Author Interview, Giveaway, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2016: Author Interview with Daniel Godfrey + Giveaway

SFM16_7

This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2016, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

At the beginning of 2015, you may have seen me obsessing over a book called New Pompeii, by Daniel Godfrey, which sounded like a Jurassic Park-inspired novel focused around Pompeii – basically my dream novel. With career ambitions focused around archaeology, I cannot get enough of anything set around the ancient world – especially if there’s a clever sci-fi spin to it.

Cut to one year later, and New Pompeii turned up on my doorstep, thanks to the excellent Titan Books. And then when I announced that Sci-Fi Month was returning for 2016, I soon noticed that a certain Daniel Godfrey had signed up for the event. It must be fate, right? Daniel was kind enough to let me interview him, so without further ado…

What gave you the inspiration for New Pompeii?

Daniel: New Pompeii came out of basically trying to do too many things at once: I was playing around with a few short stories that I’d written some years before – all relating to paradox and multiple timelines – whilst at the same time reading about ancient Rome. I’ve always been interested in Rome – it crops up in a lot of science fiction – and the two things came together because…

Why did you choose Pompeii in particular to bring through time?

Daniel: … of an interesting anomaly. One of the most deeply unsettling things about Pompeii are the plaster casts of its victims. In the best (or worst!) of these, you can see the expression of terror on the person’s face at the moment of their death. And yet there aren’t many of these casts: most of the remains simply haven’t been found – even though we know there were few, if any, survivors. Of course, they could have run but we know a lot of Pompeii was still very much active right up to the point of its destruction. Commercial ovens were found full of baking bread, for example. Painters and decorators were also out fixing things. So it just sort of worked: the plaster casts, the volcano, the missing people…

New Pompeii

If you had the chance to visit any place in history, where would you go and why?

Daniel: I’d have loved to have witnessed some of the space race in the 1960s. For all the excitement of the last couple of years in terms of visiting Pluto and Rosetta/Philae, I don’t think it comes close to the competition between the USSR and USA which culminated in Apollo.

Do you see any similarities between yourself and any of your characters?

Daniel: A-ha! No, bu I’ve heard a few writers at conventions say every character harbours a part of them. And when I had lunch with my editor in the summer, I made a comment which she said sounded just like [CHARACTER]. But I’m not going to say who!

What are your top science fiction novels and films?

Daniel: I’m a child of the 1980s, so in terms of films it would be The Empire Strikes Back, and Back to the Future. A lot of people say that Luke staring at the twin suns of Tatooine is the key shot of Star Wars – for me though it’s the arrival in the carbon freezing chamber aboard Cloud City: Vader already waiting and silhouetted in orange light. “You are not a Jedi yet…”

vader

More recently, I’ve enjoyed things like Minority Report and Edge of Tomorrow. In terms of novels, I really like Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. Now completely superseded by the prequels and Episode VII of course, but still a lot of fun, and I think it’s interesting Disney are bringing Thrawn back to the TV shows but in a different era. Whether he’ll work in another context…? I hope so!

Who would be your dream dinner party guests, dead, alive or fictional (!), related to science fiction?

Daniel: Given what I’ve just put above… can I have Grand Admiral Thrawn?

If so, then the party would be Thrawn, Dana Sculley, Captain Picard, The Doctor and Amy Pond, and Ellen Ripley!

Thank you so much to Daniel for letting me interview him! He has also kindly provided a signed copy of New Pompeii for one lucky reader.

Please note that this giveaway is limited to the UK only. Apologies to my readers outside the UK!

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Daniel Godfrey is the author of New Pompeii, which was published by Titan Books in June 2016. He is also currently working on a sequel to New Pompeii. Daniel can be reached through the following links:

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Author Interview, Blog Tour

Blog Tour + Author Interview: HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

HEX Blog Tour

Today I am taking part in the blog tour for HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Today I’ll be sharing a Q&A with the author, who has kindly answered some questions that I posed to him. When I was offered a chance to take part in the tour by Hodder & Stoughton, there were two things that immediately drew me to the book. Firstly, the fact that it is written by a Dutch author and popular in my adopted second home country, the Netherlands. And secondly… well, just look at the blurb:

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she’s there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die.

The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.

And if somehow that’s not enough to convince you that this book is wonderfully spine-tingling, then take a look at this TERRIFYING trailer for the book:

Freaked out yet? I’m pretty sure I’ll be sleepless again after watching that – because the book certainly kept me wide awake… I’ll be sharing my full review tomorrow, but today as part of the blog tour I have a small Q&A with Thomas!

Q&A with Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Rinn: Why was the book moved from The Netherlands to the USA in the translation?

Thomas: I love the fresh perspective that comes with reading fiction from different cultures. Being Dutch, about 90% of all the books I read come from abroad, as The Netherlands is such a small country. Sometimes I even want to be taught about these cultures. The Kite Runner gave me a much more nuanced view about Afghanistan than Fox News. Murakami taught me more about Japanese customs than any sushi restaurant I’ll ever visit. But there’s also a limit to what I want to be taught. Some books I just want to read for the fun of it. The thrill. Or the scare. And I realized my novel, HEX, was such a book. My favorite comment from Dutch readers is that it makes them sleep with the lights on (Rinn: Me too…). I have literally hundreds of those. I could care less about what the story taught them about social values in communities or the depravity of mankind, as long as it gave them nightmares. Some literary critics will probably shoot me for this statement, but there’s nothing wrong with a good scare every now and then, right?

To thoroughly scare readers, you have to create a perfect sense of familiarity in a story and then rip it to pieces as soon as they’re hooked. And here’s where the Dutch setting became problematic, once the book was sold to publishers in the US and the UK. If I’d read a horror story set in, say, rural Azerbeidzjan (Azerbaijan), I’d be worrying all the time about what the place actually looks like, what’s the norm for these people, what are they scared of and oh, by the way, how do you even pronounce their names? Bang! Familiarity gone, and a missed opportunity to make me scream at night. I imagined it would be the same for British and American readers when they read about a Dutch setting. I mean, how do you actually pronounce Olde Heuvelt? (Rinn: Having lived in the Netherlands, I would’ve loved this book set there too. But I completely understand your reasoning, it would definitely make it difficult for readers who aren’t familiar with the country. Maybe I’ll get myself a copy of the Dutch version!)

That’s why I decided to change the setting. And I had tremendous fun doing it! It was an exciting creative challenge. I had a book that I loved, I had characters that I loved, and here I had the opportunity to relive it all, without having to face the horrors of a sequel.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Rinn: Did this have any big effect on the story?

Thomas: It’s still the same story about a modern-day town haunted by a seventeenth-century witch. One if its strengths I think is the utter Dutchness of the book. The secular nature of Dutch small-town communities and the down-to-earthness of its people, for instance (Rinn: I can definitely vouch for the down-to-earthness of the Dutch!). If a sane person sees a seventeenth-century disfigured witch appear in a corner of the living room, he runs for his life. If a Dutch person sees a seventeenth-century disfigured witch appear in a corner of the living room, he hangs a dishcloth over her face, sits on the couch and reads the paper. And maybe sacrifices a peacock.

The new version left all of that intact. It’s a remake, an enhanced version, a HEX 2.0 if you will, with all new rich and layered details, culturally specific legends and superstitions, but without ever losing touch with the Dutch elements of the original. Katherine Van Wyler, the original Dutch seventeenth-century witch, came to the new land on one of Peter Stuyvesant’s early ships. The rural town of Beek became the Dutch trapper’s colony of New Beeck, later renamed Black Spring. The Dutch characters became Americans, but with the down-to-earth quality of the Dutch. The dishcloth stayed. So did the peacock. I think it has become a better book.

Rinn: What were your inspirations behind the legend of the Black Rock Witch?

Thomas: I wanted to write a story about a witch ever since I was traumatized by Roald Dahl’s book The Witches, and the 1990 movie adaptation of it (Rinn: Ahh they were both terrifying!). The moment when Anjelica Huston, the Grand High Witch, takes off her mask… gosh, I was seven years old, and I didn’t trust any women for the next six months. Imagine what my winter was like, with women wearing gloves all the time. I saw witches everywhere. Then I watched The Blair Witch Project when I was fifteen, and of course, the scary part there was did you did not see the witch. Katherine van Wyler, the witch in HEX, has influences of both (Rinn: I did wonder if there was an element of Blair Witch – it certainly had the same effect on me.). Of course she has this horrible, disfigured face because her mouth and eyes are sewn shut… but for exactly the same reason, you never really get to see her. If you can’t see someone’s eyes, you’ll never know what they think. That makes her so scary.

Me whilst reading HEX.

Me whilst reading HEX.

Rinn: What gave you the idea of mixing technology in with the supernatural?

Thomas: It kind of follows naturally, if you have a town that needs to hide a dirty secret like this. I love the practicality of it. The witch keeps popping up randomly in public spaces, and there’s always a chance of outsiders spotting her, so the HEX service workers have all these props and scenarios ready. Like the elderly choir that surrounds her and walks along wherever she goes, practicing hymns. Or the construction shed if she stands at the side of public roads. And you gotta be on top of her to make it work. You gotta be fast. So everybody in town has a special Hexapp on their iPhone, which has GPS, and they’re obligated to report immediately when they spot her. I’d personally love to have an app to report ghost sightings.

Rinn: Was it difficult to write a book with such a large cast, and still bring each resident of Black Spring to life?

Thomas: I deliberately avoided to use a large cast in order to make the town come alive. Stephen King is a master in doing so – some of his novels have more than twenty point-of-view characters. But the downside of that is that often, the more POV characters you have, the less attached you feel to them as a reader. I think King’s novels that tell the story from only one or a few point-of-views, are his strongest, and much more emotionally gripping. So in HEX, I tried to paint the town from the perspectives of only four characters, two of them from the same family. This gives the reader a lot more space to start caring about these people, which is one of the most important things if you let bad things happen to them. (Rinn: To me the cast felt quite large, even with just a few POV characters – quite a few named residents and very minor characters, but maybe it’s just my perspective!)

Thank you so much to Thomas for taking the time to answer some questions, and to Hodder for organising the blog tour. Look out for my review of HEX on the blog tomorrow, and let me know if you dare read this bone-chiller of a novel! 😉

Author Interview, Blog Tour

Blog Tour + Author Interview: Rahul Kanakia, Book of Apex Volume 4

Book of Apex Blog Tour

Time for my third post as part of the Book of Apex Volume 4 Blog Tour! My previous posts include an interview with author Adam-Troy Castro and my review of the Book of Apex Volume 4. Today I have an interview with Rahul Kanakia, who has written for many short story collections and anthologies.

Rinn: I would first of all like to say thank you Rahul, for letting me interview you. Tomorrow’s Dictator was a pretty harrowing story – peoples’ emotions and behaviours being modified and optimised. How did you come up with the idea for ‘adjustments’?

Rahul: During college, I lived in a vegetarian co-op: a huge house with about fifty students who all cooked and cleaned and lived communally. We were a pretty motley and disorganized lot, except for one girl who was incredibly efficient and well organized. She woke early, exercised frequently, ate right, slept on a mattress out on the porch, and lived in a room with almost no furniture or possessions. She was also extremely even-tempered and never raised her voice or appeared to be visibly annoyed. As such, she was the only person whose complaints and ‘suggestions’ I’d ever take seriously, because, quite frankly, her perfection was quite eerie.

Our coop also ran by consensus, which means that every single person has to agree on a proposal in order for it to be enacted. In practice, this meant that nothing ever got enacted and that everyone did whatever they wanted. At one point, I suggested that we–as per ancient Roman tradition–unanimously acclaim this girl as our dictator (a joke that, of course, she did not particularly enjoy). And that’s where the story came from.

As for adjustments, I’m not sure. That’s something that I played around with in a bunch of stories, and it never quite worked out right. In a world where anyone can be adjusted to be any way that you want, there’s not much room for stories, since most stories are basically about how the protagonist got adjusted to be one way or the other. In this case, though, the story fit just right and everything came together.

Rinn: If you could ‘adjust’ one emotion or behaviour, what would it be? I know I take things too personally and get quite hung up on it, so I would change that!

Rahul: I’d probably adjust myself to be less self-important and condescending.

Rinn: Do you prefer to write short stories over longer works?

Rahul: I prefer to write longer works. Short stories are harder and less enjoyable, because the least enjoyable part of any work is figuring out all the basics: setting, character, conflict, voice, character arc, etc. And the most enjoyable part is when you’ve figured all of that out, and the story starts writing itself. In a short story, the moment you figure that stuff out, then you can write it in about a day. But in a novel, you’ve got months of fun before it ends. However, once you write a short story, you can send it out and sell it and have it published in a fairly short span of time. With novels, the gratification takes much longer.

Rinn: Have you got any particular favourite stories in the Book of Apex Volume 4?

Rahul: Yes! I really liked David J. Schwartz’ “Bear In Contradicting Landscape.” It’s a surrealist story that comes together with that perfect dream-logic that writers are always trying (and failing) to fake. You can tell that the events in the story–though they are seemingly arbitrary–are actually determined by some intuitive aesthetic sense on the part of the author.

Rinn: Have you always been a big fan of science fiction?

Rahul: Yep, ever since I was about ten years old and my mom gave me a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation (Which was a book that she’d enjoyed as a girl growing up in India in the 1960s!)

Rinn: Is there anything you’d like to see left out of science fiction?

Rahul: I’m a bit tired of books and stories that are merely fun adventure stories. I like to see something else: new ideas, new settings, new character types. I don’t like books that are just trying to give readers the same thing that they felt when they first read Heinlein or Asimov or Clarke. In literature, there is no going home again. Each book is an non-replicable experience. And if you aim to duplicate it, then you’ll inevitable end up with something worse than the original.

Rinn: Are there any other genres you would encourage people to delve into?

Rahul: Yes! All the genres! But, most particularly, realist literary fiction. There’s something of a bias against it in science fiction circles, which I don’t understand. Oftentimes SF fans will say that realist fiction is boring and that all the most interesting things are being done in the science fiction world. But that makes no sense to me. Do these fans really see no value in stories that are about ordinary, real-world lives? Realist fiction has a wealth and denseness of detail that purely imaginary settings can’t replicate.

Oh, also, I really like crime fiction! And chick-lit!

Rinn: Who, or what, are your inspirations?

Rahul: Lots of people. I’m inspired by Asimov, Heinlein, Ted Chiang, Aimee Bender, Tolstoy, Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, among others.

Rinn: I note that you are currently enrolled in a MFA Creative Writing program – do you have a strict routine for this?

Rahul: Yes, I do. During the week, I write for one hour on two days (usually Monday/Wednesday), two hours on three days (usually Friday/Saturday/Sunday), four hours on Tuesday, and eight hours on Thursday. I also try to read at least one hour a day (although it usually ends up being much more than that). And I try to begin writing by 9 AM and do at least one hour before 10 AM.

Rinn: And finally, you’re stranded on a desert island. You can take five books and one other object. What do you take?

Rahul: I’ll leave out the jokey answers (How To Get Off A Desert Island) and just deliver some serious ones. If I had to be alone for extended periods of time, I’d want books that allowed me to think about how and why I should continue to live. And they should also be really long and dense. So I’d probably go for In Search Of Lost Time, Anna Karenina, Atlas Shrugged, War And Peace, and The History of Western Philosophy.

Thank you so much to Rahul for letting me interview him!

Author Interview, Blog Tour

Blog Tour + Author Interview: Adam-Troy Castro, Book of Apex Volume 4

Book of Apex Blog Tour

For my second post as part of the Book of Apex Volume 4 Blog Tour (the first being my review posted yesterday) I have an interview with one of the authors featured in the book, Adam-Troy Castro. Adam has written many books of different genres and for different ages, just a small selection of which is shown below. If you’d like to learn more about the tour, then please click the banner above.

Rinn: Firstly, thank you for letting me interview you! When I read your short story, During the Pause, in the Book of Apex Vol 4, I was surprised by the style as I haven’t read much (or anything!) written in second person plural. What inspired you to write  this particular piece?

Adam-Troy: I’m afraid certain stories have no brilliantly informative genesis myths, and this is one of them. I seem to recall working my way back from the final line, and trying to come up with something that would render it horrific beyond measure. I have actually done a number of prior second-person stories in my career, including my first fiction publication, “Clearance to Land” and my zombie story “Dead Like Me,” but I kind of think that this will be the only second-person to all of humanity I’ll ever do.

Rinn: It certainly was horrific, I had chills down my spine whilst reading it! What I particularly liked about it was that the reader might immediately assume it was an alien race, talking down to humans. But who’s to say it wasn’t us, addressing an alien race in the future? There was a lot of ambiguity that left it open, which I thought was very clever.

Adam-Troy: It’s clever of you. That never occurred to me. But now that I think about it, I realize your theory doesn’t work. The species speaking say at one point that they have no concept of religion, and that the species they’re addressing do.

Rinn: I did think that, but I also thought that perhaps if it was the human race very far into the future, maybe there is no concept of religion any more? Very far-fetched I know… But moving on. How would you react if aliens invaded and relayed a similar message to the human race? I feel that it would be all my nightmares from science fiction at once…

Adam-Troy: Oh, I would freak out, certainly. I suspect that there would be a lot of yelling during that five seconds.

Rinn: Will you be working on any more short stories linked to this one, or does it link to any of your current or upcoming works?

Adam-Troy: Nope, this is a stand-alone.

Rinn: Have you got any particular favourite stories in the Book of Apex Vol 4?

Adam-Troy: I am particularly fond of Christopher Barzak’s “The Twenty-Four Hour Brother.”

Rinn: Have you always been a big fan of science fiction?

Adam-Troy: Since being ruined forever by Asimov, Clarke, and Ellison pre-10. (And Godzilla.)

Rinn: Who, or what, are your inspirations?

Adam-Troy: I think the last answer covers some of it, but there are always new voices, new discoveries. Every new gem by someone I never heard of, is an occasion for gritted teeth and a determined, “Well? Oh Yeah?”

Rinn: One of my favourite things is discovering a brilliant new author or series. So exciting! Do you often use the online book community as a resource for your work ie. reading reviews of your books, interacting with readers. It’s always interesting as a blogger to see how our reviews and comments are used.

Adam-Troy: I am told that the time I spend on social media, bitching about one thing or another, really needs to be applied to a blog. Sooner or later, I suppose I shall.

Rinn: Haha, social media is the worst thing ever for procrastination. I note that you are a movie buff! What are your recent favourites? I’m hoping to go and see American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street some time soon.

Adam-Troy: Most recent theatrical film to blow me away was All Is Lost, with Robert Redford. I watch an awful lot of Korean and other Asian films these days: they really do have a sensibility we’ve lost in our stampede toward formula, that stories need to play for keeps, and that anything can happen.

Rinn: And finally – who would be at your fantasy dinner party? And what would you serve?

Adam-Troy: My biggest problem with most of these fantasy dinner parties is that many of the great figures of history didn’t smell all that nice, by our standards. Shakespeare’s funk would clear a modern-day restaurant, and Twain would insist on lighting up a cigar, afterward. I wouldn’t mind meeting some of these people, but I would have to turn off my sense of scent first. One thing I would like to do, really, is take the Donner Party out for pizza.

Rinn: I have to say, I never thought of that before and you make a very good point! I also wonder how some of them would interact, and it would definitely make for some interesting and possibly rather difficult dinner conversation…

Thank you so much to Adam-Troy for letting me interview him!

Author Interview, Blog Tour

Blog Tour + Author Interview: Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen by Jordan Jacobs

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen by Jordan Jacobs, a middle-grade/young adult book about a young girl with a passion for archaeology.

If you know me, you’ll know that I studied archaeology and ancient history at university, and my ambition is to one day be a museum curator. So how could I turn down the chance to read a book about a young archaeologist, written by an archaeologist?

For the blog tour I have an interview with the author, Jordan Jacobs, and I’ll be posting my review of the book tomorrow. So let’s begin!

Interview

Rinn: I studied archaeology myself, and I LOVED all the little references hidden in the book, like the Pitt-Rivers twins and the Aubreys. Will this be a running theme through the rest of the books?

Jordan: I’m so pleased you caught those!  Yes, there are a lot of little “easter eggs” in Warrior Queen for those who have some background in archaeology. There were some in the first book, too, just as there will be in the third.  I had some fun with that, especially with finding archaeological terms that also work as names (Cairn, Barrows….)

Rinn: I spotted those too! I thought it was so clever. What inspired you to start writing fiction about archaeology and archaeologists?

Jordan: I wanted to write books that I would’ve loved to read as a kid.  I was initially drawn to the adventure aspects of archaeology, but feel strongly that my books should have a scientific component as well, so that young readers could get a sense of how the discipline actually works and why it is important.

Rinn: I loved the book at my age now, but I wish there’d been something like it when I was Samantha’s age too! Is Samantha influenced by your younger self at all? I love her enthusiasm and passion for archaeology.

Jordan: Oh, definitely.  But while my earliest impressions of archaeology leaned more towards the adventure side of things, Sam’s interest lies firmly in the science–which she has some real knowledge of, thanks to her archaeologist uncle.

Rinn: So far, Samantha’s travels have taken her to the Peruvian Andes and Cambridge. Where do you think she’ll go next?

Jordan: I know precisely where she’s headed… but I’m not telling!  I’ll just say that it’s somewhere very different from the first two settings, and involves an aspect of archaeology that Samantha has never encountered before.

Rinn: Experimental archaeology? GIS? Thermoluminescence dating? *throws around random terms* What periods of history or particular locations would you love to write about next?

Jordan: Well, next up is Samantha Sutton Book 3.  But historical fiction is something I’d love to attempt.  I’ve always been fascinated by contact stories: the first English delegations to the Mughal court, Esteban’s arrival at Zuni… these incredible moments in human history where two vastly different worldviews encounter one another and are forever changed.

Rinn: Those are also moments I don’t know much about, so I’d definitely be interested in reading more about them. How did you go about researching for the books? Were they already time periods/locations you’d researched previously or perhaps dug at?

Jordan: All the books are set in places where I’ve worked, studied, or spent a significant amount of time. As an undergraduate, I lived in the Peruvian Andes for a summer-long project. I did my graduate archaeology work at Cambridge, so I know the area well. This made research much much easier, because much of it I’d done years before–and for course credit!

Rinn: I can tell you all about Silchester if you ever feel like writing about it, haha! That’s where I worked throughout university. What is your usual writing process? Do you like to stick to a schedule?

Jordan: With a toddler at home and a full-time job, I don’t have the luxury of a schedule. But I happily write whenever I can (a glance at my clock tells me that it’s 5:30am right now. Yikes!).

Rinn: Eek, that’s dedication! Well thank you very much for taking some time to answer these questions. If you were given a time machine, where and when would you go and why?

Jordan: I’d love a glimpse of Plantagenet England.  I’m sort of a Richard the Lionheart groupie–though I don’t think we’d have similar views on anything–and it would be interesting to see how things functioned in his time.  But I’m also a fan of Back to the Future, and would know to be extremely cautious (rift in the space time continuum and all that).  I might just stick my head out for a second or two.  I don’t think I’d linger long.

Rinn: This is more of a personal question, as someone who is going on to study museum studies and heritage. I see that you have worked at many museums and for many heritage organisations – what advice would you give to someone interested in that field?

Jordan: Network. Request informational interviews.  It’s the kind of work that draws passionate people, and it’s important that employers can sense your commitment to the field.

Rinn: Thank you so much for that advice! And finally, which historical figures would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

Jordan: Ada Lovelace, Howard Carter, Gustav Mahler, and Boudica (before her troubles began). I’d make burgers.

About the Author

Jordan Jacobs

The author with Richard I.

Jordan Jacobs has loved archaeology for as long as he can remember. His childhood passion for mummies, castles and Indiana Jones led to his participation in his first excavation, at age 13, in California’s Sierra Nevada. After completing a high school archaeology program in the American Southwest, he followed his passion through his education at Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge. Since then, Jordan’s work for the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History and UNESCO Headquarters in Paris has focused on policy and the protection of archaeological sites in the developing world.

Jordan’s research and travel opportunities have taken him to almost fifty countries– from Cambodia’s ancient palaces, to Tunisia’s Roman citadels, to Guatemala’s Mayan heartland and the voodoo villages of Benin.
Jordan now works as Head of Cultural Policy at UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

Thank you so much to Jordan for letting me interview him, and to the publisher/Netgalley for a copy of the book.

Are you a fan of archaeology or books based around historical events? Give Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen a try!

Author Interview, Giveaway, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Author Interview with Jaine Fenn

For today’s Sci-Fi Month post, I have an interview with the very talented science fiction author, Jaine Fenn! I first came across her work when I won a copy of her short story collection, Downside Girls, through LibraryThing. I really enjoyed the stories as an introduction to her Hidden Empire series, and she was one of the first authors I thought to contact when I came up with the idea for Sci-Fi Month. At the end of the post, there is also a giveaway for a copy of Downside Girls, open internationally.

Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Interview

Rinn: I first encountered your work when I read your short story collection, Downside Girls. Do you plan on writing any more short story collections?

Jaine: I love short stories, and have written plenty of them. I like the idea of themed collections, and at some point I’ll gather up all my alternate history and fortean stories – although they aren’t SF as such – and then, as with Downside Girls, add a new story or two to complete the set.

Rinn: Did you have any particular inspiration for the Angels and the Sidhe (from Jaine’s Hidden Empire series)?

Jaine: The Angels – female flying assassins with implanted blades – come in part from two books I read at an impressionable age: William Gibson’s Neuromancer and the Miller/Sienkeiwicz graphic novel Elektra: Assassin. The concept was too cool not to use, though I added the bit about flying.

The Sidhe are more complex because the ‘real’ Sidhe are the Celtic fey folk, treacherous, otherworldly and rarely seen. The Sidhe in my stories are aliens who gave themselves this name when they encountered humanity. They did this with knowing irony. There’s a lot more to be said about that, but it’s a story for a later date.

Rinn: Which of the Hidden Empire books did you most enjoy writing?

Jaine: Now there’s a tricky question. I’ll always love Principles of Angels, because it was not just the first in the series, it was the first novel I wrote. And rewrote, over a number of years. The easiest book to write was Guardians of Paradise, partly because it brought together the stories started in Principles of Angels and Consorts of Heaven, and partly because it is a (sort of) romance, and I find romance easier to write than straight SF. In some ways Queen of Nowhere was great fun once I’d got into the main character’s head. But each book brought moments of elation and surprise, and I enjoyed them all, in different ways.

Rinn: The most recent Hidden Empire novel, Queen of Nowhere, was published this year. Do you plan to write more in this series?

Jaine: Oh yes. I’ve got plans for four more books, one of which I’ve started. Having said that, I’m not sure when they’ll see print. Queen of Nowhere ended one plot thread – or rather, changed the game – and I wanted to take a break from the series after it. As it turns out I’ve got caught up in a number of other projects, including a return to short-story writing. Watch this space, as they say. Well, watch www.jainefenn.com.

Rinn: Your series does not necessarily need to be read in order, and the books work as standalones. Which character did you most enjoy writing, and were there any you wanted to bring in the story purely because you enjoyed writing them?

Jaine: Another tricky but interesting question. As with novels, the characters you’ve spent the longest with will be the most special to you, so I like writing Taro (irritating to everyone else though he can be); Nual’s more challenging, and because of her unique worldview I’m sparing in writing from her viewpoint, but then she hasn’t reached her full potential yet. As every writer knows, characters tend to take on a life of their own: Bez, who played a relatively minor role in Guardians of Paradise, ended up getting her own book!

Rinn: Who or what are your influences as a writer?

Jaine: So many… Here’s a few: Manga, Iain M Banks, Ursula Le Guin, cyberpunk, Larry Niven, C.J. Cherryh, Philip K. Dick and Mary Gentle.

Rinn: What five science fiction novels would you recommend to my readers?

Jaine: It depends on whether they are SF aficionados or new to the genre. If I had to pick five relatively recent SF books I think everyone should read I’d go for: The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson; The Player of Games by Iain M Banks, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson and The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.

Rinn: What do you like to spend your time doing, when you’re not writing?

Jaine: Reading, though my ‘to read’ pile only ever gets bigger, not smaller. I also enjoy walking in the countryside near my home in Hampshire, a hobby that fits in well with being a writer, as I use my walks to consider plot points or get to know my characters. I play the odd role-playing game, and in the summer I take part in historical re-enactment events. Like a lot of writers, I also have a part-time day-job; in my case I run a small charity.

Rinn: Do you get involved in the science fiction community online very much?

Jaine: Not as much as I’d like to, due to lack of time. I have a Facebook presence and I’m sporadically on Twitter as @JaineFenn, but there are loads of great blogs I’d like to check out.

Rinn: Where/when will your next appearances be – I know you appear at quite a few cons – like BristolCon this past October.

Jaine: I’ll be at Novacon, which will be the last of a number of cons in a very busy autumn. I’ll probably go to Picocon, a small one-day convention in London, and I’m still trying to work out whether I can get to Eastercon, as the logistics are a bit complicated for me this year. And then of course there’s the British Worldcon, LonCon, which I’m really looking forward to.

Thank you to Jaine for letting me interview her!

About Jaine

Jaine Fenn is a science fiction writer, hailing from the United Kingdom. She has written several short stories, and the Hidden Empire series of books, which can either be read as standalones or in order. A sci-fi fan since she was a young girl, she discovered the world of fiction through Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, and began writing at a young age. She now also runs her own charity.

Jaine’s books include Principles of Angels, Consorts of Heaven, Guardians of Paradise, Bringer of Light, Queen of Nowhere and Downside Girls.

Jaine can be found on Goodreads and Twitter, and you can also visit her website.

Giveaway

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Author Interview

Author Interview: Katherine Roberts

I’m so happy to say that I have a very special treat for you today, my dear readers: an interview with Katherine Roberts!

   

When I was younger, I was absolutely in love with a series called The Echorium Sequence. I still have the books, and have lost count of how many times I re-read them over the years. So you can imagine how excited I was when I emailed Katherine for an interview, and she agreed.

The fourth book in her Pendragon Legacy, Grail of Stars, is due out in October 2013.

Interview

Rinn: Hello Katherine! Firstly, let me say thank you so much for letting me interview you. One of your earlier series, The Echorium Sequence, really fascinated me as a child; it’s really exciting to have this chance.

Katherine: Glad you enjoyed the Echorium Sequence! The first book Song Quest was my debut novel and also won the Branford Boase Award, so that trilogy will always be special to me.


Song Quest was also re-released in 2012, with a beautiful new cover.

Rinn: Can you tell us a little bit about your current series, the Pendragon Legacy?

Katherine: It’s a traditional four-book fantasy series for younger readers about King Arthur’s daughter, Rhianna Pendragon, who arrives on the scene after Mordred kills Arthur at the end of the legends.

Rhianna has grown up on the magical isle of Avalon, and has no idea she is heir to the throne of Camelot until Merlin brings Arthur’s body through the enchanted mists from the battlefield. Shocked to hear that her cousin Mordred killed her father and is plotting to seize the throne, she sets out at once to find the four magical Lights – the Sword of Light (Excalibur), the Lance of Truth, the Crown of Dreams, and the Grail of Stars – which have the power to restore Arthur’s soul to his body.

Soon after they leave Avalon, Merlin is ambushed by Morgan Le Fay, and his druid-spirit ends up trapped in the body of a falcon (a real merlin). Fortunately, Rhianna has the magical support of her Avalonian friend Prince Elphin, and when they reach Camelot they are joined by her maid Arianrhod and a brave young squire called Cai. Together, the four friends battle dragons and Mordred’s bloodbeards to save Camelot.

Rinn: Which of the characters in the series is your favourite, and why?

Katherine: They’re all so different, it’s hard to choose. Rhianna is a warrior princess, but she is not allowed to blood her Excalibur if she wants to take the Sword to Avalon. Elphin is gentle and kind, and works magic to help his friends even when it hurts him. Arianrhod has been mistreated by her old mistress Morgan Le Fay so is rather timid, but comes into her own on Rhianna’s final quest for the Grail. Cai is a bit hopeless at first – the sort of squire who is always spilling things and falling off his pony – but he learns fast, and ends up fighting dragons. So they’re all heroes (and heroines)!

If I have to pick just one, then I think Elphin has to be my favourite, because who can resist a violet-eyed fairy prince?

Rinn: The Pendragon Legacy, is based around Arthurian legend. Why did you decide to write a series using mythology, and why Arthurian legend in particular?

Katherine: I’ve always been fascinated by the Arthurian legends, especially the powerful women. I very much enjoyed Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, an adult fantasy novel that retells the Arthurian legend from the point of view of the women, and wanted to do something similar for young readers. That’s why I created a daughter for Arthur, rather than the more obvious son.

Rinn: Did you do a lot of research for the series, or was it something you already had a lot of previous knowledge about?

Katherine: I knew most of the popular Arthurian stories already, from my previous reading. I did do some historical research to get the background right, though not much of this found its way into the books. Since they’re for younger readers, I wanted to give them a fantasy feel and keep the story moving, without getting bogged down by too many historical details. Most of what we know about King Arthur is legend rather than history, anyway. If he did exist, he was probably a sixth century war-lord and not a king. He might have had a real daughter, but if so we don’t know anything about her. That’s what makes writing about Rhianna such fun, because I can make it all up!

Rinn: You say you grew up in the South-west (me too!), an area that has much to do with the myth of King Arthur. Did any local landscapes influence your writing?

Katherine: Yes, I used to play in the caves under Tintagel as a child, where Arthur was supposedly born. I’ve also climbed Glastonbury Tor (which some people think is the ancient Avalon), and visited most of the places where Camelot might have stood, trying to imagine a great castle there. I also lived on the Welsh border for a while – explaining Rhianna’s quest to “Dragonland” in the third book.


Some lovely artwork of characters from the Pendragon Legacy.

Rinn: Your Seven Fabulous Wonders series also incorporates ancient myths. Is this something that has always interested you?

Katherine: A lot of fantasy is based on myths and legends, so I suppose they must fascinate me. But I prefer to invent my own plots and create my own characters using the myths and legends as background, rather than retell the old stories as some authors do. The Seven Fabulous Wonders books are a mixture of history, myth and magic, but they are much more history-based than my Pendragon series, which might be why they appeal to boys.

Rinn: All your books so far are predominantly within the middle grade/young adult range. Do you think you would ever write something for older audiences?

Katherine: Well, I started out writing short stories for adults, and also wrote fiction for women’s magazines under another name. But my first novel (Song Quest) was published on a children’s list, so after it won the Branford Boase it made sense to go down that route for a while. I think the effect of the award has worn off now, however, so there’s a high probability I will publish adult fiction in future, as well as more children’s books for as long as publishers continue to want them.

Of my published books so far, I Am the Great Horse is probably the most mature, being enjoyed by all generations – I couldn’t persuade Chicken House publish an “adult” edition of that one, but the ebook is available to everyone!

Rinn: I note that one of your favourite books is Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (same as mine!), what other novels have really drawn you in?

Katherine: Too many to count… I enjoy fantasy and science fiction that transports me to another world, and used to be a great fan of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider books as a teenager. But it doesn’t have to be fantasy – any book where I can get totally wrapped up in the characters and the storyline works for me. The last book I read that really drew me in was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Rinn: On your website, you say that you did a degree in Mathematics. How did you end up becoming a writer?

Katherine: I think I’ve always been a writer – not professionally at first, but I’ve always enjoyed creating stories, starting with telling my little brother bedtime stories when he was four (I was eight). I did a Maths degree because my teachers said it would be more useful than English… and they were right in a way, since I now need it to understand my royalty statements and do my accounts!

Rinn: All writers have times when they struggle – what do you do to get around writer’s block?

Katherine: Before I was published, I never had writer’s block. These days, I get blocked whenever I start thinking “will this book ever sell enough copies to pay the mortgage?” or “why is everyone else getting six-figure deals / hitting the best seller lists / getting their books promoted in the shops?” I don’t know how you get around that, apart from burying your head in the sand and staying away from the internet completely, which is more or less impossible these days. But I find most blocks occur at the business end of writing, not in the actual stories themselves.

Rinn: Do you use the online community for feedback for your books, and if so, do you let it influence your work?

Katherine: It’s impossible to avoid seeing reviews, so I’d be lying if I said these don’t affect my work. But I’ve learned only to take notice when several people (who should be the book’s ideal readers) are saying the same things. Negative reviews are bound to happen sometimes, usually when someone gets hold of the book who wouldn’t normally read that genre. Generally it’s good to get feedback, though, even if it’s negative – better than silence!

Rinn: What do you do when you are not writing?

Katherine: This might sound sad, but I’m pretty much always writing – or at least doing some kind of writing-related activity such as a blog post, interviews like this one, keeping accounts, research, reading other people’s books, publishing my backlist as ebooks, creating book trailers, keeping up with social media, etc. There’s so much more to do now than there used to be, it’s difficult to find time to actually write the books! Other than that, I try to exercise every day – I cycle, and I enjoy skiing in the winter. I used to have a part-time job riding racehorses, though I’ve not done that for a while. I do all the usual DIY, gardening, cooking stuff… but mostly, I write. It’s my career, so it’s important to me.

Rinn: What are you currently reading?

Katherine: I have three books on the go at the moment – Celia Rees’ The Fool’s Girl, Julia Golding’s Young Knights of the Round Table (which I couldn’t resist starting, since I’m doing an Arthurian event with Julia at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival in September), and on my Kindle I’m reading Alison Morton’s Inceptio – a brilliant alternative history debut set in 21st Century Rome.

Rinn: And finally, one more question… who would attend your fantasy dinner party?

Katherine: Prince Elphin, of course, to play his magic harp – so probably Rhianna would gatecrash, too. I’d have her father King Arthur, Merlin, Luke Skywalker (I’d give his dad a miss), the beautiful Fallen Star from Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, Gandalf the Grey (who would have to sit next to Merlin), Galadriel from the Lord of the Rings, Killashandra Ree from Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer, and you of course… just let me know who you would like to sit next to!

Thank you so much to Katherine for letting me interview her! (and inviting me to dinner – I can just imagine dinner conversation with Gandalf…)

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