Tag Archives: Interviews

Q&A with Mark Lawrence

In which I ask Mark Lawrence, author of the The Broken Empire, and The Red Queen’s War, questions regarding horse-sized mercenary ducks, his writing process, and the future of his writing.

 


 

 

1) Typically, I start off interviews with “Tell us something about yourself that we might not know,” but.. instead, I’m going to ask: “If you were a box of cereal, and a horse-sized mercenary duck wanted to eat you.. How would you convince it not to?”

M: Well I guess the easiest out is to note the word ‘mercenary’ and to assume as a sentient box of cereal I would have made millions on chat shows. So I would just pay the mercenary not to eat me. Simples.

2) Once you’ve finished The Red Queen’s War, will you be writing more in that world, or go for something new? What are your plans for the future?

M: I tend not to have plans for the next page, so having plans for a future so distant is not something I do. It’s not a particularly distant future as it happens, since I’m 95,000 words into the third book of the trilogy, so I should be finished before the year’s out.

At the moment I feel like I’ve spent enough time in the Broken Empire. But who knows what will happen when I look at a blank page. I could return to my weird gunslinger fantasy, Gunlaw, and rework that. I could try some literary fiction. I could do some dystopian YA fiction and make billions… it’s always an exciting time when you put one project to bed.

3) For new readers, would you recommend they start with The Broken Empire? Or can they jump right into The Red Queen’s War?

M:If they think they’d enjoy The Broken Empire trilogy then new readers should pick up Prince of Thorns. If the book looks too dark and violent for their tastes then perhaps Prince of Fools would be the place to start. It certainly has more laughs in it! It’s been reviewed by plenty of people who haven’t read the first trilogy and they all really liked it.

4) Are you more of a discovery writer, or an out-liner? What’s your writing process like?

M: Generally I just start typing without a plan. And that’s the whole of my writing process. For my 6th book – the last book of The Red Queen’s War trilogy I had a go at planning, just writing a rough outline of events. I’ve stuck to it, mostly. The experience hasn’t seemed so different. Most of the excitement for me is on a page by page basis so whether I have a plan or not I’m still surprising and entertaining myself as I write.

5) You’re probably one of the most active authors on social media. You constantly run giveaways and contests, and take the time to respond and engage with your readers. How do you balance the time between that, your personal life, and writing? Is it difficult?

M: I don’t find it difficult. It’s probably because as the sole carer for a very disabled child (my youngest daughter, 10), and having a day-job when she’s at school, and having writing to do at night … I really don’t have the opportunity for much of a personal life!

6) What are your thoughts on The Broken Empire Trilogy hypothetically being adapted for the big (or small) screen?

I’m all for it. I would enjoy the $$$ and it would be interesting to see what they did with it. There have been several approaches from significant figures in Hollywood but I’m told the boot-to-film game involves a lot of dancing around, false starts, and in most cases leads nowhere. Studios like to have a lot of options and keep lots of irons in the fire.

7) Who’s your favourite author?

For fantasy it would be a toss up between JRR Tolkien and GRR Martin – sorry to anyone hoping to discover a new author!

8) What are you currently reading?

The Name of the Wind

Thanks a bunch, Mark! 


 

Mark Lawrence’s newest novel, Prince of Fools, was released June 3rd.

18191460 POF UK

Check it out on:
Amazon [US], [CA], [UK]
Goodreads

Liar’s Key (Book 2 of The Red Queen’s War) is set to be released June of next year.


My interview with Patricia Briggs

First off — I would like to apologize. I conducted this interview back in April, the same weekend as the Steven Erikson one. I’ve been out of the country, and haven’t really had the time to sit down and prepare this.

Back at Ad Astra in Toronto, I had the chance to chat with the lovely Patricia Briggs, where she spoke of convincing her husband that she was a serial killer, her future projects and imaginary friends, research, coyotes and a myriad of other topics.

I hope you enjoy the listen!

One thing that I’ve noticed from the stats of previous interviews I’ve posted, is that the audio gets listened to much more than the transcripts get read. That being said, unless it’s requested, I won’t be posting the transcripts.

[Note — I don’t mind making up the transcripts, but it does take a couple hours. If it’s something people want, I’m perfectly happy doing it. Just that if it’s not necessary.. I won’t.]


Interview with Steven Erikson

Last weekend at Ad Astra, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan series. We talked about his future publications, Malazan, art, his favourite novel and more. It’s fairly lengthy, but I suppose that’s rather appropriate!

As I did with the interview I did last year at Ad Astra, I’m also providing the audio recording to the interview I did with Mr. Erikson. If you can forgive both my awkwardness and the background noise, I encourage you to take a listen! There’s a bit more in there than there is in the transcript — just some of the small off-topic remarks and such like that.

 

 

[As per usual, R = Myself, and S = Steven Erikson]

R: Hello, I’m here with Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan series.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

S: I used to be an archaeologist, working for about 20 seasons in the field in central Canada, mostly, as well as Central America (and the States). I was in a Masters program for archaeology when I dropped out to take a writing program at the University of Victoria. From there, I went onto a writing program at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Curiously, I think I learned more in the undergraduate at University of Victoria than I did in Iowa. But Iowa gave me two more years in which to write, which was great.

I was not writing fantasy – the closest thing I came to writing in terms of fantasy would be what they call magic realism. Beyond that, I’ve been writing full time for about 15 years, and by last count, I had 22 books published.

R: Very nice.

So, has your experience as an archaeologist at all influenced your writing?

S: Massively, yes. The Malazan world is actually co-created between myself and Ian C. Esslemont, or Cam as I know him. We were both archaeologists, and we met on a project in north-west Ontario. We became close friends, and ended up sharing a flat in Victoria, and we gamed a lot. In the gaming, we started to build this secondary world, this Malazan world, and its history. We did that for years.

We played through a lot of characters, and it certainly gave some depth to the world we were creating. As archaeologists and anthropologists we were both interested in a kind of realistic portrayal of this other world, so the geography, geology, history, cultures, everything’s based on what we knew about the dynamics of social evolution.

R: Very interesting.

And you wrote your magic realism under your real name, so why ‘Erikson’?

S: My second book was published when I was in the UK, and it’s been re-released under Erikson, it’s This River Awakens. At the time though, it was published under Steve Lundin. And then I signed for publishing Gardens of the Moon with a different publisher, and the publishers of the original book, This River Awakens, contacted my agent and said “Well, we don’t want the same name for this genre versus contemporary fiction”, so I had to come up with a pseudonym.

R: Alright

S: Which I did, which was my mother’s maiden name.

R: That works.

So, it was Gollancz that approached you right?

S: You mean for the original book?

R: Yes.

S: No, I’d written Gardens of the Moon eight years previously, and I could not find a publisher. I’d tried, I sent it (without an agent) from Canada to New York to Del Rey, Tor, and a number of others. It would sit there for 12-18 months, and then it’d come back to me.

So I shelved it, and went back to contemporary fiction. But then, when I was living in the UK, I sort of polished it up, and got it to my agent. He started marketing it, and Bantam UK picked it up. It was after that, when I was finishing the second book, that I had one of my first conventions I ever went to, my Bantam editor could not come. So I was left on my own, basically, at the convention… So the people at Gollancz kind of took me up under their wing and took me out for Chinese, or whatever it was. In the course of that evening, I was asked when Bantam was publishing the second book. So I said “Well, I don’t know, they haven’t signed it yet.” That’s when the rival bid came in, pretty much the next day.

R: That’s sweet.

S: Yeah, but I stayed with Bantam… They matched the bid. That signed me up for nine years and nine books.

R: Alright.

You were part of a writing group, I believe…

S: Very early on, yeah.

R: Have any of them had any success? Who was in it?

S: Two have had fair success. Ian Ross, who is one of them, he’s known throughout Canada… and David Keck has published his first two books through Tor of his fantasy series, and I think he’s hoping to finish the third and final one this summer.

R: Ah, alright.

Now, I’ve mostly been trying to steer away from Malazan questions—but there are a couple—because I know you’re pretty much inundated by those questions all the time… but what are your thoughts on it ever being adapted to the small or big screen?

S: It’s a huge series, with a lot of characters… and I actually think it’s probably impossible. It’s unlike, for example, Game of Thrones which is kind of inwardly focused on a particular group of characters, which is a very manageable approach to a storyline… mine just sprawls. It sprawls across continents, multiple cities, it’s absolutely massive.

The only time I thought it could actually make it, would be to turn every novel into a trilogy of films, and then film like crazy and produce (and release) ten films a year, for three years. That would do it… In terms of television, it would be a challenge.

R: Alright, I was just wondering, because a couple of your works were optioned, weren’t they, at one point?

S: No not really, I’ve had screenplays optioned, and rights sold… Not really any of the Malazan stuff.

R: Ahh, okay.

What are you planning on writing in the future? I know you’ve got your Kharkanas trilogy, what else is there for you?

S: I’m presently writing the second book of the Kharkanas trilogy, and it is just taking longer than any of the other books I’ve ever written. Stephen Donaldson talks of not ‘writer’s block’, but of ‘life block’. It’s basically other things in your life getting in the way of the actual writing process. When I sit down and write, it comes out just fine, but I’ve had so many other unexpected barriers to actually sitting down to write. I’m hoping to get it done by the end of this summer though.

If my agent or my editor hears this, he’s going to be screaming and tearing his hair out. It is running late, but it’s just what it does. And, I did take a break from it because I felt I needed it. So, I wrote a 75,000 word science fiction spoof called Willful Child, which is coming out in November. [Read the first chapter here] I had so much fun with that, I’m certainly planning on more volumes in that.

R: So that’s more humour based?

S: Oh yeah. I’m paying homage to Star Trek specifically. Especially The Original Series. I had a lot of fun with it.

R: Does sound like it could be a fun one.

Do you think the second Kharkanas book will end up being postponed? Or do you still think it’ll be on target for the 2015 release date?

S: I hope we can get it out for the 2015 release date.

R: Alright.

Also, would you suggest that readers, who haven’t read any of your Malazan, start with that?

S: It’s hard to say, I mean, I was hoping that with the first one, Forge of Darkness, that somebody new to my writing would be able to step in. I don’t know how many people have done that. Most of my readers, from what I can understand, are coming from the Malazan series. So, it’s hard to say. I mean, it’s written so that you could just step in, if you wanted to.

R: Ah, cause yeah, your writing is known for being intimidating, and for being hard to get into. So, I’m guessing it could also just be people who haven’t started reading your writing yet, may be a bit wary..

S: Maybe. It might be… But my sense is that a lot of people waited for me to finish the series, and they’re buying the Malazan series now, because it is done.

I don’t blame them. I mean, there are a lot of writers out there who have begun series but for whatever reason have not, or could not finish… and that’s hard for a reader, because you invest so much into it. So, I’m relieved that I could finish the series more or less on time. Now it’s there for anyone to pick up and read.

R: Yeah, and with the trilogy it’s also easier to just wait for it to be done and pick it up then.

S: I think that’s what’s going to happen. Have you read Forge of Darkness?

R: Yep.

S: It’s a very different style, wasn’t it?

R: Quite.

S: And I am signed for three more after that, which will return us to the Malazan world, and the story of Karsa Orlong.

R: Well, that answers my two next questions.

S: Yep. Three books, picking up where we left off with Karsa, more or less. And of course, Cam has signed for (I think) three books to do the early empire stuff.

R: Alright, so you’re not at all finished with that universe or anything.

S: No, I don’t think so. Though, I could never do another ten book series. Even three books may end up proving more of a challenge than I expect. It’s a world that still has room for exploration.

R: Definitely. When you create a vast world like that, I think there’s always going to be more room for exploration.

Do you have any new publications coming out under Steve Lundin?

S: No, I’ve pretty much stopped that. Most of the stuff I’d written under that name has now been reissued under Steven Erikson.

R: Alright… and your Warren’s magic system, what was the process of creating that? Or the inspiration for that? It’s very different.

S: It was a very organic creation between Cam and myself through the gaming systems. We started out very early on doing D&D, and we abandoned it and picked it up on GURPS (the Generic Universal RolePlaying System), Steve Jackson’s system, which we found much more flexible. Using their magic system as it stood, worked fine in the games, but we actually wanted to create more options. So we thought of the notions of rather than having four elements, have multiple elements. Some of those elements would be light, shadow, darkness, life and death… So all of these became the aspect of Warren’s that the characters could draw from, in terms of building up a list of spells.

It was generated out of the need of gaming, more than anything else. It also suited very well in what we were doing when we finally sat down to write in that world. It seemed to be a very good system. And the other thing was to just use it, and don’t explain it. That keeps the mystery.

R: Yeah, and I feel like that does make it a bit more real. Like, you don’t explain why light’s work, when you turn on a light switch… It’s just there, it’s part of the culture, and everything.

Alright.. and the ‘evil’ question. What is your favourite book?

S: Probably Grendel which is written by John Gardner, primarily for what it did for me when I first read it. Because I was in the University of Victoria. I was struggling with all the demands it placed on writing and how you actually find your voice, and how you find your way through it, and how you manage language. I was having a hard time with that.

Well, my instructor, Jack Hodgins, directed me towards John Gardner’s writing, and his non-fiction, what he called “moral fiction”, which moved in opposition to William Gass’s position. Where Gass would say that you have no responsibility towards your characters, and that they can do whatever they want; there’s no moral or ethical framework with which to create a story.

It was John Gardner who said it was actually the other way around, and that you have an immense responsibility toward your characters, and towards your story, and by extension to that, the audience. I really took to that.

One of his books deconstructed the opening of Grendel, in terms of use of language, and sentence patterns, sentence rhythms, cadence, and reading that was an utter revelation to me. Because, it showed me what was possible with the language. That you could actually frame a sentence… if you have a sentence describing an awkward thought, you can frame it awkwardly, which I really like. Once I realized that you’re free to do these things and that you can mess with language to that extent, it just set me on my way basically.

The novel then just holds that place for me in my heart. This is where my eyes opened, it’s my book of revelations.

R: Definitely sounds good. It’s a good reason.

S: Have you read it?

R: Nope, I’ll look it up later though.

S: It’s a short book that’s utterly brilliant.

R: Alright, I’m always looking for more book recommendations. Especially since I’ve got a long flight coming up in a few days.

S: Oh, right! Well, it’s basically Beowulf from the point of view of the monster. It’s the monster’s voice. It’s Grendel’s voice.

R: Fantastic.

You know, I’m used to a more “How could you ask that question?” response to that question, ‘what’s your favourite book’. Most don’t like it at all.

S: Really? Interesting.

I mean, we grow up with certain books that for whatever reason, they reach us at the right time. For a lot of fantasy fans, that would have been Tolkien in their teens, or Jordan, or anything along those lines. Those become our gateway drugs. And it’s funny because if you go back, when I first started reading, really. It was Burroughs’ Tarzan, and John Carter of Mars, and mostly I actually bought books originally because of the covers which were painted by Frank Frazetta. Phenomenal art. I started as an illustrator, so I was interested in the art rather than the content.

I was of that age though, 12 or 13, that I got caught up in the romantic adventures that Burroughs was writing really took me. But you go back to it, it’s very difficult to read now. And I was talking with a podcast for Gary Wolfe and Ian MacDonald, and we were talking just about this… about going back to the early works that inspired us. It occurred to me, that when we go back and read these things, we’re actually (and we’re often disappointed by what we’re reading) because what inspired us when we were 13 or 14, now we get to see the bones of the construction of the story or whatever. But what I think what we strive to go back towards, and the reason for rereading all of it, involves a nostalgia for a sense for wonder and discovery. So that’s what we keep trying to find again, and when new books arrive and we go into the bookstore, you’re hoping to capture that sense of discovery all over again in a new book.

Because going back, as much as you’ve read something that’s familiar from when you were 13 or 14, you can capture it, but it’s a very nostalgic sense. But I think that’s what drives us to buy new books again and again. It’s that sense of discovery.

R: Yeah, because even if it’s the same basic plot line, and everything it’s still.. a new book, a new world, and anything can happen.

Do you have any favourite authors? Other than Gardner?

S: Well, Glen Cook definitely… He was a huge inspiration for me. Stephen Donaldson was probably the biggest because I came to it in my late teens, early twenties… the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and suddenly it was as if, with that series, fantasy had grown up. It was no longer straddling YA sort of approach to the genre. With Donaldson, it really grew up. So those two definitely were huge inspirations for me.

R: And did you attend any conventions before you became an author?

S: One, David Keck, myself and Ian Ross – that little writing group, we did the World Fantasy Awards Con when it was in Winnipeg. We published a little chapbook, in that, there’s actually a scene from Gardens of the Moon. It’s a very early scene, on the rooftops.

R: Cool. Have you noticed your experience at conventions changing as you’ve become more well known, or just gotten more experience going to them?

S: I suppose. Once you start arriving as a guest of honour, everything changes. But I’ve been going to the WFC for many years, just as a writer. I don’t think that’s changed in a huge respect. It’s just you now meet writers and you can sit and chat with them. It’s great fun.

R: Authors do tend to be good people, from what I’ve noticed.

S: We certainly try. It’s important to pay attention – and it goes back to what Gardner said about respecting your audiences… You do have to respect your audience. If you don’t, it shows. It shows in the stories you write, and that can burn you in the long run.

R: You’ve been inundated by questions for years now, but are there any questions you’ve been wanting to have been asked, or topics you’ve been wanting to explore in interviews, but haven’t been asked about?

S: I don’t think so. I mean, I do like Q&A’s and stuff after I’ve done a reading, and when people want to talk about the process of writing. I’ve written on that on a site called lifeasahuman.com. All about the process and mechanics of writing.

Workshops and programs for writing, they’re not to create talent, it’s what you bring to it. Your proclivities. It’s all about craft. Once you sort of understand the terminology for narrative structure, then that’s when you can come to realize the potential of what you can do with your story. So, I like those kind of questions, deconstructive questions, on the language that you can use.

R: Alright. I figured those would be among the main questions that you’d always be asked.. The process of writing, outlining and everything.

S: Outlining, yes. But I’ve never really had in a Q&A someone reading back a line I’d written, and have them say “How did you put that together?”

R: Well then! Let’s see….

S: Obviously find an evocative line..

R: Not just “Quick Ben entered the room beyond.”?

S: No.

R: You’ve got great imagery, so it’s like, how to choose one?

S: Well, I’m very cinematic because I started as an illustrator. But I found that most of my artwork had an inherent narrative of some form. So I had a thought, well, maybe I’ll go into comic books. Back then though, comic books and comic book art was hard. You needed the equipment. There was stuff out there that I just couldn’t get a hold of, and couldn’t afford even if I wanted to. So that sort of got me into just writing it instead of illustrating it.

The creative process though is exactly the same, it’s very visual. I become a camera, and I’ll sit on someone’s shoulder or whatever and enter into any scene. It’s not a question of relaying every detail we see in a room. Those details you choose have to serve the story. Not only the details you choose, but the details you choose not to mention serve the story. Because by choosing certain details in a room, you’re actually putting a lot of emphasis on them, so they need to serve more than one function generally.

R: Are comic books something you’ve considered going back to, or ever thought of, now that it’s a bit more accessible and there’s more ways to do it?

S: No. Illustrating, drawing, painting… I think it’s similar to writing in the sense that if you get out of practise, you get out of practise. I’d basically have to stop writing. They come out of the same creative well. If I’m painting, for example, I’m not writing. And when I’m writing, I’m certainly not painting.

So, I’d have to go back and spend 2-3 years becoming familiar with drawing and illustrating in and of it self. Again, it’s not something I’ve really thought of doing, I’m having too much fun with writing.

R: Going back to your imagery, I do like this sentence… “Her laughter had been the final punctuation to all his dreams.” It’s a beautiful sentence.

S: Hm.. What can I say to that one? Well, so much of what I’m sort of obsessed with in a sense is point of view. By anchoring the point of view to a specific character, you’re closing a lot of doors, but you’re also creating a situation whereby you can actually tell and show far less than you would have to if your point of view was an omniscient one. Then you start playing games like “What does this character know?” and “What does the character believe?” And if you stay close to it, you realize that every point of view is an unreliable source of narration.

Once you’ve created all these characters with their own points of view, that’s how you build your world. With each character though, it’s a limited and sometimes erroneous view of the world. I mentioned last night in a panel that it’s as if you’ve got this invisible rock, and in order to give it shape, you slap clay on it. And that’s what all these points of view are. Underneath all that, your rock remains invisible. That’s the world itself. All I’m doing is slapping clay on it from various angles, points of views, and thickness. In terms of sensibility and sensitivity of the characters, and that’s what creates that world. I think the effect it has is to actually make the world seem bigger and much more filled with detail. Even though you don’t have to provide all that detail. You echo it, you create connotation rather than the denotation.

R: Yeah, because everyone has a different perspective on the world, different view points…

S: Of course, with that close point of view, you sit on their shoulder, you can dip into their heads and then slip back out. So long as you’re consistent, and you do a one point of view per character kind of thing.

R: You close doors, but open windows, kinda thing.

S: In a way, yeah.

R: So, are your next three, that are going to be set in this universe… are they going to be much the same style, where you either love it, or can’t get through it?

S: I think they will fall back to the 10 book style. Because what I’m doing with the Kharkanas trilogy is quite self-contained. It’s a bit more Shakespearean. There’s an intensity to the language, a poetic bias to it. Which is well suited to what I’m doing right now, but would not be suited to Karsa Orlong. It’s a bit more headlong.

R: Ah, yeah, there’s a bit of a steep learning curve for when you’re getting into the series. I remember when I first picked Gardens of the Moon up, and I read the introduction.

S: It’s a perennial question. In a sense, Gardens of the Moon is a kind of instruction manual as well on how to read me, and how to immerse yourself in the world. I guess in that respect, it’s the litmus test for the reader. You either stay with it, or you don’t. Might as well find out in the first book, rather than five books later.

R: Yeah… That would be a bit tough, getting five books then…

S: It’s important for me that people are prepared… you know, if I’m going to reach out, I want to take their hand and guide them through this. We’ll come out the other side, and that’s a promise because I finished the series. I expected there would be people stopping half way, or part way through or whatever… but it’s a loss for me, in the sense that I could not keep hold of that reader.

R: It’s inevitable to happen though, with any series… But you know, if people do stick through it to the end, it is worth it.

S: I hope so!

R: Well, as a reader and reviewer, I do say it’s worth it.

And… Veering way off topic from what we’ve been talking about for the past 10 minutes or so.. What are your thoughts on the digital revolution, ebooks, and e-piracy and all that?

S: The e-piracy is always going to be frustrating for an author, because, from what I understand… writers these days, who can make a living at writing is down to about 1-2%. And yet, the desire for original material is bigger than ever. So, those who feel entitled to just pick up whatever they want and pay nothing for it are shooting themselves in the foot, because they’re going to run out of their writers.

It’s a tough one. It’s one area that we really need to… I don’t know how you’d fix it, to be perfectly honest. Because the notion of the value you place on things in our society, our civilization, is a bit skewed to begin with. The fact that we pay bankers enormous amounts of money, but not child care workers, just tells you how skewed the whole thing is. So how do you fight that sense of entitlement? I don’t know.

As for ebooks in general, I have a Kindle, but I’ve never actually used it. I think I have some books on there, but the hardcovers, or actual physical books to hold in my hand is wonderful.

R: Alright, and one last question… The audiobooks, what did you think of the pronunciations and such?

S: Well, it was a bit strange because they switched readers I think at House of Chains, and the original reader never contacted me regarding pronunciation. So he set up his standard. The new reader, they got in touch with me very early on, so we’ve had to decide whether we’re going to hold on to some of convention set up by the first reader, and we’ve had to do that in some areas..

But all new characters, and new terminology now is now properly pronounced from my position. The irony is of course, is that some of Cam’s pronunciations are different from mine. He’s left-handed though, that’s my excuse. I’ve had fans tell me that I’m pronouncing things wrong. So, it just is how it is.

R: Yeah, that’s one thing I’ve noticed in general in fantasy. Names in general tend to be a point of contention for pronunciation.

Anyways, I think that’s it. So, thank you very much! It was a pleasure and I hope you enjoyed yourself.

S: Yep, I was losing my voice but I knew that was coming.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading! Thank you again to Mr. Erikson for taking the time to answer these questions.

 


Interview with Ian Irvine

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of interviewing Ian Irvine; author of the Three Worlds Cycle and The Tainted Realm series among others. He was very interesting to talk with,  and I hope that you guys enjoy as much as I did!

For convenience,  I = Ian Irvine, and R = Rebecca, (me).

—-

R: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I: Sure. I never had any intention of being an author, though I always loved books. I wanted to be a scientist, and I studied the sciences in university – mainly geology and chemistry. It was only in my early 20s that I started to really read fantasy, and it wasn’t for another 15 years, when I was in my mid-30s, that I seriously started writing. That was a long time ago – 1987, to be precise.

Other than that, I’ve been married for 37 years, I have four grown-up children and I live in the country a few hundred km north of Sydney. I’ve been working for 30 years as an environmental scientist specialising in marine pollution issues, and I have a little consulting company set up for that. I write pretty much full-time, but I still do a few months of consulting every year.

R: That leads nicely into my next question; how has being a scientist influenced your writing?

I: That’s a good question. Well, writers write out of their background, whether it’s from their family life, their work, life experiences, interests, passions or beliefs – or all of them. As a scientist, I’ve had different work experiences to draw from compared to a lot of other writers. Tolkien, for example, was primarily interested in the languages, and many fantasy writers have a passion for ancient or medieval history.

It’s these experiences, and a writer’s background, which colour how and what they write. In my writing, I often use scientific ideas and images, though I would point out that I do so within a fantasy framework – I’m not writing science fiction disguised as fantasy.

It also relates to world-building. Many writers are not trying to create genuinely original worlds, but prefer to draw heavily on ancient or medieval history of some particular nation or area, or on mythology or fairy tales, as a basis for their fantasy worlds.. With my background in the sciences, particularly geology and biology, I felt that I had the necessary background to create different and plausible new worlds, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing so. Though it has to be said, these days I do less world-building than I used to.

Personally I never wanted to create fantasy that was strongly based on our own world – I didn’t want my stories to be based on or inspired by Celtic history or myth or any other known source.

I wanted to take readers to places they wouldn’t go, or see, or read about, anywhere else. Now, they’re not all necessarily created from my imagination, but it’s more that those places just don’t exist in our world. It’d difficult, and certainly presents a lot of challenges, but I think that that’s something that’s important to do – to challenge yourself as a writer.

A lot of writers just write what they’re comfortable with, and there’s nothing wrong with that – a lot of them are more successful than I am. However I don’t want to let my fans down. I don’t want them to pick up one of my books and be bitterly disappointed by it – or feel that I’m writing the same story over and over – I want my latest stories to be just as fresh and creative as the early ones were.

It’s a lot of work, that.
R: Well, you know I’m going to have to ask about the next series you’ll be working on…

I: I finished The View From the Mirror series back in early 1999 and the third and fourth books of the quartet were published that year. And a year later, I promised fans that I would one day write a sequel series to it, possibly called The Fate of the Children, because the ending of the series, though complete in every way, also raises a teasing question as to what will happen next –

The Well of Echoes trilogy. At the end of The Way Between the Worlds, Karan’s friend Maigraith wanted to mate one of her children with one of Karan’s, so as to form a new and better human species… and this was utterly abhorrent to Karan. She would never agree to it.

Subsequently, in The Well of Echoes quartet, which is set 205 years later, we discover that both Karan’s and Llian’s reputations have been destroyed and that (spoiler alert!) they were pursued relentlessly by the Numinator, who turns out to be Maigraith. We also come to realise that not all of the terrible things that have been said about Karan and Llian are true, but we don’t find out what happened to her, Llian, or their the children. What happened behind all of that? How much of it is true? What happened? Over the past 13 years, the most frequently asked question I’ve received is, “When are you going to write the sequel”.

The answer, is: “I’m writing it now.” I finished the final edits for Justice three weeks ago, 1st week of July, and I’ve also checked the proofs, revised the maps and glossary and all the other bits and bobs that make up the final book. So now I’m free – all my writing commitments are complete, and I plan to devote myself to the sequel pretty much full time for the next three years. But the first book won’t appear for some time, so I’ve promised fans that I’ll make some short stories, and perhaps a novella or two, available in the meantime, just to give people the feel of the world.

The series will be a trilogy, I reckon, and first book will begin about seven years after the end of The View from the Mirror. At this stage I’m not sure how many years the trilogy will cover. People who have read my later Three Worlds books know that they span a considerable time, and I haven’t worked out the details yet.

However, returning to that story is a formidable challenge. It’s rare for a sequel series to be as good as the original. So, it’s daunting to try and make it as good as it the original quartet was, and yet, totally different. Daunting, but exciting, too.

R: Great! I look forward to it.

I: I’m very excited about it – and about working with some favourite old characters again.

R: Do you think you’ll have any difficulty switching back to that style?

I: Yes, definitely. I started A Shadow on the Glass back in 1987, which was quite a long time ago, and that was 11 years before it got published. I’m not the same person I was back then. I’m a more accomplished writer – though I don’t know if I’m a much better storyteller. We’ll see. The View From The Mirror was also written in a more elevated, High Fantasy style, and I don’t write that way anymore.

Why not, you may ask? After each fantasy series, I always write something completely different to recharge my creative batteries, and every new series I write requires a different style. For instance my Eco-Thriller trilogy, Human Rites, which begins with The Last Albatross, was set in our own world in the near future, and the first book had a first-person narrator; it required a very different style. After that, I wrote a dozen children’s books in three series, and with every series, my writing changed to suit the needs of the story and the audience. For instance, my series of 4 chapter books, The Sorcerer’s Tower, could only be 10,000 words each (one of my big fantasy novels is 200,000 words) and the audience was 7-10 year olds.

R: Yeah, you’ve written 28 novels since A Shadow on the Glass.

I: That’s right – Justice, which is published in October 2013 in Australia, and June 2014 in the US and UK, will be the 29th. They add up to 4.1 million words, which is a lot because I’m not a fast typist, and I go through many drafts in writing. Still, I love being a writer; I never have any trouble going to the office to work, and I’m always looking for new things to write about.

The 1st book in my new Three Worlds series, which doesn’t have a title yet, will be my 30th novel. As I mentioned, I was going to call it “The Fate of the Children”, but unfortunately one of the books in The Song of the Tears trilogy was called “The Fate of the Fallen” in the UK so I have to think of a new title.

R: Could you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you outline, or are you a discovery writer?

I: I used to be a discovery writer; I was very much so for A Shadow on the Glass and the four or five books after that. There was very little planning involved. I had created the worlds long before, and done a lot of world-building and development of thousands of years of history and already drawn most of the maps that you can see in the books, but very little plotting. I found it very difficult to plot, never having written a book before. So I made the stories up as they went along. I started off with the main characters (Karan and Llian) being in a heap of trouble, and only got them out of one difficulty to land them in a bigger one, and I kept doing that to the end of the book.

With those early books, I didn’t find outlines to be helpful, but as I’ve written more and more, I’ve begun to do more planning really. And there’s a good reason for this: because I’ve written so many big books,, I’ve used up an awful lot of story ideas, characters, settings, and plots and, like all other writers, the more one writes, the more one tends to repeat oneself. By doing a very detailed story outline I can analyse the plot and the characters and change or twist things to avoid repetition.

For instance with my latest book, Justice, the final book of the Tainted Realm trilogy, I did a scene-by-scene breakdown, which ended up being 60 pages long. And it was fantastically useful! It had a solid structure, and I didn’t end up going down any blind alleys that I wasn’t supposed to.

R: That certainly sounds handy, and like a lot of work. I wanted to ask you a question about your writing; in your novels, there’s distinctly a lack of “Good vs. Evil”. I know you’ve talked about this before, but would you mind going over it again?

I: Certainly. When I started out 20+ years ago, mostly in the 70s and 80s, the struggle of good vs evil predominated in fantasy, for instance in the stories by Terry Brooks, Raymond E. Feist, Tad Williams, Stephen Donaldson and others. As it did in The Lord of the Rings which had influenced so may fantasy writers. While I enjoyed these writers’ work, I also felt that focusing most of fantasy on one theme was stereotyping the genre, which was a shame. Fantasy is the broadest of all genres and there are hundreds of themes that could be used other than good vs evil.

When I thought about it, I regarded The View From the Mirror as a Darwinian fantasy, because it’s not about good or evil or right or wrong, but rather about the struggle for existence between four different human species, each of which has as much right to live as the others.

Tali, the female hero from The Tainted Realm, is a basically good person who often does bad things in her quest for justice. As an 8-year-old girl she saw her mother murdered, and she swore on her mother’s body to gain justice for her, and . Now, at the age of 18, that oath is the most powerful force in her life. But in order to gain justice, she has used many people, including her friends, and it has lead to some terrible consequences. Her moral dilemma becomes more acute as the story progresses. Can she overcome her desperate urge for justice, or will it turn into a lust for vengeance that will destroy her?

There’s nothing wrong with tales about good vs evil, of course. People read fantasy to have their moral values reaffirmed, or as an escape when their lives feel out of control. In fantasy, sometimes the complexities of life are simplified, and it helps people to feel good after the hero triumphs. They wouldn’t get that release if the bad people win, and you would lose readers if they did. So, I won’t deny that those stories do have a purpose.

R: Alright, thank you… And what was your inspiration to write fantasy?

I: I discovered fantasy in my 20’s while I was at university, and over the next few years I read almost all there was. This was back in the early 70’s when there wasn’t a huge amount of fantasy available, and it was possible to could read almost everything that had been written in the genre – unlike today, when there are many hundreds of fantasy novels published every year. I read everything that was to my taste fairly quickly, and soon discovered that there wasn’t much vast and truly epic fantasy around, and it was around that time I decided to have a go at writing it myself, one day when I had the time.

Though, it wasn’t until the mid-80s, after a long gestation period, that I actually sat down to seriously write.

R: And if you could meet any of those characters in person, which one would it be?

I: Xervish Flydd, the scrutator who first appears in Geomancer, and is present through the next six books of the Three Worlds saga.. He’s a fascinating character: brilliant, dominating, sometimes cruel, sometimes kind, and always interesting. I never designed or planned him. He simply appeared on the page, fully formed, and I never had to ask myself what he was going to say.

Karen would also be nice to meet in person, she’s one of my favourites, and the first character I created in detail. She was influential on my life, too, given that I spent 12 years with her, writing and revising, over and over. Actually, I think I’d like to meet most of my characters.

R: Yeah, I imagine Karen and Llian would be fun to meet.. Also, what are your thoughts on the digitalization of the publishing industry?

I: It’s exciting, challenging and threatening at the same time. It’s a rapidly changing world and I don’t think anyone can predict what the world of publishing will look like in ten or fifteen years time. Until recently, the big multinational book publishers controlled the industry, yet in a few years control has steadily ebbed towards the big online resellers like Amazon and Apple which now control 70% of the ebook market. Mass market paperbacks are dying, and bookshops are rapidly disappearing. In a few years time, I reckon that most books will only be published as ebooks and only big name authors will be published in print – the economics simply won’t be there. Which is sad.

The other confounding factor is the staggering rise in self-publishing. 10 years ago there were about a quarter of a million book titles published a year in printed form, in English, and there still are. But now we have to add to that more than 2 million ebook titles, most of them self published. And because ebooks never go out of print, the number is going to grow massively every year, which means that every year the average sales per book has to get smaller – ie, it will become ever harder for authors to make a living.

It also means that every year there’s more competition for an author to be recognized, and it may be that in the future the people who sell the most books not the great storytellers, but those who are the best at marketing themselves.

The digital future is exciting, challenging, threatening, worrying, though there’s also more opportunities to get books out. A lot of authors are starting to think about if they’re best served by publishers, or should they go the route of self-published, and just spend more money on an editor? They’d be able to sell at a lower price, but also get a bigger cut from the royalties. Interesting times.

R: Definitely, we’ll just have to see how it’s going to play out over the next pile of years.

I: It’s going to be an interesting ride.

R: Yup, and I only have a couple more questions yet. These ones are fun ones though… What is your favourite book, or author?

I: I don’t have a favourite one. If you had asked me two decades ago, I would have said the Lord of the Rings. And Jack Vance’s books. I also quite like Tad Williams and Lois McMaster Bujold – her fantasy works more than her SF.

I don’t read a huge amount of fantasy anymore, I’ve read so much that a lot of it is just really familiar. As well, I think a lot of authors, myself included, find it harder to read in the genre they write in as time goes on. I find I’m reading more thrillers, and crime fiction than I do fantasy.

My favourite crime author at the moment is C.J. Sansom, whose protagonist is a hunchbacked lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, during Henry VIII’s reign. The first novel in that series is called Dissolution

My favourites will undoubtedly be different in a year or two, depending all on what I’m reading at the time.

R: Great, I’ll have to take a look into their writings, I’ve never read anything by either of them.

And, my last question: If you could be any flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be?

I: I would be chocolate ice cream with Grand Marnier liqueur topping.

R: Awesome! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, I appreciate it!

I: You’re welcome, thank you too.

 


Guest Post and Author Interview: Tracy Smith, author of Cedar Hollow

author photo

Author bio:
I grew up in Southern California, but as a teenager moved with my family to a small town in Arkansas. It was there that I met my husband, who had also recently moved to the state. Fate brought us both to that same small town and into each other’s lives and it is where we remain today raising our two children and living out our happily ever after. As you can probably tell I’m a hopeless romantic.
I began my writing career in 2009 with the publication of my first novel Love’s Fate, which quickly grew into a romantic series. Since that first day that I sat down to write I haven’t been able to stop. Writing is my passion and has become a necessary part of my life. My new release, Cedar Hollow, is a romantic suspense novel.
Cedar Hollow blurb:
Cassidy St. Claire still wasn’t sure what she’d been hoping to find when she began the search for her birth parents, but all she’d uncovered was a bunch of death certificates and one ailing great-uncle who’d finally kicked the bucket last week. Since Cassidy is the last surviving member of the family that means his estate, a small seaside bed and breakfast in New Hampshire, has been left to her. An odd stipulation in his Will requires that she appear in person to inherit the property. Cassidy isn’t very hopeful that this weekend trip will lead to anything more than a momentary distraction from her busy life, and an excuse to take her convertible for a long drive up the coast.
She certainly isn’t prepared for Mr. Tall Handsome and Brooding; Ben Riley has been running the bed and breakfast for the last several years, and he is definitely less than welcoming. His instant dislike for her is staggering, but his penetrating green eyes burn with a dangerous mixture of hostility and attraction.
Within days of her arrival an attempt is made on her life and then another. Suddenly Cassidy finds herself trying to unravel the mysteries of the past, while outrunning the dangers of the present and finally turning to the strong, protective arms of Ben Riley and a future she’d never imagined.
Interview 

ARamone: Do you have any projects you’re working on right now?

Tracy Smith: I’ve actually just started working on a new manuscript. It’s still in the very early stages.

A: (If yes) Can you tell us a bit about it?

T: I don’t usually sit down to write with a full outline in mind, instead I might have a character profile, a setting, possibly a “meet cute” and I just start writing allowing the story to reveal itself to me as I go. It may not be traditional, but that’s my style. So far my lead character has left behind a shattered life to take refuge at a southern plantation home where she will be staying as a summer caretaker. Enter sexy gardener ;).

A: What was your favourite part to write? Why?

T: The early stages of writing a story are the most exhilarating for me, as I get to know my characters and watch the story unfold. For me writing is a lot like reading, I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next. It’s a very creative and exciting process.

A: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What’s been the best compliment?

T: The hardest part for me has been the process of trying to get picked up by a traditional publishing house. It’s a very daunting and sometimes discouraging task. I’ve yet to have a really awful review, the biggest criticism I think I’ve received is the suggestion that I use an editor. I took that suggestion to heart and stopped trying to edit my own work :). The best compliment that I’ve received in reviews is when a reader comments that they couldn’t put the book down. For me that’s the highest compliment.

A: What would you like your readers to know about Cedar Hollow or you in general?

T: One of my favorite parts of writing Cedar Hollow was creating the backstory. I had to sketch out a history for this family and give depth to characters who are no longer alive in this particular chapter. So much of that family history did not make it into the final book, it’s only referenced or mentioned when it directly relates to the current plot. But developing those characters was integral to my overall understanding of the family dynamic and helped in creating the mystery that haunts the main characters of Cedar Hollow. I’ve considered actually publishing a prequel to the story, so much of it is already written.

A: Which of your characters would you like to meet in person? Or, are there any that you’d never want to meet?

T: All of them! I love each and every one of my characters. I’ve spent so much time with them, learning who they are. They each hold a place in my heart.

A: E-reader or print book?

T: I finally bought a Kindle last year. Before that I was a regular at the local buy/sell/trade used book store. At first I didn’t think I would like an e-reader, but the convenience of being able to shop and purchase a book and start reading it instantly has hooked me.

A: Ever killed off a character and then later regreted it?

T: As I mentioned before I began Cedar Hollow with the premise that all of Cassidy’s family was deceased. But then as I wrote the story and crafted the mystery that haunts her I had to develop those other characters outside the pages of the novel, and began to feel sad that they had met such tragic ends. With the idea of publishing a prequel my only hesitation is that I know it can’t really have a happy ending.

A: What inspired you to start writing? Are there any authors that you get inspiration from?

T: It all started with an idea about formatting. I thought that it would be interesting to read a book written from two different perspectives telling the same story. This idea slowly grew over the course of several weeks as I imagined what the story would be about if I were to write it. Of course it would be a love story, perhaps the story of how two people met. The story began to develop as I went about my daily life; work, kids, etc. It began to consume my thoughts, to the point that whole chapters were written in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Finally one Saturday while the kids played I decided to sit down at my computer and just put my thoughts into words. I wasn’t honestly sure how far I would get, but thought at least I could stop obsessing about it. Once I started I couldn’t stop. The story flowed from me, my fingers could barely type fast enough. Three months later I had written a full book. I was just as surprised as anyone else.

This is how Love’s Fate was born. It is the story of how fate drew two people together time and again because they were destined to meet. It is written in alternating first person perspectives, allowing you to experience each encounter from both characters POV.

Through this process I not only fell in love with writing, but also with the characters I’d created. I couldn’t let them go, and Love’s Fate became the first in a romantic series with two follow up titles Love’s Destiny and Love’s Chance. All three books in the Love Trilogy hold to the same alternating perspective format.

Cedar Hollow has been my first new project as a writer. New characters, new format. I went with the traditional third person narrative for this new book, and I’m very happy with it. My Love Trilogy needed to be written that way, but with Cedar Hollow I enjoyed the freedom of being able to break out of that mold.

With each book I feel I’ve learned and grown as an author, and I’ve definitely found my true passion. I love to write.

A: Finally, if you could be any flavour of ice cream, what would you be?

T: Pralines and Cream. It’s rich, sweet and a little bit nutty :)


Interview with Zachary Jernigan

Me

A few days back I had the opportunity to interview the author of No Return, Zachary Jernigan. We discussed all manner of things from writing and inspiration, to criticism, zombies and ice cream! Enjoy, and do be prepared — general silliness ensued.

For convenience, Z = Zachary Jernigan, and R = Rebecca (me).

R: Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know? 

Z: I have an eating addiction. BOOM — way to start this interview off on a rollicking note.

No, but in all seriousness, I’ve dealt with it for years. I fixate on food in a very Obsessive-Compulsive way (though I suppose that isn’t unusual for a person who’s been dealing with OCD since he was eleven). My day doesn’t feel full unless I’ve eaten a huge evening meal. It’s very likely a genetic trait, as my mother worried over food as a child just as I did, and also deals with similar issues.

I do laugh about it when I can, because it has produced some unusual events. For instance, in my early twenties — and I say this with more shame than pride, but still smiling at the memory — I once ate over 80 chicken wings at an informal eating contest. And that was nowhere near enough to make me full, but then again I was in my prime. Now 80 chicken wings would kill me.

R: Chicken wing awesomeness. I think I’d love to be able to eat that much, simply because of how delicious they are. I can eat like… 15-20 at most.

I believe I’ve seen you post about this a few times over on Facebook,.. But what are your plans regarding writing a sequel to No Return?

Z: Well, it’s a bit of a complex answer that will hopefully come clear in the end.

In my contract for NO RETURN, Night Shade Books has an option on the second book in the “series.” (NO RETURN was originally envisioned as a standalone that would nonetheless be continued and “completed” in a second book.) What this means is that NSB has the right of first refusal on the sequel. In general, this is both a good and a bad thing, though mostly good from my standpoint. Unfortunately, what soon became clear is that Night Shade was closer to insolvency than I thought, so the issue of my sequel became more complex.

I had no idea if they would be around to buy my second book even if they were interested. Potentially — if NSB went into bankruptcy — I might not even be able to write and sell a sequel on my own. I sort of let my worry over these issues cripple me for a while. I was very unproductive, and that’s saying something for a guy who refuses to tie his shoes because it’s too much work.

When Skyhorse/Start decided to try and buy NSB’s assets, I began to feel a little bit of hope. Now that the deal has actually closed, I have a great deal to be excited about. Sure, it could still not work out in my — or my fellow authors’ — favor, but it’s potentially a huge step in the right direction. Skyhorse/Start seem very intent on becoming a genre publisher of stature, and I think they’d be wise to invest on projects that have already begun. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’d be a good investment. My reviews have been incisive and detailed, but overall pretty favorable (for which I’m immensely grateful), and I think a sequel can build on that headway.

So… We’ll see if a contract is forthcoming. I hope so, as I’m ready to begin writing the sequel.

R: That makes sense; I can see why you didn’t want to jump into the second when it was still a mess with NSB. I do hope you’re able to, and that you do write a sequel. Or at the very least, that we can look forward to reading more novels from you in the future.

Which leads quite nicely into my next question…Do you have any other projects that you’re currently working on? (And will Space Unicorns be involved?)

Z: At the moment, I’ve got two short stories I’m working on for anthologies I’ve agreed to appear in.

(For whatever reason, a few people now want me to write stories for them. In the most recent example, the editors have even included my name on the cover — before they’ve even seen my story! This seems unwise, bordering on insane. I could indeed produce a story that has nothing to do with the theme and has space unicorns running around doing nothing in particular! In fact, hell, that sounds good…)

I also have a novel-in-progress that is not very in-progress at the moment. I really like it, and I’ve successfully used it as part of a proposal to one of my favorite publishers, and if they bite I’ll probably write it, but…

Wow. That all sounds like the exact opposite of what I should be saying. I should be saying that of course I’m working like mad on another novel, and I have every confidence that it will be picked up and go on to win every award that— But I prefer being honest. I’m new at all of this, and rather gun-shy a lot of the time. I’m moving at a pace that will produce work I’m proud of, but oftentimes it seems too slow.

R: What was the main driving-force behind writing No Return? Your biggest inspirations?

Z: My main driving force was desperation, honestly. In the summer of 2010, I was not in a good place. I’d just spent a disastrous semester of grad school (I was in the Stonecoast MFA Creative Writing program) disappointing my mentor, James Patrick Kelly, with crappy rewrites of already crappy stories. I felt really low, entirely unsuited to be in the program with so many awesome and hardworking writers. I so desperately needed to get some of my story ideas out, but I was flailing away, struggling with my lack of motivation and fear.

One day, tired and angry, I just said, “Screw it. I’m writing a novel with all the cool crap I can think of crammed into it.” I’d never written a novel before, but somehow I did it. (I say “somehow” because, looking back on it, I’m kind of amazed that whiny dude ever managed to sit down for six months straight and write. Apparently, someone put something in that guy’s water, because I remember him and he was a lazy idiot.)

I guess reaching a point of complete self-disgust can be useful.

My biggest inspiration, undoubtedly, is my desire to create a reading experience similar to those that changed my life. I remember, vividly, reading Roger Zelazny for the first time — or James Tiptree, Jr., or Cordwainer Smith, or Joanna Russ or Samuel Delany or Sean Stewart. The sense of vastness, of new vistas and untold myth, floored me as a young reader. With NO RETURN I wanted to build a world that felt vast and panoramic, full of myths and cultures, that might, just might, catch someone’s imagination in the way mine had been caught.

I don’t kid myself that I achieved my goal fore even a fraction of readers out there — Hey, I’m competing against the best! — but the possibility of occasionally hitting the mark for someone is what spurred me on.

R:  Those are great inspirational factors to have, they are each fantastic authors… and I do think you succeeded with making the world vast and panoramic. I do not think it’s a stretch to say that your name can and will be put alongside those in the future, should you keep writing. You have the talent. 

Describe No Return in 10 words or less!

Z: Well, thank you! That means a lot to me, Rebecca.Old world, crazy magic, crazier sex, alchemical astronauts, ANGRY GOD.

R: Were there any characters/scenes you enjoyed writing more than others? What were they? Or perhaps, which ones did you not like writing? 

Z:  Certainly! I really loved writing Churls. She was — and is! — without qualification my favorite character in the book. She’s just… Well, she’s not an emotionally wounded and arrogant nut like Vedas, a constructed man dealing with daddy issues like Berun, or just simply an awful person like Ebn or Pol. Sure, she’s got issues of her own, but they’re the kind that all of us could deal with (other than being haunted, I guess). She is the most self-assured and plainspoken, and undoubtedly the one you’d most want to go on a bender with.

Her scenes with Berun were the easiest and most enjoyable scenes to write. I’m not a person who’s blown away by his own imagination or skill — most of the time, I read what I’ve just written and want to tear my hair out (that is, if I had hair) — and so it was a nice change to be happy with something for a change. Honestly, I think the two characters just fit together, complementing each other’s traits. In truth, I think they’re kind of cute. When they’re together in a scene, it’s as close as the book comes to a buddy movie.

As for scenes I didn’t like writing — um, can I just say “all of them?” Probably not. It probably wouldn’t even be true. Writing is a struggle, not something I actually enjoy while I’m doing it, but I’d be lying is I claimed it never had its moments.

I can make one unqualified comment, however: Vedas was awful to write. All of his chapters were horrible for me. Because he’s the character who most closely mirrors me (not physically, of course, but emotionally), I had a difficult time getting him to feel at all right. Paradoxically, I find that the closer something is to reflecting reality, the harder it is to make it feel authentic.

R:  I loved Churls. She has her flaws, she’s not perfect or anything, but over-all she’s a well-rounded and strong character. I believe I may have mentioned this in my review, if not, I should go back and change that.. But I do for the most part, like how you’ve written the females in your novel. Using Churls as an example, she wasn’t just the token bad-ass, “super hot” female character. You know the ones that are sometimes just thrown into the story for the sake of being there? Yeah, she wasn’t one of those. 

Back in March you made a post on Facebook regarding your novel, and wanting people to take bit more of a sexism/feminist perspective on it for you, and getting more reviews that touched up on those topics — especially because at that point all but a few of your reviews have been from guys. Is that still something you’re worried about, now that you’ve gotten a few more reviews on it?

Z:  Wow. Great question. Yes, I do continue to be worried about that. There’s so much ugliness that we carry as human beings, and so much of that ugliness is buried below conscious level. I’ve tried very hard to unlearn the privileged — and thus bigoted in a very particular way — perspective I’ve inherited, but it’s an ongoing process. And while I hate the thought of being called out for a mistake I wasn’t entirely aware of making, it’s necessary that I be called out if I’ve written something problematic and hurtful.

Even when I’m a failure at being humble, I believe in the virtue of humility. I might be very, very wrong in my portrayal of women (and other peoples who are marginalized every day in the real world), and so I view it as my responsibility to not be arrogant and defensive in the face of criticism on that count. I want to keep getting better at writing people. To do that, I must have some courage in addition to humility: I must not be fearful of the ugliness I carry around with me.

I’ve been lucky to have, thus far, passed without major accusations of sexism in NO RETURN. I’m happy with that, and yet I do wonder if people are being too forgiving of me. The genre of science fiction and fantasy, while immensely innovative on so many levels, is still on average a bit adolescent in its treatment of gender. The whole mass of us, readers and writers, need to set a higher standard — a standard that is all too often not being met.

I’d like, entitled white American male that I am, to have a hand in asserting this priority.

R:  It’s definitely an admirable goal, and a higher standard definitely needs to be set; rather than keeping with the tradition gender roles which have been fairly static, not only in the fantasy genre, but in writing as a whole.

So, Jeroun is a pretty fascinating and dynamic world. Could you give us some insight into the creation of it all, and how the world, elders, and constructs came about? Or was it just part of the aforementioned “all the cool crap” you could think of, being crammed into it? 

Z: Thanks! Unfortunately, this is a question I don’t really know how to answer. It’s a great question, of course (I’ve asked it of many authors), and Lord knows I’d like to be able to answer it well, but I’ve never been all that good at coming up with explanations as to how ideas pop into my head. It’s not really rational, what happens when I start brainstorming. I just think… “Gee. That sounds neat.”

Which is a really, really stupid answer, I know. it’s kind of like saying, “…and then the cat just appeared out of nowhere. Now he’s mine, and I feed him nothing but organic chicken bits because I love him.” Okay, it’s not really like saying that exactly, but I hope the point is clear. I don’t like it when a “creative type” appears to be channeling a mystic. Ideas don’t just pop into existence like a little ghost whispering in your ear. They come from somewhere.

My answer, given that fact? I’m just remixing stuff from everywhere. Jeroun is a lot like a lot of other old, kind of worn-out planets. I hope I threw in enough other elements garnered from a long time of reading sff literature to really entice the reader, of course, but to me it’s so clear that I’m standing on the shoulder of giants that it’s tough to look at what I’m doing as creative. It’s more like stealing.

Not that stealing isn’t fun…

R: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the greatest compliment?

Z: The toughest criticism came from my ex-mentor and good friend, the author David Anthony Durham. Now, I’ve always been kind of intimidated by the guy. He’s a great writer and often a hard-to-read person. It’s tough to know, basically, if he likes you. Don’t get me wrong — he’s the nicest guy in the world and I think he’s amazing, but he is… Well, he’s David, not Dave. Don’t call him Dave. Anyway, one night at a residency for my MFA program, he gave me the devastating (and true) appraisal that he didn’t know if I had it in me to be a professional author. Not because I wasn’t talented — he kindly told me I was — but because I didn’t know what I wanted. He said that this would limit me, and keep me from committing to anything.

He was right, and it killed me to hear it. In my darker moments — which are not all that rare, honestly — I still think he’s right.

The greatest compliment is harder. I’ve been so, so, so lucky to have so, so, so many awesome people in my life — people who support me so much I hardly feel like I’m doing any of the accomplishing. (Despite how that may sound, it’s a very good feeling, knowing you have so much to be grateful for.) Honestly, whenever anyone reads my book and reviews it with an attempt at objectivity, weighing its positives and negatives together — whenever someone really looks deep at my work and makes the effort to put their thoughts down in an organized, classy way — that is the greatest compliment. That kind of effort in response to something I wrote just stuns me.

R: Perhaps once you find out what exactly it is that you want, that self-limitation will dissipate though? Anyways, in the event of a zombie apocalypse; what is your survival plan? 

Z: My survival plan is to just go on a killing spree (though they’re technically undead, so…). Not to be ultra-violent or anything, but I think I’d like to put a baseball bat into a zombie’s head. I mean, I’m not violent — at all; last fight I was in was in high school — but I’d like the excuse to go a little mad. I don’t care about guns, but the up close and personal? Swords, bats, hammers: that sounds like fun.

Basically, though, it’s not a survival plan. It’s just a fantasy of killing zombies. I’d probably die pretty quickly, but at least I’d have some fun on the way out!

R: Where did you get your giant teddy bear? I swear that things look cuddly as hell. 

teddyyy

Z: Ha! Actually, I borrowed it from my mom. She got it from my dad for Valentine’s Day. It is AMAZINGLY cuddly. Since discovering how cuddly it is, I’ve forsaken human companionship. It’s kinda gross, me and that bear.

R: Who is your favourite author, and what are your favourite novels? 

Z: Oy vey, that question. Honestly, I have no idea who my favorite author is. There are too many to choose from, and so many of them have works I don’t like to balance out the ones I do. But favorite novels? That’s easy. Resurrection Man, by Sean Stewart. Creatures of Light and Darkness, by Roger Zelazny. Flesh and Gold, by Phyllis Gotlieb. Agyar, by Steven Brust. Aaaaaaaannnnnnnnnd… a bunch of Discworld books.

R: Ha. I do love asking that question, the reactions are always entertaining.
Okay, so…  I swear I’m not stealing this question from Nick and his interview with you over on SFSignal, I’ve asked it to a billion other people.. (and his was slightly different) but if you could be any flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be? 

Z: Thief!

Well… I answered Nick’s question with “coffee, with Heath bar pieces,” but my opinion on this changes. Today I’m going with French Vanilla with Reese’s Pieces and chocolate swirls.

R: Unless there’s anything else you’d like to add, that’s all I have! Thank you for the wonderful interview. It’s been a pleasure. 

Z: Oh, it was so fun! Thank you immesnsely, Rebecca!

Thank you again to Zachary for the enjoyable interview! I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did!

I recommend taking a look at his novel, No Return!

My Interview with Jim Butcher

Last weekend at Ad Astra, a convention here in Toronto, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Jim Butcher, bestselling author of The Dresden Files and Codex AleraWe talked about all manner of things from talking cats, epically epic epic fantasy epics, and zombie t-rex’s.

Now, I’ve done something slightly different with this interview. Attached below is the audio recording for this interview (with some minor edits to it, but it’s largely untouched). I encourage you to take a listen (and ignore how awkward I sound). There are a couple off-topic moments on there which didn’t make it into the transcript, but I think it’ll be much more fun to have a listen than to read. Let me know your thoughts!

—-
Anyways, as per usual: J = Jim Butcher and = Myself (Rebecca).

R: I’m here with Jim Butcher, bestselling author of The Dresden Files. Jim, can you tell us something about yourself that we might not know?

J: Hm.. That you might not know.. The people at both of the Burger Kings near my house know who I am by sight and will say “Hey Jim, how’s it going?” and “How’s the next book coming along?” whenever I go there. That’s how often I’m at Burger King.

R: Alright, that’s certainly interesting. Now, you have The Dresden Files which was adapted into a TV series, which you weren’t a huge fan of, or there were some issues there… How would you have envisioned it if HBO or someone else had the rights for it, or if you had made it into an anime?

J: As an anime I think it’d be great; in my head it’s an animated thing anyways. But if HBO was going to do it? I don’t know, I wonder what would happen if HBO did it. I would probably just sit back and smile regardless of what happened.

It would be really neat for something with a bit more production value to take over on something like that. That would be completely awesome. That was one of the big problems with the SyFy series was the budget was low enough that it was difficult to get enough actual magic magic into the show.

R: Yeah, I noticed that… And this next question is one that another fan asked me to ask you, but will we ever see Faith from the Restoration of Faith short story in a mainstream Dresden Files book?

J: Yes, we will, but not until the big ending. Faith was the first character and more or less the first client of Dresden’s that I ever wrote in that first little short story. So she will show up again to kick off the big apocalyptic trilogy at the end.

R: Alright, and can you tell us a bit about this next novel?

J: The next novel is called Skin Game. In it, we find out that Mab has various debts which she has incurred over the years and Mab is very keen on getting her debts paid, and when one of the people she owes shows up and asks for a favour, she loans him Harry Dresden in order to help him. So Harry is going to find himself, by command of Queen Mab, assisting Nicodemus Archleon in a heist. They’re going on a bank job, and they’re going to knock over the vault of Hades — the Lord of the Underworld.

Harry is going to be very far out of his element because he’s going to be working with this crew of nasties that Nicodemus has recruited and having to survive that situation, and it’s going to make him look so good to the White Council and everyone else that he’s running around with this crew.

R: Of course!

J: Yeah, cause that’s his life… So that’s going to be our general plot, we’ll have to see what happens from there. I have a general idea of the mayhem that’s going to work out, but I’ll have to get to the nuts and bolts of it as I write, and I haven’t opened it up yet.

R: Yeah, though you’re expected to have the first two chapters in a few weeks, I think?

J: I have to have the first two chapters done by the end of April so that they can go into the back of the paperback of Cold Days.

R: Good luck with that! Now, this is going to be the 15th book, how has your outline process changed since the first one? And how do you keep readers interested, and keep coming up with ideas for these books?

J: When I first outlined the series, I outlined 20 books and I said: “Here’s the kind of plots that I want to have … here are the kind of bad guys that are going to be showing up … the kind of big events that are going to be happening…” And I’ve still got the outline at home which is something I wrote as a class project long ago, and now, as we’ve gone on the books have done very well. I see no reason to fix it if it isn’t broken, so I’m still using those outlines. Which is just stuff I came up with a while back, and basically it’s just fun, like: “I want to have Dresden in prison in this story!” or “I want him in an insane asylum with no magic”. You know, and these are things that I’m hoping to have happen as the series goes on.

R: It is certainly interesting, because they’re each all unique while they have the same feel.

J: Yeah, and that’s kind of the point. It’s one of those things you have to do as a writer; if I just wrote the same thing over and over and over again, I’d shortly grow sick of Harry and throw him over Reichenbach Falls. Instead I try to throw these slightly different stories and try and give it a bit of a twist every time.

R: And is there a main source of inspiration you got for all of these ideas?

J: I give Harry the beatings of Indiana Jones… as far as the main source of the ideas, it was pretty much just ‘Monster of the Week’: what kind of monster do I want to deal with this week? Book 1: Evil wizards; we have good wizards, and so we’ll have evil ones and that’ll be the first bad guy. The next bad guy? Werewolves, and the next one ghosts, then I want to do fairies, then I want to get into demonic evil guys, cause I’ve come up with these Knights of the Coin and so on, and then more vampires in Book 6, and I want zombies in book seven, and that was kind of how far as the outlines went for a long time. Then, the challenge was to take those outlines and these fun things I wanted to have the character do, and work those into the story in such a way that they’d be a good time for the reader as well.

R: Definitely, and it’s interesting… It’s always just like “Okay, he’s already dealt with so much, what’s going to be thrown at him next?”

J: Yeah, and there’s no upper limit to how much crap I can dump on Harry Dresden, the poor guy. I mean, generally anything that can make his day more miserable needs to get written in and then I get to think of a way to make it even worse, or at least even more insulting as it happens.

R: Delightful… Challenge your rage at him much?

J: Oh it’s not my rage! I love the character, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing this.

R: Now, what’s your opinion on the transformation of books into the digital age where e-piracy is becoming of a thing, and people can just download a book, and upload it elsewhere for free?

J: Well, I actually tracked three different sites which were major torrent sites, to see how many people grabbed the torrent for The Dresden Files. As it turns out, about ten times as many people steal the book as buy the book, and after asking around the industry, they’re like “Yeah, that’s pretty normal”.

For a long time that bugged me, but at the point I’m kind of at now is that a lot of people who steal the book wouldn’t have paid for it anyways. And if some of those people read the books and are like “Oh, hey man, these are really good; I need to go get some more of these.” or “I need to actually pay for these.” then I’ve picked up customers I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I like to think of it as involuntary promotional copies that are going out over the internet, and try not to let it stress me out too much. It’s not something that I want to do, or want to encourage, or that I think is good, but I can’t do anything about it anyway so I might as well not give myself ulcers worrying about it.

R: Alright, cause I know some authors who actively go “Oh yes, here’s a free copy of my book.”

J: Right, well, that’s something I’ve never had a problem doing. I’ve occasionally gotten a fan letter from someone who’s serving over seas – especially if they’re actually in service, and I’d say “Hey, dude, here’s the next book. It’s already finished, it won’t be out for eight months but here you go.” and I have no problem doing stuff like that.

R: Yeah, it’s always nice when authors actually do that, you know?

J: Yeah, or sometimes I’ll get word that people are sick, and maybe too sick to be able to be around when the next book comes around, and I’ll be like “No, I will give you this book, here you go.” It’s not a big deal, and doing stuff like that… I mean, when you’re just trying to be kind to people, that doesn’t cost you; that pays in the long run.

R: Yeah.

J: And it’s much more Machiavellian to do it that way. “I’m going to be nice, and then they will owe me!”

R: Indeed! And it’s good, you’re harbouring good will with the readers, and you seem like the kind of guy who, enjoys spending time with fans.

J: Exactly, they’re real people. At the end of the day, my readers are my patrons. Artists have always had to have patrons to be able to do what they do, and it used to be that you had one particular lord that you had to please, and then you’d be alright. Instead, I’ve got a couple hundred thousand patrons that I make sure I try to take care of. As long as I do that, I’ve got the support of all of these readers which is a fantastic thing.

That’s why I try to pay attention to them, and sometimes ask: “What would you like to see more of in the books?” and put that in there, on account of: I want to keep eating.

R: Yeah, eating, paying rent, bills… Kinda important… Burger King.

J: Yes.. Shakespeare’s gotta eat.

R: They’d miss you if you weren’t there!

J: They’ probably would, “We haven’t seen you in a while, Jim, what happened? We were worried that you’d decided to start eating healthy!”

R: Oh dear, the thought!

J: Yeah.

R: So… Epic epic fantasy epic? Anything you’re willing to say or share about that?

J: I’ve always wanted to write an epic epic fantasy epic. When I started off I wanted to be an epic fantasy writer; that’s what I wanted to do. So, I’ve got this in mind – this epic epic fantasy epic that I want to write one day. It’s humans, elves, hobbits and dwarves, although it might not look like that, really, it’s a Tolkienesque kind of epic, or at least, it starts off that shape.

I want to write that when I’m good enough; it’s not something that I’m ready to do yet, so instead I’ve just been running roleplaying campaigns in it for the past many years. Which is great, because I’ll pick another part of the world and I’ll have some vague idea of what it looks like. Then I’ll start running the campaign there, and of course if you’ve got player characters they never do what you expect them to do – they never do the smart thing. They do the thing that seems appropriate to them based on what they know. So then I feel like I’m frantically running ahead of them with a load of lumber, canvas and paint, building these sets six feet in front of them just before they open the door. It’s a good creative exercise which has helped me get this world established in my brain.

But yeah, I do want to write a big ol’ Martinesque huge fantasy one of these days. I don’t know when, but I’m going to do it. My epic epic fantasy epic.

R: Yeah, I wasn’t sure I got all the “epics” in there.

J: I thought about calling it an epic epic epic fantasy epic, but that seemed a bit over the top.

R: An epically epic epic fantasy epic?

J: Epically epic? Well I don’t know if I could be epically epic, I mean, I’ll be happy to just be moderate epic… but you can’t call it a moderate epic fantasy epic, it doesn’t work.

R: No, and you’ve always got to exaggerate.

J: It’s one of the first laws of writing.

R: Exactly!

Now, you did recently sign an agreement for a steampunk trilogy… Is there anything you can say about The Cinder Spires?

J: The Cinder Spires has gotten a better response from my readers than anything that I’ve done recently, just in terms of them thinking it’s something cool. These are my beta readers, from the beta asylum, which I call the asylum because you have to be a bit crazy to be there, because I’m just a bear for cliffhanging chapters, and sometimes they’ll have to wait a couple of weeks between them. So, there’s something wrong with those people, but there they are.

They think it’s pretty great, it’s kind of “Hornblower” meets “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, it’s very focused on the characters, with very strong influence from Firefly I think.

R: Awesome.

J: Yeah, if you’re going to steal from somewhere, you know, pick a good spot. But yeah, we start off with a disaffected ship captain who used to be part of the navy buy got drummed out of it for being an up-right honourable guy, who’s now running his own ship. We’ve got some other characters who are scattered around who are being drawn together by the lord of the spire.

Everyone lives in these enormous spires that spire for miles above the ground below; the surface is this deadly place you don’t want to go. The lord of Spire Albion, which is where the story begins, is assembling what is essentially a team for critical missions. That’s what this first story is, it’s him drawing this team together, and dispatching them as this war is beginning with a neighbouring spire of jerks.

So that’s kind of where we get going. One of the team members is the daughter of one of the young noble houses, and one of them is her cousin who is warriorborn. They don’t know quite how it happened but a certain percentage of the popular seems to be born with what seems like genetic modification to be faster and stronger and better and cooler. As well, there are cats in the Spires who talk and who are just the most arrogant, annoying little bullies.

R: Well, yes… They’re cats.

J: They’re cats, exactly, but these cats can talk, and they have opposable thumbs and matches. So, these are cats who are along the lines of: “I see that you enjoy having no rodents in your warehouse. Perhaps you would continue to enjoy having no rodents in your warehouse. Perhaps there will be a bowl of cream sitting out for me… or it might all catch on fire.” You never know what’s going to happen, but one of the characters actually has a close relationship with a cat and can speak cat. The cats speak their own language, they probably could speak the human language, but why would they? They’re cats. Why would they stoop to that? They understand humans, perfectly, except for when they don’t… and that can all happen within the same morning. They can choose who to ignore and who not to. The cats are horrible.

Then we’ve got these wizard figures. All the technology is based around these crystals that can channel various forms of energy, steampower and a kind of Frankensteinian electricity. They’re engineers who can do all kinds of cool stuff, but they’re also these figures called etherealists who work with the crystals. The etherealists are all completely nuts, I mean, over-the-top hair on fire nuts. Except for the ones that aren’t, and those are the ones you really have to worry about, because there’s something really wrong with them.

You know, the guy who’s sort of dribbling and walking in circles in the corner, who’s an etherealist? Okay, he’s probably not a threat. The one who’s inviting you to high tea? Forget it, you don’t even want to go near that one.

R: Here be danger.

J: Exactly; you know they’re crazy, the question is: how? And if you can see they’re crazy, they’re less dangerous.

But yeah, that’s sort of them getting this team together and figuring out how they’re going to get things done. I’m having a great deal of fun with the book, it’s been a tremendous good time for me, so my beta readers have been tortured extra. Which I think is good for readers.

R: Of course, especially beta readers, they deserve it. This sounds like it’s going to have quite a bit of a different feel compared to Dresden.

J: Very much so. It’s going to be closer to Alera than anything else… Multiple character viewpoints, so it’ll have much more of that feel.

R: Alright, sounds interesting!

J: I hope so!

R: Now, how has your writing process changed? You said you already had the outline done for The Dresden Files, but over the years have you found that your writing process has since that first one compared to your latest novel?

J: I use outlines a lot more — when I’m being smart — to get things laid out ahead of time, and avoid those long stretches of “Why isn’t this chapter working?”. It’s really handy if you have an outline, it helps avoid that.

I don’t drink coke so much anymore; the caffeine and sugar were doing bad things to me and eventually started catching up. So, there’s less coke. Other than that, it hasn’t really changed.

There’s TV, I work at night, I don’t know why that’s when the magic happens, sometime between 11PM and dawn. There’s always a bad movie on in the background that I keep track of. So that I don’t have to look up except for the parts that I really like, and otherwise I can be focused on the work. For this particular book in The Cinder Spires, it’s been Star Trek 2 because it’s as Napoleonic as I could get in terms of ship-to-ship combat stuff.

R: I approve.

J: Yeah, I only have to look up for “I don’t like to lose” and “KHAANNNNNN!”

R: Yeah, best parts really… Only reasons to actually watch it.

J: That and Spock’s death scene, which is one of the better character death scenes ever done. If you’re going to kill a character, that’s a good way to go; that was very well executed.

R: Now, out of all your stories from The Dresden Files, Codex Alera, or anything else, which one was your favourite to write?

J: Specific favourite book is going to be a toss-up between Dead Beat and Cursor‘s Fury. Cursor’s Fury was a lot of fun for me to write, and it was where the Alera books finally took off for me, in terms of “Oh! This is all happening easily in my imagination.”

Dead Beat: Zombie T-Rex. I’d been writing like five years to write the zombie t-rex scene, and when I finally got to it, it was like “Finally, yes! I’ve been putting this off for so long!”

R: Every book needs a bit more zombie t-rex. There’s a disturbing lack of them.

J: Yeah, there is, and I don’t see why it isn’t happening more often.

R: We’ll have to change that.

Now, which was your least favourite to write?

J: My least favourite book to write? Ghost Story was really hard because it was so different from the other Dresden books. Not that it wasn’t fun, but it didn’t feel as natural as the other books. The Spider-Man book was really difficult to write because the time constraints were so strict. I think I had about thirty days to write that thing. That was a pretty serious challenge.

But that was the year that I wrote three novels and a comic book, the comic book wound up being like 124 pages which was ridiculous.

R: You wrote that in thirty days?

J: Well, not all of that, just the Spider-Man book had to be done in thirty days, and it was over Christmas too, so that made me so popular with my family.

R: Oh yes, of course.

So, you’re a bit of a geek

J: Yeah, a little bit.

R: I’m not sure if you attended conventions before you were an author, but how has your experience changed so far, now that you’re on the “other side”?

J: The only place that’s really different is when I come to a con. If I go out gaming, it’s still the same. If I go out LARPing, LARPing is still pretty much the same stuff. I’m not really famous anywhere except for conventions and sometimes at bookstores. I think I’ve been recognized in public once, ever.

So really, the only place that’s different is conventions… Coming to cons is cool, because everyone laughs at my jokes, which is a nice change of pace. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same experience.

Sometimes people are nervous to meet me, which seems strange because I know I’m just as big of a nerd as I always was. It’s like these guys don’t know; they never saw me sword fighting with boffer weapons up and down the hallways of conventions when I was eighteen. So that’s sometimes sort of strange. I’m the last person in the world you need to be nervous around; I’ve done far more embarrassing things around you. But you just try to be nice around folks, smile and nod a lot, and they’ll offer to buy you dinner. Sometimes it’s dinner number three, but I’ll get some fries or something like that.

As far as the actual experience being different? Not too much, really.

R: Just more of a sore wrist?

J: Yeah, after about three hours I had to go back to the hotel room and pack it in ice or it’d be swollen up tomorrow and I wouldn’t be able to sign. But really, what a great problem to have.

R: Ah yeah.. Like “Oh.. Too popular”

J: Yes, it’s awful! But I mean, I feel like I’m just as awkward as I always was. I guess I can kind of go into “Author Mode” a little bit easier where I’m doing the talk in front of people, doing the jokes and the one-liners, and that’s fun. That’s not really something I do because it’s fun for me, I like making people laugh, and that’s a good thing; to be able to put a smile on somebody’s face… That’s worth doing.

R: And do you have any advice for anyone who wants to get into writing?

J: Yeah, go by my Livejournal at http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/. There are all kinds of articles that are geared towards beginning writers which is the stuff that my teacher taught me when I was bound and determined to prove to her how wrong she was about writing, and as a result, wrote the first book of The Dresden Files. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there.

The main thing though, is that you just have to write and ignore when people walk up to you at your family holiday gatherings and say, “When are you going to get a real job?” Oh man. I had a cousin and that was his favourite thing to say for like twelve years. Finally when I got my second series sold, and started being able to support the family on the writing, you know, I decided not to get a ‘real’ job. I’m just going to keep this job.

R: I think you’ve made a good choice.

J: Yeah, I was pleased with it, and man… It took so long for that pay-off, but it was so worth it when I finally got it. I think that’s the thing I would tell beginning writers: Everything you go through to become a writer – it all seems horribly hard when it’s happening to you, and when you can’t get somebody to read your book, and you’re getting nothing but rejection letters and it just seems awful… Once you’ve finally gotten in though – and getting in is just a matter of time and practice, you look back at it, and it’s like “Oh, that was more than worth it.”

The rejection process is one of those you kind of transcend and look back at it and go, “Why did I make such a big deal out of that?” But anyways… Write, write, write. That’s my first advice to newbie writers. Keep writing; don’t stop.

R: Alright, thank you, and I think that’s it… Thank you!

J: No problem!


An Interview with Miles Cameron — Author of The Red Knight

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting with fantasy author Miles Cameron, and his daughter, Victoria. We discussed a wide variety of topics ranging from history, LARPing and reenacting, his future novels, and reversing a zombie apocalypse.

For convenience, M = Miles Cameron,  V = Victoria, and R = Rebecca (myself).

R: I’m here with Miles Cameron, author of The Red Knight, the first book in The Traitor’s Son Cycle. Miles, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

M: I’m a new Canadian from a foreign country called The United States of America. I’ve been a Canadian since 2009, I was in the military there, and I’ve been a writer since 1986, I love to write, I have a wife and a child, Victoria.. I’m a passionate historian; I believe in history the way a lot of people believe in religion, and I love to tell stories.

R: Your love for history definitely comes through clearly in your writing.
This one’s a bit of a specific question, but bears… It’s rather interesting to have narrative from a bear’s perspective, will there be more like that in the future? (Lions and tigers and bears..)

M: So, there’s supposed to be five of these [books], now I’ve only sold three. I just threatened my English editor with ending it with “And everyone died of the plague.”

V: — If he only lets him do three.

M: Because it’s a very complicated story, and this is actually the simplest part of it. In fact, in a way this isn’t the story, this is more like the introduction like “Here are some people, an amazing thing is about to happen to them.” The bears, and the irks, and the boglins, they are just as right and good, or wrong and evil as the people. In book two, you will meet an irk who is also a knight and is a heroic character the rest of the time, and you will begin to see the wild side, I gave some glimpses of it, but while Thorn is not good – he would not be good even if he was living in the world of men – there are going to be bad people, and good wild characters right through the end of the series.

I don’t think I’m giving away the whole game to say that what this is really all about is the character who is now the Red Knight becoming the pivot point which will allow the Wild and the people to live together. They will kill each other for a while, but that’s partly because my beloved Greek philosopher Heraclitus says “Through strife people come to peace.” And I don’t think I’m wrecking my story by saying that over five books this is what’s going to happen. It’s not going to happen in an afternoon, and not all the good guys are going to be on the “good” side.

Do you ever notice that very good people believe stupid things?

R: Yes, and those beliefs can lead them to do stupid things, though that just means they’re misguided, not bad people.

M: Yeah, and I’m going to try to catch that too, like, I want my world to work like the real world. In our world, some of the most heroic people have sadly represented some of the most horrible biases. Think of Robert E. Lee and slavery. Robert E. Lee was probably morally the best of all the generals in the American Civil War. The side he was fighting for was without a doubt, loathsome. There’s humanity for you. Anyways, so yes, there will be more bears. In fact, Blueberry, the little baby bear who escapes alive…

V: That’s my teddy-bear.

M: .. is one of her stuffed animals, so I couldn’t kill Blueberry bear.

R: That is so adorable.

M: Most of the archers have the names of stray cats we have known and fed such as Long-paw, and Bad Tom. They’re all real stray cats, with a lot of character which I tried to put into the archers. So, I was deeply offended – not only as a writer, but for those bad-ass stray cats when one reviewer said that the archers had no character.

R: Alright, thank you… That’s certainly interesting. Also, book two is titled The Fell Sword?

M: Yes, and it’s done.

R: And Tournament of Fools, book three, is what you’re currently working on, right?

M: Actually, I’m not writing Tournament of Fools until August, I’m giving a tournament in August, a real-life tournament, because my passion is various forms of martial arts. This is how I get inspiration, and stuff will happen there. The stuff from there that will make it into the book won’t be the fights, it’ll be things people do when they’re drunk, or what happens around the camp-fire.

All those funny little things that happen that the mercenaries do to each other are things that friends of mine have done. I try to write what I see, and the best way to write about a tournament is to have a tournament. So, after August I’ll be writing Tournament of Fools.

R: Okay, so you’ve stated that The Red Knight does not take place in our world, though there are obvious European influences – Jean de Vrailley being a French name and things such as that. But what were your main inspirations or parallels you drew from when writing this novel?

M: So Hermeticism – part of hermeticism that we still have with us today is astrology and alchemy, also the theory of the million spheres. Have you read any of Michael Moorcock?

R: Yes, I have.

M: So, Michael Moorcock played with the same meme. If you imagine that instead of living in our universe where we comfortably have rocket ships and stars, and you imagine that they were right, and you have planet-centric bubbles with maybe some star systems, and maybe no star systems – a bubble of reality, and then there’s another bubble, and another… but they’re not universes, they’re all connected in a Roger Zelazny-ish kind of way. Usually through the use of hermetical magic, but they’re the gateways.

Remember, this is how everyone thought the universe worked through about 1500, even Galileo still kind of thought there were going to be all of these connected bubbles. This [The Red Knight] is definitely not our world, but I would say that the most casual reader should understand that this world has been in contact with our world.

R: Yeah, with the European influences.

M: And if you wait long enough, a major character in book two is the Muslim character from the Arthurian tales, because this is deliberately Arthurian. In the Arthurian tales, there is a Muslin knight.

R: Yes.

[[The background noise kind of over-powered the next bit, so the next little bit isn’t exactly verbatim, it’s simply what I could hear/understand. Also – ignore my spelling for some of the names.]]

M: So he will be appearing, and where’s he coming from? From Ifrika — from Africa! So we’ll have Daar es Salaam and Islāmic culture, and they’ll believe just as strongly as the Christians believe in Christianity, and all their magic works too. In fact, Harmodius’ teacher is Ali Rashid – the great, in our world, philosopher who Thomas Aquinas and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides both thought of as the greatest mind of their generation.

So, sure it’s Arthurian, sure it’s influenced by all the martial arts I’ve ever done, but this book was actually born when discovering that the man who rebuilt Judaism – by the 11th century, a lot of being a Jew had become cultural and not religious. Along came a guy – he was not the last Rabbi left in the west, but he’s sometimes described that way, a lot of rabbi’s had been killed off by the Arabs of Kordogo, and it was like they had killed everyone, but left Albert Einstein alive.

He was a ruthless philosopher, and he looked into the abyss and said “We’re not really about magical spells, we’re really about thinking about how the universe would work and why there’s good and evil.” Modern Judaism is more modelled around him than Moses. He rebuilt it in a very intellectual and rational way, and he took out a whole lot of spirit worship and stuff like that, which people are delightfully rediscovering. I say all this purely as a historian, and not to offend anyone. What totally fascinated me is that he was a student of this Muslin philosopher, Ali Rashid, who is still the most-taught Islamic philosopher in Islamic universities.

I’m telling this long story because Maimonides, Ali Rashid and Thomas Aquinas lived in one generation and exchanged letters with each other. I was sitting up at my cottage, and thinking “If this were a fantasy universe, and they were all magic users, what would they discover, and where would that could?” If they’d all come honest to the beliefs in a good and evil, black and white universe, and one day through sheer intellectual prowess came to the decision that the universe was far more complicated than they’d thought, like most of us do, where would that have left the world? Not just Europe – but I had to start somewhere.

My first option was to write this from the point of view of Harmodius or Ali Rashid, since my Maimonides equivalent has been dead for twenty years when my novel starts, but that meant I would have to show everything – it’d be like having Gandalf as the main character.

R: Which would be interesting to a degree.

M: But not as much fun, and if you could get into Harmodius’ head all the time, you’d already know all five books from the start, there’d be no discovery. I think – as a reader, it’s the discovery that we like.

R: Show, don’t tell.

M: Maybe that was too long-winded, but that’s the under-pinning, and the other is that if you have a million spheres, and they all interconnect, they don’t have to interconnect in a neat way – this world [[in The Red Knight]] is a nexus world which allows many other spheres to connect through this world. So all of these things, which don’t appear to belong together like people, irks, dragons, and wyverns – if this world goes on for 6,000 more years and has modern technology, and archeologists, they’re going to be desperately confused as they won’t find Australopithecus because people did not come from here.

Neither did wyverns, what happens – because it’s a strategic nexus, generations of people try to take it over – and this has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years, waves of magical armies with heroes and villains, and they roll through – and the peasants till the fields, and then it’s another wave. This is about that cycle being broken.

Is that big and complicated enough?

R: Hm… Yes, I think so.

You’ve already told us a bit about the sequel, and you’ve hinted about it – which kind of answered my next question, but is there anything else you can say about it?

M: Sure, do you recall the character Ser Alcaeus?

R: Yes, I do.

M: He’s from a place called the Morea, which is over the mountains to the east. It’s sort of like the old Roman Empire, and it’s also like 14th century Greece, and a made-up fantasy place I made up. Almost all of book two happens there, but it’s a very big world, and people who think it’s going to be very standard fantasy-fair are going to be either going to be crushed or delighted.

We’re leaving for Eastern-Europe now, and more Native Americans and more bears.

I wanted every reader, regardless of age, to immediately identify that the “other side” was nuanced, and not orcs. If I had called the Golden Bears, “orcs” you would have had a completely different thought process. Bears, however have a chance at cute and cuddly.

R: Right, you’re not going to go and try to cuddle an orc.
This one is not so much about your writing, but is there any advice you can give to young people who are interested in getting into LARPing or reenactments?

M: Tonnes, I could be here for hours.

People reenact or LARP for very different reasons. So, my advice to people who are doing this for the first time is to try and decide what you want out of it before you spend money. I’ll give an example:

No matter how historical you are, any kind of recreation or reenactment involves an element of fantasy. Your fantasy. You’re pretending to be someone you’re not. At least, I am. It’s important to look that dead in the eye and decide what it is you want to be. So, over forty-years of reenacting, I’ve come further away from the fantasy and more interested in who they were, than who I want to be.

I know where I started though. I started playing dress-up D&D, and that’s fine. But it’s good to look that in the eye, and say “It’s not so much I want to be a revolutionary war soldier”, but that “I want to be a knight, or a dragon”, and then it’s just a matter of how much you want to put into it. I’m a 50-year-old man who wears his hair long so that I can be an 18th century British officer on weekends and have the right hair style. It’s a matter of commitment.

Which I think is something young people understand perfectly well because I see them with tattoos and piercings all the time, which represent a social infringement. They know perfectly well they’re going to pay. Just like all of us medieval reenactors will all of our bizarre medieval or 18th century hairstyles. We know when we go for the job interview, we look odd. That’s the price you pay for doing it well.

R: I think that holds true for a lot of different passions that people may have, if they fall outside the social norm. I attend conventions on a fairly regular basis, and there’s always someone who gives me an odd look for that, or makes some sort of comment.

M: It makes perfect sense, and one of my favourite reenactors used to say long before this was popular, he’d say it’s a lifestyle choice. You can make it as much of a lifestyle that you want – one of the reasons I love martial arts so much is that you can be in a very different head space here in Downtown Toronto without putting on a lot of funny clothes, or going someplace else.

So, decide what you want out of LARPing or reenacting, because every possible thing is out there, for the person who wants to put the time in. There are so many different flavours of what people want to do, you can be an archer, you can be a courtesan – it is amazing what a good reenactment society can do.

R: And do you have any advice for people who want to go into writing?

M: About once a day, someone usually closer to your age asks me how to get into writing. I’m going to assume the entire target audience I’m addressing can write.

Here’s the thing:

You have to have something to write about. Go travel around the world, join the Canadian equivalent of the Peace Corp., or join the military… and in four years, you’ll have something to write about.

Just as easily, you can go be a cook in a mining camp, or go so Saudi Arabia and work on a construction project, or dig wells in Africa. Just… go. Get out of the comfort of a major cosmopolitan life like you have in Toronto, New York, or LA… It’s great here, yes, but it lacks in life experiences. You can live the easiest possible life here. You should go somewhere where people live real, and difficult lives. Help a few of them, and you will have stuff to write about forever.

One of the things I dislike in a lot of novels is that I feel that the writer has not seen either good or evil. Just the mediocrity most of us indulge in from day-to-day. I find that out there, where life is harder, those edges are sharper. The really good people show up a lot more starkly against the background, and it’s really hard to be evil on the streets of Toronto… but on the other hand it’s also hard to be good. It’s easy to just go along with it.

That being said, I’m assuming anyone reading this can write. Because the other thing I would say is that writing is exactly like swordsmanship – you should practise every day.

People often ask me how much I write… and quite frankly, I write 20 pages a day, it’s a job. It’s like work, only more fun.

R: Hm… I have a silly question.

M: Awesome, I love those.

R: Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked during an interview, but have never been asked?

M: Yes, but it’s probably not very fun… Because I’ve been desperately waiting for someone to ask why there’s Christianity in The Red Knight, but I’ve already told you. There’s nothing else really, because I’ve done a lot of interviews, but I love being asked my 10 favourite books.

R: Alrighty, if you could write a collaborative story with any other author, which would it be?

M: C.S. Friedman – I’d love to write with her, Lois McMaster Bujold because I think she loves the middle ages for exactly the same reasons I do, and I love Neal Stephenson’s stuff… The person I would really just love to collaborate with may be passing out our world in the immediate future, and that’s Iain Banks.

R: Alright, good to know. What’s your zombie apocalypse survival plan?

M: Where do I start?

R: Half an hour north of Toronto.

M: Where are the zombies?

R: Wherever the closest graveyard to you.

M: My first warning?

R: Something typical… Undead dude lurching up the street moaning “Brainnns”.

M: Well, if I’m half an hour north of the city, I’m probably near my father-in-law’s house, so I would go there. Which would give me access to some arsenal, and one of the things most people don’t really spend enough time imagining, is simply avoiding the zombies.

Because, fighting is stupid. You don’t want to fight if you don’t have to. I would try to evade the zombies for as long as possible, and if given the opportunity, perform some very simple experiments to see if they could smell, what they could taste, so I could get a good idea of how to not be around them. Assuming they’re living off of human brains – I’m not a zombie fan, so there are probably facts I don’t know – then I’m going to assume that I’m safest being in the deep wilderness, where there are two things that zombies can’t abide:

  • No graveyards
  • No people

So, I am left with the difficulty of probably rescuing my wife and child and assembling my “we’ve planned this for 20-years” combat team, but we have our own fall-back plan. So I assume everyone will meet me.

There are some flaws in the zombie plan. For instance, the armoured knight in head-to-toe plate armour, I don’t think that zombies are going to pose a very big threat to a man in plate armour. I wonder if this isn’t just a technology a problem whereby we’re so evolved with our firearms, we simply don’t have a large contamination-elimination crew of people in plate armour. Honestly, if they can’t get at any part of your body, what are they going to do? Chew threw your plate armour?

V: With no brains and probably no teeth?

M: I haven’t watched enough zombie apocalypse movies, but I have a feeling they don’t have much interest in horses, only people.

V: You could just go to the farm down by King city and grab some horses.

M: But 40 people on horses in plate armour? You now have a way of dealing with an enormous number of zombies. So then it’s time to set-up the combat team to eliminate the zombies and let people go back to their lives.

But don’t forget the intelligence gathering phase, the part of the zombie-apocalypse story that always falls down for me is “Why are there zombies?” So I’d want to spend some time figuring that out.

V: And why would they all come up at the same time too? That’s what bothers me. Can they communicate with each other underground?

M: It seems to me that zombie stories are set up to allow the hero to use whatever weapon he wants to decimate the ranks of zombies, whereas in the old days of fantasy, the undead often turned out to be your old friends. So there was that horrible moment, which does sometime happen in zombie moves too. I would want to understand as much as possible before moving on – that the nice person who tries to understand is always eaten first.

V: You know, I’d just run for my life. I wouldn’t really pay attention to anything that’s happening with me.

R: That’s a good answer, and you should probably try to stick close to your dad.

V: Especially if I was near King City, I’d just run straight into the forest. I’m only one small child, I don’t think they’d really bother chasing me.

M: Remember the basic rule for all combat scenarios: You do not have to be faster than the bear, you only have to be faster than someone else.

R: Alright, I think that’s everything… Thanks! Unless there’s anything else you’d like to add?

M: Nope, it’s been fun.

R: Actually, sorry… One last question: What are your 10 favourite novels?

M:

  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
  • Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
  • The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  • When True Night Falls by C.S. Friedman
  • The Culture Series by Iain Banks
  • Black Company Series by Glen Cook

R: Alright, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview, it’s been a pleasure!

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Miles is quite an interesting person to chat with, an he has a great taste in bakery/cafes. It was a pleasure getting to know both him and his daughter.

I recommend reading his novel, The Red Knight. You can find my review for it here.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did!


[Blog Tour] The Forever Knight by John Marco : Review and Interview!

Today marks the release of John Marco’s The Forever Knight. It’s my pleasure to host the first stop on his blog tour (see a list of all stops here) which he’ll be doing for the next month.

Posted below is my review of The Forever Knight, and my interview with John Marco.

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Lukien is the Bronze Knight, beloved by his kingdom and renowned in battle throughout his world. After betraying his king and losing his beloved, he wishes only for death, but rather than die, Lukien is given a chance for redemption: to be the protector of the Inhumans—those fragile mortals who live deep in the desert, far from the prying eyes of their world. These remarkable individuals have been granted magical powers in exchange for the hardships and handicaps life has handed them. And Lukien, now immortal himself, must be their champion. But how can one man, even an immortal warrior, protect hundreds from a world of potential enemies? – Description from Amazon

The Forever Knight by John Marco is an entertaining read, filled with believable characters, triumph and tragedy.

Following Lukien and Cricket, his novel is the 4th installment in The Bronze Knight series, however it serves as a “reboot” to the series and sits as a standalone. Readers don’t need to have read the first three to be able to pick up this one and enjoy it. (I’m able to say this as I have yet to read them, but did find this to be quite easy to get into). I have avoided mentioning specifics and plot details, just to avoid the possibility of spoilers from earlier books as much as possible.

Marco has created a vast and interesting world. His concept of the afterlife was an intriguing one, which I’m looking forward to seeing explored in future novels. Although, at times his magic system (the near-immortality granted to Lukien) felt a bit too convenient, and added an element of predictability to the story, giving the sense that he was never really in any danger. Despite this, the story was still overly enjoyable.

Exploring elements of sacrifice, rebirth, and magic, Marco does a good job with showing the character growth and the dynamics of relationships between characters, as well as exploring their interactions in relatable circumstances, bringing them to life.

Marco has written a story which will pull readers in and have them enthralled until the last page; hoping for the survival of characters that they will come to love, even when it seems impossible.

I will be going back and picking up the first three novels in The Bronze Knight, as well as any future installments. You can look forward to a review of The Eyes of God (Book 1) Later this month.

Without further ado, below is the interview which I had to pleasure of doing with John.

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R: Hi John! Thank you for taking the time to do this, I really appreciate it.

In interviews everyone asks “Tell me something about yourself”, but can you tell me something most people don’t know about you?

J: Most people probably don’t know how private I actually am, because I tend to be pretty open on my blog. But actually, I’m very introverted. That’s not to say I’m shy; I’m not. I’m just a loner who tends to keep to himself a lot. For example, I just left what I used to call my “day job.” I was there for two years, and in all that time no one knew I was a published author. It was just something I kept to myself that whole time. I remember my sister calling me a loner when I was just a kid, and I remember liking being called that! I’m not a team player; I even dislike the word “team.” Probably makes sense that I became a writer. It’s not just something I love doing, but it fits me perfectly.

R: Yeah, seems to make sense for you to be a writer, given that.
Can you describe The Forever Knight in 10 words? 

J: I would call it “A tale of bloody revenge and the curse of immortality.”

R: And what was your inspiration for The Bronze Knight series? The near-immortality through the Akari is quite interesting and unique. 

J: Honestly, I didn’t set out to write a series specifically about Lukien. Things just kind of turned out that way. I don’t know how other writers approach these things, but I only have a very vague idea about what direction a trilogy will take when I start writing the first book. In the case of The Eyes of God, I originally wanted to tell a story about a group of old soldiers who have to go on a quest to clear their names and right an old wrong. If you look closely at the story, that theme is still in there, but it changed as I started outlining it and eventually “the Bronze Knight” came out of it. Lukien became such a strong character that he wound up dominating the next two books. And of course the new book is all about him, pretty much exclusively.As for the immortality aspect, that’s something that I can’t seem to pull myself away from; I find it such a powerful theme. Really, it’s the ultimate question–what happens when we die? In Lukien’s world, no one actually dies–they just go on to another realm of existence. It’s a bit metaphysical, but it makes for some interesting story conflicts.
R: The Sword of Angels came out about 7 years ago… What made you return to the series after such a long gap?J: It was really the character of Lukien that brought me back.  I didn’t intend to write any more books in the series after the third one.  Generally speaking, I’ve always thought that the classic three book trilogy was enough.  So I went on to some other projects, made other plans, but Lukien’s voice was surprisingly insistent in my head.  It always sounds kind of silly when authors say their characters “talk” to them, but it was sort of like that with Lukien. He had become something more to me than just the stories in the books.  That’s why The Forever Knight is written in first-person.  All my other books are third-person narratives, but Lukien’s voice was the only one I wanted to concentrate on in this book.  That’s why I think of the new book as a kind of “reboot.”R: Cool and are you working on any other projects at the moment? And do you plan on writing a sequel to The Forever Knight — if so, how many Books of the Bronze Knight can we look forward to?

J: Right now I am hard at work on a new novel called The Bloody Chorus, and have been posting little tidbits about it from time to time over at my blog. This one has a lot of sea-based mythology in the world building. It’s also the first time the gods and goddesses in the story actually interact directly with the characters. I’m closing in on the halfway point of the manuscript, and have been working hard to get it done.

As for more Lukien books, yes, there are more on the way. Two more at least. I already have a number of ideas for the next one, and will start writing it as soon as I’m done with my current project

R: If you could spend a day with any of your characters, which one would it be, and what would you do?

J: I love this question, because it’s actually difficult for me to answer.  A lot of my characters are deeply flawed, even the so called “heroes.”  On the other hand, I like so many of them.  If you were to ask me which one of them I’d like to meet in person, I would have said Count Biagio from my first series, Tyrants and Kings.  He was a real favorite among readers, because he was so machiavellian.  But since you asked who I’d want to spend a day with, I’d say Lorla from my second book, The Grand Design.  She was a young girl who wasn’t able to grow up, at least not physically.  She was curious and tragic and I always felt she was robbed of having the good life she deserved.  I’d probably take her to Disneyworld or something like that.

R: Do you have any advice you can share with for aspiring authors? 

J: Okay, let me try to answer this one as honestly as I can, because it’s one of those questions that writers get asked all the time, and personally, it’s one of my least favorite things to be asked because everything I come up with sounds like a cliché.  Writing is hard.  I like to say that if you think writing is easy, you’re doing it wrong.  If you’re working hard at it, you’re on the right track, but honestly it doesn’t get easier because you’re always learning and striving to get better.  So strive.  Understand that it’s a struggle, and that it’s filled with setbacks and disappointments, and even when you think something you’ve written is great someone else will think it sucks.  Once you’re fully on-board with that, you’re ready to start.  Learn to love the struggle.

R: Alright, and a bit of a sillier question… Do you have a zombie survival plan? If so, what is it? 

J: Survive a zombie apocalypse? Me? Let’s not put any money on that.  I’m too much of a creature of comfort.  I’m pretty sure I’d have a heart attack and drop dead on day one.  Which is probably a good thing, because I really don’t want to live in a world with zombies.  Or vampires for that matter.

R: Is there anything else you would like to add?

J: There is actually.  First, thank you for doing this interview and for helping me spread the word about my new book.  I’ve gotten to know many book bloggers and reviewers over the years, and they’ve been wonderfully gracious and helpful to me.

Just as importantly, I really want to thank my readers.  They’ve waited patiently for this new book to come out, they’ve stayed with me the whole time, they’ve written me encouraging notes, posted reviews, recommended my books to others…they’ve been amazing.  I want them all to know how much I appreciate it.

R: Thanks John, I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to do this, and for making it possible to be a part of your book tour! 

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The Forever Knight was released today, I highly encourage fantasy readers to go an pick it up.


Interview and Giveaway with Peter V. Brett

Last week, Peter V. Brett, author of The Demon Cycle braved Toronto’s chilly winter to sign his newest novel, The Daylight War (my review for which can be found here). Before his signing, he was kind enough to sit down for a fairly lengthy chat about his novels, writing, and zombies. I don’t think there’s are any spoilers really … but we do discuss some things which touch on The Daylight War, so just a slight warning about that.

As usual, for convenience P = Peter V. Brett, and R = Rebecca (myself).

R: Hi Peter! Thank you for joining us. Would you mind saying a little bit about yourself for people who aren’t entirely familiar with your works?

P: Sure. Hi, I’m Peter V. Brett, author of The Demon Cycle series from Del Rey Books. The first book is The Warded Man, followed by The Desert Spear, and as of a couple of days ago, The Daylight War. Which is the third in a five book series. It’s rooted in epic fantasy, although I try to break some of the genre rules in that. I’m not a big believer in hard classifying things as one type of fantasy or another.

I’m currently doing my first book tour, this is my first stop, here in Toronto. The beginning of about 6 weeks of non-stop touring which has me both super excited and a little terrified.

R: Alright, thank you! What was your favourite part in The Daylight War to write?

P: To write? There are a couple of parts which I really enjoyed. There are several weddings in the book, but there’s one big wedding scene that I think anyone who has read the book will immediately recognize was surprisingly touching.

Normally as an author, I can separate myself emotionally from what’s going on with the characters. However, when I went back to that one scene and read it, I got a little bit choked up.

There was that, and there was also a big confrontation between two of the main protagonists, Arlen and Jardir, which has been building for some time now and I was very excited to write it.

I deliberately wrote the book in chronological order and did not write it until it was time, but I already choreographed the whole thing in my head by the time I did that. So that probably took as long to write as it did to read.

But this book took me three years to write, and there were parts of it which were a pleasure to write and there were parts of it that were absolutely miserable to work on. But when I look back at what I’ve done, I’m so incredibly proud of how it came out. It really is exactly how I wanted it to be.

R: Yeah, I think it may be my favourite of the series so far, I’m still debating whether I liked this one or The Warded Man better.

P: Well, they’re very different books. And they’re meant to be. There are a lot of writers – very successful ones – who use the same formula over and over again with each of their books, they do that because they found a formula that works, and that people love, but I very much did not want to do that. So each book is its own animal, and represents where I was in my life and in my writing at the time, and I love all of them equally. It’s hard for me to say which one is my favourite, but I put out the best book that I can put out and that’s all I can ask for.

R: They are all good reads. And as you mentioned before, there are going to be two more books in The Demon Cycle, but do you have anything planned for after those? Or will there be more spin-offs like Brayan’s Gold?

P: I’m contracted for three more books, and it’s kind of complicated, the way this worked out. I had originally planned out a five book series, and the fourth book in that series was going to be a sort of “Now for something completely different” book, meaning that at the end of The Daylight War I was going to shift focus entirely to Tibbet’s Brook, which is the small town where two of the main protagonists grew up. I was going to tell a story completely from there, and then get back to the main story – which excuse my language – was kind of a dick move, but it really amused me to do that at the time.

But then The Daylight War grew so big that I couldn’t fit everything into one book. So I ended up cutting it in half and moving that section into what would have been book 4, and taking that fourth book and making it a standalone sixth book.

So, I’m contracted for three more books. There will be two more in this main series, closing off this story line for all these characters, and then there will be that sixth standalone book set in Tibbet’s Brook.

I don’t want people to think that this means The Daylight War is half a book. It is not by any means. This isn’t George R.R. Martin’s Feast for Crows where you’re only getting half the story, I basically had multiple climaxes in one story and when I went to write it out, it was just too much to put into one book. But this means I’ve got a nice big head start on the next one which should make some people happy.

R: I think so, not having to wait a few years for the next one would make quite a few readers happy. So is there anything outside of The Demon Cycle that you’re working on, or have plans for?

P: I have some notes for other stories, that date back a while now. But I’ve been deliberately not giving much thought to them. I’m afraid that if I start thinking about it too much, I’ll get excited about another project, and not be focused on what I should be working on; which is finishing off this series. My head needs to stay here.

With each successive book, when you’re writing stories, especially big epic fantasies like this one, each book has to keep canon with everything that has gone before, and you have this ongoing soap-opera between all the characters which grows with each story. You have to remember who did what to who, who slept with who, and who killed who and every time characters interact with each other.

It’s gotten particularly difficult with these books because I have a whole other generation growing up. One of the protagonists – Jardir – has dozens upon dozens of children, many of whom are becoming characters in their own right. And all of them are interconnected through family or other things with a bunch of other characters, and keeping all of that straight is so much, that if I start focusing on another project, I’m going to lose something. So, I’m trying very hard to keep steady on this until it’s done.

R: Fair enough, and this question is a bit more specific about an aspect in the books, but the Corelings are attracted to large masses of people, so how is it that they’re always able to find lone messengers, and travellers, when it’s a single person and not a group?

P: Well, they’re not exactly attracted to large groups of people, they are attracted to places where there are signs that people have been there. So, if there’s a city that has been destroyed, Corelings will see the remnants of a human city and they’ll think that people might come back. So, there’ll be some demons that just haunt that place. Whereas others will move around and hunt for whatever they can.

Demons thrive on killing, and will happily kill animals and other things if they don’t have humans around. So, during their few hours on the surface each night, they’ll hunt and rove as far as they can. And if they encounter signs of life somewhere else, they’ll move on in stages.

Messengers travel along very specific roads because most of the land has become completely overgrown now, and so the demons can see the well-travelled areas and know that those are places which are likely to have the kind of prey they’re after. And so they’ll tend to roam those areas a little bit more frequently.

R: Alright, thanks. That’s just something I was wondering while doing my reread. Another question regarding the Corelings, and this is something you’ve done a bit more in this last book, but how do you bring back the sense of fear in a story when characters like Jardir and Arlen are becoming so invulnerable and omnipotent?

P: That’s the escalation problem, and every writer has to deal with that when they have a story where the story has characters that start out weak, and starts with a low-magic setting, and they get more powerful over time. You need to have things that continue to challenge them. It’s the same in video games, movies, and anything else. I very carefully — before I even finished writing the first book, planned out how these five books were going to play out, and how I was going to layer in more magic, more super powers, items, and such throughout the series in a way that was believable and kept challenging the characters.

To a normal person, Arlen and Jardin have become like messiahs, they can see into the heart’s of people, they can do all sorts of magical things, like leap 30 feet in a single bound, and whatever. Though when the new moon comes and they face the Demon Princes, they realize that they’re up against creatures that have had these same powers and more for thousands of years, while they’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what they can do with those powers. Whereas the real demons – the powerful demon lords, know that stuff so well, so Arlen and Jardir are still pretty well out-matched.

And they also have to protect huge groups of people who don’t have these powers, whereas the demons don’t have such compunctions. This is something that becomes a real threat because when you need to protect a populace, you don’t just need to protect the people, you need to protect their food. And so, protecting farmland, water supplies and things like that… Suddenly those great powers which are so amazing on a one-on-one basis, you realize they can’t do everything and that they need help just as much as anyone. That’s a lot of what this story is about; them admitting that they can’t do everything and that they need the people around them to rise up beside them, and help to save themselves.

R: Okay, and I know you were asked a couple of days ago on Twitter to confirm that you’ve read a Game of Thrones by @Master_Pastry… He and I were discussing this, and we’ve noticed many similarities between Abban and Varys; how they weave webs around them, and while they have a low rank on a societal scale, they’re amongst the most powerful. We were wondering if there was any inspiration for Abban from Varys, or if this was entirely coincidental.

P: That is entirely coincidental. I never even thought about that until you mentioned it. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that it’s a stereotype, but there are certainly a lot of characters throughout literature, and fantasy in particular who are physically weak, or maimed, or are unable to compete with warriors on a physical level or whoever but are just as powerful in their own way.

I think this is why Abban is such a fascinating character, because he comes from a culture that completely reveres physical strength and fighting prowess, and he has none of that, and yet he manages to not only survive in that culture, but to thrive and make himself so essential that people can’t just discount him. He’s really one of my favourite characters, I love writing him.

R: And he’s fun to read. That’s just something we were talking about a couple of days ago. Now, my next question is not so much about the series itself, but on writing in general. But how do you find the time to write? You’re quite active on social media – Twitter, Facebook, and the like, and with your daughter and family. So how do you balance all of that with your writing?

P: It’s been particularly hard, with this last book because for the majority of it, my daughter wasn’t in school full-time. Now, she’s in school during the day and I find those hours go by really fast. For the most part, you just have to make time when you can. And I’ve somehow managed to find a way to be creative on command.

And so, when my daughter is in bed, I’ll do a bit of writing, when she’s at school, I’ll do a bit of writing; if I’m on the train, I’ll do a bit of writing. I try to do a certain amount each day, but my schedule is so chaotic and hectic that where I steal the time each day changes. I’m hoping now — she’s starting kindergarten this year — I’m hoping for the next book I’ll have much more consistent schedule and I’ll be able to focus a bit better on my writing time.

At the same time, my writing career is growing in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. That brings a lot of clerical work and other things that nobody tells you when you’re looking to be a writer, that writing suddenly becomes a very small portion of your overall job.

I do have a great assistant, Meg, who helps me tremendously, and between that and my daughter going to school, I think I’m going to try and have a much more balanced writing schedule for this next book, which I have plotted out already. So, it’s just a matter of focusing, and layering prose, chapter by chapter.

If I can make a schedule, I’m hoping to do this one faster than the one before.

R: Alright, thank you. And I know some authors — and you’ve mentioned this recently as well — have issues with Amazon’s book reviewing policies. How people can write a fake reviews, or negative ones just based on the pricing. If you were able to make changes to their policy for things like that, what would you do?

P: Well, this is a difficult situation, and I don’t entirely blame Amazon for it. They’re kind of damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. They want people to review books, because that’s an enormous sales-driver and validator for themselves as a company, and shows their power and is a great tool to help people decide what to read. In a world where book stores are becoming more and more rare, the showroom of being able to walk into a book store and flip through books is disappearing and people need to find a way to find new things.

So having reading reviews on Amazon is a huge help for that. So Amazon wants to keep their hands out of it as much as possible. However, there are a lot of authors who have some shady practises to try to promote themselves, some of them have managed to do this quite successfully. By straight-up lying, or hiring people to write fake reviews for them… Using programs to auto-generate reviews, or trashing their competition.

I understand Amazon’s desire to limit that, but I think that they don’t have the capacity to do it on a case-by-case basis, and so they took a broad hammer sweep of just saying “Well, if you’re an author, you are therefore bias by nature and can’t review at all.” I think that was a really bad decision. Personally, I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books in my life, and I have all sorts of opinions about them, and I continue to do so. And I consider myself to be a very honest reviewer.

It frustrates me to have my integrity called into question just because I’m a professional in the industry. At the same time, and I’m sure this is part of the question because it came up yesterday, my new book came out yesterday and the first few reviews were all one-star reviews that basically said “I didn’t read this book, but I’m mad about the ebook price… and because of that I’m going to give it a one-star rating.” And when you’re an author whose new book has just come out, and it’s received a bunch of ratings and they’re all that low…. That was three years of my life, three years where I poured so much into this book making it the best I possibly could, and to have people come out and blatantly admit that they didn’t even read it, but they’re going to trash it any ways is infuriating.

Amazon has not been as diligent as I would like in dealing with that. They’re quick to say “Well, if you’re an author, you’re bias and we’re not going to accept your review.” But not as quick to say when someone says in a review “I did not read this book.” to allow them to review it anyway seems kind of ridiculous. You’d think they could write a program to search out those reviews and get rid of them. I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday, and was very fortunate that a lot of my readers — the ones who tend to take a book and read it all in one sitting overnight — came out and wrote reviews or complained about those one-star reviews. Or even commented on them point out that they’re not hurting the publisher, or Amazon, but instead the author they claim to love. And the author does not set the price.

Another frustrating thing was a comparison some of them were making, the cost of the paperback edition vs the ebook. The paperback edition doesn’t even come back for another year, so they’re saying the ebook cost is higher than an edition of the book which doesn’t exist yet.

It’s an aggravating situation on multiple levels. As I said, I don’t entirely know how to fix it as there are millions of reviews that go up on Amazon, and if they try to get down into the trenches and read each review and decide which are real and which aren’t, that’s just a money pit that’s not going to get them anywhere. It’s a tough situation and it’s one of many that as we adapt to the digital age and ebooks, and online retailing being a dominate force, we’re going to have to come up with ways to solve those problems. But there are no simple answers, people keep trying to make it simple, but it’s not.

R: Yeah, one of the things that really annoys me about things like that, is those are the same people who will spend just as much on a a couple hours of entertaining at a movie theatre whereas the book gives you days.

P: I completely agree. I can’t think of anything that gives you as many hours of entertainment per dollar as a good novel, and that’s something people seem to forget. There are so many authors, and publishers, who are so desperate to get their names out that they’re dropping prices to these ridiculously low prices just to get attention. But what they’re doing is devaluing a product to the point where people don’t realize it’s actually worth something, or that someone worked really hard on that, and needs to recoup that.

I spent three years working on The Daylight War, I wouldn’t have done that if I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent or support my family on it. So to have someone who hasn’t read the book tell me that it’s not worth $9.99 or whatever it is they’re charging, is frustrating.

R: Yeah, it’s not a position most people get rich on unless they get picked up by HBO or made into a movie. It frustrates me when people complain about books being too expensive, or when there are books that are 99c, and they comment saying it should just be free.

P:  This is another thing that some of the sales techniques that people applied early on are going to hurt them in the long run. Because they’ve convinced people that that’s what their work is worth. It’s going to evolve into what it’s going to evolve into. There’s not too much that can be done about it at this point.

Though, I had a publisher who wanted to do a promotion to give away the first book really cheaply, and my agent and I talked about that and decided it wasn’t the right choice. We didn’t agree that that’s what people should think that that’s all we thought it was worth. We’re selling the books at a very reasonable price, and I also give away books all the time on my website, and try very hard to give something back to my readers. So, I don’t think there’s anything wrong, or to be ashamed of in asking for a fair price for your book.

R: That’s true, and entirely reasonable. On another note, if you could write a collaborative work with any author — living or dead — who would it be and what would you write about?

P: I don’t really know. I don’t think I play well with others when it comes to writing. I think that I’m doing that a little bit with comic books where I have to work with artists, but those are two completely different skill sets. I think that I became an author because I’m such a control freak that I want to have control over every aspect of the story to the point where I’ve gotten shy of having beta readers. With each successive book I’ve let less people read it as I’m working on it as I like having that control. There are a lot of other authors whose work I respect and love, but I don’t know that I would collaborate with another author.

Unless it was something where we created a world together, and then separately wrote stories based in that world, and the stories were sort of related to one another; I might consider doing something like that where the nuts and bolts of the world building I could do with someone else. Then we could each be free to tell our own stories, and there are any number of authors with whom I’d be willing to do stuff like that with.

R: Fair enough, and you mentioned comics… You had a Red Sonja comic released today as well, did you not?

P: Yeah. Red Sonja: Unchained came out today. This is a follow-up to a one shot I did about two years ago called Red Sonja: Blue. Red Sonja was a book I read when I was younger and was a big fan of. Everyone knows Red Sonja as the stereotypical woman in a chainmail bikini fantasy character, but when I was young and reading the books, it was written by a woman named Louise Simonson, and drawn by Mary Wilshire. They had taken Sonja out of the bikini she had worn in the seventies and put her into a blue fur tunic, to make her more reminiscent of Conan who used to strut around in a fur loin cloth.

That was the Sonja I knew, growing up. I had read all the other books, and when Dynamite books re-licensed and relaunched it, they put her back in the chainmail bikini. From an iconic and a marketing standpoint, that was a good decision and worked very well for them.

When I met them though, and mentioned I read Red Sonja they asked me to write the book. I agreed only if I could put her back into the outfit I knew her in. Also, with the intention of trying to draw in some readers who might not normally read that sort of book. The chainmail bikini – for as many people it attracts – turns some people off. So, I’ve tried to maintain the character as bawdy, and keeping that barbarian aspect; keeping it a fun and sexy book but in a way that’s not as blatantly “cheesecake” as the flagship book is.

R: Cool! Good luck with that and I hope it goes well for you. Switching topics again, do you have any advice for people who want to start writing fantasy?

P: Well, it’s not an exciting answer, but: practise. Practise and accept that your writing needs to get better, and that it takes a long time, and takes a lot of work. I wrote four novels, prior to The Warded Man, that have never seen print, will never see print and that I don’t want to see print. They were just not good enough. But I don’t regret writing them one bit because I would not have developed the skills I needed to write a saleable manuscript if I hadn’t done that.

So when people lament that their writing isn’t good, there’s no solution other than to keep practising. People talk a lot about talent, and say things like “You have a talent for writing.” but I’m not convinced talent exists. When you love doing something, you’re willing to put in the practise to get better at it. So if talent is anything, it’s enjoying something enough to put in that hard work,

Everyone I know who works on a professional level, and has something they’re proud of has worked hard and diligently, writing a lot of stuff that no one will ever see to get up to that level. So, there’s nothing for it but to practise and practise, continuing to challenge yourself and not accepting  that something is good enough. Keep trying to make it better.

R: Sounds good, thank you. For the last question, something a bit sillier. Do you have a zombie survival plan?

P:  Yes, I do, actually. I have a warded spear that was given to me as a gift when I published my first book by my friend, and author Myke Cole. He has a history in armour making. He used to work for the royal armouries in London. He hired an armourer to make a battle-ready steel spear — sharp. I have it hanging in my office. As well, in my younger days I amassed a bit of a sword collection, so both at my office and at home I have things that won’t run out of bullets, ready for the day the zombies arrive.

R: Alright! I think that’s it. Thank you very much for taking the time to do this. It was a pleasure to finally meet you.

P: Thank you so much Rebecca!


Be sure to check out Peter’s Demon Cycle! He will also have a short story in the Unfettered anthology.

And as promised, a giveaway! Rafflecopter unfortunately doesn’t work with wordpress websites, however, click the link below to be taken to it for a chance to win one of six signed bookplates. Contest is open internationally.

Click here for the giveaway


Interview with Karen Dales

About a week ago I met up with a friend of mine, Karen Dales, the award-winning author of The Chosen Chronicles. We talked about a variety of different things, including some of her upcoming projects, and her favourite novels.

As always, for convenience: K = Karen Dales, and R = Rebecca Lovatt (myself).

R: I’m here with Karen Dales, award-winning author of the Chosen Chronicles. Karen, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

K: Well, I’m a full-time author, and a freelance editor. I have three books currently published in the Chosen Chronicles. My fourth book – which is not part of the series – has been sent off to an agent, and I’m working on the next book in the Chosen Chronicles called Thanatos. I’m a mom, a wife and I am owned by two cats.

R: Owned by cats, yeah.. That’s typically how it works. Can you tell us anything about your current projects? The one you just finished, and Thanatos?

K: I can talk a bit about each. The one I just finished is actually a historical romance, set in early Edo period Japan. I had to do a lot of research for that one, I don’t really want to go into too much information with that until I see what the agent is going to say, and what we can do with that one. But it’s interesting, because I’m so used to having written in the paranormal/dark-fantasy/horror genre that to do the historical fiction as a historical romance – it was an interesting experience, because you write in a different way than you would with horror. The endings have to be different, there are more things you have to stick to.

With the Chosen Chronicles, and with Thanatos, you don’t have to be stuck with happy endings all the time. So, that was one thing I had to kind of wrap my head around with the historical romance, because they need to have that happy ending. With the three books that are currently out in the Chosen Chronicles, there isn’t this “riding off into the sunset” type of book or the “We’re all happy together and we’re going to be together forever.” It’s not a Disney ending, so even with my historical fiction, it isn’t a Disney ending, but it’s at least a happy ending. Whereas the other ones, I’ve had people go: “You did what to the characters?!” because I leave them hanging with some not-so great news.

I think that’s just something with the horror genre, you kind of leave them hanging. Though, I’ve always been a classic like Poe, Hitchcock, so yeah – lots of fun, and it’s an interesting experience working in two different genres that way.

R: Were there any challenges that you faced, switching between the two genres?

K: With the Chosen Chronicles, I could work from a lot of different angles. And the story itself – while it has some romantic elements, it’s not the primary plot – one thing I had to do with the romance is to make the relationship the primary plot and everything else secondary, which is kind of different. At first, I wanted what was going with the characters that weren’t the romance interesting. The other fact is that because the historical romance novel is set in Edo Japan – and even now – they don’t have a word for our concept of love. So, I had to write this romance without that word, without using “love”.

R: I imagine that would be a bit difficult.

K: Yeah, I actually at one point had to go back and do a word search, and find if I used the word “Love” in that context, pull it out, and change it to something completely different. So it was like, how do you write a romance novel without using that word?

So, I had to bring about different aspects about how love is considered in that culture, or how it’s expressed in that culture. So it was just really interesting.

R: I don’t read romances, though I do imagine that would be quite interesting to read, just with that difference in it.

K: Yeah, because I read romances – I am part of Romance Writers of America, in the Toronto branch. I don’t read Harlequins, but I’ve read other historical romances, but the characters talk about how they love each other, and they have this feeling. But within my book, how do they express it? There’s not so much “I’m going to jump your bones”, though there is sex, I’m not going to deny that. But you can do that, but it’s just more how do you get the characters to express those deep feelings using other words?.

R: I’m sure people will find that quite interesting to read.

K: Though, that’s if it ever gets to print, which I hope it will.

R: Good luck with it, and what was your main source of inspiration for that story?

K: That was actually a dream. I woke up from the dream, and most of the idea was fully formed, I just had to flesh it out. That was just kind of freaky weird. I don’t know if that’s common with writers, but it’s just I woke up, it didn’t fade, and it just kind of stuck. And as I was more cognitive that it could turn into a story, everything just went poof and blossomed into something more.  At that point I was pretty much just like “okay, I have to write it out.” Which was very different from the origins of the Chosen Chronicles. With the Chosen Chronicles, I was playing an online role-playing game with other people. So very different ways for the ideas to come to be, it was interesting. You never know how the inspiration is going to hit you, but I’ll take it whatever way it comes.

R: Going back to the Chosen Chronicles, vampires are something that are very common in YA fiction now, and each retelling brings something new to them. What would you say that your vampires bring to them, overall?

K: Something new? Well, one thing about the Chosen Chronicles is that I’m developing a new mythos or origin story to them, which is something a lot of people don’t read when they read vampires stories. With Bram Stoker, that origin idea came from Vlad the Impaler, even though we know he wasn’t a vampire, but the concept is that he was. Stoker pulled upon that historical figure, but he still he never really went on about how he became one. With Anne Rice, she does go into how vampires came to be, but I really haven’t found anything else that has.

With my Chosen Chronicles, I’ll be drawing a lot on history/pre-history and mythology specifically of the British isles. So, there’s a lot of history that has to go into them, to make sure than when you read them, you can go “Wow, this could really make sense, and maybe these type of people are really walking amongst us.” So, it’s a fine-line of keeping it within the realm of fiction, and could it possibly.. Which is different, and giving it an origin story within our own world and mythology and really helps. Like, with Anne Rice she pulls upon the Isis and Osiris mythology which is great. And, I’ll be doing something similar with the Celtic mythology.

R: Seems like it’ll be cool! I’m sure that’ll be interesting to read.

Now, moving on.. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you?

K: Finding the time to write. Between family – who when I’m home, they think that since I’m home, they can get attention. Even though, I’m in my office telling them I need to work and do my writing. They want me to spend time with them. So, when my son is home from school, I find it difficult to find any time, because he wants to spend time with me. Which, I know I should appreciate because it’s not going to last. But that’s the big thing – finding the time to write.

Another big factor is that because I’m also a freelance editor, I’m under time pressure to get editing stuff done. So I have to get that done sometimes before I can get to my writing. So, I try not to take too many editing jobs done. After we finish up here that’s what I’ll be getting back to, you know, the review process — crossing things out with that red highlighter, there being red marks everywhere,and all that.

R: Yeah, I’ve come to learn that editing is a very meticulous process.

K: A lot of people don’t realize that when you’re editing, you’re not just reading it going through being like “Ooh, I like this, I don’t like that.” You actually have to analyze every little detail. Especially when you have historical elements, you want to make sure it’s as accurate as possible. So, I get a bit nit-picky about facts… And making sure what’s said on page 13 matches up with what’s said on page 200.

R: Yup. So, you’re a fairly common sight at conventions here in Toronto, but do you ever have people recognize you outside of the convention scene?

K: I haven’t had that situation yet, which I like. One thing about being an author is that people won’t necessary recognize you in person because your fact is not on the cover, or even in the book. So, you have that anonymity, which is fine. But if someone came up to me, and said “I love you books”, that would be great. But it’s not like being on TV where everyone will recognize you.

I’d like to get to that point sometime though! It would be interesting.

R: Fair enough, and next question: Who is your favourite author?

K: Oh… No. You didn’t… You just did. Jeez. Can we go by genre? Do you get this reaction a lot by authors? Like.. How dare you? What did you just do to me?

R: Yep, always an interesting reaction when I ask that one, along with “What’s your favourite book?”

K: Oh Jeez. I don’t think you have enough room on your recording device for me to list them all.

R: I’ve got an hour or so on here..

K: Oh, well, okay then.. For historical fiction, there’s two of them that I really enjoy. Jean Auel, and Diana Gabaldon, I really enjoy the first parts of their series. In terms of vampire novels/paranormal, Bram Stokers Dracula, there are a lot of other amazing ones out there, but I think Stoker is a really important one to me, and it’s such a horrific story – the sex without the sex, the horror, which is pretty tame by today’s standards is still horrific. In terms of general horror, The Watch, now I edited that book, and every time I went through it, I was still scared, knowing what was coming.

For Science Fiction, I enjoy the classics, Asimov, Heinlein, Herbert, more than modern science fiction.

As for fantasy, I would have to say Tad Williams’ books, especially The War of the Flower. In it, he actually has an apology to readers because there’s a part that he wrote before 9/11 occurred, and it’s almost like he had foreseen 9/11 happening, and he translated it into his fantasy novel. So, when you read that apology and get to that part of the book, it hits you even harder, because it’s so close to what had actually happened in real life, but it was all in imagination beforehand.

Violette Malan’s books are all great as well, I could keep listing more, but that would take forever.

R: Fair enough, and thanks.. I did have to ask that evil question.

K: Yes.. Well, please don’t ask that again. <laughing>

R: Nah, that should be my first question in every interview

K: And everyone will go: “I hate you for asking that.” I’m sure a couple would be like “Oh, well have you read my book? It’s fantastic. My favourite!”

R: So yeah, if you could have lunch with any of your characters, would you? And if so, which one would it be?

K: Oh goodness, in terms of the Chosen Chronicles I’d have to be careful because I could be lunch. But I think I would have to choose Nodos, for one, I wouldn’t be his lunch, and two, he has so much knowledge, being so incredibly old. He’d be fun to take out somewhere and let him not have a bite. As for the historical romance, I think my female protagonist. She’s definitely someone I’d like to have lunch with.

R: Same question, but any author living or dead.

K: Well, a lot of my friends are authors, so perhaps one I haven’t gone out with… I would say Asimov – but I would probably get so lost while he’s talking about things that I’d get bored, because he was so scientifically oriented… I would probably say Mary Shelly. She’d be an interesting one, with her having written Frankenstein, and it being such an interesting way of looking at humanity, and not just humanity, but with our relationship with God in such a horrific sense, and that story came to her in a dream. For her to have written, and become so popular in a time when female writers weren’t so well accepted. So she’d be really cool to talk to.

R: Definitely, now that you mention it. Also, your books are available both in paperback and e-book, but what’s your preference between the two formats?

K: It depends on the book, I do have a Kindle, and I have a lot of books on it – classics, because it’s easier that way. When I’m going places, I like to have my Kindle, but I still prefer physical real books, I’ll never stop loving those books, but when I’m being introduced to a new author, I might not want to spend a lot of money on their books until I get to know them. So, I use the Kindle as a system for that – cheap and easy reading. But for good story telling, I usually get the physical book. Especially if written by friends of mine.

They’re entirely different experiences; reading text on a screen, and paper. Because text on a screen can easily disappear with the breaking of the deceive, or something happening with Amazon. They’re borrowed books, on the kindle. If there’s a mass-market book, I’ll most likely get they physical one. I do understand why people enjoy the e-readers, it makes things easier for carrying and the like, and if I go somewhere I don’t have to carry a huge suitcase of books with me. It’s like carrying around a little computer. They’re great, they’re wonderful, but they’re not physically real. But we’re sitting here in a library, and we see all these books around us, and that’s not something you can take away. It’s always going to be here, or in someone’s hand. You don’t get that with e-books, you can’t ogle the artwork as much, or go to someone’s bookshelf, but, when we first sat down I couldn’t take my eyes off that bookshelf, you can’t do that with an e-reader.

R: I have to say I agree with you fully, and every book has its own story to tell – the cracked spines, folded corners on pages.

K: Yeah, you can tell which ones are really well-loved by the people who read them, and I think that’s awesome. I have books that are well read, and I know if my device breaks down, or I can’t access the internet, those books will still be there.

But I’m very careful with the books I read, especially when it comes to self-published ones, because you never know how they’ll be. So, I tend to just get them on my Kindle, wait until they’re on sale, or free.

R: That’s reasonable, and a good way to do it. Do you by any chance have any advice you can give to aspiring authors?

K: Learn your craft, that is so important. Just because you read doesn’t mean you can write. Take courses, whether it’s through community centers, night classes, college or university, take courses; join writer’s groups, something where you can get feedback. So long as the writer’s group is someone who knows what they’re doing – that’s important,

The other thing is: keep writing, don’t ever give up, never surrender, and just keep going. Yes, in this day and age you can self-publish, but the traditional route is still the best and most lucrative way. Keep working hard, and keep honing your craft.

One thing that I was told when in university at York, was that that most authors don’t perfect their craft enough to get published properly until they’re about 40. I think that age can probably be dropped down a bit, but a lot of that comes down to life experience because if you’re living behind a computer screen your entire life and not interacting with the world around you, and not only the places, but the situation, and the types of people you will interact with in order to create believable characters, situations and worlds. So, whether you’re writing in a fictional setting that is historical, modern, fantastic or futuristic you have to know your stuff. In order to do so, you must have experience that you can draw from accordingly. So, when you have all these teenagers writing YA stories about romance, that’s fine. There’s really no life-experience you need to draw upon, because we’ve all been a kid.

If you want to write something that’s for adults, you need to experience being an adult first, and that’s important.

R: Alright, thank you… I do have one last question for you, I ask this to everyone.. but if you could be any flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be?

K: Strawberry! That’s an easy question.

R: Thanks so much Karen for taking the time to do this!

K: You’re welcome,and thank you too!

 


Interview with Timothy Carter

Last weekend I had the opportunity to talk with Timothy Carter, author of The Cupid War (a review of which I posted a couple days ago). It was by far one of the most silly interviews I’ve had, in which we talked about life, the universe and everything, Harry Potter and Transfomers, and other topics of randomness.

For convenience, T = Timothy Carter, and R = Rebecca (myself).

R: Alright, well I am here with Timothy Carter, author of Epoch, Evil?, Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters, Closets, The Cupid War and Section K. So, Timothy, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

T: I was born in England, born the same week as the last lunar mission, which I think is pretty awesome. And I did turn 13 on Friday the 13th. I like pointing that out because it sounds cool, even if it means nothing.

R: Well yeah, it is cool.

T: It would have been even cooler if that particular Friday the 13th had fallen on Halloween. That would have been really cool.

R: How would Halloween fall on a Friday the 13th?

T: It can’t. But it’s a joke I’m using in a book. I’m not sure how funny it is yet.

R: Sounds interesting. You’re known for writing far-fetched fiction… People who have read your books, or who know you personally will probably just be like “Yep… That’s Timothy.”

T: Well, I’ve learned a lot from a guy called Robert Rankin. He’s the guy that created the term “Far-fetched fiction” and that describes his writing very well. He’s taught me a lot about the running-gag in books and other things. So, I owe him a lot. Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and him are my top three authors.

R: Good authors to have as top authors, they’re all amazing.

T: What else can I say about myself…? I’ve dedicated my life to writing, and that’s about it. I’m still trying to find the something else; you know what I mean by the something else, the thing that pays the bills.

R: Yeah, I’m sure you’ll find it.

T: I hope so, because it’s been a while.

R: Well, you could always write about some vampires that sparkle? That’s apparently enough to get you somewhere.

T: I don’t know if I’d like where that gets me. And yet, don’t think I haven’t considered it.

R: Though, somewhat similar, I noticed on your Twitter feed that you’re working on a novel involving zombies?

T: I’m currently writing a book involving Christian zombies, Yes.

R: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

T: Sure, it all comes this little bit in the Bible where it talks about… it’s one of the quotes that’s used to justify the idea of the rapture, when all the Christians are going to be taken off the Earth. It’s in Thessalonians somewhere, and it has the phrase: “And the dead and Christ will rise first.” That got me thinking, and then I came up with this awesome tag-line… “When there’s no more room in Heaven, the Saved will walk the Earth.” Once I have a really good tag-line, I have to write the book! So it’s going to be kind of an answer to Left Behind, and all the other religious Apocalypse books. There will be some people whose main concern is to fight back, and then others who will be like “Okay, how does this fit into the whole end-time prophecy scenario?” The point is eventually going to be “Look, there are zombies. We better defend ourselves.” I’m having a lot of fun writing it at the moment.

R: Sounds like it’ll be interesting to read.

T: I sure hope so.

R: Is there anything else you’re working on right now? Or anything we can look forward to seeing from you in the future?

T: Well, since I’m giving away all my best ideas here… I just finished the first draft of a book that I want to call “I’m so God damned sick of vampires.” It takes place in a world where vampires have come out, and are well known… not exactly accepted, though. There’s still a lot of tension between them and their food (us). Also, there are werewolves, angels and demons in this world, and my main character is an exorcist. She discovers that something very strange is happening and it involves the vampires somehow. No one likes the vampires; they’re the ‘not cool kids’ group. The vampires had their time in the sun (ha, ha) and now the Nephilim – human/angel hybrids –are the popular kids in high school. Of course, one day they’ll be the losers, and some other group will become popular. Like aliens or who knows what.

R: Hm… Aliens?

T: Well, we’ll see. So, the book started as an attempt to make fun of Twilight (and Vampire Diaries, and True Blood, and Vampire Academy, etc), and I had the basic premise for the story. As I wrote it, it became stranger, deeper, and a lot more awesome. I’m looking forward to revising it and getting it ready to submit. It was a very fun one to write.

R: Yup, does sound like it would be… I look forward to seeing that one. Alright, moving on. This interview will be posted alongside my review for The Cupid War, so tell me… Why cupids? What was it that was your inspiration for them? They’re not really something you ever see anything of.

T: Well, it actually started a long time ago when I was a teenager; I was reading a series of books by Piers Anthony called Incarnations of Immortality. The first book is about some guy who becomes death, the second is about someone who becomes time, then fate, mother nature, war, and so on, and I thought “I want to do stuff like that.” I wrote a book about a guy who becomes Santa Claus, but then that Tim Allen movie came out and knocked the wind out of that idea’s sails. Then I wrote a novel about the Tooth Fairy; that one still needs a lot of work, but I thought it turned out okay. The next concept I had was about cupids; they’re spiritual beings who make people fall in love, and I wanted to do something with that. It didn’t happen right away. I took a crack at it, but I didn’t know what to do with it until I came up with the idea for their opposites, the suicides. They are the spirits of people who killed themselves; they cause depression and other mood disorders in people. Once I had that, I set them up as the antagonists and the cupids as my heroes, and it came together rather quickly. This is not to say I wrote it quickly, I think it took me three years or so, on and off. I’ll do that sometimes; work on a project, pause to do something else, and then I’ll come back. I’m so glad that I finished this one. It would have bugged me for a long time if I hadn’t.

R: Well, without telling you what my review is going to say – you’ll have to read it sometime in the next few days – I did find it to be a good read. [Note — my review for The Cupid War has been posted and can be found here]

T: Thank you.

R: Alright, and there seems to be a lot more that you can do in the The Cupid War‘s world. Are you going to write sequels, or spin-offs? Or will this just be a stand-alone novel?

T: I would certainly like there to be more. It’ll have to be a case of “wait and see,” though. This first book has to make enough money for Flux to justify investing in a sequel. And, because of my contract, I can’t send a sequel to anyone else until Flux have had first look. That being said, I’m about 1/3rd of the way into a spin-off book about a girl who becomes a Suicide. I thought it would be interesting to tell a story from the Suicides’ perspective. I stopped working on it last year for various reasons, but I might get back to it. I have a really good concept. Then, on my blog I’ve posted a short story [http://worldsoftim.blogspot.ca/2012/10/the-cupid-war-fallons-first-couple.html ] that’s set within the events of The Cupid War. I’d like to do more short stories to expand on that world. I also have a good idea for a proper sequel. I have plans for Fallon and Trina. And Louis. I’m not sure when I’ll get to that; again, it depends on how the first book sells. It’s surely something I’d like to do, though.

R: Well, good luck with that. I have spoken with someone else who has read your novels, and I know she’s looking forward to seeing more from you.

T: That’s good to hear! Thank you.

<We started talking about Monty Python/a Bit of Fry and Laurie… Our favourite skits and such like that>

<Eventually>

T: Okay, better stop me. And you’d better stop the tape for an hour or two, or however long it takes for me to regain consciousness.

R: Right!

*Thunk*

T: Owww…! You didn’t have to hit me THAT hard…

R: Sure I did, you earned it… and it was with your own book.

T: True enough, it’s good to know my book is a real knockout.

R: Yeah, it’s a head-spinner. Anyways, if there was any author – living or dead – that you could write a collaborative story with, who would it be and what would it be about?

T: I would love to do a book with Robert Rankin, because we’re similar in terms of how we write, and I think we could come up with something fun together. At the same time, we are maybe too similar. It would be neat if I could team up with someone who writes completely differently than I do. But not just anybody. I was at this dinner party once, and Robert J. Sawyer was one of the guests, and someone suggested we should write a book together. I won’t go into detail about the look on Robert’s face; I rather diplomatically said I didn’t think it would work out. You see, Robert is a hard science guy, whereas my explosions go Boom in a vacuum. So who would I collaborate with? Um… This is a difficult one; I’m going to have to get back to you.

R: So, which do you prefer… eBooks or printed books?

T: They’re both good. I have a preference for printed books because I like having the physical thing in my hand, and I love seeing them on the shelves in bookstores! And you can’t really sign an ebook, at least not yet. That being said, however, with all the terrific work that’s gone into making the Kindles, Kobos, Androids and what have yous — yes, I actually used a phrase like “what have yous”, that’s the kind of cockamamie thing I say — with all that stuff that I just mentioned, it’s a lot easier now to read eBooks. Before, you could only read them on your computer screen, and that’s not very good on the eyes for extended periods.

I looked at a Kindle screen once, and it looked just like a normal piece of paper! And no, that’s not an endorsement; they’re not giving me any money to say that. I only say it because it’s true.

eBooks do seem to be a way to the future, but I haven’t had a lot of success with them yet. There are eBook versions of Evil? and Epoch out there, but I haven’t been able to interest many people in them, unfortunately. And yet, I’ve heard of people who publish a book through Amazon online and within minutes they have a few thousand sales. I may be exaggerating slightly, but it seems like Amazon ebook authors are extremely successful, so I need to look into that further. I hope there will always be print books, though. It’s a nice feeling, holding a book. And they’re heavier, so it’s easier to knock people out with them.

R: And do you see printed books disappearing at any time? Or do you think eBooks are just a passing phase or something?

T: I don’t think it’s a passing phase, no. I think eBooks are going to be a very strong part of the publishing world. I think it’ll be a while though before we see printed books in any serious decline. For example, television was supposed to be the thing that killed movies, and movies were supposed to destroy radio. But, we still have TV, we still have movies, and radio. When a new form of competition comes along, you have to come up with new ways of doing things. Movie studios are making lots of films in 3D now, because up until recently you couldn’t do 3D on a TV or computer screen. Blu rays and downloads are great, but they’ll never replace the big screen experience. In the same way, I don’t think printed books are going away. Publishers will just have to adapt and make print books more attractive. We’re going to see a lot more people break into the writing business with eBooks; I suppose once they’ve become popular enough, the publishers will take notice an try them out in the printed world. At least until people can download books and movies and what-have-yous directly into their brains.

R: We are seeing a loss of some bookstores as well as the merging of publishing houses, like The Random Penguin House (or, whatever it is that they’ll be named henceforth).

T: I like “Random Penguin”. That sounds like a band name, doesn’t it… “Now, opening for Nine Inch Nails… Random Penguin!” But yeah, bookstores and publishers will have to adjust to new concepts and trends. Hopefully they’ll adjust better than the music industry did once everyone started downloading their music for free. So as long as the publishing houses that are left continue to innovate, they should be able to stick around… but we will see.

R: Now, for a very serious question. I need your full attention for this one. Just who, exactly, is your favourite Doctor, and which was your favourite episode?

T: Good heavens. Up until recently I would say Colin Baker. I have a thing for under-dogs; Timothy Dalton is my favourite James Bond, Rodimus Prime is my favourite Autobot, and Colin Baker was my favourite doctor. I really enjoyed Trial of a Timelord.

Now though, I’m a big fan of David Tennant. Matt Smith is okay, and I’ve enjoyed many of his episodes, but I miss Tennant and the depth of emotion he brought to the role. Blink of course, is fantastic, and Utopia, Sound of Drums and Last of the Timelords are pretty high on my list.

However, for my favourite episode, I’m going with one that didn’t involve Tennant or Colin Baker. It’s a seventh Doctor story called The Curse of Fenric. Those four episodes were really good, they had some creepy characters, and yet it didn’t get all weird like some of the other 7th Doctor episodes. It was a fairly straightforward story with some really good writing, and some really good acting. Although, when my wife Violet saw the main monster in it, she laughed her head off. It looks like a guy in a Godzilla suit! But if you can see past that – which is something all Doctor Who fans have had to do for a very long time – you will enjoy the experience. The other monsters, the not-quite-vampire haemovores – very cool name – had very simple make-up, and they looked terrifying. So that would be my favourite episode, Curse of Fenric.

But, my favourite Doctor is still a tie between Colin Baker and David Tennant.

[Timothy wrote a short-story set between the episodes The End of Time (II) and The Eleventh Hour, which can be found here – http://doctorwho.livejournal.com/7111807.html ]

R: Alright, thanks! And kind of leading into the question I asked you earlier… If you could rewrite any major series – like Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter…

T: Does it have to be rewriting? Or can it be adding on to?

R: Or adding on to – if you could change anything, what would you do?

T: Well, let me start with my sequel idea. I would love to write a book in the Harry Potter universe – oh, going back to that collaboration question, there’s someone I could probably write a fairly decent book with. Listen up Jane. (Did I just call her Jane? Sorry Jane. I meant J.K.) I would love to use the Gilderoy Lockhart character, and do an entire book around him. It would be set after the events of Deathly Hallows; he’d still be suffering from memory loss, but he’d remember that he had been a pretty fantastic guy. He’d find all of his books and read them, and think that the way he is portrayed in them must be who he is. He’d set off on some kind of an adventure, and somewhere in the middle of the story he’d remember who he actually is and have a bit of an identity crisis. Closer to the end, he’d pull himself together and hopefully things would work out. I would love to write that, and if I had the rights to Harry Potter, that’s what I would do.

I wouldn’t do what everyone else probably would, namely kill Harry Potter off. That’s been done… How many times has it been done? Was it just the once? I’m trying to think about whether it counts when he was attacked as a baby, but he didn’t really die, did he? Nevertheless, Harry has already been killed. It’s been done, so I wouldn’t do that.

R: Yeah, but how many times has Rory been killed?

T: You know, I’m sure he’s been killed many more times than have actually been televised.

R: Most probably, but it does go to show that you can kill the same character off more than once. Harry can die a couple dozen more times.

T: Here’s what I would do. I’m not sure where I’d put it – at the beginning of the fifth Harry Potter book, or just after those events, but I would love to do a team-up of Transformers and Harry Potter. I would love that. I would call it “Magic versus Metal.”

R: I feel like that would fit into some Battle of the Bands style music concert.

T: I can so see the Hogwarts Express transforming into Optimus Prime, or the Elder Wand being Megatron. Unfortunately though, there aren’t many big things in the Harry Potter universe for the Transformers to be, so I’d have to be a bit more creative.

R: The car from the second book? The Ford Anglia had a life of its own; it could have been a Transformer.

T: That could be cool. Good idea! But yeah, there are two ideas that I think no one else would put together – so naturally, I put them together. And I think right after the events of the fifth book… that’s when I’d throw the Transformers into the story, but it would be as if they’d been there all the while, just in disguise. That would be cool. Or, crossing Harry Potter and Star Wars.

R: Wands to channel The Force? Having Daniel Radcliffe or any of the Harry Potter cast being in the seventh Star Wars movie could be interesting.

T: Yeah! If they’re still planning on doing a young original cast, he’d be a good Luke or Han. He could be one of Leia and Hans kids I suppose, all grown up.

R: Yeah, he’s not as young as he used to be. Though, from what I’ve noticed that does tend to be the case with most people. Except for the bloke Benjamin Button – I swear he gets younger by the day.

T: I’ve had people ask me “If they made a movie out of your books, who would you cast.” All of my books involve young people, and the actors I immediately think of are all well into their twenties – but they were the right age five or six years ago! So it’s like, I’d want Rupert Grint to play the part of Vincent in Epoch, but the Rupert Grint from Harry Potter 2, not Rupert Grint as he is now. And Elijah Wood circa The Faculty as Fallon in The Cupid War, but not Lord of the Rings or Sin City Elijah.

R: Right, yeah.. That’s understandable. Moving on, for people who haven’t read any of your books now, what would you recommend as a good starter point for them to start getting to know you and your style?

T: Epoch, definitely. I think that’s a good gateway book for me. I’m pretty proud of that one; it’s basically the story of the apocalypse with jokes. There are a fairly small number of books that are humorous apocalypses, or… apocalypti?

R: Apocalypti kind of sounds like octopus pie…

T: It does, that could be pretty cool! But yes, I really like the way Epoch came out. I’m happy with my other books, but Epoch came together so perfectly. And, it’s good for kids and for young teens; Evil? and The Cupid War are for older teens and young adults, for 13+, whereas people could start reading Epoch as 10-year-olds, and then graduate to my older stuff.

R: And though I’ve only read Cupid War, just from what I’ve heard about your other works, they’re mostly just silly.

T: Yes, and no. Some of it is silly, but some of it became serious quite unintentionally. My characters sometimes have different things in mind than I do. The Cupid War was originally going to be called “Cupidity” — I thought I was very clever, combining “Cupid” with “Stupidity”, but it turns out cupidity is an actual word. “Cupidity” was going to be more of a comedy, but Ricky Fallon and Trina Porten wanted something a little deeper and more serious than I had planned.  I like the way it ended up, though. My characters often know what they are doing.

R: Yeah, The Cupid War definitely did start off with a bit of a light, silly feel to it, but as the story progressed it kind of lost that a bit and became a bit more of a serious book.

T: Well Evil? manages to be a comedy through and through, yet it manages to raise some good issues. Heh, “raise some good issues” is really funny if you’ve read it. After the first page, you’d get that joke.

R: Ah, well… I will have to check it out at some point.

T: Hmm… To whet your appetite even more then, when I came up with the idea for Evil? I told my wife, Violet, about the idea and her response was “Yeah, good luck with that.” And when I submitted it to my editors who published Epoch they said “This has got to be the least saleable premise we’ve ever read.” And yet, it made it into publication – I’m a really lucky guy, and I’m delighted that novel came out. I wish it had done a bit better though. I kept hoping some religious group would threaten to burn or ban it. I wanted some outrage!

R: Though, a quick note – to any religious readers, please don’t take any offence.

T: No, please do! You can’t buy publicity like that.

R: Now, now, Tim. Don’t make me hit you with your book again.

T: I’ll be good. But if you read the book, you’ll understand why there should have been uproar.

R: My to-read list at the moment is quite short, so perhaps I’ll add it on there and get to it sometime in the next little while.

T: Fantastic. Is there anything else I can tell you?

R: The answer to life, the universe and everything?

T: Hm… 42. No, no… That’s Douglas Adams’ theory; I like to think there’s a point and a purpose to everything, and that when I die it won’t just be a fade to black thing. It’s a nice dream – the idea of an afterlife. I used to really believe in it a lot, in part because I was terrified of it, because I was a part of a Christian youth group and I took the whole “burning for all eternity in Hell” quite seriously. I have a pretty good imagination; I could picture it vividly! Eventually I grew up though, and decided I wasn’t happy about having that message shoved at me. So, a lot of that feeling of anger goes into my work. Like Evil? And, to a lesser extent, Epoch.

R: Okay, well… Thank you and I do have one last question which I seem to have made a habit of asking anyone that I interview. If you could be any flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be?

T: Chocolate chip. Best flavour of ice cream ever. Well, okay… Maybe not the best, but it’s certainly one of my favourites. Not mint chocolate chip, mind you – I can’t stand mint.

R: Alright, so I think that’s it. Thank you!

T: You are very welcome. And may I just say you are a wonderful interviewer, with breathtaking intelligence and impeccable journalistic skill! And not hard on the eyes, either… rawr!  …just a moment, I don’t remember saying that.

R: Oh, you did. Trust me.

T: I’m thinking you added that bit yourself…

R: Of course not! I’m a respectable reviewer, after all.

T: Okay, okay. But at least take out that rawr. Makes me sound like a complete wanker.

R: No problem. It’s gone. Bye!


Interview with Mercedes Lackey

As with Brandon Sanderson, I had the opportunity to interview best-selling fantasy author, Mercedes Lackey over this past weekend at the World Fantasy Convention here in Toronto. Admittedly, this one wasn’t that great as far as interviews go, simply because I hadn’t been properly prepared for it, as it was completely unexpected. Here’s what I did ask though.

As a bit of a disclaimer, I’d like to say that while nothing written below is false, it isn’t exactly word-for-word what was said. I didn’t have an audio recorder during this interview, so this is just what I was able to write during our conversation.

= Mercedes Lackey, and = Rebecca (Myself)

R: Hi Mercedes, thank you for this.. Just a few questions, will you ever be restarting the “Ask Misty” section on your website?

M: No, I can either answer questions all day, or I can write. I can’t do both.

R: Alright, and by any chance do you plan on writing about the history of the Sunsinger or Shadowdancer? Or will we just have the songs you’ve written about their story?

M: Nope, never.. There will only be the songs.

R: Okay, and earlier during your reading you read a bit of your secret project… I’ve been told that it was excellent, but not much more than that… Can you tell me a bit about it?

M: Well, there isn’t a publisher for it. The story is going to be taken to auction, and it’s a Young Adult post apocalypse novel.

R: Alright, well I look forward to hearing more about that.. And somewhat related to that, what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

M: Well, there’s the next book in the Elemental Masters series, Steadfast, which will be out June 2013. Other than that, there are two series that I’m currently working on with James [Mallory]. They’re both trilogies, and at the moment are untitled, but Tor has bought the first book of each. The first one is kind of like a mix between the Student Prince, Pirates of the Caribbean and a bit of magic.. So those will be out at some point.

R: I’ve never heard of The Student Prince.. but I’m sure both trilogies will be excellent.

as to how I’d never heard of the Student Prince/explained what it was.>

R: Well, I’ll have to look more into that, and I just have one last question, who is your favourite author?

M: That’s rather broad.. Depends, which genre?

R: Fair enough.. Favourite fantasy author?

M: That would have to be Charles de Lint, definitely.

R: All right, thank you.. That’s all the questions I have.

M: No problem, you’re very welcome! If you think of anything else, do feel free to ask.

So yeah, now after the fact I have a bunch of questions I should have asked her.. But I’m glad I asked what I did. This was also my first face-to-face interview, so I was a bit nervous about it.
Any ways, she was very kind — so, thank you Mercedes for the interview!

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Interview with Brandon Sanderson

This past weekend I was at the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto, and Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn series, The Way of Kings, and co-authored the last books in the Wheel of Time series was kind enough to let interview him earlier today.

Slight spoiler warning for Towers of Midnight

For convenience, BS = Brandon Sanderson, and R = Rebecca (myself),

RAFO = Read And Find Out

R: So.. Hoid. We see him in almost all of your books, though I don’t think I saw him in Emperor’s Souls..

BS: He’s referenced in Emperor’s Souls, but he got cut from the book.. I actually wrote the scene with him in it.. But it didn’t fit so we had to cut it.

R: Are we ever going to get his origin story, or learn more about him?

BS: Yes, we definitely will learn more about him.. A book that has more of him is Dragon Steel.. Which I wrote when I was undergraduate as my honours thesis.. It’s not his origin story, but it’s one he’s mostly part of. We will find out everything, and get the complete story for him. It will happen eventually.

R: Well, I look forward to reading more about him… He’s an interesting character. Also, a question about Wheel of Time.. But Mat Cauthon’s fox head medallion is described as having only one eye, and that’s in the shape of the ancient symbol for Aes Sedai.. Was this foreshadowing the events that happened the Mat in Towers of Midnight?

BS: I believe it was probably foreshadowing.. James knew since book one what was going to happen, so I would say yes. My instincts say yes, but there’s nothing in his notes which said so one way or another. I’ve always felt that it was

R: In Lord of Chaos, there’s a point when Rand is in Shadar Logoth, and Lews Therin whispers to him “I must kill Demandred.” Is there some sort of connection between Demandred and Shadar Logoth?

BS: There may well be… I’m not sure if I can answer that question, so… RAFO.

R: Okay, so can Darkfriends or maybe even Forsaken be bound to the Horn?

BS: Let’s see if I can answer this one.. They’re not going to be, I don’t think there’s a law against.. But only the greatest heroes are bound to the horn. They are not the greatest heroes. So, why are you asking this?

R: I’m pretty much asking about Verin, and the likelihood of her being bound.

BS: Okay, I don’t know that there would be anything forbidding Verin from being bound to the horn..

R: Is there any mention of that in a Memory of Light?

BS: That’s a RAFO.

R: Alright, thank you though.. Also, not so much about your stories in particular.. But you’ve written a lot of different types of books, the huge epic fantasies, short stories.. Different types of fantasy, and the odd ones like Legion.. Which do you enjoy writing the most?

BS: Answering questions like this one is difficult, it’s like “Pick your favourite food”, if you eat that food every day you’re going to eventually hate it.. Or slowly find the food less and less enjoyable. For me, that’s how it is with writing.

Epic Fantasy is my favourite form, but if I’m only ever doing Epic Fantasy, I feel like I will get burned out on it, and I’ll stop enjoying it as much and so I don’t want to see that happen.. So when I start to feel like it, I let myself within certain bounds write whatever I want to write so that when I get back to Epic Fantasy I’m feeling fresh. It’s not a matter of what I like to write the most, it’s a matter of what I’m feeling like at the time. Sometimes you may not want to eat your favourite food,

R: And when you’re switching between these different types of stories, are there any major difficulties that you face?

BS: If I do, then it means something’s going wrong and I kind of need to look at why I’m trying to write it… Switching is not hard, usually.. You get to know your writing style, you get comfortable with how you approach things.

R: Okay, and, next year, we’re getting Stormlight Archive book 2? Or will that be early 2014?

BS: It should be Christmas 2013, that’s what we’re aiming for.. In fact, I have to name it this weekend so TOR can start the publicity for it.

R: And then we’re also getting A Memory of Light, obviously, and The Rithmatist?

BS: Yes, that’s the book I wrote just before Wheel of Time in 2007, back before I was offered a Wheel of Time offer.. And it languished for years because I was so busy with Wheel of Time and when I had any free time, The Way of Kings, I wasn’t even able to do revisions.. The three of four months it would have taken would have slowed down one of those two books, so I was able to take those months after A Memory of Light was done.

R: And is there anything next year?

BS: I don’t know when Steelheart will be out, but probably 2014.. But it is on people’s radars, this is another one before I took up before Wheel of Time, but I wrote it in gaps between books, so people know about it. I’ve been trying to shop it Hollywood for years, but I was finally able to polish it off and sell it. Once Wheel a Time was done I was finally able to spend time on these things which have been put aside for years.. Things like this are good, but to give them the time to make them great while I was working on them would have taken time away from a Memory of Light.. And it wouldn’t have been right to let them demand that time, so it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to give them that time.. So, I think that’ll be 2014, but we do get three books next year most likely.

R: Yep, and that’s great.. I’m looking forward to reading them all.. and with a Memory of Light being finished, is it odd not having it to work on?

BS: It is.. It’s very strange experience since it’s been such a part of my life for so long, to not have it to work on.. But I do intend to be a part of fandom for the rest of my life. So, there is that..

R: I know a lot of people are looking for it, and there will always be more theories.. I do remember last year when I spoke with you, you did say there will be loose ends, so people will be theorizing on those for a while.

BS: Yeah, there will be loose ends, and I can talk to that when the book comes out.

R: Alrighty then! You’ll just have to come back to Toronto then.

BS: Okay, well that’s a deal then.

R: Alright, I think that’s it… Thank you!

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Brandon also read a passage from A Memory of Light while he was here in Toronto (the beginning of the first chapter/the wind scene), as well as a bit from the Stormlight Archive Book 2.

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Oath of Servitude by C.E. Wilson : Review and Interview!

ISBN: 978-0-9883055-0-2

This is the story of Teague and Cailin, two teenagers who have been brought together by fate. Teague, a human, struggles to come to terms with the consequences of a recent accident that has destroyed the happy life that he had once enjoyed. Cailin, a pixi, is trying to stay true to herself while fighting against forces beyond her control that have exiled her from her home into this strange world of humans. She fears the darkness. He cannot escape it. But when the two of them are thrown together, they begin to discover the light inside of themselves.

Every family has their secrets – some, more than others.

Cailin; a young pixi must serve her punishment in the home of two humans after failing to conform to the ways of her kind and for asking too many questions. Sent to help Teague, the son of Owen – as their friendship grows, her loyalties will be tried, and all she holds dear will be held to question.

Teague – crippled from a recent accident while playing baseball has slipped into the life of an alcoholic, filled with anger and helplessness, he must come to accept the help and company of Cailin to be lost to the darkness of his own mind.

Secrets lurk in every shadow, and hide behind every smile. Prices must be paid, and the Darkness awaits for those who fail to please the Portune.

C.E. Wilson’s début novel, Oath of Servitude forays into the mostly untraversed land of Pixie (or, Pixi). Following the tale of Cailin, as she is punished and sent into the house of Owen and Teague – two humans, as she learns the price of asking questions. Oath of Servitude shows families in the midst of emotional trials, the bonds and strength of friendship and family.

Wilson does a wonderful job, delving into the intrigue and rigidity of Pixi society. Her writing style and descriptions draw the reader into the story and keeps them flipping pages. While the friendship between Teague and Cailin felt rushed, and a bit forced at the beginning, that’s quickly resolved and flows into something that reads more naturally. Hinting at secrets and stories untold, Oath of Servitude is an enjoyable read which fans of young adult fiction will enjoy.

Read below for my interview with the author of Oath of Servitude, C.E. Wilson! 

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Interview with C.E. Wilson!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure!  My name is C.E. Wilson, I am 29 years old and I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with my husband, my two dogs and my two cats.  I love reading, but one of my favorite things to do is post short stories on DeviantArt that fall into a genre known as GT, which refers to the fact that there is ‘giant’ character and/or a ‘tiny’ character.  I also love to watch shows like Gossip Girl and 90210 during my free time.  It is a guilty pleasure to say the least.
What would you like your readers to know about this book or you in general?

Oath of Servitude is the first book that I have published and I had a lot of fun writing it.  I like to write about characters that I think readers can relate to and enjoy.  I write stories like this because I’ve always been a huge fan of size differences between characters like in The Borrowers by Mary Norton and The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, and I wanted to see if this type of genre could be enjoyed by modern Young Adult readers.  I am always experimenting with new ways to write and Oath of Servitude was the first story that I really believed could be enjoyed by the mainstream YA audience.  It was a lot of fun to write and I cannot wait to publish the sequel Permanent Shadows so that I can talk more about the pixi world and how it relates to humans.
Why Pixis? In YA we tend to see a lot of fairies, angels and such like that, but from what I’ve noticed Pixis are a largely unexplored race. What inspired you to write about them?

Well, you kind of answered it.  Like you said, there are a lot of books that talk about fairies, fae, angels and what have you, but pixies are often left out of the mix.  There are some great books out there that talk about pixies, but they seem to be few and far between.  I admit to changing the spelling from the common pixie to ‘pixi’ to create even more of a separation.  I can’t speak for everyone, but the less familiar I am with something, the more likely it is that I will be able to let my imagination roam free, an important consideration when reading a fantasy book.
The Darkness — it’s referred to all throughout the book, is that something you’re going to explore more in future books? 

Yes, there is definitely going to be more about The Darkness in Permanent Shadows, the sequel to Oath of Servitude.  The Darkness is a place that many pixis know they do not want to go, but few of them know (or care to know) what it actually is.  Nolkrin and Owen have more knowledge of it than most, and that is something that they will discuss in the next book.
How many books can we look forward to seeing in The Punishment Sequence?

I have to say that I am currently planning on four.  I have the second book just about ready for editing and the first draft of the third book is about halfway written.  I think that I can get through everything that I want in four books but I don’t want to commit to that right now.
Which of your characters would you like to meet in person? Or, are there any you would never want to meet?

I would love to meet Owen in person because I think that he has the most secrets.  In Oath of Servitude there are a lot of hints that Owen has a great understanding of not only the human world, but also of the pixi world and how the two coincide.  This becomes more obvious to Cailin and Teague in Permanent Shadows, and I think it would be great to sit down with him and try to learn how these two very different worlds are able to exist in isolation and how he straddles the line between the two of them.
Which do you prefer, ebooks or printed? 

When the Kindle first came out, I was skeptical.  I didn’t that I could ever get used to not holding a book.  But now…heh…let’s just say that I find regular books to be the awkward thing now.  That’s not to say that I don’t love my printed books, I could never get rid of them.  Plus I can only read manga as a printed book.  I’ve tried reading manga on my Kindle, it just didn’t work.  Other than that, the convenience of ebooks has completely won me over.
What inspired you to start writing? Are there any authors that you get inspiration from?

Books themselves were always my greatest inspiration to write.  Some people love to listen to music and others love to watch TV, but I have always been a huge fan of reading.  I loved that authors could sit down and create these interesting worlds using only their imagination and their words to paint the pictures.  Since I was little I have been doing this, writing stories and reading them to whoever would listen to me.
Lynne Reid Banks, RJ Anderson, Charles de Lint and Mary Norton are all authors who have inspired me to keep writing.  They create wonderful worlds populated with races that are much smaller than humans, which is the type of writing that I enjoy most.  I don’t want people to think that this size difference is some type of gimmick though.  I think that if people take the time they will realize that size is nothing more than another obstacle that characters may face in a paranormal story.  These authors inspire me to keep writing and keep bringing these types of friendships/relationships to the Young Adult world.
Are you working on anything new? Can you give us a bit of a preview? ;) 

Yes!  I am working on a standalone book right now called The Promise.  The main character is a bi-racial girl named Lily and the story begins with her sitting in a doctor’s office as her boyfriend proposes to her.  It would be such a strange and beautiful scene but Lily is worried about what is happening to her.  She is shrinking and her doctor cannot begin to explain why.  No one knows how long she will continue to shrink or how small she will get.  The Promise is a book that will talk about the hardships that Lily and her husband Erik face as her height continues to dwindle and the complications that they must deal with to keep her a secret from the rest of the world.  

Thank you! I look forward to your responses… I appreciate it! 
 
Thank you as well!  I’m happy to answer them!  

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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