal, and need a lot of work. So I fatten things up and then go back and proofread—time and time again. It works best if there are breaks between revisions, and when I can finally read the manuscript without wanting to improve something, it’s done.

What do you do whenever you fall into a writing slump?

Generally, I take a break. A slump means I’m either overthinking or under-motivated. The best thing for me is to step back, relax, read or watch movies, and wait for the flow to return.

Aside from The Prodigy Chronicles, are you working on other novels? Will your other works also fall under the dystopian, sci-fi genre?

I actually have quite a few novels started. They’re all grounded in sci-fi, but some include paranormal and horror elements. The one with the most progress, Slipstream, is about 30 percent complete—it’s a time-travel standalone, and I’m looking forward to finishing it someday.


In your first book, which character was the easiest to write about? And which character did you have the most difficulty with?

Willow was by far the easiest character. She’d been running around in my imagination for quite some time, and I couldn’t hold her back. Thess turned out to be the most difficult. While he’s not a complete jerk, I had to show his bad side up front, and that was tough.

One of the things that appealed to me in Gambit is the way you incorporated genetic engineering and solar-dependent technological advances in your world-building. It seems you’ve given this a lot of thought. How do you research on these things? Where does all this knowledge come from?

Some of my knowledge comes from watching and reading so much science fiction. Genetic manipulation is a common theme in sci-fi movies—X-Men and Splice, for example—and solar/wind technology is often portrayed as mankind’s go-to energy source when the global power systems fail. So I already had a little background in it, and I built on that by scouring the web for articles and documentaries. As a fiction writer, I have room to stretch the truth, but I try hard to ground my world in reality so that readers have a grid for the scenarios I’m creating.

Are any of your characters based on yourself or people you know in real life?

The only real-life character I’ve created is Patchie Kent, who is the very essence of my mother. Mom was my best friend and the most loyal, loving woman I’ve ever known. What’s funny is that I didn’t realize I was writing her in until I started editing. But it felt right. Intuitively. So I went with it, shaping Patchie bit by bit, making sure to bring out her keen mind, tender heart, protectiveness, and unconditional love. It was a deeply personal way to honor my mother and give her a unique place in history.

Do you think your readers will eventually learn to love Morry Roanoke?

That’s a good question. I don’t know. Morry has experienced her own fair share of trauma and learned early on how to hide it. She’s spent years covering up her hurts with layers of manipulation and deceit. If I end up unraveling some of that, it’s possible that a few readers will come to appreciate her. But it’s hard to say if that will make her more lovable.

This is probably an unpopular opinion but Reese is the least likable character for me. What character development can we expect from Reese in the next installment?

I think Reece is one of those characters you either love or you hate. No one seems to feel indifferent about him. But I haven’t revealed much about his past or what drives him. There is sooo much more to him than meets the eye, and finding Willow is a significant turning point in his life. He’s being forced into action and also into redefining himself. I think he’ll surprise readers in the sequel.

I’m amazed with how the game references (e.g. gambit, wild card) really tie the story together. What inspired you to use them?

My first inspiration came while writing the scene where Kane calls Willow a wild card. Up to that point, I had barely referenced game terminology. But I wanted Kane’s metaphor to have greater impact, so I rewrote the scene with the wagering miners and gave card playing a larger role. Later, when my publishing team helped me come up with the title Gambit, I built on the existing game theme by working in chess references. I was pleased with how it all worked out, and super-pleased that the title matches the name of an X-Men character

I’ve been dying to ask you this for the longest time! Do you already have a title for Gambit’s sequel?

I do!! I have titles for all three upcoming books, and there’s kind of a fun story behind how they came to me. I’m just waiting to finish Book 2 before making the announcement.

I’ve read your interview with Rafael from The Royal Polar Bear Reads and you said that there would be at least three books for The Prodigy Chronicles. In Gambit, you cited Core cities other than the one based in London. Is there a possibility that we would one day get to read about Core cities outside of UK?

Yes, there’s a whole world outside of the London Core, and it took me about a month to build it. You wouldn’t believe the amount of history I created. Willow’s story is tightly focused on Callayo, but there are other Core cities that influence what goes on in her world. The sequel will bring in one of them, and I hope to include more as the series evolves.

Okay, finally, I just have to ask about the character I love the most. Can we expect to see and read more about Aspen Tiernam in the succeeding books?

I love all my characters, but Asp is pretty special to me, and he has a vital role to play in this series. Don’t worry, you haven’t seen the last of him!

This isn’t a question, but can I just say, you are the loveliest, most approachable author I’ve ever come across! Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Aww, you’re such a sweetheart! And this has been a lot of fun, so thank you for having me. Take care!


With more than 3,100 words, my 5-star book review for Gambit remains as the longest one I’ve written to date! Honestly, it probably could have reached ten thousand words had I not constantly berated myself. I bet with the right motivation, enough sleep and an inappropriate amount of tequila rose, I can probably write numerous sonnets depicting my love for this book. Okay, I’m clearly exaggerating. Nonetheless, despite my reservations regarding its romance aspect (hesitations which I tackled on in my review), Gambit is a story I cannot stop thinking about.

And I think everyone is aware of this fact, mainly because I spend a significant portion of my blog mentioning Cary’s novel. A significant portion that I won’t ever be sorry about, by the way. I love talking about books I really enjoyed reading. It becomes even better when I succeed in convincing someone to give the book a try or when I end up introducing the story to someone who’s never heard of it. Really, when Jam @ Heartscent Reads told me via Twitter that she first came across Gambit through my blog, I felt all giddy and extremely kilig! (Segue: Be sure to check out Jam’s blog after you finish reading this lengthy post! She’s wonderful and probably more photogenic than I ever will be. HAHAHA.) (Segue the sequel: If this interview convinced you to look into Gambit, let me know in the comments so I can happily squeal and mentally pat myself on the back for a job well done!)

You can definitely secure your own copy of Gambit via Amazon or The Book Depository!

By the way, signed paperback copies of Gambit, along with complimentary Gambit-inspired necklaces, are currently up for grabs!

Twitter: @bookshelfbitchInstagramGoodreadsBloglovin’


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First of her name. Queen of millennials and the constantly caffeinated. Protector of books. Breaker of norms. Iskolar ng bayan.

8 thoughts on “Interview with C.L. Denault: Gambit (+ GIVEAWAY)”

  1. What a fun interview! You ask really interesting questions and while I have no clue as to who these characters are, since I haven’t read Gambit YET, I still really enjoyed reading this 😁 (Oh and yes, I did learn about this novel through your blog and there’s a chance I’ll get to it one day)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *squeals happily*
      *mentally pats self on back*

      Aww, you’ve no idea how happy your comment made me! 😊 Gambit is a book that definitely deserves more love and more readers, so I’m very glad I convinced you to at least look into it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OHMYGOD! THIS IS PERFECT AND AWESOME BOTH AT THE SAME TIME. AND AS ALWAYS, CARY, IS IN HER BEST ANSWERING QUESTIONS! Thank you so much! I swear, Gambit, is one of my favorite indie book that I’ve acrossed with. I would die for a copy of a book much more a signed one!

    Liked by 1 person

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