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Ecko Burning – Release Day: An Interview with Danie Ware

Hey everyone! Hope you’ve all been epic or good at it! 😉 I’m back today with an interview for you – the first I’ve done in a very long time, and with a writer and storyteller that has been at the forefront of the UK’s SFF industry for many years – Danie Ware. 🙂

Danie

Danie day-jobs at Forbidden Planet and is in charge of the awesome retailer’s social media presence, organizing events such as book launches and author signings, and is also in charge of FP’s marketing strategy. But this might be news to you, because Danie is also the author of Ecko Rising and Ecko Burning, the first two novels in a trilogy that has been gaining rave reviews and generating controversy, too. I read and loved Ecko Rising (you can read my review here), and I’m most certainly looking forward to Ecko Burning. 🙂 As I’m sure many of you are, too!

And if you have no idea who Danie is, and haven’t heard of Ecko, where the hell have you been?! 😉 Seriously, though, here’s some info on the first two books of her trilogy. 🙂

Ecko Rising

In a futuristic London where technological body modification is the norm, Ecko stands alone as a testament to the extreme capabilities of his society. Driven half mad by the systems running his body, Ecko is a criminal for hire. No job is too dangerous or insane.

When a mission goes wrong and Ecko finds himself catapulted across dimensions into a peaceful and unadvanced society living in fear of ‘magic’, he must confront his own percepions of reality and his place within it.

A thrilling debut, Ecko Rising explores the massive range of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, and the possible implications of pitting them against one another. Author Danie Ware creates an immersive and richly imagined world that readers will be eager to explore in the first book in this exciting new trilogy.

Order your copies here from Amazon US, here from Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa.

Ecko Burning

 

***BEWARE OF SPOILERS WHEN READING THIS BLURB***

Ruthless and ambitious, Lord Phylos has control of Fhaveon city, and is using her forces to bring the grasslands under his command. His last opponent is an elderly scribe who’s lost his best friend and wants only to do the right thing. Seeking weapons, Ecko and his companions follow a trail of myth and rumour to a ruined city where both nightmare and shocking truth lie in wait.

The book is available right now, so order your copies from Amazon UK here; it will be released in the US on June 3rd 2014 (pre-order here), and if you’re in SA, you could order your copies from Exclusive Books and start reading in a week or three. 🙂

Right, let’s get to that interview, shall we?

***

1) Would you please tell us a bit about yourself? Everyone in the UK SFF industry (and probably a good number in the US industry, too), know you through your day-job at Forbidden Planet – tell us a bit about the Danie Ware that most people don’t know. 🙂 )

I’m a forty-something single Mum, with a nine-year-old son of whom I’m very proud – and he’s been very patient with my writing, bless him! Other points of note: at thirteen, I went to an all-boys’ boarding school, then went on to read old school English Lit at Uni – lots of Milton and Chaucer. After that, I ran around on battlefields and hit people with swords for a decade or so. I moved to London in 2000 and I don’t really swear that much!

2) Were you always a storyteller at heart, or was it a need that gradually grew? Can you remember the first story you wrote? Tell us about it. 🙂

I’d’ve been about ten or eleven, I guess. It was a horse story (was learning to ride at the time, and ‘going through the phase’). I called it The Fire Saddle, wrote it all out by hand, PAGES of it, with maps and illustrations and cover art and you-name-it. It was absolutely honking terrible.

But, I’ve always been a storyteller, I think it’s a cathartic necessity. In the running-round-with-swords days, we all told our stories together, shared our worlds and realities and creativity – and a lot of Ecko is owed to those times.

3) In your opinion, do good writers make good storytellers? Or vice versa?

There are many different breeds of writer. A good copywriter is a different beast to a good novelist or a good journalist – though there’s no rule to say that a writer can’t be good at more than one discipline.

Good storytelling is about passion – about having an emotional involvement. The writer in you brings structure and narrative arc and all of that sensible stuff – but to be a storyteller, it has to come from your heart as well as your head.

4) Ecko is your unique creation – why him? What is it about him that made you want to write his story?

Though he originally had a different name, Ecko sprang into being, fully formed, one night when I was watching ‘Repossessed’. There’s a sequence where Linda Blair comes up off the bed, her face contorting, and snarls, ‘What crawled up your ass and died?’ and the entire concept, character and attitude, came from that moment.

He’s compelling because he’s not a character that reacts in half-measures. I never know what he’s going to be do next, and that makes him interesting. In times of frustration and anger, he’s been a deeply satisfying character to write. At other times, mustering his attitude has been quite hard.

Either way, his sarcastic sense of humour gave me slightly sardonic tone of voice that I needed to write about the fantasy world.

5) Ecko’s world and the world that he later finds himself in both have, for want of a better word, echoes of our own, yet are different and memorable – can you tell us a bit about how these worlds came to be? Did you create them and then fit the characters to them, or did the characters necessitate the creation of these worlds?

In our storytelling youth, our worlds and characters were created by osmosis – by a gang of us, sharing our visions and insights and foolishness. Pushing boundaries was what we did – we took the basics and played with them, we trashed and re-invented them. They grew organically and over time.

When I started writing again, I had to apply the editorial red pen – to make them work with the story. The addition of Pilgrim and Doctor Grey to the future London, for example, or the choice to base the fantasy culture on the cycling trade of a specific material – these things were new, and necessary.

The main characters, including Ecko himself, underwent the same editing process. Though there’s one, completely new, major character in Ecko Burning!

6) Many writers / storytellers are asked about the themes present in their novels – did you focus on themes in Ecko Rising? Did they grow organically or consciously?

The film ‘Run, Lola, Run’ shows how a tiny decision can change a whole pattern of unfolding events – a good visualisation for the ‘fractal reality’ theme. On one level, everything Ecko does is reflected throughout the pattern, and hence clearly visible – he can’t get away with anything. On another level, it brings with it the question of his freedom – is everything he does a part of the pattern and pre-ordained? Or is he free to move as he chooses and therefore change the pattern around him?

In its simplest form, this concept was built-in, right from the very beginning.

As the story unfolded, though, it came to encompass the pattern of the fantasy world itself – its Elemental and seasonal development, how the grass lives and dies, and the cycling patterns of the terhnwood trade.

I wish I was a mathematician, because I love fractals and I’d like to be able to draw it!

7) What can we look forward to in Ecko Burning? Have you upped the odds or gone for a ‘breath before the storm’?

Now that would be telling! I’ll say that you’ll find out more about the world and it’s culture and politics, how it works and how it can be taken apart. You’ll find out more about where centaurs other mythical beasties and come from – and what their agenda might be. You’ll see more of Ecko’s London. And you’ll hopefully meet a few surprises!

8) What is it about genre fiction that you hate, and what do you love?

I love how much freedom genre fiction has to express and explore – I love its scope and escapism, and the worlds to which it came take us. I get quite grumpy when those worlds all look the same, and all adhere to certain core concepts.

This is a bit of a hot potato at the moment – but I’m kind of pleased that Ecko’s been as controversial at it has. If it pleased everybody, I wouldn’t have written it right!

9) If a movie-trilogy was made of your trilogy, which director do you think would have the best chance of ‘getting’ Ecko?

Oooo that’s a hard one. I see Ecko as manga/animation – London done like Akira and the Varchinde like Ghibli’s Earthsea. I wouldn’t like to peg a Director to it, but I love the idea of the colours and the brightness and the contrast of one world to the other – or the filming sequences seen through Ecko’s oculars, complete with UV, IR targeting, or watching it move differently if his adrenal boosting kicked.

It would really underline the differences between the character and the world – and would look awesome!

10) If you had to pick one thing that you like most about your job at Forbidden Planet, what would it be, and why?

That’s an easy one – it’s being able to be a part of the SF/F community and to bring something to it that’s both meaningful and useful. It’s being able to host and attend events and to be involved in everything to such an intense degree. The presence of my son means that I don’t get to as many events as I’d like – so I’m waiting for him to be old enough to take with me!

***

Danie2 2 (1)

Remember, Ecko Burning was released today and should be hitting UK-bookshelves even as you read this, so get out there and get your copies! 🙂

I’d like to thank Danie for taking the time to answer these questions, and I’d also like to thank Sophie Calder at Titan Books who arranged this interview for me. 🙂 You both rock, thank you! 🙂 For more info on Danie and her fiction, check out her official website.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

P.S. I’ll be getting stuck into Ecko Burning as soon as I receive my copy, so expect a review soon. 🙂

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2013 in Interviews

 

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Craig Horner Interviewed at Fantasy Fan

I’m bringing this to your attention again. 🙂 The interview went up in March but with so much going on with regards to fans campaigning for a third season of Legend of the Seeker, I thought it deserved another look. 🙂

Piotr, the man behind Fantasy Fan, was lucky enough to have been able to interview Craig over the phone, and the interview is the result. I really enjoyed it – gave me a bit more background to Craig and answered the all important question: Did he read the books?

Check it out here.

Until Monday,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2010 in Announcements, Interviews

 

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An Interview with Paul S. Kemp and John Jackson Miller

Reading John’s Lost Tribe of the Sith stories, the Fate of the Jedi novels and then Paul’s Crosscurrent brings it home that Del Rey has a pretty comprehensive plan for the Star Wars Expanded Universe, post-Yuuzhan Vong and post-Darth Caedus. Not only does each story arc link together, but each story is made better by these links, in my opinion.

In the New Jedi Order, we were treated to a story that stretched over five years, included hundreds of characters and events, but which, ultimately, revolved around the Core characters; what Del Rey and its authors are doing now is going one step further – Fate of the Jedi focuses on the Core characters, but both Crosscurrent and Lost Tribe of the Sith work alongside FotJ, and work well, without having the Core characters in them. Sure, Lost Tribe is set 5000 years before the Battle of Yavin and Crosscurrent was set after the events of the Legacy of the Force, but didn’t bring in the characters we are used to reading about and expecting. How these story lines mix and intertwine (and they will probably continue to do so, with Paul’s sequel to Crosscurrent and the rest of the Fate of the Jedi novels still on the way) perked my interest mightily, and I decided to get Paul and John together for a kind of round-table interview. 🙂 Here’s the result!

::

Please tell us a bit about yourselves, how you got into writing, etc?

John Jackson Miller:
I started writing comics and prose stories about the same time I started reading them. Reading good stories inspired me to try my own hand at it, and I kept at it over the years, writing my own short stories and producing my own small press comics and magazines. It’s funny, but later on, when I started writing professionally, I found I was drawing on a lot of those experiences when I was just writing things for myself. You need to write for more than just yourself, but you’ve also got to be happy with the work you’re doing, or nobody else will be.

Paul Kemp:
I’m Paul S. Kemp. I’ve been married for seventeen years to a lovely redhead (think Mara Jade, peeps) and we have twin five year old sons. We live in Michigan with a couple cats. My day job is corporate lawyer, which makes me evil. My night job is entertaining writer, which makes me good. So on balance, I guess that makes me about a neutral.

I started writing in law school, when I realized that law was for suckers…er…when I realized, rather, that only practicing law would not lead to a fulfilling life for me. So, I submitted some material to Wizards of the Coast (they had an open submission policy at the time), they liked it, and asked me to submit to an closed call they were having for what would become The Sembia Series. I pitched them Erevis Cale, priest and assassin, they dug that, and here we are. 🙂

What does Star Wars mean to you?

John Jackson Miller:
Quite a lot. The movies and the comics based on them were a big part of my childhood and teenage years, and obviously the whole milieu has been a big part of my working life. I even edited a Star Wars collectibles magazine in there somewhere.

Paul Kemp:
Setting aside the fanboy glee I feel for being able to participate in a small way in Lucas’s brainchild, (and here speaking of the movies) I think it’s one of the best fictionalized demonstrations of the Campbellian Hero’s Journey ever made. It’s really a modern myth, which explains why its such a phenomenon from generation to generation.

Considering that Fate of the Jedi, Lost Tribe of the Sith, Legacy and Crosscurrent all borrow characters and share intersecting plots, can you tell us about how this all began – who decided what, and what your roles were in creating these tales? (Without spoiling us, of course)

John Jackson Miller:
I’d been doing more writing in the EU, including some short fiction, and I was always looking for an opportunity to do more. Del Rey and Lucasfilm approached me in early 2009 about creating a supporting storyline that would fill in background about the Lost Tribe of the Sith, right from their beginnings.

The authors of the Fate of the Jedi series had come up with a fairly detailed look at what the Lost Tribe was like today, along with details about how they got stranded in the first place. Most of the intervening years were left available to interpret. We did some coordination to make sure that nothing we came up with caused problems later on, and that “Crosscurrent” and “Lost Tribe” worked together properly.

Since I was starting back five thousand years earlier and working forward, I saw part of my role as illustrating how the Sith got from Point A to Point B. The Sith we saw in the Golden Age of the Sith stories really didn’t have complicated infrastructures or military bureaucracies that we saw — but they needed underlings to be able to run missions like bringing back the Lignan crystals, and of course, the Lost Tribe evolves a fairly detailed command structure. There was also the matter of species to deal with, since the Tribe that we saw was not just human, but also striving for human physical perfection. Both of those things suggested that there was a lot more differentiation in the Sith than we initially saw in the comics — there had to be humans in the mix with some level of contact with outside cultures, even in the “hidden empire” years. The Lost Tribe had lightsabers without power packs; they had to get them from somewhere.

That was the sort of thing I’ve sought to address, while trying to tell an engaging story. Many of the changes that help make the Tribe what it is spring from choices — and unintentional consequences of choices — that our characters made in the past. “Paragon,” the upcoming story, is pretty pivotal in this regard.

Paul Kemp:

My contribution here is pretty small. In my original pitch for Crosscurrent, I had included the existence of an ancient Sith ship carrying Force-enhancing ore (what would later become Lignan) that found itself flung into the future due to a relativity shielding malfunction. My editor (I think), saw some possible connections in that to the story the team was developing for Fate of the Jedi. So she asked me if I could include a second ship that doesn’t jump into the future but instead just misjumps in some way — all of this became Lignan, Harbinger, and Omen, which are the “connectors” between Crosscurrent and the much larger story in Fate of the Jedi.

After that decision was made, I traded emails with some of the authors doing FotJ and JJM (John Jackson Miller), just to keep the various details correct. It was a great experience. Christie, Troy, and JJM (not to mention Sue, Leland, and my editor) were awesome to this Star Wars newbie.

The stories you write are separated by thousands of years of history – how do you give a tale the hallmarks of the Star Wars universe while also giving the tale its own era-specific flavor?

John Jackson Miller:
Oh, I think the trappings of Star Wars are always there. Beyond the physical things like the lightsabers and phenomena like the Force, a lot of the same themes are in play —good versus evil, redemption and betrayal, etc. Whatever the time period, it’s all Star Wars.

Paul Kemp:
Historical touchstones, mostly. Obviously there are some technological differences that get highlighted (ancient lightsabers are not “modern” lightsabers, for example), but little references to current events in the particular timeline can also ground the narrative in an particular era.

When you sit down to write tales in the Star Wars galaxy, what’s the most important aspect of the Galaxy Far, Far Away that you want to capture?

John Jackson Miller:
As I’ve said above — you want to make sure it feels all of a piece with the movies. It’s OK to branch out and explore new kinds of stories, but you don’t want the story to feel completely out of place and unconnected. The feel of stories is pretty important; Star Trek stories have a different feel from Star Wars stories, and so on. Readers tend to know when something feels like it belongs in a particular milieu.

Paul Kemp:
For me, the sense that Star Wars (and the EU) is a setting for myth-making. What I mean by that is that Star Wars touches on foundational moral questions by exploring through the lens of the Force (a kind of Manichean moral construct, really). Its themes are universal. I wanted to at least try and take a stab at that with Crosscurrent.

Also, blasters. And lightsabers. 🙂

Coming back to the current EU: with opinions divided on whether or not the Legacy of the Force series worked –comparing it to the New Jedi Order- do you think that the editors and authors of the EU now have a better understanding of how to handle these complex storylines?

Paul Kemp:
Dave, my experience is so limited that I can’t speak to that at all. I’ll say only that the folks I’ve worked with have been extraordinarily knowledgeable and helpful. It’s been a real treat.

What would you say to writers out there who want to someday write in the EU? Any advice or warnings?

John Jackson Miller:
Most licensed properties are invitation-only and don’t look at unsolicited submissions, and Star Wars is no exception. So the important thing is to get established — and that means writing for a variety of places and really polishing your skills. As a former journalist, I think all kinds of writing are important practice, from blogging to covering the sports for your local paper. It’s all about learning to communicate clearly, and to hit your deadlines.

Paul Kemp:
The same thing I say to any aspiring writers: read widely (and not just in genre), and learn what you can from great writers. Then, stop talking/thinking about what great ideas you have. Instead, put yourself in a chair and just friggin’ write. This is a craft. You only get better by doing it.

Finally: what would be the one EU story you would like to tell, if you could?

John Jackson Miller:
Heh! I don’t know – maybe a reality show following Lando’s life might be entertaining!

Paul Kemp:
I mentioned this in one other place, but I’d love to write Luke’s epic finale in the EU (if that finale were ever to come).

::

There we go, hope you all enjoyed that. 🙂 It goes without saying that the guys took time out of their busy schedules, and I thank them for that. 🙂

Want more info on the authors and their work? Click on the links to head over to their websites: John Jackson Miller, Paul S Kemp.

I’ll be reading John’s third Lost Tribe of the Sith story, Paragon, this week or next week, and then I’ll post a review of all three stories.

Until then,
Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in Interviews

 

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An Interview with Brian Libby

Hey everyone, yes, I’m finally back! 🙂 After some CRAZY problems with the internet and the bank, everything has been sorted out. 🙂 I’m really sorry that I haven’t been able to update the blog so far this week! 😦

Anyway, back to the interview!

Brian Libby is the author of the Epic Fantasy novel, Storm Approaching (reviewed here) that uses practically nothing that we’ve come to take for granted in the Epic Fantasy we’re used to and still stands as a proud example of the genre. 🙂

I interviewed Brian via email, wanting to get a bit more info about him and the novel, and here’s the result:

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your work:

I’m a historian, age 60, single, who has taught at a prep school in southern Minnesota for many years. I attended Johns Hopkins, UMass, and Purdue (Ph.D. 1977); my fields are European military and diplomatic history and modern Germany.

I have always enjoyed writing; I have a fantasy “trunk novel” tucked away, along with the nice letter Lester del Rey wrote me when Ballantine rejected it in 1978. I don’t really know why I did not continue to try writing for publication, but it was probably because I was too busy teaching. In the late 90’s I published (POD) And Gladly Teach, a satirical novel about life at a (fictional) prep school, which has been well received by a discriminating (i.e. small) audience. But having loved fantasy since I read Tolkien, and many others, in my teens, I decided I wanted to try something along those lines again, so I went part-time in 1999 and took up a pen (literally). The result is four books in the Mercenaries series, the first of which, Storm Approaching, is now out. I was fortunate to get a very good agent for it (the same agent Patrick Rothfuss has, in fact) and unfortunate in his not being able to place it, despite a good recommendation from the first reader at DAW. I decided to publish it myself. I hope to publish Gold and Glory in the next few months, and the others later.

I also write occasional humorous items for the amusement of colleagues, and am now posting these on a blog. (Humor and satire are my favorite genres, although you might not guess it from my answers to these serious questions.)

Will you please give readers an introduction to Storm Approaching?

The first three books—Storm Approaching, Gold and Glory, and Resolution—are a trilogy; the fourth, The Free Lands, is a stand-alone. They are set in a pre-gunpowder world whose society and technology roughly correspond to late-Medieval/early-Renaissance Europe. Storm Approaching concerns a young orphan, Andiriel, who wants to see the world; she winds up being sent on an espionage mission, which gives her more excitement than she bargained for, and getting involved with a broken-down mercenary infantry regiment. (There are no standing armies in the New Empire, so mercenaries are the usual military forces.) Her adventures are set against a backdrop of growing friction between the New Empire and a foreign state, Sarenia. Although Andiriel and her surroundings are the focus of the book, some chapters are set at the Imperial court and do not concern her.

What was the spark, the idea, which gave birth to Storm Approaching?

About fifteen years ago I wrote on a slip of paper, “She was running as fast as she could, but it wasn’t fast enough,” and I said to myself, this will be the opening line of a novel. I do not know why I did this, but I kept the slip of paper. I knew I wanted to try writing something extensive; I did not know exactly what would happen when I started writing. (And that first line was changed, of course, in one of my later edits.)

What themes did you want to explore in Storm Approaching?

I wanted to deal with war and diplomacy more accurately than, so far as I am aware, these topics are usually treated in speculative fiction. I wanted to explore the inner workings of a mercenary regiment. I wanted to look at the importance of friendship, honor, education, and intelligence. I wanted a book that was character-driven, not plot-driven. (The trilogy has a story arch and develops plots, but there is no “main quest”—as I say on the back cover, there are no prophecies or magical trinkets in sight.)

What kind of research did you do for the novel, and how do you approach research?

As a historian, I was trained to do research. But I have not had to do much for the books. I’m conversant enough with my field so that I have little trouble “designing” countries, royal courts, or military units, or including logistics and economics. The polity of the New Empire, for example, bears a resemblance to that of the Holy Roman Empire. The Internet is a very handy source for minor but important matters like the parts of a horse or some detail of heraldry,.

You’ve given readers a fantasy novel that is practically devoid of the usual tropes found in Fantasy – why did you take this risk, and why was it important for you to write this way?

I am very glad you perceive the book that way, because prospective readers, hearing that it centers on an orphan who goes looking for adventure, might well groan, and exclaim, “Ick. Pooh. Not again.” After all, the number of adventurous orphans in Fantasy could populate a small town; they should form a union. But “fantasy” to me means a created world not requiring the inclusion of non-human races or much magic. (Surely dwarfs, elves, etc. have been comprehensively covered by others. None of my major characters is a mage, though magic does exist.) New novelists are told they must do something different, so I tried. They also say to write what you know, and what I know is history: military, diplomatic, political. (And I keep nearby Diana W. Jones’s Tough Guide to Fantasyland, a wonderful prophylactic against clichés.)

I hope that Mercenaries is written with a lightness of touch—not zany or satiric, but with a certain joie de vivre, jeu d’esprit, or other quality we sober English-speakers often use foreign words to describe. My books, though their theme be war and politics, are not meant to be depres-sing. There are enough novels like that in circulation. Good actors, jewellers, farmers enjoy their work. Why shouldn’t good soldiers?

As it happens, I’m writing this on the 203rd birthday of Robert E. Lee, who embodied all that a good soldier can be.

In Andiriel, you’ve created a strong female lead that surprised in more ways than one – what about Andiriel impresses you the most, and has she surprised you in any way, deviated from the path you planned for her?

There are more characters in the books than I expected. All except Andiriel appeared as I wrote; she is the only (human) character I knew about when I started. So her actions have not been too surprising to me, although her, um, friendship with Lana took me a bit by surprise. Andiriel’s sex was not vital; my wish to write about a decent, well-educated person who proves to have talent as a leader could have been done with a man. But I thought that having a young woman in her position, in a society where women are rarely (but not uniquely) found as soldiers, would make things more interesting. Andiriel is not a natural fighter (although she’s good with a bow), nor boisterously aggressive (except on a battlefield), and certainly not like the usual mercenary in a fantasy novel; her strength comes from her intelligence, quickness, and courtesy. Baron Gurlarga sums up her attitude when he uses the famous quotation “No glory without honor.”

The characters who most surprised me in Volume I—first by appearing at all, then by their development—are Lana and Dagget. I’m still learning about them after four volumes.

Lastly, can you give us some info about the sequel to Storm Approaching?

Why yes, I can. 🙂 Gold and Glory finds the Pelicans Mercenary Regiment looking for a contract and getting more than one. Readers who might have been a bit disappointed that Storm Approaching did not contain more war will not be further disappointed. And affairs in distant Sarenia develop in ways that involve some subjects of the New Empire. Gold and Glory is considerably longer than Storm Approaching, and, I guess, contains more “action.”
————————

Thanks very much for this opportunity to speak to a large audience. I hope that your readers will investigate my books, and my blog (http://andiriel.blogspot.com) and website (http://www.blibby.com), or drop me a line if they have questions (brnlbb(at)gmail.com.)

You can order your copies of Storm Approaching from the publisher, Author House, or from Amazon (US/UK). South Africans reading this can also order the book from Kalahari and Exclusive Books.

Brian has also kindly agreed to let me post excerpts from Storm Approaching, which should start appearing on the blog from next week onwards. 🙂

Until then,

Be EPIC!

P.S. I’m meeting Liz and Mark De Jager tomorrow, the fine folk who run the awesome blog My Favourite Books! 🙂 They’re in South Africa for a visit! Looking forward to it!

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2010 in Interviews

 

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Night of Villjamur Interview Part One: Randur Estevu

nights-of-villjamur3

I’m sure at least a couple of you have been wondering what happened to interviews on the blog? 🙂

Well, this is what I (and Mark, of course) have had in the works – instead of a full interview focusing on the process and info behind the book, and we took this tack. Hopefully, the Q & A’s that you’ll see on the blog will not only bring the characters even more to life but also serve as a tantalizing hint of what those who haven’t yet read Nights of Villjamur can expect – thereby sucking in even more readers. 🙂 And I would have to be completely honest and say that Gav over at Nextread beat me to it by doing this great interview with Mark – an interview that I would have loved to do! 🙂 So, here’s my effort! And thanks once again to Mark for playing along. 🙂 Don’t forget, the sequel to Nights of Villjamur, City of Ruin, has a blurb and a cover (that might just be growing on me, not sure yet)! 🙂

Dave: Coming from a small island and now being in the greatest city of the Empire, is it a bit overwhelming or more of the same just on a bigger scale?

Randur: Well, there are plenty more women here, that’s for sure…

But, I can honestly say that no matter where you go, people are still after the same kind of things. People need to put food in their mouths, need to get by, need the attentions of a lover. (That’s where I come in.) I’ve noticed a lot of lonely people getting tempted by shiny trinkets. Life isn’t as wholesome in Villjamur as much as the countryside – and in this city, the problems are swept into the caves, away from public view. People are obsessed with drinking and generally doing what they can to escape the world. And who can blame them, with the ice coming in?

Dave: Ah, yes, the ice! Tell me, was the coming of the ice discussed in Folke, openly, or was it something relegated to gossips? I guess what I’m asking is, coming from such a small corner of the Empire, surely there are those who still don’t believe in what’s coming?

Randur: You can never really trust what the old women gossip about on Folke. Chances are only half of what they say is even close to true, and even then aimed at bringing down someone in the community. And the men are worse – sitting in silence for much of the day and when they do speak all they do is mutter about bad omens.

To be honest, some people need to make a living, and just get on no matter what the elements bring. But bugger was I going to stay there, given half a chance of some sanctuary. In terms of belief? Well when you’d experienced the recent weather before I left, you don’t need much convincing.

Dave: You seem like a pragmatist, one who doesn’t readily believe rumours – bot from the woman-folk of Folke at least! How would you describe yourself? What terrifies you and exhilirates you?

Randur: In my dance, I am an artist. Actually, same in the bedroom too, given half a chance… Other than that? I’m someone who takes a risk now and then. You might say I’ve blagged my way through life so far, and that’d be fair. You have to – you’ve only go so long and you’ve got to make the most of it. What terrifies me? Not a lot if I’m honest. I tend not to think all that hard about the fears and the likes. I get my kicks out of living close to the edge: getting caught in the act by someone’s husband gets the ol’ heart beating.

Most of all, I enjoy the art of dancing. On my island, it’s a masculine activity. In this damn city, everyone things I’m a bit of a dandy for doing it – but it’s my life, my calling. I lose my sense of self when I’m doing it (which possibly explains why I’m so full of myself when I’m not).

Dave: Should I be glad that I don’t have a wife? Don’t answer that. Although, I might just take up some dancing… 🙂 So, I what are your thoughts on influx of refugees? Do you think the Emperor is in a position to handle the situation?

Randur: I’m sure I would treat her with great respect.

As for the refugees? Not much anyone can do about it in this world. It’s a symptom of things – that money gets sucked into Villjamur from islands like mine. We’re poor people, out on Folke, but we had a lot of resources – ores and agriculture. Doesn’t add up, does it? Exactly. So when you take away everything from them, what else are they going to do but come banging on the only door in this world that has a hope in hell of offering… anything. So of course, the institutions in Villjamur are in a position to do many things. They merely choose not to.

Dave: Well I’m sure that Chancellor Urtika has a plan in motion that will see the refugees taken care of. Moving onto your impressions of the city, what do you think about Villjamur? I’m not talking about sights and sounds, mind you, but your impressions – when you look at the city, when you breathe it in, how does this city of cities make you feel?

Randur: It makes you feel very humble. There are what, eleven thousand years of history on this site. It’s vast. It’s architecture is a mishmash of designs. It imposes itself on you. It makes you feel very insignificant. You can loose yourself in the mass of people – which is strangely liberating, being a nobody.

Dave: Last question for you: Considering the palpable building of tension in Villjamur, and the kind of people who are in charge, who have known only this city and this life, is there a place for you in Villjamur? And if not, what would it take you make you choose to stay? Hypothetical of course.

Randur: For me to stay, I’d need an endless supply of women to charm and teach to dance… hypothetically, of course. All I have are my sword skills and dance skills – which aren’t that dissimilar; you can use them anywhere, so my home is also anywhere. But I don’t think I’d like to stay in Villjamur too long though – the corruption, the violence, the sin… I don’t know how people could want to make their lives with all of this crap around them. And besides, people have such bad manners in the city.

Well, there you have it! 🙂 Mark and I are busy working on the next character interview – Investigator Rumex Jeryd – and that’ll be up next week some time, so keep an eye out! 🙂

If this interview has wet your appetite, order your copy of Nights of Villjamur here for US, here for UK and here for those in SA, and check out Mark’s site here. 🙂

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2009 in Interviews

 

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Christopher Ransom Interviewed & Chelsea Cain – the new Book Trailer

Hey guys, as promised (and better late than never, I s’pose), I’ve got an interview that was done with Christopher Ransom for you – not by me, unfortunately, but still, it’s always cool to be able to read an interview done with an author. 🙂

1. Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about you and your writing career.

I’ve been writing prose off and on for sixteen years but took a five-year detour to write screenplays before working up the courage to write my first novel, The Birthing House, which is out now in the UK and will be released in the US this August. I spent three years writing The Birthing House and it was the best education in writing I ever received. I was a terrible student in high school and college, and never attended a writer’s workshop or other writing program, so maybe it took me a little longer to do it on my own. At any rate, I never enjoyed writing as much as I did while working on my novel, so I plan to stick with this for a while.

2. What is your most recent novel about – if you are allowed to tell us?

The Birthing House is about a couple in their 30s, Conrad and Joanna Harrison, who are trying to reboot their marriage, so to speak, by moving from Los Angeles to a small town in rural Wisconsin. Soon after they settle in, Jo leaves Conrad for eight weeks of training for a new job, and Conrad, stewing in the house all summer, discovers that their new home, which is really his new home, was a birthing house at the turn of the century and may now be haunted. Conrad is wrestling with the idea and reality of becoming a father, the growing pains of leaving adolescence and his early 20s behind to become domestic. He is haunted by a destructive relationship from his high school years that continues to wreak havoc in his life and is responsible for almost literally opening the door to the entity that still resides in the former birthing house. In the course of uncovering (or ignoring at his peril) the house’s history and trying to salvage his dying marriage, Conrad becomes obsessed with his next door neighbour, Nadia, who is 20 and pregnant, and has some experience with the evil residing under Conrad’s roof. The novel is about the toll of a dual-income marriage, how our past relationships inform and disturb our present relationships, how infidelity and sexuality fit into the larger scheme of procreation, and—as I like to joke—only incidentally about a haunted birthing house.
I make that joke because, in truth, I did not set out to write a haunted house novel at all, or even a horror novel. I am not particularly interested in or frightened by ghosts or monsters. However, in terms of communicating what’s going on in someone’s head, a house is a great metaphor for the mind, and the ghost is a marvellous mirror of the psyche. And people—they scare me. So I just started writing about three characters locked in a situation I found fascinating. About a hundred pages in, I realized the story was following the classic haunted house trajectory. Coincidentally (or not very), my wife and I had recently moved from Los Angeles to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, which is a town of about three thousand people, so we were experiencing an amusing form of culture shock. We bought a 140-year-old Victorian and later learned it had been a birthing house and small clinic near the turn of the century. I did not borrow my house’s real history in any way; the idea of what it would be like if my house really was haunted was quite enough. During the first draft, I was only vaguely aware that I was writing about a troubled marriage, sex, birth, and all the rest while living under the roof of a birthing house. The potential of a haunted birthing house became intertwined with the questions and themes I was exploring, and the title was too appropriate to resist. Who knows, maybe the house wanted me to write the book (he says with nervous laughter and mild fear).

3. What do you think makes the horror genre so fascinating to readers and writers?

The power, for one. The raw, straight-to-your-primal-center-ness of it. There is no question fear is one of the most compelling emotions, that it is one of the strongest and most fundamental. It’s not like delight or melancholy, relative lightweights. Fear is right up there with love. It is crucial to our survival. From one perspective, it is fair to say fear drives nearly every other emotion, including love. Do we not love out of fear of being alone, at least partially? Do we not work for fear of going hungry?
For readers, horror fiction is a safe venue we visit to experience fear without being overwhelmed by it. No one wants horror in their life, but we will all face it in one form or another. I forget who said stories are tools for living, but I believe that. I cannot imagine living without quality fiction. So, if that is true, then horror stories might contain some tools for learning how to deal with the bad shit life throws our way. Maybe that is a stretch, but I find reading dark fiction fortifying in some way. I also just like experiencing a good thrill, without the hangover.
As for writers, for this writer anyway, the horror genre comes equipped with another marvellous set of tools. The ghosts, the houses, the monsters, the descent into a self and reality (even an everyday, real-world reality) we did not know existed, the whole range of darker human psychology. It’s almost another language. There are tropes and tricks and rules to break. When the writing is going well, the writer feels every event in the story as it is being written, as if by surprise, as his reader will experience it eventually. This makes for a fun ride behind the keyboard. But more importantly, writing horror, like writing in any other genre, should be an exploration of the self. It’s not easy to plumb one’s deepest fears and bring them into the daylight, but it is rewarding on many levels.

4. As a horror writer / fan, what sells a story / concept to you?

I don’t care much for concept anymore. Ideas are cheap. When I was younger, all it took to convince to buy a book was a vampire or a knife on the cover. But like any habitual reader, over time I have discovered that the writing is what counts. Without the execution, without quality writing and an original voice and real characters, no monster or end-of-the-world concept is scary. So I try to find authors that write well and then I follow them. One of my very favourite authors, Dan Simmons, wrote horror novels in the early portion of his career, and they were all stunning. But then he went and did this crazy thing—he turned his back on millions of dollars and branched off into science fiction, which I had never much cared for, and I followed him there. He later went on to write mainstream, hardboiled crime, historical fiction, and much more. Now the real joy is seeing what he does next. As a writer, I don’t have the guts or the talent to pull that off. But as a reader, I can’t ask for more. Concept bores me. Narrative force, good writing, brave authors—these things sell me.

5. What movies / books influenced your development as a genre writer? Similarly, what books, movies, comics, get you excited as a fan?

I suspect we live in an age when there are two types of horror writers: those who admit they were influenced by Stephen King to some degree, and those who lie. It might be a cliché at this point, but King’s books taught me to love reading. I read Cujo when I was 11 and I never looked back. Pet Sematary is the scariest novel I have or probably ever will read. It’s also a very serious novel, when you look beyond the cat that comes back from the grave. He’s writing about the most painful things a human can face: death, burial, the loss of child. How our culture does almost nothing to prepare for the natural eventuality of death. I honestly don’t know how he found the courage to go that far–that deep into his fear. I reread it again for the fifth or sixth time last summer and was struck by how even the vocabulary and syntax King uses in Pet Sematary reek of sour earth, embalming fluids, medicine, cold soil. There is a vintage texture, as if it were aging well in the sense of a classic, which of course I feel it is. So, yes, like many readers in the 80s and 90s, I was weaned on Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, and many others. They all influenced me in some way, large or small.
Dan Simmons’s speculative-horror-love story of a novel, The Hollow Man, is quite different than my novel (or any that I will likely ever attempt to write) but it was a pivotal book in my life. I read it when I was 20, trying to decide what to do with myself, and the novel terrified me, challenged me, and made me weep, all in the span of about seven hours. I decided shortly after that to become a writer. There were a lot of books that nudged me toward the decision, but The Hollow Man was the nail in my coffin.
As I neared my late 20s and began to get serious, there were a few other authors, in various genres, not just horror, that changed how I thought about style and narrative, and I am sure they influenced me as well. Colin Harrison’s Afterburn took my head off. I still study the way he achieves such momentum without sacrificing nuance of language and depth of character. Nabokov has playfulness and an ability to find humour in the most wretched of circumstances, and that can be useful when writing horror.
What gets me excited as a fan is when one of my favourite authors releases a new novel. Peter Blauner is in my humble opinion the best “crime” writer working today, though he is much more than that. The only problem is, he only publishes a new novel every four years or so. But I am glad he takes his time, because the quality really shows and he is always worth the wait.

6. Who do you go all fan-boy about when it comes to the horror genre? Have you ever met anyone more famous than yourself and how did you react?

When I worked a Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, I once waited on Julia Roberts, just like Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. She was very polite but she didn’t fall in love with me. Does that count? No, I guess not. Well, I haven’t met too many famous writers. I did meet Dan Simmons years ago, when I had just decided to become a writer and he was signing copies of The Hollow Man (which as I said had just become my favourite novel). Dan was seated in this tiny newsstand on Main Street in Longmont, Colorado, near my hometown of Boulder, so it was easy for me to wander over on my lunch break. Anyway, I was the first (okay, only) person in line; Dan was not yet the supernova he is today. I probably could have had his ear for half an hour, and he was very polite, but I was too frightened to squeak much more than, “Thank you.” I quickly fled the store, clutching my signed first edition to my bosom like a schoolgirl with her first love note.

7. If you had a chance to invite any horror legend, be it actor, writer, director, author (living / dead / undead) over for some tea, who would you choose and why?

After reading Charles LaBrutto’s excellent biography of Stanley Kubrick, wherein he chronicles many of the director’s bull sessions with writers and actors, I couldn’t stop thinking about what that must have been like for those who had the privilege—and some would say the curse—of Kubrick’s company. I realize Kubrick was not a horror guy per se, but he was tuned in to the dark side of human nature. There is a coldness to his work, his control, his obsessive nature. But he was also reputed to be a very sweet man, and an expert on a huge array of subjects. There is something tantalizing and terrifying about getting one of Kubrick’s phone calls in the middle of the night, being whisked off to his hidden estate, and hired to be a writer on one of his films, only to find oneself locked in a seemingly endless conversation with the man, who, it was reported, went through phases where he and his guests ate the same meal over and over for weeks, until he tired of it. Visiting writers seemed to emerge from the Kubrick compound like aged moles, gray-haired and blinded by his intensity and brilliance. I wouldn’t have been able to resist that call, had it ever come.

8. Lights on or off when watching horror flicks?

Off, of course, without exception. I am allowed to make my wife watch only one scary movie per year, so that means for all the others it’s me and one of my dogs under a blanket, lights off, eyes bugging out. Actually, watching a scary film by yourself increases the potency, so I don’t mind. Last summer I watched The Orphanage all by myself and that one got me pretty good.

9. Which do you prefer: Romero originals or remakes?

Oh, I know this is sacrilege, but I’ll go with the Dawn of the Dead remake here. The screenwriter on that one, James Gunn, is a very funny guy who gets zombies and I thought he handled it very well. It was scary and funny and full of great action set pieces. His characters were solid, his dialogue chewy. The sniper going after “Burt Reynolds” bit in there is priceless.

10. What is the best advice you ever received from someone about horror writing?

The best advice I know of for writing horror is no different than the advice we hear for writing any other kind of fiction and literature. The same things are important. Quality writing, characters that feel and behave like real people with real problems, realistic dialogue, evocative setting, all of it. In fact, when it comes to writing horror, or any genre that tends to rely too much on the wowee factor, we need to be extra vigilant, mindful of the fundamentals—namely, writing well. Plot and suspense are the least of our problems. We can’t rely on ghosts and serial killers and zombies to fool the reader for long. Or maybe we can, but we shouldn’t. Because while the apocalypse might get some fanboys in the door, the fanboys are all growing up, too, and eventually the day will come when they demand better of us. Actually, in all fairness, they already do. So, we owe it to our careers, our genre, our publishers and readers, to strive for quality. The writing is everything. That is what I tell myself every day, because I know I have a long way to go, and if you’re not constantly trying to improve the quality of your writing, you’re dead.

11. The horror genre has seen many incarnations over the past few years – what do you think the future holds for the genre?

I have been hearing about the death of horror in publishing since I attended The Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference in 1993 or thereabouts. But good writers kept on publishing horror novels every year, right up through today. The vampire stuff seems to be bottomless. I know a lot of the large houses in New York are a little skittish about horror, but on the other hand, my editor at St. Martin’s Press told me he had been looking for a good ghost story for four years before he acquired The Birthing House. Now, look, I’m not saying I wrote The Turn of the Screw or The Shining—I know I did not. But four years? That tells me that either agents are extremely gun shy about submitting horror or there just aren’t that many well written and truly frightening manuscripts floating through the channels. In either case, we have only ourselves to blame.
But of course there are cycles. Trends. You can’t plan for them or write with an eye on them, though, so why bother? Hollywood ate up a ton of ghost stories after The Sixth Sense made $300 million domestic, and once that milked out, they went after harder stuff, exploitation fare, torture porn (which does nothing for me), and some great zombie flicks (which I do like). Now that those are playing out, we’re back to psychological stuff and ghost stories and dark fantasy and . . .
All of which is to say, I don’t have a clue where horror is going, and I never gave it much thought. I focused on writing the book that I wanted to write, to the best of my abilities, and it worked out. I am fortunate that it did. I am sure timing was a factor. But the reality is that there will always be a market for quality horror fiction and writing that truly moves the reader.

12. Do you have a zombie apocalypse survival plan – apart from going to hide in the Winchester, that is! – and will you be able to implement it?

You know, if it comes to that point, where we are truly being overrun by the zombie hoard, I think I would rather just join them. I mean, think about it, do zombies looked stressed to you? Other than finding food, what’s a zombie got to worry about? They don’t have to get up and go to work every day. They don’t have to pay taxes or fret about the state of the world or try to get laid. They have no fear of death because the worst has already happened to them. All a zombie has to do is duck some bullets and find some brains to gnaw on, and there are plenty of those to go around. Hey, I’m a foodie. I could live like that. Kind of do already, now that I think about it.

13. Are there any “how to” books on your bookshelf you would recommend to aspiring authors?

I apologise if this sounds obvious, but writers aspiring to contribute to the field of horror should be reading well beyond the field. It’s not enough to read every Stephen King book. We need to read the classics, non-fiction, biographies, anything that is well written and expands our palette. We are what we eat, after all.
The literary critic James Wood recently published a jaw-droppingly insightful book called How Fiction Works. It is not the same old tired book on how to write. It’s a rich but concise study of the techniques that separate the giants from the rest of us mere mortals. It’s a bit more advanced and I won’t claim to have gotten my head around most of it yet, but it’s a treasure of a book that encourages one to become a better reader as well as unlearn a lot of bad writing habits, which can be painful but very helpful to do. I would tell aspiring writers to read as many good books on writing as they can get their hands on, study them, practice what the books preach, and then move on. Put them back on the shelf and just write. All the books on writing won’t do a damn thing for us if we don’t remember to dive in and write.

The Birthing House

And then I’ve got this cool book trailer for you: I haven’t read any of Chelsea Cain’s work yet (goodness knows I merchandize enough of it when I get stuck into the fiction section), so maybe its about time. 🙂 All of you out there who are looking for a new crime-thriller to get stuck into, check out this trailer! Maybe Evil at Heart will be just what you’re looking for. 🙂

Also, if you want any more info on Chelsea Cain, check out this link for a press-kit PDF of Evil at Heart, and this link for more info on the book. 🙂

Evil at Heart

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2009 in Book Trailer, Interviews

 

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Review: A Darkness Forged in Fire – Book 1 of The Iron Elves Trilogy by Chris Evans

Before I get to the review I should mention that I was interviewed for a Book Blogger Interview by the lovely Jo Stapley who runs Ink and Paper, a blog loaded with great fantasy book reviews! 🙂 Thanks Jo, it was a really cool interview! 🙂

Onto Chris Evans…

Sir, I am impressed! 🙂

When I began reading the book, I was a bit worried that the book might turn out to be a case study in stereotypical fantasy – a wizard, transformed into an animal, sneaking into a very dangerous place – but as I read on, and sank deeper into the storyline, I got the feeling that a Steven Erikson was being pulled – the use of normal fantasy tropes in new, unique and interesting ways! Once I realized that, I really got down to enjoying the book. 🙂

There are a few things that Chris does very well, and one of them is characters – not only does he not spend an inordinate amount of time describing the character (he fixes them in your mind in a few sentences), but each character is vibrant and unique and interesting. The main character, for example, is a pretty damn strange one! 🙂 An elf that hates the forest definitely makes for an interesting character!

Konowa’s.. erm, lady friend did get a bit irritating, though, but maybe I’m just biased, because Konowa practically drives her to it, being a man’s elf and all. 🙂 The way they dance around each other is very entertaining, though, and hopefully we’ll see them get a bit closer in The Light of Burning Shadows. 🙂

Another character that was absolutely awesome was the rock-munching section leader! 🙂 That dwarf is one of the best fantasy characters I’ve ever come across! He does steel the show, and I can’t wait to see where he goes and what he does in Book 2. 🙂 (He better be in Book 2, Chris!)

Chris also builds a convincing, beautiful world with more than it’s fair share of dangers and intrigues, and he also handles the release of information about this world well – there are no info dumps, with info being made available as the characters themselves discover what they need to know, and this is always great to have, especially in fantasy. Fantasy worlds should speak for themselves and not be explained, something that Chris understands very well. 🙂

In terms of action, the addition of muskets works very well! 🙂 I got this whole Colonial England Vs Magic vibe, standing firm in the face of fearless natives! 🙂 Chris takes us close in, very it’s furious and brutal, and also gives us those tactical viewpoints that are always cool (but not overdone here) in battle scenes! I hope we get to see what Chris can do with huge numbers in battle one day!

All in all, I was very impressed with A Darkness Forged in Fire – not only is it a great addition to Epic Fantasy, but it’s also a fun, entertaining book – something that will intrigue you with it’s cool characters, interesting plot, and it’s unique take on required fantasy elements! 🙂

A definite 8/10!

A Darkness Forged in Fire

For those of you in SA, order your copies here, and order Book 2 here, and for those in the US, Book 1 and Book 2, and those in the UK, Book 1 and Book 2. 🙂 Check out more info in Chris and his work at the Iron Elves website, and click here for Chris’ LiveJournal. 🙂

A Darkness Forged in Fire is published in South Africa by Jonathan Ball.

Be EPIC!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 12, 2009 in Reviews

 

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M.D. Thalmann / Satire and Sci-fi

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist specializing in satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

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