I was pretty excited that Nick Mamatas agreed to answer a few of my questions, because he’s a pretty busy guy. He’s also got a brand new book out, Bullettime, and he was kind enough to talk about that, and other rather cool stuff, so please welcome him to the blog!
Nick, as the author of five novels, including your newest, Bullettime, and numerous short stories and non-fiction novels, you’ve managed to cultivate a very wide range of work. What makes Bullettime different from your previous fiction?
All of my novels so far have been first-person stories of outsiders dealing with some sort of supernatural or superhuman perception. Jack Kerouac and his enlightenment in Move Under Ground, Herbie’s telepathy in Under My Roof, the near-omniscient collective intelligence and Julia’s bizarre understanding of world systems in Sensation, and Uncle Lono’s insights thanks to his drug use in The Damned Highway. And now, in Bullettime, we have Dave Holbrook, in a place beyond space and time called the Ylem, from which he can observe all his possible existences based on decisions he’s made (or that others have made).
But, at the same time, the range is pretty wide. Move Under Ground is Lovecraftian, Roof a parody of a YA novel, Sensation an avant-garde satire I tried to make read as though the reader is looking at a desktop with a web browser and IM chat windows and such, and Highway is a crazed jeremiad. It’s also a collaboration with Brian Keene, which is itself a significant difference from my solo work. So the books feel different when people are reading them, and they feel different when I’m writing them for that matter, but when I look at them as a whole I guess I’m pursuing a single project. Which each book, or story for that matter, I think formally. What structure should the story take—the POV, average sentence and paragraph length, that sort of thing. Then I fill it in with characters and plot. Luckily, not all my short fiction is in the first-person. Indeed, a few recent stories have ended up being fabulist, avuncular, third-person omniscient stories.
Bullettime is different because it’s about a teen and an adult, skirts the edges around fantasy and horror and confessional fiction, and takes place in Jersey City. I lived in Jersey City for years, from 1997 to 2003, but never really placed any fiction there. I’ve written plenty about Manhattan and Long Island and Cambridge and Somerville and Salem, MA and Vermont, but never about Jersey.
In Bullettime, you explore alternate universes and fate (among other things). Do you believe in fate?
I believe that all actions are caused actions, but ultimately I’m a compatibilist. World forces structure, condition, and limit our actions, but they don’t determine them. So we can act as agents within those constraints, and often those constraints are at least partially imaginary. They’re ego-forces we think of as world forces or, worse, natural facts. A lot of my work is about suggesting a desire for more freedom than we currently have from our objective conditions.
What, or who, was your inspiration for David Holbrook?
For about a year I lived across the street from a high school in Jersey City. I worked from home, so got to observe the kids pretty closely, at the beginning of the day, at lunch, then in the afternoon. Of course, bits of my own childhood are in David, but I’m in Erin and Oleg and the other characters too. So are friends of mine from junior high and high school, stories I’ve heard from other people about their own teen years, you name it.
Is there any particular thing you’d like to see readers take away from Bullettime, or do you like to leave things open for interpretation?
When I was editing Clarkesworld Magazine, we’d often get submissions of all-but-identical stories. One sort of story was something I like to call “the child molester story.” In it a creepy, ugly, bum, corners a pretty young blonde girl with curls and threatens her with rape. Then the girl turns into some sort of supernatural horror and consumes the child molester. The moral of the story is—DON’T MOLEST CHILDREN.
Now, who needs to read such a story? Most of us would never dream of molesting children, and no child molester would be persuaded by the story to stop. So, really, who needs a lesson that would listen to one? What message could Bullettime have? Don’t drink sizzurp? Don’t shoot up schools? Surely, most of us already know!
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Hmm, Kurt Vonnegut, Ira Levin, William S. Burroughs, Harlan Ellison, Kathy Acker, Joseph Heller, Paul Heyman, (yes, the pro wrestling booker), Victor Serge, William Browning Spenser, Kathe Koja’s early horror novels (horror novels could be smart??), whatever was being published in Omni in the early 1980s—Howard Waldrop especially, Shirley Jackson, the non-narrative avant-garde short films of the 1940s-1960s I watched in college in the 1990s…and dog’s breakfast, I guess.
If you could read one novel again for the first time, which one would it be?
That’s a good question. A really good one, since I decided years ago to never re-read. I know that a lot can get gotten from re-reading books, and really it’s not worth writing if the end product isn’t worth re-reading, but there’s just too much to read. I can’t spare the time. I guess I’d say Picture This by Joseph Heller. I would like to read that again for the first time, or for a second time, really.
I get the impression that you’re a pretty busy guy. When you do manage to carve out some downtime, how do you like to spend it?
I don’t have a lot of downtime. I have a full-time job, teach part-time at two MFA programs, a writing organization in Berkeley, and UCLA’s Extension School, and write books and stories and essays and such. I practice Chen taijiquan for between one and four hours a day. (Four hours on Sunday.) I do most of my reading on my commute to work, which is about ninety minutes each way.
What’s next for you?
I have a novel, The Last Weekend, which is basically a confessional fiction about an alcoholic in San Francisco, with some zombies milling around the background. That should be out in 2013. My first crime novel, Love is the Law, may also be out in 2013. And I have a number of stories coming out—”Willow Tests Well” will be in Psychos, a phonebook-sized omnibus anthology edited by John Skipp, and a story called “The Shaft Through the Middle of it All” will be in Fungi, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey. Those will be out by the end of this year.
Keep up with Nick: Website | Twitter
David Holbrook is a scrawny kid, the victim of bullies, and the neglected son of insane parents.
David Holbrook is the Kallis Episkipos, a vicious murderer turned imprisoned leader of a death cult dedicated to Eris, the Hellenic goddess of discord.
David Holbrook never killed anyone, and lives a lonely and luckless existence with his aging mother in a tumbledown New Jersey town.
Caught between finger and trigger, David is given three chances to decide his fate as he is compelled to live and relive all his potential existences, guided only by the dark wisdom found in a bottle of cough syrup.
From the author of the instant cult classic Move Under Ground comes a fantasy of blood, lust, destiny, school shootings, and the chance to change your future.
Purchase Bullettime: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
More about Nick:
Nick Mamatas is the author of the Lovecraftian Beat road novel Move Under Ground, which was nominated for both the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild awards, the Civil War ghost story Northern Gothic, also a Stoker nominee, the suburban nighmare novel Under My Roof, and over thirty short stories and hundreds of articles (some of which were collected in 3000 Miles Per Hour in Every Direction at Once). His work has appeared in Razor, Village Voice, Spex, Clamor, In These Times, Polyphony, several Disinformation and Ben Bella Books anthologies, and the books Corpse Blossoms, Poe’s Lighthouse, Before & After: Stories from New York, and Short and Sweet.
Nick’s forthcoming works include the collection You Might Sleep… (November 2008) and Haunted Legends, an anthology with Ellen Datlow (Tor Books 2009).
A native New Yorker, Nick now lives in the California Bay Area.
If you haven’t discovered Dave Zeltserman yet, you’re in for a treat! Dave’s wonderful new novel, Monster, based on the story of Frankenstein’s monster, just came out, and it’s a perfect place to start. Dave was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome him to the blog!
You’re the author of more than 13 novels, most of them of the crime/noir genre, with a dash of horror thrown in here and there. You’re a math and science guy, so what made you sit down and write for the first time? What inspired you?
I’ve always read a lot. As a kid I started with the pulps ; Robert E. Howard and HP Lovecraft, then moved on to science fiction, and eventually to crime and mystery fiction, while at times reading the classics. At different times in my life I’d be drawn to writing. My early stuff wasn’t very good—a lot of my writing when I got out of college was trying to ape Ross Macdonald, and doing a pretty bad job of it. Then sometime in the early 90s I discovered Jim Thompson and it was like a religious experience. The first book of his I read was Hell of a Woman and I’d never read anything like it before. He broke every rule in that book that I thought I needed to follow, and it gave me a completely different outlook as to how crime fiction could be written. At the time I was struggling with a book that would become my first novel, Fast Lane, and reading Thompson showed me a completely different way to go with it, and helped me find my own voice.
Your newest novel, Monster, is based on the story of Dr. Frankenstein and his creation. Has the story always been one of your favorites?
I grew up thinking Frankenstein the novel was like the Boris Karloff movie, and when I was in high school I heard how the novel ends up in the Artic and that the monster is not the lumbering Karloff creature, but instead an intelligent and eloquent being, and I had to read it. The first half of Shelley’s novel has some sections that can be tough to get through, but once the creature and Frankenstein are in the French Alps and the creature is telling Frankenstein his tale, the book becomes absolutely riveting. In a lot of ways it’s a very noirish book with the creature having every right to make the demands that he does on Frankenstein and Frankenstein realizing this but also understanding the potential catastrophe if he does as the creature is asking, with both of them then being doomed. It’s a great book, one that I’ve read several times.
For those that haven’t read Monster yet, can you give us a bit of a teaser?
With Monster I play the following what-if games. What if Victor Frankenstein didn’t create the monster out of a misguided obsession, but was in league with the Marquis de Sade and had a far more sinister purpose. What if everything a dying Frankenstein told Captain Walton aboard his ice-bound ship were lies to protect his reputation. What if the monster gets to finally tell the true story.
There’s a lot going on in Monster, everything from the Marquis de Sade and one of his more infamous works, to Satanists, vampyres, London sex clubs and much more. The feedback I’ve gotten is that the book can be enjoyed whether or nor you’ve read Shelley’s Frankenstein beforehand.
You mention a love of crime writers like Hammett, Chandler, and Ross McDonald. Do you have any favorite horror writers?
When I was a kid I loved the creepiness and eeriness of HP Lovecraft. Later when I went to college my school’s library had a complete set of Edgar Allan Poe, which I devoured. Just very imaginative works. The best horror novel I’ve read recently was Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND, which is the best zombie/vampire book I’ve read. There’s such a tragic futility and sadness to that book. A more recently written collection of short horror/speculative fiction I’ve read that I thought was absolutely great is The Mean Time by Paul Tremblay.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
What makes you want to toss a book aside in frustration?
Bad writing will stop me, but also if a book feels fake. For example, if characters act in an unnatural way to move a scene forward or to do something that the author thinks is cool. Fake dialog is just as bad for me.
What’s one of your favorite lines from a book or a movie?
Well, my absolute favorite line from a movie is the last line in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, but I’d ruin the movie giving it away that line. So instead I’ll give the line from Casablanca when Captain Renault is ordered to close Rick’s immediately: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.” (right after that he’s handed his gambling winnings).
When you manage to carve out some free time, how do you like to spend it (when you’re not practicing Kung Fu, of course)?
I spent 25 years as a software developer. Now I’m leading a more relaxed life where I spend 4-5 hours a day writing, some time practicing Kung Fu, reading, occasionally going to Maine or into the North End in Boston.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects and events?
Monster is the big thing. I do have film deals for Outsourced and A Killer’s Essence, and with some luck they’ll go into film production soon.
Keep up with Dave: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
The supernatural, unmissable new novel by the ALA Best Horror award nominee. In nineteenth-century Germany, one young man counts down the days until he can marry his beloved . . . until she is found brutally murdered, and the young man is accused of the crime. Broken on the wheel and left for dead, he awakens on a lab table, transformed into an abomination. Friedrich must go far to take his revenge —only to find his tormentor, Victor Frankenstein, in league with the Marquis de Sade, creating something much more sinister deep in the mountains. Paranormal and gripping in the tradition of the best work of Stephen King and Justin Cronin, Monster is a gruesome parable of control and vengeance, and an ingenious tribute to one of literature’s greatest.
Purchase Monster: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
Monster by Dave Zeltserman
Publisher:Overlook Press/August 2nd, 2012
Kind thanks to Overlook Press for providing a review copy
In nineteenth-century Germany, one young man counts down the days until he can marry his beloved . . . until she is found brutally murdered, and the young man is accused of the crime. Broken on the wheel and left for dead, he awakens on a lab table, transformed into an abomination. Friedrich must go far to take his revenge —only to find his tormentor, Victor Frankenstein, in league with the Marquis de Sade, creating something much more sinister deep in the mountains.
“As I write this, I can only pray that Frankenstein’s twisted soul is rotting away in whatever crevice within Hell it has surely sunk into.”
So begins Dave Zeltserman’s electrifying novel presenting the classic story of Frankenstein’s monster, from the viewpoint of the “monster.” The monster in this instance is a man by the name of Friedrich Hoffmann, who, on the eve of his wedding to his beloved Johanna is drugged and when he comes to, in an alleyway, he is covered in blood and has Johanna’s locket in his coat. He soon understands that she is dead, murdered in a most heinous way, and he has been blamed for the crime. Broken, tortured, and set to die on the executioner’s wheel, Friedrich can only hope that he will be joining his true love soon. Little does he know that a fate worse than death awaits him.
Monster is told from Friedrich’s point of view, and as he takes you from the wheel, into death, and back to a sort of unlife as the creation of the wicked, diabolical Dr. Frankenstein, you won’t be able to look away, although you may want to. I found myself pausing to cover my eyes for a moment every now and then, not only as I processed the horror that Friedrich is experiencing, but also at the moments of beauty that he manages to find in the midst of this nearly inconceivable ordeal. And there is beauty, in the most unexpected of places. When Friedrich first “awakens” and finds that he cannot move, cannot speak, and can barely keep his eyes open, he is soon introduced to Charlotte, who is only a head, in a bowl of milky liquid. At first, Charlotte repels him, but soon he realizes that she too, is a victim of Dr. Frankenstein’s depraved experiments and it is her stories (he lip reads, because she cannot speak), and assurances that he is still a gentle and kind soul, in spite of what is surely a hideous appearance, that make his days bearable. When Charlotte is taken from him, at the behest of the Marquis de Sade, and he is inexplicably abandoned, he realizes that he must be free, and find the man that made him into this monster.
Eloquently written (like a certain classic that comes to mind), Monster will take you on a journey of death, rebirth, and vengeance, and is about a man trying desperately not to sink to the depths of his tormenter. I fell in love with Hoffman, and his grief, not only at losing Johanna, but at his own condition, is palpable on every page. However, rays of light do shine through the darkness, and kindness comes from some of the most unexpected places. During his journey, he will encounter vampyres, satanic cults, and more, and it will take him to a crumbling castle, where all will be revealed. Or will it? Brace yourself when Friedrich reaches that castle. Frankenstein is a villain that will make your skin crawl, and is the ultimate embodiment of evil. He even outdoes the Marquis, and that says quite a lot. Monster weighs in at just over 200 pages, but manages to pack a huge punch. If you’re a fan of Frankenstein and the mythos that surrounds it, and love literary horror, this one’s for you. Highly recommended!
I’m thrilled to have Will Hill on the blog today! Will is the author of the Department 19 series, and the newest book, The Rising, is out today. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, so please welcome Will to the blog!
Will, the 2nd book, Department 19: The Rising, in your blockbuster YA series will be out here in the states tomorrow! I also may have read something about being signed for 3 more books recently.
When you started this series, did you ever think it would be this big?
I really don’t know how big it is, to be honest! I stay away from sales figures and all that kind of stuff – if my publishers are happy, then so am I.
To be honest, I’m just thrilled whenever anybody tells me they’ve spent their time reading something I wrote, and doubly so if they tell me they liked it – you write a novel, particularly a first novel, without knowing whether anyone apart from your friends and your mum will ever see it. You can’t write something expecting it to be successful, otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. So my ambitions now are the same as they always have been – I hope that the people who do read it, enjoy it, and want to know what happens next. It must be nice to be Suzanne Collins or JK Rowling, but I would bet that the idea of so many people reading their stories excites them more than their royalty cheques – although theirs probably are pretty exciting!
Did you always want to be a writer?
If I did, I didn’t realize it until much later! I’ve met writers who can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else, but when I was a kid I wanted to be a pilot, a footballer, a drummer, a fireman, a comic book artist, and, for a long time, a film director.
But when I look back now, I was always writing – little bits and pieces to start with, lines of dialogue, descriptions of bits of action and characters. When my friends and I made short films in the school holidays, I always ended up deciding what would happen, rather than acting or manning the camera. I wrote more through school and college, and realized that it was what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing after I graduated, when I tried to write a novel for the first time. It was hard, and I made every mistake that first-time writers always make, but I fell in love with the process, including the painful bits. Since then, I’ve tried to do nothing else but write.
For those that haven’t started the series, will you tell us a bit about it, and your main character Jamie Carpenter?
Jamie is a very normal teenage boy, living a very normal life, until the night his dad is shot dead outside their house by shadowy figures who appear to be armed police. Two years later, he and his mum are still struggling to put their lives back together when things get even worse; Jamie is attacked by a girl with red eyes and sharp teeth, and his mother is kidnapped. Jamie is rescued by a monster who is absolutely not supposed to be real, and brought into the world of Department 19, a secret branch of the British government that polices the supernatural, and who have more to do with his family than he could have ever realised. They are also the only people who might, just might, be able to help him rescue his mum, who is in the hands of one of the oldest, and most evil, creatures in the world…
Was there any particular inspiration for Jamie?
I wanted him to start out as a real everyman – at the beginning of the story there is nothing special about him at all – who is forced to find out how strong and resilient he really is by the situation he finds himself thrown into. I tend to think that we find out who we really are when we face adversity, and I wanted that to be the case with Jamie. He is pretty similar to the teenager I was – he likes football, and music, and computer games, and all the other things that normal teenage boys are into. In my head, he looks quite a lot like my oldest friend, but he’s not really based on anyone in particular. Although he does sound a bit like me when I was his age!
Do you have any unusual writing quirks? Anything you need to get the creativity flowing?
I’m very much a creature of habit, and of routine. When I’m planning and plotting, and then again when my editor and I are editing, I work at home, with music on and a constant supply of coffee. When I’m writing actual prose, I go and work in the British Library, which is not too far from where I live in London, and I do get a bit obsessive. I go at the same time, work in the same room, try to work in the same desk (although that doesn’t always come off – in which case I get as near as I can and glare at whoever is in ‘my’ seat) and lay my stuff out the same way. I always get my best work done during the same part of the day (between about 3pm and 7.30pm) and I normally listen to one film on my laptop, over and over again – it becomes a bit like white noise, and plugs me immediately back into my work. For the third book in the D19 series, it’s been David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross – I could literally perform it as a one-man show at this point!
What was one of your favorite books as a child?
There were so many, but the one I think back to most often is Danny The Champion Of The World by Roald Dahl. I love all of Dahl’s novels, and he is a huge influence on me – I love the way he portrays children, and how they see the world, and how dark he is prepared to let his stories get. His more fantastical novels, the ones he is most famous for (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, The BFG, The Witches) are wonderful, but I think I love Danny the most – it is perhaps a bit far-fetched (the pheasant plot is really quite crazy!) but it’s ultimately a very real story about a boy and his dad, and it rings true, even now. Anyone who hasn’t read it should go and grab themselves a copy at once.
What are a few of your favorite authors or novels?
This is probably going to need to be a list:
Stephen King – It, The Stand, ‘Salem’s Lot, the Dark Tower series
Roald Dahl – Danny The Champion Of The World, Fantastic Mr Fox, Matilda, Boy, Going Solo
Philip Pullman – the His Dark Materials trilogy
JK Rowling – the Harry Potter series
Bret Easton Ellis – Less Than Zero, American Psycho, Lunar Park
Patrick Ness – A Monster Calls
Jonathan Lethem – Fortress Of Solitude, Motherless Brooklyn, Gun With Occasional Music
Philip Reeve – the Mortal Engines quartet
George P. Pelecanos – The Big Blowdown, and the rest of the Washington quartet
Ted Hughes – The Iron Man (The Iron Giant in the US)
Clive Barker – Weaveworld, Imajica, The Books Of Blood
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It blew me away so completely when I read it for the first time that I didn’t read it again for years – I was genuinely scared that it couldn’t possibly be as good as I thought it was. But when the time eventually came, it was just as good again – so clever, so unbelievably assured for a debut novel, and just beautifully, heartbreakingly well written.
What do you consider essential for a basic vampire hunting kit?
The men and women of Department 19 use all kinds of hi-tech, sophisticated equipment, but even they have never been able to come up with a better method of destroying vampires than a good, sharp stake. To be fair, theirs are metal and are fired out of a pneumatic launcher, but nonetheless – stakes are still the cornerstone of vampire hunting!
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
The concept of free time is a weird one, to be honest with you! When I get a period of time where I’m not working on the Department 19 series – when my editor is reading it, or when it’s being copyedited or proofread, I normally grab the chance to work on one of the other projects I’ve got rattling around in my head. So to be honest, when I’m not writing, I’m writing
I’ve written short stories for a couple of anthologies that are coming out later in the year, and I’ve got three novels (that are nothing to do with vampires!) in various stages of development – I’m always grateful when I get a day or two to spend on any of them.
Quick! Name something that makes you laugh out loud.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
Department 19 is out now in paperback from Razorbill, and book two, The Rising, is out in a week or so. The third book in the series, Battle Lines, will be out next summer, and the first short story I’ve written since I was at University comes out in an anthology called Magic (published by Solaris) towards the end of the year. Apart from that, everything else is pretty much wait and see…
Thanks very much for having me!
About Department 19:
Jamie Carpenter’s father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous creature named Frankenstein. Now Jamie is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing. . . . Department Nineteen takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond – from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it’s packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.
Purchase Department 19: Amazon | B&N
About Department 19: The Rising-
Sixteen-year-old Jamie Carpenter’s life was violently upended when he was brought into Department 19, a classified government agency of vampire hunters that was formed to deal with a little problem . . . known as Dracula.
But being the new recruit at the Department isn’t all weapons training and covert missions. Jamie’s own mother has been turned into a vampire – and now Jamie will stop at nothing to wreak revenge on her captors. Even if that means facing down Dracula himself.
The Rising is a fast, furious, can’t-turn-away thrill ride that will suck readers in just like a video game. This riveting second book in the Department Nineteen series is packed with cutting-edge gadgets, international locales, and daredevil action that tumbles ferociously across the page – perfect for fans of Darren Shan and Anthony Horowitz.
Purchase The Rising: Amazon | B&N
Joanne Reay, author of the brand novel Romeo Spikes, was kind enough to takes some time out of her super busy schedule to answer a few of my questions; not only about her new book, but also her screenwriting career, and more! Please welcome her to the blog, and be sure to check out the giveaway details at the end of the post (2 copies of Romeo Spikes up for grabs!).
Joanne, you’re an accomplished screenwriter. Was it a natural progression to go from screenwriting to writing books?
It was very natural, in the same way that death is a natural progression from smashing yourself repeatedly over the head with a hammer. With a movie script, you’re handling a relatively few story strands. With a novel, you find yourself weaving this huge rug of narrative, making a pattern that becomes increasingly detailed and complex. And to make matters worse, the loom upon which you weave is invisible and manufactured by a company called Bastard. But with all that said—the creative rewards of writing a novel are so much greater. Scriptwriters in Hollywood are treated with scant respect; it is assumed that every waiter and shop clerk can write a screenplay (and, sod it, they do) so if, unusually, a writer is invited to any meeting with the studio, actors or director, the only time their writing skills are called upon is to note down everyone’s coffee order. It was therefore something of a wonderful revelation to find that the publisher was genuinely interested in what I, the writer, wanted to do with the story and the characters. So for all the demands that novel writing imposes, I’m looking forward to once again sit down at my Bastard loom.
Your first novel, Romeo Spikes, is out today! Your baddies, The Tormenta, are pretty terrifying! What do you find particularly terrifying?
One of my first memories was walking along a parade of shops, following my mother. I would have been about five years old. I remember feeling that my mother was going too fast and I ran to catch up, reaching out to tug at her skirt to slow her down. As I did so, she turned and I realized that this wasn’t my mother. I had followed a woman with a similar yellow skirt. The shock made this woman’s face appear horrific to me and I felt a rising panic as I looked around the crowd, lost from my mother. I think that this moment lays at the heart of many dark characters that I create, where we think they are someone we can trust and only too late do we realize that they are not who we think they are.
What do you love most about writing fantasy?
In the same way that humans have a tendency to pick at a wound, I love to create characters that are bent on evil. The fantasy realm allows me to indulge this want, without lovingly detailing sociopaths who really should be brought to justice. Also, I love to build new worlds with their own history and potential. So, with Romeo Spikes for example, I could create a new international security agency called The Sinestra without having to limit myself to the real world workings of the CIA or MI6.
Do you have any particular writing quirks?
The name of every character, every place, every street or shop has a secret meaning that relates to the bigger story. Sometimes this connection may come to play a part in the narrative, but more often than not, it is never explicitly mentioned and never revealed. But I know what the connection is and that helps me feel that the story has an underlying mesh of logic and magic that holds it all together.
What are some of your favorite authors or books?
I love Martin Amis and The Information is one of my favourite books. He has a way of observing the smallest detail and then finding the most unexpected words to carry the meaning. And I love his use of names: Trish Shirt, Nicola Six, Keith Talent, a brand of beer called Porno—all genius.
If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
A cliché—but what the hell. It would have to be Through The Looking Glass. I loved the book as a child and as I have grown I have come to realize the greater levels that are operating within the story. I would love the chance to open it afresh now, to see what it would give me. Would I find those deeper levels immediately, or would they still elude until the over-arching narrative has become familiar enough to see past it? Best of all, I would love to read “Jabberwocky” for the first time again.
Favorite line from a book or movie?
It only makes sense if you know the film, but the final line of Some Like It Hot is “Well, nobody’s perfect.” Apart from the fact that it is the funniest ending to a movie, I love the fact that Billy Wilder (writer / director) jotted it down as a temporary closing line, thinking that he would come up with a better option once they were filming. He never got the time to revise and the line was filmed as it was. Just goes to show that sometimes our instinctive brains—if we leave things alone and stop over-thinking—can come up with some really good stuff.
What was one of your favorite books as a child?
There was a book called The Dragon Hoard. I don’t remember who it was by, nor even the story. But it had a puzzle to solve and that sparked something in me.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
My full-time job is film-writing and producing and I love it. But sometimes I feel that I thrash my brain a little too hard—like taking an eager dog for a walk and then after ten hours of rocky terrain, you look round to find you’re dragging a dead animal by the leash. So once in a while, I settle down with the remote control and watch back-to-back episodes of Judge Judy or CSI: Anywhere or old episodes of Columbo—anything that requires very little processing.
You live in Vienna, which is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. If someone were to visit you there, where would you take them?
Back to the airport. I never invite anyone.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all! ie: fave curse word, fave alcoholic drink, if you drink ‘em, guilty pleasure, etc :-D)?
Whenever I curse the pressures of being a writer and producer, with all the deadlines, endless writing and constant travel, I think back to something a teacher told me at a parent’s evening for my youngest daughter. Katie had just joined kindergarten and as a new pupil, the teacher asked her about her family and whether her mummy had a job. Katie replied, “Mummy doesn’t have a job, she has an adventure.” And for that—I am ever grateful.
Read my review of Romeo Spikes
Romeo Spikes (Lo-Life #1)
Publisher:Gallery Books/August 14th, 2012
Kind thanks to Gallery Books for providing a review copy
Working the Homicide squad, Alexis Bianco believes she’s seen every way a life can be taken. Then she meets the mysterious Lola and finds out she’s wrong. More weapon than woman, Lola pursues a predator with a method of murder like no other.
If you think you’ve never encountered Tormenta, think again. You’re friends with one. Have worked for one. Maybe even fallen in love with one.
They walk amongst us—looking like us, talking like us. Coercing our subconscious with their actions. Like the long-legged beauty who seduces the goofy geek only to break his heart, causing him to break his own neck in a noose. Or the rock star whose every song celebrates self-harm, inspiring his devoted fans to press knives to their own throats. The pusher who urges the addict toward one more hit, bringing him a high from which he’ll never come down. The tyrannical boss, crushing an assistant’s spirit until a bridge jump brings her low.
We call it a suicide. Tormenta call it a score, their demonic powers allowing them to siphon off the unspent life span of those who harm themselves.
To Bianco, being a cop is about right and wrong. Working with Lola is about this world and the next . . . and maybe the one after that. Because everything is about to change.
Washed up, disgraced psychiatrist Dr. Annie Torgus has got quite a story, and she’s determined to sell it to the highest bidder. For the past 35 years she’s worked at a prison called Morphic Fields, attempting to thwart suicide in death row inmates (the irony is not lost on her), and she’s convinced that there is something “otherworldly” about convicted child killer Agnus Day. Agnus has Gershwind syndrome that causes him to write compulsively on every surface, and he’s been known to portend trouble for the prison staff. Meanwhile, Detective Alexis Bianco is onto something too. Her latest case has her stumped, after the medical examiner came back with the news that the bones of a 22 year old girl are supposedly over 400 years old. This case leads her to Lola, a woman whose sole job is to hunt down and kill the Tormenta; demons that torment people into committing suicide so they can siphon their remaining lifespan. The Tormenta may be the least of humankind’s problems, however, because the Mosca is coming…
Romeo Spikes takes place in Louisiana and its bayous, and having just visited New Orleans, I can honestly say that the author couldn’t have used a more perfect location for this story. Morphic Fields is decidedly creepy, and the Tormenta are terrifying, just like the methods they use to increase their lifespans. I loved strong, smart Alexis Bianco and actually developed a bit of a soft spot for Lola. The demon mythology is fascinating and Ms. Reay manages to balance quite a cast of characters deftly. There are tons of plates spinning in the air in this head banger of a book, and I don’t recall one of them breaking. There’s so much awesome in Romeo Spikes, I’m not sure what to highlight, to be honest. For starters, Lola has a rocket launcher over her door, for gawd’s sake (and an alarmingly vast number of weapons hanging on the walls.) It’s got angels, demons, murder, insanity, bayou mambos, otherworldly hunters, super-secret government agencies, mysterious manuscripts, and yes, romeo spikes. It reads like a movie, which makes sense, since Joanne Reay is a professional screenwriter, and her prose virtually leaps off of the page. She’s not afraid to take risks either, and knows how to keep her readers on their toes. Romeo Spikes is a fast paced, breath-of-fresh-air, scary, exciting, and rather unique, humdinger of a novel, and I dare you not to get hooked at page one! It’s also part one of a trilogy, so there’s more to come, and I can’t wait!
I’m so thrilled to have the lovely Tiffany Trent on the blog today! Tiffany is the author of the Hallowmere series and the first of a brand new series, The Unnaturalists! Please welcome her to the blog!
Tiffany, you’re the author of the Hallowmere series, numerous short stories, and your brand new steampunk YA fantasy, The Unnaturalists! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your journey?
Since I was nine. I’d always wanted to write fantasy and science fiction, but was discouraged from it for many reasons (not literary enough, had nothing to do with my homework, was weird, etc., etc.). That slowed me down, but didn’t deter me. I won a scholarship for the first science fiction story I wrote when I was 16. My first novel was published in 2007 ; it was a YA dark fantasy, In the Serpent’s Coils, the first in the Hallowmere series. Since then, I’ve published several short stories and am just days away from the release of my seventh novel, THE UNNATURALISTS.
How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
If I recall correctly, I gathered a bunch of good friends and went out to the best Japanese restaurant in town for dinner. And then we went over to Books-A-Million and did some interior decorating.
Will you tell us a bit about The Unnaturalists?
Here’s the jacket copy:
In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.
Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.
As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.
What do you like best about steampunk?
I love playing with alternate history. It allows us to dream of both a past that never was and a future that can never be. It’s a special little slice of time that’s fun to explore and re-imagine.
Why do you think steampunk is so popular all of a sudden?
It’s funny because some people say steampunk is popular and some say it isn’t. I think people are really interested in it for many reasons—the spectacular costuming, of course, but more than that there’s a lot in it that speaks to a spirit of hope and discovery. (Don’t get me wrong, though—some of that hope and discovery came at the expense of other nations and much of the natural world and we should be careful not to glorify the Victorians).
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
At one time, Frank Herbert and his novel DUNE were a huge influence. Also Madeleine L’Engle, Ursula Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ru Emerson, and Lloyd Alexander…The list is long and mighty.
Is there anyone that would bring out a fangirl squee if you were to meet them?
I kind of squeed when I saw Neil Gaiman in the bar at World Fantasy last year. I might squee if I met Frances Hardinge or Philip Reeve, though I doubt they’d appreciate that much.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Usually I’m out playing with my bees in the apiary.
If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
I would love to go somewhere in the South Pacific—Papua New Guinea or Bali or Bora Bora. Those crystal blue oceans and volcanoes fill me with happiness. (A Mai Tai would help, too!)
Quick! Name something that makes you laugh out loud!
My husband. He’s always saying funny things at the weirdest times.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects and events (or anything at all!!)??
For upcoming events and other stops on the blog tour, here’s a good list.
My official launch party is at the Museum of Unnatural History in Washington, DC, on August 17th at 6 pm! Hope folks can make it!
Kitty Steals the Show (Kitty Norville #10) by Carrie Vaughn
Publisher:Tor/July 313st, 2012
Kind thanks to Tor for providing a review copy
Kitty has been tapped as the keynote speaker for the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies, taking place in London. The conference brings together scientists, activists, protestors, and supernatural beings from all over the world—and Kitty, Ben, and Cormac are right in the middle of it.
Master vampires from dozens of cities have also gathered in London for a conference of their own. With the help of the Master of London, Kitty gets more of a glimpse into the Long Game—a power struggle among vampires that has been going on for centuries—than she ever has before. In her search for answers, Kitty has the help of some old allies, and meets some new ones, such as Caleb, the alpha werewolf of the British Isles. The conference has also attracted some old enemies, who’ve set their sights on her and her friends.
All the world’s a stage, and Kitty’s just stepped into the spotlight.
REVIEW (No spoilers for this one, but this is #10 in a series)
My favorite werewolf with the unlikely name is going to London to give the keynote address for the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies, and when Kitty, Ben, and Cormac arrive, they meet Ned, the London Master, at his beautiful home. Ned is open and inviting, and doesn’t mind sharing info with Kitty. Of course Kitty takes the opportunity to grill him on his age and quickly figures out who he really is. I’m not going to give it away, because it’s really cool, but you’ll love it, promise. As time ticks down to Kitty’s Keynote speech, and protestors gather, Kitty realizes that things may not be as peaceful as she hoped. Also, it seems that vampires are gathering, seemingly with the motive of ousting Ned from his position as London Master, and war just may be on the horizon.
The Kitty Norville series continues to be one of my favorites, and Kitty Steals the Show is an enlightening, exciting, and rather poignant addition. As Kitty gets to know the delightful Ned, and also gets to check on the newly turned Emma, who Ned has taken under his wing, she also realizes that something is afoot in London, and it could threaten the entire paranatural community. Horrified at the treatment of werewolves at the hands of certain Master vampires, Kitty finds herself a crusader for their independence. I always love hanging out with Kitty, Ben, and Cormac, and it was fun catching up with old friends, and also meeting new ones, including a couple of very mischievous faeries. Kitty has come such a long way since the first book. She’s gone from a victim to a strong, capable, compassionate woman…and kick-ass werewolf. She’s still as nosy as ever, but that’s one of my favorite things about her, and I love how she sometimes finds it hard to reign in her inquisitive nature, even if it might get her in trouble. She and Ben are as solid as ever, and Cormac seems to be softening up just a bit, especially after finding out that Amelia, the ghost that haunts him, has family in England, and meets them for the first time. I admit I might have gotten a little teary with this one at one point, and was sorry to see it end. I’m very much looking forward to what’s next in store for Kitty, and her friends!
I’m giving away Carrie Vaughn’s newest Kitty book, Kitty Steals the Show here, but if you need to catch up, enter to win a copy of Kitty’s Big Trouble! Check out the giveaway details and good luck!
About Kitty’s Big Trouble:
Kitty Norville is back and in more trouble than ever. Her recent run-in with werewolves traumatized by the horrors of war has made her start wondering how long the US government might have been covertly using werewolves in combat. Have any famous names in our own history might have actually been supernatural? She’s got suspicions about William Tecumseh Sherman. Then an interview with the right vampire puts her on the trail of Wyatt Earp, vampire hunter.
But her investigations lead her to a clue about enigmatic vampire Roman and the mysterious Long Game played by vampires through the millennia. That, plus a call for help from a powerful vampire ally in San Francisco, suddenly puts Kitty and her friends on the supernatural chessboard, pieces in dangerously active play. And Kitty Norville is never content to be a pawn. . . .
Read my review
I’m thrilled to have Carrie Vaughn on the blog again to talk about her new book, Kitty Steals the Show. She’s one of my fave writers, so won’t you give her a warm welcome? Also, check out the giveaway details at the end of the post, since there’s a copy of Kitty Steals the Show up for grabs!
Carrie, when you last visited the blog, Kitty’s Greatest Hits had just been released, and now Kitty’s 10th adventure, Kitty Steals the Show, just came out! Besides an obviously busy writing schedule, what have you been up to since then?
The busy writing schedule, pretty much? I’ve been working on the next Kitty books, going to my usual round of conventions. I spent some time in Croatia in March, which was fun. The usual shenanigans of house and dog and hobbies and travel and writing.
In Kitty Steals the Show, Kitty has been asked to be the keynote speaker for the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies. Can you give us a bit of a teaser of what Kitty is in for?
Trouble, of course! This book is my chance to show a little bit of what the supernatural community looks like in another country, and see a bit of the progress in people’s awareness of the supernatural. The conference was the next logical step in that process, and of course Kitty would be a big part of it.
When you started the series, did you have a specific number of books in mind that you wanted to write at first, or did you just plan to see where Kitty took you?
I didn’t have a specific number mainly because I had no idea if the series would be successful. I didn’t know the first book would sell, much less ten of them. I’ve had a couple of smaller arcs — the first four books, for example, are their own arc, and I planned it that way just in case the series ended then. But since then, I’ve really been writing them book by book, with the larger storyline of the Long Game and Roman in the background.
Besides Kitty, what’s one of your favorite characters to write?
Cormac is always intriguing, but I really like writing Rick, because he’s something of a calming influence and he’s got this long history that I love dropping hints about.
Would you ever consider giving one of the other characters their own book (*cough* Cormac:))?
Funny you should ask. . .the novella in Kitty’s Greatest Hits was something of a dry run for a possible Cormac novel, which I’m now starting to plan. So, yes. It’ll be like a buddy detective story, only one of the buddies is disembodied, you know?
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about upcoming projects or events (or anything at all!)?
The next two Kitty books are written, and I’m currently working on the sequel to my superhero novel, After the Golden Age.
Keep up with Carrie: Website