Friday, February 28, 2014

Review - Stamps, Vamps & Tramps: A Three Little Words Anthology

Stamps, Vamps & Tramps
Series:  A Three Little Words Anthology
Editor:  Shannon Robinson
Publisher:  Evil Girlfriend Media, February 12, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 263 pages
List Price:  $3.99
ISBN:  9780615970783
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Eternally stamped, Eternally damned…

Grecian prostitutes and blood guzzling birds, pickle-sized vampires who wear their hearts on their sleeves, sexy immortals that fear human greed and memories that become tattoos; Stamps, Vamps & Tramps crosses genres to deliver bone-chilling stories that will keep you up at night.

Sixteen talented authors take you on a journey where stamps aren't always inked, tramps aren't always hookers, and vampires aren't always at the top of the food chain. From the colonnade of ancient Greece to a small town amusement park, from the battlefield to the urban center, this anthology will suck you in to the very end.

Featuring stories by Rachel Caine, Nancy Kilpatrick, Paul Witcover, and Gemma Files, among others.

Doreen’s Thoughts

Stamps, Vamps & Tramps is a Three Little Words anthology – where authors write stories with two or more of the semi-associated words as the basis for the story. It is an interesting concept – taking tattoos, vagabonds, and vampires and coming up with related stories. I liked most of the stories in this anthology.

For example, Rachel Caine starts the book off with her ‘Easy Mark,’ the story about a young girl riding the rails who finds someone who helps people like her and who deals with the people who want to cause trouble. ‘Only Darkness’ by Paul Whitcover had an interesting perspective about art in general and drawing in particular, where something like a vampire tries to have its portrait drawn since it cannot see itself in a mirror. I found its perspective about artists and their ability to create art interesting, along with how an artist might handle losing their ability. ‘Flies in the Ink’ has a young girl vampire who turns out to be a serial killer keeping tattoos as trophies of her murders while a father tries to use her to replace his daughter.

One or two of the stories were almost too short and hokey for me to appreciate. I found ‘Mungo the Vampire’ to be one of those that could have been excluded from the book without any loss. ‘Josephine the Tattoo Queen’ by Joshua Green was almost predictable. Though it was short, Nancy Kilpatrick’s ‘The Hungry Living Dead’ turns the page on vampires making humans to be the real predators. ‘Stabilization’ by Daniels Parseleti viewed madness from the perspective of an institutionalized person. Mary Turzillo’s ‘A Virgin Hand Disarmed’ gives us a very different view of William Shakespeare.

I enjoyed the folksy tone of Gemma Files’ ‘His Face, All Red,’ enough to track down some of her other works. Altogether, this provided a nice taste of new authors and their works for me, which is the best trick for any anthology.

Interview with Steve Rasnic Tem - February 28, 2014

Please welcome Steve Rasnic Tem to The Qwillery. Steve's most recent novel is Blood Kin which was published by Solaris on February 25, 2014.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. You've written several novels starting with Excavation in 1987 to Blood Kin which was published on February 25, 2014 as well as numerous short stories. How has your writing process changed over the years (or not)?

Steve:  I’ve kept my process as varied as possible, and I’ve always looked for new ways to approach short stories—not only finding new ways to begin stories but redefining for myself how much I need to begin writing a piece. So sometimes I may know the first sentence and the ending but I may not even know who the narrator is when I begin—the writing becomes a thinking process for discovering the missing pieces. Other times I may start only with a specific image or stray thought in the mind of an unknown character and I try to discover who would see such a thing or think such a thing.

For me the challenge is to have the willingness to undertake such an exploratory and inefficient path, as well as the willingness to throw away what doesn’t work. It’s not for everybody, and certainly in terms of the economies of time and pay rate it’s completely impractical.

My novel writing process, on the other hand, has become more structured over the years. I wrote Excavation the way I was writing short stories at the time—I started with a few sentences of outline and a list of characters I’d been thinking about, and I just began writing, gathering images and events as I progressed on my head-long rush toward the end. Then I spent a large amount of time rewriting what had become a very rough draft.

Beginning with Deadfall Hotel I was completing projects which had been years in the making—I’d thought about Deadfall Hotel for decades, writing chapters and bits for it here and there, and I had dozens of pages of random notes for it. When I was finally in a place to finish the project I had to sit down and outline each of the chapter/sections in more detail in order to make sure I didn’t miss anything important.

Blood Kin has the most carefully worked out structure of any of my books, and the outline for it was quite detailed, chapter by chapter. It had to be—this is the book about Appalachia I’d been thinking about since high school. I always knew I was going to write it, and so collected notes and research for it for more than 40 years. Hundreds of pages. You can’t really write from that kind of accumulation—it will drown you. So first I had to go through the process of eliminating all the stuff which would NOT be in the novel, and putting that material away. Then I took what was left and divided it into possible narrative sequences and chapters and dramatic movements and developed the detailed outline out of that. I would never have completed the novel without that kind of structural work—I simply could not keep all of it in my head.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing about writing for you?

Steve:  The major challenge is a combination of time management and deciding what projects to work on. Writers always have more ideas than time, so you choose projects that mean the most to you, or are likely to make the most money, or which you think would be “good career moves” (more than likely it’s a combination of all three). As I get older the choosing process becomes more complicated—obviously I’m not going to have time to write everything I’d like during my time on the planet, so how do I prioritize? Another complication is that I’m addicted to short stories—the process of creating them fulfills me in a way that no other kind of writing can—so even if I wanted to stop writing them to concentrate on more lucrative novels I don’t think I could. So how do I balance all that?

For now, I’m working on the premise that there are certain works I feel I have to complete, that I would feel I had failed myself if I didn’t. Blood Kin was one of those projects—I couldn’t imagine not completing this novel.

TQBlood Kin is described as "a dark Southern Gothic vision of ghosts, witchcraft, secret powers, snake-handling, Kudzu, Melungeons, and the Great Depression." What is Southern Gothic?

Steve:  Essentially, southern gothic is gothic fiction which takes place in the American South. The standard European images of gothic churches, monasteries, mysterious chambers, dying maidens, mold and decay are transplanted to the southern states, where they take on their own character with decaying antebellum mansions, incest, backwoods violence and witchery, twisted preachers, kudzu, weeping willows, etc. I suppose Appalachian Gothic (or Appalachian Weird, if you prefer) is a further subset which emphasizes the particular kind of extreme isolation which sometimes occurs in small mountain towns, coal mining camps, and hollows. The latter is the setting for Blood Kin.

TQ:  Please tell us something about Blood Kin that is not in the book description.

Steve:  I think one of the surprises in this novel is that as isolated as they are, these characters have concerns and visions which go far beyond their claustrophobic local environment. The villain of the book, who possesses the family’s “vision,” has a surprising awareness of the Nazis and the death camps in eastern Europe which he transforms into a horrifying phantasmagoria within the pages of his hand-notated Bible. And our heroine, the young Sadie Gibson, yearns for a finer life outside the constrictions of the hollow.

TQ:  What research did you do for Blood Kin?

Steve:  I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t researching Blood Kin, and a good deal of the research basically came out of simply growing up in the area, supplemented by readings in local history. It began in high school, when I would write down local sayings and stories and folklore in a spiral notebook. My aunts and uncles, and especially my father, were great southern storytellers, and believe me I listened. My dad also owned a country store which was pretty much unchanged since the thirties—it’s the model for the one in the book. My mother and two of my aunts taught in one room schools when they were younger. A fellow who did odd jobs for my father was the preacher for a local snake-handling congregation, and in college I made a friend who took me to a couple of local snake-handling services (and no, I didn’t touch the snakes, preferring to watch from the back of the room). Such services were illegal in Virginia.

The Melungeons are an important background aspect of this book. Legend has it that when the first Scots-Irish settlers came into the region they found a settlement of almond-skinned, Elizabethan English-speaking people already there with no knowledge of their own origins. All manner of explanations have been offered over the years, from claims they were members of Raleigh’s Lost Colony to the results of marriages between Indians, runaway slaves, and stranded Turk and Portuguese sailors. No doubt they will remain a mystery—at this stage we’re unlikely to ever see a definitive explanation. In many cases they were designated by local governments as “free persons of color” and under this label were denied property and voting rights until as late as 1942.

My grandmother grew up in the Blackwater area of Lee County Virginia, a heavily Melungeon section. She had Indian-like features and many of her children, including my father, had dark black hair and relatively dark skin. Although some in my family believe she was Melungeon, race was a delicate issue in that region with very few self-identifying as non-white. She was a quiet, shy woman, and as far as I know never discussed the subject.

TQ:  Which character in Blood Kin was hardest to write and why? Easiest and why?

Steve:  Mickey-Gene was undoubtedly the most difficult, in part because he’s a person who feels compelled to hide so completely who he really is. Almost everyone in that small community think he’s of below average intelligence and unimportant, an “idiot,” a non-person. But it’s all protective coloration. He’s actually quite well read, and sees the world through an artist’s eyes. But it’s also true that in the process of hiding and isolating himself from others he’s stunted his own growth as a human being. He’s shy, self-protective, with limited ability to form close relationships.

Sadie’s Grandpa Simpson was probably the easiest. He’s part of the community, and yet he’s kept himself above at least some of the turmoil. He’s kind, forgiving, with a heightened sense of justice and fairness. Basically, I simply wrote about my own grandfather, who was very much that kind of person.

TQ:  What are you working on now?

Steve:  I recently completed a collection of more traditional, ghostly fiction, loosely influenced by those early 20th century collections of British ghost stories I love so much. The book is Here with the Shadows, and should be out any day from Ireland’s Swan River Press.

I’m also putting together a huge retrospective collection of my uncollected horror fiction for Centipede Press (70 or so stories, 225,000 words). The title is Out of the Dark: A Storybook of Horrors, and it’ll be out sometime next year.

On the novel front I’m working to complete another of those books which I’ve had in progress for decades. This one is a science fictional horror novel about human beings’ inclinations toward violence, and it’s called Ubo.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Blood Kin
Solaris, February25, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages

A dark Southern Gothic vision of ghosts, witchcraft, secret powers, snake-handling, Kudzu, Melungeons, and the Great Depression.

Michael Gibson has returned to the quiet home of his forebears and now takes care of his grandmother Sadie - old and sickly, but with an important story to tell about growing up poor and Melungeon (a mixed race group of mysterious origin) in the 1930s, while bedevilled by a snake handling uncle and empathic powers she barely understands.

In a field not far from the Gibson family home lies an iron-bound crate within a small shack buried four feet deep under the Kudzu vine. Michael somehow understands that hidden inside that crate is potentially his own death, his grandmother's death, and perhaps the deaths of everyone in the valley, if he does not come to understand her story well enough.

About Steve

Photo by Debra Lee Fanatia
Steve Rasnic Tem was born in Lee County Virginia in the heart of Appalachia. He is the author of over 400 published short stories and is a past winner of the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards. His latest short story collections include Ugly Behavior, Onion Songs, Celestial Inventories, Twember, and Here with the Shadows. His novels include Excavation, The Book of Days, Daughters & The Man On The Ceiling (with wife Melanie Tem), and 2012’s Deadfall Hotel from Solaris.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @Rasnictem

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.

Monica Byrne

The Girl in the Road
Crown, May 20, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Stunningly original and wildly inventive, The Girl in the Road melds the influences of Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Erin Morgenstern for a dazzling debut.

In a world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing, two women embark on vastly different journeys—each harrowing and urgent and wholly unexpected.

When Meena finds snakebites on her chest, her worst fears are realized: someone is after her and she must flee India. As she plots her exit, she learns of The Trail, an energy-harvesting bridge spanning the Arabian Sea that has become a refuge for itinerant vagabonds and loners on the run. This is her salvation. Slipping out in the cover of night, with a knapsack full of supplies including a pozit GPS system, a scroll reader, and a sealable waterproof pod, she sets off for Ethiopia, the place of her birth.

Meanwhile, Mariama, a young girl in Africa, is forced to flee her home. She joins up with a caravan of misfits heading across the Sahara. She is taken in by Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. They are trying to reach Addis Abba, Ethiopia, a metropolis swirling with radical politics and rich culture. But Mariama will find a city far different than she ever expected—romantic, turbulent, and dangerous.

As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama’s fates are linked in ways that are mysterious and shocking to the core.

Written with stunning clarity, deep emotion, and a futuristic flair, The Girl in the Road is an artistic feat of the first order: vividly imagined, artfully told, and profoundly moving.

Interview with Adam Sternbergh, author of Shovel Ready - February 27, 2014

Please welcome Adam Sternbergh to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The fabulous Shovel Ready was published on January 14, 2014 by Crown.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing fiction?

Adam:  I’ve been writing fiction since I was a little kid — I wrote an entire episode of “Battlestar Galactica” (the original one) in pencil, in longhand, on foolscap paper, when I was about 9 years old. When I was in 8th grade, I wrote a detective story about a private eye named Hades Valentine, which back then I thought was the coolest name ever invented. (I was delighted recently to see that there’s currently a series of fantasy novels starring a woman named Dante Valentine.) As to why I write fiction: I have always loved stories and I found I moved irresistibly and probably inevitably from reading them to dreaming them up.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Adam:  I wish I could say plotter, but I’m honestly more of a pantser. I get very fidgety working on anything remotely like an outline — I just can’t wait to dive in. I often think of a novel like a huge marvelous house that I’m exploring, and I want to be just as surprised as the reader when I open each new doorway. That said, as the writer, I have the luxury of backing out slowly from a particularly boring room and then erasing it from existence, or building a whole new wing on the house if I feel like it needs it.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Do you think being a journalist influences how you write fiction?

Adam:  Being a journalist influenced, and impeded, my fiction for a long time. With journalism, you’re not starting from scratch: In fact, the trick is often taking a very large amount of pre-existing and inflexible information and finding some way to winnow it down and organize it into a story. Fiction feels like the opposite to me: You can start with a few words then widen out to build a whole world. And there are no pre-existing limitations: just a blank page. Which to me can feel both very intimidating but also very exhilarating.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Adam:  There are a ton: I love the classic hardboiled writers like Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain, and I also love prose stylists who can really make their language dance: writers like Martin Amis, Nicholson Baker, Angela Carter and Megan Abbott. I love Graham Greene’s combination of weariness and romance — and the fact he wrote novels he classified (in a somewhat self-derogatory way) as “entertainments.” That’s what I aspire to write: Entertainments.

TQ:  Describe Shovel Ready in 140 characters or less.

Adam:  In a near-future dystopian NYC, a garbageman-turned-hitman is hired to kill the daughter of a televangelist. Then things get complicated.

TQ:  Tell us something about Shovel Ready that is not in the book description.

Adam:  Pretty much every single character’s name in the book is a reference to something, whether it’s mythological, biblical, or pop cultural. Certain reviewers have picked up on a few of them: For example, there’s an assassin in the book named Pilot who always washes his hands after a killing.

TQ:  Shovel Ready is a genre twisting SF Noir Thriller (at least I think so). Why did you set the novel in New York City? Why blend genre?

Adam:  I set it in NYC because it’s where I live, but more important, because I think New York is so intriguing as this kind of mythical city that exists in real life. All the physical places here — Broadway, Central Park, Wall Street — also reside in our shared cultural mythology. That seemed like such a fun potential canvas for this story. As for blending genres — it seemed so completely natural that I don’t even really think of it as a choice. Current day life seems so much like sci-fi already — with the gadgets we use and our continual interaction with, and reliance on, technology — that I feel like you’d have to go out of your way to excise those elements completely. My story takes place in the future, but it’s a future that I feel like is only one or two degrees of extrapolation away from our present-day reality.

TQ:  The physical structure of some of the passages in the novel reminded me of the way e.e. cumming's arranged words on the page. What was your reason for the unusual structure of some passages in Shovel Ready?

Adam:  I love this observation and I love this comparison — thank you! I was working hard in SHOVEL READY at creating this visually evocative world — this bombed-out version of New York, along with a parallel virtual world in which people can alter their bodies and live out various surreal (and perverse) fantasies. So I wanted to use all the tools at my disposal: What words mean, of course, but also how they sound to the ear in different combinations and even how they look on the page. Part of that was playing with line spacings for various effects—and realizing that sometimes it’s very evocative to insert
a line


British writers, in particular Ali Smith, often play with this sort of thing — and I acknowledge that a little of this goes a long way. Another egregious example of this approach happens during a scene that’s a shoot-out in a bar, with the sentence: “The shotgun speaks. Barroom.” Which is, of course, a visual pun: Both the sound of the shotgun going off, and the fact that it’s taking place in a barroom. I couldn’t resist that one — it’s my nod to all the great old Spirit comic books by Will Eisner, which used puns as sound effects, as well as the iconic “Kapows!” from the old “Batman” TV show.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Shovel Ready?

Adam:  I spent a lot of time Googling “Times Square dirty bomb” which probably put me on a few NSA watch lists somewhere. One random but invaluable piece of research was an “AMA’ on Reddit, titled “I Am A Garbage Man,” which gave me good ideas about the weird particulars of a garbage man’s life. The Internet is an amazing resource that way — pretty much any kind of person you want to know about probably has a confessional blog with lots of information. Beyond that, most of the factual material was drawn from work I’d already done — whether on previous articles I’d written, or research for other, discarded novels.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite ethically ambiguous character?

Adam:  In a sense, Spademan was the easiest character to write, because he is the narrator and the voice inside your head — I really did think of him as a kind of tour guide through Hell, like the ferryman on the river Styx, who’s retelling this adventure as he takes you through this world. That said, I also really liked the character of Mark Ray, the youth pastor on the run from his past — I would love in the future to tell more of his stories. The hardest character was probably Persephone, who is the young girl who starts out as Spademan’s target — in part because I’ve never been a teenage girl myself, and in part because her own story is full of a wide-range of nightmarish experiences that, I think, are very difficult to access authentically. And if you mean my favorite ethically ambiguous character in the world? That’s a very tough one to narrow down. But I have to go with the original scoundrel, or at least the first one I ever met: Han Solo.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Shovel Ready.

Adam:  This one’s pretty gruesome but I really like it — it’s describing the death of a character (I won’t say whom but he’s a bad guy) who’s just had his throat slashed by Spademan:

“When I let him go he falls to his knees.
Having seen the light. And the dying of the light.
His windpipe whistling.
Exit music.
He plays himself offstage.”

TQ:  What's next?

Adam:  Another Spademan novel is in the works — a sequel to SHOVEL READY that takes place about a year after this book ends. Just long enough for everything to have settled down — and then gone completely off the rails once again.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Adam:  Thank you!

Shovel Ready

Shovel Ready
Spademan 1
Crown, January 14, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 256 pages

The futuristic hardboiled noir that Lauren Beukes calls “sharp as a paper-cut” about a garbage man turned kill-for-hire.

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a blown-out shell of its former self.

Now he’s a hitman.

In a near-future New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap in” to a sophisticated virtual reality, and those who are left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. His new job is not that different from his old one: waste disposal is waste disposal. He doesn’t ask questions, he works quickly, and he’s handy with a box cutter. But when his latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist, his unadorned life is upended: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has a sordid agenda far beyond a simple kill. Spademan must navigate between these two worlds—the wasteland reality and the slick fantasy—to finish his job, clear his conscience, and make sure he’s not the one who winds up in the ground.

Adam Sternbergh has written a dynamite debut: gritty, violent, funny, riveting, tender, and brilliant.

About Adam

Photo by Marvin Orellana
Adam Sternbergh is the culture editor of The New York Times Magazine. Formerly an editor-at-large for New York, his writing has been featured in several other publications including GQ and The Times of London, and on the radio program This American Life. He lives in Brooklyn and is at work on a second Spademan novel, Near Enemy, set to be published in 2015.

Website  ~  Twitter @sternbergh

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Hyde by Daniel Levine

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.

Daniel Levine

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 18, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages

What happens when a villain becomes a hero?

Mr. Hyde is trapped, locked in Dr. Jekyll’s surgical cabinet, counting the hours until his inevitable capture. As four days pass, he has the chance, finally, to tell his story—the story of his brief, marvelous life.

Summoned to life by strange potions, Hyde knows not when or how long he will have control of “the body.” When dormant, he watches Dr. Jekyll from a remove, conscious of this other, high-class life but without influence. As the experiment continues, their mutual existence is threatened, not only by the uncertainties of untested science, but also by a mysterious stalker. Hyde is being taunted—possibly framed. Girls have gone missing; someone has been killed. Who stands, watching, from the shadows? In the blur of this shared consciousness, can Hyde ever be confident these crimes were not committed by his hand?

“You may think you know Dr. Jekyll, but this Hyde is a different beast altogether."—Jon Clinch, author of Finn

"Prepare to be seduced by literary devilry! Go back to Victorian times to find a very postmodern whodunit. Visceral prose, atmosphere you could choke on, characters who seem to be at your very shoulder."—Ronald Frame, author of Havisham

"Hyde brings into the light the various horrors still hidden in the dark heart of Stevenson’s classic tale of monstrosity and addiction. Devious and ingenious, it is a blazing triumph of the gothic imagination."—Patrick McGrath, author of Asylum

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.

Scott Meyer

Off to Be the Wizard
Magic 2.0
47North, March 18, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 386 pages

Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard.

What could possibly go wrong?

An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin…and not, y’know, die or anything.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - February 2014 Winner

The winner of the February 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is The Waking Engine by David Edison with 58% of the votes. The cover art is by Stephan Martiniere.

The Final Results

The February 2014 Debut Covers

Thank you to everyone who voted, Tweeted, and participated. The 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will continue with voting on the March Debut covers starting on March 15, 2014.  Look for the list of March's Debuts on March 1st.

2014 Debut Author Challenge - The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone by Will Storr

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.

Will Storr

The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone
Atria Books/Marble Arch Press, March 11, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Killian Lone comes from a long line of gifted cooks, stretching back to the seven­teenth century, and yearns to become a famous chef himself. When he starts an apprenticeship under Max Mann, the most famous chef in London, he looks set to continue the family tradition. But the reality of kitchen life is brutal. Even his fellow apprentice, Kathryn, who shows Killian uncharacteristic kindness, can’t stop his being sucked into the vicious, debauched world of 1980s fine dining, and gradually he is forced to surrender his dream.

Then he discovers a dark family secret—the legacy of an ancestor who was burnt as a witch for creating food so delicious it was said to turn all who tasted it mad. Killian knows he can use this secret to achieve his ambitions and maybe, finally, to win Kathryn’s affections. But is he willing to pay the price?

This is Killian’s confession—a strange tragedy about love, ambition and incredible food . . .

Interview with Lauren M. Roy, author of Night Owls - February 26, 2014

Please welcome Lauren M. Roy to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Night Owls was published on February 25, 2014 by Ace.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Lauren:  Thank you for having me! I'm not sure I could put a finger on when I first put pen to paper to tell a story. Some parents store up embarrassing baby photos to show to their kids' friends. I suspect mine have a box of really terrible third-grade story attempts somewhere, laying in wait. I've never NOT been writing. As for why I started -- I love reading stories, hearing them, watching them play out. At some point I realized I wanted to tell stories of my own.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Lauren:  I'm a weird hybrid of both. I'm a linear writer, so writing scenes out of order is very hard for me to do. I tend to plan two or three chapters ahead, then when my draft catches up to my outline, I look ahead another few chapters.

However, when I'm not in front of the keyboard working on a project, I do have a habit of emailing snippets to myself to keep in mind for later. Those range from bits of dialogue to character descriptions to plot reminders: "Character A is lying and gets caught out."

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Where do you write?

Lauren:  Making the time for it. I work full-time, so most of my writing gets done at night and on weekends. I've sacrificed many a sunny summer Sunday to wordcount.

I bounce between the desktop in my study and the laptop in our living room. I also carry a hardcover notebook with me for longhand writing. Every now and then if I get stuck, the switch from screen to page is the change of brainspace I need to get the words flowing again.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Lauren:  Does everyone list Stephen King as an influence? Because, er, Stephen King. His books taught me so much about voice and pacing. Madeleine L'Engle's another. I'm pretty sure my name took up half the checkout card on the school library's copy of A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET.

Pinning down my favorite authors gets harder: Robert R. McCammon, Christopher Moore, Seanan McGuire, Elizabeth Bear, Chuck Wendig, N.K. Jemisin, Scott Lynch. (Seriously we could be here for days.)

TQ:  Describe Night Owls in 140 characters or less.

Lauren:  Val tried leaving her monster-hunting days behind, but a girl named Elly comes to town with them on her heels and leads them to Val's door.

TQ:  Tell us something about Night Owls that is not in the book description.

Lauren:  There's a third POV character in the book, Val's Renfield Chaz (aka her human minion and bookstore manager). He thinks he's pretty savvy about how the vampires operate, but he's about to find out just how much he doesn't know.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Night Owls? Why did you choose to write Urban Fantasy? Do you want to write in any other genres or sub-genres?

LaurenNight Owls started as a bit of write-what-you-know. My first job was in a bookstore, so I was aiming for a funny supernatural spin on bookseller life. For a long time, I had the first chapter (which is actually the start of chapter two!) sitting on my hard drive in need of a plot. Later, I was writing what was supposed to be a short story about a girl running away from a Creep, and realized oh hey, maybe this is the same world. Everything clicked from there.

I usually begin stories with characters and situations, and the genre comes along as I figure them out. So I didn't set out with UF specifically in mind, but I'm a fan of the genre, so I hope NIGHT OWLS is a fun read for other fans!

I've written a YA fantasy and a MG fantasy-with-steampunk-elements, and am eyeballing some adult horror with my friend and writing partner Hillary Monahan (who, if shameless plugs are allowed, has a debut YA horror coming in September called MARY: THE SUMMONING.)

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Night Owls?

Lauren:  I didn't know it was research at the time, but the subject of my college thesis was the female vampire in literature. (The English department had no idea what to do with me...) A lot of what I learned for that came back around when I was thinking about how I wanted the vampires in my world to work.

I've also been delving into Russian history, since one of the groups of vampires Val deals with lived through great big swaths of it. Though I don't necessarily go into it in NIGHT OWLS, it informs their characters.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?

Lauren:  Chaz was the easiest. He lets me channel my inner smartass and get back in touch with my bookseller side -- I worked in an independent bookstore through high school and college and miss it terribly. He was also the character who got to ask the neat questions and react as someone new to the world.

Elly could be tough to write sometimes. She's been through a lot, and she tends to play things close to the vest. Her unusual upbringing means she feels out of place in a lot of social situations, but when it comes to the supernatural she's nearly as confident as Val. Balancing those two aspects of her personality occasionally got challenging.

It's not easy to pick favorites with an ensemble cast, but because I've been in her headspace a little more recently, I'm going with Katya, the second-in-command of the South Boston vampires, as my favorite ethically ambiguous character. She revels in who and what she is, she's not a very nice person, but there's more to her than meets the eye.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Night Owls.

Lauren:  A smart vampire would have gone home and gone to bed.

No, a smart vampire would have built up her wealth over the years, amassed a small army of devoted minions, and built an impenetrable fortress-mansion somewhere exotic. I went with the “sink all your money into a bookstore and barely scrape by in a quaint college town.”

And she’d sent her one minion home

TQ:  What's next?

Lauren:  I'm putting the finishing touches on the first draft of the sequel to NIGHT OWLS (currently called GHOST TOWN). It should be on shelves in early 2015. After that, I'm poking at a straight-up fantasy involving faeries on the open sea.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Lauren:  Thank you for hosting me!

Night Owls

Night Owls
Night Owls 1
Ace, February 25, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Night Owls bookstore is the one spot on campus open late enough to help out even the most practiced slacker. The employees’ penchant for fighting the evil creatures of the night is just a perk…

Valerie McTeague’s business model is simple: provide the students of Edgewood College with a late-night study haven and stay as far away as possible from the underworld conflicts of her vampire brethren. She’s experienced that life, and the price she paid was far too high for her to ever want to return.

Elly Garrett hasn’t known any life except that of fighting the supernatural beings known as Creeps or Jackals. But she always had her mentor and foster father by her side—until he gave his life protecting a book that the Creeps desperately want to get their hands on.

When the book gets stashed at Night Owls for safekeeping, those Val holds nearest and dearest are put in mortal peril. Now Val and Elly will have to team up, along with a mismatched crew of humans, vampires, and lesbian succubi, to stop the Jackals from getting their claws on the book and unleashing unnamed horrors…

About Lauren

Lauren M. Roy has flexed her literary fantasy muscles over the past several years contributing to various role playing games, including Green Ronin's Dragon Age Set 3 sourcebook, Pelgrane Press' Mythos Expeditions anthology (part of the Trail of Cthulhu line), and Green Ronin's Song of Ice and Fire. NIGHT OWLS is her first novel.

Website   ~  Twitter @falconesse

Tumblr  ~  Goodreads

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - Full-Blood Half-Breed by Cleve Lamison

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.

Cleve Lamison

Full-Blood Half-Breed
Hydra, March 11, 2014
eBook, 286 pages

In Cleve Lamison’s hard-hitting debut, two young men divided by an intense hatred—yet marked with a common destiny—have the power to save the world . . . or destroy it.

It’s been two thousand years since the bastard spawn of the god Creador lost their war to enslave humankind, transforming the Thirteen Kingdoms into a violent world where the martial arts are exalted as sacred gifts from the gods—and honor is won through arena blood sport.

Paladin Del Darkdragón, a sixteen-year-old warrior-in-training, is a “half-breed.” His battle against pure-blood bullies like Fox the Runt has forced him to master the four fighting forms. But when he blends them, he is condemned as a heretic by authorities and banished from the training temples. Seeking redemption, he enrolls in the arena games, savage trials that end in death.

This year’s games mask an old plot driven by a new prophet. With a horde of Creador’s Bastards and an army of fanatics led by Fox the Runt at his command, the Prophet will bend the world to his will or burn it to ash.

Paladin faces an impossible choice: redeem his honor in a fight he can’t hope to survive, or abandon his loved ones to perish in the sweeping holy war consuming the Kingdoms.

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Weirdness by Jeremy P. Bushnell

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.

Jeremy P. Bushnell

The Weirdness
Melville House, March 4, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

With the literary muscle of Victor LaValle’s Big Machine and the outlandish humor of Kevin Smith’s Dogma, this debut reveals the dark underbelly of the NY literary scene.

What do you do when you wake up hung over and late for work only to find a stranger on your couch? And what if that stranger turns out to be an Adversarial Manifestation who has already brewed you a fresh cup of fair-trade coffee? If you’re Billy Ridgeway, you take the coffee.

“This is some kind of make-a-deal-with-the-Devil type shit,” he says. Lucifer explains that Billy must steal the Neko of Infinite Equilibrium, a cat-shaped statue with magical powers, before the most powerful warlock in the eastern United States can upset the balance of the universe. In exchange, Billy’s novel will be published for a five-figure advance.

Traffic may be in the way of Billy’s getaway car, he may lose his job at the Greek deli, his girlfriend may break up with him, and it’s likely he’ll have to battle his greatest literary rival with his fists… but one way or another, he is determined to become a published author and save the universe.

Along the way, Billy learns about courage, friendship, and love, while considering some important questions: Why do people have pets? Who would store seafood in a warehouse in Chelsea? And where do those bananas in bodegas come from, anyway?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2014 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.

Sarah Harian

The Wicked We Have Done
Chaos Theory 1
InterMix, March 18, 2014

Darkly suspenseful and completely unexpected, The Wicked We Have Done is a debut author’s thrilling new take on New Adult romance.

Twenty-two-year-old Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either. 

Interview with Adrianne Harun, author of A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain - February 25, 2014

Please welcome Adrianne Harun to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is published today by Penguin. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Adrianne a Happy Publication Day!

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Adrianne:  Thank you so much for the invitation, Sally.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Adrianne:  I honestly don’t remember beginning to write. I joke a little about this, but it’s true that I only remember wanting to write better. But you don’t really write, do you, until you fully commit to the task, and I didn’t do that until I was a young adult with children and a couple of jobs and truly no time at all. This is going to sound hugely dramatic, but I remember feeling a constant ache about not writing, a real physical pain, and a steady tumult of stories and characters invaded my thoughts constantly. I daydreamed like a madwoman and scribbled notes that later mystified me. At night sometimes I’d have ten dreams in a row, all lucid and insistent.

Looking back, it’s hard to fathom how I had the nerve to apply to an MFA program with so many responsibilities and really no money and not a lot of work to show, but I did and it was the making of my writing life. I committed. The dreams slowed, but the stories continued to arrive, and thankfully, some of the time I’m ready for them.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Adrianne:  Both, absolutely. When I’m writing stories, I can follow my intuition and suss out the storyline from the surprises that arrive on the page, a surreal and dedicated process. I would have gone mad trying to do that in a longer work, but that’s how I began the novel, following a voice. I had to pull back, though, again and again, to see where the story was going, where it was meant to go, and how the two were jiving, so I learned to draw a dozen types of diagrams that make sense only to me. I also fell in love with the idea of mapping a story, a life, and delving into other words with that thin scrap in hand.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Where do you write?

Adrianne:  In conversation, I tend to talk too much, meandering down side roads. (Okay, I babble.) I do the same thing when I write, so it takes me a while to be a better listener, to work through all the images I see and the possible conversation and emotional fallout to get to what a story might be about and then, most importantly, to listen for the true voice of the story.

I have a space off our living room, kind of an office/book cave with bookshelves on all sides, a desk built between them under a window. My view is of a stand of very tall cedar trees growing far too close to the house. I write at the desk or sprawled on the floor among pillows and stacks of books or on the rug in the living room, leaning against my poor cat-demolished couch. Lucky, eh?

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Adrianne:  How much time do you have? As a young reader, I was deeply affected by the Brothers Grimm and by Shirley Jackson (especially We Have Always Lived in the Castle) and by a handful of gothic romances, beginning with a book that I read far too young, Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck, which was so startling to me that I remember hiding it as if it were contraband, and blushing each time I took it out of the library. Jane Eyre seemed so sedate afterwards, but that’s another story that hit me hard – that raging creature in the attic -- and each time I read it, I discover something else. Joyce Carol Oates’ story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” never fails to terrify me, so of course I have read it many times. Rachel Ingalls’ stories – ah, what a jolt it was to meet them! The tales of Italo Calvino showed me that magic may exists in many forms and that history can be retold via fairy tales. I also wish I could claim the Irish master William Trevor, and the Canadian genius Alice Munro as literary godparents – I’ve learned so much from reading their work – but that might make them cringe.

I have far too many favorite authors to list, but while writing this novel, two continually came to mind. I really like Hilary Mantel’s work – not talking about the historical novels like Wolf Hall (although they are terrific) – but the darker, weirder, funnier stuff like Fludd and Beyond Black (two books that also feature devils). The Australian writer Murray Bail wrote a little novel I adore called Eucalyptus, filled with odd, perfect little tales. (I so wish I’d wrote it!)

TQ:  Describe A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain in 140 characters or less.

Adrianne:  In a lonely Canadian town, two strangers twist the hearts of five good friends, inspiring deadly trouble. The only defense: fairy tales and physics assignments.

TQ:  Tell us something about A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain that is not in the book description.

Adrianne:  It’s a love story in many ways. The deep affection between the characters sustains them and if anything can, that may ultimately save any of them from real, no-turning-back engagement with evil. I also think the book is kind of funny in places, but that may be my own admittedly skewed sense of humor.

TQ:  What inspired you to write A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain? Why did you choose to write a novel that "weaves together folklore, mythology, and elements of magical realism"?

Adrianne:  The impetus for the novel came out of a sense of outrage and helplessness. I’d been following the Highway of Tears murders in British Columbia and wanted to write something about it. Evil is preposterously difficult to fathom, particularly in human form. Why? How? You can’t answer those questions on a single, logical level and feel satisfied. And, really, I’m not a big believer in consensual reality. For me, every story has many realities and all are a kind of truth. I didn’t intentionally set out to include the tales that leap into the devil’s realm. They arrived and claimed space and made a lot of sense to me. My hope is that they act as a kind of shadow narrative to the larger story, illuminating it in ways a purely real one could not.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain?

Adrianne:  I don’t know if this counts as research or a dark rabbit hole, but I read a great deal about serial killers. I also began a physics course online – one like Leo’s – but like Leo, I didn’t get very far. He is far smarter than I am, and at least he understands the fundamentals of physics.

My husband is Canadian, originally from British Columbia, and we also spent time driving and driving and driving along Highway 16 and meandering in other ways through the landscape.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?

Adrianne:  The devil in all his and her forms very quickly became the easiest character to write. I think that’s because he has no stops, so there’s no need to censor or interpret his stories or pretend he only exists in one narrow reality. Leo held the voice of the novel -- Ich bin Leo -- and I really just went to meet him every day, so he too was pretty easy. My favorite good guy…sheesh, I love them all…but the favorite is probably Tessa, that tough, sweet girl. Leo loves her, too, and Marcus becomes enraptured. Maybe that’s why Marcus, weak, damaged soul that he is, is my favorite bad guy. Ethically ambiguous? Aren’t they all?

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain.

Adrianne:  Not one of the most eloquent lines in the novel, but…

“You get a good eye shooting rats.”

TQ:  What's next?

Adrianne:  I’ve finished a new collection of stories that includes a few ghost stories, and I’m deep into a novel about a young woman who explores abandoned places and becomes ensnared in the story of two soldiers from the Great War.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Adrianne:  Thank you. What a pleasure.

Adrianne Harun

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain
Penguin, February 25, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

The seductive and chilling debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of The King of Limbo

In isolated British Columbia, girls, mostly native, are vanishing from the sides of a notorious highway. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are barely touched by these disappearances—until a series of mysterious and troublesome outsiders come to town. Then it seems as if the devil himself has appeared among them.

In this intoxicatingly lush debut novel, Adrianne Harun weaves together folklore, mythology, and elements of magical realism to create a compelling and unsettling portrait of life in a dead-end town. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is atmospheric and evocative of place and a group of people, much in the way that Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones conjures the South, or Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children provides a glimpse of the Las Vegas underworld: kids left to fend for themselves in a broken world—rendered with grit and poetry in equal measure.

About Adrianne

Adrianne Harun's short fiction, essays, and book reviews have been published in numerous magazines and journals, including Story, the Chicago Tribune (as a Nelson Algren winner), Narrative Magazine, Ontario Review, The Sun, Willow Springs, and Colorado Review. Her first short story collection, The King of Limbo (Houghton Mifflin) was a Sewanee Writing Series selection and a Washington State Book Award finalist. Stories from an upcoming collection have been noted as "Distinguished Stories" in both Best American Mystery Stories (2003) and Best American Short Stories (2009). Her work has also been included in several anthologies. Most recently, "The Darger Episodes," inspired by the work of outsider artist Henry Darger, appeared in Looking Together: Northwest Writers on Art, published by the University of Washington Press in conjunction with the Frye Art Museum. Her new novel, A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain, will be published on February 25, 2014.

A longtime resident of Port Townsend, Washington, where she and her husband, Alistair Scovil, run a garage called Motorsport, Adrianne has worked as an editor for over twenty years, with projects ranging from literary fiction to computer language textbooks and topics in alternative medicine. Adrianne is also a member of the core faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshops, an MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University, as well as a faculty member at the Sewanee School of Letters at the University of the South.

Website  ~  Twitter @AdrianneHarun