I’m a huge, HUGE fan of the Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (that’s him on the right), and Lincoln was kind enough to stop by and chat a bit about the newest installment, Blue Labyrinth (out tomorrow), and more! Please give him a warm welcome!
Blue Labyrinth, the 14th book in the Pendergast series, just came out, and I can’t wait to dive in! Pendergast is one of my favorite literary characters, and 14 books in, the series is still going strong. How do you keep the series fresh this many books in?
Having two authors at work helps. We’ve managed to build up such a rich universe around Pendergast, both in terms of his acquaintances and his own backstory, that when it comes times to plot a new novel, we’re spoiled for choice. Of course, we’re very careful nevertheless to choose the best ideas we can come up with.
What can we expect from this installment? How do you think Pendergast has changed the most since the first book?
In many ways Blue Labyrinth is the capstone of all that has come before. We reach back all the way to Relic in order to tell this story. (We’re told no previous experience with Pendergast is necessary to enjoy the book, though.)
Over the series I think Pendergast has become more human. He’s less remote, more vulnerable—and hence, we hope, more realistic.
Did you do any particular research for Blue Labyrinth?
Yes, but to go into detail would probably give away too many spoilers!
How does your collaboration work? Will you give us a bit of an idea of your writing process, and how it has evolved over the years?
We brainstorm a long series of upcoming chapters. Then we take turns writing the chapters and revising those written by the other. These days we each tend to “champion” certain characters, or sequences, or even a particular storyline. That way we can each focus on a different thread of the novel, keep things as seamless as possible.
When did you realize you had a hit on your hands with the Pendergast series?
I think it was with Cabinet of Curiosities. We got great feedback from booksellers. Things really came together on that story, and the book seemed to generate a lot of buzz.
We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory (Tachyon, August 2014)-Dr. Jan Sayer has gathered together a very interesting bunch for her new group therapy session. There’s Harrison, an aging Monster Hunter, and Barbara, who is still struggling through life, and the trappings of a family, 20 years after the Scrimshander carved his handiwork on her bones. There’s Stan, who is missing limbs because of his ordeal with the cannibalistic Weaver family so many years ago, and Martin, who wears VR goggles that, to him, reveal the presence of shadowy lurkers (which they call “dwellers”) that not only haunt the streets but nearly every aspect of his life. And then there is Greta, covered with scars, and the quietest and most enigmatic of the bunch. Martin is convinced there’s something definitely “off” about Greta…and there is, but it’s not quite what he thinks.
The story unfolds, at the beginning, like any group therapy session would, with the telling of each individual’s story, in fits and starts, until the reader gets a pretty good idea of where everyone is coming from, at least you’ll think you do. Each story is fascinating, and certainly terrifying, but it’s all building toward Greta, whose story has never really ended, and when she finally reveals it, it’s a punch in the gut in its insidiousness, and also its potential for wide scale disaster. It’s disaster that the group will eventually attempt to avert, and watching them come together to do it is a joy to behold. I fell in love with each of these damaged people, and as fragile as they are, they’re equally heroic, and the strength they’ve found in order to keep living after such trauma is haunting, and oddly inspiring.
Please welcome Caitlin Sweet to the blog! She kindly stopped by to talk about her new fantasy, THE DOOR IN THE MOUNTAIN (ChiTeen), and much more!
Caitlin, will you tell us a little bit about your new book The Door in the Mountain, and what inspired you to write it?
I’ve loved Greek mythology since I was about five years old, when my father would tell me bedtime stories that starred a dazzling array of mortals, gods and goddesses, monsters: Perseus and Medusa; Zeus and Hera (and Europa and Leda and Ganymede and so many more); Persephone and Hades; Ariadne and the Minotaur…
In 2009, after I’d finished the first draft of my third book, The Pattern Scars, I panicked. Unlike many other lucky writers out there, I find story ideas incredibly difficult to come up with—so I spent months desperately combing through old writing notebooks. Years and years before, I’d tried to write a book set in the Bronze Age Mediterranean. I’d done all sorts of research about mainland Greece and Crete, Egypt and Anatolia (see my answer to question 3 for more on this)…but nothing came of it. Looking back, though, the world I’d tried to create still felt appealing. I was far enough away from my original concept that I could re-imagine it, think of the big picture, rather than the details that had tripped me up before. This brought me back to the myths my dad had told me, and I thought, “Okay, so it’s Greece…it’s some combination of mythology and history and fantasy…it’s…the Minotaur as a shape-shifting boy? There’ll be a girl, too—it’ll be Beauty and the Beast via Minoan Crete…??” (My actual notes look a lot like this.)
And that’s pretty much what The Door in the Mountain turned out to be. What I didn’t expect was that it would end up being a story I’d tell in two books—but the lead-up to Theseus’s arrival ended up taking me far more words to describe than I’d imagined it would. And I’m glad about this. I realize that some readers will be impatient with the first book because it doesn’t include the well-known events of the myth, but I hope they’ll bear with me, and appreciate my take on the story behind these events.
Why do you think readers will connect with Ariadne? What did you enjoy most about writing her character?
I’m not sure all readers will connect with Ariadne! I started out thinking she was going to be the Ariadne of most versions of the myth: a young, beautiful, innocent princess who helped Theseus with his Minotaur-slaying mission, only to be unceremoniously dumped on the first island they came to after their escape from Crete. But once I’d written a couple of chapters, I got stuck. Ariadne was just too young, beautiful, and innocent to propel the kind of story I wanted to tell. There was nothing for it: I had to turn her into a horrible, scheming, bitchy character. But she didn’t end up being only that. I tried to work in some reasons for her horribleness, and I tried to have her show a teensy bit of remorse, on a couple of occasions. I think it’s these motivations and moments that might allow readers to get into her head and understand her, even if they absolutely can’t like her.
As for what I enjoyed most about writing her: all of the above. Unambiguously good characters can be extremely boring to write, as can unambiguously bad ones. Complexity’s much more fun—so Ariadne was a joy!
Here it is, your weekly round up of awesome. A veritable cornucopia of awesome, in fact: suspense, SFF, horror, young adult…the list goes on, and they’re all $5 and under. As always, doublecheck before you click the Buy button, because sometimes the deals don’t last, and if Kindle isn’t your reading platform of choice, be sure to check elsewhere, since the discounts are sometimes universal!
For noir fans: Akashic has marked pretty much all of their Noir series down to $2.99. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get all of them, but I did my best, so be sure to explore. There are a TON of them.
Just in time for the holidays,THE DARK SERVANT, Matt Manochio’s chillfest, featuring Krampus, is out, and he kindly stopped by to answer a few questions about the new book, and more! Please give him a warm welcome.
Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little more about The Dark Servant and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you for asking. The Dark Servant focuses on a European folk-legend named Krampus. Back in the day in Austria, Saint Nicholas (yes, Santa Claus) rewarded the good children with gifts. He farmed out the bad ones to Krampus, a huge, chain-wielding devil that kidnaps and punishes the naughty. I had never heard of this creature until a couple of years ago and loved the concept. There’s little commercially published Krampus fiction on the market (compared to numerous non-scary teenage vampires, and ridiculously hunky werewolves from the Pacific Northwest) and I saw an opening. Many in the horror community know Krampus, but not so much the general reading public. I’ve asked numerous people whether they’ve heard of Krampus, and the overwhelming answer is “no.” I hope to change that. My Krampus invades a rural New Jersey town and goes after its high school bullies. My protagonist, Billy, realizes this thing kidnapped his brother (a golden boy) and attempts to rescue him, while trying to understand what brought Krampus to town in the first place.
What made you decide to make your protagonist, Billy, so young?
Krampus, like Saint Nick, deals with children, so it made sense to make my protagonists (and antagonists) teenagers. While the novel is written for adults, I believe it has high school-aged crossover appeal.
I love the idea of a novel about Krampus (just in time for the holidays too!) What kind of research did you do for the book?
Internet research: great websites like www.Krampus.com helped shape my understanding of the legend. There was a wonderful New York Times story from the 1940s about fascist Austria banning Krampus for inane reasons—I worked that into the book. Good times.
Did you begin writing The Dark Servant already knowing what was going to happen?
Great question. At first, no. In general, I get a rough idea in my head about how I think a book should end, and then I write. I don’t outline. To me the fun is sitting in front of the screen and letting the words fly. As I go along the story starts to take shape and the ending solidifies.
You have a degree in journalism (and history), and spent 12 years as a journalist, but have you always wanted to write a novel? Will you tell us a little about that progression?
Yes. I think every journalist has a book in them, and my first one began taking shape in 2007. I wrote a straight crime thriller and sold it to a now-defunct publisher in 2010. I was never paid my advance and withdrew the manuscript. As frustrating as that was (it sucked) it proved to me that I could produce something that could commercially sell. And I kept at it—to the point where I got the idea to write The Dark Servant in 2012 and turned it around in very short time (five months), sent it to my editor and got an offer in May 2013. Being a municipal reporter, you understand how government, the police, and the court system all work (nothing like on television), and I tried to bring that level of reality to my book. But for the fictional horned monster that kidnaps bad children, the book is steeped in reality.
Fort’s brother Chivalry is mourning the death of his wife (his 19th!!), and during this time, Fort must take over the duties as tithe collector and general peacekeeper for his family. So far things have been fairly quiet, but when the head of a werebear clan is murdered (via stabbing), he’s very suddenly in control of a major investigation. Complicating this is the relative absence of his mourning brother, and the alarming weakness of his aging, yet still very powerful mother. You think that’s a full plate for our Fort? Think again. As you know, he’s been resisting the pull of going full vampire for a while now, and even went vegetarian in an effort to stave off cravings for anything blood related, yet he’s starting to have quite the appetite, and events force him to confront his destiny in a rather spectacular way. Luckily he’s got the guidance of his (very scary) sister Prudence, whose being awful nice to him all of a sudden. Fort doesn’t consider it lucky, because his vampirism is been something he’s been dreading, and even feeding from his mother is something he wishes he didn’t have to do, so the thought of using innocent humans horrifies him.
Fred Venturini’s debut novel, The Heart Does Not Grow Back, just came out yesterday, and he kindly answered a few of my questions on the new book, why he writes, and much more! Please give him a warm welcome!
Will you tell us a bit about The Heart Does Not Grow Back and why you wrote it?
The novel’s about Dale Sampson, who can regenerate his organs and his limbs, and eventually starts giving them away on the reality show. Healing is the one superpower that everyone shares, and I wanted to contrast limitless physical healing capabilities with emotional wounds that were beyond the reach of his powers. Every superhero story is a test of the hero and his powers, usually through a supervillain, but in the novel the real tests are ones we’ve all experienced—heartbreak, tragedy, failure.
The book has already gotten some great buzz. Why do you think readers will connect with, and root for, Dale Sampson?
I never think a reader necessarily needs to like or root for a character to be engaged with a story, so I never really design them that way. I just shoot for interesting and complicated. I think Dale makes decisions that many readers won’t agree with, but will hopefully understand in the context of his life and circumstances. All that said, I have noticed many readers enjoy Dale as a character, mostly because he dredges up a lot of high school nostalgia and everyone it seems has felt a little oppressed, lonely and heartbroken during their teenage years, so they connect with that.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I dug into the black market for organs and body parts, but only a small portion of that made it into the story. I also wanted to get the way reality TV is produced at least mostly right, so that was another foray into books and phone calls. Finally, there’s a surgical procedure from a doctor’s POV that he gets wrong, so it’s hard to replicate a mistake in surgery without really doing your homework. Thankfully, I have great resources and friends and this wonderful thing called the Internet, so I think I got it mostly right.
Wanna win a copy of THE TIME ROADS by Beth Bernobich? Courtesy of the nice folks at Tor, I’ve got one to give away to one lucky US winner, so check out the book, and fill out the widget (I’ll draw a winner on 11/13 or so)!
About THE TIME ROADS:
A fantastical nineteenth century alternate historical steampunk romp from Beth Bernobich, the critically acclaimed author of the River of Souls trilogy.
Éire is one of the most powerful empires in the world. The Anglian Dependencies are a dusty backwater filled with resentful colonial subjects, Europe is a disjointed mess, and many look to Éire for stability and peace. In a series of braided stories, Beth Bernobich has created a tale about the brilliant Éireann scientists who have already bent the laws of nature for Man’s benefit. And who now are striving to conquer the nature of time.
The Golden Octopus: Áine Lasairíona Devereaux, the young Queen of Éire, balances Court politics while pursing the Crown’s goals of furthering scientific discovery. When those discoveries lead to the death and madness of those she loves, Áine must choose between her heart and her duty to her kingdom.
A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange: Síomón Madóc is desperately trying to discover who is killing the brightest of Éire’s mathematicians. The key to saving lives lies in the future…and Síomón must figure out a way to get there.
Ars Memoriae: Éireann spymaster Aidrean Ó Deághaidh goes to the kingdom of Montenegro to investigate rumors of great unrest. But Ó Deághaidh is tormented by visions of a different timeline and suspects that someone in his own government is playing a double game….
The Time Roads: Éire stands on the brink of the modern age, but old troubles still plague the kingdom. An encounter with a mysterious stranger near death holds the clue to both the past and the future of the nation.
CB McKenzie’s debut novel, BAD COUNTRY, is out today, and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions! Please welcome him to the blog! Also, be sure to check the Events section out on his Facebook page to see if he’s coming to a city near you on tour.
You’ve already won the Tony Hillerman Prize…
I was thrilled to win the THP because it not only means publication under the Minotaur label, it offers association with a bunch of great people at the Tony Hillerman Conference and the opportunity to work with Executive Editor Peter Joseph of Thomas Dunne/ St. Martin’s.
Tell us more about Bad Country…
Bad Country is a hard-boiled Western Noir set in “Arizona Indian Country” and in Tucson. The story has two separate but interrelated plots—one case involves the serial killings of Native American men in an isolated desert place called El Hoyo (The Hole), the other is a drive-by shooting of teenaged boy from the Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation in South Tucson. Both rompecabezas (“puzzlers”) are solved by a rodeo cowboy turned PI, Rodeo Grace Garnet who uses brain more than brawn to get his job done. Amy Greene (Long Man) calls Bad Country a “literary page-turner,” and I also think of Bad Country as a smart “salty peanuts book,” a fast read that is as hard to put down as a bowl of salty peanuts, but also a novel with some real and obvious literary merit.
…and what inspired you to write it?
Bad Country started off as a conventional serial killer thriller based on a book issued by The University of Arizona Press called Paths of Life, which is a non-technical guide to the Ten Major Tribes of Native-Americans in the Southwest USA and Northern Mexico (and a good companion read for Bad Country, btw): but then Bad Country morphed into a complex novel about family and friends, the dispossessed and marginalized, ethics, life and death and how humans imagine and execute both—and featuring one of the world’s greatest dogs. In large part, the inspiration for Bad Country was the self-assigned prompt to “write a literary mystery featuring Rodeo Grace Garnet, a character I have written about before (in the unpublished novel SplashLand) and always thought just deserved a good book. So in that way, Rodeo “wrote” the book by being the character that he is in the situation in which “I” put him: The character came first, the story followed.
Brood by Chase Novak (Mulholland, Oct 7th, 2014)-There are inevitable spoilers for Breed, the first book in this series. Proceed at your own risk.
Here’s the thing. Breed, and subsequently Brood, are very scary, gory, creepy, sometimes over the top, and frequently satirical, so if you like this sort of thing (I do), then you’ll like these books. Chase Novak, aka Scott Spencer, is a pro, and he writes horror like he’s having the time of his life doing it, and it shows. The story so far is this: Adam and Alice Twisden are twins, about 13 at this point (about 2 years on from the events of Breed). They are ethereally lovely, very smart, and also very streetwise, having been shuttled from foster home to foster home since the deaths of their parents. Finally, their Aunt Cynthia, a displaced antiques dealer (and their mother’s sister), has gotten custody of them, and she’s ecstatic. The twins? Not so much. Or rather, Adam seems ok with the arrangement, but Alice longs for a much different type of arrangement. This is where Brood begins, with the custody hearing of the twins, and their move back into their parent’s renovated Manhattan manse, also the site of many horrible things. As we learned in Breed, the twins were conceived via a profligate and very corrupted process involving some questionable DNA and a Slovenian doctor, and the treatments drove their parents to cannibalism, and worse, until their rather spectacular deaths.