My Bookish Ways

Interview (& Giveaway): Adam Christopher, author of The Burning Dark

Please welcome the always awesome Adam Christopher back to the blog! His brand new SF, THE BURNING DARK, dropped last month, and he stopped by to answer a few of my questions about it, and more! Also, we’ve got a copy up for grabs courtesy of the nice folks at Tor, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!

AdamChristopher (2)Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little about The Burning Dark and what inspired you to write it?
The Burning Dark started from a very simple idea – what if you had a traditional ghost story, but instead of it being set in a haunted house, it was set in a haunted space station? From there the whole novel kinda spiraled out – how many of those traditional spooky tropes could I keep intact, and how much would I need to crowbar into a space opera setting? What else can you do with this concept over the 100,000 words or so of a novel?

I also love urban legends, and had been totally freaked out by the story of the lost cosmonauts (a collection of mythical cosmonauts sent up by the Soviet’s before Yuri Gagarin, none of whom returned, their missions then erased from official history). It seemed the perfect thing to weave into my ghost story. That also tied into this thing I seem to have for mysterious signals and transmissions – in my debut novel, Empire State, you get a sense of that with the strange phone calls detective Rad Bradley receives from an alternate universe, and I’ve even got a half-finished novel based entirely around television signal hacking and creatures that inhabit various electromagnetic frequencies. Maybe I’ll even finish that book one day!

The book has already gotten great reviews, but is a bit of a departure for you. What did you enjoy most about writing it, and what was most challenging?
It’s a different kind of book to the ones published by Angry Robot, but I’m a fan of science fiction involving spaceships and aliens as well as the weirder, cross-genre sorts of stories I am more known for. Having said that, there is plenty of genre mash-up in The Burning Dark, which is space opera and a ghost story, with a touch of godpunk thrown in.

It was fun to write, because like every book I’ve done, it was the story that needed to be told. The genre itself didn’t matter – the story I had was sort-of space opera, so I wrote a sort-of space opera. Creating a whole universe from scratch was enjoyable but also the most challenging part, because I was worldbuilding on a large scale – knowing that this was going to be the setting for several books, I had to be careful to seed stuff for the next novels in the sequence, and make a world that was defined enough for me to re-use without having to go back and fix all kinds of problems or loopholes in future books. That was the first time I had to consider such factors, and I found myself looking at the story in a different way – particularly as I was editing, as I had the next book in the back of my mind.

Do you think readers will root for Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland?
I think so – he’s a war hero and a career officer, but he seems like a nice guy. You’d go out for a drink with him for sure. He’s thrown in the deep end along with the reader – although the reader has a slightly better idea of what is going on than he does! He’s pragmatic, strong-willed… but there is vulnerability there too. He’s trying to do his job, and face up to seemingly impossible circumstances, without cracking up. He manages to keep it together (mostly!), leading the reader through the dark until… well, I don’t want to spoil it!

theburningdarkBut yeah. I like Ida. He’s friendly and trustworthy. He’d have your back in a tight squeeze. I dare say we’ll see more of him in some form sooner or later.

What kind of research did you do for The Burning Dark?
A lot of the research was actually focused on military matters – The Burning Dark might be set 1,000 years in the future, but I wanted to create a setting that was easy for the readers to get into and recognize. The book isn’t military science fiction, strictly speaking, but nearly all the characters are Fleet personnel. So there are hierarchies and procedures and ways of handling things which I wanted to be at least mostly correct – the book is a work of fiction, and the Fleet is my creation, but it was important to get the feel of the setting right. If you can set the scene for the reader, they’ll actually do the rest for you, so long as you don’t trip yourself up anywhere along the way.

What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, SF?
I guess it’s the fact that you can do absolutely anything with speculative fiction as a writer, and therefore as a reader you have to expect the unexpected. Which to me seems the perfect way to read (and write!). Speculative fiction also really encompasses every genre under the sun, so long as there is something otherworldly involved. The possibilities are endless!

Have you read any good books lately? Are there any that you’re looking forward to reading this year?
This year I’m trying to read a book a week, which will be an improvement on what I managed in 2013. There have been a few highlights so far this year – Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea is brilliant, and at the moment I’m reading Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge. It’s not out until October, but damn, this is some good urban fantasy. Very dark and gritty, and well worth a pre-order.

I’m trying to mix in some non-fiction as well. Last year I adored The River of Doubt by Candice Milard, which is about Theodore Roosevelt’s insane journey into uncharted regions of the Amazon rainforest. I’ve also just finished Dark Invasion by Howard Blum, an account of the New York City Police Department’s fight against German terrorist cells just before the US entered the First World War. That thing about the truth being stranger than fiction is only a cliché because it’s true – and for writers, non-fiction is goldmine of ideas.

What’s next for you?
I’m deep in the edit for the next book in the Spider Wars sequence, The Machine Awakes, which is due out in April 2015. Once that is out of the way, I’ve got two more novels to write this year – one is a secret project which I hope to be able to talk about soon, and the other is the first of the LA Trilogy, due out from Tor in September 2015. Outside of novels, I’ve got a collaborative project which is currently in the early stages, but is looking pretty good.

So it’s a busy year of writing and editing for me, and if anything, 2015 is looking even busier – and it’s only just April 2014! But busy is good!

Keep up with Adam: Twitter | Website

Giveaway details:

1.) You MUST fill out the form below (if you’ve signed into Rafflecopter before, it will remember you!)
2.) Giveaway is for 1 copy of THE BURNING DARK by Adam Christopher to 1 
3.) Giveaway is open to all those with a US mailing address
4.) You must enter on or before 4/12/14
5.) Giveaway book courtesy of Tor
6.) Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview: Alex Hughes, author of Marked

Please welcome the lovely Alex Hughes back to the blog! The new, and 3rd, book in her Mindspace Investigations series, MARKED, just came out and she stopped by to answer a few questions about it, her new collaboration with Kerry Schafer (squeee!), and more!

alexHughesAlex, welcome back to the blog! I can’t believe the 3rd book in the Mindspace Investigations series is out already! What can we expect from Adam Ward and Co. this time around?
Hi Kristin, Thanks for having me back. I know, isn’t it crazy? This is the Guild book. Adam must investigate the suspicious death of Kara’s uncle and survive the crazy political situation within the Guild while facing his past. Meanwhile, he and Cherabino are investigating an axe murder case with an unexpected turn.

What have you enjoyed most about writing this series, and how do you think Adam has changed or grown the most since the first book?
I love this series for its depth and complexity, but that depth and complexity can be challenging! Sorting out all the plot threads in revision takes some doing. I do love getting into Adam’s head though, and I’ve been proud of him for his character growth over the last few books. He’s coming to terms with his past mistakes and learning to stand on his own. There’s a scene between Adam and Stone in this one near a fountain in a park, and Adam objects to how Stone describes his past… it’s small, and yet such a big deal. He’s claiming what happened on his own terms, and it’s healing.

On that note, what do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, SF?
The real world is a very small sandbox as compared to all the worlds and all the universes of SF. I love the real world and fiction within it, but when I have a chance to visit strange worlds and live new and different lives, it makes me excited. I love new cultures and experiences, and SF gives me both by the dozen.

What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m what I call a recovering pantser. By nature, I write an exploratory draft or three, and then whittle the mess down into a plot that makes sense. Doing this on a deadline, however, is a nightmare, so I’m gradually learning to build in more pre-writing and planning. Too much, though, and I crush the creative process. And, of course, no matter how much planning I do, I still have to throw things out occasionally. It’s very much a work in progress.

So, 3 books published in a little over a year! That’s quite a whirlwind! What’s one of the most interesting/challenging/fun things you’ve learned or experienced since becoming a published author?
It’s about eighteen months, actually, but it feels like eight! It’s been nuts. I’ve had to learn so many things so quickly, from contracts to marketing to how to be charming at conventions and how to write faster and better and do better research. The learning curve has been intense! My all time favorite thing since becoming a published author is how much research I get to do now. Not just on the level of the Writer’s Police Academy (super fun) but also I get to ask total strangers random questions and they usually try to answer. It’s been incredible.

marked2What piece of advice would you give an aspiring author?
Learn the craft. Put in the time and the practice to get good, really good. Add the tools to your toolbelt so you can truly execute the cool ideas in your head, and join a good writer’s group either online or in person. There are things you will learn from critiquing other people’s work that you won’t learn any other way, and in having your own work critiqued you’ll learn to let go of the details. It’s hard, hard work, but it’s so worth it when you’ve made something you’re truly proud of.

Read any good books lately? Are there any that you’re particularly looking forward to reading this year?
Hard question, as I’m always reading! First reaction, though? The Night Circus blew my socks off. Gorgeous imagery and language, and a first-time author too. I also enjoyed Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop, Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach, Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina and Abundance: the Future is Better Than You Think. I’m looking forward to the sequel to Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann, and to the next Gail Carriger book this year.

You’re a foodie, and love to cook. What’s one of your favorite dishes?
Homemade eggplant parmesan with a lovely sheep’s pecorino romano, semi-homemade “autumn” tomato sauce, angel hair pasta and a spinach salad with dried cherries. With fresh fruit for dessert.

What’s next for you this year?
I turn in VACANT, Mindspace Investigations Book Four, in mid-April, so that’s taking up a lot of my time lately.
Then I’ll be working on a collaboration with Kerry Schafer about a hotel ghost, and working on additional proposals for new novels in new worlds. Plus figuring out books 5 and 6 in Mindspace, and perhaps a few short stories. It’s going to be a big year.

Make sure you stay up to date (and get the occasional free short story from me) by joining my email newsletter.

Keep up with Alex: Website | Twitter


Freelancing for the Atlanta PD isn’t exactly a secure career; my job’s been on the line almost as much as my life. But it’s a paycheck, and it keeps me from falling back into the drug habit. Plus, things are looking up with my sometimes-partner, Cherabino, even if she is still simmering over the telepathic Link I created by accident.

When my ex, Kara, shows up begging for my help, I find myself heading to the last place I ever expected to set foot in again—Guild headquarters—to investigate the death of her uncle. Joining that group was a bad idea the first time. Going back when I’m unwanted is downright dangerous.

Luckily, the Guild needs me more than they’re willing to admit. Kara’s uncle was acting strange before he died—crazy strange. In fact, his madness seems to be slowly spreading through the Guild. And when an army of powerful telepaths loses their marbles, suddenly it’s a game of life or death.…

Interview (& Giveaway): Marie Brennan, author of The Tropic of Serpents

It’s always a pleasure to have Marie Brennan on the blog, and today she’s here to talk about her new book, THE TROPIC OF SERPENTS, and we’ve also got a copy to give away to one lucky winner! Please welcome her back to the blog!

Marie Brennan (2)The Tropic of Serpents just came out, and I’m sure fans are eager to learn what Lady Trent is up to in this installment. Will you give us a bit of a teaser?
Isabella goes to a tropical region based on West and Central Africa, where she has to deal with a big-game hunter, an invading army, and quite a lot of unpleasant diseases!

When you started the series, did you already know how many books you wanted to write, or did you just plan to see where Lady Trent took you?
The very earliest parts were written with no particular plan in mind — roughly the first quarter or so of A Natural History of Dragons — but by the time I pitched the concept to my editor at Tor, I knew I wanted to aim for a five-book series.

What kind of research have you done for the series?
Some cultural, some biological: everywhere Isabella goes is inspired by a real-world place, so I do some reading to ground myself in the kind of society to be found there, but I also research a lot of stuff to do with animals and environments. I have a climatology textbook on my shelf so I can make certain the ecology makes sense for the region.

What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Somewhere in between. I’ll have a few notions in mind for things I want to have happen later on in the story, and then as I write my way through the book I’ll steer for those fixed points.

Tropic Of Serpents (2)Worldbuilding is very important in this series. What are a few of your favorite literary “worlds?”
I drew a sort of indirect inspiration from Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths series. Monette does a beautiful job of dropping gratuitous references to invented historical figures and works of literature and so on, little details of culture and folklore, which has the effect of making her world seem very real. The anthropologist in me admires that tremendously, and tried to achieve a similar effect with this series.

What do you enjoy most about writing about Lady Trent, and why do you think readers connect with her?
I love her narrative voice, because it turns absolutely everything about the story into characterization: description, exposition, all of those things get processed through her view of the world, which means that even when I’m describing the insect life of a jungle to you, I am also telling you more about Lady Trent. Her voice also allows me a degree of reflexivity that you can’t ordinarily get away with in fiction: she will call herself out on some of her mistakes, and that lets me draw attention to the things she doesn’t call out. I think that reflexivity is a large part of what readers are responding to, because they recognize in her a lot of their own doubts or regrets or moments of gleeful satisfaction.

Have you read any good books lately?
I’ve very much enjoyed the Katya Hijazi and Nayir Sharqi series by Zoe Ferraris. They’re totally non-speculative — they’re mysteries set in Saudi Arabia — but transplanting the familiar structure of a mystery to a society where custom interferes with a lot of the investigative methods we’re accustomed to seeing makes for a very fresh spin. (For example, Nayir can’t question half the possible witnesses in the first book because they’re women and he isn’t related to them.)

What’s next for you?
I’ll be revising the third book of the Memoirs soon — Voyage of the Basilisk — then launching into the fourth one, which has no title yet.

Keep up with Marie: Website | Twitter
Tropic of Serpents banner (2)
Giveaway details:

1.) You MUST fill out the form below (if you’ve signed into Rafflecopter before, it will remember you!)
2.) Giveaway is for 1 copy of THE TROPIC OF SERPENTS by Marie Brennan to 1 
3.) Giveaway is open to all those with a US mailing address
4.) You must enter on or before 4/11/14
5.) Giveaway book courtesy of Tor
6.) Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview (& Giveaway): Devon Monk, author of Stone Cold

It’s always a pleasure to host Devon Monk, and today she’s here to talk about her new book, STONE COLD (the 2nd book in the Broken Magic series), and more! Please welcome her back to the blog! We’ve also got a copy of STONE COLD up for grabs, so check out the details at the bottom of the post.

devonmonkThe second novel in your Broken Magic series, STONE COLD, just came out! To those new to the series, will you tell us a little about the new book and the world that it’s set in?
STONE COLD takes place in a modern-day Portland, Oregon where magic is a resource that everyone can use. A powerful organization known as the Authority used to keep the worst that magic could do hidden from the common user, but the Authority and most of its secrets have been exposed. When those secrets become a deadly weapon in the wrong hands, it’s up to Death magic user, Shame Flynn and Life magic user, Terric Conley to protect the city, world, and magic itself.

What do you enjoy most about writing the characters of Shame and Terric, and why do you think readers will connect with them?
Shame and Terric have a great dynamic. Death and Life, slacker and boyscout, chaos and order. Plus they’re old friends/enemies with lots of history who really know how to get under each other’s skin and have to work together whether they like it or not. They’ll never admit that they would put their lives on the line to save the other, but when all hell breaks loose these two always have the other’s back.

What made you decide to have two male protagonists in the series?
Shame and Terric are also Soul Complements, which means if they use magic together, they can force it to do things magic isn’t supposed to do. But the price for doing that is losing a little bit of their sanity and control. They have a great love/hate relationship, and at their core would do almost anything to make sure the people they love are safe. With Death and Life at their fingertips, they just seemed like a fun and complicated pair of protagonists.

stonecoldWhat have you enjoyed most about writing the Broken Magic books?
I love seeing the world through Shame’s flawed, irreverent perspective. How he processes the world and people around him, and his sarcastic internal monologue is a lot of fun. That being said, I love the contrast Terric brings to the page, both in how he sees the order in magic and the world, and how he sees Shame.

When you started the series, did you already have an idea of how many you wanted to write, or did you just decide to see where the narrative took you?
I pitched it as a two-book series. For this moment in their lives, two books is just right.

You’re a busy lady, but have you gotten a chance to read any good books lately?
I am so behind on my reading right now! The last book I read was good, but I can’t remember the title right now, which means I am a busy *and* forgetful lady!

You’ve got quite a few titles under your belt and quire a fan following, too, but what’s been one of your most favorite things about being a published author?
Emails and letters from readers–especially when they say they enjoyed something I wrote. ;) In all seriousness, I got into this business because I’m a reader and books have gotten me through some hard times, brought me joy, and widened my horizons. I hope that in some small way, my books might give that to others.

What’s next for you?
Next up is book one in my new trilogy: HOUSE IMMORTAL. That will be in stores September 2nd, and I can’t wait to share this world and characters with readers! My editor calls it: Allie Beckstrom meets Firefly, and I call HOUSE IMMORTAL my Frankenstein farm-girl, near-future fantasy, gently dystopic, save-the-world story. It’s been a lot of fun to write, and I hope it will be even more fun to read!

Keep up with Devon: Website | Twitter

Giveaway details:

1.) You MUST fill out the form below (if you’ve signed into Rafflecopter before, it will remember you!)
2.) Giveaway is for 1 copy of STONE COLD by Devon Monk to 1 
3.) Giveaway is open to all those with a US mailing address
4.) You must enter on or before 4/9/14
5.) Giveaway book courtesy of Roc
6.) Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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New Kindle deals in SFF

LOTS of great Kindle deals this week in SFF! All are under $5, and most are under $3. Looking for some YA? Got you covered. Fantasy and Urban Fantasy? Check! Load up your reader, but be sure to double check the price before you click BUY, because sometimes these deals don’t last.

New Kindle deals in Mystery and Suspense

Talk about some killer Kindle deals (see what I did there?)! Everything is under $5, and most of ‘em are much cheaper, but as usual, double check the price before you click BUY. Note there are a few Janet Evanovich titles as well as Patricia Cornwell, and much more. For True Detective fans, be sure to check out GALVESTON by series creator Nic Pizzolatto!

Interview (& Giveaway): Sharon Lynn Fisher, author of The Ophelia Prophecy

Please welcome Sharon Lynn Fisher back to the blog! Her new book, THE OPHELIA PROPHECY, is out today, and she stopped by to answer a few of my questions about it, and more!

sharonlynn2Sharon, welcome back to the blog! Will you tell us a bit about your new book, THE OPHELIA PROPHECY and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you for having me back! OPHELIA is a post-apocalyptic biopunk Romeo and Juliet story. In case that doesn’t shed much light: It’s about a man who’s part of a genetically engineered race of humans (with insect DNA) and his forbidden attraction to an amnesiac human woman who should be his enemy.

The idea for OPHELIA began with the title. I don’t know how or when I got into the habit of reverse engineering stories from titles, but it seems to have become an essential part of my creative process. The bug part of the story was inspired by a dream I had, of two praying mantises fighting each other with wooden staffs. (My bug people are mostly blended with mantis DNA, and are called Manti.)

How about Asha and Pax? Why do you think they’re so appealing, and why do you think readers will root for them?
Regarding Pax, what makes him interesting to me is he is biologically (and hereditarily) stuck in an alpha role. He and Asha encounter each other at a point in her cycle when his more-than-human sensitivity to pheromones almost drives him to do something he doesn’t at all want to do. He is very much a thinker, and a compassionate being. This places him in the awkward position of protecting Asha against himself. Made all the more awkward by the fact his race engineered a virus that all but wiped out humanity, and she is one of the last enemy survivors.

What’s interesting to me about Asha is in the opening chapter she finds herself in a very precarious, vulnerable situation. There are things about herself she doesn’t remember — and won’t, until about the middle of the book.

She’s frightened and confused, yet manages to tap into resources she didn’t know she had, to engage with Pax from a position of strength. One of the most interesting parts of the story, I think, comes when she remembers all she’d forgotten, and has to reconcile the Asha from before the memory loss with the Asha who developed while the other was sleeping (the Asha who’s falling in love with her enemy).

opheliaFor the Manti, why did you go with an insect-like creature, as opposed to something else?
That’s a great question. I wish I knew the answer.I think it was mainly the mantis dream I mentioned in question 1. Once I had that visual, I started thinking along the lines of a race that could almost be construed as a futuristic fae — humans embellished with bug and plant parts.

What’s one of your favorite things about writing SF?
Science books!!! I heart science books. I (along with most writers, I think) can build an entire world off one terrific paragraph of nonfiction. While working on OPHELIA, I read a book called FRANKENSTEIN’S CAT, about our genetic manipulation of animals. For ECHO 8, the novel I have coming out next year, I read ENTANGELED MINDS (twice) — about the intersection of psi abilities and quantum physics — and also HIDDEN REALITIES, string theory physicist Brian Greene’s multiverse book. Currently I’m reading a very scholarly (and fascinating) book on the trickster archetype (TRICKSTER MAKES THIS WORLD), and I’ll soon be diving into some reading on dark matter. (Squeee!)

If you were to recommend an SF title (other than our own) that might appeal to someone that might be a bit intimidated by the genre, which one would it be, off the top of your head?
If you’re talking specifically about sci-fi romance, I’d have to go with the obvious: RWA RITA-nominated author Linnea Sinclair. Plenty of romance, adventure, and worldbuilding. I also really loved THE OUTBACK STARS, by Sandra McDonald. More military focused, but easy on the science-y bits. For accessible, compelling, psychological sci-fi (my favorite flavor) with some romantic elements, one word: WOOL.

If Ophelia hit the big screen, how would you cast it?
Oh, fun! When I was creating Pax, I had Dominic Cooper in mind. They’d have to make him look taller. He was so sexy and adorable in THE DUCHESS. For Asha: Rose Byrne. She’s got these very expressive brown eyes. She’s also slight, but can play a tough gal, like the heroine. For Iris, Pax’s sister: MERLIN’s Katie McGrath. For Father Carrick (human/wolf transgenic ex-priest): THE HOBBIT’s Richard Armitage.

Read any good books lately? Did you have any favorites of 2013?
I devoured THE LAST HOUR OF GANN, which is no small feat considering the length. I was SO impressed by her worldbuilding, and the romantic tension she created between the human heroine and lizard hero. As mentioned above, I also really enjoyed the WOOL saga. And AMONG OTHERS, by Jo Walton — a quirky little book I very much liked.

ghostplanetI’ve asked this question of a few authors, and I always enjoy the answers I get: What’s one of the most fun/interesting/challenging etc things you’ve learned or experienced since becoming a published author?
I think I’d have to say the roller coaster ride — it’s fun, interesting, AND challenging. One day you’re seeing your cover for the first time. (Shiny!) Another day you’re reading a great review. (Happy!) Another day you’re smarting over a critical review. (I haz a sad!) Then you’re opening up that box of books. (Surreal!) And now you’ve got two weeks to turn around copyedits while trying to meet the deadline for submitting another book. (Help!!!)

It’s always rolling and changing, up and down, never a dull moment. Yeah, sometimes it’s hard. But it’s also invigorating!

What’s next for you this year, and beyond?
My third book for Tor, ECHO 8, has just gone into production. Here is how I describe it on my web site: Parallel-universe romantic suspense that explores possible connections between quantum physics and psi (also a Bermuda Love Triangle between a parapsychologist, an FBI agent, and an energy vampire). I’ve been referring to it as psi-fi romance.

I’m also working on a new book I don’t want to say too much about just yet. But I will say it’s set in Portland and is a sort of sci-fi take on urban fantasy romance that incorporates a bunch of different mythologies. After that I’m planning to write a sequel to THE OPHELIA PROPHECY, following the story of Pax’s sister Iris and Father Carrick.

Keep up with Sharon: Website | Twitter

Giveaway details:

1.) You MUST fill out the form below (if you’ve signed into Rafflecopter before, it will remember you!)
2.) Giveaway is for 3 copies of THE OPHELIA PROPHECY by Sharon Lynn Fisher to 3 
3.) Giveaway is open all those with a US mailing address
4.) You must enter on or before 4/9/14
5.) Giveaway books courtesy of Tor
6.) Please see my Giveaway Policy.

read more

April 2014 New Releases (SF, Fantasy, and Horror)

Here are the new releases in SF, Fantasy, and Horror for April 2014.I’ve also included audiobook links where they apply. Enjoy!

goblinApril 1st, 2014:

Young Adult

robotuprisingsApril 8th, 2014:

Young Adult

nightmareinkApril 15th, 2014:

Young Adult

theforeverwatchApril 22nd, 2014:

Young Adult

morningsidefallApril 29th, 2014:

Young Adult

April 2014 New Releases (Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction)

Here are the new releases in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for April 2014.I’ve also included audiobook links where they apply. Enjoy!

icecoldApril 1st, 2014:

deathcitysplitApril 8th, 2014:

deathmoneyApril 15th, 2014:

donteverlookbackApril 22nd, 2014:

stolenremainsApril 29th, 2014:

Interview: Laura McHugh, author of The Weight of Blood

The absolutely superb THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD, Laura McHugh’s debut novel, came out this month, and Laura was kind enough to stop by and answer a few of my questions about the book, and much more! Please welcome Laura to the blog!

lauramchughYour debut novel, THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD, had gotten amazing buzz. Will you tell us more about it and what inspired you to write it?
The novel centers around seventeen year old Lucy Dane, whose friend Cheri was recently murdered, and whose mother disappeared into the hills years ago. I had always wanted to write a novel set in the Ozarks, and as I was writing, I came across a news article about a terrible crime that took place in one of the small Missouri towns where I’d grown up. The crime itself was quite disturbing, but what really struck me was that it had taken place over several years, with multiple people involved, in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business—and yet no one said a word. They were able to keep it a secret. That crime inspired Cheri’s story and changed the course of the novel.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to make that happen. I was a first-generation college student, the youngest of eight kids, and none of us really considered following our passions. We all wanted to get stable jobs and climb out of poverty, and we weren’t terribly concerned with whether or not we would actually enjoy what we did for a living. I worked as a software developer for ten years. I lost my job unexpectedly, and my husband encouraged me to write a novel, like I had always wanted to do. I started writing The Weight of Blood while staying home with a newborn and a toddler.

weightofbloodIn an interview with Karin Slaughter, it’s mentioned that you moved to the Ozarks as a child, but what made you decide to use it as your novel’s setting? What about the area inspires you the most?
The landscape is darkly beautiful, and the remoteness of the area lends an ominous feeling—perfect for suspense—but what has always fascinated me most about the Ozarks is the culture. It’s rich with folk wisdom and superstition and home remedies and music, all of which I tried to weave into the story. I also wanted to explore how family bonds and loyalties affect people in these tiny, insular communities, where the laws of kin can be held sacred above all else.

Why do you think readers will connect to Lucy Dane, your main character?
This book is partly a coming-of-age story for Lucy, and in that respect, she goes through things many of us have gone through. She is growing up and beginning to question the world around her, and her place in it. She’s realizing that she has to make her own decisions and find her own way, that she can’t rely on the adults in her life to do the right thing or to provide the answers she’s looking for.

What kind of research did you do for the book, and what is your writing process like?
I didn’t do much research for this book. Mainly I was drawing from my own memories of the Ozarks, and then I would fact-check the bits that I wasn’t fictionalizing. I started with the setting, and then Lucy’s voice came to me. I began to tell her story, and then the two mysteries (Cheri’s death and Lila’s disappearance) developed, and I knew they would somehow converge, though at first I wasn’t sure how. For my second novel, I did a lot more planning upfront, and it made the process go faster, but it was fun to write The Weight of Blood not knowing exactly what would happen.

Why suspense? What are a few of your biggest literary influences?
I love suspense and mystery, but I read lots of other genres, too, and I didn’t really think of my novel as suspense as I was writing it. My goal was to get the reader to keep turning pages. I have a long list of favorite authors and literary influences, but a few are Ray Bradbury, Annie Proulx, Charles Frazier, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrisson, and Daniel Woodrell.

What do you hope readers will take away from the novel?
I hope that a little bit of the Ozarks lingers with them, so that they can be haunted by the place as I have been for so long.

somethingwickedWhat books have you read recently that you wouldn’t hesitate to recommend?
I recently read John Searles’ novel Help For the Haunted and loved the spooky atmosphere he created. I then read one of his earlier novels, Strange But True, and really enjoyed its dark twists. I have a towering to-read stack that includes Long Man by Amy Greene, Above by Isla Morley, The Kept by James Scott, The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah, and The Martian by Andy Weir.

If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. The first time I read it, as a child, it had a dark, magical beauty that was unlike anything else I’d encountered.

What’s next for you?
I’m finishing up my second novel now. It’s set in the crumbling grandeur of a Mississippi River town. A young woman witnessed the kidnapping of her sisters twenty years ago, and now a jarring discovery forces her to question everything about her past, including her own memory.

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The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.

What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.

The Weight of Blood is an urgent look at the dark side of a bucolic landscape beyond the arm of the law, where a person can easily disappear without a trace. Laura McHugh proves herself a masterly storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.

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