AAhhh, the blog tour for The Book of Apex is nearly coming to an end :(. What an awesome round of reviews, discussions guest posts and author interviews it’s all been, pulled together by Andrea at the Little Red Reviewer – stop over here for all sorts of details about giveaways, etc. This week I had the opportunity to interview Alex Bledsoe (more about Alex here). Alex is the author of many books ranging from sword and sorcery, vampires, witches and mythical fae – check out this lovely blog and all the books and on top of all this there’s a great story on the blog about a band called the Tuatha Dea who have approached AB to write an EP of original songs based on the Tufa novels – how cool is that! Anyway, I will move on…
Firstly, welcome back Alex and thanks for answering my questions:
1. I think to most people the idea of being a writer holds such appeal. I think we all have some incredibly romantic notion about what is actually involved. How does the reality actually compare to the dream?
Well, the popular conception of a “writer” really doesn’t leave much room for actual writing. We don’t party every night, we don’t do hard drugs, we don’t date glamorous, doomed women (or men) and we certainly don’t plan to end up in an early grave. The writers who do live like that write in spite of it, not because of it. Truthfully, I and most of the good writers I know live pretty sedate, stable lives. We work regular hours, we make our deadlines and we spend a lot of time with our families. The big perk in my life is that, as the stay-at-home parent, I get to spend lots more time with my kids than I would if I’d kept a regular job. (I love this answer about a big perk of the job being that you get to spend lots more time with the kids!)
2. I was recently at a book reading for another fantasy author who was explaining how she took so much inspiration for her fictional characters from the everyday people that she encountered during her ‘day’ job. How do you come up with unique people for your books and is it more difficult once you’re writing full time from home?
I was in my forties before I was able to become a writer full time, so I promise, I’ve stored up plenty of “day job” stories. And you also don’t give up being part of your community just because you do a solitary job like writing.
It’s especially important when you write fantasy, as I do primarily, to put as much reality into it as you can. When you’re asking your readers to believe some pretty unlikely things, the more realistic details you can provide, the better. I try to make sure all my fantasy characters, whatever kind of world they live in, face some of the same day-to-day issues that real people do: money, work, family problems, and so forth. That way, when they’re confronted with something like faeries or dragons, the reader is more likely to believe their reactions.
3. I love the Tufa people. They’re the sort of characters that you can read about and they immediately feel real and yet there’s this magical quality to them. They feel like the kind of people where stories have been passed down about them through the ages, spoken about in whispers. Folklore. Where did you come up with the inspiration for the Tufa people?
They’re inspired by stories I heard as a child about a group of people called the Melungeons, who live in East Tennessee. Of course, those real people are perfectly normal, but the tales I was told made them sound mysterious, and dangerous. I wanted to write about a group of people like that, but it seemed more prudent (and better manners) to invent my own, so that I could give them whatever background I wanted.
4. It seems that music plays a big part in your Tufa series – would you/are you a musician? Does music help you to write, do you listen to music whilst you think?
I’m not a musician. You know how they say rock and roll is “three chords and the truth”? I know two chords and some gossip. But music has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up in Tennessee near Memphis meant that rock and roll, soul and funk were my soundtrack. Country was everywhere, too, but it didn’t affect me until I was much older. And underlying all of that is gospel, the songs everyone sang in church.
When I’m writing about the Tufa, one of the real joys of the process is listening to lots of music to find songs that fit the story. Many of them are in the public domain, but often I’ll find an obscure contemporary song that just speaks to the characters so perfectly, I track down the songwriter and ask for permission to use it.
5. I’m always a bit curious with certain characters about how much of the author’s actual personality comes through. Would you say that you and Eddie are alike in any way? Or do you relate strongly to any of your other characters?
People say I’m a lot like Eddie, but I think that’s just because I’m a bit of a smart-ass, as he is. The character I feel closest to is Ry Tully, narrator of my FIREFLY WITCH stories. I started writing them so long ago that I couldn’t help but put a lot of myself in him. I’m better now at taking pieces of myself to make a character come to life, without necessarily making the character “like me.”
6. Sometimes you write short stories and other times longer ones - which do you actually prefer to write and have you ever started writing a short story only for it to evolve and become much more than you originally intended.
Usually I know if an idea is short or long at the conception stage. I haven’t had one really surprise me to that degree, although several have turned out longer or shorter than I initially thought they would.
7. Which of your stories is your favourite – or is that always your current project? And can you give us an idea what to expect next (pretty please :D)?
I’m very proud of THE HUM AND THE SHIVER, because it continues to get great responses from readers who discover it. But here’s a story: every author has an “ideal” version of their books in their head. The actual book that comes out may or (most often) may not live up to that ideal. When I was checking the page proofs of BURN ME DEADLY, the second Eddie LaCrosse novel, I realized that the book in front of me was pretty much a match for that “ideal” version in my head. It’s the only time that’s happened, and for that reason, that book has always been special to me.
Up next will be LONG BLACK CURL, the third Tufa novel, which I’m currently writing, and which threatens to become a real epic. We’ll see what happens. Watch for it in the spring of 2015. And before then, there will be some short stories in anthologies and a couple of new FIREFLY WITCH story collections.
Because I’m really nosey I have a few quick fire questions that I like to chuck in:
• What is the last book you read? READING MY FATHER by Alexandra Styron, daughter of William Styron.
• What is the next book you intend to read? LYCH WAY by Ari Berk,
• People always think this is tough but could you name three books that you consider to be ‘must reads’
Any three of mine, of course.
Seriously, I’d recommend HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad, MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles De Lint, and CEREMONY by Robert B. Parker.
• If you could interview any person – be they real, fictional, from now or the past – who would it be?
Count Dracula, Elvis, or James T. Kirk.
So now of course I have more questions than I started with!! Plus I’m really excited to read the next LaCrosse novel. I loved the answer to No.7 – the idea that authors have an ‘ideal’ version of the book in their head and it doesn’t always work out like that. It’s similar to readers – most of us have this ‘ideal’ version of the book racing around in our heads after reading and I suppose that’s what sometimes makes us such noisy critics when a favourite book is converted to screen!
Thanks again Alex
I’m sure that most people on the planet have already seen this and as usual I’m late to the party but this clip, Bad Lip Reading: Walking Dead – made me laugh. Scroll forward to minute 4.00 and listen to the little ditty – listen to it at least two times and it will be in your head. For the good or bad I’m not sure but I just dare you to listen to this a few times, go on, I double dare you…. ‘ma bibbity bibita aa, ma bibbity bibitoo’…. cluck, goes the chicken. ROFLMAO
Did it get to you too????????
I just finished reading Tarnished, the first in the St Croix Chronicles. I really enjoyed this, part of me feels like it’s a guilty pleasure. Let’s face it, there is a rather hot guy in this book (well, some might think two in fact), part of me thinks it’s just really good fun (which always sounds like it’s a derogatory description even though it’s not) and partly because there’s a mystery here (unresolved) all rolled up in old fashioned gothic type stories that bring to mind a strange mash up of Frankenstein and tales of the Ripper, brought together in a foggy, dark steampunkish London with a strange criminal underworld. What’s not to like really?
This series brings to us a new Victorian London. Part steampunk, part mysterious gothic horror and by the looks of this first book giving a little shout out to the style of a penny dreadful type series. London has literally been split into two – and I’m not talking about the North and the South here but the upper and the lower. Using stilts and all sorts of other weird and wonderful contraptions the upper echelons of London have actually moved above ground to escape from the thick fog (not to mention the criminal underworld). Cherry St Croix is a young lady of means (or at least she will be when she comes of an age to inherit). She lives in London (above ground) in a rather lovely house with a collection of servants and yet – during the dark of night she sneaks below ground to undertake her role as collector. A role that helps to feed her opium habit.
Cherry is indeed set to inherit a fortune but not more than a few years ago her fortunes were somewhat different. Her mother and (slightly mad) father died and she became an orphan. She became part of a circus, living life as a young criminal and being fed opium. She was of course rescued, set up in a fashionable abode above ground and instructed in the ways of a lady. Of course the upper classes can’t really forgive her background – a beautiful mother with wealth and status who married beneath her status to a mad scientist – the horror! Cherry is a character with a past. A past that she can’t forget and that leads her over and over again into dangerous situations that would give the ladies above palpitations.
I’m not saying Cherry is perfect – I mean she’s got a serious habit going on here and I’m not referring to sneaking out of an evening dressed in trousers! (smelling salts anyone…) However, in her defence, to date she has lead a rather strange and frightening life and she has the nightmares to prove it. Her habits stem from a desire to sleep, if not well, at least without the presence of demons.
Anyway, Cherry collects – which basically means that, she brings people in with outstanding debts or other misdemeanours and is paid a fee appropriate to the case – she doesn’t accept certain jobs, such as children and she doesn’t take on murders. Over the few years she has undertaken this role, sneaking out of a night and then sleeping in bed late during the day, she has developed a sort of network of maybe not friends, but at least people that she could rely on in a pinch. She knows her way around and how to handle herself but in a way that has lead her into a certain sort of complacency.
This story is the set up for future books in the series. There’s a rather dreadful murderer called The Sweet Tooth who appears to be attacking and killing Sweets (aka ladies of the night) and maybe taking body parts for some nefarious purpose! Could this become a potential collection job for Cherry. It’s a dangerous mission involving underground tunnels and abandoned railway yards – not to mention the attention of the Menagerie – the Menagerie is very much a ‘below’ London establishment (although it wouldn’t surprise me at all if a few of the upper inhabitants paid it a visit). It seems to have oriental roots and is strictly controlled by the Veil and run by Micajah (sometimes known as Cage). It’s a pleasure zone but not one you would want to cross lightly.
I won’t really go too much more into the plot. It involves a few twists along the way. A book of opposites. Above and Below. Good and Bad. Paranormal and Normal. Upper classes and lower.
This book includes so much. There’s the steampunk aspect, the mystery, the murders, the mad scientists and the strange and macabre. As well as that there is a brewing romance which in no way takes over the story but adds a certain element of spice that will surely heat up in further instalments. It’s certainly not a serious book and it in now way intends to be so (or at least that’s my take) but it was a very enjoyable read and I have the next two waiting to be read already!
This week’s instalment was fantastic – I realise that it’s getting boring me constantly harping on about how brilliant it is – but, it does keep getting better! Anyway, as previously, if you’re thinking of reading this, and there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be of course, then read no further as spoilers are running amok! This week our lovely host is Caffeinatedlife so stop over and check out the other participants:
What do you think of Dalinar’s latest vision concerning the Radiants? Can you make sense of them? Do you think Jasnah will prove or disprove Dalinar’s visions? And what did you think of Dalinar and Navani’s almost moment?
I thought the vision was very interesting. Strange how they all came together as one to abandon their swords and shards. Reading later chapters where Dalinar is in battle with the Parshendi I couldn’t help wonder if they had become similarly sickened by all the death? But, to be honest I’m not 100% sure what’s going on with the visions yet. I think it will be very interesting to see if Jasnah can solve this puzzle. Dalinar and Navani – you just can’t help thinking that she must always have had a soft spot for Dalinar?
Dalinar proposes a military alliance with Sadeas. Given what we’ve read of their relationship and of Sadeas’ character, did Dalinar make the right move? How long do you think this alliance will last? Has Dalinar finally gotten Sadeas on his side by using Sadeas’ interests (gemhearts, the Shardblade, etc.) as incentive or does Dalinar have something else up his sleeve?
This was a really good chapter. I loved when Sadeas made his announcement at the feast and I can’t say how pleased I am that I was so wrong about Sadeas and his motives. I really did think he’d taken on this role just to try and incriminate Dalinar and I had this horrible vision of Dalinar being taken and thrown captive in some dark infested prison awaiting a trial and execution! As to whether their alliance will last – I think it may well do. I’ve decided that I need to trust Sadeas. Maybe fighting together will inspire them somehow and more importantly maybe it will make the other high princes think about joining together? I definitely think that there is something odd going on with the Parshendi – it’s as though they’re playing with the Alethi. How can they keep having so many people to send out to battle – even when they lose. And, also, the way they behave about their dead – something a little bit different with them I think and I don’t think the Alethi know enough about their foe.
This is the first time we’ve read in detail what it’s like to be a Shardbearer fighting with Shardblades in battle through Dalinar. What did you think of it?
Well, as we’ve all said already, Sanderson is excellent at writing these particular scenes. I wouldn’t say it’s the part of the book that I’d normally be drawn to or find particularly holds my attention – not usually at least! But these scenes are quite mesmerising. They draw you in until you’re almost sat on the edge of your seat gripped with tension about what might or might not actually happen. Fighting with Blades and Plates seems a little like being the Iron Man. It’s unusual because although it gives the wearer/bearer the strength it’s the blade and the plates that are using the magic. Whereas with Kaladin he seems to be using the magic directly. Interesting difference.
We get a big reveal about what’s happening with Kaladin this week regarding the Stormlight as well as a revelation regarding Syl’s nature. What did you think of it? Given what we know now, what else do you think he is capable of?
It was quite revealing I thought. I’m not sure what Syl is exactly but they seem to have developed a sort of symbiotic relationship. In terms of Kaladin, he clearly seems to have more ‘magical’ ability than, say, Dalinar, he’s obviously absorbing the power and he leaks the light in the same way that the damaged shardplate does. Also, he seems to be developing similar talents to Szeth in terms of binding. He also survived the storm. As to what else he can do – well, perhaps like in Dalinar’s vision, he will be able to shoot into the air and travel very quickly from place to place?
Kaladin initially blames his curse as the reason why people around him keep dying. Is there some truth to his claims, that this binding ability has some correlation with the casualty count around him, or is Kaladin simply grieving over recent losses? If the former, do you think this might have any connection to what the Radiants are and whatever happened to them?
I just think that Kaladin and the others (all of his other previous losses included) are in the sort of situation where losses are expected. I don’t think Kaladin is the reason why people are dying – in fact, in terms of the bridgecrews doesn’t No.4 now have less casualties than the others? I think he just expects too much from himself – which isn’t a bad thing but difficult to achieve. Perhaps the radiants became overwhelmed with despair – in a similar way to Kaladin seems to sometimes.
- Wit/Hoid is turning out to be more than just the life of the party and a thorn on the sides of the other highprinces. As we’ve seen, he’s not very playful with Dalinar and is quite sober, even ominous, with Kaladin. What did you think of his conversations with Dalinar and with Kaladin? What do you think he’s up to? How does he factor in with everything else that’s going on at the moment (or what’s to come)?
- He reminds me very much of The Fool from the Assassin’s Apprentice – and what I mean by that is he seems to have a strange sense of predicting things and knowing what people are thinking. He turned up in the plains at just precisely the right moment to calm Kaladin down and tell his little story. He feels like a character who knows what the bigger picture is and tries to move around positioning things for a better outcome. I can’t help liking him to be honest and would gladly read more of his story.
Given where we’re now up to in the story I can’t help feelings that we’re going to be left with some kind of huge reveal that leaves us absolutely gagging to read No.2 – fortunately that’s pretty good timing as it happens!
The Revenant of Thraxton Hall (The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) by Vaughn Entwistle
I read the Revenant of Thraxton Hall a couple of weeks ago but took a little time to put together my thoughts. I was really keen to read this book as I’ve read most (if not all) of the Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, albeit quite a while ago, and I’m always happy for any pretext on which to return.
Firstly, however, let me not lead you astray and make plain that The Revenant of Thraxton Hall is not about Sherlock Holmes (although he does make a few brief appearances). The main characters are Arthur Conan Doyle and his friend Oscar Wilde. At the start of the story Doyle has finally killed off his literary genius and the majority of London’s populace are not best pleased. The people love Holmes and Doyle swiftly becomes London’s most hated man. A timely intervention temporarily removes him from the scene of rising anger when Hope Thraxton invites him to her country manor. Hope is a medium and believes she has received a premonition concerning a murder – her own – at which Doyle is present.
It’s an interesting premise to base an investigation upon, a possible death, especially as it seems to be the very opposite of the crime stories that Doyle actually wrote about.
So, Doyle and Wilde make their way across the country to attend a meeting of the Society for Physical Research and potentially prevent a murder.
This book definitely makes a good start to what promises to be an interesting story. I think the combination of Doyle and Wilde promises to be a very entertaining duo although I confess that there wasn’t as much wit as I expected in this story. Like I said, though, this is the initial set up.
I enjoyed the setting of Thraxton Hall. A large and gothic family home with plenty of ominous and foreboding stories about the former inhabitants. Dark and gloomy pictures line the corridors and the whole place feels sinister. The hall itself is remotely situated – somewhat reminiscent of the manor in The Hound of the Baskervilles and in fact is temporarily cut off from the outside world when the stream near the property breaks it’s banks preventing travel of any kind.
I did have a few criticisms although not enough to prevent me from reading further instalments. For example, and I don’t know how closely to the truth this story is based, but at the start of the story Doyle’s wife is near to departing this world. She suffers from Consumption and her condition is steadily deteriorating. Given that, and the love and care that Doyle seems to show his wife at the start of the story I was a little surprised at how very easily taken he was with Hope Thraxton. I don’t know, it just seemed a little out of character that he was either ogling her or fantasising about potentially being together when his wife wasn’t yet in the grave! A minor point but it did irritate me a little. I think the biggest surprise for me was the paranormal aspects of this story. Which isn’t really a criticism as I do enjoy a good paranormal story. I was just a little taken aback that ghosts and the like made an appearance here. I think I was expecting Doyle to uncover the whole affair as a huge hoax – which is more to do with my own jumping to conclusions and expecting scientific and logical reasonings behind the whole plot. As it happens, and as I’ve now had time to reflect a little more, I quite like that this story includes this aspect as it is so unexpected and contrary to the Holmes stories, plus it lends quite a lot of scope for future instalments.
On the whole I think this was a good start to the series, I didn’t absolutely love it but I think it has a lot of potential. If you enjoy a bit of a mystery with a gothic feel and characters that you feel you already know then give this a read.
I received a copy of this from Netgalley in return for a honest review. The above is my own opinion.