My Bookish Ways

A chat with Steven John, author of Outrider

Steven John is the author of 3 A.M. and his new novel, OUTRIDER, just came out! Please welcome him to the blog!

stevenjohnYour new book, OUTRIDER, is quite different from THREE A.M.! Will you tell us more about it and what inspired you to write it?
THREE A.M. was inspired by setting and character: once I had those in place in my mind all I needed was a story for into which Tom Vale (the protagonist) could fall. OUTRIDER on the other hand began with an idea about a conflict; the makings of the story came to me after a conversation with my brother, in fact, (indeed I spoke of it in the acknowledgements in the book). We talked about a scene involving a field of solar panels and a shootout. That was enough: from there came the world of OUTRIDER, populated by its many characters and with the inevitable clash between people operating on opposing belief systems.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I have always been writing, if not always planning to be a writer, per say. I made movies all throughout my childhood (in Alexandria, VA, near Washington, DC) and went to film school in Boston, then moved to LA and worked in that industry for a number of years. But I wrote short stories and several aborted novels in my younger days, along with poetry (some of which is competent, some of which is youthful tripe), essays, and of course papers for school, assignments which I always relished over, say, a math test (mathematics and I are not on god terms). More even than writing, though, I have since childhood been a voracious reader, and it is to that I credit any ability I have now.

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A round-up of smashing Kindle deals under $5!

Get ‘em while they’re hot! You know the drill-all awesome, all under $5! I’ve got you covered with SFF, suspense, YA, it’s all here, so you’re sure to find something to curl up with over the weekend!

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Interview: David Liss, author of The Day of Atonement

I’m a longtime fan of David Liss’s work, and to my utter delight, he agreed to answer a few of my questions about his newest book, THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (I loved it), and much more. Please give him a warm welcome!

davidlissDavid, I’m so thrilled about THE DAY OF ATONEMENT, and Benjamin Weaver even makes a brief appearance. What inspired you to write a book about the Inquisition’s influence in Portugal?
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but there’s a major historical event that happens in the last third of the book, and this is something I’ve always been fascinated by. It’s an event that shows up in both the history and the literature of the period, and it’s one of those things that’s been on my mind since my days in graduate school.

I’d had the idea that I might write about 18th century Lisbon for some time, and when I started doing some preliminary reading, I became absolutely fascinated by the cultural landscape – an empire on the verge of collapse; a distracted and self-indulgent ruling class; the presence of foreign merchants who run the nation’s economy; and, of course, the last powerful Inquisition in Europe – a medieval throwback in the age of enlightenment – which has become a twisted version of its original incarnation, which was never so pretty to begin with. That’s just a long way of saying I loved the social, political, and economic turmoil, which struck me as a great backdrop for just about any kind of story, but a revenge story in particular.

What kind of research did you do for the book, and what was one of the most interesting, or surprising things you learned?
Lisbon, as it was in the 18th century, does not exist today (again, I obliquely refer to the last act of the novel), and getting a sense of the physical city at the time was my greatest challenge. Of course, I spent a lot of time reading, but this time and place are not well documented. I went through all the scholarly material I could find, and I read a number of memoirs written by English merchants in 18th century Lisbon. Finally, I took a research trip, where I had a lot of help from local experts and museums. I always save the visit to the physical space until I have a solid draft of a book, otherwise I don’t know what to look for, or even what I’m looking at. In this case, I went around trying to find plausible locations where certain events I wanted to happen could happen.

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The Day of Atonement by David Liss

dayofatonementThe Day of Atonement by David Liss (Random House, Sept. 23,2014)-Sebastião Raposa was only a boy when he was forced to flee Lisbon after his family was taken away by the Inquisition. It’s now 10 years later, and he’s returned to Portugal under the name of Sebastian Foxx, and in the guise of an English businessman. Business isn’t his real priority in Portugal, however. In fact, all these years he’s harbored a simmering hate for the man that took his family and changed his life forever: a priest named Pedro Azinheiro. His one goal is to kill Azinheiro and avenge his family, but he soon realizes that it won’t be as simple a task as he first thought.

A little about Sebastian Foxx: as a child he was a Jew that had converted to Christianity, or, a New Christian, and they were particular targets of the Inquisition, who suspected them of secretly practicing Judaism. No one was safe, and just about no one could be trusted, since agents of the Inquisition frequently used family members and friends against each other under threat. After all, there’s not much you won’t do when your children are threatened with torture and death. While in England, he was mentored by Benjamin Weaver, a prominent character in a few of Liss’s previous works (and one of my favorite characters, period.) Foxx knows how to protect himself, and he knows how to fight, but it’s going to take those skills, and quick thinking to navigate the treacherous Lisbon that he now finds himself in.

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Catching up with Jan DeLima, author of Summer Moon (and a giveaway!)

Please welcome Jan DeLima back to the blog! Her new book, SUMMER MOON, is out next week, and she kindly answered a few of my questions. Also, courtesy of the author, we’ve got signed copies of CELTIC MOON & SUMMER MOON up for grab, and it’s international, so be sure to hit the widget below the post to enter!

jandelimaThe last time we caught up, you had just released Celtic Moon, and the 2nd novel in the Celtic Wolves series, Summer Moon, will be out soon! Will you tell us more about it and Luc and Rosa?
Absolutely! For those of you who aren’t familiar with my Celtic Wolves Series, you need only imagine a world where the legends of Celtic lore still walk among us in secret. It’s a place where warriors are also wolves and reality isn’t always what it seems. Set in modern day, the stories are a mixture of both urban fantasy and romance, and while each installment has a strong fantasy edge built around Celtic folklore, each one also features a romance with two new main characters.

Summer Moon is Luc and Rosa’s story, and it begins mere days after Celtic Moon ends:
“Three days after her husband’s execution, Rosa Alban became a traitor to the Guardians of her race… She would rather live as a traitor than bear witness to one more act of cruelty in silence.”

Rosa proposes a dangerous offer to Luc, her neighbor to the north, to unite their clans in the impending war against their oppressive leaders. Known as the Beast of Merin, an unwanted son yet loyal brother, Luc is indebted to Rosa for saving Sophie, his brother’s mate. Securing his neighboring territory against the Guardians is crucial for the safety of their people. However, Luc is unprepared for the temptation Rosa brings, a physical need thought buried with Koko, his deceased wife. Carnal desires haunt his soul and feed his guilt. Rosa isn’t the woman Luc expected and may be more than just a powerful ally. But can he allow his heart to open for the one woman who is destined to be his true mate? Because Rosa, having been an unloved wife once, will accept nothing less.

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Giveaway: Gone Girl Movie and Book Prize Pack!

The GONE GIRL film will be out on October 3rd, and I’ve got a great giveaway to get you geared up for the big event! Hit the widget to enter to win a copy of the book (the movie tie-in edition) and a $25 Visa gift card to see the movie in theaters!

GONE GIRL – In Theaters October 3
Official Website | Facebook |Twitter | Google+ | #GoneGirl

About the film:
Directed by David Fincher and based upon the global bestseller by Gillian Flynn – unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

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A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block

awalkamongthetombstonesA Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block (Hard Case Crime (reprint), Aug. 2014)-I rarely read series books out of order, but with the movie coming up, and also the undeniable lure of that creepy trailer, I lost my internal fight and read A Walk Among the Tombstones over the weekend. I’ve read a few books by Lawrence Block in the past, and am well aware of his talent, but this is my first introduction to Scudder. It’s the 10h book in the series, but new readers shouldn’t have any trouble jumping in at this point, although I always recommend starting at the beginning, because you’ll miss out on inevitable character development, etc. That said, don’t be afraid to dig into this one, if only to read the book before you see the movie (boy, do I want to see the movie.)

Here’s the skinny: Matt Scudder is an ex-cop and unlicensed PI, although he sometimes does work for a larger investigation firm, therefore operating under their license. This is not one of those times. He gets a call from Peter Khoury, who knows him from AA, and is asked to help Peter’s brother, Kenan. Kenan Khoury’s wife has been kidnapped, but it’s no normal kidnapping, and for that matter, Kenan is not a normal client. First, the kidnapping: Kenan meets the kidnapper’s demands (sort of-there’s some haggling which comes back to haunt him), but they kill his wife anyway, leaving her in pieces in an abandoned car for him to find. About Kenan: he’s a drug trafficker that, for obvious reasons, doesn’t feel that he can go to the police. Luckily for him, Matt Scudder doesn’t really have a problem working for him, and it’s obvious that it’s not Scudder’s first rodeo with questionable clients. Scudder soon rounds up a few buddies from his cop days to help him dig for info, and he’s got a feeling that this isn’t the kidnapper’s first killing, and that kidnapping isn’t their real motive. It soon becomes obvious that the torture and killing of women is their real pleasure, and the kidnapping is a nifty way to get their hands on some cash while they indulge their dark agenda.

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A chat with Peyton Marshall, author of Goodhouse: A Novel

GOODHOUSE (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Peyton Marshall comes out next week, and she kindly stopped by to tell us about the new book, why she wrote it, and much more! Please give her a warm welcome!

peytonmarshallWill you tell us a bit about Goodhouse and what inspired you to write it?
I’ve always been fascinated by questions of identity: How we define ourselves as individuals, how other people perceive us, and what ultimately we are capable of.

I didn’t set out to write a dystopian novel but rather a portrait of an individual under pressure, a young person at that moment in his or her life when they must define their own morality, define their own truth.

I woke up one morning with the premise of the book buzzing in my head, and the opening scenes already populated with people. The book was a full world—beckoning me to enter—and the more I read about the history of juvenile incarceration, the more urgent the story felt.

What made you decide to set Goodhouse in the future? Will you tell us more about your particular “dystopia”?
The premise of Goodhouse, the idea that we, as a society, can identify future criminals and reform their worst tendencies – necessitates a futuristic setting. But in order to write this world I pulled heavily from the past, from the culture of reformation that surrounded some of the first juvenile jails, and specifically the Preston School that was founded in Ione, California in 1894. I wanted my future world to be a continuation of a longer conversation about youth and crime.

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Interview (and Giveaway): Stefan Bachmann, author of The Whatnot

Please welcome Stefan Bachmann to the blog! I adored his first book, THE PECULIAR, and the followup, THE WHATNOT will be out tomorrow in paperback. He kindly stopped by to answer a few questions about THE WHATNOT, and more!

Also, I’ve got an extra copy of THE WHATNOT and I’d like to give it to you, so be sure to enter to win via the widget below the post (US only), and I’ll pick a winner on 9/30!

stefanbachmannThe paperback release for THE WHATNOT (sequel to THE PECULIAR), will be out tomorrow. Will you tell us a bit about it?
Yes! THE WHATNOT is the concluding book in this duology and it’s a bit different from THE PECULIAR. The first book felt like kind of a chamber mystery to me. It was dark, but it had a lot of brassy contraptions and colors. The second book is darker (whyyy are my books so gloomy, i do not know) and while the first book was set entirely in a steampunk Victorian England, the second book plays half in England and half in the faery world, so it basically doubles the size of its scope.

The book is about about a orphan named Pikey who lost his eye when he was younger and is now starting to catch mysterious glimpses into the dark country of the faeries. It’s also about a girl with branch hair who was kidnapped from England and is trying to survive in said faery world as the pet of a capricious faery duchess. I loved writing the faery world. It’s full of weird rules, no rules, a house that keeps re-arranging its insides, people with teapot heads or curtained windows for eyes. So that was fun.

I adored THE PECULIAR and was pretty impressed to find out you were only 19 when it was published! What’s one of the very first things you can remember writing? Have you always wanted to write from a very young age?
Aw, thank you! :) I’m so happy you liked it. The first thing I ever wrote was a really horrible spin-off of THE HOBBIT. I was obsessed with Middle Earth and was not aware that you should know how to spell before you try to write a book. I was about six then, and I wrote that many pages, and decorated it with stickers and everything.

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The Distance by Helen Giltrow

thedistanceThe Distance by Helen Giltrow (Doubleday, Sept 9, 2014)-Karla is really Charlotte Alton, but Charlotte is really Karla. Confused? Don’t be. Charlotte Alton is a socialite, known for belonging to the most sparkling circles of London, confident and beautiful. Karla is a woman who gets things done using subterfuge and tradecraft, helping to cover the tracks of criminals and acting as a resource in bringing down those that would do others harm. Karla has been thinking about stepping away from her secretive life, but a man from her past, Simon Johanssen needs her for a new job: a hit on Catherine Gallagher, a doctor that supposedly did a very, very bad thing, and is now in a government sanctioned penal colony called the Program. Karla is very thorough and the fact that the target in question can’t be identified is a problem, but she’s assured that the client can be trusted. So now Karla’s job is to get Johanssen into the Program under a false name, so he can plan the hit, and it’s going to take everything, and everyone, at her disposal to guarantee his safety. The problem is, Johanssen is on the run from a hit that went very wrong years ago, and if anyone recognizes him, it could cost him his life. Meanwhile, a man that Karla worked with has committed suicide and she’s worried he may have left clues as to her identity. The clock is ticking, not only for Karla, but for Johanssen as he embeds himself in the rough, dangerous world of the Program and also gets to know his target, whose crime has yet to be clear. Did Catherine really commit a heinous crime or was she instead a victim, and can Karla keep her own secret identity secret?

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