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The story behind The Jefferson Winter Series by James Carol

I’ve always been a seat-of-the-pants writer. The idea of sitting down and planning things to the nth detail leaves me cold; I much prefer to go with the flow and see where the ideas take me. That’s definitely been the case with the Jefferson Winter series.

A few years ago I was trying to develop a character who was interesting enough to lead a series of novels. I’d had a couple of false starts; nothing quite made the grade. The challenge was creating a character who would still excite me when I got to book ten (or book twenty). If I can keep things interesting for me, then hopefully readers will stay interested.

Sometimes the best way to find something is to stop looking, and that’s what happened with Winter. My second book was a serial-killer novel called Yin Yang. Out of all my early unpublished novels this was the one that people seemed to like best. I liked the story, too, but the writing wasn’t quite there, so I decided to have a go at reworking the novel.

Originally, the main character was going to be an FBI profiler, but I just didn’t have the writing chops to pull off a believable American character so he ended up being an English DI. This time I reverted to Plan A. Of course, nothing ever goes quite to plan, and that was the case with the rewrite. Within a couple of chapters it became apparent that this was going to be a completely different book.

When it was finished I submitted it to my agent, Camilla Wray. Talk about a Road To Damascus moment. As I read through her suggestions, I realised that I actually had the series character that I’d been searching for. Next, we needed to find a name. Needless to say, numerous emails went bouncing back and forth before we finally settled on Jefferson Winter.

From the start, each novel was going to be written as a standalone. There were a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost, the books can be read in any order. The second reason comes back to my low boredom threshold. With this approach every book is a new adventure. A different cast, a different location, a brand new story. BROKEN DOLLS was set in wintry London, while WATCH ME was set in sunny Louisiana. In some respects the books are very different, however, the thread tying the two together is Winter.

The Jefferson Winter Chronicles are a subseries of novellas set during Winter’s FBI days. This was something else that developed organically. The idea was to have something to fill the gap between the main novels – I didn’t want readers waiting too long for their next JW fix! The first instalment, PRESUMED GUILTY, was published in July, and I’ve just finished the second.

It has been incredibly exciting to watch Winter develop and grow. What I love is how fluid this process has been, and what excites me most is that this is just the beginning. Personally, I can’t wait to see what he gets up to next. I’ve got a few ideas, but I dare say that Winter has ideas of his own. And do you know something? That’s absolutely fine by me.


James Carol
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REVIEW : The Man in a Hurry by Paul Morand

 

Paul Morand's classic novel "The Man in a Hurry" (originally released in 1941 in French as "L'homme pressé") has the honour of being the first Pushkin Collection titles published in hardcover so I hope you'll excuse me if I start by talking about its design first. The entire Pushkin Collection series is a celebration of all that's good in book design. Their publications are always such things of beauty. These endlessly charming, dainty pieces of literature come together due to them being such lovely paperbacks enriched by French flaps and embossed covers so it is definitely an act of courage on their behalf to change the winning formula. I won't deny that I was really sceptical whether the hardcover will work so well as the paperback and amazingly it does. Partly it is due to jacket that still retains that tactile feel that graced the paperbacks, partly due to the novel itself which heralds the arrival of modern age and sports a fast car. It just works. Now, without any hurry, on to Morand and "The Man in a Hurry"!

Paul Morand is one of the masters of Modernist French prose and is admired by many, including Ezra Pound and Marcel Proust. During his illustrious career he published over 50 works of non-fiction and fiction, few of which have been published by Pushkin Press, also in translation by Euan Cameron. Last of these is "The Allure of Channel", his final work which explored the life and character of Coco Chanel and published the year Morand died. However, "The Man in a Hurry" finds Morand in a different phase of his life though the elements of his latter writings are already evident. "The Man in a Hurry" introduces us to Pierre Niox, a man who simply can't stop. His erratic lifestyle and madcap pace are driving everyone insane, including his manservant, friends and even his cat who all, one by one, eventually abandon him. In a moment of clarity Pierre realises that he's rushing through life, never experiencing any of it for himself and decides to do something about it, if at all possible. His redemption comes in shape of Hedwige. Pierre instantly falls in love and has to learn to slow down or risk losing the most important thing of them all.

I found "The Man in a Hurry" especially interesting because in a way it is exactly opposite of the life today. For Morand, Pierre's mad dashing around was the infuriating sign of the future. It was the time of the progress and people around were getting noticeably faster day by day. For Pierre it is natural but the world can't keep up with him. And yet today it is life itself that is too fast for most of us and the problem is that you often can't slow it down. It's an interesting inversion that struck chord with me, especially when told through ironic and often hilarious Morand's prose. Funnily enough, in one final twist Morand declared that Pierre is based on himself. I hope he eventually learned to slow down.


Review copy provided by Pushkin Press.
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REVIEW : Reading the World Confessions of a Literary Explorer by Ann Morgan

 

I must admit that when I initially opened Ann Morgan's "Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer" I was slightly disappointed. I've been closely following her literary adventures and I've expected a distilled version of the same but what I've got was something of a literary manifesto - a story about the motivation behind her worthwhile endeavour and the importance of foreign literature. To dispel any illusions you might get at this point, my disappointed lasted for mere half an hour because I quickly realised how clever this little tome is. Its purpose is not to provide reviews but to inspire the reader and as far as I'm concerned, "Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer" does a remarkably fine job of it.

If you haven't heard about Ann Morgan and her reading odyssey here's a quick overview. One day in 2012 Morgan decided to embark on a metaphysical trip around the world by reading a book from each of 196 independent countries in the world. Morgan's quest for touching all corners of global literature was a daunting proposition from the start. 196 books in a year is a lot at best of times but combined with her premise I personally thought that this'll be an ambition that is simply impossible to accomplish because for one, Ann doesn't speak all these languages and there's bound to be at least one country where not a single book/story was translated to English and then there's countries suffering under oppressive regimes where censorship destroys all traces of written world. And yet, against all odds, she has somehow done it. It's a remarkable feat, all the more impressive when you read her account about all the wonderful people who helped her along the way. Slowly, Ann's dash through the books because something that surpasses a mere novelty and became a metaphor for the world we live in - a world where boundaries are slowly, and rightly so, dissipating. It is also a sobering reminder of how little we really know. Just a casual glance at her reading list was enough for me to realise that I've hardly heard, let alone read, most of these authors. It's heart-warming and encouraging to be aware that even in some of those most deprived and desperate corners of our world, there's people putting their emotions and stories to paper.

So if you, like me, upon opening Ann Morgan's "Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer" initially feel despair, fear not! Her wonderful website is still there and is occasionally updated with new content while her book serves as a perfect companion to it. It is a fascinating insight into the idea and the events that made the whole adventure possible. An inspiring stuff for all the bookworms!


Review copy provided by Harvill Secker.
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REVIEW : Queen of the Dark Things by C. Robert Cargill

Let's face it. It's not very likely that Neil Gaiman will ever return to writing adult novels reminiscent of his illustrious past. Last year's "Ocean at the end of the lane" was by all accounts a fantastic book but it was not anything like "American Gods" or "Neverwhere". While I'm really enjoying next stage of his literary development, I'm still miss reading those feasts of imagination like his past works were and similarly to other readers I've started looking elsewhere for my fix. C. Robert Cargill seems to be a popular choice and I was not immune to his charms. "Dreams and Shadows" was compared to works of Gaiman, Del Torro and Burroughs and I completely enjoyed uniqueness of its tale and its characters. "Queen of the Dark Things", Cargill's latest book, is its sequel and offers more of the same but with a few important differences.

Story picks up six months later and finds wizard Colby in the spotlight. He's still recovering from Ewan's death and while Limestone Kingdom is saved, Colby's troubles are only starting. He is often lost in his thoughts and spends most of the time despairing and it is this despair that leads him to future events. Some old and powerful enemies are rearing their heads and he's quickly losing the remaining few friends he had left. Turn of events pushes Colby to previously unthinkable options and he is forced to enter into some dark and unfortunate alliances with Seventy-Two. Over the course of the book, through a series of flashback and excerpts, we are introduced to back story and the surprising Queen of the Dark Things is slowly revealed in front of our eyes.

"Queen of the Dark Things" is much darker book than its predecessor. Colby's grief is the true catalyst of the entire story and while characters like Kaycee Looes do a lot to offset this overarching sense of darkness, it is his own sense of self-doubt that marks the whole first part of the book. Melancholy is never far away. It will be interesting seeing whether in the next installment focus of the story will shift from Colby to Kaycee. Cargill's rich world is further explored by abovementioned excerpts from the books written by Dr. Thaddeus Ray, Ph.D. which are strewn all across the book. It is also interesting to note that despite being direct sequel to "Dreams and Shadows", "Queen of the Dark Things" works remarkably well as a standalone story so do not be discouraged if you missed the first book in the series. In his new book, Cargill has proved that he has one of the best imaginations around and a writing talent to boot. His strange world is a wondrous creation and I've really enjoyed my visit. Having said that, "Queen of the Dark Things" is far from perfect. At times due to the excessive use of excerpts and flashbacks the story loses its steam but luckily these moments are far and between. I've also really enjoyed the darker aspects of the story and the new characters were all, without an exception, very engaging and fun to read. Cargill is masterful when it comes to creating evil cast and he certainly knows how to their parts .

Ultimately, "Queen of the Dark Things" was a treat to read and well accomplished sequel. I'll be keeping my eye for the next one. 


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Review copy provided by Gollancz / HarperCollins.

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Story behind Queen of the Dark Things - Q&A with C. Robert Cargill

Q: Hi Robert! To start, what can you tell us about "Queen of the Dark Things"?

It’s the further adventures of the Colby Stevens, the boy who has seen too much. This time around he’s trying to come to grips with all of the things that went wrong in the first book as we learn more about the lost years he spent as a child wandering the world on the other side of the veil. QUEEN OF THE DARK THINGS explores sections of the supernatural world only hinted at in the first book, delving into the folklore of ancient Judaism and the Outback.

Q: Where the idea came from and what can you tell us about your writing process?

I’m a both a huge fantasy and folklore fan. One story I always wanted to see was about children plunged into a genuinely frightening and dangerous fantasy world in which they find themselves woefully out of their depth. But I also wanted to read stories about the various wonderful folklores that exist in our own world. Eventually I was inspired to marry the two and tell the story of a young boy who ends up exactly where he doesn’t belong and continually pays a terrible price for it, slowly, over time, becoming the kind of hero that emerges from that very sort of thing.

I’m big into research, so I usually spend a couple of months reading countless works on the people, events and folklore I plan on writing about. Part of the idea behind the Colby books is to force myself to play by the rules established by religion, history, and superstition, giving the work a slightly more grounded feel. I usually fill a notebook or two with monsters, stories and anecdotes to pull from once I begin. And when I sit down to write, I try to adhere as closely as possible to the established narratives. One of the great things about fantasy is that it can introduce you to long passed down stories and beliefs, so I try to write them in a way that you not only enjoy the book, but feel like you have a broader understanding or knowledge of our own shared history. It always tickles me when I hear from people who have discovered a whole new trove of stories and monsters to dream about.

My hope is that people read the Colby books and go out on their own to read about King Solomon, the Seventy-two, Aboriginal Clever Men, Dreamtime, and the Batavia and come back to revisit the books with an even deeper appreciation for the story.

Q: Have you planned the entire series from the start and how much it changed from the initial idea? 

Yeah. Initially DREAMS AND SHADOWS was meant as a standalone, but when a friend asked me if there were more, the ideas began bubbling to the surface. I worked out an outline and the various mythologies I wanted to play around with, seeding the ideas and laying the groundwork for them in it. Over the course of writing the second book, I found an even better ending to the series than I’d originally intended and set about working toward that. Otherwise, the major events and background have remained intact and the third book is, as of right now, very close to what I’d imagined before writing its predecessor.

Q: "Queen of the Dark Things" is a much darker novel than it's predecessor. How come? What is a logical progression of the story or has else something influenced the change?

The world on the other side of the veil is a scary place, populated by our worst nightmares. As that world gets bigger, it gets scarier, just as the real world does as we grow up. Colby’s just a young guy trying to make sense of it all. As answers come, he finds they lead only to bigger questions and the answers to those questions aren’t always what he wants to hear. Also, structurally, Colby’s story is only three books long, and this being the second act, things inherently need to get darker and more dangerous. The ending I’m working toward needs to be earned and the only way to do that is take Colby to darker places than we’ve seen him go previously.

Q: Was is hard writing Colby as he is now, suffering heavily after the death of his friend? 

The hardest part is conveying the deep sense of loss he feels without making the whole book about him moping around. I’m always bothered when I read a series and the hero doesn’t really acknowledge the hardships that have come before him. I really needed the audience to know that the loss of his friend changed him dramatically. It broke him. And now he needs to learn what we all must at some point in our lives: how to move on.

Q: Standing in the stark contrast to him is Kaycee, a strong character whose scenes I've particularly enjoyed reading. What can you tell us about her?

She’s the Ying to Colby’s Yang. Where Colby often pities and questions himself, Kaycee doesn’t. She’s had it much harder than Colby and always looks forward instead of back – sometimes to her own detriment. Kaycee is what Colby might have become had he made different decisions. Playing the two against each other as I do, I get to paint an external struggle that mirror’s Colby’s own inner conflict. As he tries to find a way to save the soul of his friend, he is in a way trying to find a way to save his own.

Q: In these two books you have created a very imaginative setting. It is steeped in real places such as Austin, Texas but there's plenty of fantasy elements in it. How do you get to create something like that? Is world-building hard for you? 

The toughest part of building this world is figuring out how all the pieces fit together. These stories and monsters are all drawn from existing myth. I have to ask myself: if this were real, how might it work? And how would these elements interact with all of the other ones I’ve used? I love world building and always find it fun, but the challenges I’ve set for myself with this world are particularly rewarding.

Q: There are lots of myth and fairy tale elements in your works. Where does this love for old tales come from and how have they influenced your storytelling?

All fantasy is drawn from what was, at some point in history, someone else’s religion. Demons, angels, fairies, djinnis, giants, elves, dwarves, dragons. All of them. I’m fascinated by these stories, as all fantasy fans are, but I’m particularly drawn to what lead people to believe in these things in the first place. If you look closely enough into these stories, you can find our own histories and evolution splayed out before us and who we are becomes ever the more clear. These are the things that keep me up nights, but in the best way. So of course I have to write about them.

Q: Your works have been compared to works by authors such as Neil Gaiman and William S. Burroughs. How do you feel about it?

It’s both a kind blessing and a curse. Every writer longs to be compared to the greats, but it’s also heartbreaking to read reviews by folks disappointed by the comparison. “I picked up this book because it was compared to Gaiman and Cargill is no Neil Gaiman.” That’s never easy to read, not because you aren’t living up to the legend that came before you, but because someone didn’t enjoy your work because of the expectations the comparison built up. At the end of the day, every writer just hopes and prays that someday someone compares a young newly minted writer to you and the cycle can begin anew.

Q: Does being compared to such literary titans puts additional pressure on you?

Not really. When all is said and done every writer is just a person and every book just a collection of words. You do the best you can do and history will make the decisions as to how it all shakes out. Half of any given work is what you give to it; the other half is what the audience brings in with them. You only get to control your half. Sometimes a comparison like that, as I mentioned, forces someone to grade you more harshly than they might have originally, but sometimes it works in your favor. Sometimes people believe a work to be better just because other people do. So in a case like this you take the good with the bad. I take the flattery with a grain of salt just as I do the admonishments.

Q: Who were the authors who originally inspired you to write and what recent titles would you recommend to our readers?

Stephen King’s FIRESTARTER was the first novel I ever read and was the inspiration for becoming a writer. It lead me to read all of King’s works and once I was done with those I moved on to the man King dubbed his successor, Clive Barker. CABAL melted my brain and introduced me to the idea of marrying horror with fantasy. Soon after I discovered Robert Anton Wilson, Hermann Hesse, William S. Burroughs and Franz Kafka and each further inspired me each in their own way.

Joe Hill’s 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS is one of the very best horror/dark fantasy anthologies of the last decade. It’s essential reading for fans of either genre. My good friend Ari Marmell recently put out his most inspired work, HOT LEAD, COLD IRON, an Urban Fantasy gumshoe novel set in 1930’s Gangland Chicago, and it is damned excellent. And Saladin Ahmed’s THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON is some of the most inspired and original fantasy in years – a high fantasy adventure set in Muslim mythology. These are easily some of my favorites.

Q: To conclude, is there going to be a third book in the series? If yes, what can you tell us about it?

That’s the rumor. I certainly want to write one. All I can say at this point is that it is the logical conclusion of the series, ending Colby’s story in a (hopefully) satisfying way while doing something I’ve never seen in another work of its kind. When all is said and done, it should leave plenty of room for other stories in the world while leaving the audience feeling like they’ve read a complete story.


C. Robert Cargill
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REVIEW : Borders by Roy Jacobsen

 

Originally published in 1999, “Borders” is my first encounter with the writings of Roy Jacobsen. I've certainly heard of his works, most of which have been awarded many literary accolades and have universally critically praised. I've also been "warned" about the density of his narrative so therefore I instantly knew that the synopsis, no matter how accurate or descriptive it might seem at first glance will be lacking in conveying the essence of what his latest English translation is all about.

Superficially, you might expect "Borders" to be a novel about World War II and it certainly is that. But then you'll notice the impossible situation that Markus Hebel finds himself in. Markus' son is caught in Stalingrad, a city on the verge of collapse while Hitler stubbornly refuses to withdraw. And there's that mention of "Operation Winter Storm", a real German offensive that occurred during the Battle of Stalingrad and which unsuccessfully attempted to help the German 6th Army during their encirclement by the Soviets of the German 6th Army. Markus is a Belgian radio operator working for Feldmarschall Erich von Manstein, a strategist behind the operation. And while "Borders" is about all of these things, it is also not about either of them. Like a masterful movie director, Jacobsen often zooms in and completely forgets the big picture. At its heart of hearts "Borders" is all about ordinary people, suffering and dying in conflicts that they often can't completely understand and for the causes they certainly would condone if they had any choice. This is instantly obvious when Marcus finds himself is a position when blindly following the orders means he'll have to sacrifice his son. Faced with that prospect he would betray everyone without batting an eyelid. World War II and the Battle of Stalingrad are just events of choice. All these ideas and emotions would equally be applicable to any other conflict in history of mankind.

So those borders mentioned in the title of Jacobsen's book mean much more than a purely geographical concept. For him, equally if not more important are the borders that lie within us - those fine lines that separate us from the beasts. "Borders" is definitely a novel about World War II but a novel that transcends the event. It shows that even after all those horrific crimes against the humanity have been committed, love strives. Very interesting and different novel.


Review copy provided by MacLehose Press.
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REVIEW : Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson

 

In a bad design choice, American edition of Rjurik Davidson's debut novel "Unwrapped Sky" prominently features a minotaur on its cover. There's nothing wrong with minotaurs as such and they certainly play a part in the story but the issue I have with the cover in question in that it sends a completely wrong impression about "Unwrapped Sky". In my opinion, Davidson's debut is completely removed from what you would usually expect from your bog standard high fantasy and instead occupies that undefinable place in literary fantasy that's more interested in the voyage than the quest. It is the kind of book that is, for the lack of better classification, often described as new weird or magical realism. You know the kind I'm talking about. China Mieville and Bulgakov instantly come to my mind as reference points. Even though Davidson is still not up to their level of craft, his poetic prose clearly shows that he has plenty of potential.

"Unwrapped Sky" revolves around Caeli-Amur, an ancient city on the brink of irreversible change. The governing power is continuously shifting between houses who between them control the livelihood of its citizens. They're House Technis who attract industrial workers, Hourse Arbor with farmers and House Marin with fishermen. The streets of Caeli-Amur are filled of intrigues and as we're introduced to Kata, n philosopher-assassin, she's in the middle of her latest scheme, getting rid of two minotaurs. Similar can be said about bureaucrat Boris Autec who is working for House Technis and whose ruthless rise through the ranks severely affects his private life and for Maximilan, a thaumaturgist scholar and a revolutionary who spends his life researching secrets of Great Library of Caeli Enas. As the Festival of the Sun is approaching minotaur are arriving to the city as well as an endless stream of refugees and mutants. All these are heralds of an inevitable change. Now it is only a matter of figuring out where the pendulum will drop.

What made "Unwrapped Sky" instantly appealing to me is its strangeness. It is not often that you feel like you are reading something completely new and unique and this was definitely one of those increasingly rare cases. It's just bizarre but never in a way that pushed me away. Over the course of the story Davidson manages to control the amount of weird and knows when and how to stop. I was surprised by how much I've enjoyed this grim and poetic tale and I'm already looking forward to the sequel despite that being the biggest issue I had with it. At the end it is rather open ended. And yes, UK edition got their cover right with their atmospheric depiction of deep waters. It is much more indicative of the book - there's much more under the surface of "Unwrapped Sky" than it is evident at first glance.


Review copy provided by Pan / Tor UK.
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Story behind In Dark Service by Stephen Hunt

Q: What can you tell us about it?

In Dark Service concerns two central families, the Carnehans and Landors, whose children are kidnapped by slavers and snatched from the town of Northhaven in the Kingdom of Weyland.  The townspeople launch a rescue expedition to free the taken from captivity, but with little chances of success given the large scale of the world of Pellas.  The first novel focuses on both the adventures of the pursuing towns-people and the slaves' struggle to survive their harsh captivity.

Q: Where the idea came from and what can you tell us about your writing process?

Well, the general spirit for the novel was inspired by an old comic series called the Trigan Empire – a great big fantasy world where anything could be happening the next land over – usually adventure and always dangerous. The specifics of the plot are more or less my own rum imaginings.  As far as my writing process goes, I write to a rough outline of where I want things to go – or think they will go. I’m always surprised by how off-piste I end up, though.

Q: "In Dark Service" deals with important issues such as slavery and the lengths a parent will go to save their child. Why these themes as basis for the novel? I completely agree that the bond between the parent and a child is probably one of the strongest bonds in the universe, no matter the circumstances.

I think in the question lies the answer. I’m a parent now myself, and that bond between father and child is the strongest most fundamental thing you can feel. I can only imagine what those poor families are going through in Nigeria at the moment with hundreds of school children kidnapped and threatened with slavery. When I started writing In Dark Service a few years ago, I thought that slavery was something you had to watch Spartacus: Blood and Sand to experience in the modern age. I’m heartbroken to discover the foul practice is alive and kicking in the 21st century and being practiced by madmen every bit as evil as the maniacs in my works.

Q: I found the worlds you created, both in this and the previous series, to be rich and vibrant. I've loved its disparate aspects and its inhabitants. What can you tell us about it?

My Jackelian world was quite similar in structure to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels … stand-alone novels set in the same world, with a few shared characters that weave in and out of each novel. You can pick up any book in the series without having read the previous tome, and give each one a fair shot on its own merits. My new Far-called series is a proper linked sequence, à la Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, where you are going to want to start with book one and move sequentially through the series. So the world of Pellas in the Far-called series is going to end up a lot larger, more detailed and complex than my older works.

Q: How do you get to create something like that? Is world-building hard for you?

Because the Far-called is a proper linked series, I’m having to work a lot harder at keeping everything nailed down … in this case, an ever-growing Excel spreadsheet (that sounds so unromantic when attached to the fiction writing process). And poor old Tolkien had to rely on paper log-books!

Q: Your previous series (Jackelian series) was a sequence of novels which shared the same setting but were very different from each other. If I remember correctly, you once said that each novel in the sequence was meant to explore a different aspect of literature (in example, “The Court of the Air” being quest novel or “The Kingdom Beyond the Waves” being adventure novel. Is there a grand idea behind Far-called trilogy or is this series a trilogy in a more traditional sense of the word?

The way the plot is thickening at the moment, the Far-called novels may end up like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series, as a ‘Four book Trilogy’. There is a grand idea behind the book, but if I told you the secret, I’d not only have to kill you, I’d have to murder everyone whose IP address showed up in your web site’s server logs.

Q: You are one of the pioneers of online publishing and web content in general. What are you views on e-books and self-publishing phenomenon in general?

I’m a Kindle convert myself, now, my house groaning with book shelves and little room for new purchases, I find e-book readers ideal for reading most of my fiction consumption. While online promotion, like any above-the-line advertising, can’t hurt your chances, I don’t think it’s how books are discovered. They’re still discovered, largely, by word of mouth from friends, and that is something you sadly can’t buy in any reliable form. If it were otherwise, novels would be advertised on TV alongside cornflakes. They’re not. And there’s a reason for that.

Q: By the way, I've really enjoyed your self-published novellas such as the entire The Sliding Void series. Are there any similar projects planned and how different was it publishing it alone instead of going through a traditional publisher such as Gollancz or Voyager?

In my many day jobs for the last twenty years, I have variously been trained as a graphic designer, typesetter, marketing manager, magazine/newspaper editor, venture capitalist, webmaster and coder. You put that all together and you have a lean, mean, back-end publishing machine.  Pure, blind luck, of course. It’s like I’m the cockroach after the nukes have hit, crawling out of the rubble, gazing around and thinking, ‘Hey, who put all this out here for me?’

Q: Who were the authors who originally inspired you to write fantasy and what recent titles would you recommend to our readers?

For current authors, I don’t get to read as much SFF as I once did. Two reasons. Limited time: I feel guilty if I’m reading rather than writing. Second, when I read another SFF novel, I feel like Gordon Ramsay sitting in a friend’s restaurant. I’m not really enjoying the meal, I’m thinking, ‘Mmm, I would have used a different spice, and how would I have changed the texture if I fried it rather than boiled it?’

For historic influences, probably too many to list. I grew up in the 1970s, so most my influences are sadly gone now … writers such as Harry Harrison, Arthur C Clarke, Heinlein, Jack Williamson, JD Ballad and Clifford D Simak. Michael Moorcock is one who is happily still with us. Later talents whose work I love include China Miéville and William Gibson.

Q: To conclude, what can you tell us about future installments? What is coming next?

The second book, Foul Tide’s Turning, is already working through the editorial process at Gollancz. The third book is currently in parts on my garage floor being assembled. After that? Well, I’ve always got more nascent ideas knocking around than I’ll ever have time to execute. Let’s roll the dice and see what comes up!


Stephen Hunt
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