I read a lot of SFF, but every now and then, I love a good historical (especially one with lots of suspense), and The Paris Winter is just the thing to scratch that itch. That said, I’m thrilled to welcome Imogen Robertson to the blog to answer a few questions about her brand new book, The Paris Winter (out tomorrow)!
Will you tell us a bit about The Paris Winter and what inspired you to write it?
With pleasure! Paris Winter is the story of a young English woman, Maud, who comes to Paris to train to be an artist at the Académie Lafond. She finds herself almost destitute and is too proud to ask for help, but finds a place working as a companion to a young woman in ill-health. It seems her problems are over. Unluckily for Maud what seems a refuge is anything but, and she is pulled into a dark, dangerous plot. It’s a story of revenge and betrayal and the shadows cast in the City of Light.
Why Paris of 1909? What kind of research did you do for the book, and what was one of the most interesting things you learned?
I read about the floods in Paris of January 1910 and at once I realised I wanted Maud’s story to be set against that background. Paris was a very modern city, but its sewers and underground tunnels were turned against it by the waters and the streets started giving way. It had all the drama and symbolism I wanted.
I spent hours in the London Library reading the reports of the Paris council on the flood, read any number of contemporary reports, visited artists and diamond merchants, made files of weather reports, collected thousands of images and – of course – went to Paris to walk the streets my characters knew. I think the thing that surprised me most was learning about the numbers of American and English girls who were destitute in Paris at the time and about the people who tried to help them.
I always admire writers that take on characters from another era. How did you gain insight into Maud, and what was one of your favorite things about writing her character?
It was easier to get to know Maud in some ways than my characters from the late 18th century. Getting to know an artist who was trained in the same way as Maud was key, and also reading everything I could about women artists of the time gave me an idea of how she might look at the world. I think what I loved the most was learning the vocabulary of oil painting and working that into the novel.
Your other novels take place mostly in London and the surrounding areas. Was it fun making the switch to Paris?
I love Paris and it was very interesting to go there with the novel in mind rather than just enjoying it as a tourist. One of my other books (Circle of Shadows) is set in Germany, and another in the Lake District (Island of Bones), so I’ve done a few trips out of London in the past. The most important thing is choosing when to go. You need to have some clear ideas about the book so you go and look at the right things, but you also need to let all the new influences of actually being there sink in. There’s never enough time! I was lucky when I went to Paris that I met American writer David Downie. He and his wife – photographer Alison Harris – took me to all sorts of secret places in Paris which I would never have found on my own and the novel is a great deal richer as a result.
The Dark Blood of Poppies by Freda Warrington was reissued by Titan in October, and today I’ve not only got an excerpt of the book for you to read, but courtesy of Titan, I’ve got a copy to give away to one lucky US reader as well! Enjoy the excerpt, and be sure to enter to win using the internet at the bottom of the page. I’ll choose a winner on the 22nd!
MOON IN VELVET
The familiar, light voice sent an eerie thrill through her. Charlotte saw Violette appear in the doorway, pale in a dress of beaded ivory silk.
Violette stepped into the firelight. Her dress sparkled but her face and arms were matte, like velvet-white petals. With her blackhair coiled under a bandeau, she held herself with all her natural balletic poise.
“I…” The dancer fell silent and stared into the fire. Her posture was defensive, as if to fend off any kiss or touch of greeting. Charlotte had no idea how to broach the subject of Matthew’s death, or the complaints of the other vampires.
“I waited until Karl had gone out,” Violette said finally. “I need to see you alone. Do you mind?”
“Of course not! Please, sit down.”
“Thank you, but no.” Violette clasped her hands across her waist. “I can’t sit still. I should be helping the wardrobe mistress with the costumes for the tour, but…”
Charlotte, moving closer, was shocked by her pallor. “Have you fed tonight?”
“Not yet,” Violette said brusquely.
“Are you still finding it hard to hunt?” She spoke gently, but her heart sank. Violette looked desolate. Charlotte’s gaze was arrested by a pearly mark over her breastbone. “What’s that on your chest?”
“This?” Violette smiled without humour, and drew down the front of her dress to reveal a ragged scar between her breasts. “Isn’t it wonderful, how fast we heal? Last night it was almost through to my spine.”
“Who did this?” Rage electrified her. To think that some idiot had actually tried to kill Violette! “Was it John? I’ll tear him apart!”
Invisible Streets by Toby Ball (Overlook, July 2014)-Like your noir with a political twist? I do, and Invisible Streets, although it’s set in the turbulent 60s, it’s rather timely, which makes it even more fascinating for me. Again, it’s the 60s in the City, and this City doesn’t exist on any real map, which gives the author a certain amount of freedom with the prose, even as he sticks to familiar events and societal conventions of the time. Most readers of thrillers expect a main problem, or mystery, for a protagonist to solve, and this has one, sort of, but there are overarching events that make up the real crux of the book. The protagonist is certainly Frank Frings, an aging journalist who has been asked by his old friend and former editor, Panos Dimitropoulos, to find his grandson Sol, who is suspected of killing his own parents and hasn’t been in touch for years. Recently, however, Panos spotted Sol in an art film, and so the world of bohemian art and film is where Frank Frings starts his investigation.
Meanwhile, Nathan Canada’s New City Project has divided the city ideologically, and soon, literally. If Canada has his way, and there’s really no reason why he won’t, the mega road which will soon run straight through the city will divide the haves and have-nots in a decisive way. Homes are being taken away from their owners via shady backroom deals which are certainly more beneficial to Canada than any of the City’s denizens,, and as palms are continually greased the collective tension of the City continues to rise.
Here are the books that I’m especially looking forward to in SFF for December! What are you looking forward to?
Synopsis-Louie “Fitz” Fitzsimmons is getting out of the drugs business. It was never what you might call a career, anyway; he’s got problems – strange, violent, vivid hallucinations that have plagued him since he was a kid – and what with one thing and another, this is where he’s ended up. So he’s been cooking Hollywood gangster Blake Kaplan’s books, and putting a little aside for a rainy day – fifteen million, give or take – and he figures it’s time to cut and run. Until a vision hits at the worst possible moment, and now he’s in hospital and looking at a stretch in County on a possession charge.
Then a Lithuanian goddess of the hunt murders her way into the hospital, and Fitz ends up on the run from a pissed-off angel, and there’s new gods – gods of business and the internet – hunting him down, and what started as a bad day gets a whole lot worse. Because Fitz is a Chronicler, a prophet – a modern Moses or Hesiod – with the power to make, or break, the gods themselves…
Here’s your weekly round up of Kindle deals under $5. It’s a cornucopia of genre (curated with care, ’cause I love you), so you’re sure to find something you like, and if you’re a mystery lover, and you haven’t discovered Michael Connelly’s superb Harry Bosch series, or if you’re a fan of dark urban fantasy, Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series, now’s the time, because most of them are under $5 (and I’ve listed them in order.) Have fun, and happy reading (but be sure to double check that Buy button before you click:)!
Also, the sheer volume of Orbit titles that are under $5 will blow your mind:books by Jeff Somers, Jaye Wells, Nicole Peeler, Amanda Downum, so much more!
Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler (Solaris, Oct. 2014)-Christopher Fowler is a very versatile author. He’s well known for his Bryant and May mystery series, and he can do noir with the best of them. But, he’s also known for horror, but he’s not pinned into only one style of horror either. He can do subtle, he can do not-so-subtle (Hell Train), but Nyctophobia falls firmly between those two states, and it works perfectly.
When English rose Callie meets the much older Mateo, she’s smitten, and when they discover a beautiful, and very unique, house in the Spanish countryside (complete with a quaint, tiny village nearby), she’s thrilled. She’s a trained architect, and Hyperion House offers much to get her architectural gears going. It’s built into the side of a cliff, and is constructed to maximize the amount of sunlight in the house at all times, except for the part of the house built into the cliff. It seems like a miniature version of the main house, but is completely in darkness. The housekeeper, whose family has kept house for more than a few of Hyperion’s inhabitants (and insists that Hyperion is a happy house), also seems to be hoarding the keys. Mysterious rooms aside, Callie has to admit she’s very content in the house, even if Mateo is gone quite a bit on business, and she has his 9 year old daughter Bobbie to keep her company much of the time. With those dark, dusty rooms looming in the background, however, their sunny happiness is always entwined with a subtle sense of menace. But all subtlety disappears when Callie gets her hands on those keys, and begins her explorations of the dark rooms. This is where Fowler heads into just-plain-scary-sh*t territory.
Here are the books that I’m especially looking forward to in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for December! Enjoy!
Synopsis-The game is once again afoot in this thrilling mystery from the bestselling author of The House of Silk, sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate, which explores what really happened when Sherlock Holmes and his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty tumbled to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls.
Internationally bestselling author Anthony Horowitz’s nail-biting new novel plunges us back into the dark and complex world of detective Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty—dubbed the Napoleon of crime” by Holmes—in the aftermath of their fateful struggle at the Reichenbach Falls.
Days after the encounter at the Swiss waterfall, Pinkerton detective agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. Moriarty’s death has left an immediate, poisonous vacuum in the criminal underworld, and there is no shortage of candidates to take his place—including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.
Chase and Scotland Yard Inspector Athelney Jones, a devoted student of Holmes’s methods of investigation and deduction originally introduced by Conan Doyle in “The Sign of Four”, must forge a path through the darkest corners of England’s capital—from the elegant squares of Mayfair to the shadowy wharfs and alleyways of the London Docks—in pursuit of this sinister figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, who is determined to stake his claim as Moriarty’s successor.
A riveting, deeply atmospheric tale of murder and menace from one of the only writers to earn the seal of approval from Conan Doyle’s estate, Moriarty breathes life into Holmes’s dark and fascinating world.
Please welcome Erik Williams to the blog! His brand new book, Demon, just came out and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about it!
Will you tell us more about Demon and why you wrote it?
Demon started with a very basic idea: a badass demon escapes its prison and causes havoc wherever it goes. The original intention was to have it start at sea, where the demon has already possessed someone and is floating adrift in a life boat that gets picked up by a Navy ship. Then I got to thinking, how’d it get out in the middle of the ocean? So I came up with the idea that somehow it had made it onto an oiler sailing out of the Persian Gulf. But how’d it get on the oiler? So I went back further and finally said, “Well, buddy, you need to start at its prison and how it got out.” I guess I wrote it because if I didn’t, I would have eventually gone all the way back to the moment of creation when the demon was first hatched into existence, in which case I’d probably still be writing it.
You are a Defense Contractor with a Naval background, but have you always wanted to write? Will you tell us a little more about that progression?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to write. Or draw. Or paint. I’ve been an artistic guy all my life, although I don’t fit the artistic stereotype (i.e., I’m not unorganized, I don’t believe in suffering for art, I’m not easily distracted, I have pretty much zero spontaneity, and I always have to have things planned out). I used to talk my teachers into letting me write something fictitious for a project (as opposed, to say, a boring essay). In high school, I wrote a terrible novel. In college, I wrote a couple of okay screenplays and some meh short stories.
While in the Navy I wrote another novel that was light years beyond the first but still not so great. Once I got out back 2005, and while I was looking for a job, I figured I’d finally sit down and try to write professionally.
Since then, I’ve sold a bunch of short stories and novellas to small press markets, along with a couple of novels. I also recently had a screenplay optioned. Not too bad for nine years of work.
Wakening the Crow by Stephen Gregory- Oliver Gooch has a wife named Rosie and a young daughter named Chloe. He used to work in the mobile library, but that closed, so he’s opened a bookshop in the converted church where they live, in a suburb of Nottingham (Robin Hood statue and all), called Poe’s Tooth Books. Rosie works at a school during the day and Oliver and Chloe happily putter around their newborn bookstore, a fire crackling in the hearth, keeping the bitter cold outside at bay. Every now and then, if Oliver is feeling restless, he takes his quiet, perennially smiling daughter out on their boat, The Gay Lady, to explore the icy waters that run under the city.
That sounds rather quaint, and it is, except for a few unusual things about their arrangement. The church (which they actually share with a next door tenant), and Oliver’s relative career freedom, was bought with settlement money from an accident that left Chloe brain damaged. Rosie longs for the belligerent, sometimes shockingly mean, mouthy little girl that Chloe once was while Oliver makes quite clear to readers (but certainly not Rosie) that he loves the quiet, angelic Chloe that she is now, and is terrified of the return of the girl she once was. He’s easily able to recognize this, but it’s also something that’s caused him no small amount of guilt.
Please welcome Ilona Andrews (aka the writing duo of Ilona and Gordon) to the blog! They kindly answered a few questions about their brand new series, starting with BURN FOR ME, and much more!
Congratulations on the new book! What inspired you to write Burn for Me, and also to launch a whole new series?
I think we wanted to do a PNR set in a world very much like our own. I believe also that it grew out of earlier stories like the Edge or even the Kinsman series. We are fascinated by the idea of magic and technology existing together, sometimes struggling for supremacy like in the Kate books, or in the case of the Hidden Legacy series, co-existing so seamlessly that most people take for granted that they use both in their daily lives. For instance, Nevada playing Angry Birds on her cell phone while using her magic on the husband of a client. Yes, that and Avon offered to give us money if we wrote it. The severity of Ilona’s yarn addiction is matched only by my own affinity for collecting action figures and comics and so we needed the dough. Not sure if I’m allowed to say that but there it is, the ugly truth.
Why do you think readers will fall for Connor and Nevada? What did you enjoy must about writing their story?
I don’t know if they will but I hope they do. We tried to make them likable. Nevada is very strong, maybe not as much physically, but she’s mentally tough and very honest. She has a lot of responsibility and takes her job very seriously. She considers herself an agent of the law and is very diligent about doing the right thing. Connor is perhaps less so. He is powerful but deeply flawed in some ways. He is the head of a House but has no family to speak of. He has chosen instead to surround himself with ex-military types whose loyalty to him boarders on devotion. The law is more abstract to him. Ilona put it best I think when she said that Nevada is a Paladin and Rogan is a dragon. Forcing them to work together, playing them off of each other was probably the best part of writing the story.