It’s October, and for me, that means Halloween is right around the corner, so of course I’m preoccupied with all things scary, including books. So, for the month of October, I’ll be spotlighting authors specializing in thrills and chills, as well as Bram Stoker Award winners, and there might even be some special giveaways in the mix!
To kick off this special series of interviews and giveaways, I’d like to welcome Bob Fingerman to the blog! Bob is very well known for his work in comics, but he also penned the vampire novel Bottomfeeder and the zombie chiller Pariah. He was also kind enough to answer a few of my questions!
You have a background in art and comics, but you’ve also written a vampire novel, Bottomfeeder, and a zombie novel, Pariah, as well as numerous short stories. What made you decide to write the first novel? Is it tough to make the switch in writing styles?
Not really. I’ve always wanted to do not so much straight horror, but work that is horror adjacent. I don’t think of either of my novels as pure horror. They’re much more character studies and that, I think, is pretty much the meat of what I do, generally. But dark. Much darker in those prose books than I’ve ever done in my graphic novels. I think my art style is much more suited to humor, so that’s what I tend to focus on in my comics. At least the ones I’ve drawn myself. The Zombie World miniseries I wrote for Dark Horse, back in ’97, “Winter’s Dregs,” was pretty serious. It was also commissioned as a prequel to Pariah. But the comic series got canceled before I got to do Pariah, and for that I am actually – in retrospect – grateful, because I got to push much harder, darker and deeper in the novel than I would have as a PG-rated, much sorter comic.
As for what made me decide to scrap the art and just write a novel, some of it was pure and some of it wasn’t. The part that wasn’t was seeing others doing it and me thinking I could do as well or better. Competitiveness – which is not a bad thing, per se. The purer part was just loving novels and wanting to finally take the plunge and do it. I love words. I love wordplay and constructing a good sentence. And I love a challenge, and writing novels was definitely new terrain.
Why do you think zombies and vamps are so popular lately, especially in the last 10 years or so?
Eh, lots of people have theories. Some brainier than others; some more pretentious. I don’t know if it’s any millennial terror or any of that. I think they’re just fun toys to play with. And yes, we get to confront our morality and mortality with these toys, but ultimately they’re fun. Although, for whatever strange reason, I seem to go out of my way to make them less fun. Not to read. But my dad did say, “I never saw the downside to being a vampire until I read your book.” Funny quote. Wish I could’ve used it as a blurb. But I did go out of my way to show the downside. And then hopefully made it palatable and enjoyable with lots of dark humor.
How do you think horror has changed since the 80s, when it was especially popular?
Not sure, because I don’t read enough to be a trendspotter. I read a wide spectrum of genres, so I only get samplings of each. In movies I could answer more authoritatively, I think. They’ve generally gotten meaner. The ‘80s was the decade of fun horror. When Leisure Books was still around I read a bunch of their offerings. Maybe it’s more graphic than it was in its depictions of gruesomeness.
What are some of your favorite scary reads?
Dave Wellington’s books are always a pleasure to read. His zombie trilogy is essential reading. Clive Barker, especially the Books of Blood and The Damnation Game. Ramsey Campbell is terrific, as is Joe Lansdale. Brian Keene’s work, too. I’m too old or seasoned or whatever to get scared by books any more, but I remember the thrill of The Damnation Game. I was in my very early twenties and I noticed at a certain point I had curled and hunched as I read that. My whole body contorted with tension. That was great. Invisible Monsters by Palahniuk. Is that horror? Not really, but it unnerved me a bit.
How about movies? Any particular favorites?
Too many to mention. Cronenberg is my favorite, followed by Carpenter and Romero. Before Cronenberg got “respectable,” he was, is and ever will be my evergreen. Session 9, by Brad Anderson. That one is underappreciated. Great movie. Phantasm is a top fave. But too many.
What are you reading now?
Actually, 32 Fangs by Dave Wellington. So, right on topic. And next up is This Book is Full of Spiders, by David Wong. Actually, John Dies at the End might be my favorite “horror” novel of the last decade. But part of the reason is because I’m not sure it is horror. It’s such a crazy hybrid of a book. Can’t wait for the movie. The trailer looks great.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
The sequels to Pariah and Bottomfeeder remain in mind, but as to when and if they’ll materialize, not sure. But I’d love to do them.
Totally non-horror-related, but a new, super-deluxe edition of my comic series, Minimum Wage, is coming out in March 2013, from Image Comics, titled Maximum Minimum Wage. It will be the definitive edition, with tons of bonus material and printed oversized, so the art and text will finally have some breathing room. To link it to horror, Robert Kirkman is behind this reissue. He’s a big fan of Minimum Wage and he’ll likely have some content in the book. Maybe the foreword. Not sure. So, if the man behind The Walking Dead is behind this, I think your readers will dig it, too.
Keep up with Bob: Website | Goodreads | Twitter
About Bob Fingerman(via his website):
Best known for his comic series Minimum Wage (Fantagraphics Books), as well as the graphic novel White Like She (also Fantagraphics), Fingerman’s contributions to the world of comics have been many and varied.
In 1984, while still in attendance at New York’s School of Visual Arts, he produced work for the legendary Harvey Kurtzman (creator of Mad magazine and Playboy’s “Little Annie Fanny” as well as the recently collected Humbug) on the short-lived young readers anthology NUTS! At the same time Fingerman produced a series of parodies exclusively for the European market, which ran in such periodicals as France’s L’Echo Des Savanes and Spain’s infamous El Vibora.
Fingerman toiled in the disparate realms of kiddy satire, men’s magazines, sci-fi and illustration, producing work regularly for Cracked, Al Goldstein’s infamous tabloid Screw, Penthouse Hot Talk, Heavy Metal, National Lampoon and High Times. He also worked for The Village Voice, Business Week and other periodicals.
In the ’90s he decided to focus on comics, doing a stint on the The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as several adult comics titles. He also created covers and short stories for Dark Horse Comics, and DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint.
In 1993 Fingerman wrote and drew his first graphic novel, White Like She, a social satire about a middle-aged black man whose brain is transplanted into a white teenage girl’s head.
Upon completion of that purely fictional work Fingerman decided to turn his attention inward. The result was the semi-autobiographical series Minimum Wage, which charted the bumpy relationship of Rob Hoffman and Sylvia Fanucci, and was collected and extensively reworked as the graphic novel, Beg the Question (Fantagraphics Books).
Fingerman has broadened his palette, turning also to prose. His darkly humorous vampire novel, Bottomfeeder (M Press), was published in early 2007. Recent projects are Connective Tissue (Fantagraphics, May 2009), a trippy illustrated novella, and From the Ashes (IDW), a “speculative memoir” featuring Bob and his wife Michele in post-apocalyptic NYC. In 2010 the collected edition of From the Ashes was released, followed by his second novel, Pariah, from Tor (mass market edition released in 2011). He also had a short story in the popular zombie anthology The Living Dead 2 (Night Shade Books, October 2010). Next up is a deluxe reissue of his defining comic series, called Maximum Minimum Wage, from Image Comics (March 2013).
He is married to his lovely wife, Michele, and lives in New York City.
Death’s Rival (Jane Yellowrock #5) by Faith Hunter
Publisher: Roc/Oct. 2nd, 2012
Kind thanks to Ace for providing a review copy
Jane Yellowrock is a shapeshifting skinwalker you don’t want to cross—especially if you’re one of the undead…
For a vampire killer like Jane, having Leo Pellisier as a boss took some getting used to. But now, someone is out to take his place as Master Vampire of the city of New Orleans, and is not afraid to go through Jane to do it. After an attack that’s tantamount to a war declaration, Leo knows his rival is both powerful and vicious, but Leo’s not about to run scared. After all, he has Jane. But then,a plague strikes, one that takes down vampires and makes their masters easy prey.
Now, to uncover the identity of the vamp who wants Leo’s territory, and to find the cause of the vamp-plague, Jane will have to go to extremes…and maybe even to war.
Jane is working for Leo Pellesier again and he’s got her hunting down the cause of a vampire plague that’s being spread by a mysterious alpha vamp. He’s making MOCs (Master of the City) and their minions sick, and forcing them to recognize him as their master before offering them the cure. There might be a traitor in their midst too. Jane is soon thrown into a maelstrom of murder and carnage, and it’s not helping that she’s not exactly in the best place, emotionally. She’s lost two of the most important people in the world to her in one fell swoop, and feels more alone than ever. With a new bodyguard, Eli, and his hacker brother at her back, Jane prepares for war, because war has been declared, and it will be epic.
Just when I think this series can’t get better, along comes the next book. Death’s Rival is the most personal of the bunch as Jane gets to the bottom of the tragedy that happened to her as a child, and subsequently shaped her entire future. Faith Hunter packs a lot into these books and has created a rich, fully realized world for Jane and her crew. Jane’s dual nature is fascinating, and Jane may still be the star, but Beast is starting to give her a run for her money.
You won’t find light and fluffy in these books. You’ll find a very complex, strong, wounded heroine who constantly questions her own violent nature, while longing to share herself with someone that understands her. I’ll be honest, I love Ricky-Bo, but Bruiser is my number one pick for Jane, but she’s constantly at odds with his undeniable connection to Leo, but is unable to ignore the smolder between her and Bruiser. How Faith Hunter manages to make a scene that has no sex in it whatsoever so darn hot, I have no idea, but she does it, to delicious effect. Death’s Rival is full of revelations and startling discoveries, and is a game changer for Jane, and for this series. Faith Hunter just took things to a whole different level with Death’s Rival, and you can bet I’ll be there for the next book. If you haven’t discovered this superb series yet, what are you waiting for?
I’m thrilled to have Emma Cornwall on the blog today! Emma is the author of the recently released Incarnation, and is the nom de plume of a New York Times bestselling author. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and we’ve also got a copy of Incarnation up for grabs, so check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Emma, your new novel, Incarnation, just came out a few weeks ago! Will you tell us a bit about it?
Gladly! Incarnation is a re-imagining of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” told from the point of view of one of the characters, Lucy Weston, as she is known here. In my version, Lucy is a real person who has been transformed against her will into a vampire. She is stunned to discover that Stoker has authored a novel about what happened to her that is intended to mislead a gullible public. Lucy sets out to find the being who transformed her in the hope that she can regain her lost humanity. Along the way, she battles her own thirst for blood, awakens to a lost love, and struggles to prevent a war that will destroy humans and vampires alike.
What was one of your favorite things about writing Incarnation?
I loved being able to wander through a steampunk London but my favorite aspect was Lucy herself. She completely took over the story and inspired me in ways that I never expected at the beginning. Her struggles to cope with her circumstances made the book much richer and deeper than it would otherwise have been.
What kind of research did you do for Incarnation?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in London and know the areas that I was writing about very well but I still went back through old photographs and newspaper reports–even to the extent of checking out the weather! I was particularly fascinated with the details of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, which plays a significant part in this story.
If Incarnation were made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
That’s a tough one but if I really got to pick, I think I’d like Piper Perabo as Lucy. I really enjoy her in “Covert Affairs” and she did a bang-up job in “Looper”.
What are some of your favorite vamp-centric books or movies?
“Dracula”, of course, because that’s where it all began and because the novel gives such insights into the darker corners of Victorian angst. Like so many other readers, I came back to the genre because of Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire”, and I’m a big fan also of that movie. I really enjoyed the early seasons of “True Blood” but I admit that I’ve drifted away. I also loved both Gary Oldman’s and Frank Langella’s “Dracula”, very different from each other but compelling in their own ways.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
My all-time favorite book is Michael Shaara’s “Killer Angels”, ostensibly about the battle of Gettysburg but really about the nature of war, the price of misguided notions of honor, and the luminous nature of true courage.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading and greatly enjoying “The Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
I’m currently working on an unrelated project but if there’s enough reader support, I’d very much like to continue Lucy’s story. I’d also like to mention that anyone who would like to know more about the vampire world at the heart of “Incarnation” might want to take a look at Lucy Weston’s own book, “The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer.
Please welcome Lisa Kessler back to the blog! Lisa is the author of Night Walker and the brand new novella, Night Thief! Lisa is giving away an ecopy of Night Thief to 1 commenter, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!
Hi everyone –
I’m so excited to be back on My Bookish Ways!!!
I visited a few months back with Night Walker, the first book in my new Night Series, and today I’m back with Night Thief. This novella is actually a prequel to Night Walker, so if you’re curious about the series, you can try the novella first and it won’t spoil Night Walker…
Here’s the Blurb:
After the fall of the Mayan civilization, Kane, an immortal Night Walker, has taken refuge in France for over 800 years. The modern world holds little interest for him until the night he meets the Golden Thief and is robbed of much more than his pocket watch.
Marguerite Rousseau is living a double life. By day she is the assistant to an eccentric French artist, Antoine Berjon, and by night she dons elegant evening gowns to woo French dignitaries before lifting their wallets.
Sparks ignite when Kane captures the thief, but Marguerite harbors a dark secret that could ruin them both.
So what is a Night Walker? When I started writing the series, I wanted a vampire-like race that wasn’t related to Vlad or the European vampire mythos… My researching led me to the oldest civilization in the Americas, the Maya. The more I researched, I also brought in some Native American history, and the Night Walkers are the result.
They’re immortal, and they drink blood to live, but they actually do “live”. Every night when the sun goes down, their hearts beat and they breathe. Night Walkers also have a spirit animal that they can shift into at will.
I love reading and writing about immortals because you can weave in real history with this being who actually lived in during that time. As a writer it gives me lifetimes to play with, to make this character who they are today. So fun!
What about you as readers? Do you enjoy paranormal stories with vampires or other immortals? What are your favorite traits of an immortal or vampire?
One commenter will win an eBook copy of Night Thief! (Ends 10/8/12)
Think of a Number by John Verdon
Publisher: Crown/July 2010
Arriving in the mail over a period of weeks are taunting letters that end with a simple declaration, “Think of any number…picture it…now see how well I know your secrets.” Amazingly, those who comply find that the letter writer has predicted their random choice exactly. For Dave Gurney, just retired as the NYPD’s top homicide investigator and forging a new life with his wife, Madeleine, in upstate New York, the letters are oddities that begin as a diverting puzzle but quickly ignite a massive serial murder investigation.What police are confronted with is a completely baffling killer, one who is fond of rhymes filled with threats and warnings, whose attention to detail is unprecedented, and who has an uncanny knack for disappearing into thin air. Even more disturbing, the scale of his ambition seems to widen as events unfold.
Brought in as an investigative consultant, Dave Gurney soon accomplishes deductive breakthroughs that leave local police in awe. Yet, even as he matches wits with his seemingly clairvoyant opponent, Gurney’s tragedy-marred past rises up to haunt him, his marriage approaches a dangerous precipice, and finally, a dark, cold fear builds that he’s met an adversary who can’t be stopped.
In the end, fighting to keep his bearings amid a whirlwind of menace and destruction, Gurney sees the truth of what he’s become – what we all become when guilty memories fester – and how his wife Madeleine’s clear-eyed advice may be the only answer that makes sense.
Dave Gurney is more than a little surprised when he’s contacted by an old college acquaintance, Mark Mellery. He wants to see Dave, but it’s not just to catch up on old times. Dave agrees to meet with Mellery and he joins Dave at his home. Mellery is overly familiar and his rapport seems a bit forced, but his desperation over some recent correspondence is very real, and he’s come to Dave seeking advice on how to handle the supposed threat.
Mark Mellery now runs the Mellery Institute for Spiritual Renewal, a professed oasis for people seeking spiritual guidance and healing. However, his past saw a period of alcoholism that caused destruction and the end of his marriage, and he’s worried that it might be catching up with him. Strangely enough though, he’s very reluctant to involve the police, even at Dave’s urging. Dave is stumped however, since part of the correspondence included asking him to think of a number, then open an envelope containing a number: the very one that Mark thought of. Dave knows there must be a logical explanation, that this isn’t ESP, but he doesn’t know how the trick was carried out. He does know that the letters get increasingly threatening. Turns out his instincts about the threat were spot on when Mellery turns up dead outside his home, sliced brutally in the throat. Obviously Dave must notify the police of his involvement, and he inevitably becomes tied to the investigation. His reputation precedes him, and his logical mind is just the thing they need to solve this mystifying case. As the killings escalate, Dave must not only muster every tool in his arsenal, but also confront some hard truths within himself.
Think Of a Number is the first book in the Dave Gurney series, and it caught my interest immediately. Dave is brilliant, logical, and nearly always even keeled, but he’s not without his flaws. However, that’s what I liked most about him. As talented as he is at self examination, he constantly misses cues that point to his increased tendency to push away those he loves the most. Dave and his wife, Madeleine moved to the Catskills in the wake of Dave’s retirement, and I always got the sense that Madeleine was desperate to see him take what she considered a much needed break from law enforcement, but if nothing else, Dave Gurney is a cop to the core, and even a tragedy in his past can’t pull him back from the puzzle of this newest case. One would almost think he was using the case so as not to have to deal his wife’s frustration, or the calls from his adult son whose life and career paths he doesn’t quite approve of. His wonderfully precise mind is always “on”, in working a case, in his art (manipulating the mugshot photos of some of his most notorious collars), but the things that should be closest to him seem always just one step too many away.
I dare you to start the first page of this book and not get hooked immediately. It begins with a decidedly creepy lullaby, uttered from a son to his mother and sets up this intricate puzzle mystery perfectly. When you’ve got a hero this fascinating, a villain as brilliant and cunning as he is evil, and and author whose writing pulls you in and dazzles with its smooth grasp of detail and breathless pace, and you’ve got an unputdownable mystery that you’ll stay up very late finishing. I’m looking forward to the next installment in this series. Recommended for suspense fans and puzzle mystery lovers alike!
Here are the new releases for October! However, this is by no means a comprehensive list (just ones that I especially have my eye on.) If you have any new releases that I didn’t include, and that you’d like to direct me to, please list them in the comments. Thanks!
October 9th, 2012:
After ed. by Ellen Datlow
Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson
Mystic City by Theo Lawrence
Velveteen by Daniel Marks | REVIEW
Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows by Kim Harrison
Skies of Steel by Zoe Archer
Dracula Cha Cha Cha by Kim Newman
Red Rain by RL Stine
The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges
October 16th, 2012:
Portlandtown by Rob DeBorde
Angel’s Ink by Jocelynn Drake | REVIEW
Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett
The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski
Sanctum by Sarah Fine
Wild Girls by Mary Stewart Atwell
Further Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman by JB Lynn
Blood Lance by Jeri Westerson
ZOM-B by Darren Shan
Sacrifice Fly by Tim O’Mara
The Twelve by Justin Cronin
The Panther by Nelson DeMille
The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell
Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth
The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
Beluga by Rick Gavin
The Tangled Bridge by Rhodi Hawk
Home by Matthew Costello
Dead Asleep by Jamie Freveletti
Pandaemonium by Ben Macallan
What new books are you jonesin’ for this month?
Please welcome Richard E. Gropp to the blog today! His new book, Bad Glass, just came out this week, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Also, I’ve got 3 copies of Bad Glass up for grabs, so check out the details at the end of the post!
Richard, your new novel, Bad Glass, just came out! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I stumbled upon the fantastic work of John Bellairs and Zilpha Keatley Snyder as a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by stories and their ability to transport and ensorcell. I wrote my first novel when I was 16 (a terrible dystopian SF story), and I’ve been writing, off and on, ever since.
My big break came when Bad Glass won the Suvudu Writing Contest in 2011, beating out nearly 700 other novels. The prize was $200 worth of Del Rey books and an editing pass from legendary Editor-in-Chief Betsy Mitchell, but Del Rey liked the book so much they wanted to publish it.
That was a pretty good day.
Will you tell us a bit about Bad Glass?
In Bad Glass, something strange has happed in Spokane, Washington, but no one knows exactly what. The government has come in and quarantined the city, locking down the borders, but strange rumors, videos and photos still manage to leak out: the mayor disappears into thin air in the middle of a televised press conference, cell phone videos show physics gone awry, and there are rumors of strange animals wandering the streets. Dean Walker, an aspiring photographer, decides to sneak into the city to document what’s going on, in the hopes of establishing a name for himself as a photojournalist. Naturally, as tends to happen in this type of story, everything goes wrong. He hooks up with a group of young holdouts and they fight to stay alive – and sane – while the world crumbles down around them.
It’s a pretty dark story. Definitely not comedy.
How did you celebrate when you found out Bad Glass would be published?
At first, I couldn’t really believe it. I figured that there’d been some kind of mistake, and Del Rey would call me back and tell me that they’d changed their minds. After the reality of the situation started to sink in, however, I think I went out for a nice dinner with friends. Pretty boring, really. I didn’t buy a private jet. No drunken debaucheries.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
At the moment, I’d have to say my biggest influences are Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, William Gibson, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Haruki Murakami. But that list is constantly changing. Ask again in an hour, and I’m sure I’ll have some new names.
Is there anything that helps you write? Anything in particular that gets the creative juices flowing?
Hmmm … I have my habits, but I’m not sure they really contribute to my productivity. Twitter certainly doesn’t. I guess you could say I’m an early-afternoon writer – that’s when I’m at my most productive. And I need space and privacy so I can read aloud (I’m constantly reading over everything I write, listening to the sound of my words, the rhythm of the syllables). And I guess it helps to have my German Shepherd, Rebel, nearby. She’s a bit of a muse.
Bad Glass is a fusion of horror and fantasy. What do you find truly scary?
For some reason, I’m affected by weird body horror. If I looked down and saw a pulsing growth sticking out of my abdomen, maybe moving around with a mind of its own, that would probably freak me the hell out (you can see this kind of mutated body-horror in the early films of David Cronenberg, or the chest-burster scene in Alien). I also find human psychology absolutely terrifying. I’m always worried that there are strange, unconscious parts of my brain trying to sabotage my efforts, trying to lead me to my doom. (As Raymond Chandler notes, in The Long Goodbye, “There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.”)
What are some of your favorite fantasy/sci-fi reads?
Again, this is a long, and constantly changing list. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany is always near the top – it’s not for everyone, I guess, but it really opened my eyes as to what SF can do. Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is another big one for me. I’ve been reading and re-reading William Gibson’s newer, “modern day” novels (Pattern Recognition, in particular, seems to speak to me). Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Jeff VanderMeer’s A City of Saints and Madmen. KJ Bishop’s The Etched City. Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Dry Salvages. Patricia Geary’s Strange Toys. Stephen King’s The Gunslinger and The Stand. M. John Harrison’s Viriconium series.
What do you personally like to see in a good book?
I love it when a book absolutely consumes me, when it sucks me in and drops me into a living, breathing environment. And the stranger, the more perplexing that place is, the better.
What makes you want to set a book aside in frustration?
The most frustrating thing for me, I think, is when clumsy writing gets in the way of a great story. I can be in the middle of an exciting action sequence, turning the pages with trembling fingers, and then hit a passage that knocks me back to the real world. I’d almost prefer it if the book were uniformly bad, because whenever that happens there’s always a sense of regret and missed potential (“This would have been so great, if only …”)
Of course, I can be a pretty brutal reader, and I’m sure my own writing suffers from plenty of cack-handed choices.
What are you reading now?
I just finished Brian Evenson’s Immobility – a sparse, bleak, beautiful book. And I’m about to pick up M. John Harrison’s Empty Space.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Lately, I’ve been honing my cooking skills. I make a mean chicken marsala, and a rather friendly bacon-wrapped meatloaf. I’m also an amateur photographer and an intermediate wakeboarder, although I haven’t been devoting nearly enough time to either of those pursuits… And then there’s bourbon, of course. (And, yes, I just stole that from Jay Kristoff’s interview. But when you’re right, you’re right.)
What’s next? Is there anything you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events?
I just got back from a research trip to Vancouver, BC, where my next novel takes place (fingers crossed). I’m still pretty early in the process, though, so I don’t want to talk about it too much. I’m also hoping to devote some more time to short fiction in the coming months. We’ll see where that goes.
Thanks a lot for having me on My Bookish Ways, and keep up the great work!
Keep up with Richard: Website | Twitter
Here’s my roundup of book news (and other fun stuff) around the web for the week!
Interviews and more:
Excerpts and such:
Any news you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments, and have a great weekend!
It’s always a pleasure to have Faith Hunter on the blog. Her brand new Jane Yellowrock novel, Death’s Rival, is out on Oct. 2nd, and Faith stopped by as part of her blog tour (click here for the full schedule) to talk about it (including an exclusive exerpt!!), and we’ve also got a copy for giveaway, so check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Death’s Rival, the newest Jane Yellowrock book will be out on October 2nd! Can you give us a bit of a teaser?
Oh Yes! Something not seen on any other blog….
Oh, Goody. I Wasn’t Gonna Get Sucked to Death
The pilot stuck his head out of the door above me, back inside, and then raced down the stairs. “I’ve called airport security and 911. They’re sending an ambulance and the cops,” he said.
I said something that would have gotten my mouth washed out by the house mother at the Christian children’s home where I was raised. “Medical kit!” I demanded. But the pilot was ahead of me and knelt beside Tory, opening the small kit. With actions that were medic-fast, he ripped open boxes and plastic packages and applied a thick layer of gauze over Tory’s wound. Over that he folded a blanket from the jet. The entry wound was low in the upper left quadrant, above his waist, below his ribs. I tried to remember what organs were there and came up with upper colon and maybe spleen. The exit wound was directly behind it and way bigger. The pilot adjusted Tory’s limp body, stuffed another blanket over that one, and wrapped them in place with gauze and a sticky-wrap bandage. He leaned in, applying pressure, his knees on the tarmac. “Come on, boy. Don’t die on me,” he muttered. “Don’t die. Fight. You can fight this.”
I lifted Tory’s feet and propped them on the steel step, got more blankets from inside, all treatment for shock. I’d taken an emergency medicine course between life in the children’s home and life as an adult as the junior member of a security firm. I’d taken a lot of classes in a lot of things. Some of what I’d learned was even useful occasionally.
Needing to be doing something for the man who had thought I needed help, and knowing there was nothing I could do, I secured the unconscious attacker, hands and feet, with double zip strips, cleaned out his pockets, and made a fast reconnoiter of the area while I called Leo’s to report in. Bruiser answered. “We’ve landed. Two blood-slaves—” I stopped. Yeah. Multiple vamps had fed off them. Blood-slaves, not blood-servants. Expendable weapons. “—attacked me as I got off the plane. I took them down, but the first mate, Tory somebody”—I slid a hand over my face. I didn’t even know his last name—“jumped in to help. He’s injured. The pilot called 911.”
Bruiser swore. Vamps took care of their own, avoiding all human agencies when possible, but this time it was too late. “Dan’s a part-timer. Leo’s regular pilot is sick today,” Bruiser said. The phone fell silent as he thought, probably going over the vamp-political implications of Leo’s self-proclaimed and uninvited Enforcer killing someone in the city of another master. Unlike me, Bruiser had a political mind and an elegant surface in addition to his ruthless side, which was the reason he was Leo’s real Enforcer. That and the fact that he had the blood-bond with Leo that I had refused. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll get someone there to handle things. You get to the Romanello Clan Home.”
Which was what I’d known he would say, but the words were still cold and heartless. Something twisted deep inside me. As if he knew what I was feeling, Bruiser added, “Or you can stay and spend the next two days answering the questions of local law enforcement.”
He was right. I knew it. Still . . . “Okay. But someone knew we were coming. That list is limited to the pilot and first mate, the pilot who called in sick, any of the vamps y’all told on your end, and Derek Lee and his guys on my end.”
Are there already plans for more Jane books in the works after Death’s Rival?
I am hoping for a total of 15, but that, as with everything in a writer’s life, is in the hands of the fans.
What about you? How was your summer? Did you get any whitewater paddling in?
Unfortunately not, and I miss it! I have four elders who are having health problems and I have been stuck on land with one or several at every opportune moment.
What are you reading right now?
Several things. Deb Harkness’s Shadow of Night, trying to catch up on Janet Evanovitch, with Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews next on my TBR pile.
Any recent movies or books that have really caught your eye?
I fear I don’t watch films very often. I do, however, watch TV, and Revolution’s first was lovely!
Is there any other news you’d like to share?
I am in negotiations with my publisher for a Jane Yellowrock World Book, to include a brand new Jane novella. But it’s a secret. Shhhh!
Keep up with Faith: Website | Twitter
Stephen M. Irwin is the author of The Dead Path, and most recently, the amazing The Broken Ones. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome Stephen to the blog! Also, be sure to check out the giveaway for The Broken Ones at the bottom of the post!
Steve, you’re a screenwriter and the writer of two novels, The Dead Path and your newest, The Broken Ones. When you were growing up, did you want to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
I was born in, grew up in, and still live in Brisbane, Australia. It’s the third most populous city in Australia, which is kind of like saying Norway has the third best basketballers in Scandinavia – in the tally of national populations, Australia’s is pretty small. Brisbane is often called a big country town, and growing up in the seventies and eighties, it certainly felt that way. I have five sisters, so growing up I learned pretty quickly the ninja arts of camouflage and silent breathing so as to avoid experimental makeovers. I was pretty comfy in my own company… well, that’s not entirely true. Happy alone but in the company of good comics, and, later, good books. I didn’t give school and homework a whole lot of time, but I read a lot and I read for pleasure.
Looking back at my school books that my parents kept, it’s clear I enjoyed writing short stories, but I didn’t have a burning desire to be a writer. I wanted to be, as years passed, Jimmy Sparks (the kid who owned Gigantor, the titular robot character of the anime series – man, I loved robots), then an Egyptologist, then an illustrator, and when I began flunking physics and moved to film and television in high school, I wanted to make movies.
I graduated from film college aged 19 more interested in acting than anything, and spent a few years straddled between trying to learn acting craft and trying to eke out a living without a filmmaking specialty – I tried camerawork, stills photography, editing… and so it took some years to discover I was most comfortable writing and directing. I made countless corporate and training videos, then wrote and directed some TV documentaries, moved into short drama, and then began writing short stories. Strange, long full circle. After some success with the short stories, I decided to try a long one… a novel. That was The Dead Path, published in 2009/10. I began writing my second novel, The Broken Ones, about six months later.
The Broken Ones goes to some pretty dark places. Was it tough, emotionally, to write at times?
Graham Greene famously said there has to be a shard of ice in every writer’s heart. I guess mine is pretty solid when I’m doing the ‘fun’ part of my writing process: the big-brushstroke plotting and character invention. It’s kind of clinical for me at that stage, and easy to write notes like, ‘the cops find the mutilated body of a murdered young girl’. But once I start to load flesh on the bones of my characters, and I shut the door to write scenes, it does become a bit harder.
I’m a firm believer that writing is a lot like acting: you can fake it passably and keep the performances cosmetic, or you can try and invest yourself in the moment and try and find actions and words for the characters to do and say that are as honest as possible. This means that, when I’m writing fast and the scene is clear in my mind, the characters aren’t behaving clinically, all obedient to the plot notes on my whiteboard; they are doing their own thing. And when it comes to some of the nasty events in the book – the willful killing of children with physical and mental difficulties – the writing days got quite raw and draining.
What made things tougher was the passing of my father mid-way through the writing of the book. Dad’s death wasn’t unexpected, but I loved him deeply and felt his loss pretty keenly – he was simply the best man I’ve ever met. And seemingly out of nowhere – but clearly out of this – the relationship in the book between the protagonist Oscar Mariani and his father began to play a much bigger part.
What made you decide to set The Broken Ones in the future?
Well, the choice was set the book in the near future, or set it in an alternative present. There’s some fundamental changes to our society’s that are catalytic to the setting of this book. Something happens that causes two big changes to Earth, one physical, and one spiritual: the poles shift and North becomes South, and everyone suddenly finds her- or himself haunted. Everyone has their own personal spectre that shadows them 24/7, there watching them when they wake in the morning, go through their day, kiss their partner goodnight.
I considered setting the book in an alternative present and suggesting that this event might have been the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider in 2008. But in discussions with my publisher, we agreed it was more powerful to set the book in the near future, and suggest that experiments at the LHC were only one possible cause of this cataclysm – no one knows for sure what caused it, and maybe no one will. What is certain is that now everyone is haunted, huge swathes of every country’s population are chronically stressed and depressed. Lots of suicides, lots of people mentally unable to work. Economies crumble, and societal glue with them. It’s in this setting of a world on the brink of total collapse that the book’s hero, a police detective, has to try and find justice for just one more death among the millions, that of a murdered girl.
I think the book has more power if the reader embarks on it thinking: this could still happen.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I like to think I read pretty broadly, but if I’m honest with myself, I do return again and again to a few favourite things. Motorcycle magazines, the New Yorker, and the authors that I fell in love with and stayed in love with – some years ago, some more recently. In primary school, the two big-ticket items were horror comics (I remember distinctly The Werewolf Wasp in Ghost Stories, and the fantastically, cheesily named antagonist Professor Larvay), and a great book by Susan Cooper called The Dark is Rising. high school, I went deep into fantasy and writers like Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Stephen Donaldson, Isaac Asimov… But it is Ray Bradbury who remains The Man, and Fahrenheit 451 the book that really got stuck in my throat. Bradbury could do it all – stunning prose, soaring sci-fi, horror, comedy, dystopia. And Bradbury started a lifelong love for the short story form, and I ate up other masters of the short horror form: Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson, Ambrose Bierce, HP Lovecraft, Stephen King… these people knew how to come up with a stunning premise and tease it out into a fulfilling story in a few thousand words, and I absolutely loved that.
I think it was around 1990 I read another book that influenced me profoundly: Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. It was simply beautiful. Achingly lovely prose, action, great wit, and soul-baring heart. It was a confirmation of the lessons that Bradbury had suggested: you can have it all in one story. Favourites in the last few years include Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, Cormac McCarthy, Hilary Mantel, Joe Hill, Michael Chabon… and hundreds more besides.
What kind of research went into writing The Broken Ones?
I think it was Eisenhower who said famously: plans are nothing; planning is everything. This certainly holds pretty true for the way I write. I had the almost childishly basic idea of writing a detective story with ghosts in it. From there, the planning truly was everything, and by planning I mean thinking about problems and solutions – how did the ghosts arrive? How are people dealing with them? What happens to a murderer in this kind of world? Are the ghosts a help or a hindrance? I was fortunate to know of a brilliant non-fiction book about ghosts: Spirit Sisters by Karina Machado. Reading this was the bedrock of research into ghosts, but more importantly, into the impact that ghosts have on the people who believe they are haunted. The hero of The Broken Ones is a detective haunted by a ghost whose identity is a mystery to him – and that mystery weaves with the mystery of the crime he commits himself to solving.
I am fortunate to know people who’ve worked as police officers and mortuary workers, and to that end, the crime procedural side of the research was able to be examined and put aside pretty easily. I wanted to know the rules about those things, and then break them – because the world of this story is a world of broken rules and new shortcuts, black markets and corruption.
The toughest part of the research was the third leg of the stool this story rests on: the mythological aspect. I don’t want to give too much away, but I had a strong feeling in those early, planning stages that having a strong undercurrent of ancient mythology in this post-modern dystopia would work. In the end, I did a lot of research into ancient Persian and Mesopotamian gods, and one found her way into the dark heart of the story. There was some nasty stuff that I turned up about, and I picked and chose which of those might be palatable enough to retain.
The Broken Ones has a decidedly noir feel to it, and works perfectly with the dystopian landscape. Do you have any favorite “noir” authors or books?
Absolutely. Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker. I am a fan of other detective genre authors like Hammet and MacDonald, but for me the big dogs are Chandler and Parker. Sparse, witty, no-nonsense. Those guys didn’t mince words, yet they made the words dance like boxers. There is always a new lesson in every re-read.
In The Broken Ones, there was one scene that had me especially on the edge of my seat. Seriously, it was the heart-rate-up, almost-afraid-to turn-the-page kind of scary. Have there been any books or movies that have affected you that way? What do you find truly scary?
I was the most fearful child. Seriously, everything: swimming pools, cricket balls, possums, spiders, heights… but one by one, I’ve pretty much got over them – I can swim, I have parachuted, I can have a spider walk up my arm without losing control of muscles essential to public decency… but I’ve never quite got over the unnatural tension of being alone in a house that you think is haunted. A lot of people don’t believe in ghosts, and that’s cool. But if you do believe, and you find yourself in an empty place where something inside you is shouting at you: there is someone else here! That’s hard to control. It’s an irrational fear, and it’s the stuff of my nightmares. Which is great – nightmares make good fodder for the page!
In terms of films, I like well told horror suspense much more than blood’n’guts. I am a huge fan of movies like The Others and The Orphanage. But the stuff that scares me, truly and to the bone, is documentary stuff. Footage of the Holocaust. Footage of the Killing Fields. Footage of stonings and religiously sanctioned executions. Every scary notion I can come up with doesn’t hold a dark candle to the truly horrible things that fundamentalism inspires.
I noticed in your bio that you’ve long been involved with the Australia based beyond blue: the national depression initiative. Will you tell us a bit about that and how it has influenced your writing?
What began as a one-off job designing a cover for a booklet grew into a working relationship that has lasted almost ten years now. beyondblue tries to inform the wider Australian about depression and its risks, to destigmatise it, and to help find ways to prevent it and limit its impact on individuals and families. My work with them has been with developing programs for high schools that help raise awareness about depression and anxiety, how every one of us can be at risk, and how important it is to seek help. As a creative writer, I think two really vital things have come from this working relationship: one is a better understanding of cognitive behavioural theory – the understanding that how a person thinks about things affects their feelings and actions. This is great for both heroes and villains – so I don’t just write what they do and feel, but think about the mental processes that underpin those emotions and actions. The second thing is not to accept stereotypes about mental illness. Film and pulp fiction are thick with ‘crazy’ characters, but I know now that mental health and mental illness exist on a very broad sliding scale, and each of us is on there someone, so don’t propagate cheap-and-easy stereotypes about ‘nutters’.
On a lighter side, I read that you had quite a few interesting jobs before settling into writing! What was the worst, and the best, of the bunch?
Every job has its riches and its punishments. Dad was a carpenter, and I’ve inherited a fraction of his handiness, and in leaner times have put that to use to pay the bills. As a handyman, I’ve unblocked toilets and urinals, and there really isn’t much glamour in that. I’ve worked long shifts at a chip fryer, I’ve hung out of helicopters filming biplanes, I’ve clambered above concert halls rigging lights. I think the worst job was as a call centre operator: taking call after call from people complaining about running out of propane, being stuck in lifts, and wanting to leave drunken messages for their mates was too much for me. . I remember taking a call on behalf of a city council two thousand kilometres away, from an elderly woman whose husband had died and was being pressured by a real estate agent to sell her home, and she didn’t know what to do. It was against the rules to take down caller numbers, and I regret to this day I didn’t take hers – I feel so guilty I couldn’t help her. I think the best non-writing job is illustrating – coming up with caricatures or line illustrations for periodical articles. It is a process for me that satisfies not because the work is perfect – I almost invariably feel it is far from it – but because it starts, ends, and is complete: on a previously empty page, something is created that wasn’t there before. I like that.
When you manage to carve out some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I have two utterly beautiful children (they look like my wife, not me, so I can say that with acknowledged prejudice and complete honesty). They take most of my spare time, and I’m happy to give it. Making them laugh is the best part of my life. But I also like getting out my hand tools and doing carpentry work around the house – you may hear a lot of swearing if you watch me do it, but I’m secretly loving it. I like going for rides on my motorcycle. And I like watching great TV – and this is a golden era of television right now. I just heard there is a new season of Arrested Development coming, and I am a very happy man.
If someone were to visit you in Brisbane for the first time, where would you take them? Any out of the way things you’d want to show a first time visitor?
If you trust me, climb behind me on the bike, and I can take you for a great coffee at my sister’s café right opposite a windmill made by convicts, the oldest of its kind in Australia. I’ll show you Toowong Cemetery, just up the road from where I live, 150+ years old and final home to a former world boxing champion and, at least one person believes, Jack the Ripper. And maybe we can go to the old Museum building, a beautiful building from the 1890s that is now home to the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra and, if you believe such things, at least two ghosts.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events, or anything at all?
Right now I’m in the thick of writing a screen adaptation of The Dead Path as a feature film (the book has been optioned by a production company Hoodlum Entertainment), and got the great news that a national television network is keen on a crime series I’ve developed. These come as part apology for those waiting on my third novel, which is progressing, but not as fast as I’d like with these other exciting distractions.
Keep up with Stephen: Website | Twitter