Sunday, January 31, 2016

Author Spotlight: JS Frankel

Author Spotlight

In this weeks author spotlight, I meet up with J.S. Frankel and discuss his new novel, The Menagerie, a Young Adult Science Fiction novel. 

What is your book about? 
The Menagerie is essentially a YA love story, but not between people. It’s between a young teenager and the interstellar animals she’s been ‘kidnapped’ to care for and tend to until they can be delivered to an interstellar zoo haven.
Here’s the synopsis:

We do this for they bring us happiness.
We do this because they have no defense
nowhere else to go and no one to care for them.
We do this in order so that they may teach us what it means to be different, 
and for us to embrace that difference.

Karen Fox, sixteen and recovering from a terrible car crash that claimed the lives of her parents, dreams only of becoming physically able once more. Hearing a strange voice that comes from somewhere near her hospital, she investigates and is kidnapped by an automated ship transporting interstellar animals to a safe haven. Knowing nothing about how to take care of them and disliking animals to begin with, Karen learns the value of caring for interstellar life. And when a marauding band of poachers attacks the vessel, intending to seize all the animals, Karen is forced to fight for her own life as well as the animals she has come to care for.

What inspired you to write this book?   
Every day I read stories about pets being abused, abandoned, and even murdered by their owners. A pet is a living being and deserves to be treated with the same respect people do. I realize some animals are raised as food and I’m not against that practice, but having a pet in a house means it’s a member of the family. Sadly, many people don’t feel that way. The Menagerie is my way of saying no pet should be left behind or abused or exploited.

Who is your favourite, and least favourite, character in the book?   
My favourite is the heroine, Karen Fox, as we see her grow during her journey from a shy, scarred (physically and mentally) young lady who is afraid of animals into a confident and strong character that not only surmounts her fear, but defeats it soundly.
As for the least favourite, that’s the villain of the piece, Blaron. He’s large and in charge, blustering, mean—a killer. And he gets what’s coming to him, make no mistake about it!

What draws you to this genre? Do you write in any other genre?   
I enjoy writing Young Adult. It has freshness, an immediacy to it that appeals to me. When you’re young, every decision, every choice you make seems to take on greater importance. When you look back at it, no, but at the time, it is prime for you.

Is this a standalone book, or can we expect more?    
This is a standalone novel. I never say never, as Karen could have more adventures, but that’s for the future to decide, not me, not yet.

Tell me about you and what drew you to writing? Are there any authors who inspired you to become a writer yourself?   
I had a need to say something that would appeal to people. People are natural storytellers, anyway, but some do it orally while others do it in written fashion.
As for my inspiration, go back to all the great sci-fi writers from the past, Ray Bradbury, Frederik Pohl, Niven and Pournelle, and many others. They all fired my imagination of the fantastic.

Other than your own book, what is your favourite novel?  
 I’d have to say it is Gone South by Robert McCammon. It’s a southern Gothic novel, including adventure, love, twisted loyalty and self-realization. For me, it’s the perfect novel.

Have you written other books we should know about?
All of my novels can be found on Amazon under my pen name, J.S. Frankel, but here are my favourites, all in the YA genre.

If you could advise aspiring writers on only one aspect of authordom, what would your advice be?   
You have to keep writing, keep researching if necessary, and never be afraid to take chances. In a novel I’ve just submitted, the catchphrase is “Hold nothing back. Give everything.” And it is true. You can’t hold anything back when you write. Put your heart and soul into it.
At the same time, be aware of what weaknesses you have in terms of narrative, characterization, pace, etc. Always strive to improve. You’ll get there.

 Where can we find your book?


Where can we find out more about you?

Author Spotlight: Liz Riley Jones

Author Spotlight
In this authors spotlight, I meet up with Liz Riley Jones, to discuss Hiraeth a Mark - Marc, book one of her contemporary Celtic-fantasy noir trilogy.

What is your book about?
The Hiraeth trilogy is a contemporary and brutal love story/adventure fantasy.
Set in modern day Wales and Ireland, the Hiraeth story explores Celtic myth, legend, identity, and language through the adventures of Mona Jones - a young woman who finds herself on the wrong side of a Druidic civil war.
What inspired you to write this book?
An interest in all things Celtic, in particular the continuing struggle of the Welsh language to survive. Together with an urge to create a powerful but realistic and relatable female protagonist.
Who is your favourite, and least favourite, character in the book?
Favourite character in series - Mona Jones
Least favourite series - Nuala

What draws you to this genre? Do you write in any other genre?
The willing suspension of disbelief implicit in all Fantasy, allows great freedom of ideas and has enabled me to carry the themes and characters into a contemporary adventure. 

Is this a standalone book, or can we expect more? 
The Hiraeth trilogy is now complete and available from Amazon

Tell me about you and what drew you to writing? Are there any authors who inspired you to become a writer yourself? 
Patrick Rothfuss
Other than your own book, what is your favourite novel? 
Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss (at the moment!)

Have you written other books we should know about?

If you could advise aspiring writers on only one aspect of authordom, what would your advice be?Seek as much advice as possible. Be brave enough to accept it and brutal enough to make necessary changes.

Where can we find your book?
Where can we find out more about you?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Author Spotlight: Chris Adams and James Downe

Author Spotlight 

In this weeks author spotlight I meet up with James Downe to discuss his novella, Grim Drifts of Sand & Fate, part of the, Legacy of Ash, a Fantasy, Grimdark series by James Downe & Chris Adams.

What is your novella about?

James - Well, Grim Drifts of Sand & Fate is a novella, and most definitely in the fantasy/grimdark genre.  It follows an escaped prisoner from an imperial prison named Ceprium Past on a journey across a ruined wasteland.  On his tail, hunting him to bring him to justice are three imperial knights, each with their own agendas and motivations.  As the story unfolds, we see the two sides, the hunter and the hunted, as well as the reasons why Ceprium Past was imprisoned in the first place.  His power has attracted the attention of Tesc, goddess of death, the Empress of Wraiths.  From the heart of the ancient wasteland, to the streets of the imperial city called Tyrant, Ceprium fights to free himself, and to break the bonds of this dark goddess.
Chris – The Shadowcast Gate is a grimdark fantasy novel that follows the exploits of The Sphinx, a hardbitten mercenary company.  The men and women of The Sphinx face religious strife and political scheming at home, and long odds on the field of battle against the restive southern nomads.  The company’s newest recruit, Caidris Imbratha, flees assassins sent by the Kheldr Prelacy, and he hides a dark secret that could endanger the entire mercenary band.                   

What inspired you to write this novella?

James - This novella is part of a larger world I’ve co-created with my good friend Chris Adams.  We’re both working on separate stories set in the same world, and as I’ve been writing my full length novel I realized there were several smaller tales that were growing in the back of my mind.  Things that flesh out the world, the system of faith and magic, and the politics.  So as I wrote I just started collecting and organizing my thoughts, coming out with a few short stories and this larger novella.  So, while Grim Drifts is a standalone tale, it is set in a world both Chris and I are exploring, building, and unravelling though a series of (at the moment) smaller tales.
Chris – The world of Calus Rukan in which our stories are set had its roots in an ongoing Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  As we developed the setting, James and I quickly realized that it was teeming with characters who each had a story to tell.  For me, the history of the setting developed very organically, with successive layers giving rise to diverse political and religious forces – I wanted to examine how those forces shaped the characters and their choices.  Also, James and I love to throw ideas at one another, and I think each of us inspires the other to greater creativity.  I know James will often casually drop a name or a word or a phrase that will light a spark and lead my writing in a direction I might not otherwise have explored.        

Who is your favourite, and least favourite, character in the novella?

James - My favourite character is one of the knights, Taren Chem.  He’s an older, retired veteran, a forgotten hero of the empire who wants this last chance to relive the glory the once knew.  I’ve always been drawn to the rough and grizzled soldiers in fantasy books, like Croaker in Glen Cook’s Black Company, or Sergeant Whiskeyjack in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen.
Least favourite?  That’s a hard question.  There are a few minor characters, but that seems like cheating.  I guess my least favourite would be Vendris Sindre, one of two monks the knights meet in the Wastes.  It’s not so much that I don’t like the character, but that I didn’t really take the time to explore her background much.
Chris – I had originally planned to tell the entire story from the point of view of The Sphinx’s greenest recruit, Caidris Imbratha, a boy from the mountain clans who joins the company in order to hide from murderous zealots.  But as I fleshed out the mercenary company’s ranks, from the newer recruits to the grizzled veterans, I realized I’d set a poor kid who wasn’t very interesting – yet - against a few score larger-than-life characters with long, bloody resumes.  Caidris took a back seat.  My current favourite is Cant, a battle mage.  I have an unholy amount of fun writing the scenes with long-suffering Cant and his loyal but foul-mouthed friend, Gallow.
The hardest character to write has been Tashigal, a dragon.  Finding the right voice for an ancient creature of such immense power has been a balancing act between advancing the narrative and being suitably enigmatic.     

What draws you to this genre? Do you write in any other genre?

James - So far I’ve only written fantasy, but I’ve recently had an opportunity to meld a bit of ‘western’ into the mix.  I am inspired by a lot of different genres; I try to read as many different things as possible.  That said, I know I’ll always fall back on fantasy.  It’s always been a part of me, from the first time I read Tolkien or C.S.Lewis, there is something about the fantastic, the otherworldly, which has always made me happy.  Fantasy is exciting.  It can be grand sprawling epics or small personal stories of revenge.  It can be total escapism, or social commentary.  I love the diversity of the genre, a broad empty canvas that can play to as many rules as you want it to.
Chris – Fantasy - and grimdark fantasy in particular – offers the opportunity to explore darker themes that would have been off limits not long ago.  Standard fantasy tropes are regularly being set on fire now, and stylistic experimentation is encouraged.  It’s an exhilarating time to be a new fantasy author, but daunting as well, given the vast amount of talent currently seeing publication.  As James mentioned, we’re involved in a western-flavored fantasy project, which has been fun.  It’s given me an excuse to re-watch everything from John Wayne, Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name series, The Magnificent Seven (and Seven Samurai) to Firefly.   Not that I ever need an excuse to watch Firefly.       

Is this a standalone novella, or can we expect more?

James - This is just a beginning; there will definitely be more.  This is part of a big project called the Legacy of Ash.  While I wrote this novella, the world in which it is set was created as a joint project between Chris and myself.  We started out playing some tabletop, pen and paper role-playing games (D&D, Pathfinder and the like).  After many sessions, we knew we had created something pretty compelling.  So, we decided to take our creation and develop it through writing.
We’re each working on novels and shorts set in the world of Calus Rukan, Chris on one continent with his own wave of characters and plotlines, and myself on another.  It has been a great project so far, in a similar vein to the older Thieves World novels, or the Malazan series by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont.  It might be a very ambitious project, but we’re both in it for the long haul.
Chris – I can’t speak for James, but the Legacy of Ash setting has enough material to keep me writing for the rest of my natural life.  The Shadowcast Gate is projected to be the first novel in a trilogy.  Some of my other work will be standalone, and I hope to continue to publish short stories.  I find them a great way to explore certain characters or facets of the setting that I might not otherwise be able to work into a full novel.     

Tell me about you and what drew you to writing? Are there any authors who inspired you to become a writer yourself?

James - I was pretty young when I first read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  That’s probably the case with so many fantasy writers.  The Narnia books too.  Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence changed my world, really shook me up as a kid.  But it wasn’t until I read Terry Brook’s Wishsong of Shannara that I began to consider writing something myself.  I was in grade 7.  My teacher was a huge Terry Brooks fan and kept a bunch in the class for us.  I devoured that book in a weekend, didn’t even realize it was the 3rd in a series.  I found out that Brooks was still alive, and still writing.  Not like Tolkien or C.S.Lewis at all.  They were legends to me, untouchable.  Brooks made me see that anyone could try their hand at writing.  That I could form my own stories, tell my own tales.  My first attempts were atrocious, but we all have to start somewhere, right?
Since then, my tastes have darkened considerably.  I’ve already mentioned Glen Cook and Steven Erikson, which have been massive sources of inspiration.  I could go on and list so many big name fantasy authors.  Outside of the fantasy genre, I love Dostoevsky.  I’ve realized I’ve got a real soft spot for a lot of the classics.  Other than that, hand me anything by John Irving and I’ll be happy.
Chris – While I loved Tolkien, I would say Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heinlein, Fritz Leiber and Frank Herbert were my earliest inspirations as a young reader.  When I was 12 I spent the summer with my grandmother, who had an old Smith-Corona electric typewriter set up on her sun porch.  She gave me reams of paper and let me rattle away all summer on it, churning out execrable fantasy and sci-fi stories.  That was when I truly fell in love with writing and the sheer exuberance of the creative process. 
Other authors who had a direct and substantial impact on my decision to become a writer include Janet Morris and C.J. Cherryh (my introduction to their work being the Thieves’ World anthologies), Poul Anderson (The Broken Sword), and Steven Erikson & Ian C. Esslemont (to whom James and I owe a particular debt for demonstrating that a successful two-author shared world was possible).  

Other than your own works, what is your favourite novel?

James - This is the hardest question.  I’ve got so many, depends on my mood.  I read and enjoy so much that isn’t fantasy that the list is hard to whittle down.  Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin is somewhere at the top of the list, but so is Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky.  I read The Orenda by Joseph Boyden last year, and re-read it again this summer.  If you haven’t read it, it’s a bit bloody at points but brilliant in every way.  If I have to pick a favourite fantasy novel (at least right now), it’s Steven Erikson’s third Malazan book, Memories of Ice.
Chris - This is like being asked which of your children is your favourite.  *lol*  I’ll have to narrow it down to a few of the classics I read again and again every few years.   Dune.   Winter’s Tale.   John Fowles’ The Magus.  And, while not a novel, Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry’s Wind, Sand and Stars for its simple lyricism.     

Have you written other books we should know about?

James - I’ve written two short stories, both part of the Legacy of Ash and set in the same world as Grim Drifts. The first is called Soldier, Kraken Bard, and the second is Redfall.  Both are available as ebooks.

Chris – Not yet.  I’m hoping to have all of my current work-in-progress complete by spring 2016.

If you could advise aspiring writers on only one aspect of authordom, what would your advice be?
James - The obvious answer is write.  All the time.  Whenever you can.  Keep at it.  The other things I would say is read, read anything you can get your hands on.  Find books and authors in other genres.  Learn how they craft stories.  And lastly, travel.  If you can, get out and see how other people live.  I find creativity does not flourish in a bubble, so get outside of it.  If it’s another city or town, great.  If it’s another country, better.  See as much of the world as you can, people all over have stories to tell.  Take from them, learn from them, be inspired by them.  And then get back to writing.
Chris – I second everything James said.  I would add something I have recently re-discovered – embrace academia.  When I left university I turned my back on scholarly journals in favour of fiction.  In the last couple of years I have drifted back to reading research papers for fun, primarily in the fields of archaeology, ethnography, linguistics and comparative religion.  The information complements James’ suggestion to travel, since it imparts a broader, deeper understanding of the cultures visited.  
Push yourself to seek experiences outside your comfort zone.  Live and love greatly.

Where can we find your novella?

Where can we find out more about you?

Chris Adams

James Downe