I’m so excited to have Alex Adams on the blog today! Alex is the author of the brand new dystopian novel White Horse, and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Also up for grabs is 2 copies of White Horse to 2 lucky winners, so be sure to check out the giveaway details at the bottom of the post!
Please welcome Alex to the blog!
Your brand new dystopian thriller, White Horse, just came out! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
Writing wasn’t my childhood dream, though I did always want to be entertaining in some way. For most of my single-digit years I wanted to be Doris Day or maybe Anne Margaret. Then I went off to college to study a combination of Psych, Human Bio-science and Sociology. Probably no one would be more surprised at my writing ability than my college Sociology lecturer. The poor man asked the class to describe an apple. After reading my offering, in which I described an apple as “round and probably red,” he said, “You’re a science student, aren’t you?”
It wasn’t until I was 22 or so that I thought about writing. That idea was quickly shelved, though, when I realized I had nothing to write about—yet. I was one of those people who needed to be a little more lived-in first. Not long after I turned 30 the writing bug struck again, while I was reading a description of shoes in a chick lit book. I thought, “I can do this!” But of course I quickly discovered that writing something worth selling is massively hard.
Lucky for me, I’m quite stubborn (anyone who knows me and is reading this is either laughing or crying right now). So when I wrote a funny mystery about a pet detective and it went basically nowhere, I cast it aside and began working on the next thing. With each manuscript I gained more and more useful feedback from publishing pros. I read as widely as I could, twisting my brain like a pretzel and soaking up as much as I could about storytelling, the publishing industry, and the mechanics of writing.
I like to joke about bribing the writing gods with a combination of cakes and human sacrifices, but the reality is I just worked hard, tried different things, and didn’t quit.
How did you celebrate when you found out White Horse would be published?
To be honest I was too stunned to do much of anything; I believed it would be published eventually, but I had no idea how well. I sat on the floor with my dog and performed some highly unattractive combination of laughing and crying. Once I cleaned myself up, I went out for a burger. I think part of me was afraid that it wasn’t real, and that if I seriously celebrated it would end in a email that read “We were kidding, sucker!” (Spoiler: It was. They didn’t.)
How long did it take you to write White Horse (from writing to publication)?
The actual writing process took only a few months. But I took a break while writing so from Prologue to The End was about a year. I’d been querying for about 5-6 weeks when Alexandra Machinist, my now-agent, asked if we could talk. I signed a contract with her on October 1, 2010, and on November 1 she was calling to tell me the results of the auction. From the first words on the screen to publication date was 2 years and 8 months. Writing isn’t a short game.
Why do you think dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories are so popular right now?
I think with the world the way it is (a big old mess) we’re starting to wonder if we’re circling the drain. The whole Mayan 2012 thing isn’t helping (although I see they’re back-tracking now, telling us change is coming, not The End. Oh, those funny, changeable Mayans!) Post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories depict ways in which humankind has prevailed, despite facing world-ending events, and I think that’s appealing to readers. It’s a very hopeful thing. We want to believe we can make it through anything so we’re drawn to stories that reflect that.
There’s also something very exciting about imagining a world that used to be ours but that’s been rendered almost unrecognizable. As much as it scares a lot of us, I think we’re drawn to the idea of massive change. At least on paper and celluloid.
Are there certain books or authors that have influenced your writing the most?
Definitely. Terry Pratchett and Vladimir Nabokov have taught me a lot. Whatever you think of his stories, Nabokov knew how to make poetry out of prose. And some magical how, Pratchett makes every word count. He wrings multiple meanings out of so many of his sentences, and he knows people. Really knows them.
This is fine-point stuff, though, because I think most writers are influenced by everything they read—even junk mail. Who hasn’t drooled over really great copy from places like Trader Joe’s and Zimmerman’s?
What are you reading right now?
Lilith Saintcrow’s The Hedgewitch Queen and The Tourist, by Olen Steinhauer. Wildly different, but both are excellent. I read all over the place. I’m consistently inconsistent.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Today’s answer is Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably give you a different answer.
Okay, now it’s tomorrow and my answer is: all the Harry Potter books.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Lately most of my down time involves sprawling on the couch with my guy, watching movies. We’re both writers, and story-telling junkies, so all movies result in lively discussion and analysis of what we’ve just seen. Otherwise you’ll find me reading or whipping up something in the kitchen. I’d bake all day if I had the time, space, and mouths to shovel food into.
Your bio says you were born in New Zealand and raised in Greece and Australia. If you could pack your bags and go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
Europe. Most definitely Europe. My fiancé has never been and I’m itching to go back and show him my favorite places, and discover new things together. Basically any kind of travel that involves exploring would thrill me. I can only take lying on a beach for so long before I want to get up and do something.
Do you have any advice for struggling writers?
Read widely and try writing outside your own comfort zone. Even if you don’t like it, write some poetry, pen a play, anything to stretch those writing muscles. You won’t know what you’re capable of until you try.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
You can’t see me now, but I’m sitting here like a deer in the headlights. I never know what to say to open-ended questions, so let me just thank you for having me here!
White Horse by Alex Adams
Publisher: Atria/April 17th, 2012
Kind thanks to Atria for providing a review copy
The world has ended, but her journey has just begun.
Thirty-year-old Zoe leads an ordinary life until the end of the world arrives. She is cleaning cages and floors at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the president of the United States announces that human beings are no longer a viable species. When Zoe realizes that everyone she loves is disappearing, she starts running. Scared and alone in a shockingly changed world, she embarks on a remarkable journey of survival and redemption. Along the way, Zoe comes to see that humans are defined not by their genetic code, but rather by their actions and choices. White Horse offers hope for a broken world, where love can lead to the most unexpected places.
I’m not quite sure what I expected when I started reading White Horse, but I sure didn’t expect to get sucked in so much that I stayed up until 3am to finish it. Yeah, it’s that good. Why is that good? Well, let’s start at the beginning. Zoe Marshall seems to be your typical single, slightly aimless, 30 year old, cleaning floors at a pharmaceutical company while sympathizing with the lab rats and planning to attend college in the near future. When she comes home one day and finds a white jar in her apartment (that she didn’t put there), things start to get very, very scary. People are getting sick, and Zoe’s friends are dying. Environmental wars are brewing, and a plague is spreading, and if it doesn’t kill you, it just might change you, in terrifying ways…
White Horse goes from Then and Now flawlessly, and told in Zoe’s voice, offers one of the most chilling looks into a post apocalyptic future that I’ve ever read. As Zoe journeys across the world to find the man she loves, the secret of the plague’s origins is unfolded (slowly and expertly), while at the same time a ruined landscape unfolds in a weather ravaged new world. You’ll feel every chill, every shudder, that Zoe feels, and you won’t be able to peel your eyes from the pages.
Alex Adams writing is lyrical, vivid, and chilling, and her observations on human nature are spot on. Zoe struggles to maintain her humanity in an environment that doesn’t exactly foster warm and fuzzy feelings. There are things waiting in the shadows, things that used to be human, and Zoe is never safe. As steeled for survival that she is, however, she never loses sight of her compassion and her desire to help others. As good hearted as Zoe is, though, the author gives us her counterpart in a villain so nasty, so evil, the term “sympathetic villain” goes right out the window. I haven’t hated a villain with quite as much venom in a long, long time. Hate’s a strong word, yes, but it definitely applies with this one (this guy is deplorable.)
Make no mistake, dystopian fans, be prepared for a brutal, roller coaster ride with White Horse. There are some seriously horrifying, downright scary moments, and the author absolutely does not hold the readers hand. You will most certainly flinch, and squirm a bit, but there is nothing gratuitous here, and these moments do exactly what they’re meant to do. Trust me on this one. There are messages here, too, most notably about the environment and human scientific experimentation, but they’re delivered in a way that you won’t mind taking your medicine. As uncomfortable as parts of this book may be, White Horse is a very realistic look at a possible future. Alex Adams takes some pretty fantastical concepts and makes them absolutely plausible, and that’s what makes it so damn scary. Zoe is a heroine that we can all identify with, she’s the kind of person that we should all strive to be, and her hope in the face of horrendous circumstances is brilliant to behold. The little moments of pure compassion in this book are nearly painful in their honesty, and made me want to be a better person, be just a little nicer to everyone in my life, and made me thankful for everything that I have.
White Horse moved me on many levels, and is frankly one of the best books that I’ve read this year. Read it, love it, then make it your mission to immediately hug everyone that will hold still, and cherish the ones you love. Yeah, I got a little sappy there, but White Horse hit me right in the soft spot. Don’t tell anyone, ok? Our secret.
I’m thrilled to have GJ Koch on the blog today! You may know her as Gini Koch (author of the Kitty Martini series), and she’s also the author of the spankin’ new Alexander Outland: Space Pirate (out June 5th). Gini was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and there’s a copy of Alexander Outland up for grabs, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!
Gini, you’ve had wonderful success with your Kitty Martini series, and now you have a brand new book with Night Shade Books coming out in June, Alexander Outland: Space Pirate! Can you tell us a bit about it?
Awww, thanks! And, absolutely!
Trouble’s brewing out in space, and Alexander Outland — the least likely hero in the galaxy — and his eccentric crew have to save the day, despite the fact they’d prefer to take the money and run.
Alexander Napoleon Outland is the best pilot, and ladies’ man, in the galaxy. But Nap, as his friends call him, is more than that — he’s a schemer with a heart of gold he desperately wants to hide, a soft spot for other people’s cargo and his exotic weapon’s chief, and the unerring ability to find the biggest misfit on any planet or space station and somehow join that person onto his crew.
Nap’s not your classic hero, but that tends to make him the right guy for the job…whatever the job happens to be.
Was it fun to write a completely different story outside of the Alien Series?
Yes, very fun. Nap and his crew are a blast to write. I really enjoy these characters so much, and I think readers will, too. There’s tons of action, lots of wisecracks, danger, romance, intrigue, and the most horrific “underwater” experience any crew’s gone through in a long time.
As with everything I write, of course, many things surprised me, which is part of the fun of being an extreme linear writer. I also focused more on the humor in this book, which was a different kind of writing experience. Believe me, it’s work to ensure that there are at least chuckles and preferably snorts, giggles, snickers, and belly laughs on every other page. But I think it was worth it. Night Shade agrees, and I hope all of you do, too.
Do you have plans for more books in the Alexander Outland universe?
Yes, indeed. This story stands alone, but there are absolutely wrongs still to be righted, mysteries still left to solve, and valuables still left to snatch. I’d like the series to at least go to a trilogy, maybe more. But that’s up to Night Shade. They’re making the decision in August as to whether the first book is doing well enough to continue on. So, um, everyone needs to pre-order Alexander Outland: Space Pirate and then rush out and buy lots of copies when the book releases (June 5, 2012), please and thank you very much!
What are some of your favorite authors or books?
Oh, so very many. Terry Pratchett, Robert Benchley, P.J. O’Rourke, Dave Barry, Robert Silverberg, and many, MANY more. I also have a lot of authors who are friends these days, so I don’t list them out very often because I don’t want to forget someone.
What are you reading now?
Sadly, it’s more like “what are you waiting to read when you get a break?” than actually reading. It’s wonderful to be a full-time author, but it’s really cut into my reading time. I have Seanan McGuire’s and Marsheila Rockwell’s latest books waiting on the top of my TBR pile, along with three P.J. O’Rourke’s and a host of others. I have one of the best TBR piles out there, because most of mine are signed.
If someone were to start reading sci-fi for the first time, are there a few titles that you’d recommend starting with (aside for yours, of course!)?
Well, I honestly do recommend mine, because mine are not “scary” science fiction; soft science fiction is probably the best place to start because we soft SF writers don’t toss all the scientific and mathematical explanations in there. (BTW, I love to read hard SF, but I don’t like to write it. Go figure.)
Try Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time series. I know it’s YA, and an older series in terms of when it was first published, but it’s a total classic, resonates for adults as well as kids, stands the test of time, and is just an amazing story. It’s also science fiction with a strong heroine and some romance. Pretty much a perfect entry point.
I also recommend short stories as a really great way to get your feet wet within any genre. DAW put out a short story collection last year, Love and Rockets, which includes a story by me writing as Anita Ensal (“Wanted”) in it. Science fiction romance was the theme, and there are a wide variety of authors and stories in it. It’s great to read a short story and “discover” an author that way, because most of us will have novels out there as well that you can find and enjoy.
Beyond that, I’m probably better with authors than specific books. (Anything by DAW or Night Shade is, of course, automatically awesome and should be included on every bookshelf. Hey, I’m a loyal kind of girl and I think my publishers rock it, hard.)
For those more into the action side of the house, try Michael Stackpole, Alan Dean Foster, or Jeff Mariotte. For those more into the romance side of the house, try Linnea Maxwell or Lois McMaster Bujold. For those more into the humor side of the house, try Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series. For those more into the horror side of the house, try Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy. For overall, all around awesomeness, I point to the classics and Grand Masters, so
I’d recommend anything by Robert Silverberg, Isaac Asimov, or Clifford Simak. Some of these may be a little more advanced than “beginner” level, but they’re all great writers and great reads.
I could go on, but I won’t. Mostly because we’d be here forever with me saying, “Oh, and try THIS author!” over and over again.
What do you like most about writing sci-fi/fantasy?
I like everything about it, but the main thing is that when you write SF/F you get to ask all the ‘what if’ questions…and then you get to answer them. My Alien series started because I had a dream and then asked myself what if the super powered beings weren’t actually friendly towards Earth? Alexander Outland was inspired by a name I randomly came across, which made me say, “Oh, that’s a GREAT name for a space pirate. A rollicking, funny, cool space pirate. What kind of guy would he be and what kind of galaxy would he live in?”
SF/F along with Horror, also let you address social issues. These genres have always held a mirror up to society, either as a straight reflection or, in the case of humor and satire, as a refracted, skewed reflection. Needless to say, this series falls on the skewed side of the reflection matter.
BTW, the think I like best about writing Alexander Outland is that it’s set in the far future. I can pretty much do whatever I want and no one can tell me it’s wrong, so to speak. Which means I really get to play and go wild. As you’ll see in June.
I get your newsletter, so I know how involved you are with your readers and fans. For you, what’s the best part of doing signings, conventions, and author events?
Hands down it’s meeting and interacting with my readers and fans. Having someone tell me they love my book makes my hour, day, week and potentially month. I love talking to my readers and fans about my books, the characters, what else is coming, their favorites, which characters they relate to the most. I’d write whether or not anyone read my stuff, but I have to say getting to share my stories with people who enjoy them is, pretty much, the coolest thing. IN THE WORLD. Basically, my fans are my crack. (Is that wrong?)
The next best thing after getting to interact with readers and fans is meeting other authors, editors, agents, and others in the publishing business. It’s beyond cool to find yourself hanging out with your idols, having a drink, and comparing notes. Some of my new closest friends are other authors and publishing professionals I’ve met since this whole writing journey began, which is incredibly cool.
It’s a small world, really, and it’s usually only at cons and writers’ conferences when we get to be around those who all really and truly “get it” — what it’s like to listen to the voices in your head a whole lot more than the voices in your ears, what it’s like to see people and worlds no one else can see until you write them down and share them.
Have you ever said or done anything embarrassing at an event (that you’re willing to admit to)?
Depending on who’s in the audience, probably every time I open my mouth. LOL At the conference I was just at, I said that I didn’t think Afterwords were necessary at all…in front of Grand Master Joe Haldeman who, of course, uses Afterwords a lot to explain some scientific stuff or explain why he chose to do something (so as to avoid getting angry letters from fans). Of course, Grand Masters can do whatever they darned well please, but I think that really counts as a major Foot in Mouth moment for me. (Sadly, it’s probably not my worst one, either, but it’s the one I can currently remember, so there you go.) And also inevitably means that I’m going to end up doing an Afterword somewhere soon, because that’s how the universe likes to work.
When you’re not writing or traveling, and manage to find some downtime, how do you like to spend it?
What is this “downtime” of which you speak? It is a foreign term to me and my people.
In addition to being a full-time author, I’m a wife, mother, and “mommy” to three dogs (aka The Canine Death Squad) and three cats (aka The Killer Kitties). That means I do what every other working and stay-at-home wife and/or mom out there does — the equivalent of at least six full time jobs at the same time. So, like all the other wives and moms, I don’t get a lot of “me time”.
Honestly, I like to spend downtime sleeping. Because I don’t get much of that any more these days, either.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Pre-orders matter. I know readers don’t think they do, but right now, and especially for those of us whose print runs aren’t enough to make the New York Times bestseller list, pre-orders matter a hell of a lot. So, do your girl a solid and pre-order Alexander Outland: Space Pirate right now!
Other than that, for those who already read my Alien series, if you like Kitty, you’re gonna love the Outland. And for those who haven’t read anything I’ve written yet, why not test the waters with the funniest pirate this side of Captain Jack Sparrow (but with better teeth) and give Alexander Outland: Space Pirate a whirl? You have nothing to lose and a whole lot of fun to gain.
Please welcome Debbie Viguie to the blog today! Debbie is the author of over a dozen novels, including the Crusade and Wicked series with Nancy Holder. Her brand new book, The Thirteenth Sacrifice, just came out in March and is also the start of a series. Debbie was kind enough to write about her world building in The Thirteenth Sacrifice (we’re talkin’ Salem witches and murder), so after you check out the post, snag a copy for yourself!
The Thirteenth Sacrifice is the first book in my new Witch Hunt trilogy. One of the exciting and challenging things about writing a book with magic and witches in it is keeping it fresh and believable. This is actually the third project I’ve done relating to witches and each one of them has had a slightly different take although the research I’ve done in the past was invaluable when working on this series.
When I co-wrote the Wicked series with Nancy Holder we did a lot of research on Wicca so that we could get some of the names of the ritual tools and ceremonies right. We researched the different phases of the moon as relating to Wiccan beliefs. We took all of our research and then created our own spin on magic. After that, I wrote a tie-in novel to the series Charmed. It was called Charmed: Pied Piper. For that series I had to closely follow the rules that they had set up for magic in that universe. That was occasionally very frustrating because I couldn’t just make stuff up if I wrote myself into a corner.
With Witch Hunt I got to do my own take on magic. In the universe of the books, there are people who can do magic. I wanted this to feel very natural and like it could be real. I have them manipulating energy, electricity, magnetism to their own ends. I say that some people have these powers. Some practice earth based religions, some follow other religions, some don’t even believe in anything. In this world, witches do not follow a specific religious path but use their powers to help themselves, usually at the expense of others. The powers are a gift of genetics and what people use them for is a personal choice.
I have been working on getting my Ph.D. in Comparative Religion and as part of that study I’ve been reading major works on different religions. I’ve read Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft and used some of the concepts in there relating to candle and sympathetic magic in The Thirteenth Sacrifice. Again, though, I distinguish what a religious, Wicca practitioner would do with these things from what a witch with supernatural powers would do with these things.
As a conservative Christian it has been interesting for me to study many different religions, looking for common similarities and differences. A sense of the otherworldly, of powers higher than oneself that can be called upon is fairly universal. Even though the majority of the witches in The Thirteenth Sacrifice have no religion whatsoever, they still are aping the trappings of religion. Only instead of calling on a god, goddess, or saint for some kind of aid and intervention, they call upon demonic entities. This does not make them in any way Satanists, because that would still imply a sort of religion, a worship of a specific deity. The vast majority of the witches in the story are far too self-absorbed to allow such a focus. Rather they are aware of these dark entities and seek to harness and use their power for themselves.
Research is a lot of fun and helps inform decisions you make as a writer. For me, I took everything I’d ever read, and then sat for several hours and worked to answer the question. “If I had to invent a magical system and explain how it worked in the real world, how would I do it?” Once I had my answer, I knew I could bring something exciting to the table with Witch Hunt. It should feel familiar to readers but yet it has my own unique twist on it. As an author, that blend of familiar and unique is something that I strive for in all my work.
Today I’m welcoming SG Browne to the blog! Scott is the author of Fated, Breathers, and the brand new Lucky Bastard (out today!) He was nice enough to answer a few questions, so please give him a warm welcome!
Scott, you’re the author of Breathers and Fated, and Lucky Bastard is out today! What made you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
During my sophomore year in college I was reading THE TALISMAN by Stephen King and Peter Straub. While I’d read other novels that rank higher on my list of all-time favorites, THE TALISMAN was the first time I became so engrossed in the story unfolding within the pages that the world outside of the book ceased to exist. And I thought: I want to make other people feel like this.
Go back to when Breathers was published. How did you celebrate when you found out the book had sold?
I was driving down to Santa Cruz when I received a voice mail from my agent. After calling her back, I called my dad to share the good news and drove out to West Cliff Drive to check out the surfers at Steamer Lane. I lived in Santa Cruz for 13 years (which is where BREATHERS takes place) and that was always one of my favorite spots, so I just enjoyed being there, watching the surfers carve up the waves. Then I watched the sunset from the lighthouse. I still have the voice mail from my agent.
Can you tell us a little about Lucky Bastard?
It starts out on the roof of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco with the protagonist, Nick Monday, being held at knifepoint by an angry naked woman holding a carving knife. From there, Nick, a private detective born with the ability to steal other people’s luck, recounts how he ended up on the roof of the hotel. And who the naked woman is holding the knife. It takes place all in one day and is what I would call a mystery/noir/action/comedy/satire. Yeah, find that section in your local bookstore.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I have horrible writing habits. Some people have a beer or a glass of wine every night with dinner, while others are binge drinkers. I’m kind of a binge writer. I might go days without writing and then suddenly it’s nothing but shots of words and pints of sentences and bottles of chapters. I wouldn’t recommend it as a writing strategy, especially if you’re just starting out. This is not a habit to be emulated.
Your books are hard to fit into any one genre. If you had to create your own genre name that would fit your books, what would you call it?
Supernatural Social Satire. Except we need to fit dark comedy in there somewhere. Supernatural Dark Satire? Hmm…that doesn’t have the same ring to it. Let’s go with Supernatural Social Satire. It has the sibilant alliteration thing going on.
You mentioned a few authors that have influenced you in your bio, such as Stephen King and Christopher Moore. What are some of your favorite titles?
How about ten. In no particular order: THE BOOK THIEF (Markus Zusak), GEEK LOVE (Katherine Dunn), THE BIG SLEEP (Raymond Chandler), LULLABY (Chuck Palahniuk), LAMB (Christopher Moore), CAT’S CRADLE (Kurt Vonnegut), THE STAND (Stephen King), LORD OF THE FLIES (William Golding), KOCKROACH (Tyler Knox), and AMERICAN PSYCHO (Bret Easton Ellis).
What are you reading right now?
THIS DARK EARTH by John Hornor Jacobs. In spite of the fact that I wrote BREATHERS, I don’t tend to read a lot of zombie fiction, but this one is excellent. Smart, thoughtful, well-researched. And Jacobs is a terrific writer. Though you’ll have to wait until July to get your hands on a copy. It doesn’t pub until then.
Have you ever “faked” reading a book?
While I’ve never faked reading a book to look smart or educated or to impress someone, or faked as if I was reading a book while I secretly stalked someone, I did fake reading books for my American History class during my junior year in high school.
In order to get an A in the class, we had to do a report that required using outside sources and including footnotes and a bibliography. Although I was a straight A student, I always did just enough to get an A and was too lazy to do the research. So I wrote my report based on the classroom text, my notes, and my own writing ability and faked the footnotes from books I found at the library. Problem was, my teacher checked my sources and I got caught, so my report was nullified. He didn’t fail me, but I received my first ever academic B. And I learned a valuable lesson.
The next year, when a different teacher had the same requirements for a report using outside sources, rather than faking the footnotes from real books I never read, I simply faked the books. I figured if the books didn’t exist, he couldn’t check them for accuracy. I got an A.
What’s your favorite part of living in San Francisco?
San Francisco is a great walking city, so I rarely have to drive. I walk almost everywhere. And I have almost everything I need within five blocks of my apartment: bank, post office, grocery store, dry cleaner, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, bookstore. I guess that one should have come first.
How about your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor?
Always a tough question. Their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is the best on the market, but I’ll have to go with Chubby Hubby. Great, now I’m craving it.
Is there any advice that you would give to a struggling writer?
To quote Jason Nesmith in GALAXY QUEST: Never give up. Never surrender.
Keep writing. Keep querying. It took me nearly twenty years until I became a published novelist with BREATHERS, which was actually my fourth novel. And BREATHERS took 15 months of querying agents and 82 rejections until the 83rd agent said yes. Two months later, I had a publishing contract.
Oh, and don’t listen to people who tell you what you should be writing. Instead, write something that matters to you. Something that makes you laugh or cry or sends chills down your spine. Something that resonates with you. Because if it doesn’t resonate with you, it’s not going to resonate with anyone else.
Do you have any other news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us (or anything at all!)?
I recently released an eBook of ten twisted tales, my first short story collection, titled SHOOTING MONKEYS IN A BARREL. It includes the stories that inspired BREATHERS and LUCKY BASTARD, as well as eight other tales, most of them new and never before published.
As for upcoming events, I’ll be appearing in a dozen or so cities from Los Angeles to Seattle over the next month promoting LUCKY BASTARD. If you’re interested in stopping by to say “hi,” you can check out my event schedule on my website!
About Lucky Bastard:
Meet Nick Monday: a private detective who’s more Columbo than Sam Spade, more Magnum P.I. than Philip Marlowe. As San Francisco’s infamous luck poacher, Nick doesn’t know whether his ability to swipe other people’s fortunes with a simple handshake is a blessing or a curse. Ever since his youth, Nick has swallowed more than a few bitter truths when it comes to wheeling and dealing in destinies. Because whether the highest bidders of Nick’s serendipitous booty are celebrities, yuppies, or douche bag vegans, the unsavory fact remains: luck is the most powerful, addictive, and dangerous drug of them all. And no amount of cappuccinos, Lucky Charms, or apple fritters can sweeten the notion that Nick might be exactly what his father once claimed—as ambitious as a fart. That is, until Tuesday Knight, the curvy brunette who also happens to be the mayor’s daughter, approaches Nick with an irresistible offer: $100,000 to retrieve her father’s stolen luck. Could this high-stakes deal let Nick do right? Or will kowtowing to another greedmonger’s demands simply fund Nick’s addiction to corporate coffee bars while his morality drains down the toilet? Before he downs his next mocha, Nick finds himself at the mercy of a Chinese mafia kingpin and with no choice but to scour the city for the purest kind of luck, a hunt more titillating than softcore porn. All he has to do to stay ahead of the game is remember that you can’t take something from someone without eventually paying like hell for it. . . .
I’m so honored to have Pamela Sargent on the blog today! Pamela is the author of over 15 novels and many short stories. Her classic YA sci-fi novel Earthseed, was just reissued and is now in the hands of a whole new generation of readers (which is pretty darn cool). Pamela was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome her to the blog!
There’s also a copy of Earthseed up for grab, so be sure to check out the giveaway details at the bottom of the post!
Pamela, your classic YA sci-fi novel, Earthseed, was just reissued and is gorgeous! Why do you think it’s been such an endearing novel for so many years?
I’d like to think it’s because it’s a strong, involving story that appeals to readers of all ages, but some of it’s probably luck. I know there are readers who have loved Earthseed ever since it was first published in the 1980s, and it’s my good fortune that one of those readers was Susan Chang, an editor at Tor who remembered Earthseed, brought it back into print, and wanted to find out what happened next. Another was Adam Goodman, now the president of Paramount Pictures, who optioned the novel for the movies. But there are so many fine books that don’t get a chance to reach all of the readers who might appreciate them, so, yes, I was lucky. And I’ve had good luck with my book covers, as you saw.
How does it feel to be bringing Earthseed to a whole new generation of young (and older) readers?
Terrific. As I said, I am lucky.
You’re the author of more than 15 novels and numerous short stories. What are some of your favorite authors or novels?
There are so many, and so many writers I return to again and again, that I hate to single out only a few. I much admire Herman Melville, which is appropriate since I live in Albany, New York, his former home town; a novel like Moby-Dick is so grand in scope and so operatic that one can only be awestruck after reading it. Jane Austen is a perennial for me. I’ve probably read nearly everything Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ursula K. Le Guin have written, but whether any of their influence shows in my work, I can’t say. I’ve been a fan of historical novels since childhood, and two of my favorite historical novelists who are writing now are Cecelia Holland and Pauline Gedge. They’re very different writers stylistically – Gedge’s prose is lush and ripe, while Holland’s is spare and elegant, but they both have a gift for depicting past times and places.
If someone were starting to read sci-fi for the first time, where would you suggest they start (aside from Earthseed, of course!)?
That really depends on the reader and what kinds of fiction he or she has been reading. There are so many different kinds, so many subgenres, of science fiction and fantasy that if somebody picks the wrong novel or story for that person, she may never pick up a science fiction book again. When somebody asks me that question, I usually try to find out what kinds of books that person already likes. For instance, someone who likes mysteries or suspense might appreciate Kate Wilhelm’s work; a history buff might enjoy Harry Turtledove’s or Kim Stanley Robinson’s alternative histories. A younger reader who’s concerned about the world and doesn’t want escapist fiction would probably respond to Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, a young adult novel that came out just a couple of years ago. I don’t think anyone could go wrong reading H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine. A lot of people obviously are fans of Philip K. Dick these days, which I think is cool, because he wasn’t as widely popular back when I was reading him in the 1960s. Then again, we’re all living in Dick’s world now, which means he’s probably accessible to a lot more readers.
If you could read one novel again for the very first time, which one would it be?
There are far too many to list – also too many that I’ve been meaning to read for ages and hope to get to before I finally kick off.
What are you reading right now?
In nonfiction, physicist Lisa Randall’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, which among other things has some fascinating details about the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. I recently finished Christopher Priest’s new novel, The Islanders, and Michael Bishop’s splendid 1994 baseball novel, Brittle Innings. Now I’m in the middle of China Miéville’s Embassytown, and the next on my “to-read” list is Kathleen Ann Goonan’s This Shared Dream, a sequel to her very fine novel In War Times.
If you could sit down and have a long conversation with anyone (literary or otherwise), who would it be?
Oh, a conversation with Mark Twain would be an experience, although it would probably be very one-sided. I’d only have to listen!
What are your thoughts on the future of space exploration?
Years ago, I never anticipated living to a time when space exploration – human beings going into space – would be seen as part of our historical past and not our envisioned future. I can’t believe that our species will give up this dream entirely, and one hopeful sign is a conference NASA and DARPA held in September of 2011, the “100 Year Starship Symposium,” where a number of people in various disciplines – scientists, engineers, science fiction writers – presented papers and discussed ways to interest the public, private enterprise, and governmental groups in space exploration, to inspire people to new efforts. As my life partner, George Zebrowski, also a science fiction writer, puts it, not going into space would condemn our species to eventual extinction. Sooner or later, if we’re limited to Earth’s surface only, something will wipe us out.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us?
Only that I wish I could be more optimistic than I am about our future. I’d like to believe that some of the better futures some of my fellow writers have imagined have a good chance of coming to pass. A part of me must believe that deep down, or I wouldn’t keep on writing.
Keep up with Pamela: Website
The classic YA science fiction adventure by Nebula and Locus Award–winning author Pamela Sargent
The ship hurtles through space. Deep within its core, it carries the seed of humankind. Launched by the people of a dying Earth over a century ago, its mission is to find a habitable world for the children—fifteen-year-old Zoheret and her shipmates—whom it has created from its genetic banks.
To Zoheret and her shipmates, Ship has been mother, father, and loving teacher, preparing them for their biggest challenge: to survive on their own, on an uninhabited planet, without Ship’s protection. Now that day is almost upon them…but are they ready to leave Ship? Ship devises a test. And suddenly, instincts that have been latent for over a hundred years take over. Zoheret watches as friends become strangers—and enemies. Can Zoheret and her companions overcome the biggest obstacle to the survival of the human race—themselves?
I’ve got 5 winners to announce today for The Seduction of Phaeton Black and Fair Coin. Thanks to everyone that entered and congrats to the winners!
The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone (4 winners)
Congrats to Miki, Becky Ward, and Kim: All answered Jillian’s question correctly! (Johnny Depp, Ben Barnes, and Robert Downey, Jr.) and Darlyn!
Fair Coin by EC Myers
Congrats to Rachel Vessar
*All winners were chosen by Rafflecopter and Random.org (and me), have been notified via email, and have 48 hours to respond with their email addresses.
Tricked (Iron Druid #4) by Kevin Hearne
Publisher: RandomHouse (DelRey)/April 24th, 2012
Iron Druid Chronicles
Kind thanks to DelRey for providing a review copy
Druid Atticus O’Sullivan hasn’t stayed alive for more than two millennia without a fair bit of Celtic cunning. So when vengeful thunder gods come Norse by Southwest looking for payback, Atticus, with a little help from the Navajo trickster god Coyote, lets them think that they’ve chopped up his body in the Arizona desert.
But the mischievous Coyote is not above a little sleight of paw, and Atticus soon finds that he’s been duped into battling bloodthirsty desert shapeshifters called skinwalkers. Just when the Druid thinks he’s got a handle on all the duplicity, betrayal comes from an unlikely source. If Atticus survives this time, he vows he won’t be fooled again. Famous last words.
REVIEW (fairly spoiler free, but assumes you’ve read the first 3-if not, you may read my review of Hounded HERE)
In book 4 of the superb Iron Druid series, we rejoin my favorite Druid, Atticus O’Sullivan, and the Morrigan in the Arizona desert, as they prepare to watch as Atticus rather spectacularly fakes his own death, with the help of the trickster Coyote, of course. Yes, you read that right. Atticus is about to watch “himself” be obliterated by a few gods that want him dead (see book 3, Hammered.) What follows is indeed spectacular, and laugh out loud funny as the gods discuss Atticus’ demise with Morrigan (playing her role with aplomb.) Well, now that Atticus is “dead”, he’s feeling pretty good, since, for the first time, no one is after him, and he can train his apprentice, Granuaile, in peace. Yeah, riiiiight. We all know that Atticus is kind of a trouble magnet, in spite of his best efforts, right? Indeed, Coyote, who was a big part of Atticus’ faked death, needs a favor, and it’s a biggie. Coyote wants to help out his people, who are suffering in a dying town, but little does Atticus know, this also involves fighting some extremely nasty skinwalkers. Think berserker Tasmanian devils with one track minds set to “kill, kill, kill.” Yes, they’re that bad. Oh wait, add some pretty hefty magic to that equation too. Atticus is tough, but the skinwalkers are off the charts. Then there’s that pesky vamp problem…
If you haven’t discovered this series, yet, get thee to a bookstore and snag ‘em, or download them, however you roll, because it just keeps getting better and better. I laughed so hard during the first half of this book that I may have squirted tears a couple of times, and the action in this one pretty much never lets up. Poor Atticus is also put through so much, physically, that I was genuinely worried for my fave Druid a couple of times. There’s lots of meaty stuff in this one, and the author wraps up some major story arcs and gives Atticus and Co. a fresh start. The author takes a bit of a break from the thunder gods to tackle Navajo lore, which I found fascinating, and we also got to know Granuaile a lot better (she’s smart, kicks butt, and has Atticus’ back at all times.) Oberon, the big, adorable, meat-lovin’ ball of awesome that is Atticus’ longtime friend and Irish wolfhound, is funnier than ever and his heroics in this one might get you a little bit teary.
The problem with these books is, upon finishing, I want to gush and tell everyone all about it, and I want to tell you, my loyal readers, all about it too, but that would totally spoil the fun, yeah? Reading an Atticus book is like visiting a lifelong friend and knowing you’re always going to have a kick-ass time. How Kevin Hearne does it Every. Single. Time, I have no idea, but he does, and he just keeps piling on the awesome. Tricked is packed with thoroughly engrossing characters, fascinating mythology, creatures that will make your head spin, lots of action, and a ton of heart. I dare you to give this series a try and NOT fall completely in love! Luckily, the next book, Trapped, is out later this year, and I have no doubt it will blow me away!
Today I’m welcoming MJ Rose to the blog as part of her tour for The Book of Lost Fragrances! She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome her to the blog.
MJ, you’ve published numerous books (with the newest being The Book of Lost Fragrances), and your book Lip Service was the first e-book to be picked up by a major publishing house! How did you celebrate when you got the news?
Someone really close to me was in intensive care when I got the news about Lip Service. I did burst into tears – but that was half worry.
Your novels have been called genre-bending. What genre do you think they identify most with?
Can you tell us a bit about The Book of Lost Fragrances?
Here’s the write up – we spent such a long time on it – I think I should just give you what’s on the flap copy.
A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra–and lost for 2,000 years.
Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances–and of her mother’s suicide–she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it’s financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing–leaving a dead body in his wake–Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.
Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L’Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation – or is it just another dream infused perfume?
The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac’s quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.
Why do you think smell plays such an important part where memory is concerned?
It’s actually scientific. The olfactory nerve is located near the amygdala, which is the area of our brains connected to to emotion – including emotional memory. It’s also near the hippocampus, with is associated with memory.
And as it turns out – you need memory in order to identify a scent. To know hwat it is you need to remember when you smelled it and connect that to something visual that occurred at the same time.
A scent can instantly take you back to a memory in a way that our other senses don’t.
What’s one of your most powerful memories that you associate with a particular smell?
When I smell Shalimar I remember my mom… it was the only perfume she wore.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I actually did a whole Pinterest board about that HERE
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
The Secret Garden
If you could sit down and have drinks with anyone (literary or otherwise), who would it be?
F. Scott Fitzgerald
When you do manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Going on walks, musuems, movies, out to dinner, traveling, shopping, looking at the water, swimming. Shopping. OH I said that already:)
Is there any other news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
I have a tour starting , I hope you’ll come – details here http://mjrose.com/fragrances/tour.asp
Keep up with MJ: Website | Twitter
Click here for all of the tour stops!
I’m so thrilled to have the lovely Alaya Johnson on the blog today! Alaya is the author of numerous novels and short stories, and Wicked City, the 2nd book in the Zephyr Hollis series (along with Moonshine), just came out! She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, so please give her a warm welcome to the blog, and be sure to check out her books!
Alaya, you’ve written the urban fantasy Moonshine, and the next book in the series, Wicked City, just came out! You also have a degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures and have published numerous short stories and novellas. Whew! Did you always want to be a writer? Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I figured out what books were, honestly. My mom taught me to read when I was two–who knows why, now that I think about it, except that apparently I wanted to know how to read more than anything. I pushed my way through my first novel (The Secret Garden) a couple of years later, and that was it. I was hooked.
My dream in life was to tell stories. Of course, I first had to learn how to do it properly. I started submitting short stories in high school, but received nothing but photocopied form letters. I won a couple of school writing prizes and started writing fanfiction (I won’t tell you what fandom!) The fanfiction was actually great, because I had a built-in audience that gave me enough confidence to finish two long novels. They weren’t publishable by any stretch, but as they say, you have to write a million words of crap first. My first real break happened in college, when I sold a couple of short stories during my senior year to some high-profile Science Fiction magazines. I was writing my third novel at the time, and that got me my first agent and my first book deal. This probably sounds easier than it was–there’s a giant stack of rejection letters in my desk drawer to attest to the fact that it took quite a while and a lot of effort.
How did you celebrate when you found out your first book would be published?
I think I went out to dinner. It’s a bit of a blur because I was working at the time and felt embarrassed about telling anyone about my
second life as a novelist. But I was definitely thrilled–and scared out of my mind. What if it sucked? What if the sale was a mistake? But
I made sure I had an awesome publication party, and ever since I’ve tried to throw cool book parties. Having a party might be in my top three favorite perks of getting a book published (see: Moonshine, twenties dress party).
Can you tell us a bit about your Zephyr Hollis series?
The series takes place in an alternate 1920s New York City, where vampires (and other supernatural creatures) live side-by-side with
humans, but possess significantly fewer civil rights. Zephyr is a heart-on-her-sleeve do-gooder , and the mysteries she finds herself
embroiled in tend to involve helping people. Sadly, our heroine is not always the best judge of character. She was raised by a demon-hunting father, and used to kill vampires for a living before she realized the error of her ways. So an interesting aspect of her character, I’ve always thought, is the fact that a lot of her current actions have to do with atonement and redemption. And, in fact, I just wrote a short story that gets into this a little more–it’s a prequel story, detailing how she first came to New York City, and the moment she
starts to realize that, well, vampires are people too. (The Inconstant Moon)
What do you love most about writing fantasy/urban fantasy?
Probably my favorite aspect of fantasy in general is the ability the writer has to literalize a metaphor. A great example of this is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: everyone thinks high school is hell, but for Buffy, high school is actually sitting on a hellmouth. The metaphor is still there, but the literalization gives you freedom to play with it in ways you just couldn’t in a more realistic setting. So for my Zephyr Hollis books, the obvious metaphor is that used by people who consider members of a social underclass to be “human parasites”–obviously untrue, but what happens when you make that more literal? Well, it’s still untrue. What you have now is more of a public health issue, but of course people don’t treat it that way.
When you started the Zephyr Hollis novels, did you have in mind how many you’d like to write in the series, or did you just decide to see where it would take you?
I had a plot, but you know, these things don’t last when you’re writing the book. I had a revelation about Amir halfway through writing Moonshine that totally changed the novel, for example. Still, the broad outlines remained the same. Wicked City was harder to plot. I had a big outline that had a giant, gaping plot hole and I refused to acknowledge this hole until I was three quarters of the way through. When I finally admitted there was almost no way I could write around something so stupid, I had to go back and re-write huge chunks
of the earlier text. Next time, I will not bow to the tyranny of the outline! I will free myself from its shackles! Or, at least, I’ll try to be more honest with myself about bad plot decisions.
What are some of your favorite authors or novels?
Since I’ve just finished a big re-read of these, the Vicky Bliss novels by Elizabeth Peters come to mind immediately. I just love these books! I read them for the first time in high school, and probably a dozen or so times over the years since (Street of the Five Moons,
Silhouette in Scarlet, Trojan Gold and Night Train to Memphis). The romance between Vicky Bliss and John (Smythe) is one of my favorite of all time. It’s so well done and funny and poignant and emotionally real. Also, I love odd couple romances. An art historian falls for the most notorious art thief in Europe? Bestill my beating heart! Also, the re-read made me realize what a debt my Zephyr Hollis books owe to Vicky Bliss. I guess that’s why they call them influences.
Other books and writers that I adore are Guy Gavriel Kay (everything), Dorothy Dunnett (the Lymond Chronicles–very complex, but features what might be my all time favorite romance), Diana Wynne Jones (everything), Robin McKinley (Sunshine, The Hero and the Crown especially), Ellen Kushner (The Privilege of the Sword, Swordspoint), and a ton of others I’m forgetting right now.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Hmm, can I get a whole series? Then The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. One book? Probably Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. And if I can get a bonus, Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters.
What are you reading now?
I just picked up the last book of Holly Black’s utterly astonishing Curse Workers trilogy, Black Heart. The first two are White Cat and Red Glove, and may I implore you to go to your bookstore or library and get your hands on a copy? These are some of the very best YA being published right now, full stop. Miraculously twisty con games with fabulous characters. I can’t wait to read this, but I’m sad because I know then the ride will be over.
In your bio, it says you love ethnic food, especially South Indian. What is your favorite dish?
Dude, so many dishes to choose from! Probably rava dosas. Or maybe dohkla. Or maybe chili chaat? Okay, if I were on a desert island, I
guess it would be a fresh-made dosa and some sambar to dip it in, but I’d rather be in Jackson Heights and eat it all.
I also learned that you’ve lived and traveled extensively in Japan. If you had to show a first time visitor around, where would you take them first?
I would take them to Kyoto, I think. The temples are just astonishingly beautiful, and I’m a sucker for Kansai food. But if we could go somewhere after that, I’d go to southern tip of the island of Kyushu, to the city of Kagoshima. It’s right next to a smoking volcano, home to the worlds largest radishes and smallest oranges, and is one of my favorite places on earth.
Is there anywhere else in the world that you’d like to travel to?
Everywhere? At the moment, it’s a toss up between taking a road trip through Mexico to see ruins and wandering through Iceland, with
frequent stops at hot springs. But traveling is one of the great loves of my life, so there’s plenty of others on the list.
Do you have any other news you’d like to share with us?
If you want a free taste of Zephyr, I’d definitely recommend checkingout my prequel story on Tor.com
(http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/04/the-inconstant-moon). And there are excerpts of the first few chapters of the books on my website. Otherwise, thanks for reading!