My Bookish Ways

Interview and giveaway: James W Hall, author of The Big Finish

The Big Finish, the 14th book in the wildly popular suspense series starring PI Daniel Thorn, will be out on the 2nd, and James W Hall kindly stopped by to answer a few questions about the book, and more! Also, we’ve got a giveaway, so be sure to check out the details below the post!

bigfinishThe Big Finish is the 14th book in your series featuring PI Daniel Thorn. Will you tell us a little about what we can expect from this installment?
Like father, like son. Thorn’s son, Flynn, showing the same wild streak and passion for the natural world as his father, joins up with a radical environmental group. Also like his father, his idealism gets him into trouble, in this case in a rural part of North Carolina, and Thorn receives what sounds like a distress call from him. Thorn saddles up and rides off to a part of the world where he’s never been and must go hand to hand with some very twisted pig farmers in an attempt to save Flynn.

Did you ever imagine the series would go on this long? When you started writing the books, did you have a plan of how many you’d ideally like to write, or did you just decide to see where the series took you?
I had no intention of writing a series and thought I’d told Thorn’s complete story in the first novel, Under Cover of Daylight, but my publisher at the time urged me to keep Thorn alive and continue his saga. If I’d known then that I would be writing thirteen more Thorn novels I would have created him a little differently. He’s so isolated and so unwilling to get involved in the world, I have to put one of his friends or lovers in grave danger, or actually kill them to get Thorn to strap on his six guns and leave his splendid isolation. He’s like the world’s most unlucky guy.

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Catching up with Jay Kristoff, author of Endsinger (The Lotus War)

jaykristoffIf you’ve kept up with this blog for a good amount of time, you may already know about my love for Jay Kristoff’s Lotus War series. The third book in the trilogy, ENDSINGER, is out tomorrow (review coming soon-so good), and Jay kindly stopped by today to talk about it, and what comes next!

I realize that it’ll be tough to say too much about Endsinger without spoilers, but can you give readers a little taste of what they can expect?
Betrayal! Tragedy! Epic battles! Twuu wuuuv! Disaster! Mad Goddesses! Sorrow! Pain! So! Very! Many! Exclamation marks!

Well, not that many exclamation marks, my editor yells when I use them.

This series has delighted and devastated me, in all the best ways. Has it been emotional for you to write it? Is it bittersweet for you to be wrapping up the series?
Very much so. This series was the one that launched my writing career. My life has changed so much since I first sold it, in so many amazing ways, and all those awesome changes really stem back to this series and these characters. I feel like I’m saying goodbye to family. Like I’m leaving part of myself behind on these pages.

I guess your first series is a lot like your first love. Even if you move on and find a different love, you’ll never forget your first. But I’m really happy with the way it turned out—I think I gave these characters the send off they deserved, and early reports are the book is just as gut-wrenching as I hoped it would be. So that’s a win :)

endsingerYukiko has gone through a lot, but how would you say she’s grown the most over the course of the series?
Oh, poor Yuki. I put here through so much in these books. I mean, to put it really simply, she’s become an adult. She started Stormdancer as a willful, headstrong kid. And by the end of the series, she’s a woman, with all the hurt and wisdom and scars that growing up gives you. But, that’s an easy answer.

I guess the biggest lesson she learned is that the world isn’t black and white. There are infinite shades of grey. That’s really the point I wanted to get across in this series. There really is no absolute good and absolute evil. People do bad things for good reasons. Good people do horrible things in the name of the “greater good”. The best villains see themselves as heroes in their own stories.

What have been a few of your favorite supporting characters to write (other than the phenomenal Buruu)?
Michi. She kicks so much ass. She’s unflinching in her convictions, but that’s tempered with wisdom and a good heart. She hasn’t let all the suffering of the war turn her cold, but she never flinches from fighting it. I’ll always love little Michi.

Yoshi, too. I love the way he thinks, he speaks. His pragmatism, his fatalism. His loyalty to the folks he loves. And he’s a walking tragedy, and as you might have figured out, I like me some tragedy.

Plus, you know, Buruu. :P

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Ebook deals under $5 to beat the winter blues: SFF, Horror, and Suspense

Need a good read to beat the winter blues? I’ve got you covered. It’s a grab-bag of awesome, and they’re all under $5 (Kindle is my preferred format, but be sure to check out other formats too for discounts if Kindle isn’t your jam.) These often don’t last, so get ‘em while they’re hot!

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Interview: Eric Rickstad, author of The Silent Girls

eric2Eric Rickstad is the author of the critically acclaimed Reap, and his second book, The Silent Girls, will be out next week. He kindly stopped by to talk about the new book, and more!

Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little about The Silent Girls (which has already gotten some great buzz) and what inspired you to write it?
Sure. Thanks. The Silent Girls is a dark psychological crime novel about Frank Rath, a single father and former Vermont State police detective who retired early following a violent murder so he could focus on raising his daughter and keeping her safe from the violence of his job. Now, with his daughter, Rachel, off to college, Rath is alone for the first time in years and drawn into helping a former colleague with a case when a 16-year old girl mysteriously vanishes. Trouble is (one of the troubles of many that is), Rachel ends up drawn into the case as well, and is put in grave danger.

I have to say I’m thrilled about the buzz. It’s fantastic. The novel’s been called “Vermont’s TRUE DETECTIVE” and “a must-read for fans of crime and suspense novels” and a “terrifying meditation on good and evil.” Readers are saying it’s a compulsive read they can’t put down, it keeps them awake at night and leaves them more than a little scared. I take as a compliment! I like to keep people awake, and thinking, never sure what will happen next.

I was inspired by the murders and disappearances in the northern most corner of my home state of Vermont, a place called The Northeast Kingdom—a place where “this sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen,” but occurs nonetheless. Violence knows no geographical bounds. I like exploring the nature of good and evil, and writing about the place I love, way up north along the Canadian border. I love stark, desolate, rugged yet beautiful settings, too.

thesilentgirlsScandinavian crime writers like Hakan Nesser and Nesbo strike a cord with me for that reason. I am also inspired by my anger over injustice and loopholes in the justice system that allow violent criminals and sexual predators out of jail early, free to commit crimes again. And, on a lighter note, I am inspired to write unbearably suspenseful stories full of twists and turns and reverses that keep readers spellbound and up late at night, which is what I love as a reader.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
Yes. I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can recall. When I read books by Roald Dahl as a kid, then books by Stephen King, books like Nightshift and Skeleton Crew especially, I was not only compelled to read more but also to write! Books that impacted me most made me say, “I want to do THAT.” I wanted to use words to make people think and feel a certain way, be it frightened or amused or terrified or elated or sorrowful. Books I enjoy most now still provoke the same response, to drop everything and write.

I always loved stories and would often make them up in the morning at the start of the day in the high school cafeteria. I recall friends once asking me if I got anything while deer hunting over the weekend. I told them yes, I shot a skier. Now, these friends knew me well enough to know I was joking. But kids at a table nearby apparently did not know me so well. That afternoon after school, the police, rightfully, went to the hardware store where my mom worked and asked her about this story. It was discovered that I was just joking. The cops said to my mom, “Maybe your son should be more careful with the sense of humor.” It’s funny how a story told out loud takes on a life of its own. From then on I wrote my stories down so as not to get in trouble; though I raised eyebrows anyway in English class when I wrote a poem called Family Vacation, in which the family members all kill each other.

After high school, I majored in English at the University of Vermont, then went on to get a masters at UVA, where I was influenced by the ghosts of Poe and Faulkner, both of whom spent time there.

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A chat with Jason M. Hough, on his new novella, The Dire Earth, and what comes next

Photo by Nathan Hough, age 3

Photo by Nathan Hough, age 3

If you are a regular visitor to the blog, you already know that I love Jason Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle (The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers, and The Plague Forge), and was very sad to see it end, but wait! There’s a new prequel novella out (just this week, and it’s only $.99!) called The Dire Earth, so if you’re jonesin’ for more of Skylar and the gang, get on that asap. In the meantime, Jason stopped by to answer a few questions about it, and what comes next for him.

So, this new novella of yours…care to give us the scoop? The Dire Earth is a prequel to the novels, yes?
A prequel, yes! It actually started out as a series of short stories, each meant to introduce one character. But as I wrote them I realized a few things. First, I’m not great at short stories. They always end up feeling like part of something bigger. And second, each of these stories had a common theme: set during the same events (when the plague begins and everyone is trying to get to Darwin). So, I talked to my editor and proposed the idea of combining them into a novella, and thus The Dire Earth was born.

I adore the Dire Earth Series, as you know, and I’d love to know what you enjoyed the most about writing it.
The initial planning that goes into each book is very fun. The actual writing of the first draft? That is a slog through giant puddles of slurping mud. Not so fun, just… work you have to do. The real joy, for me, comes in the revision process. You know when you suddenly think of something incredibly clever to say, only it’s an hour after the conversation where you should have said it? Well, revising a book is like getting the opportunity to go back and do that, again and again and again. Loads of fun!

thedireearthI enjoyed all of the characters, with a few faves, but one fascinated me on a different level. So, let’s talk about Russell Blackfield a bit. I loved to hate him and he…surprised me. What was your inspiration for him?
He’s definitely an interesting cat. The funny thing about Russell is that he’s not really the villain. Everyone thinks he is, but that’s just a sort of misdirection on my part. In truth it’s just that Russell wants to be the villain. He craves the stature of Alex Warthen, the power and wealth of Neil Platz, the gravity that seems to follow Grillo, and ultimately the adoration that Skyler receives. He just never quite gets there, and somewhere inside he knows he never will, so he acts like he does as a mask to cover that. Writing him is a lot of fun, especially in this new novella.

What were a few other characters that you particularly enjoyed writing, aside from your main players?
Well, certainly Greg and Marcus were a blast, for the few brief moments they appear. And though arguably a main player by the end, Prumble is my favorite of all.

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Better late than never: The 2014 Anthony, Macavity, and Shamus Award winners!

Shame on me for not posting these results sooner! The 2014 Anthony, Macavity, and Shamus Award winners were presented last weekend at Bouchercon 2014. Huge congrats to all the winners!

Anthony Award Winners (voted on by Bouchercon attendees)

  • Best Audiobook: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
  • Best Television Episode Teleplay: “Pilot” for The Blacklist by John Bokenkamp
  • Best Children’s or Young Adult Novel: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work: The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower
  • Best Short Story: “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly
  • Best First Novel: Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle
  • Best Paperback Original: As She Left It by Catriona McPherson
  • Best Novel: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

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A chat with PT Jones, author (s) of Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly

pt and sgjThe ebook version of Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly has been out for a bit, but the paperback comes out next week, and I wanted to celebrate by chatting with its authors (who just happen to be two of my fave authors), Stephen Graham Jones and Paul Tremblay, (aka PT Jones). Please welcome them both to the blog!

What inspired you to write Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly? Will you tell us more about it and how the decision to write it came about?
PT: Compressed timeline: I read Stephen’s amazing novel DEMON THEORY and loved it. I sent him an email telling him my feelings. About the book, that is. He seemed to like my writing as well (who knew?). Plus, we both Hate (capital H is so purposeful the purposeful should have a capital P) pickles so we got along swimmingly via email, and then we got to hang out at conventions and talk horror and basketball. At some point I thought it might be fun to try collaborating on a YA novel with no pressure or expectations. I had a very roughly sketched out the first chapter with a boy climbing up a tree and floating away at a birthday party and pitched it to Stephen. He was game and we took our time passing chapters and sections back and forth for a few years until we arrived at the end.

floatingboySGJ: Yes on the pickles. I mean, no on the pickles, and on all pickles. And, when Paul hit me up with this seed of a novel, this idea for us to take our brains out and mash them together into something better, I had a pretty good sense of his range, from THE LITTLE SLEEP to the first thing I’d read of his, THE HARLEQUIN AND THE TRAIN—a book I still think about—and I for sure already had a sense of my very limited range, so I figured this could either be great or it’ll die fifty pages in. Neither of which would really be a failure, and surely I’d learn something in the process. So, we began. But I don’t remember it taking years. Though I guess it was, technically, ‘years’ ago that we started in on this. And it probably felt like years to Paul, working with me, as one thing I have the complete inability to do is actually work on the current version instead of the last version, or the two-months ago version. Well, I also found I’m no good at remembering where exactly the files of the novel are. That’s got to make any novel-writing escapade feel agonizingly slow.

What makes Mary special? Why do you think readers will connect with her?
PT: What makes Mary special: her voice, her outlook, her snark and pessimism and humor, her struggles, too, and how important her friends are to her, how everything they do and say can be life changing in any moment.

She’s still a surly, frustrating teen, but hopefully, a real one.

SGJ: What I dig about Mary is what I dig about all characters—about all people, really. It’s that their outsides don’t quite match their insides. Like, Mary, she’s got this kind of prickly exterior, complete with smart mouth and cynical outlook. But inside, man, inside she’s a dreamer, she’s still halfway planning on some happily ever after.

Now she’s just got to figure out how to navigate her world while keeping her mask in place, and never let go of that pure part of her either. It’s a struggle, but it’s so completely worth it, I think.

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Tidal Pool Rules: A Guest Post by Jeff VanderMeer (The Southern Reach Trilogy)


Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy omnibus (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance) is out today from FSG, and to celebrate, I’ve got a very special guest post from author Jeff VanderMeer, with comments throughout (in purple) by Jarrett Byrnes, assistant professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. How cool is that? Can you tell that I’m thrilled to share this with you? You’ll certainly never look at tidal pools in quite the same way again, and of course, if you haven’t experienced this phenomenal trilogy, you can now get it all in one gorgeous volume (and it’s perfect for gift giving too.)


(with apologies to John Le Carre and his “Moscow Rules”)
by Jeff VanderMeer

areax2Between Fiji, Florida, and a more-recently discovered love for the coasts of California and Vancouver Island***Come to Maine! Amazing tidepools. Also, there’s an old Swedish saying in Ecology that you can understand the entire world through a rock pool. Or so say my Swedish marine ecologist friends. Who study rock pools.*** I’ve encountered a lot of tidal pools. I even at one point wanted to be a marine biologist before I became a writer , but that wasn’t for me because I discovered I was less interested in the science than in spending time peering into tidal pools.***Funny, I was in theater before I became a marine biologist!***

You’ll find a fair number of tidal pools in the Southern Reach trilogy, [where they’re a microcosm of the natural world but also at times metaphorical]***And vice-versa***even, in the biologist’s case, the site of a pivotal moment in her life. Of course, all of Area X, that pristine but mysterious wilderness documented in the novels, could be thought of as a kind of tidal pool…with something looking in. (Think you know how many tidal pools can be found in the trilogy? You might surprised; a few are disguised.)

Here are seven tips for surviving in tidal pools, which might also be of use on some level if you ever find yourself in Area X. I’ve had them vetted by a marine biologist (see Jarrett’s comments in purple.)

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Interview: Imogen Robertson, author of The Paris Winter

imogenrobertsonI read a lot of SFF, but every now and then, I love a good historical (especially one with lots of suspense), and The Paris Winter is just the thing to scratch that itch. That said, I’m thrilled to welcome Imogen Robertson to the blog to answer a few questions about her brand new book, The Paris Winter (out tomorrow)!

Will you tell us a bit about The Paris Winter and what inspired you to write it?
With pleasure! Paris Winter is the story of a young English woman, Maud, who comes to Paris to train to be an artist at the Académie Lafond. She finds herself almost destitute and is too proud to ask for help, but finds a place working as a companion to a young woman in ill-health. It seems her problems are over. Unluckily for Maud what seems a refuge is anything but, and she is pulled into a dark, dangerous plot. It’s a story of revenge and betrayal and the shadows cast in the City of Light.

Why Paris of 1909? What kind of research did you do for the book, and what was one of the most interesting things you learned?
I read about the floods in Paris of January 1910 and at once I realised I wanted Maud’s story to be set against that background. Paris was a very modern city, but its sewers and underground tunnels were turned against it by the waters and the streets started giving way. It had all the drama and symbolism I wanted.

thepariswinterI spent hours in the London Library reading the reports of the Paris council on the flood, read any number of contemporary reports, visited artists and diamond merchants, made files of weather reports, collected thousands of images and – of course – went to Paris to walk the streets my characters knew. I think the thing that surprised me most was learning about the numbers of American and English girls who were destitute in Paris at the time and about the people who tried to help them.

I always admire writers that take on characters from another era. How did you gain insight into Maud, and what was one of your favorite things about writing her character?
It was easier to get to know Maud in some ways than my characters from the late 18th century. Getting to know an artist who was trained in the same way as Maud was key, and also reading everything I could about women artists of the time gave me an idea of how she might look at the world. I think what I loved the most was learning the vocabulary of oil painting and working that into the novel.

Your other novels take place mostly in London and the surrounding areas. Was it fun making the switch to Paris?
I love Paris and it was very interesting to go there with the novel in mind rather than just enjoying it as a tourist. One of my other books (Circle of Shadows) is set in Germany, and another in the Lake District (Island of Bones), so I’ve done a few trips out of London in the past. The most important thing is choosing when to go. You need to have some clear ideas about the book so you go and look at the right things, but you also need to let all the new influences of actually being there sink in. There’s never enough time! I was lucky when I went to Paris that I met American writer David Downie. He and his wife – photographer Alison Harris – took me to all sorts of secret places in Paris which I would never have found on my own and the novel is a great deal richer as a result.

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The Dark Blood of Poppies by Freda Warrington: Exerpt and Giveaway

The Dark Blood of Poppies by Freda Warrington was reissued by Titan in October, and today I’ve not only got an excerpt of the book for you to read, but courtesy of Titan, I’ve got a copy to give away to one lucky US reader as well! Enjoy the excerpt, and be sure to enter to win using the internet at the bottom of the page. I’ll choose a winner on the 22nd!



The familiar, light voice sent an eerie thrill through her. Charlotte saw Violette appear in the doorway, pale in a dress of beaded ivory silk.

Violette stepped into the firelight. Her dress sparkled but her face and arms were matte, like velvet-white petals. With her blackhair coiled under a bandeau, she held herself with all her natural balletic poise.

darkbloodCharlotte put her book aside and stood up. “Violette, this is a lovely surprise. How are you?”

“I…” The dancer fell silent and stared into the fire. Her posture was defensive, as if to fend off any kiss or touch of greeting. Charlotte had no idea how to broach the subject of Matthew’s death, or the complaints of the other vampires.

“I waited until Karl had gone out,” Violette said finally. “I need to see you alone. Do you mind?”

“Of course not! Please, sit down.”

“Thank you, but no.” Violette clasped her hands across her waist. “I can’t sit still. I should be helping the wardrobe mistress with the costumes for the tour, but…”

Charlotte, moving closer, was shocked by her pallor. “Have you fed tonight?”

“Not yet,” Violette said brusquely.

“Are you still finding it hard to hunt?” She spoke gently, but her heart sank. Violette looked desolate. Charlotte’s gaze was arrested by a pearly mark over her breastbone. “What’s that on your chest?”

“This?” Violette smiled without humour, and drew down the front of her dress to reveal a ragged scar between her breasts. “Isn’t it wonderful, how fast we heal? Last night it was almost through to my spine.”

“Who did this?” Rage electrified her. To think that some idiot had actually tried to kill Violette! “Was it John? I’ll tear him apart!”

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