Q & A with Jack Croxall – #AnchorLegBook

Bestselling author Jack Croxall talks space, Anchor Leg, and LGBT fiction

For those of you that don’t know, I am a huge fan of fellow UK author, Jack Croxall. He’s a fab writer. I often chat with him on twitter, but today, lucky people, I managed to pester him with my questions about his new science fiction thriller Anchor Leg. And no I am certainly NOT jealous that he has a million more twitter followers than me. I was one of the lucky people to get an early read. I was honoured to be asked, and of course I loved the book. It’s such a different direction than his other works; it’s a brave one, but he pulls it off brilliantly.

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‘I toss my knife out into space. It doesn’t matter, I’ll kill him with my bare hands.’

Humanity has spilled out into the solar system, into a succession of giant space stations known as the Relay. Seren Temples is a security apprentice running the Relay’s Anchor Leg. Her ship forced off course, sensors detect an automated distress signal. The ship responsible for the signal is a zero-G graveyard. Inside its vast hold, nothing but a single vial of frozen blood.

Anchor Leg is a sci-fi thriller from Jack Croxall, author of Wye.

I know you are wanting to hear more about Anchor Leg so here are my questions for Jack.

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Jack Croxall

It’s been a while since we last heard from you. What have you been up to?

Writing, writing and more writing! I’ve been busy trying to get a handful of projects off the ground, I cameoed in a spooky short film you can watch here, and, of course, I wrote Anchor Leg.

Tell us a little about Anchor Leg.

Anchor Leg is a sci-fi thriller. It follows Seren Temples as her vessel finds a wrecked ship floating over a tiny moon in Saturn’s orbit. Seren is part of her vessel’s security team so she’s sent aboard to investigate. Needless to say, what she finds is all kinds of sinister.

Your previous books (Wye and Tethers) were written for a YA audience. What made you try something aimed at older readers and what surprised you the most about it?

I’ve always loved sci-fi books/films and so I think I just wanted to have a stab at the genre. I suppose I could have gone for a more YA vibe but the story that came to me was very different to what you would typically find in a YA novel. Some of the characters that Seren interacts with, it would have felt wrong to rein them in. Equally, there were themes I wanted to explore that aren’t usually found in YA books. I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the sci-fi genre though and the thing that’s surprised me most about it is that I’m keen to do it again. Usually after I’ve told a story in one genre I want to move onto something else immediately!

Seren Temples is a rookie aboard the ship. What is your main character like and why do you think readers will warm to her?

Seren Temples is a girl running away from Earth. Her instinct is to get as far away from what she hates as possible and I think we can all relate to that. However, what is most interesting about Seren (for me at least) is that she’s chosen a life with clear parallels to where she’s come from. A part of her wants to face what’s happened and through the course of the story events conspire to give her the chance to do just that.

I noticed the love arc in the story involving Seren and another female crew member. It’s a brave move having a lesbian main character. Was this something you instinctively knew about Seren from the beginning or did it come about later?

I definitely want to take conscious steps to make my stories more representative but, yes, Seren was always going to be gay. One of the first scenes I had in mind was Seren exploring part of her ship with Abril and I could sense there was romantic tension. I also knew this wasn’t a story about Seren discovering her sexuality; Seren already knew she was gay. This is a sci-fi story where the main character just happens to be gay. I really enjoyed writing Seren and I hope I did justice to that aspect of her characterisation.

What research did you undertake to make Anchor Leg as realistic and as inrelay-map-2 depth as possible?

In a word, lots! Everything had to be fact checked, from background radiation levels to how performing everyday tasks in zero-G would work. Luckily, I know another sci-fi writer (Steve Caddy, author of the excellent In Exchange) who knows a great deal more about our solar system and the mechanics of space than I do. His assistance was invaluable. During one early edit he pointed out that I’d made an entire planet the wrong shape – I didn’t even know planets could be different shapes!

Tell us a little about your writing process during Anchor Leg. Did you make a plan beforehand or did you get stuck right in?

I jumped in and wrote a few chapters but I soon realised I needed a plan. I was building a whole new world of habitations around our solar system (the Relay) and I needed a map of that to stay on track. I also needed a map of Seren’s ship and I had to do a lot of doodling to get some of the futuristic tech I invented clear in my mind. This has definitely been the most work I have ever put into one of my stories!

What do you think readers should (and will) take from the book?

The book explores the growing tension between Earth’s population and the population living in the giant habitable space stations that make up the Relay. Even though everyone is human (no aliens in Anchor Leg) the two factions are becoming increasingly suspicious of and aggressive towards one another. 2016 was a strange year and it almost feels as though some societies are more inward-looking than ever. The future I depict in Anchor Leg is not a pleasant one. If humankind doesn’t start sharing resources, tech and knowledge, if we keep looking out for number one and treating other people as the enemy, I honestly feel a future like the one in Anchor Leg is on its way. If readers take one thing from the book I hope it’s that we need to be more outward-looking, more inclusive on a global scale. We need to be less prejudiced and more mindful of what we could become if we’re not careful.

If you were aboard the ship, what area would you fit in to? Who would you befriend and how do you think you would react when the ship comes across the seemingly abandoned Scylla?

That is a great question! I think I would probably work in Horticulture, growing lots of nice food for everyone (I love gardening). I would definitely try and befriend Bakalar, head of Security, because I’d need someone to look out for me. However, when news of the Scylla came through I doubt I’d be volunteering for the rescues mission. I’d probably be a wimp and stick with my tomato plants!

Any Last Words?

Thank you for having me on your site, Dan!

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For those of you interested in finding out more about Jack and his work you can head on over to his website, or tweet him via @JackCroxall. Anchor Leg is an Amazon exclusive release and is available for kindle worldwide.

Author Interview: Rebecca Bradley

I speak to Crime author Rebecca Bradley about her debut release – Shallow Waters

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Rebecca Bradley – Crime writer extraordinaire to my home on the web. We live in a reading world where eclectic tastes have blossomed. People no longer stick to a certain genre, and instead embrace multiple genres. Any kind of reading is still reading, afterall.

Seeing her debut Shallow Waters recently released, I couldn’t help but nag Rebecca until she agreed to answer some questions.

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  • Tell us a little about Shallow Waters

 Shallow Waters is a police procedural crime novel and for a first novel it’s quite dark. It involves the abduction and murder of teenage girls, though I like to think that there has been a light touch when dealing with detail. Early reviews have agreed with this point so far.

It’s told in first person narrative from the point of view of the female DI, Hannah Robbins, so readers can feel as though they are a part of the investigation with the team. It is also the first in a series so it won’t be the last you see of Hannah Robbins.

  • Being set in your home town of Nottingham, what features about the place attracted you enough for it to be your setting?

Nottingham has a lot going for it in terms of it being a setting for a crime series. It is a city that has a deep historical background, especially for crime fans. It’s cosmopolitan and lively yet lives side by side with the old historical side like the castle and also the caves that run underneath the city centre. Several years ago it was known in the press as Shottingham due to a gun problem in one of the estates just off the city centre when there was a spate of shootings between rival gangs. There are so many dark corners and hidden gems in the county that it’s a minefield of treasure for a crime writer. It also boasts the oldest pub in the country, though that fact is up for debate with another.  I could go on forever listing what I know about Nottinghamshire but you’ll just have to keep reading the series to find out what is so great about it.

  • How does DI Hannah Robbins (your central protagonist) differ from other crime protagonists? Does she have any unusual quirks?

We get to see Hannah up close and personal because of the first person narrative and this gives us a real insight into her. She’s good at her job and determined to do it right. She sticks to the rules and isn’t one to go off on her own, but we do see that she has a heart. She gets affected by things, confused, hides from family confrontation, she’s human, people will recognise her. She also has a difficult personal relationship to deal with and we see how she manages this with her job. There is an interesting back story hinted at that will cause some issues in later novels.

  • How important is the villain in a crime novel? Did you find it difficult to get inside the head of a dark character?

I think the antagonist is as important as the protagonist. They are up against each other even if there are points in which they don’t realise it. This book was grim in places and yes some of the scenes were dark and hard work, so I had Hannah and her team react appropriately to them. They are human and even if they’re doing a job, they still have to balance that out with who they are and Hannah lets them vent when they need to.

  • What research did you embrace when looking for authenticity in Shallow Waters? Did you do it all online? Are you influenced by the many crime shows on TV?

I prefer to watch the American crime shows. I think they can be a bit darker. I also love American crime novels, though there are of course some fantastic British writers out there who I do love reading. Saying that, I don’t like gratuitous violence, it’s not about that, it’s about perception, about what you don’t say and don’t show. I know a lot of police officers as well, so I had a lot of help there with that side of it.

  • A lot of crime series have a duo, and perhaps it is that chemistry that hooks the readers. Does your DI have a partner, or have you worked things a little differently?

She has a team and during the novel she works with most of them, but she does have a DS who she works with a lot, DS Aaron Stone. He’s kind of her opposite. Where she’s led by her emotions, he’s analytical and only wants to work from evidence and facts, they balance each other out because he isn’t good with social context so he leaves that to Hannah.

  • When did you discover your love for the Crime genre? It’s almost entirely an adult’s market – what made you pick up your very first crime novel?

I’ve always loved it. As a child I was reading The Famous Five and Secret Seven, then I moved to Nancy Drew before upping my game to Agatha Christie. After that the world was my oyster.

  • I’ve read that short, snappy chapters make crime novels more appealing. Do you agree? Is this a writing technique you’ve used for your writing?

I love short chapters and yes, I have adopted this in Shallow Waters. I feel it helps keep things moving. You constantly want to know what is going to happen next.

  • Crime novels make up a large proportion of the book buyer’s spending. What is it about this diverse genre that appeals to so many do you think?

I think crime is so diverse that you can cover a multitude of issues within it. It also gives the reader a real sense of good versus bad with good always overcoming the bad every time. There’s a sense of justice when in the world all around us we see so many things that are so unjust. Readers also have a fascination with policing, law enforcement, the people who get to lock the bad guys up for real and crime fiction vicariously puts the reader through that experience.

  • Writing about death, murder and grim crime scenes must take its toll. How do you separate yourself from the dark nature crime novels demand?

I’m very good at compartmentalising. And I also know it’s not real. That helps.

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  • Excluding other crime novels, what other genres do you enjoy reading? Tell us a book that absolutely took you by surprise.

I have become a YA convert and love the genre. A book that took me by surprise was A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I didn’t expect it to have me sobbing loudly like a baby, so much so that my son asked me to stop reading it.

  • In your opinion, what makes a bad crime novel?

There are stereotypes that everyone knows about now and I think if you wrote a crime novel with a protagonist filling out all those stereotypes it wouldn’t get you very far. You need to come up with your own characters.

  • At the time of writing, Shallow Waters is currently sitting at no.45 in the Kindle Murder charts. Reception of it seems to be very high indeed – how have you handled such praise?

To be honest, how well it is doing has taken me somewhat by surprise. When you self-publish a novel and put it out into the world you can’t have any expectations, so to see it doing well and gathering some good reviews has me smiling hard on a daily basis. I’m truly grateful and I’m taking each day as it comes.

  • A little bird has told me that this is only the first in a series. How many books do you currently have in mind?

It’s an open ended series. As long as I have stories for Hannah and her team. I’ve finished the first and I already know the next three books, so I can’t see me running out of idea’s any time soon. I also have ideas for other crime books as well, so I need to start typing faster!

  • As you may know, fantasy is a genre I specialise in. Let’s have some fun – write a short blurb for a great new fantasy crime novel.

Now you’re asking the tough questions! OK, let’s try this…

The date is 2352 and planet Earth is now inhabited by a new kind of human, an evolved human, evolved to cope with the extremes of nature they come across. A human that is attuned to the earth and can manipulate natural fibres like wood and plant life, only some humans use this ability to get themselves ahead, forging weapons and traps. Lenko Travis is wanted for multiple murder and now he has his eye on the highest prize, the Sphere of Armden which would provide him the power to manipulate the oceans. The Clements unit are an elite section of the earth’s law enforcement dealing only with those using their power against the planet and now their sights are set on Travis. A battle of far-reaching consequences rages as they go after him. Can they bring him in before he sets in motion a series of events that will send the planet over its tipping point after all these years.

How’s that? You can tell I have a thing for our environment can’t you? Also I struggle with the definition of fantasy and science fiction, so I’m not sure if I’ve hit the right tone…

Thanks for having me, Dan.

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What great and honest answers, Rebecca, although, it sounds to me like you might be onto a story there – gap in the market, eh? eh? I wish you all the best with the book and the series as a whole.

About Rebecca Bradley

FullSizeRenderRebecca Bradley lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and her one-year-old Cockerpoo Alfie, who keeps her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis, in her writing of course.

Once a month Rebecca hosts a crime book club on Google+ hangouts where you can live chat about a crime book everyone has read. It’s great fun. Members join in from the UK, the US, France and Australia on a regular basis. As it is online, there are no geographical boundaries and you can sit in your home to join in

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‘A gritty police procedural, with no-holds barred and a shocking insight to the reality of some. Dark and disturbing, yet exceptionally compelling.‘ – Mel Sherratt, author of Taunting The Dead.

‘Tense, compelling and utterly absorbing. DI Hannah Robbins is a force to be reckoned with.’Jane Isaac, author of The Truth Will Out.

‘I found it quite a creepy read, with the descriptions of a girl shut in the cage playing on my mind long after I closed the book, something that doesn’t happen too often, and that I can only put down to the writing which snuck underneath the hard skin of this reader.’
‘Shallow Waters is a complete novel but one that leaves you wanting to find out more, especially about Hannah which means that I will definitely be watching out for the next in the series.’ C Bannister, Amazon top 300 reviewer.

When the naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway, post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.

Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team on the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.

But it doesn’t stop there. When catching a killer isn’t enough, just how far are the team willing to push themselves to save the next girl?

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Author Interview: Chrysler Szarlan

I was so excited when I was given permission to interview American author, Chrysler Szarlan. Her debut novel, The Hawley Book of the Dead was a book I absolutely loved. It has been released over seas already, but due for release in late October here in the UK. If you haven’t heard of this book, here is the info:

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In the tradition of The Night Circus and A Discovery of Witches, The Hawley Book of the Dead is the kind of novel that makes you believe that magic really exists.

An old house surrounded by acres of forest.

A place of secrets, mysteries and magic.

This is where Reve Dyer hopes to keep herself and her children safe.

But a mysterious figure has haunted Reve for over a decade. And now Reve knows that this person is on her trail again.

In Hawley, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, Reve must unlock the secrets of the Hawley Book of the Dead before it’s too late…

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Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Well, actually, I’ve read it, and loved it, here is my review if you are interested.

Q & A with Chrysler Szarlan

 

  • For people who haven’t heard of the book, tell us what it’s about?

That’s about the hardest question a writer has to answer! But here goes: The Hawley Book of the Dead is about a reluctant heroine, Revelation Dyer, a wife and mother who is also a Las Vegas stage magician with a real power. She has contained that power within the illusionist act she performs with her husband. One night, an intruder sneaks a real bullet into Reve’s trick pistol, and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband. Soon she discovers that her husband’s killer is stalking her and her daughters, so she flees with them to Hawley, Massachusetts, the home of her ancestors (she is descended from an entire family of women with special powers), where she hopes to keep them all safe. But Hawley is a fraught and haunted place, too, and Reve also discovers that she is next in line to be the Keeper of a very special magical book, The Hawley Book of the Dead. So she just keeps getting in deeper and deeper, trading stage magic for real magic.

  • It seems your past experiences with racehorses has influenced parts of the book. What is it about these animals that you love the most?

I’ve always had horses, since I was a kid. There is something mystical between women and horses, especially, a connection I tapped into while riding my own horse in the Hawley Forest, which is a real place. The horse energy always figured into the book, from day one. I can’t really explain it, it’s just a sense of power and a kind of flow of energy one gets with a horse. Or at least I do. Some of my best ideas come to me while I am riding.

  • Your previous work includes working as a magician’s assistant. That must have been exciting? What was one of your favourite magic tricks?

It was actually not such fun – it is a very demanding job, physically and timing-wise. I was quite bad at it, and always got something wrong. But I developed such respect for people who can perform illusions well. I think my favourite was the Three Part Girl, where I walked into a zig-zag cabinet, and the magician sliced me into three pieces with big blades, then put me back together again. It’s quite an exciting illusion!

  • The Hawley Book of the Dead has been likened to A Discovery of Witches. How does it feel to be compared to the brilliant Deborah Harkness? It must be such a heart-warming accolade?

I am a great admirer of Ms.Harkness, who brought fantasy to a mainstream adult audience, and opened so many doors to other writers like myself. It is certainly an honour to be compared to her at all! But that said, I think our books are only alike in that we are both writing in the tradition of contemporary fantasy, with adult women heroines. And we have both written about families of women with extraordinary powers. But I’ll take the comparison, for sure!

  • Reve is a strong woman, intent of doing anything to save her children. I believe her to be one of the most compelling characters I’ve read in a long time. Where did the idea of Reve come from? Were there any strong influences?

Wow, thanks Dan! High praise indeed! I actually have no idea where she came from, beyond the fact that the first image I had for the book was that of a woman bashing through a forest on her horse, desperately searching for her missing daughters. But my best friend says that of all my characters, I have the most in common with Reve (I think she means that we are both terribly stubborn!)

  • The idea of Caleigh’s string-based magic was incredibly creative. Tell us more about your creative processes. Do you ponder on things for days, or write more impulsively?

I try NOT to ponder things. I am an intuitive writer, for better or worse, and it sort of feels like the inspirations for characters, themes, scenes, etc, just come up from the ground through my body, and out my writing hand. Caleigh’s string games as well. I didn’t ever play them as a child, and knew nothing about them at all. When she made her ability known, I had to do some research on the history and patterns of string games!

  • The sense of smell is most prominent in the novel, especially the scent of lavenders signifying danger. Herbs and flowers are linked to witchcraft, which is also prominent in the book. Where does your interest in witchcraft come from?

I guess I don’t precisely think of the Dyer women as witches. I don’t know if I believe in witches per se, but throughout history, women especially who had knowledge of healing and herb-lore were persecuted. Or they were persecuted for holding and conveying ideas which were different. Reve’s ancestor, Mary Dyer, was a real woman who was hanged in Massachusetts in 1660 because she spread the Quaker faith. I think when one is living in Massachusetts, where the most infamous witch trials took place in Salem, it’s hard not to be influenced by that terrible history of intolerance for difference.

  • I’ve read that you work in a bookshop. Do you sneak a peek inside the books when you have no customers?

Of course! But a bookstore is quite a busy place, so I hardly have time read more than a sentence or two. I also have the great privilege of helping choose books for the Odyssey Bookshop’s First Edition Club. We get to read advance copies of amazing fiction (not at work, though!), and choose one new book a month to ship to our club members (we DO ship to England, as well). Our latest pick was David Mitchell’s amazing new book, The Bone Clocks. I got to meet him when he was touring in the US, and he is the nicest man in the world! Working in a bookstore is the best job imaginable, except being a writer.

  • Although mostly told from Reve’s narrative, there are also sections from Caleigh’s point of view. Why did you decide to have a different approach?

I’ve always been partial to the viewpoint switcheroo, having been heavily influenced by writers like Louise Erdrich, and the said David Mitchell. I just think it makes for a more interesting read.

  • Excluding Reve, who’s your favourite character in the book?

Oh, that’s a tough one. I really love Nan, and Caleigh of course. I love Falcon Eddy, and have the greatest respect for Mrs. Pike. But I have to say I’m a sucker for a villain, so I think I’d have to ultimately go with Rigel Voss.

 

  • Do we get to see more of Reve and her fabulous daughters?

Absolutely. I have a good start on the next book in the series, called Dreamland. It’s going to be a fun ride, I promise.

  • Who did you grow up reading?

At first, just about every horse book known to man – Enid Bagnold was my favourite, with her great National Velvet – the book is even better than the wonderful movie. Then the Victorians – Dickens and Bram Stoker and Wilkie Collins. Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre remains my favourite book EVER. Then H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King. I’ve always been interested in New England gothic. Annie Proulx, though, is my favourite contemporary writer, I’d have to say. Well, it’s a toss up between her and Stephen King. Oddly, they both have the same editor, who also bid on my book. But I decided I needed to learn how to write suspense, and ultimately went with a great editor of suspense novels.

  • Coffee or tea?

Oh, absolutely TEA! I am lucky to have great tea purveyors nearby, who are also friends, in Northampton MA – their shop is called Tea Trekker. They made a special blend just for the book, called Jolon’s Hawley Forest Blend. You can find a link to them, and the tea, a blend of black teas and Pu-erh, on my website.

  • Hand write or computer?

A little of both.

  • Favourite colour?

Pink and black together, like Velvet’s silks in National Velvet.

  • Whilst writing, do you have any particular superstitions? Perhaps you need a drink in your favourite cup? Maybe you have to always wear slippers?

I only use pens with blue ink. Never black. I’m a bit superstitious that way.

  • What single most experience has defined your life the most?

I think it was becoming terribly ill while I was practicing law, and having to give it up. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and suffer from it to this day, but to a lesser extent – lots of acupuncture! But that’s the reason I had the time to devote myself to learning the craft of writing. It was a long apprenticeship, too. I was on the writing path for twelve years, and wrote two other novels, before finding success with The Hawley Book of the Dead.

  • Do you have any tips for wannabe writers?

Never give up, always keep on, find a writing group, believe the pros (as in agents who blog or give tips about the process of finding an agent – they should know). Don’t have spelling errors on your first page or your query letter when sending out. And signing with an agent is only a step in the process, it just goes wonderfully on!

  • Before you go, tell us a little secret 😉

Cats are from another planet. But we love them anyway.

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David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is sat patiently on my bookcase! Fab interview, Chrysler. Very insightful. You know, you might be on to something there with the cats; the ancient Egyptians always revered cats – they knew!

UK Giveaway for a physical copy of The Hawley Book of the Dead

Thanks to the publisher, I have two copies to give away. Only open to to people in the UK though I’m afraid. Interested? Check out the rafflecopter link below.

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Author Interview: Jack Croxall

*tuts* that Jack Croxall, he gets everywhere! He’s only released a full trilogy – how unambitious is that? Thankfully, I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of his latest book Torn. It is the final instalment in the Tethers trilogy, and I was eager to see where Jack would finish things. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book, as well as the series as a whole, devouring each page and in fact reading three quarters of the book in the same day! Here is a snippet of my review on goodreads:

” … you could say that Torn is Jack Croxall’s most compelling novel to date, with fantasy in abundance, heart-wrenching moments where you urge the brilliant gang on, as well as entertaining bouts of rifle fire and sword fights bringing us to a successful conclusion. Torn, and indeed the Tethers trilogy as a whole, is a teenage fantasy lover’s perfect companion in that all three books stands up to the heavyweights of the genre – Pullman, Colfer, Paolini – and you know what, manages to topple some of the best.”

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Torn Jack Croxall

Desperate to destroy the stones before they can fulfil their dark promise, Karl and Esther race northwards. But they are not alone in their charge. Enemies both old and new jostle to reach the stones first, perhaps some already have.

Torn is the third book of The Tethers Trilogy.

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Having just released your final instalment of the trilogy, can you Jack Croxallfill us in on what readers can expect from Torn?

No problem, Dan! I think readers can expect a lot of new challenges for Karl and Esther, and a return to one of the trilogy’s most important themes. There are a few sneaky surprises in there as well.

How did you feel when you (metaphorically) wrote The End? Do you wish you could continue the series, or are you happy with the outcome of the three books?

I’m absolutely thrilled with how the trilogy has worked out, I just about managed to say everything I wanted to, and, perhaps strangely, I feel happy for the main characters; it feels like they have their own lives now and I’ll never be interfering with or torturing them again!

Torn takes our heroes up into the highlands of Scotland, so very different from the rural Shraye in which Karl and Esther are used to. Did you have to do much research for the setting?

Actually, not that much. The trilogy visits so many of the places I used to go when I was growing up, and the Scottish countryside hasn’t really changed all that much from the Victorian days. I did do some research of course, but it was mostly into what transport would have been like. Once I got everyone in Scotland, I felt a lot more confident in just work from my own experiences!

With the Cormorant in Tethers, the Theresa in Unwoven and the Leviathan and more in Torn, you sure love your boats! In my opinion, they really added to the atmosphere of the times. What was your thought process behind the inclusion of boats and ships in your trilogy?

Thanks Dan, I’ve just done a little count in my head and I think there are at least six boats with major appearances throughout the entire trilogy. That is certainly a lot of boats! I just love the romance of boats though; you get in one and go wherever you please (or at least you could hundreds of years ago), that’s why I think they appear so much, as well as how synonymous they are with swashbuckling of course!

Torn is a more mature novel, with death and loss interwoven into the storyline, behind the conspiracies and adventure. Did you find yourself cutting back on the grislier scenes to match your readership?

I did think about that quite a lot actually, Dan. There are some gruesome bits, there can be no denying it. And the violence probably gets more severe throughout the trilogy as a whole. But I decided to keep almost all of the grizzly bits in Torn because, with so much more at stake, it felt like much more horrible things would inevitably happen.

 

Tethers.coverThe parallel between the ending of Tethers and Torn is uncanny. Shona is a character who seems to take the burdens on herself, always for the greater good. She’s almost the most important character in the entire series. Did you always have that in mind when constructing her?

I’m so glad you asked that, Dan! Yes, Shona is pivotal to the series as a whole. Her character is interwoven with a recurring theme throughout the Trilogy, the nature of fate. It’s Shona that inadvertently gets Karl and Esther involved with the stones, and Shona that is battling so hard to steer events in a certain direction. You could argue that the whole series is about Shona trying to alter fate, and the endings in question are a definite result of that notion!

I wasn’t surprised to see your love of all things ‘Zombie’ get a nod or two in here. What do you think the reaction will be? Talk to us about where your love of that particular genre came from.

I do love zombies and zombie-like creatures, any story/game/film that has something to do with them in fact! I think it’s because we’re all afraid of death, and zombies embody that fear. I love seeing intelligent characters confronted with them, and to read all the amazing takes on the concept out there. I think my Z love actually came from videogames, a medium which I know you agree communicates some great stories.

Did anything change during your writing process for the last instalment of the series?

Just the speed of it really, I knew exactly what I wanted to happen, so I was able to get words down at a much faster rate.

Out of all the characters you’ve created in the trilogy, apart from Karl and Esther, who is your favourite and why?

I think Harland is probably my favourite of the supporting cast. He’s one of those rare people that will actually listen carefully to what younger people have to say, and he’s totally kick-ass too! I made sure that his influence is felt right through the trilogy, right to the final passage in fact.

How do you go about naming your characters? Do they come to Unwoven Cover - JCyou instantly? Take Ailig for example, the broad Scotsman.

I cannot express just how important I think naming a character is. A name should be a significant part of their character, and it should embody part of, if not all, of their personality and background. Some of the names in Tethers came very easily, like Karl Scheffer, which never changed, but some were a lot harder to get right. I spent hours searching through lists of popular names and surnames on the internet. Thankfully, there are scrupulous records of the most popular baby names for a given year and for given countries. I think my favourite names from the trilogy are Omorose, Laurent Dufor, Abigail Trilby (who is an extremely minor character annoyingly!) and, as you mentioned before, Ailig Dunn. There are a few I think I got wrong but I won’t mention those!

Esther seems to be unanimously well-loved. Did you ever think she would be as well received as she has been, especially after her internal troubles from Unwoven, where she became distant and mean?

I think Esther’s feistiness and compassion are the traits of hers which readers enjoy, but I put the poor girl through so much it’s no wonder she got a bit angry in Unwoven! I think it’s good to see that side of her though, and I hope people see that she tries hard to come back, especially once she realises how much Karl cares for her.

I have to ask, how do you feel about the criticisms of the last two novels in terms of length? Is there a specific reason for their being considerably shorter than Tethers?

I completely understand the criticisms Dan, they’re absolutely valid as part two and three are indeed much shorter than part one! I just decided to write until I was done, I realised pretty early in that I was heading for a lower word count, but, as I’d said pretty much all I wanted to, I just accepted it – possibly a mistake but I’m happy with the outcome!

Do you have any plans to release the trilogy as a whole book, or at least every individual book in the physical format?

There are currently no plans to release any of the books in paperback, but that could well change one day. Maybe a reprint/rerelease in future, but the series seems to have found an audience in the eBook market (and I’m immensely thankful for this), so that’s where Tethers feels most at home for now.

What would you say you’ve learnt over the course of writing a trilogy? It is so different from writing a standalone?

Hmm, difficult question. I think one important thing I’ve learned is how to stick to a proper story arc, where as I used to be a bit decedent and prone to going off on ridiculous tangents. Being forced to finish a trilogy and tie up loose ends has taught me how to do that! It’s definitely something I’m carrying over to my standalone work.

What’s next for you?

I’m having a little break at the moment, and then it’s on with the next book, Wye. Wye is a full length YA novel set in an end of civilisation England. I’m very excited about it because I think – at least writing wise – it’s the best thing I’ve ever come up with. I’m also working on a little surprise which will hopefully manifest itself sometime next year.

With having published the Tethers trilogy yourself, I think it is safe to say that you are a huge supporter of Indie authors. Would you consider traditional publishing?

Absolutely. Self-publishing has honestly changed my life and, quite frankly, got me through a very difficult time (I was struggling with my health). I was never adamant that I’d hit publish and the next week Tethers would have made me millions, but it was a much-needed adventure and experience that I’m keen to repeat, most likely with my little surprise next year! As for traditional publishing, I’m actually going to try and go through that process with Wye (easier said than done of course) but with all I’ve learned from the indie scene, I know I can give it a damn good shot.

Thanks so much for having me Dan!!

Jack tweets via @jackcroxall and has his own facebook page too

Torn is out now as ebook from Amazon UK or Amazon US

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Author Interview: Kenneth G. Bennett

EXODUS 2022 banner

When I first read the blurb for Kenneth Bennett’s new book, Exodus 2022, I was instantly intrigued by its eeriness. I had no choice but to get onto the emails and ask him some questions.

ken bennett author pictureKenneth G. Bennett is the author of the young adult novels, THE GAIA WARS and BATTLE FOR CASCADIA, and the new sci-fi thriller, EXODUS 2022. A wilderness enthusiast who loves backpacking, skiing and kayaking, Ken enjoys mysteries, science fiction, action adventure stories and, most especially, novels that explore the relationship between humans and the wild. He lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and son and two hyperactive Australian Shepherds.

THE GAIA WARS series was optioned for film by Identity Films, LA in 2012, and both GAIA and BATTLE have been featured as Top 100 Bestsellers in Teen Literature and Fiction on Amazon. Kirkus Reviews called THE GAIA WARS “A solid first entry of a promising, imaginative new young-adult fantasy series featuring a well-crafted character.”

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  • Your new book Exodus 2022 sounds incredibly eerie. Tell EXODUS 2022us about Joe and his dilemma.

 Exodus 2022 is the story of Joe Stanton, a young priest who begins suffering sudden, severe hallucinations while on vacation in the San Juan Islands of Washington State with his girlfriend. Others up and down the coast have suffered identical hallucinations and all have died. As the priest and his girlfriend begin to unravel the mystery of the voices in Joe’s mind—and what they mean for the future of the planet—they must also outwit a billionaire weapons contractor bent on exploiting Joe’s newfound understanding of the cosmos.

 

  • Where did the idea come from? Did something influence your plot, or was it a sporadic thought?

 I’d been reading about ecological catastrophe and then stumbled on some articles about animal intelligence and the surprising cognitive abilities of non-human species. The two topics came together to form the underlying concept of the book.

  • I’ve read that you have two successful young adult novels to your name, how did it feel writing for an older audience? Did you go about things differently?

Thanks for asking. I learned a great deal writing my YA novels, THE GAIA WARS and BATTLE FOR CASCADIA, so I felt more experienced. More capable. But I didn’t write any differently—just tried to tell the story to the best of my ability, same as before.

  • What is it that you like about the Science Fiction genre? What books of this genre inspire you and which ones do you think are often overlooked?

 I enjoy science fiction because of the way it ignites my imagination and makes me consider possibilities I hadn’t considered before.  The best sci-fi book I’ve read recently is Hugh Howey’s WOOL.

  • Your antagonist in Exodus 2022 is a billionaire weapons contractor. (Without Spoilers) can you tell us why he is so interested in Joe’s problem and what makes him tick?

 The billionaire weapons contractor Sheldon Beck is interested in Joe for two reasons. One reason is inexplicable at first—a sort of “voice” whispering in his mind. The second reason is that he gradually realizes that Joe could be the key to a vast untouched resource worth trillions of dollars.

  • Apart from Joe, who was your favourite character from Exodus 2022 and why?

I’m very fond of the character Mia because of her unusual background and characteristics. She was a lot of fun to write.

  • Do you think the Science Fiction genre is, perhaps, seen to be only suited to certain types of readers? Do you think the genre needs rejuvenating, and if so, how do you think this should be done?

The sci-fi genre is pretty vast and I believe there are science fiction books (and movies) out there to appeal to almost anyone.  I think more readers who don’t normally go near sci-fi should give it a try. They might be pleasantly surprised.

  • What book do you consider your guilty pleasure?

 The REACHER books by Lee Child. I love those books. The whole series brilliant and well written.

  • What is the hardest aspect of being an author?

 Finding the time to write consistently, day in and day out, while also working full time and being involved with family.

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To read an exclusive excerpt from Exodus 2022 you can do so here

EXODUS 2022There is also a fantastic giveaway on offer to celebrate this release! The prizes are:

1 Kindle Fire

15 signed paperbacks

To Enter click here

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Author Interview: Shannon A Thompson

I had the chance to interview American author, Shannon A Thompson last year, where she talked about her exciting and original young adult series. During the interview, we talked about writing in two perspectives and fitting in writing whilst still at college. Since then, Shannon has gone on to being an Amazon bestselling author, graduating and joining the ranks among AEC Stellar publishing. All of that in the space of one year! I’m sure I speak for my readers when I say, CONGRATULATIONS!

Her sequel to last year’s Minutes Before Sunset is just days away, and you may remember that I took part in Shannon’s cover reveal running up to this release. I thought it was probably about time that we sat down and had another chat about what’s in store for lovers of paranormal novels.

At sixteen years old, Shannon A. Thompson became the published Shannon Thompsonauthor of “November Snow.” At twenty-one, she was featured in “Poems: a collection of works by twelve young Kansas poets.” On May 1st, her paranormal romance, “Minutes Before Sunset” was released by AEC Stellar Publishing. In July, it was awarded Goodreads Book of the Month. It’s the first novel in The Timely Death Trilogy. Her first short story, “Sean’s Bullet,” released in an anthology in October, 2013, and her upcoming novel, “Seconds Before Sunrise,” is expected to release March 27, 2014.
She’s lived in five states and moved over fifteen times, which she uses as inspiration for writing. Shannon dedicates all of her published works to lost loved ones, and she encourages everyone to find their passion.
Shannon recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing. She also works as a Social Media Marketing Manager for AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc.

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  • With your sequel to Minutes Before Sunset just days away, fill us in on what’s in store in Seconds Before Sunrise.

Since the first novel revolved around the Dark, Seconds Before Sunrise reveals the human side to a paranormal world. But don’t worry – there’s still plenty of action and romance. Also, Eric’s 18th birthday might be in this book…

Minutes Before Sunset

  • What do you think sequels need to do within a book series; do you think it is OK to have follow ons, or do sequels need to be their own novel too?

I think it’s okay either way. For instance, Nancy Drew is a perfect “stand alone” series, but The Mortal Instruments are not stand alones. My trilogy is definitely not designed as three standalone novels, and I love it that way. I think many strengths can take place in either instance, but keeping them separate – for my trilogy – allowed me to explore three different psychologies (the Dark, humans, and the Light) as well as deepen a storyline as it travels through all of them.

  • In Minutes Before Sunset, you introduced us to creatures of the Dark and the Light. Will there be more emphasis on their origins and mythology in the sequel?

Oh, yes! And the third novel will definitely answer the questions many reviewers have had, especially about the Light and their recollection of past events. My favorite part of the second novel is how we get to see more of the side characters and their backgrounds, especially Jonathon, Luthicer, and Camille.

  • It seems that the The Timely Death Trilogy is an urban fantasy series that accepts paranormal elements hidden within a realistic setting. Do you think there are unknown powers out there in our reality that we still don’t know exist?

What a great question! This might seem extreme for many, but I truly believe there are too many questions to positively say there is nothing out there. I believe in a paranormal world that isn’t even “paranormal.” It’s reality. In fact, I’m currently studying famous people who claimed in their personal journals to have familiars – and no, they were not always seen as these evil, “witch” spirits in the occult. They were spirit guides and showed up in many cultures around the world. Those instances fascinate me. In my novels, I strive to blend paranormal worlds with our realities around us.

  • YA literature often have coming of age heroes/heroines in them, and with important, easy-to-relate-to themes for its (often) teenage audience. What do you think your readers could take from Seconds Before Sunrise, apart from a great story that is?

I like to believe that my characters break stereotypes. For instance, Crystal dresses like a punk, but clothes shouldn’t define you. She strives to be a great journalist one day, she loves glitter, and she enjoys school events like prom. I also try to deal with real life issues in a respectable but honest manner. In Seconds Before Sunrise, I wrote about the repercussions of reckless driving and underage drinking. I don’t want to glorify those dangers, but I also don’t want to smother readers with a “life lesson” that any decision is a bad one. The lesson is up for them to decide.

  • You write from two perspectives in your series, from both Seconds Before SunriseEric’s and Jessica’s point of view. I’m intrigued to read how you structure your work. Do you write all of Eric’s story first, or swap between the two? Do you have a personal favourite? And, is it difficult for you to get inside the head of a male character, being female I mean?
  • I’ve noticed that you like to write about themes beyond our control: destiny and fate, for instance, and how they intertwine with human desires such as love and choice. Are you a spiritual person, and what is it about the above that drives your stories forward?

I mainly write from two perspectives in my paranormal romance because I don’t think males get a voice in that genre. They are often type-casted as these mysterious, cold-hearted guys that show rare moments of true love. I want to show what he’s thinking and feeling, too. Ironically, I find writing from a male perspective to be much easier than my female leads. I let the characters speak when they want to, which is why Eric tells more of the story in Minutes Before Sunset while Jessica tells more in Seconds Before Sunrise. I consider myself a very spiritual and open-minded individual, which is what I think ultimately allows me to let the characters consume every bit of me. They take over. They push it forward. I’m just the messenger, so to speak.

  • The wider writing community are a friendly bunch – I’ve certainly made many friends along my journey. What have you learnt following the release of your three full-length novels, in your own journey and what advice would you give to a newbie writer who are looking to take that big leap into writing?

I love how supportive the writing community has become! When I first published November Snow in 2007, the self-published world was really looked down upon – it was so much more negative if not completely negative. My current novels are with a small publisher, but I encourage all kinds of publishing. To an aspiring writer, I would tell them to truly embrace their love for their craft. Once you have made the decision that your passion will push you forward, no amount of negativity will shake you. But you must believe in yourself.  There’s no reason to doubt your dream. It’s your life, and you’re on this world to live it, so live it how you want to.

  • I often find dialogue a tricky form of writing to master. In YA novels such as yours, how do you write dialogue and do you think it differs from adult novels?

Dialogue is the first thing I write. I have a very unusual writing process, which I didn’t even realize until I shared it on my blog. I basically write a screenplay first, and then I add the prose later, building into the novel. Dialogue can definitely change from genre to genre, but it should always depend on who is speaking. That being said, I have censored many of my characters. For instance, many teenagers curse – and they curse a lot – but I don’t want my novel to be filled with curse words. In my opinion, I personally don’t have anything against cursing, but I know cursing can make readers very uncomfortable, so I edit that out in this sense: “Write for yourself; edit for your reader.” In a funnier instance, I had a character who ALWAYS said, “you know what I mean?” after everything. Safe to say we had an argument about that.

  • What was the last thing that surprised you?

In life: a leaf rolled out in front of my car. It was such a small instance, but the moment – beneath the full moon – left me feeling like I had driven through a midnight poem. In writing: my characters always surprise me. Mainly when they do very reckless things when I am screaming, “You’re better than that!” but – alas – people will make mistakes.

  • Tell us a secret.

At one point, I did give up on publishing. I completely dreaded my work. I thought I was done. But I kept writing for myself. And one day I gave into the publishing bug again, and I had a contract three months later. I look back on it like this: I took a detour off my life path – but as long as you get back on, it’s okay. It can even be energizing.

  • Let’s say that you discover what fate has in store for you. Would you gladly allow events to fall into place, or would you rebel and fight fate’s decisions.

I suppose that depends on what my fate would be. I think it would be natural to fight any kind of fate that you knew about, even a nice fate, because we want to be in charge of our lives. With my triple A personality, I am beyond a fighter. I’m a person who finds excitement in a challenge.

 

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Seconds Before Sunrise will be released on March 27th 2014 and will be available from:the_book_depository_logo

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Author Interview: Aubry Kae Andersen

Has it really been four months since my last interview? Doesn’t time just fly by! Despite the time, I was really excited about getting the chance to talk to and question Aubry Kae Andersen, who is an American author who goes under the pen name of A. Ka (Aubry Kae Andersen – get it.) I read and reviewed her debut, Isaac the Fortunate: The Winter quite recently, and fell in love with her elaborate descriptions of fifteen century Spain, as well as feeling hooked by her central character’s plight.

Aubry is gearing up for the release of the sequel to The Winter, aptly named The Spring, and so I thought it would be a great chance to get to know Aubry, as I feel she will be one author who will undoubtedly be sticking around. Her novels may not be super-sized, but definitely entrancing for a number of reasons. She is quite open, yet remains somewhat as a mystery.

Aubry Kae Andersen, also known as A. Ka (yes, she knows and embraces akaghostthe absurdity of that pseudonym), currently lives in Seattle, WA. She’s an artist, an illustrator, and an aspiring writer. To make ends meet, she also pimps out her web design services.

As an illustrator, Aubry collaborates with Zachary Bonelli by providing cover and chapter illustrations for his Voyage series.

When Aubry isn’t writing and drawing, she’s probably thinking about writing and drawing. Or else she’s designing a website, hanging out at coffee shops, or reading Wikipedia. At some point she also sleeps.

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  • Your debut novel, Isaac the Fortunate: The Winter was, in my opinion, a successful blend of history and fantasy. Tell us a little about the book and how you came up with the idea.

I’ve always been obsessed with trivia.  If you check the dedication on “The Winter,” it thanks Wikipedia.  “The Winter” itself came from a dream I had over a decade ago.  My boyfriend in college lost his only sibling, his little brother, in a sudden car accident, and I had a dream that I was able to go back and stop that from happening.  But other problems happened after that.

In the usual fashion of dreams, I couldn’t remember the details of that dream, just the emotions and vague ideas.  But the concept kept brewing in my mind, until I decided to write a short story with the same themes.  The original story was very rough and naively vague, a fairy tale set in an unnamed land.  It wasn’t until I began writing the rest of the seasons that I decided to ground the story in a specific era of history.

After crawling Wikipedia for a while, I settled on the Renaissance, because very little fantasy explores that era.  We have plenty of dark age fantasies and urban fantasies, but so many people overlook the amazing richness of the Early Modern Period.  I was so dazzled by things like the Age of Exploration, the Sack of Rome, the Expulsion of the Jews, the Ottoman Empire, and so on, I pretty much let the setting make itself.  Thus I call “Isaac the Fortunate” the book that Wikipedia wrote.

The Winter - Issac the fortunate

  • I thought that the character of Beltran was emotionally told and completely believable. How do you get yourself in the role of a character to tell their story so authentically?

It’s taken years of writing practice, character studies, and psychological research for me to “get into the head” of characters like Beltran.  Each part of “Isaac the Fortunate” very strictly focuses on a different character, except for “The New Year” (the sixth and final part) where I allow switching POV between characters.  After a prologue from Isaac, the titular character, all of “The Winter” is Beltran’s story, and I stick with Beltran’s story, even when switching to another POV would’ve been convenient to move the plot along or avoid confusion.  I do this to add authenticity, because everyone is stuck in their own head, like it or not.  I want people to follow the characters through the problems I throw at them, from beginning to end, because that’s what life is–a series of problems to overcome.

As for Beltran himself, I created him to be a very stereotypical protagonist–a young man, somewhat unremarkable but clever when he wants to be, idealistic and good-hearted.  He wants that storybook ending we all learn to expect when we’re younger.  A simple, easy life.  A perfect spouse, a loving family.   But Beltran’s situation and the storyline are not the stereotypical journey of such a protagonist.  This is the crux of his relationship with his wife, Amaranta.  Without spoiling too much, Beltran comes off as an endearing and honest character, but he’s also kind of delusional, especially when it comes to love.  I think most of us are like–wanting something we can’t really have, and often persisting to the point of obsession.

  • The second novel in the series, Isaac the Fortunate: The Spring is just around the corner. How does this differ from the first and what can we expect to uncover?

“The Spring” tells the origin story of Isaac’s wife, Eostre, the unnamed traveller who gave Beltran the potion that sent him back in time.  “Isaac the Fortunate” isn’t told in chronological order, you see, since it involves the repetition of time and paradoxical knowledge of future events.  So “The Spring” takes a step back in time–or maybe a step forward.  Eostre learns about how to stop the Delirium, the plague of insanity, even though she has yet to meet Beltran or her future husband, Isaac.  The surprise of “The Spring” is really how she acquires this knowledge.

Oh, and the setting is different, too.  Lucerne, Switzerland, instead of Spain.  And it’s in a convent, because Eostre’s studying to be a nun.  (She’s not happy about that.)

  • Your entire Isaac series is split into six parts, scheduled for release over the course of a year and a half. Why did you decide to split it up into smaller novellas rather than a full length book?

Isaac the Fortunate is 200,000 words, the size of two average-sized novels.  That’s not too big by fantasy standards, but it is huge for a debut novel.  It’s very difficult to get people to commit to a book that long when you don’t have an established name.  I originally wrote the entire thing in six novella-sized parts, so I decided to split it up that way.  It is a bit of a marketing ploy, to entice people to read a greater series by having them start with a pocket-sized book.  But I do really love how I get to design a separate cover for each part.

After the sixth part is released, I’ll release a full version of the entire thing and stop printing the smaller novellas.  So people better buy the small ones as collector items!

  • You do your own illustrations for the books, don’t you? Do The Spring - AkAyou feel that artwork has been lost somewhere along the way, as this is quite an unusual practice nowadays? Do you think the artwork add anything to the story, and if so, what?

Yes, I designed the cover and added the drawings inside.  My writing and art feed each other.  Drawing the characters helps me come up with their personality and all the little details, like how they carry themselves, their mannerisms, their clothing.

It doesn’t seem typical for a writer to illustrate their own work, but it’s more common than people think.  Tolkien made his own illustrators for the Lord of the Ring series.  Kurt Vonnegut loved to doodle his thoughts.  Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass made his over covers.  William Blake, T. S. Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll… really the list goes on.

Most these illustrations didn’t make it to the final published books.  Either the publishers decided it was too expensive to add illustrations, or they wanted to hire a different illustrator.  That’s a big reason I chose to publish independently with Fuzzy Hedgehog Press.  My publisher loves the illustrations and gives me free reign.  And with current printing technology, producing illustrated books is cheaper than it ever was.

Does it add anything to the story?  I think so.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

  • One of the aspects of The Winter that won me over in an instance, was how you create atmosphere so vividly and seemingly effortlessly. As it is set in 16th Century Spain, did you have to do much research for the book?

Oooohhhhh yes.  I’ve already mentioned my book’s dedication to Wikipedia.  I really believe an author has to do their homework.  Luckily, I love reading nonfiction.   I’ve read a lot of translations of popular books from the Renaissance, really seminal ones like “The Prince” by Machiavelli or “The Song of El Cid.”    I’ve also read nonfiction books on really obscure topics, like the lives of Jews in the Ottoman Empire (the titular character Isaac is Jewish) and some extremely dry accounts about rural Spain.  I even read textbooks meant for college history classes, stuff that would put most people to sleep.

  • Is Spanish history a particular interest of yours, or is it history in general?

I earned a minor in Spanish during college.  Though I can’t speak it very well anymore, I do have a fondness for Spanish literature, like Isabel Allende and Mario Vargas Llosa.  If you’re familiar with Spanish magical realism, you can see those influences in my work.  The “magic” of “Isaac the Fortunate” isn’t so much about casting spells, or fighting dragons, or cavorting with fairies; it’s more about mythical elements and presenting a version of reality where the laws of nature aren’t quite right.

  • In The Winter, Beltran drinks the Golden Bridle to be sent back in time to relive the winter over and over in an attempt to save his wife, and his fellow villagers, from a nasty plague. If you could drink the Golden Bridle, when would you go back to and what would you do over?

You know, I’d like to say I have no regrets, because that’s a major theme of “Isaac the Fortunate”–the futility of regret.  If I went back and changed what I didn’t like, I’m not confident I’d be in a better place because of it.  I could repeat time out of sheer curiosity, because I’d just like to use the extra time to explore the world.  But then what would happen to the friends I made recently?  My achievements?  All the good things I would need to strive for again?  I’d be so anxious about erasing anything, good or bad.

  • What is your favourite genre to read and what genre is your guilty pleasure?

I love reading nonfiction, especially books about psychology, science, and history.  I’m actually very bad about reading fiction lately, and I feel guilty about that, seeing as I’m a fiction writer.  But if we’re talking about the “guilty pleasure” where I love reading something awful, that would probably be Cracked.com articles.  I must learn random trivia from whatever I read, and I love irreverent humor.

  • I’ve noticed that nearly all of the Isaac series is named after a particular season. What is your favourite season and why?

Yes, the first four are the season, then I ran out of seasons and “invented” two more to end the book.  My favourite season in the book is the fifth one, “The Rain,” because it’s about Isaac, my favourite character.  “The Rain” is a facetious season, because in Seattle (where I live) we only have two seasons–constant rain or constant sunshine.  Isaac comes from Venice, which has similar weather.  I originally come from Salt Lake City, Utah, which has harsher seasons, so for me Beltran’s winter is the REAL winter–cold, snowy, and dark.  But for Isaac, who is… well, “fortunate,” his winter is just rainy.  And I love the rain of Seattle’s winters.

  • After reading about you, I’ve discovered your love of all things art. What books and what paintings/illustrations did you grow up with that inspired you to develop both forms into one medium?

Illustration is my favourite form of art.  I’ve been inspired most by Yoshitaka Amano, who illustrated the Final Fantasy video game series.  I used to have the Nintendo Power strategy guides for the Final Fantasy games and would use them more for art reference than playing the games.  Many of the earlier RPG games had excellent writing, too, like FFVI.  I also love artists from the 19th century, like Arthur Rackham, who illustrated books like “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” and “Alice in Wonderland.”  Particularly memorable are his illustrations of Norse myths for Wagner’s “The Ring.”

The fine art world is actually very disparaging of illustrators, even though lot of art from the past is illustrative.  (The Vatican is pretty much an elaborate illustration of the Bible.)  It wasn’t until the Twentieth Century that art and literature critics decided the two disciplines should be exclusive, that art shouldn’t have a story and only children’s books should have pictures.  That attitude has been changing a lot in the past decade, with illustrations being shown in art galleries and graphic novels getting a lot of attention for great storytelling.  So I don’t think what I’m doing is too unusual anymore!

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