Please welcome Hank Phillippi Ryan to the blog! Hank was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about THE WRONG GIRL, winning the Agatha, and more!
Congratulations on the Agatha Award win for THE WRONG GIRL! Will you tell us a bit about it and what inspired you to write it?
Oh, thank you! (And breaking news—THE WRONG GIRL just won the DAPHNE Award for Best Mystery/Suspense! I am still floating.)
Where did it come from? The answer is incredibly interesting, and one of the reasons it is such a joy to have a dual life as in investigative reporter and a crime fiction author. As you can imagine, I get hundreds of inquiries from people about stories they’d like me to investigate. Maybe—one in 200 turns out to be a news story, but every single one of them is delicious fodder for crime fiction.
So. One day at Channel 7, I got a call from a viewer who said, “Hank, I have a story I need you to investigate.” I’m always crossing my fingers that it’s something good—so I said, great! Tell me all about it.
She told me her cousin had been given up for adoption at birth. And she had never known her birth mother. Twenty-six years later, this caller tells me, the woman got a call from the adoption agency, asking if she’d like to meet her birth mother. The woman said yes.
Please welcome fellow Texan Arianne “Tex” Thompson to the blog! Her new book, ONE NIGHT IN SIXES (check out that gorgeous cover art!!!),is out today, and she kindly stopped by to answer a few questions about it. Also, courtesy of the nice folks at Solaris, I have 3 copies to give away to 3 lucky winners, and it’s international!
Arianne, I’m so excited for One Night in Sixes! Will you tell us a little about it and what inspired the story?
Well, not to jump on the bandwagon, but I’m excited that you’re excited! I’ve been calling it “cowboys-and-fishmen fantasy,” but the idea’s much bigger than that. The border town of Sixes is a little bit like Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork or Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine: a thriving, improvised, unpredictable place where a huge variety of people (who don’t necessarily like each other!) are living cheek-by-jowl, doing the work of the present while trying not to trip over the cracks of the past. Which gets a whole lot harder when a couple of ignorant foreigners show up, and one of them causes an accident that threatens to destroy that hard-won peace. The genesis of this story was the idea of writing a thoroughly American fantasy – not so much because Sixes looks like someplace in 19th-century New Mexico, but because it reflects our 21st-century struggle to deal with our history without being consumed by it.
Why do you think readers will root for Elim? What did you enjoy most about writing One Night in Sixes?
That’s a tough question! I tell you what, though: what I really love about Elim (and what I hope readers will enjoy too) is that inside this huge, intimidating cow-spotted cowboy is the heart of a homebody hobbit. He’s not John Wayne. He’s not Clint Eastwood. He’s spent his whole life loving his family, his horses, and his dusty little niche – and when he’s forced out of it, he’s so afraid of the big wide world that he ends up making a horrible mistake. At the end of the day, I think what I enjoy most about this story is the idea that the hero isn’t going to save the day with his gun. As a matter of fact, the day was just fine before he got there! Instead, it’s his gun that’s gotten him into this really huge mess, and his heart and courage that are going to have to get him out of it.
Open Road Media is rather awesome. They partner with a ton of great publishers like Pegasus, Mysterious Press, and Akashic Books, among many others, and they always have great titles to choose from (classics, mystery, SF….) So, I’ve curated a few ebook titles here that might spark your imagination, and the best part is they’re all under $5 (many are under $2). How can you beat that?
Nick Harkaway is the author of The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker, and his big, gorgeous new book, Tigerman, is out tomorrow. I was thrilled when Nick agreed to answer a few of my questions, so please give him a warm welcome!
Tigerman is one of the most unique, and wonderful, novels I’ve ever read, and I love it! What inspired you to write the book?
It’s so hard to point to, any one thing. I became a dad during the writing – twice, actually, because the book was incepted before my daughter was born and finished in the first months of my son’s presence in our lives. Then at the other end of the scale the name “Diego Garcia” was in the air – the Indian Ocean island that appears to have played host to a black prison, in defiance of British law. I think inspiration is about collision: stubs of stories come together and somehow enliven one another.
Sgt. Lester Ferris has a heart of gold, and is even a bit old fashioned (in a sweet, charming way), for a man of only 40. Was there anyone that particularly inspired his character?
Well, now that you’ve said that about him it would be unBritish to say “me”. To a certain extent, of course, all the characters are me, by definition. Lester started as an image of loneliness, I suppose: someone who had missed the personal road I’m on despite having wanted it – in part because he never acknowledged the desire. He grew, as characters must, but there was never a single person.
Please welcome Lisa Jensen to the blog! Her brand new novel, ALIAS HOOK, just came out, and she kindly answered a few of my questions about the book, and more!
I love the premise of Alias Hook, and I imagine legions of Peter Pan fans will too! Will you tell us a little more about it and what inspired you to write it?
Alias Hook imagines the world of the Neverland from the viewpoint of Captain James Hook, its prisoner. He’s cursed to spend eternity playing villain to a pack of bratty little boys in a pointless war that never ends. Then something totally unexpected happens—a forbidden grown woman shows up in the Neverland, in defiance of Pan’s rules against “ladies.” She may be Hook’s one last chance for redemption and release.
I’m a movie critic in my “day job,” and I got the idea for this book one day when I was writing a review of a live-action Peter Pan movie. I suddenly thought how awful it must be to be an adult trapped in a world of eternal childhood. And that’s when I knew I had to write Hook’s side of the story!
You have a background as a film critic and newspaper columnist, but have you always wanted to write fiction? What is one of the first things you can remember writing?
Oh, boy, let’s see… I used to write little stories as far back as I can remember. I also used to draw out stories in comic book format. Alias Hook came this close to being a graphic novel—except it would have taken SO much longer to do all that drawing!
All of these Kindle titles are under $5…for now! It’s a grab-bag of awesome, with mystery, suspense, SFF, and YA, and you’re sure to find something to set you up for great weekend reading! Enjoy, and as always, be sure to doublecheck before you click the BUY button.
Seeders by AJ Colucci (St. Martin’s Press, July 15th)-The new horror thriller by AJ Colucci features a secluded island, plant communication, and a group of six people secluded on said island for two weeks. Off to a good start, yes? One particular blurb likened it to The Shining crossed with The Ruins, and The Ruins I agree with, but I think I’d put it more in the And Then There Were None category. I really enjoyed Colucci’s first novel, The Colony, and while there is a science-y aspect to Seeders, as with The Colony, that’s really where the similarities end, so don’t expect more of the same. Isabelle Maguire has taken her two children, Luke and Sean (who hasn’t spoken since an accident), and their ward, Monica to the secluded Sparrow Island after her father, George Brookes, jumps to his death. George was a brilliant, if controversial, botanist, and when Isabelle and family arrive on the island, she finds Dr. Jules Beecher, a former colleague of her father’s, and also Ginny Shufflebottom, her father’s on and off companion of 10 years. They’re all there to hear the reading of the will and get her father’s estate in order. They get quite a lot more than they bargain for, however.
The basis of Seeders is that George Brookes has discovered a way for plants to communicate with humans, and that plants have…emotions, and can even feel pain. So, you can probably guess, if that’s the case, how happy plants and trees are with us, considering what we’re doing to the planet. During the couple of weeks that the group spends on the island, Jules starts hearing some voices in the woods (and becomes a flat out menace), bodies start piling up in those same woods, the kids are sent on a scavenger hunt for a diamond that has been left to Ginny Shufflebottom, and the plants? Well…the plants aren’t idle, that’s for sure. Isabelle is doing her best to keep everyone safe, but Sean seems to be helping out Jules a little too much in those increasingly threatening woods, and the teenage Luke is way too preoccupied with Monica. Teenage hormones are almost as dangerous as the plants, seriously. I have to admit, Monica drove me nuts. She’s kind of awful, but luckily, Luke is smarter than that, and doesn’t completely fall for her crap (in spite of the siren song of his groin.) He even notices his mother’s newfound independence once she’s away from his bullying father. Colucci is good at building the isolated, very eerie atmosphere of the island and the creepiness of sentient plants, and she also doesn’t shy away from some pretty strong horror elements. I like that about her. Things get pretty awful from our little group, and one begins to wonder if rescue will ever come. I’m not going to give that away, but…AJ Colucci knows her horror, and horror fans always know that in stories like this, a not so happy ending is always a possibility. This book is scary fun, and speculating about the possible sentient nature of organisms that are responsible for so many of the good things about our planet (and that humans continually abuse) is equally fun, fascinating, and food for thought.
The prestigious Man Booker Prize admits all novels from around the world as long as they are published in English, and the 2014 Longlist has been announced! Note that this is the first year that all English language books will be considered, not just those by British and Commonwealth authors. The winner will be announced on Oct. 14th. Congrats to all the wonderful authors on the list!
The paperback edition of THE ARRIVALS by Melissa Marr comes out next week, and I happen to have a copy to give away, so check out the book, and the details, and good luck!
About THE ARRIVALS:
Chloe walks into a bar and blows five years of sobriety. When she wakes, she finds herself in an unfamiliar world, The Wasteland. She discovers people from all times and places have also arrived there: Kitty and Jack, a brother and sister from the Wild West; Edgar, a prohibition bootlegger; Francis, a one-time hippie; Melody, a mentally unbalanced 1950s housewife; and Hector, a former carnival artist.
None know why they arrived there—or if there is way out of a world populated by monsters and filled with corruption.
Just as she did in Graveminder, Marr has created a vivid fantasy world that will enthrall. Melissa Marr’s The Arrivals is a thoroughly original and wildly imagined tale about making choices in a life where death is unpredictable and often temporary.
The book includes a P.S. section with extra material from the author and a bonus story exclusive to this paperback edition.
**Wanna win a copy? Fill out the widget below and I’ll pick a winner on August 1st (US only). Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I really, really loved Jason M. Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle series, and since it’s SDCC week, we thought it might be fun to feature a guest post since Jason is on a SF and Fantasy Lit panel tomorrow with the likes of David Brin, Marie Lu, Jonathan Maberry, Rachel Caine, and Henry Herz. So, if you’re at SDCC this week, don’t miss it! Enjoy!
Casting Sacred Things
Jason M. Hough
In my science fiction series, THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, I treaded on something that should not be treaded upon. I’m talking about the good old US of A. In my novels, our great nation is a non-player. There’s only one American character in a bit roll appearing halfway through book two. America the superpower is a distant memory, long removed from the world’s limelight. It’s a place one character refers to jokingly as ‘North Mexico.’
That last could be taken as an insult to either America or Mexico, depending on your perspective, but I meant it as neither. The implication is that an equalization occurred. While America experienced a decline, Mexico rose to achieve something of a parity with us. Keep in mind, the books are set almost 300 years from now. A lot can happen in that amount of time. Hell, our nation isn’t even 300 years old yet. My inspiration for this transformation, by the way, came from the decline of Austria over the last few hundred years.
But this topic goes deeper than the specific scenario in my novels. The real point here is that one should not confuse science fiction with futurism. A futurist seeks to imagine our probable future. How things will actually turn out. For the science fiction author, while we could play futurist if we choose, all we’re really trying to do is imagine a possible future, however unlikely. I suppose what I mean is one should be careful to assume the specifics of a science fiction world are what the author feels is truly how things will turn out.
Still, there are some readers who will balk at a sci-fi novel that envisions a future they, the reader, don’t agree with. Certain things are seen as sacred by society and feelings may be hurt if you cast such things in an unfavorable light. It’s a risk you take as a writer, but I think as long as you back up your world with a realistic explanation for the situation as presented, the majority of readers will come along for the ride. There will always be some, however, who cannot suspend disbelief when it comes to something sacred to them.
My books feature a post-apocalyptic setting where the only viable place to live on Earth is in Darwin, Australia. The further you were from there when things went bad, the less chance you made it to safety. In such a scenario, it’s believable that not many Americans would be around. Given that, I reasoned that if America had already waned from its former glory at the top of the nation food-chain, I could more realistically keep the focus on the players who are involved.
In other words, my decision to put the USA in the distant background of this story was purely to serve my story, and that’s as it should be.
Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is the bestselling author of THE DARWIN ELEVATOR, THE EXODUS TOWERS, and THE PLAGUE FORGE. In a former life he was a 3D artist, animator, and game designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). He has also worked in such fields as high-performance cluster computing and machine learning.
He began writing THE DARWIN ELEVATOR in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels. The book released on July 30th in the US and reached the New York Times Bestseller list the following week. DARWIN is his first published fiction.
The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, was released in the summer of 2013. Jason’s next book, currently untitled, is tentatively scheduled for release in 2015.
He lives near Seattle, Washington with his wife and two young sons.