Please welcome H.M. Long to The Qwillery as part of the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Hall of Smoke is published on January 19, 2021 by Titan Books.
Please join The Qwillery in wishing H.M. Long a very Happy Book Birthday!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
H.M.: Hello, thank you for having me!
The first proper story I recall writing was when I was about 11 or 12. No copies survive, but it was fantasy and around 60k, with lots of swords and pretty dresses.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
H.M.: I’ve always considered myself a pantser, but I’ve become more of a hybrid out of necessity. I’ll usually start out with a vague concept of character, world and goal, and then pants my way up to about 80% of the first draft, at which point I’ll plot the climax and restructure as needed.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
H.M.: Focus. I’m one of those writers who needs to be completely alone, without distractions or other responsibilities to tug at my concentration. Fortunately, my family is very respectful of this and I live in the middle of nowhere, so I’ve quiet aplenty.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
H.M.: Other than many incredible authors, travel has hugely influenced my writing. During the time I wrote Hall of Smoke, I honeymooned in Wales and I lived near the Alps in Germany. I visited Austria on Switzerland for weekend hikes and cozy nights in mountain cabins, and those ever-present mountains saturated Hall of Smoke.
TQ: Describe Hall of Smoke using only 5 words.
H.M.: Woman with axe questions gods.
TQ: Tell us something about Hall of Smoke that is not found in the book description.
H.M.: In reading Hall of Smoke, you’re going to meet the gods in the flesh, on the page. They’re living, breathing, active participants in the story.
TQ: What inspired you to write Hall of Smoke? What appeals to you about writing fantasy?
H.M.: I enjoyed series like Vikings and The Last Kingdom, but I wanted a primary female protagonist, complex, unyielding and fierce, and yet vulnerable. So I wrote one.
Fantasy itself appeals to me because of its freedoms. Though I strove to give the world and cultures of Hall of Smoke a real-world feel, my impulse is always to break out of the confines of the world we know – opening up the possibilities of an entirely new realm, with new beliefs and practices and, of course, magic.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Hall of Smoke?
H.M.: I didn’t do a lot of intentional research for Hall of Smoke, but the book was the product of a life-long love of history and many hours spend wandering through museums, visiting historical sites and devouring documentary series.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Hall of Smoke.
H.M.: The cover artist is the very talented Julia Lloyd, and it depicts Hessa, Hall of Smoke’s protagonist, holding an axe. Owls play a key role in the book – they’re the eyes and messengers of Eang, Goddess of War – so two owls are featured as well. One swoops down in the background, talons outstretched to grasp Hessa, while the other alights on her hand – bearing a message, and recognizing her as a priestess of Eang. The colours too, are symbolic, but I’ll leave that up to the reader to figure out!
TQ: In Hall of Smoke who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
H.M.: The easiest character was Ogam, son of Eang. He emerged fully formed onto the page, full of life and bravado and one of my favourite backstories of the whole HOS world. The hardest was the protagonist Hessa, balancing her grief and questions of faith with the necessity of constantly moving forward and facing the next battle.
TQ: Which question about Hall of Smoke do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
H.M.: Who made Hall of Smoke’s map?
The map in the front of Hall of Smoke was designed and drawn by Cheryl Bowman, my dear friend and alpha reader, a talented artist and constructor of languages. You can find her on Instagram @conorthography.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Hall of Smoke.
H.M.: Pg 191, “There was no use hiding now. I screamed, but the voice was not my own. It never was, not when the Fire possessed me like this. The Algatt crumpled and two more took her place, diving to intercept me with howls of desperate challenge – and dread.”
Pg. 369, “’Look, Eangi,’ he whispered, voice barely penetrating the silent storm in my skull. ‘Watch the gods battle. This is our privilege, you and I; priest and priestess.”
TQ: What's next?
H.M.: I’m currently working on two projects. One is a stand-alone sequel to Hall of Smoke, coming early 2022, and I can’t wait to share more about that soon! The other is my current work-in-progress, a swashbuckling adult fantasy with a dark folktale twist.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
H.M.: Thank you so much for having me!
Hall of Smoke
Titan Books, January 19, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
Epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war, for readers of Brian Staveley’s Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne.
Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the
power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for
disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for
forgiveness alone on a mountainside.
While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi
priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the
traveller and atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved
ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from
the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path
Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.
Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at
every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her
journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High
Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess
weakens with every unheeded prayer.
Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New,
Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond
her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her
world. And they’re about to wake up.
H. M. Long is a Canadian fantasy writer, author of HALL OF SMOKE and TEMPLE OF NO GOD, who loves history, hiking, and exploring the world. She lives in Ontario, but can often be spotted snooping about European museums or wandering the Alps with her German husband.
Speculate: A Collection of MicroLit by Eugen Bacon and Dominique Hecq will be published by Meerkat Press on January 19, 2021.
Speculate: A Collection of MicroLit
Meerkat Press, January 19, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 136 pages
From what began as a dialog between two adventurous writers curious about the shape-shifter called a prose poem comes a stunning collection that is a disruption of language—a provocation. Speculate is a hybrid of speculative poetry and flash fiction, thrumming in a pulse of jouissance and intensity that chases the impossible.
Friends are not important—like plagues, they come and go, even blood is not thicker. But fate is another matter. Some fool in autumn had a drink in the dark, sought a taste of heaven in a street named Bagh Nakh. Found it in the hands of a runaway who raised a hand and plunged a dagger that clung to the idiot’s heart.
You were born in autumn and so, naturally, hate spring. The scent of blackwood showering pollen. The air licked with gold where the buzzing of the bees deepens. The sudden opacity of it all. You run. Run away. Away from the visible and from the invisible. With the pollen clinging to your skin, the sun striking and the darkness beneath your feet settling, you are a living phobia. A fear of no consequence. Yet as eons pass in one beat of the heart, you hear the rustle under the trees. Taste the bite of death.
She steals at dawn
to a place of memory, a beloved place she can enter her stories. The way her fingers pad on the keyboard. The rush that sweeps through her body arrives her at an intersection where mind and fingertip are one. She needs practice sleeping in a little, her lover’s breath heartfelt on her earlobe. But she runs when she can, to a play-filled memory enriched with mannequins she can chase, surreal encounters on red rock bicycles, oh, how she soars.
She feels adrift, like an autumn moth flapping its dusty wings until it rests on your windowpane on the far side of the world. Says there is no rhyme nor reason nor even any explanation for being. Sky pied, almost as perfect as the horse she used to ride. As for turbulence, the sky is cloudless; the writing not exactly cloudy, but cloud-gathering. Now it’s raining streams of light on red rock bicycles.
Let it play out
She wonders at the misjudgment of facts, the hybrid of the unknowing and the uncanny. Looking at the artist and his painting of the death mask, there is notable difference between a brief and a summons. In, out, who commissioned the sketch and to what detail of artwork? Out, in, beyond interrogating the plastic cast disunited from the corpse, how to discern confidence in an artist’s perception? The plan is to keep silent, let it canvas out. Or perhaps to issue a bordering statement that is a responsible thing, or to conclude it’s an illustration that is simply a hoax.
It is a hoax. All art is. We deceive ourselves, sometimes all the better to tell the truth, but deep down we fabulate, fabricate, counterfeit—lie about our deepest desires. As should be. I’ve just picked figs from the tree and painted them, knowing full well it’s plagiarism in the history of art. Now I’m going to stew them, French style: Flambé Figs. Peel them carefully (12 of them). Put them in a heavy-based frying pan. Add 3 tablespoons of curaçao and the same amount of brandy. Sauté them over low heat until the figs take on the color of the painting. Prick them gently. Set them alight and shake the pan until your flame dies. Serve them warm with whipped cream. Sprinkle them with hoax dream powder. Enjoy!
She returns home each day, ten hours in the office. She steps through the door, man, he’s got the look. It’s like Here doggy!, tail going wag, waiting for a ball. Just the gleam in his eyes . . . Work’s so hard, bitches everywhere, she says. Let me love you until you feel right, he croons. He steals candles, makes her promises. Pricks her fingers, sucks her blood. It’s a balance of costs, risks and benefits.
Returning to Australia after four weeks in Europe is a shock. It’s not just that everything looks rougher, brighter, wilder, harsher in the morning light. No. Scary dreams overflow the days. I ride a Harley on the Monash Highway. Climb Mount Kosciuszko. Build space shuttles complete with orbiter, external tanks and solid-rocket boosters. Repair cassette tape recorders and telephones with curly handset cords. I steal candle snuffers, make wax candles and tallow tapers that are supposed to be dripless. But are not. I knock down burners, tip over charred candle wicks, snuff, snot. Prick my fingers on the candlestick’s pricket. Dream of devotionals, the obliteration of the word phobia, and coins on my eyes.
Outward declarations of inner decisions
Today’s word is jazz. You can hear her nimble feet gyrating in your head to no effed-up beat. She leaps and twirls to a place of memory, but it is full of compost and she regrets nothing. The motionless CCTV monitor captures her arms and feet as they pirouette in and out of the gaze’s focus. The world keeps turning. Frolicking grounds full of water gardens connect the nerves that travel through the body, as balloons with eyes go sway, sway to the pitapat, rat-a-tat, pitter-patter pat . . . The sound is a love offering. She only wants to conquer herself in a trail of plummeting sand and too much poetry burning into a bard’s cross-genre lyrics jousting with thought.
Rain burning the idea of love. The moon weathers the heart in haloes that tell of life unlived as though it knows desires given up for dead. It spooks me as I put the rubbish out, all the while focusing on promises we know we can’t keep. Look! The moon exfoliates its light skin. Turns blue, blood, black. And now you will ask yourself why the chambers of your heart are patched, not lined, as if some invisible hand had undertaken to paint the pain over before it could be ciphered, named, encrypted. And you do ask yourself as you throw artichoke leaves into the compost, and run inside to the sound of jazz.
Neither a kitchen nor a sky
Her heart is a room full of photographs and pillows wafting around rehearsing melancholy and reinstating torment. But there is still no word, just somber silence in the floating photographs and neglected pillows cartwheeling like burnt toast past the IKEA blender and microwave in a fairy tale of space that does not involve breathing.
His heart smells of burnt toast. If you look closely, you will see a paisley design—the sort found as all-over design for an IKEA bedspread. The main motif and the background of ferns are done with pure (that is unmixed) colors: just red (turkey) and black (jet) to conjure up the marriage of blood and vegemite, the staples of his diet, as well as his sign in the Chinese horoscope. Yes: he is a tiger. Enter the chambers of his heart at your peril. Don’t say you were not warned. He grinds his teeth.
Her heart is a free tram zone, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, wheelchair access, all hand-drawn. It’s a labeled platform full of ads by a twaddle of writers saying glance at this, glance at that, and oh look! Free Wi-Fi. DO NOT OBSTRUCT. It’s the yellow and black caution for passengers about a station upgrade, valid tickets, feet on seats, offensive language and taking rubbish with you. If there were words, she would follow the golden line at the platform, speak to it as the train pulled in. She would ask why she’s not experiencing metamorphosis, just optical illusions about power operating doors gliding open and then shut, the train now departing. As she moves up the escalator past the cop shop with its blue and white squares all dirty as bootlegs, no help at a glance, she finds the subway, and then a great big owl fully concrete in the landscape, directing its gaze at the flat crowns of metropolis high-rises that defy or define the city. Like an authorized officer she knows that she must adopt a role that makes sure anyone with access to her toppled heart, delicate but still beating, pays their way. She walks past a teen sat cross-legged on the pavement with a ring on her lip and holding up a sign that says homeless, hungry and three months pregnant, but she keeps walking lest her heart staggers and stops.
Hey, you! You could be me. Life does go upanddown upanddown upanddown. This is why I dust the streets in your city, uncrease your creeks, polish your floors and occasionally collect your dog’s droppings. I know there’ll be spilled wine, broken glass, words curling from the fire in your mouth. A shudder. A pause. A da capo. I know that all too well. I peer through your window, and the pane reflects my shape making for the open road where our shoulders retain the weight of expectancy. Don’t underestimate the virtues of polishing, especially in the Loire Valley where vineyards are doing well in the global village. There I looked after body armor adorned with intricate inlays. I preserved plumes and strengthened holders. I wiped visors, scrubbed chin pieces and gorgets. Straightened cuirasses. I polished breastplates and lance guards and backplates and codpieces and gauntlets and fan plates. And much more, my dear, as the word fan intimates. My nickname was chain mail, then chain fume. Try shackling me now.
About the Authors
Eugen Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. She’s the author of Claiming T-Mo (Meerkat Press) and Writing Speculative Fiction (Macmillan). Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans.
Dominique Hecq grew up in the French-speaking part of Belgium. She now lives in Melbourne. Her works include a novel, three collections of stories and ten books of poetry. Hecq’s poems and stories have been widely published in anthologies and journals. Often experimental, her work explores love, loss, exile and the possibilities of language. Kaosmos and Tracks (2020) are her latest books. Among other awards such as the Melbourne Fringe Festival Award, the Woorilla Prize for fiction, the Martha Richardson Medal for Poetry, and the New England Poetry Prize, Hecq is a recipient of the 2018 International Best Poets Prize.
Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the beginning of 2022 the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2021 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Coverartist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.
I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on January 31, 2021, unless the vote is extended. If the vote is extended the ending date will be updated.
Cover design by Lena Yang and James A. Owen
Cover art and chapter illustrations by James A. Owen
Escaping Exodus: Symbiosis
Harper Voyager, February 23, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
The Compton Crook Award-winning author weaves her trademark blend of science fiction and dark humor in this dazzling story that continues the imaginative saga begun in Escaping Exodus, in which a society lives in the belly of a beast—and an entire civilization's survival depends on a pair of uneasy allies who must come together for one epic battle.
Nearly a thousand years removed from Earth, the remnants of humanity cling to existence inside giant, space faring creatures known as the Zenzee. Abused and exploited by humans for generations, these majestic animals nearly went extinct, but under the command of its newly minted ruler, Doka Kaleigh, life in the Parados I has flourished. Thanks to careful oversight and sacrifice by all of its crew, they are now on the brink of utopia, and yet Doka’s rivals feel threatened by that success.
The Senate allowed Doka to lead their people believing he’d fail spectacularly—a disaster that would cement the legitimacy of their long-standing matriarchy. Despite vocal opposition and blatant attacks on his authority, Doka has continued to handle his position with grace and intelligence; he knows a single misstep means disaster. When a cataclysmic event on another Zenzee world forces Doka and his people to accept thousands of refugees, a culture clash erupts, revealing secrets from the past that could endanger their future. For Doka, the stakes are bigger and more personal than ever before—and could cost him his reign and his heart.
He has fallen for the one woman he is forbidden to love: his wife, Seske.
Doka and Seske must work closely together to sway the other Zenzee worlds to stop their cycles of destruction. But when they stumble upon a discovery that can transform their world, they know they must prepare to fight a battle where there can be no winners, only survivors.
A Song With Teeth
A Los Nefilim Novel 3
Harper Voyager February 9, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
As the Allied forces battle to defeat the Nazis, a shadow war rages between angels and daimons fighting for the soul of humanity in this thrilling conclusion to the critically acclaimed Los Nefilim historical fantasy series.
The year is 1944, and the daimons are rising.
With the Inner Guard thrown into disarray by the German blitzkrieg, the daimon-born nefilim of the Scorpion Court gather in Paris, scheming to restore their rule over the mortal realm. Working as a double-agent, Diago Alvarez infiltrates his family’s daimonic court, but soon finds himself overwhelmed by his kin’s multiple deceits.
Meanwhile, Ysabel Ramírez hunts a Psalm that will assist Operation Overlord, the Allies’ invasion of Normandy. Her objective takes her to Paris—into the heart of territories controlled by Die Nephilim and her power-hungry uncle, Jordi Abelló, who seeks the same Psalm in his quest to wrest control of Los Nefilim from her father. When their paths cross, he abducts her and leaves her to the mercy of his Nazi followers.
But Ysabel is as cunning and bold as Jordi. She knows only one of them can survive to one day rule Los Nefilim, and she’s determined to be the one to succeed her father as queen.
Trapped in her uncle’s château hidden deep within the Fontainebleau forest, Ysabel discovers the truth behind her uncle’s lust for dominance: those that wear the signet of the Thrones are not blessed . . . they are cursed. And it may take a miracle to end this war once and for all.
The Deathless Trilogy 2
HarperVoyager, February 2, 2021
Trade Paperback, 448 pages
eBook, June 13, 2019
Return to a world of crystal armour, savage wilderness, and corrupt dynasties in book two of The Deathless series from Gemmell award-winning author Peter Newman.
For years, Vasin Sapphire has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Now, as other Deathless families come under constant assault from the monsters that roam the Wild, that time has come.
In the floating castle of Rochant Sapphire, loyal subjects await the ceremony to return their ruler to his rightful place. But the child raised to give up his body to Lord Rochant is no ordinary servant. Strange and savage, he will stop at nothing to escape his gilded prison.
AND THE RETURNED…
Far below, another child yearns to see the human world. Raised by a creature of the Wild, he knows their secrets better than any other. As he enters into the struggle between the Deathless houses, he may be the key to protecting their power or destroying it completely.
A Question of Navigation
Subterranean Press, January 31, 2021
Hardcover, 144 pages
The only favor the aliens do for Clint Beecham when they abduct him is give him a shirt that says DO NOT EAT on it in their language. He’s told that as a physicist, he is to be reserved, along with five other scientists, for a mysterious purpose.
But fifty thousand other humans on board the interstellar scout ship are scheduled to be butchered and frozen, a food supply for the long journey to the alien homeworld. Clint and the other Reserves can’t stand by and let that happen.
Ayesha is a biologist and Deepali a geologist; Oscar is a meteorologist and Gregory specializes in robotics; Hanh is a researcher in marine biology. Together they’re humanity’s last unlikely hope. Because if they don’t find a way to stop the ravenous aliens from reporting that they’ve found a planet full of delicious creatures to eat, the fifty thousand humans on board will only be the first of billions: the entire earth will become an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The Mask Falling
The Bone Season 4
Bloomsbury Publishing, January 26, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 528 pages
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Season and The Priory of the Orange Tree, the stunning fourth novel set in the world of Scion.
Dreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion's downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim's puppet empire.
The mysterious Domino Program has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim-her former enemy-at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.
As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them-and could end with them . . .
The Mask Falling is a gripping, fantastical new addition to this “intoxicating urban-fantasy series” (NPR.org) that will leave readers begging for more.
Shades of Allegiance
An Anomaly Novel 3
January 26, 2021
eBook, 361 pages
Lieutenant Ramie Ashdyn is going home--or rather, to the hellhole that is her home world. With vengeance driving her, she's intent on tracking down the criminal who can help her unravel the conspiracy that's threatening the Coalition. Unfortunately, old enemies are sabotaging her efforts, jeopardizing the lives of the few people she trusts. To accomplish her mission, she'll need to be cunning and ruthless, and that means scrapping her conscience and burying emotions are adversaries could exploit.
Of course, being cunning and ruthless would be easier if the Coalition hadn't sent "Rest in Peace" Rykus to retrieve her. Ash is the only person who can detect the telepaths who have infiltrated the government, and Rykus must keep her safe until they can escape the planet. But with secrets between them and Ash determined to contact the Known Universe's most feared crime lord, staying alive--and together--might be an insurmountable feat.
The Frozen Crown (Warrior Witch Duology 1) by Greta Kelly;
The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum.
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.
From formerly featured DAC Authors:
Threader Origins (Quantum Empirica 1) by Gerald Brandt;
We Lie With Death (Reborn Empire 2) by Devin Madson;
The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner.
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.
Debut novels are highlighted inblue. Novels, etc. by formerly featured DAC Authors are highlighted ingreen.
January 12, 2021
SF/AP/PA/TT - Quantum Empirica 1
The Brass Queen (D)
The Ankh-Morpork City Watch Discworld Journal
The Discworld Emporium
F - Journal
The Charmed Wife
Europe at Midnight
SF - The Fractured Europe Sequence 2
The Resisters (h2tp)
The Last Exit
PP/TechTh/Dys - A Jen Lu Mystery 1
The Frozen Crown (D)
F - Warrior Witch Duology 1
The Tool & the Butterflies
Dmitry Lipskerov Isaac Stakhouse Wheeler (Tr) Reilly
We Lie with Death
F/DF - Reborn Empire 2
Across the Green Grass Fields
CF/DF/FairyT/FolkT/LM - Wayward Children 6
The Theory of Flight
Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu
To Cook a Bear
Doors of Sleep: Journals of Zaxony Delatree
The Unraveling (D)
Bonds of Brass (h2tp)
SF/SO - The Bloodright Trilogy 1
Luanne G. Smith
HistF/F/RF - Vine Witch 3
The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry
C. M. Waggoner
Into the Light
David Weber Chris Kennedy
SF/SO/AC - Out of the Dark 2
Universal Love: Stories (h2tp)
January 13, 2021
January 17, 2021
Victorian Visions of Suburban Utopia: Abandoning Babylon
Nathaniel Robert Walker
D - Debut
e - eBook
Ed - Editor
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
Ke - Kindle eBook
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade Paperback to Mass Market Paperback
Tr - Translator
AB - Absurdist
AC - Alien Contact
AH - Alternative History
AP - Apocalyptic
BHU - Black Humor
CF - Contemporary Fantasy
CM - Crime & Mystery
CoA - Coming of Age
Cr - Crime
CW - Contemporary Women
CyP - CyberPunk
DF - Dark Fantasy
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
FairyT - Fairy Tales
FL - Family Life
FolkT - Folk Tales
FR - Fantasy Romance
GenEng - Genetic Engineering
GH - Ghost(s)
GothicR - Gothic Romance
GW&CC - Global Warming and Climate Change
H - Horror
HC - History and Criticism
Hist - Historical
HistF - Historical Fantasy
HistM - Historical Mystery
HistR - Historical Romance
HistTh - Historical Thriller
HSF - Hard Science Fiction
HU - Humorous
LC - Literary Criticism
LF - Literary Fiction
LM - Legend and Mythology
M - Mystery
Med - Medical
MR - Magical Realism
MTI - Media Tie-In
MU - Mash-Up
NF - Near Future
Occ - Occult
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PCM - Paranormal Cozy Mystery
PF - Paranormal Fantasy
PNR - Paranormal Romance
Pol - Political
PolTh - Political Thriller
PopCul - Popular Culture
PP - Police Porcedural
Psy - Psychological
R - Romance
RF - Romantic Fantasy
ScF - Science Fantasy
SE - Space Exploration
SF - Science Fiction
SFR - Science Fiction Romance
SFTh - Science Fiction Thriller
SH - Superheroes
SO - Space Opera
SP - Steampunk
SpecFic - Speculative Fiction
SS - Short Stories
STR - Small Town and Rural
Sup - Supernatural
SupM - Supernatural Mystery
SupTh - Supernatural Thriller
Sus - Suspense
TechTh - Technological Thriller
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
TTR - Time Travel Romance
UF - Urban Fantasy
VM - Visionary and Metaphysical
WS - Women Sleuths
Note: Not all genres and formats are found in the books, etc. listed above.
Regarding acting: “Don’t do voices, tell a story. Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” -David Sobolov
As a kid growing up in Canada, renowned voice-actor David Sobolov spent his youth playing pinball and watching Happy Days (1974-1984). He never thought he’d set foot in California, let alone work with Happy Days actor Marion Ross during his tenure portraying Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) animated series. Sobolov has amassed an extensive list of character credits throughout his “unusually diverse career,” spanning through multiple fandoms, properties, and entertainment mediums. When asked how his career in voice-work started Sobolov replied “It found me.” He divulged that in the mid-90s he was touring, singing A cappella and playing the French-horn when an agent in Vancouver heard his voice and told him that he “should come do villains.”
David Sobolov: “Voice acting wasn’t something I ever thought of doing, but I didn’t want to keep hearing ‘Your voice is great. You should do voice acting.’ and not do anything about it. They kept encouraging me with paychecks, so I kept doing it.”
Sobolov started booking work fairly quickly, and over time he came to love the profession. He was cast on shows like Vortech: Undercover Conversion Squad (1996), Sabrina, the Animated Series (1999), and would go on to portray “an unusual version of RoboCop” in the animated series RoboCop: Alpha Commando (1998). He even ventured into ADR dubbing work on the anime title Key: The Metal Idol (1996). Sobolov’s first breakout character was Depthcharge in the acclaimed series Beast Wars: Transformers (1996).
David Sobolov: “For my audition in Beast Wars, the producers were so secretive about Depthcharge they took me into the corner of the room and showed me a drawing of the character from a sealed envelope for maybe ten seconds. Then I had an extremely long forty-five-minute audition; which never happens.”
During this time Sobolov also earned his earliest on camera performance for the motion picture Unforgettable (1996). He was background and “Ray Liotta gave [him] his line.” Sobolov recollects how in comparison to his voice work, this on-camera role with one line was “able to buy groceries and pay [his] rent for two months.” After a bountiful acting career in Vancouver based productions, Sobolov relocated to LA and started booking work mainly in video games such as Spawn: Armageddon (2003) and Rogue Galaxy (2005), among others. These parts led him to land the role of Lt. Vasquez in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007) that would change his career.
David Sobolov: “Video games are a little more challenging vocally. In that particular show they gave us numbing lozenges so that we could finish the session. I lost my voice for six months and I thought my career was over. The whole upper range of my voice is gone forever, but I got enough of it back so that I could continue working.”
Sobolov admits that since that “videogame incident” he’s turned down audition opportunities because he felt his voice would no longer fit certain roles. Even with this career altering circumstance, Sobolov’s vocal prowess continues to be a fixture within the entertainment community. He’s personified multiple characters in various fandoms and fictive universe’s, including the DC, Marvel, Halo, and Star Wars franchises.
David Sobolov: “My voice hasn’t changed in conveying emotions in characters, but I think that it’s changed in how people will accept it. A much lower voice is usually only accepted for badass heroes or villains, there aren’t a lot of lighter characters that have my voice.”
Sobolov revealed how someone heard his voice in a casting office and asked him to read for the part of Gorilla Grodd for The CW’s The Flash (2014-). Sobolov went on to say, “how the role wasn’t widely auditioned for and what an opportunity it was to be cast.” He’s greatly enjoyed playing Grodd, expressing his affection for the character’s emotional depth and complex thoughts stating that “Something about Grodd is sad and quiet, until he screams.”
Sobolov divulged how some roles he’s played are given “a nice long journey,” while others, like The Arbiter in Halo Wars (2009) can be more challenging to play.
David Sobolov: “That [role] was funny because I was literally giggling after every take. He was so ridiculously evil and so far away from who I am, I didn’t relate to it, but I had to portray it.”
Over the course of his career, Sobolov has come to understand his own moral and ethical standards when approaching roles. He believes “There can’t be heroes without villains, but at a certain point it [can] perpetuate things in society that I don’t think we need to perpetuate.” Sobolov expanded this viewpoint, stemming from his experience working on the videogame 50 Cent: Bulletproof (2005). He explained how he was not given details regarding his role in the production until he arrived on set. To his dismay, Sobolov described the character he was slated to play as “a white man who was attacking black people.” It was a role he didn’t want to play or put into the world.
David Sobolov: “I made a decision that if the producers were people of color I would stay, but if the producers were white, I’d leave. One of the producers ended up being 50 Cent, and that’s what they wanted me to do. So, I stayed, but I didn’t like being that person and I regretted it.”
After that experience Sobolov has upheld his moral and ethical values when approaching jobs. He expanded on this philosophy by revealing how later in his career he was asked to participate in a role that would’ve “involved a rape scene.” Sobolov refused the part, stating that “it was violence towards women, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.”
Sobolov went onto return to the Transformers franchise characters as well as the iconic Shockwave in Transformers Prime (2010). He remembers how there was “no drama involved” when auditioning for the famed Decepticon. It was “a huge challenge” for him to remain emotionless for his characterization. He stated how Shockwave was only allowed real emotion in the episode when “Starscream (played by Steve Blum) got all up in his grill.” Sobolov relishes this kind of collaboration because he enjoys performing in an ensemble setting. He went onto say how disheartened he feels because even when the industry was able, many productions don’t record in a group fashion.
David Sobolov: “Most shows will keep the actors in the lobby and just pull [them] in one by one to record. Which I think is a missed opportunity, because it’s better acting and better chemistry if you’ve got everybody recording together.”
Personal preferences aside, Sobolov is grateful for his career, and spoke about how he’s been enjoying his ventures into film-work. He’s been cast in Hollywood produced pictures, notably as Blitzwing in Bumblebee (2018) and the Centurion in Elita: Battle Angel (2019). Sobolov explained that usually when he provides vocals in film-work it’s the postproduction supervisor who takes him through the lines. However, he’s “been getting parts that are important enough that the director of the film will direct [him.]” Such as notable directors Travis Knight and Robert Rodriguez, respectively.
David Sobolov: “Robert Rodriguez and Travis Knight were super nice and inclusive. It’s been great as a voiceover actor to have direct access to the person responsible for all the creative decisions in the entire production and to be able to collaborate with them on that level.”
While portraying Blitzwing, Sobolov revealed how he was given creative freedom during his recording sessions by Knight to act his lines in varying ways. He was happy to be able to collaborate with Knight on that level because he would have chosen the exact same takes that were put in the film’s final cut.
David Sobolov: “I think that voice acting is just as important as the on camera acting, but some people don’t think of it that way. Travis Knight wanted a lot of choices. It tells me that he cares about the film. If you give directors many interpretations to choose from, then they can go any way they want because they have it.”
With a laudable list of acting credits to his resume, Sobolov has recently found himself shifting towards the next stage of his career, the director’s chair. He’s directed the short films Faithful (2013) starring Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt as well as The Dendros (2015) featuring John Saxon. He elaborated how directing is something he’d like to pursue more in the future. Be on the lookout for his upcoming short film ALL IN (2020) written by Kurt Morgan, Talon Warburton, and starring Ryan Colt Levy.
Sobolov concludes “A general thing in life, aside from acting, is that things happen. You need to realize what you can change and what you can’t. If you don’t accept what you can’t change, you’re stuck.”
Ryan Colt Levy: From New York to Los Angeles.
A Soul In Transit
Written By: Mitchell W. Maknis
“Acting or anything else is about telling a story and communicating an idea. I want to be able to express in a way that gives people some sense of peace, fun, or joy.”- Ryan Colt Levy
Ryan Colt Levy is an actor, musician, and storyteller who has quickly become a rising star within the voice-over community. He also is providing English dubbed performances for a variety of entertainment mediums. Levy breathes new life into characters by delivering his distinct vocals for live action and anime productions. In his colorful career Levy has portrayed such fan favorites as Squallo in JOJO’s Bizarre Adventure (2020), Jazz in Demon School Iruma Kun (2019), as well as providing additional voices in the acclaimed video game: Final Fantasy VII Remake (2020).
Levy was born into a family of art lovers. His parents were quick to expose him to the works of Charlie Chaplin and other motion pictures of the silent and modern era. Levy loved the realm of arts and culture and “became obsessed with performing and creating.” Later, he became influenced by videogames and cartoons. He spent his childhood drawing, writing, and filming his own “crazy movies” equipped with nothing more than his toys and a VHS camera. Realizing he could turn his favored pastime into a career, Levy followed in the footsteps of his mother by enrolling at the HB Studio in Manhattan. Although passionate about the performing arts, it became clear to Levy that he didn’t have the connections or resources to be able to continue acting as a practical career. This realization shifted Levy’s creative drive, and he fell sway to the lure of musical composition.
Ryan Colt Levy: “I became obsessed with music because it was so immediate; with music I could pick up a guitar, fumble through it and by the end of the day have a song. We had this cool community where everyone was jumping in each other’s bands, and even though we didn’t know what the hell we were doing, we created momentum for each other.”
Levy experimented with different musicians and musical styles. At fourteen, Levy, along with his colleagues, were financing their own records. After years of performing, He found his home by forming the musical group Braeves. They played together in New York for a couple of years, before Levy and his bandmates embarked on a new chapter. In 2015, they loaded their equipment into a van and moved their lives to Los Angeles. Levy accounted how the L.A. music scene was very welcoming, and Braeves was able to swiftly book shows and even garner some radio play. However, the band was faced with the bitter sea of reality: that although they were finding success as a musical group, they virtually had no money.
Ryan Colt Levy: “It can be so draining and exhausting to survive as a musician. We would do tours where we would drive around the country for two months and we wouldn’t get paid enough to make it to the next town on gas.”
To make ends meet, the members of Braeves found employment wherever they could. Levy worked part-time at a juice-bar where he’d cross paths with producers, who would often inquire if he was an actor. Levy, falling back on his “New York instinct,” didn’t take any of these encounters seriously. Even so, these serendipitous exchanges rekindled his love for the acting profession. Levy was working a full-time position at a stop motion animation studio, when he decided to put himself on acting websites to see if he could “find some student films to work on for fun.” Levy was surprised when he began to find himself cast in commercials and other acting projects. The universe began to course correct and Levy found himself part of a “massive layoff” at his full-time job and was suddenly unemployed. Soon after, Levy and his Braeves bandmates sat down together and “had the talk.” The group was feeling the fatigue of their musical vocation and after performing in LA for “a good three years” the members of Braeves decided to break up. In that moment Levy “had no job, no band, and to some degree, no identity.” Rather than turning to panic, in that surreal moment, Levy realized he was supposed to be acting.
Ryan Colt Levy: “It became evident that as much as we were struggling as a group to survive financially, individually we were all getting these opportunities for our lives to succeed in different ways.”
With his former passion rebirthed, Levy committed himself to recording and submitting auditions full-time. He understood that he was “investing a lot of time and money” into a business venture that he did not have guaranteed coming back. Even so, Levy persevered and while continuing his education in the acting field, He met and befriended fellow actor Talon Warburton. Warburton approached Levy for the opportunity to be cast in a short film that he had co-written with Kurt Morgan entitled ALL IN (2020). Levy was introduced to the film’s director, David Sobolov, and was subsequently cast in the independent picture. By the end of filming, Sobolov had been “championing [Levy] as a performer” and advocated him to pursue a career in voice acting. Levy took this advice to heart and after filming for ALL IN had officially wrapped, he enlisted Sobolov to aid in recording his voice demo.
Ryan Colt Levy: “Our working relationship together is really fluid, and I trust [Sobolov’s] judgement. I like his approach; he knows how to push and challenge me. I knew he would demand the highest quality.”
It wasn’t long after Levy finalized his improved voice demo with Sobolov that “the industry started to reach out and give [him] opportunities.” For Levy, recording studios have always been a home, so his return to the booth for his first ADR Dubbing session was akin to a homecoming.
Ryan Colt Levy: “I was oddly more prepared than I realized. I was lucky that I had a whole music career, so when I walked in the studio to record, I knew the room. The very first session worked so well that I walked out of the session thinking that they were either going to fire me because it ran too smoothly or that I had just found the greatest job ever.”
Levy provides vocal performances in distinctly different mediums; notably dubbing live-action roles for Encore Voices and recording for Bang Zoom Entertainment’s anime acquisitions.
Ryan Colt Levy: “For live action dubbing, it’s much more about nuance and being as realistic as possible to fit the body. Whereas, with anime and animation there is a freedom where you can take more ownership and use your voice to fill different gaps you wouldn’t normally do in a live action dub.”
His process for finding a touchstone for the vocal qualities of the characters he portrays is a collaboration. It reminds him of his improv/acting training; its part trusting your gut and part relying on the engineers and directors to give context. Levy’s ideology: “It’s almost like writing a song in a band, except the content is already written and now you just have to play it together.” One of his first roles at Encore Voices was playing the novice drug dealer Chino, in the live-action dub of the Netflix series, Drug Squad: Costa Del Sol (2019).
Ryan Colt Levy: “With Chino, I immediately felt connected to that actor. I understood what he was doing with his portrayal and I wanted it to be as much as an homage to his performance as possible.”
However, his characterization of the mischievous Jazz in the anime series Welcome to Demon-School, Iruma Kun (2019) for Bang Zoom Entertainment differs from the original version.
Ryan Colt Levy: “For Jazz, I don’t use the Japanese performance as a touchstone for how to approach the performance. I think I go in a different direction; I was so sure where it was coming from, that I already knew who Jazz was. When I imagine the misfit class in Demon School, I think of the Breakfast Club.”
Jazz reminds Levy of Jules, a character he dubbed for the live action Netflix series The Hookup Plan (2019). Levy holds The Hookup Plan in high regard for the fact that he got to “record in tandem” with his dubbing costar Alana Gospodnetich, who played his character’s love interest Elsa. Levy also confided: “It was so rewarding to be able to play off each other in the room together.”
Ryan Colt Levy: “To some degree Jules and Jazz are both close to me in personality. I really loved playing Jules because he’s a musician and a romantic at heart but has to put on a façade to survive. He is coming at it from this place of positivity and romance even if it’s in a saturated way.”
Levy considers every project he’s been a part of to be a gift and has enjoyed the obstacle course of playing a wide range of roles. For instance, recording the role of Squalo for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure which Levy describes as “so adult, bombastic, and violent” and then within the same couple of months, singing Baby Shark: Wash Your Hands for the PinkFong brand.
Ryan Colt Levy: “It’s been incredibly uplifting and inspiring how the industry and the voice-over community have been so welcoming and supportive, it’s reminded me of how it felt like as a kid growing up in a community of musicians.”
Although Levy’s focus is his career as a professional voice actor, he hasn’t limited his talents to this one artistic avenue. Levy, taking a page from the Beat Poetry movement, also creates outside of the recording booth. One noteworthy project is a collaboration with longtime friend and musician Bryan Cho. Levy has been enjoying the reception for the single 02, which he had ghostwritten with Cho and was purchased and recorded by singer SUHO (EXO). He paints his own brand of “crazy abstracts,” and is in the process of writing and producing his own independent comic books.
Ryan Colt Levy: “In the long run, I would love to direct and score a motion picture and just keep telling stories in different ways. But for now, I’m personally so green as a professional voice actor that this is where I need to keep my energy and attention so I can be the best I can.”
For Levy, there is a reason why his band’s website is still intact. Braeves may be on an “indefinite hiatus” but eventually the group will want to make music together again. Spanning from his early years as a struggling musician in New York through his journey to become a professional voice actor in Los Angeles, Levy has realized “there is time.”
To keep up with the life and works of Ryan Colt Levy follow him on his social media platforms @RyanColtLevy on Twitter,Instagram, and Facebook. Be sure to visit his website www.ryancoltlevy.com to see his extensive list of acting credits and artwork. Also be sure to check his music at www.braeves.com.