What I have always loved about science fiction is that it can remind us of the genuine and often shocking strangeness of the natural world, and that it can do so without losing sight of human fragility, human courage, and the drama of daily human life. That’s the line I tried to walk in the writing of Burning Paradise, and more generally in all my fiction: something strange, set against something human.
Burning Paradise features not one but two varieties of Something Strange. The story takes place in the present day, but in an alternate history which resembles our own except that the last century has been remarkably peaceful and untroubled—a world in which the Great War of 1914 was the last serious global conflict. The explanation involves a different kind of Something Strange: all this relative calm has been orchestrated by a non-human entity for purposes of its own.
The universe is a big place. Our galaxy alone is a treasure-box of stars, and most of those stars host families of planets. If life is common, many of those planets will be biologically active. Some of them may harbor highly evolved forms of life, perhaps even civilizations much older than ours. Which means any technology that’s both possible and useful has probably already been invented—perhaps used for centuries and ultimately abandoned, all long before the planet Earth condensed out of the dust halo of our nascent sun. And if that’s the case, where are these technology-using civilizations or their artifacts? Why haven’t we seen any evidence of their past or present existence? That question has been codified as “the Fermi Paradox” (after the physicist Enrico Fermi, who first proposed it). I don’t claim to have an answer, but Burning Paradise adopts one hypothesis that has long been suggested: maybe the aliens are here, in a form we don’t recognize or which has been carefully concealed from us.
Maybe that’s because the aliens don’t act or think the way we might expect them to. Come to that, maybe they don’t “think” at all. Consider insects: ants and termites build elaborate artificial structures and orchestrate complex social behavior, even though they lack anything we would recognize as moral or intellectual thought. What if the same is true of our hypothetical aliens?
Which led me (as these airy speculations so often do) down another, entirely different rabbit-hole. Philosophers have long pondered the concept of what has come to be called “the philosophical zombie,” a creature indistinguishable from a human being but which has no conscious experience, no sense of its own existence, no real sentience at all. Maybe, I thought, my aliens fall into that category: no more self-aware than termites or spiders, but complex enough to generate plausible imitations of human beings.
The notion of such creatures as parasites is a venerable one in science fiction. Many of us first encountered it in one or another film version of Jack Finney’s 1954 novel Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s a deeply creepy scenario, one that gave me more than a few nightmares after I watched the early black-and-white movie directed by Don Siegel (I was ten years old). But parasitism, scary as it is, isn’t the only option. What about symbiosis—a relationship between two species in which each gains some benefit in exchange for what it loses? What would it be like to discover that humanity was already embedded in such a relationship, and that the price of giving it up might be very high indeed? Would you choose human autonomy, even if it meant the end of peaceful human thriving?
That seemed like an interesting dilemma with which to confront a set of characters (my Something Human) who are uniquely vulnerable to such an alien entity—or who might pose a threat to it. Cassie Iverson, 19 years old, is one of those characters, along with her aunt Nerissa, an English professor, and her uncle Ethan, an entomologist and author of a book, The Fisherman and the Spider, in which he has encoded certain unspeakable truths about human history. Because of what they know, Cassie and her family find the whole apparatus of human and alien culture suddenly turned against them.
It was challenging and interesting to write the villains in Burning Paradise, precisely because they aren’t villains in the traditional sense—they aren’t vicious, angry, or immoral. What they are is utterly and completely amoral: they simply cannot factor morality into their calculations. Moral choices, for them, don’t exist. They aren’t inherently violent but they will use violence without hesitation if it appears to serve their purposes. And it often does. Which means Cassie and company are literally fighting for their lives, the result being a novel with more head-on action scenes than I’m accustomed to writing. (One early reader called it my “most propulsive” novel. I asked twice, to make sure she hadn’t said “repulsive.”) Creating a plausible, peaceful alternative history of the twentieth century was another challenge. I worked up a timeline I liked, most of which never made it into the finished book except as casual references to past events, the names of schools and highways, implicit political assumptions, and certain acts of large-scale engineering conspicuous by their presence or absence. The research itself was interesting and a constant temptation to neglect the act of writing in favor of just, well, learning something—about European history, the geology of the Atacama Desert, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (the fungus that causes infected ants to climb trees). . .
But basically, once I found my theme and characters, the writing of Burning Paradise was straightforward. The story more or less carried me along with its own momentum, though not without the inevitable moments of fingernail-chewing doubt and the constant alchemical transformation of despair to elation and back again. At the copyedit stage my editor asked me to expand the conclusion a little bit, which seemed reasonable, given my bad habit of hinting at resolutions and figuring readers can draw their own conclusions.
I’m reasonably pleased with the finished product, but what I like best about Burning Paradise is that it hews pretty closely to the elementary relationship at the heart of it: something strange and something human, a story of three fragile human beings and what might be lurking unseen in the deeps of the night sky.
Robert Charles Wilson
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When I was a teenager, I lived on a steady diet of fantasy novels.
It was both the early nineties and the late eighties and I owned a lot of band t-shirts for bands I will, in truth, not admit to owning, anymore. (Much to my regret at the time, I never owned the Metallica t-shirt for the album Ride the Lightning. It featured a pristine white toilet with a sword being thrust out it. Beneath it was the tag line, Metal Up Your Ass. This should tell you all you need to know.) I had long hair. I had a vaguely uninteresting set of report cards that characterised me, politely, as a slacker. Indeed, that is what I was. I was gloriously free of ambition. I had no plans for the future and no interest in the future and it left me with a lot of time to fuck around, fuck off, and, er, read fantasy novels.
I read everything I could get my hands on. Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman were my early teen idols. I purchased all of their books. I read the original Dragonlance Trilogy multiple times. I read Forgotten Realms books. I read Dark Sun books. I read Thieves World books. I read Raymond E. Feist's Magician before he rewrote it. Then I read the rewritten version (it was better, but it made the following books worse). I read Terry Brooks. I read David Eddings. I read both their first books or in the case of Eddings, first series before I read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, so I had no idea how heavily they ripped him off until I read his books as well. I read Lynn Abbey's novels. I read Melanie Rawn's books. I read David Gemmell's books. I read everything that offered a sword, a castle and a dragon it helped if it was on the cover and I read right up until I was given a copy of Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time.
I had just finished High School in a fashion that can only be described as without distinction. I had plans to go to University if I got decent marks, or to find a job, but they were distant plans, months away plans, because before then, I had plans to fuck off, fuck around and, y'know, read fantasy novels.
I made it about half way through before I put it down.
I had no real specific complaints, except that I had seen it before. A few nights later, I told a friend that it just didn't do much for me. We might have been driving in his car at the time. After all, we had free time and licenses and a really, really small pool of cash. With the hindsight of someone in his thirties now, I suspect the reason I wasn't so interested in the book had more to do with being eighteen, with being free of school, and with a new world to explore, and I suppose, in a fashion, I knew that at the time as well.
In the years after that, I still read. A whole new world of literature opened up to me, and I found it, and embraced it, with all the love I had given fantasy. I met women. I found a whole new world of music. I got better clothes. My conversation improved. I might have developed a vague amount of ambition, but lets not get too ahead of ourselves, here. After all, I put a lot of time into becoming a writer, and nothing says still a slacker like shirking real world responsibilities for art. Somewhere around this time, I became a projectionist, and then ended up with a doctorate, and I lost my shit and got my shit together in the ways that you do. Women came, women went; so did friends and, yes, my hair as well. But I kept all my fingers and toes, and all my eyes and teeth, and I take only a minimum amount of medication, which puts me about on even with the experience of my twenties, I suspect. But it was not so shocking, and not so amazing, that it needs a lot of detail spent on it. I enjoyed it. You might not have.
But then, around four, five years ago, I hit a rough patch in my career as a writer. On the urging of an editor of a major publishing house, I had written a book, and he, for his part, did not read it. I ditched my agent and got a new one. My new agent ditched me. A new editor and publisher agreed to buy the book. And then they did not. It isn't much of a story: a lot of writers have experienced it, but for all its frequency, it really does suck. It forced me to step back and to ask myself why I was doing what I was doing. I had put fifteen years into my career. I was broke. I felt I had lost the gains I had made, which was silly, because the gains I had made in craft could not be taken away from me. But I felt that I had to start over, and if I had to start over, maybe, I thought, I should just start over at something else. I could become a public speaker. A journalist. A teacher. An Olympian ping pong champion. I could hunt dinosaurs through time...
Well, you know how it goes.
Order The Godless by Ben Peek here:
One of the finest moments in my career as a reviewer for Upcoming4.me was when I saw that a statement from my review of "War Master's Gate" ended up as a blurb on "The Seal of the Worm". Now, I've been blurbed plenty of times before but the simple thing is that the whole "Shadows of the Apt" is a very special fantasy series for me. As far as I'm concerned, it is an extraordinary phenomena in modern fantasy and I can't recommend it strongly enough. Straight for the opening page of "Empire in Black and Gold" Adrian has provided an innovative setting and engaging storytelling which captivated me from the word go and our intense relationship continued over the course of the next eight books. The most remarkable thing about it is how consistent the series as a whole is. Written over a relatively short span of time, later installments don't stray too far away from tried and tested formula of the opening novel and the bloating of the pages is strangely absent. It feels like Adrian suddenly spawned into existence as a fully formed writer, with already developed skills and confident in his craft.
So, the final and tenth installment is finally here and as you can imagine I approached reading "The Seal of the Worm" with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. I definitely wanted to find out the ending but then again I didn't really want to reach it too fast. Better person than me would probably read it slowly but as lacking in character as I am, I've just stormed through it and, to tell you the truth, I've had a blast of a time.
"The Seal of the Worm" is a conclusion of a story spanning ten books so, understandably, you shouldn't read it before you've read the rest of the series first. The story pretty much continues the plot from the previous two book book and the circumstances surrounding the Worm take the center-stage. The seal has been broken by Empress Seda and now Che, Thalric and their ragtag band of companions who are trapped in the realm of the worm after the event depicted in "War Master's Gate" have some stark choices ahead of them. Stenwold Maker and some other known characters also makes a welcome return, instantly kicking off one of the largest battles of the series. The pace that "The Seal of the Worm" moves on is suitably frenetic and as all the plotlines ultimately converge to a single point they build up a massive, epic ending.
Not to spoil too much, "The Seal of the Worm" is a conclusion I could've only hoped for and in the end it felt more like a precursor to short separation than a full stop. All of the most important questions have been answered but Adrian cunningly left open just enough threads to whet up appetite for more stories which will inevitably come in the future. As things stand now "Shadows of the Apt" as a series has been finished in the best possible way - with a fast-paced, no hold barred rush to the finish line. An excellent and fitting ending.
Review copy provided by Tor / Macmillan.
Order The Seal of the Worm here:
I’m most passionate about writing when I’m annoyed with something. For Drakenfeld, I had become a bit annoyed with various discussions of fantasy books. I had noticed a trend, in very broad and casual terms, that people were beginning to associate the level of violence and ‘grit’ in a fantasy novel with how good a book it was. That dialogue in certain quarters, subconsciously or otherwise, was being dismissive of fiction that did not have much in the way of visceral action. ‘Grimdark’ characters could rape, murder, and revel in it - and that was being deemed as mature fiction. As grown up.
Which is plainly crap.
Grimdark – itself a term unconsciously borrowed from a Warhammer 40,000 tagline – had become the latest trend and the dominant expression of fantasy fiction. (Actually, that’s a bit of a lie - it’s the dominant expression of fantasy fiction discussion, not necessarily in terms of the books that are sold.) Violence, in itself, is something I don’t have an issue with in fiction. It’s inert - neither good nor bad, clever nor dumb. But when it was being held up as fiction to aspire to, it made me just a tad grumpy. Now I’d written a fair bit of violent fiction myself in the past, so I’m not offering a critique of books or authors with any of this. The books are simply the books. It was the developing attitude that surrounded them that I felt was strange. I mean, death and rape? Not so good. If such things happen in the real world, you wouldn’t not like the people who committed that act and you certainly wouldn’t revel in it. You would also see how lives are genuinely ruined; how people are scarred long after the event; how families and communities are shattered. Grimdark, even if touched upon in my own fiction, began to no longer sit well with me.
I don’t buy that grimdark is really realism either, because (a) this is fantasy and (b) good people exist in the real world just as much as the bad; it’s just that our minds latch on to the bad people, especially when we’re hammered by negative news stories every day. (That sites like Upworthy exist is a response to that kind of negative attitude online, I suspect.) I get that fantasy had to do something different in response to the gentle, innocent, magical quests of the 80s, and that happened in 1996 with the publication of A Games of Thrones, but there have been hundreds of grimdark books since then.
A lot can be written about the whys and hows of the rise of grimdark, whether it’s cultural, driven by images of war or computer games or whatever; but that’s another blog post. My concern at the time was: had an initial effort for realism become hyper-realism? Had book discussions mistaken that macho over-the-topness for all that’s good about the fantasy genre?
So I had become annoyed, which is a good sign for me when it comes to writing. I wanted to take on that discussion in some way. The options ahead of me were to: bash out another blog post, which would get lost in the aether of constant online rage. To hang around arguing on forums or comments threads, because people always listen to what’s said in comments threads. Or another option entirely, which was to use a different platform: the book.
That’s how Drakenfeld began.
I wanted to write about a good character, Lucan Drakenfeld, and make him interesting. I wanted to drop a good character in bad, awful situations, to see how he might react. I wanted to write about a mature character, dealing with mature themes, without making him thirst for blood. I wanted him to look at women as if they were, you know, actual people too and not (a) heaving bosoms (b) people to be saved (c) rape victims. It’s not to say there’s no toughness or violence in his world, but that the violence is not where the glory lies. Also, I found it far more interesting for a character of good morals to engage with negative situations, because there pain of a different kind to be found. By toning down the violence in my own fiction, I also began to enjoy other senses and emotions a lot more, because they weren’t in the shadow of something visceral.
Whether or not Drakenfeld worked, it’s not for me to decide. All I can say is that it was a conscious attempt to do a few things for readers. For those who enjoyed grimdark fiction, it was a chance to say, maybe try this and see what you think. For those who were sick of endless death and rape in their fiction, it was a chance to say there was something else. There was a whole bunch of other stuff too - attempts at cross-overs for crime fans, for historical readers and so forth, but it wasn’t what kicked off the novel. Drakenfeld came from me being annoyed, and hopefully some good came of that.
Mark Charan Newton
Order Drakenfeld here:
All too often in fantasy and even history, authors write and readers read about either the rise or fall of great empires… or about what happens in great empires. But what happens after the fall of a great empire? There’s an unspoken assumption of total chaos and a lack of any continuity. But is that really so? In the Saga of Recluce, one of the greatest empires is that of Cyador, created by colonists from the Rational Stars marooned not just on a strange planet, but in an entirely different universe. Yet they built a powerful empire, governed from Cyad, the City of Light, the most glorious metropolis that ever graced the planet. For nearly 800 years, the holders of the Malachite Throne have ruled the west of Candar, and then, literally in a single day, Cyador falls, as told in The Chaos Balance.
Were there any survivors? Who were they? What happened to them? Do they have any impact on the future of the world of Recluce? Those are questions I wanted to answer, and those answers, or at least some of them, lie in Cyador’s Heirs and in Heritage of Cyador, which will be published this coming November. Because I did not write the Saga of Recluce in chronological order, readers who have read all the books published so far know that there is a link between Cyador and the later Empire of Hamor, located on an entirely different continent, but there are only hints, pieces of a great historical puzzle, such as the fact that the legal code of Hamor is remarkably similar in many respects to that of Cyador. And then there is the ring worn by an Emperor of Cyador that is gifted, centuries later, to the son of a mage-guard of Hamor… or the question of the golden chains… or the source of shimmercloth.
One of my other reasons for writing these two books, and indeed, for writing the entire Saga of Recluce in the way that I have, is that too many fantasy empires and kingdoms exist in a historical void. Oh, if the writer is good, and most do their homework, the structure is sound and the empire would work, at least in the way the writer intended. But few ask the question of how that empire came to be, how in functioned and impacted the world, how it declined and what that meant, and what happened after that. Each Recluce book tells a story, one about people, what happened to them, who triumphed and who failed, and why, but each is set in a far larger historical context, and each culture and land has its heroes and villains, and more than a few times, who is villain and who is hero is determined by the viewpoint of who is telling the tale – even when the facts of what happened are exactly the same.
In the Recluce Saga, I am telling history not from the top down, but from the bottom up. Even when a character is well-connected, talented, or has a position in society, he or she only knows, and the reader only sees what that character knows or can discover. Every book in the saga has events and facts that relate to other times, places, and events… because in real life, that’s the way it is, and that’s the way I try to tell it in my fiction. So, while a historian might see Lerial as the second son of the Duke, and therefore privileged, the reader gets to know him as the younger brother who struggles not to get black and blue in sparring with his older brother, as the young man with unruly red hair and freckles, and as a man whose opportunities in love and marriage will always be considered after those of his older brother.Cyador’s Heirs begins with the meeting of a red-headed boy with a girl several years younger in a town that did not exist fifteen years earlier, a town clawed from barren land purchased by… but for the details, you’ll have to read the book.
L. E. Modesitt
Order "Cyador's Heirs" here:
In this giveaway you can win one copy of The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, published by Tor UK. Giveaway is open for EU and lasts until 21th January, 2014.
You can enter by sending an e-mail with the subject line EMPERORS to info @ upcoming4 . me. Also, a tweet or Facebook post related to giveaway will each give you an additional entry - please send us an e-mail with a link to tweet or Facebook entry. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted using submitted e-mail.
Thanks to Tor UK for providing us with the copy!
I realized one night while drinking vodka in a Mongolian ger that if I were going to write a book, I needed to spend more time in Asia. That trip to Mongolia had nothing to do with books or writing. It was a vacation, pure and simple – horseback riding, getting lost, eating lots and lots of goat – but while there, I realized that the cost of living in Mongolia (and places like it) was so low that if I saved scrupulously for a year, I could quit my teaching job and move there to write. The dollars necessary for a year in Asia would have lasted about forty-five minutes in Boston or New York. So I saved, I quit, and I went.
The great thing about living in countries where you don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone is that there is very little to distract from the task at hand. Whether I was in Laos or Cambodia, China or Vietnam, the routine was pretty similar: get up in the morning, eat a fifty cent breakfast of noodles or rice, read for an hour, write until lunch, dawdle over tea and soup (again, fifty cents or so), write until afternoon, then go for a very long run.
The writing drove me crazy; the running made me sane again. After hours hunched over a keyboard trying to come up with names for immortal generals, calculating how many miles a giant, man-eating bird might reasonably cover in a day of flying, struggling to map out continents and palaces, secret training islands and long-dead cities, I could feel my dry eyes bulging, the muscles in my back starting to cramp, and so I’d save everything, drink half a liter of water, and run.
I tried to pick towns that would accommodate my habits. Luang Prabang is a wonderful spot in northern Laos where you can run for miles along the Mekong, but my suffering of choice was a small hill in the center of town with a little monastery on top. It was 247 steps up (if memory serves), and I’d run them over and over. Sometimes a little crowd of monks would gather at the summit. At first they looked at me with a baffled wariness usually reserved for creatures dying of brainworm, but, as the days passed, they moved from confusion to good-natured taunting. “Faster!” they would shout as I approached the top each time. “Faster!” It was the only English word I ever heard them say, except for one time when I stumbled on the steps. “Not smart,” said an old monk, shaking his head.
The mountains outside Lijiang, a Chinese town on the border of the Tibetan plateau, are considerably larger, higher, and colder. There were no monks at the top of the nearest peak, a rocky promontory above Black Dragon Pool, but the gorgeous view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain was best appreciated in solitude.
I tried to run in Beijing, but the air on a good day had the consistency and color of ash, and the traffic made any kind of athletic exercise outside a park suicidal. I did find a nice circuit around the Forbidden City, and while I ended every workout with diminished lung capacity, I enjoyed looking up at those towering walls as I ran, imagining them as they might have looked to the eyes of someone from the 15th century. The palace must have seemed like the work of gods.
Likewise, the endless temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, some of which have been meticulously preserved, some of which are claimed by the jungle. The sheer magnificence of the ruins suggests the might of the Khmer Empire and the vision of Suryavarman II, who commissioned the most jaw-dropping of the structures. I would pause in my running, panting and soaked with sweat (Cambodia was as hot as Lijiang was cold), to pore over the reliefs carved into the stone, intricate depictions of battles and worship, daily life and stories of the divine. I could have stayed there for months, had I not been laid low by a little bout with dengue fever. After that, I was determined to get far, far away from mosquitoes for a while.
This is starting to sound like a post about running or living in Asia rather than a post about writing, but the two experiences were inextricable. The Shin monks in The Emperor’s Blades owe much to those saffron-robed Buddhists in Luang Prabang. When Kaden is sent to run the Circuit of Ravens, or when he flees into the high peaks of the Bone Mountains, I think of the frigid Himalayan wind pouring down out of Tibet. When Adare strolls around inside the Dawn Palace, there are spots in the Forbidden City that I can’t get out of my mind. And when I imagine the Annurian Godsway, I picture the sweeping avenues of Angkor Wat, some wide enough for several tractor trailers abreast, flanked by their imposing statues of nagas and gods.
I went to Asia because I could afford to write there, but looking back, it’s impossible for me to imagine having written the book anywhere else.
The main problem with The Emperor's Blades, debut novel by Brian Staveley, is that it is simply a reviewers worst nightmare. The thing is that the year has just started. It is only couple of days young and here I find myself in the position where I have to make some rather bold claims about a book that I've just read. A book by a completely new author. I have to be sure that I'm prepared to swallow my words if I turn out to be wrong. Ah well. So to finally be done with the dramatics and say the conclusion which is usually placed at the end of the review, The Emperor's Blades is probably the best fantasy novel I'll read this year. It's been months, possibly years, since I've enjoyed a fantasy book this much.
So what makes The Emperor's Blades so special? At first glance it may look like your standard fare epic fantasy. Since this is the opening chapter of “The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne” we are quickly thrown into the world filled with murky quasi-medieval politics and there's lot of ground to cover. Emperor of Annur has been killed and it's up to his children to pick up the pieces. Kaden is heir apparent and this unfortunate event catches him during his 8 year long education in a remote mountain monastery. On the other hand his sister Adare is already in the capital investigating the murder. She's already an experienced politician and becomes a Minister of Finance while their brother Valyn is doing his best to join Kettral, a elite warriors unit who fly gigantic birds as their transport of choice.
So far so good but what sets The Emperor's Blades head and shoulders above the competition is the pacing and the glorious writing. The story is so intricately woven together that the process of turning each subsequent page provided me with such pleasure. Staveley avoids the trap of excessive world-building by building and enriching his characters instead. And while Adare is one character that should have been explored more, by the end of the book I learned how the rest of the cast breathes and lives. This is an excellent and refreshing approach and on which pays off in so many way.
To conclude, in my opinion, The Emperor's Blades is one of the most important fantasy books of the year and judging by the storm it is causing around the web I'm not the only one who thinks so.
As silly and mystic as it sound, the idea for Delia's Shadow started with a dream.
In this dream, a young woman dressed in old-fashioned clothing stood next to a railroad track. Night had fallen, bringing pearly gray fog with it. A satchel sat at her feet and steam from the locomotive billowed around her, swirling and writhing in a very creepy way. Delia was looking over her shoulder, watching for the person following her.
I couldn't get this image out of my head or stop thinking about who was following Delia, and why. Well, it turned out that the person following her was a ghost. Why this particular ghost decided to haunt Delia turned out to be very important. Once I knew why, the whole book fell into my head.
Delia Martin has always seen ghosts, but only as glimpses of faces watching from a corner, or faded haunts walking through walls. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, that changes. The sheer number of spirits seeking her out overwhelms Delia, and she flees to New York hoping to escape ghosts. That works for almost three years.
But one morning she discovers a ghost standing at the foot of her bed, a ghost that refuses to go away. Shadow, as she comes to call this spirit, follows her relentlessly, invades her dreams, and demands things of Delia. Delia finds herself compelled to discover what Shadow wants from her and lay the ghost to rest. She goes home to San Francisco as a result.
At the same time, Lieutenant Gabe Ryan is hunting for a serial killer. This killer treats San Francisco as his own personal hunting ground, picking and choosing his victims at random, and vanishing into the city again. The killer torments Gabe with letters describing how his victims died, and claiming many more victims than the police have found.
Between what Gabe uncovers in the course of his investigation, and what the ghost reveals to Delia, they discover that the killer is the same man who committed a series of murders thirty years before and vanished without a trace.
So I had two major ideas in my head as a result of this dream, two ideas that came together and became one. But ideas are easy. Taking those basic, rough concepts and making them into a novel worth reading is where the real work starts.
Choosing the time period was easy, as was deciding that five of the main characters were women; six if you count the ghost. The women in this book are multi-generational as well. I wanted to write realistic women at different stages in their lives, women with different strengths and weaknesses, but all of whom were determined to make their own choices.
1915 really was at the beginning of what we think of as the modern age. Cars were becoming as common as horse drawn buggies and wagons. Women had already won the vote in California years before and were proud of their independence. Women's roles were changing, attitudes were changing, and the flapper era was just around the corner.
Another early decision was not to let the darkness in this book become the sole focus of the story. Lots of scary, terrible things happen in this book, but the story also revolves around deep friendships and hope, family and love, and the idea that no matter how grim things get, there is always someone there to pick you up and dust you off. That was important to me.
This was both one of the easiest and one of the hardest books I've written. The intense amount of research required meant I spent a lot of time learning about serial killers, how depraved they can be, and what methods for catching a killer were available to a homicide detective in 1915. A lot of what I learned was pretty gruesome.
I had to learn about the different social climate and attitudes of one hundred years ago, clothing styles, and so much more. I love doing that kind of work, and nailing the small details that sink the reader deep into the world I'm building. I also have this ingrained drive to get as much "right" as humanly possible. That required a lot of checking and rechecking details, right down to when certain words came into common usage.
The easy parts of this book were the characters. Gabe and Delia, Jack and Sadie and Dora—I loved them all. I just finished the third book in this series and I still love them.
A writer can't ask for more than that.
In this giveaway you can win one copy of Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David Barnett, published by Tor Books. Giveaway is open to US and Canada and lasts until 24th October, 2013.
You can enter by sending an e-mail with the subject line MECHANICAL to info @ upcoming4 . me. Also, a tweet or Facebook post related to giveaway will each give you an additional entry - please send us an e-mail with a link to tweet or Facebook entry. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted using submitted e-mail.
Thanks to Tor Books for providing us with the copy!