Saturday, August 24, 2013

Guest Blog by Elliott James, author of Charming - Hare Extensions - August 24, 2013

Please welcome Elliott James to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Charming, Elliott's debut novel, will be published on September 24, 2013. There are short stories as well!


      I would love to say that Shakespeare inspired me to write Charming, or if not the bard, maybe some other respectable literary influence like J.R.R. Tolkien or Carl Jung or Jack Daniels, but the truth is, if anything inspired me (or deluded me) to write Charming, it was probably Bugs Bunny. Don’t get me wrong, I loved fairy tales and myths and legends and folk lore before I was ever allowed near a television set. My grandmother was an English teacher and an avid collector of such stories, and I was raised in her house while my father was stationed overseas. But long before “Urban Fantasy” became a term, Bugs Bunny was modernizing fables by inserting an anachronistic smart ass right into the middle of them and playing around with story forms and laws of physics and meta-fiction for fun.
      And Bugs is also probably where I got my love of punny titles. This might sound stupid, but one of my favorite things about writing my first book was coming up with chapter titles.
      I don’t know if people are even familiar with the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons anymore. I still don’t watch much T.V, but it seems like I haven’t seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon in a while. I suppose the cartoons might be considered too violent or politically incorrect or something, just like the classic fairy tales come to think of it. Or maybe people are more familiar with the more modern, cleaned up, dumbed down, less wildly creative versions of Bugs Bunny cartoons. Also just like fairy tales now that I think about it. I don’t see what the big deal is myself. I was raised on both Bugs Bunny and the Brothers Grimm, and I turned out…well, okay, I’ll give you that one. Still, it seems kind of a shame. But then, I also haven’t gotten over the Cookie Monster becoming the Vegetable Monster.
      Either way, my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons were the ones where Bugs entered fantasy stories that I was already familiar with, like the one where he saved Hansel and Gretel by making himself the witch’s target (Witch Hazel, by the way, went on to become a recurring Bugs Bunny character). Or there was my personal favorite, the “What’s Opera Doc” episode where Bugs took on an Elmer Fudd who was channeling bad Wagner with a spear and magic helmet. There was the ”Goldilocks and the Three Bears” spoof, the “Red Riding Hood” parody, the “Three Little Pigs” satire, the “Jack and the Beanstalk” riff, the Frankenstein episode, the wonderful “Ali Baba Bunny” where Bugs and Daffy wind up in the world of 1001 Arabian Nights, the Robin Hood bits, the Abominable Snowman story, various takes on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and probably many others that I can’t remember at the moment.
      It was awesome. Two of my favorite things were coming together in wild and unpredictable ways and anything seemed possible.
      So, now it’s 2013, and my character, John Charming, is a modern day descendant of the original Charmings who all of those Prince Charming stories were based on, but he has a distinctly post-modern attitude. He may have been born into a family with a long and proud tradition of witch finding, monster hunting, and curse breaking, but he came into that world kicking and screaming. John Charming is irreverent, wry, and has a tendency to see the absurd in the potentially lethal situations that he keeps finding himself in.
      The thing is (Spoiler Alert! The thing is NOT a play, so again, no Shakespeare connection dammit): my novel hasn’t been published yet; I’m writing this three months prior, and it is my first book, so I have no idea what kind of reception to expect. But I can say that there are two things which I hope set my book apart, and that’s what this blog is about, right?
      That was actually a real question. That is what this blog is about, right? Sometimes I get confused. Probably all those damn Bugs Bunny cartoons.
      Anyhow, one thing that I think sets my book apart is that I did a lot of research, and I don’t just mean googling or consulting Wikipedia though I won’t lie, I did do some of that too. Charming is not an academic book, but I try to steep it in fables and myths and lore the way you steep a tea bag in a cup to give the concoction flavor. I really love the source material even when my narrator does not. Read the book if you don’t believe me.
      See what I did there? Dance, puppet, dance!
      The second thing that I hope makes the book a little different is also the reason I brought up Bugs Bunny in the first place. There are a lot of genuinely horrific things that happen in the course of the novel (some of them probably grammatical), but my narrator is not a Poe or Lovecraft style character descending helplessly into madness or despair (although I love Poe and Lovecraft), nor is my narrator some petulant pretty boy too sexy for his shirt although the book is a love story. And unlike Bugs Bunny, Charming is not a satire, but my narrator is sometimes absurd, sometimes flippant, sometimes metaphysical, and sometimes given to playing around with words just to amuse or distract himself. It is that contrast with truly dark and unsettling fairy tale and horror elements that is fun and interesting to me.
      Of course, there are differences between the tone of Bugs Bunny cartoons and my book as well. You always know things will work out in a Looney Tuniverse. Nobody ever dies in a Bugs Bunny episode, or if they do, the cartoon immediately flashes to said character sporting a halo or a pitchfork and yelling something humorous from the appropriate afterlife destination. There are no such assurances in John Charming’s world. In fact, when you hunt monsters, happy endings are a statistical unlikelihood. John Charming’s secret (as in, he tries to hide it, not as in the mysterious source of his success) is that he cares anyhow. He cares very much. Humor is John Charming’s defense mechanism. It is what has kept him sane and made a nomadic yet isolated life of one horrible incident after another endurable. If the character is likable at all (and I hope he is) it is because humor is his saving virtue. John Charming might not be able to help becoming broody or moody sometimes, but he fights to keep things in perspective and not take himself too seriously. It’s not about trivializing horror or darkness, it’s about refusing to let those things define him.
      I like that. I hope you do too.


Pax Arcana 1
Orbit, September 24, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

John Charming isn't your average Prince...

He comes from a line of Charmings -- an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is-- until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?

And short stories:

Charmed I'm Sure
Orbit, August 15, 2013
eBook, 75 pages

This is the first in a series of short stories by debut author Elliott James. The first of his novels, Charming, will be out in September 2013.

When Tom Morris encounters a naked man walking along the interstate with no memory of how he got there, the smart thing to do is drive away. The only problem is, Tom Morris has secrets of his own. Like the fact that he comes from a long line of witch finders, monster slayers, and enchantment breakers, or that his real name is Charming. John Charming.

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls
Orbit, September 17, 2013
eBook, 75 pages

This is the second in a series of short stories by debut author Elliott James. The first of his novels, Charming, will be out in September 2013.

Nothing with the Cunning Folk is ever free. When John Charming goes to Sarah White for help with a minor ghost problem, he soon finds himself dealing with a restless spirit on a completely different scale. And the last thing you want to be when hunting a water spirit is out of your depth...

Pushing Luck
Orbit, October 15, 2013
eBook, 75 pages

This is the third in a series of short stories by debut author Elliott James. The first of his novels, Charming, will be out in September 2013.

Trying to make money off the grid, John Charming discovers an underground poker tournament where the hors d'oeuvres are made of human flesh and the players are gambling with much more than their money. All bets are off.

Surreal Estate
Orbit, January 14, 2014

[cover forthcoming]
This is the fourth in a series of short stories by debut author Elliott James. The first of his novels, Charming, will be out in September 2013.

The line between reality and dream is never entirely clear under the best of circumstances...and when John Charming finds himself being hunted through a nightmare house, it is far from the best of circumstances.

About Elliott

An army brat and gypsy scholar, ELLIOTT JAMES is currently living in the blueridge mountains of southwest Virginia. An avid reader since the age of three (or that's what his family swears anyhow), he has an abiding interest in mythology, martial arts, live music, hiking, and used bookstores. Irrationally convinced that cellphone technology was inserted into human culture by aliens who want to turn us into easily tracked herd beasts, Elliott has one anyhow but keeps it in a locked tinfoil covered box which he will sometimes sit and stare at mistrustfully for hours. Okay, that was a lie. Elliott lies a lot; in fact, he decided to become a writer so that he could get paid for it.


  1. What an interesting new series will add it my list. :D Can't wait for it to come out.

    1. I've started the first short, Charmed I'm Sure, and am enjoying the writing!

  2. I love the sound of this book. And a great post to go along with it! Classic Bugs is hard to beat, violence and political incorrectness in all. I can't wait to check out your book!

  3. Thank you for sharing a taste of your journey and wit. We all know the indoctrination of Bugs will out ;=) So looking forward to Charming and wish you congratulations on this new release and every joy and success :)

  4. It's great to hear about the behind the scenes workings of your (the author's) mind. I love and hate Bugs Bunny..he's a bit of an ass haha. Anyways - I loved Charming though I have to admit I don't like the cover and tagline - but I adore the covers for the short stories! I hope the book is doing great!