Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore, plus a Review and Giveaway of Broken Souls - August 5th, 2014

Please welcome Stephen Blackmoore to The Qwillery. Broken Souls, the 2nd novel in the Eric Carter series, is out today from DAW. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Stephen a very Happy Publication Day.

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery! Please tell us something about your newest book, Broken Souls, that is not in the book description.

Stephen:  Well, there are a lot of new side characters and I dig into what some details of Eric's life when he was previously in Los Angeles fifteen years ago. He's reconnecting with some old acquaintances and trying to re-establish some kind of trust in a city that has a lot of reasons to not like him. I think it answers some questions that were posed in DEAD THINGS, like what Santa Muerte is planning, but also, if I did it right, it raises a bunch of new ones.

TQ:  In an interview in January 2012 I asked you "[w]hat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?" You responded, in part, "Doing it. There are so many distractions and excuses. Just getting off my ass and writing is the hardest thing. ..." Have the challenges changed since then? How has your writing process changed from when you wrote City of the Lost to Broken Souls?

Stephen:  I'm pretty much dealing with that same thing. Time is my biggest enemy. Like a lot of writers I have a full time day job on top of the writing and it's easy to get overextended and burnt out. I've learned some new strategies to better manage my time and energy, but I think there's a lot of room for improvement. I'm outlining a lot more, which has helped tremendously and I'm constantly playing around with the amount of outlining that works best for me.

TQ:  Santa Muerte, patron saint of death, appears in both Dead Things and Broken Souls. Why Santa Muerte and not for example, The Morrigan?

Stephen:  Santa Muerte is a Mexican cultural icon that has roots in pre-Columbian native death beliefs, like the Aztec goddess of death Mictecacihuatl, mixed with Catholic imagery. Belief in her has been around for a really long time and only in the last probably twenty years or so has she become more visible to people in the United States. Unlike the Catholic saints that she's contrasted against, she's the one you go to for help when nobody else will help you. A lot of prayers for justice and revenge, but also luck, love, health, or even, counter-intuitively, long life.

What's interesting to me about Santa Muerte is how misunderstood she is. People see the skeleton in the dress and think she's something evil. If anything she is completely neutral. She has a reputation, deservedly I think, as the Narco Saint, because a lot of the gangs and cartels in Mexico are either devout followers or have co-opted her imagery, which sometimes seems to me as missing the point. What people don't seem to grasp is that the gangs are only a handful of her followers. Men and women from all walks of life worship her. In fact, calling Santa Muerte "her" isn't even accurate. She's not so much a goddess of death as she is the concept of death itself.

And the thing about that, about what makes her so appealing to her followers, I think, is her honesty and fairness. Everyone will die. She doesn't promise a goddamn thing other than the fact that all men and women will be made equal before her. Rich, poor, good, evil. Doesn't matter. She is the great equalizer. And I think there's something comforting in that. Regardless of our station in life one of these days we will all meet The Bony Lady.

Though she's a Mexican cutural icon much like La Calavera Catrina, which she gets mistaken for a lot, Santa Muerte was really only being openly worshipped for a long time in Mexico City and Los Angeles, openly being the key word here. Her followers have since spread throughout the Southwest, so she's a lot more common than even a few years ago. Whether people here realize it or not I think she's become a part of Los Angeles' mythology. There are at least three churches dedicated to her in Los Angeles. One of these is in a strip mall next to a laundromat which is about as L.A. a thing as you can get.

It's that connection to L.A. that I was looking for. These are as much Los Angeles novels as they are crime or fantasy novels and I wanted to have a connection to death that fit here. The Morrigan isn't really an L.A. thing. Something like Santa Muerte / Mictecacihuatl is. We have some of the oldest, most extensive Dia De Los Muertos celebrations in the nation, there's one in Boyle Heights that's been going strong for the last 40 years, and though Santa Muerte isn't really a part of that, she's a very different thing than La Catrina, there's a connection there whether people want to look at it or not.

She isn't someone who takes fallen heroes, or judges souls, or anything like that. She's just death. Brutally honest. And I think that fits Los Angeles to a tee. Because as much as L.A. is considered a city of illusions because of the entertainment industry, the illusions are the things we make, not the things we feed on. This town will gleefully grind you into mulch and it will let you know in no uncertain terms that it's doing it.

TQ:  Which character in Broken Souls has surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest to write?

Stephen:  The Bruja, Gabriela Cortez. She's a pretty major character who first showed up in CITY OF THE LOST and there were some hints in there about the lengths she would go to to achieve her goals. I wanted to explore that more with her. Toss her into a meat grinder and see what she does.

As I wrote her out a lot more of who she really is crystallized for me. She's my favorite character in this book. Tough, brutal, pragmatic. I see her as very much a take no bullshit type of person. The trick for me was staying true to her and making sure when I wrote her that I always had her best interests in mind. If she does something, it's because there's an advantage there for her. If somebody else gets what they want out of it and it doesn't get in her way, fine. At times I had to move some plot points around because she just wasn't the right character for them.

She's not Eric's friend and I can see them being at cross-purposes some day. If that happens I'm honestly not sure which of them would walk away from it.

TQ:  The 3 novels that you've set in Los Angeles. (City of the Lost, Dead Things, and Broken Souls) are all paranormal noir. What is paranormal noir and why do you like writing in that sub-genre?

Stephen:  For me paranormal noir is noir first and paranormal second. It's going to be dark, it's going to end badly for everybody. The fact that it's about a necromancer and ghosts just adds to the feel.

Noir is a cynical genre, absolutely. It's built on failure. But at the same time noir is oddly hopeful. Yes, it ends badly, and the characters are doomed, but for them to be able to keep going in the face of all evidence telling them that they're doomed? That takes balls.

For me noir is a great way to create constant conflict. Noir is driven by people making bad choices and paying for them, and in real life, thankfully, that doesn't always happen. If it did we'd all be in jail or dead by now... well, I'D be in jail or dead by now, at least. It's fun to play in that genre and screw with the characters, which probably makes me a bit of a sadist.

TQ:  What's next?

Stephen:  I'm working on a couple of things right now. There's the next Eric Carter book, which has bounced around about half a dozen titles so far and I'm not sure which one's going to win out, yet.

Then there's MYTHBREAKER, which is a continuation of the GODS AND MONSTERS series by Abaddon Books started by Chuck Wendig. That should be out at the end of the year.

That all's shot through with short story and game work, some of which I hope people will be able to see this year.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephen:  Thanks for having me!

Broken Souls
Eric Carter 2
DAW, August 5, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 272 pages

Sister murdered, best friend dead, married to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte. Necromancer Eric Carter's return to Los Angeles hasn't gone well, and it's about to get even worse.

His link to the Aztec death goddess is changing his powers, changing him, and he's not sure how far it will go. He's starting to question his own sanity, wonder if he's losing his mind. No mean feat for a guy who talks to the dead on a regular basis.

While searching for a way to break Santa Muerte's hold over him, Carter finds himself the target of a psychopath who can steal anyone's form, powers, and memories. Identity theft is one thing, but this guy does it by killing his victims and wearing their skins like a suit. He can be anyone. He can be anywhere.

Now Carter has to change the game -- go from hunted to hunter. All he has for help is a Skid Row bruja and a ghost who's either his dead friend Alex or the manifestation of Carter's own guilt-fueled psychotic break.

Everything is trying to kill him. Nothing is as it seems. If all his plans go perfectly, he might survive the week.

He's hoping that's a good thing.

Qwills Thoughts

Broken Souls is the 2nd novel in the Eric Carter series by Stephen Blackmoore. It's also Blackmoore's 3rd published paranormal noir novel set in Los Angeles after City of the Lost and Dead Things (Eric Carter 1).

Eric is a necromancer who is now married to Sante Muerte (patron saint of death). She's not exactly his dream wife. As a matter of fact, Eric wants nothing more than to get out of his bargain with her and never see her again. Being married to Sante Muerte does offer some advantages - his power has increased, he casts spells more easily. However, Eric is changing and is becoming something more than and different from himself. For Eric these changes are not exactly welcome.

Eric is such an intriguing character. He's pretty much friendless, alienates anyone who comes in contact with him, is trouble with a capital T (which rhymes with D and that stands for death). The life expectancy of anyone who does get close to him is close to zero. And yet, I really like Eric. Blackmoore had created a wonderful anti-hero. Eric is sarcastic, cynical, and rushes in where others with more sense fear to tread. That he is not dead yet is a wonder. While he may not have any friends he is firecely loyal to those he feels he should protect. Nonetheless his plans (when he has them) often don't work out exactly as he'd like.

Much is revealed by Santa Muerte to Eric in Broken Souls, but for some reason (perhaps Eric's cynicism is catching) I don't believe anything she says. I am really thrilled that Blackmoore brings back the Bruja that we met in his first published novel, City of the Lost. She's given a big role in Broken Souls and we get more of her history and back-story. She's a superb foil for Eric. She has as much power as he does, possibly more.

Blackmoore's knowledge of Los Angeles and its history shine in Broken Souls. He also gives plenty of information on the Aztec background of Sante Muerte, which is fascinating. The pacing is fast and there is plenty of action, violence, blood, and magic as Eric tries to stay alive and stop the folks who are after him. Broken Souls is inventive, thrilling and compulsively readable.

Dead Things
Necromancer 1
DAW, February 3, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 256 pages

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it's a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He's turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he'd never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister's been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it's the patrion saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who's taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter's going to find out who did it, and he's going to make them pay.

As long as they don't kill him first.

City of the Lost
DAW Trade, January 3, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 224 pages
Cover and illustrations by Sean Philips

Joe Sunday’s dead.

He just hasn’t stopped moving yet.

Sunday’s a thug, an enforcer, a leg-breaker for hire. When his boss sends him to kill a mysterious new business partner, his target strikes back in ways Sunday could never have imagined. Murdered, brought back to a twisted half-life, Sunday finds himself stuck in the middle of a race to find an ancient stone with the power to grant immortality. With it, he might live forever. Without it, he’s just another rotting extra in a George Romero flick.

Everyone’s got a stake, from a psycho Nazi wizard and a razor-toothed midget, to a nympho-demon bartender, a too-powerful witch who just wants to help her homeless vampires, and the one woman who might have all the answers — if only Sunday can figure out what her angle is.

Before the week is out he’s going to find out just what lengths people will go to for immortality. And just how long somebody can hold a grudge.


Gods and Monsters 2
Abaddon Books, December 2, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook

The follow-up to Chuck Wendig's Unclean Sprits is a stand alone tale of new gods facing up to the old ones with humanity in the middle!

Growing up an orphan, Louie had conversations with “invisible friends,” could see patterns in the world that no one else could see. In other times he would have been a prophet – someone to make people believe in the gods. But he grew out of the visions, and then into crime as a drug runner.

Now thirty-five and burnt out, he’s had enough. With access to the mob’s money, he plans to go out in a big way. Only he can’t. A broken down car, a missed flight; it’s bad enough being hunted by the mob, but the gods – kicked out of the Heavens, stuck on Earth without worshippers – need someone who can tell their stories, and they aren’t letting him go.

And there are new gods on the scene, gods of finance and technology, who want him too. Caught between the mob and two sets of rival gods, Louie hatches a plan that will probably get him killed if it doesn’t get him out. 

About Stephen

Stephen Blackmoore is the author of the novels CITY OF THE LOST, DEAD THINGS and BROKEN SOULS and his short stories have appeared in publications such as PLOTS WITH GUNS, SPINETINGLER, THRILLING DETECTIVE, and SHOTS as well as the print anthologies DEADLY TREATS, DON'T READ THIS BOOK and UNCAGE ME. He is the co-host of the bi-monthly Los Angeles literary event NOIR AT THE BAR (https://www.facebook.com/NoirAtTheBarLa). He has also written essays on Los Angeles politics and crime for the website LAVOICE.ORG (http://lavoice.org) and the true crime blog LA Noir (http://la-noir.blogspot.com).

Website  :  Blog  :  Twitter  :  Goodreads

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a copy of Broken Souls by Stephen Blackmoore from DAW Books. US/CANADA ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on August 16, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

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